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    Esther Blumenfeld  

    The purpose of this web site is to entertain.  My humor columns died along with the magazines where they were printed, although I cannot claim responsibility for their demise.  I still have something to say, and if I can bring a laugh or two to your day, my mission will be fulfilled.

    Everyone I know thinks he has a sense of humor.  Here is my unsolicited advice. If you try to be funny and no one laughs, don’t worry about it.  However, if you try to be funny and no one EVER laughs, you might have a little problem.

     

    Friday
    Sep132019

    UPS AND DOWNS

    “People waiting for an elevator don’t know what to do, standing with strangers. There is nothing to do. It’s an uneasy time. Some press the button repeatedly as though it would help.” (Andy Rooney).

    In the 1960’s, a scientist named Edward Hall founded the field of proxemics, the study of how people use personal space as a form of non-verbal communication. However, there is almost no personal space on a crowded elevator.

    When I was a very little girl, I got on an elevator with my Mother. We were pushed to the rear, as other people got on. All I could see was the back of people’s knees. When the down elevator finally stopped, I hung on to the bottom of my Mother’s skirt as we got off. Then, I looked up and discovered that I was hanging on to the wrong skirt. I didn’t even know that woman!

    Of course, that was not as bad as the time when I saw my first escalator in Kansas City, Missouri. I stood transfixed at the bottom of the escalator as I watched my absent-minded Father ascend, and then disappear. I went to a saleslady and said, “There’s a very worried man lost up there somewhere.” She made that announcement on the Department Store intercom. I was right!

    But this is a story about elevators. A recent study by the Thyssenkrupp Elevator Company claims that “seven billion elevator trips happen everyday.” I guess that is one time you can get some peace and quiet for at least 30 seconds—unless a chatty person gets on and starts talking. One way to avoid this is to push the close button immediately as you get on the elevator. If people yell, “Hold it!” hold the close button and shout back, “Oh, I am so sorry.”

    Good elevator etiquette is that everyone should face the front. One time, in Las Vegas, my husband got on a crowded elevator. He was the last passenger on. Facing all the people, it was so crowded that he couldn’t turn around, so he said, “We have to stop meeting like this.”

    When getting on an elevator, it’s a good idea to stop your conversation with another person, until you exit the elevator and can resume talking about whatever you were talking about. If you carry on a conversation, everyone can listen in. A person can pretend that she  isn’t eaves dropping, by looking intently at her cell phone. You don’t even have to turn it on—just stare at it.

    If you have pushed your way to the front of an elevator, you most probably have to step out to let people off, and then step back in again, if the people on the elevator let you.

     In a full elevator, take up as much space as possible so some big guy won’t squeeze in and set off an alarm. The alarm usually sounds like, “There’s no more room.Take the next one!”

    When there are only two of you on the elevator, stand on the opposite side and don’t stare. Smiling might be okay unless you recognize the other person from his photo on the post office wall.  The joy of having an elevator to yourself can be ruined when you realize that some obnoxious kid has pushed all of the buttons, and you have to stop at every floor on your way up.

    Some people fear getting stuck in an elevator. If that happens, Daniel Handler suggests that: “Everyone should be able to do one card trick, tell two jokes, and recite three poems in case they are ever trapped in an elevator.”

    The best advice I can give you when getting on an elevator is, “Don’t be surprised to see people getting off.” And, if you get off on the wrong floor, wait for the next elevator. You really don’t want to face all of those people who think you know what you are doing.”

    And, when you get to the top floor, send the elevator down for the next person. Then, you don’t have to be nice for the rest of the day.

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Sep062019

    AM I OVER THE LINE?

    One of my favorite quotes from Dave Berry is when he describes how he finds a parking space in a mall at  Holiday time: “We traditionally do this in my family by driving around a parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2000 years ago, followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space.”

    My dear husband, the scientist, used to say, “Some things are not probable, but anything is possible.”  I thought of that when years ago, in Tangier, Morocco, I saw a camel parked at the curb behind a Mercedes.

