Friday, October 30, 2020

Double Take

After unpacking my new Honeywell Cool Mist Humidifier I carefully read the instruction pamphlet until coming, on page 2, to this sentence: “Helen of Troy will not accept responsibility for property damage caused by water spillage”.

I blinked and stopped reading. At first I feared, as the elderly do, that my hour had struck: I could no longer read, words were garbled, my eyes and brain were no longer in sync.

Then, noting that the rest of the page still made sense, I wondered for a moment if Priam, Menelaus, or Achilles would be more accepting of blame.

Finally, turning to the back of the pamphlet, I discovered this: “Kaz USA, Inc., a Helen of Troy Company.”  Consulting the repository of all knowledge, Wikipedia, I found that there is a gigantic international combine called, yes, “Helen of Troy”.

My only remaining questions were, what is Kaz USA and what happened to Honeywell? But, acknowledging at my age that there are mysteries we shall never know, and perhaps are not meant to know, I stifled my curiosity and filled the humidifier tank. It works fine. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Her Brother's Keeper

In Hy-Vee today, as I placed my few items on the checkout conveyor belt, the middle-aged lady in front of me, who was completing her purchase, turned and told me that I must put my items back in my cart so that the cashier could first clean the conveyor belt. It is what they do here, she said.

I smiled graciously and put my things back in my cart. (She could not see my smile, since I was of course wearing a mask, but I smiled anyway because I am so nice.)

However, it was only with some difficulty that I resisted the impulse to show that I am au courant with the latest slang by replying “Thank you, Karen” and ignoring her. But I did not wish to perhaps appear as a central subject in some YouTube video entitled “man hit over head with purse (or pepper-sprayed, or, these days, shot) by enraged woman at grocery store”.

The cashier and I chuckled a bit after she left--but while she was there he did, while muttering a bit under his breath, industriously spray a great deal of fluid on the belt and vigorously scrub it with a paper towel, something I am sure he would not have done without her considerate intervention. I felt so much safer!   

Sunday, April 26, 2020


Now that gasoline is so cheap, do you suppose some people might start hoarding it against the time when the price rises? Perhaps we will hear boasts: "I have 700 gallons of gas in my garage," "You should see all the gas I have in my basement." If in coming months some houses are suddenly blown to smithereens or become huge pyres, don't be too surprised. After all, we didn't expect what would happen with toilet paper, did we?

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Hero For Our Time


Beyond all dreams of avarice, a wealthy man am I.

Though gold I lack, today’s real wealth I’ve piled up very high:

My closets bulge with tissues boxed, my cupboards are replete 

With quarts of sanitizer and a million things to eat;

Three gallons of fresh milk I have, and loaves of bread well-frozen;

I’ve canned sardines and yogurt, too--and face-masks by the dozen.

With superhuman cleanliness I easily can cope:

Look here! Behold! This cupboard holds three hundred bars of soap.

My nether regions spotless are at morning, night, and noon:

My rolls of toilet paper, if unrolled, would reach the moon.

Incessantly I wash my hands. I shun my fellow men.

I stay inside. I pace the floor. I’m skulking in my den.

I’m masked and goggled all the time. I have a hazmat suit.

I don’t emerge in light or dark. I hoard and count my loot.

I order groceries online. I barricade my room.

I’ll thus avoid, I’m confident, the now-impending doom.

Let others fall! I know that I will surely win this fight 

For I’ve become, by ceaseless toil, the perfect troglodyte!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

You Can Take It To The Bank (With Some Difficulty)

Tomorrow will be very exciting. I am going to the bank! How did I manage to arrange so audacious an expedition? After all, the bank lobby is locked. Well, first (after discovering the other day that the lobby is locked) I went online to the Wells Fargo website and found my bank. Then I filled in a form to make an appointment. A short time later I received a call from a bank official who wished to know if I was me and if I really, truly wanted to go to his bank, and why. After explaining that I wished to get into my SD box, and to get some money (which I cannot do in the drive-through line because I have nothing to drive), he approved and said he would see me promptly at 2PM. Then I received an email confirmation of my appointment, which said to print it out and bring it with me. (I shudder to think what might happen if I did not bring it. Perhaps alarms would ring and men with clubs, or at least sanitary wipes, spring out.) 

I plan to wear my lovely new mask to my bank appointment, but with some apprehension: although it may help to assure the Wells Fargo people that I will not give them the plague, masked men entering banks are traditionally looked upon with disfavor by bankers. Alas, what strange times we live in. 

Of course, the weather is supposed to be bad tomorrow so I might wind up cancelling the whole project, which will feel as though I have cancelled an expedition to Mt. Everest.  

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Words (1)

A word that has become almost intolerable in the last few days is “epicenter”. The word has a specialized meaning in geology but is otherwise identical to the word “center”. Apparently some journalists think that “epicenter” adds vim and verve to their articles, that an ‘epicenter’ is somehow more than a center, as if such a thing were possible. If these miscreants feel the need to adorn their feeble prose with tinsel, maybe they should use “locus”. Grrr. Bah, humbug.

Monday, March 23, 2020


During the Egyptian Campaign (1799) plague broke out in the French army. To calm the growing panic the commanding general visited a hospital and touched a victim to show that not everyone would be infected. This event was immortalized by Antoine-Jean Gros in his 1804 painting "Napoleon in the Pest House at Jaffa". May we look forward to modern equivalents of this heroism amidst our current pandemic, perhaps "Trump Dines At A Restaurant," "Trudeau Shops for Toilet Paper," or "Macron Walks Outside His House"?