    I wrote this story when I took my little Saturn into the shop for its regular check-up. It has been my faithful mode of transportation for 15 years, and since I don’t drive far and wide, its mileage record is about as good as mine. Consequently, since the mechanic always says, “Don’t get rid of this car. They don’t make them like this anymore,” I plan to follow his advice, and one of the best ways to do this is to find a safe parking space—away from other cars. Unfortunately, that’s like putting your blanket on an empty beach. Some nincompoop will always park her blanket next to mine. So, if isolation doesn’t work, I like to park next to the newest, most expensive car I can find in the lot. Then, obviously, no one will be tempted to steal mine.

    I often ask myself, “How hard is it to park a car?”  Obviously, it’s a real challenge for some people, for whom one parking space just isn’t enough. They are compelled to occupy two parking spaces, because they think that the white line in the pavement is supposed to run under the middle of their car. That’s two spaces gone.

    Then there’s the guy who just has to park across a pedestrian walking path. I actually like that, because it gives me the opportunity to leap frog over the hood of his car. For you conspiracy theorists, surely there are two owners of huge SUV’s who are competing to see who can park as close as possible on either side of your car. The winner makes it totally impossible for you to squeeze into the driver’s seat, and makes you feel guilty that you ate that ice cream cone.

    It’s bad enough when someone who isn’t handicapped claims one of those spaces, but it is worse when that driver executes a crooked parking job to confirm the fact that she really is challenged.

    My strangest parking experience occurred several months ago when I went to a movie with my friend, Jane. When we came out of the theatre, neither one of us could remember where she had parked. I suggested, “Jane, push the alarm button on your key chain. The car will let you know where it is.”Sure enough, She pushed the button and the horn started blaring. Problem solved! We followed the beeps and found her car—or so we thought. She pushed the button to stop the noise, but nothing happened. The horn kept blasting. Then we discovered that the noise wasn’t coming from her car. She had pushed the button and set off the horn of another car. When we finally found her car, it was parked several lanes away. As we drove off, the other car was still causing a ruckus. I hope it’s still not doing that.  It was terribly annoying!

    Two of my least favorite parking experiences are:

    finding a parking spot, getting out of the car to run a quick errand, only to come out of the store and discover a big truck double parked blocking my exit, and,

     driving around the inside of a parking garage to finally find a parking space in the darkest spot in the garage, and none of the spaces are numbered. Saying to myself, “I am in Block B, on the 4th Level, next to the red convertible is a big mistake, because by the time I return, and look for my car, a big junker has taken the space of the little red convertible, and is hiding my car— and Block B is a mile long.

    Before concluding, a word needs be said about parallel parking. It can be done in 4 easy steps:

    “Pull up next to the car you’re going to parallel park behind. Align your rear axle with that car’s bumper. Turn the wheel toward the curb at full lock.Back up until the center of your inside rear tire aligns with the street side edge of the forward car. Straighten wheel, continue to reverse. When your outside tire aligns with that same edge, turn the wheel the other way.” Do not take the paint off of the car (eventually)  parked in front of you!

    “On the wall at the rear of a lot was a sign which read,  ‘Municipal Employees and Municipal
    Business Only. Please Respect This Parking Lot.’ Only in Nevada would someone ask you to respect a parking lot.  In New York the sign would read, ‘Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be Stolen And Their Owners Eaten.”’ (Stephen King, Desperation).

    Esther Blumenfeld

    Friday
    Aug232019

    DON'T BUG ME

    My husband and I lived in Atlanta, Georgia when my son, Josh was in second grade. His creative teacher gave the class a homework assignment: “Collect all of the different kinds of insects that you can find in your own backyard, and bring them to class.”

    Since Josh enjoyed any scientific challenge, he eagerly ran into the backyard armed with a glass jar and a kitchen sieve, that I had sacrificed for his project—-never to be used near food again. It took him five minutes to come back into the house with a jar full of all kinds of unpleasant dead bugs. He said, “Can I sort them out on the kitchen table?” “Absolutely not!” I replied looking at the assortment of flies, beetle's, a grasshopper a cicada and other icky dead insects thrown into the mix.  I said, “How did you collect so many bugs in such a short time?” Proudly, he replied, “I took out the pool filter basket.”  Homework done!

    Atlanta had its share of creepy crawlers, but even though Tucson, Arizona doesn’t have chiggers, it has its share of entomological delights. My first encounter with a critter was a warning from a scorpion, who had made his home in one of my gardening gloves. A little sting on the tip of my finger let me know not to poke him when he was sleeping. It felt very much like a bee sting. I hired a gardener.

    It is fascinating to watch little leaf cutter ants slowly denude an Ocotillo Cactus one leaf at a time, and the monsoon rainy season flushes out all sorts of pests such as mosquitos and teeny-weeny little varmints that fly together in a cloud, and enjoy flying up your nose, and into your eyes.

    One morning, after a heavy rain, I opened my front door to run out and get the newspaper, and there, right on my doorstep, was a big, black, nasty sewer roach. I could have put a saddle on him, but instead I slammed the door shut, grabbed a broom, and went outside through the garage. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I tried, that roach would not be moved. Finally, I dropped a big rock on him. After the third time, I was hoping he was dead, but NO! Once again he headed for the front door. Finally, I swept him into a dust pan and threw him into the street. I have read that roaches can survive a nuclear bomb, but figured that maybe this one would not survive being run over by my neighbor who likes to drive up on my curb.

    Tarantulas are large hairy members of the spider family. Their appearance is worse than their bite which is not poisonous. Sometimes jewelers keep them in their store cases at night to discourage robbers, because they look so scary. Other than needing a shave, tarantulas are fascinating creatures, but very fragile, and like glass, they are breakable. Also, when they want to, they can run quite fast.  So, when I encountered one in my garage, I gently tried to nudge  it outside with my shoe. However, it did not want to leave, so I let it hang out until I returned and gently swept it into my neighbor’s bushes.

    Knowing the importance of bees, I keep scooping live ones out of the swimming pool, but  they keep falling in again. The bee brain doesn’t seem to let them know that swimming pools are not for pollinating.

    Some people are worm lovers. They like them so much that they eat them. Even deep fried, they still look like worms to me. The only way I would ever eat a worm is after it has been digested by a chicken.

    By the way, for those of you who enjoy going to Florida, they have given the American Cockroach a fancy nickname. Floridians call them Palmetto Bugs. Only in Florida would they name a bug after a tree. These insects can fly, and believe me when you turn on a light, and the roach comes flying at you, it’s time to grab your pet mosquito and fly back to Minnesota.

    Esther Blumenfeld


    Friday
    Aug162019

    SCOOT OVER

    Last week, city officials in Tucson, Arizona, the place I call home, announced that electric scooters are coming to town. The plan is that initially 1,500 of them will hit streets (as well as several pedestrians) relatively soon.  One estimate is that the companies, Razor and Bird will pay the city as much as $300,000.00 a year. However, they did not estimate the cost of lawsuits that will follow.

    Users will rent the scooters on an hourly basis using a mobile app. Whew! that leaves me out. I don’t have a smart phone.  My little flip phone works just fine.  As a matter of fact, today, a woman offered to buy it from me. I may be starting a new retro fad.

    But back to e-scooters. They go 15 mph, and the electric charge lasts for about 15 miles, without a charge. I guess there is something magic about that number 15.  Anyway, at the end of the day companies will pick them up to be charged, unless a “juicer” takes a scooter home, and charges it overnight.  He can make from $3.00 to $20.00 per hour depending on location. To collect the money, the “juicer” must return the scooter to the e-scooter dock fully charged.
    One little glitch is that chargers have been stolen to power other devices.  

    In San Francisco over 200 scooters were stolen in the first month of usage, which led to cable locks. Tucson’s proximity to Mexico may set a new record.

    First: Let’s look at the advantages of e-scooters.

     They provide transit where otherwise people rely on public transportation such as vehicles with 4-wheels, and a metal enclosure to protect their bodies.
     E-scooters are fun! (unless you aren’t wearing a helmet.)

    That’s about it.  What are the disadvantages other than the personal liability when hitting a pedestrian, damaging property, or causing a car accident? Well, there is a huge gap in insurance coverage for e-scooters. Auto insurance doesn’t cover them. Nor will your homeowner’s insurance.  However, I did discover that VOOM, an Israeli company carries, “On- Demand Insurance” for drone operators in the U.S., and plans to roll out per-ride insurance for e-scooters.

    I don’t know how much homework city officials did before considering this pilot e-scooter program, but here is what I dug up.  

    Arizona State University in Phoenix, AZ no longer allows e-scooters, because they overran the campus. The powers-to-be at AU stated that “e-scooters are a nuisance and potential danger being driven by people without proper training,” and I might have added, a few intoxicated students. After all, it is a campus.  The University of Arizona in Tucson has already banned scooters from campus, and they haven’t even gotten to town yet.

    So what is the experience elsewhere?

    In 2018, in Detroit, it cost $1.00 to unlock, and 33 cents (my computer does not have a cents sign) a minute to ride an e-scooter. A resident of that city said, “Working in Detroit, the most dangerous thing about the city is a chance of getting run over by someone on a scooter.”

    The first year in Los Angeles there were 249 reported e-scooter injuries. Protesters have burned them or thrown them into the ocean.  St. Louis, and New York City banned them. In Nashville, TN, the home of country music, numerous accidents were recorded as well as 8 e-scooter deaths in the last 2 years.  There must be a country song in there somewhere,—“When my scooter went on and left me.” Reaction in Santa Monica was, “The streets are littered and pedestrians are upset.” E-scooters are popular in Washington, DC. Millions of people have taken rides around the White House. I guess they are a good fit just scooting around and around and around and not really getting anywhere.

    Uber is launching e-scooters in Europe. Madrid gave an electric scooter company 72 hours to remove scooters from the Spanish capital.

    Soon we shall see if e-scooters are a good fit for Tucson when the Monsoon rains arrive.
    Do those things float?

    Esther Blumenfeld


    Friday
    Aug092019

    THE NOT SO GOOD FIGHT

    At first, I thought, “What’s the matter with my television set?” Then, I thought, “Am I going totally nuts?” CBS was gaslighting me with a disembodied voice, but the voice wasn’t on every program on that network, nor was it on any other channel. The voice was just speaking on one program—the newly introduced—THE GOOD FIGHT,  Episode One. The voice was not on, THE GOOD FIGHT,  Episode Two, which immediately followed Episode One.

    It went something like this: “The lawyer enters the office. His secretary smiles and tells him he has a phone call. He rushes to his office, and finds someone sitting at his desk. It isn’t him!”

    “Okay," I thought, “Some know-it-all must think that everything that is happening has to be explained, but this is really annoying!”

    Then, I remembered that a few days ago, the same thing happened when I was watching a cooking contest on the FOX Network. “Phoebe, brings her dish to the judges table. One judge grimaces. The second judge throws Phoebe’s dish into the bushes. Another judge utters a profanity.” But at the time, I thought this was pretty normal for Fox, and I also thought “Phoebe is toast.”

    I know about closed captioning on TV for people with hearing disabilities, but those written captions are on every channel, on every station and even on every commercial. This was something else—a selective, anonymous voice that turned up—at will—only occasionally.

    So, to check my sanity, I asked Mr. Google “How do I get rid of a voice-over on CBS?” With great relief, I saw that the question had been asked by many other irritated viewers, but both the cause and the solution were nebulous.  Next, I called my semi-trustworthy Comcast provider.

    The first technician I reached was one of the few people left in Honduras. We had trouble communicating, so I hung up and tried again. The second technician was the only other person left in Honduras. He had never heard of this problem, but said that I might be picking up on someone else’s signal, so he booted up my system (on my TV—not me!)  After the booting, the problem was gone.

    A few days later, I once more turned my television station to CBS to watch THE GOOD FIGHT, and again, a voice said, “The lawyer enters the room with an annoyed expression on his face.” NOT AS ANNOYED AS MINE!

    Yes, I called Comcast again. This time I reached a young woman in the Philippines. She told me that she did not know why this was happening on only one program, but instructed me on the intricacies of turning off all disembodied voices on my television set. So far, it has worked.

    I can just imagine if this had happened to someone watching a football game: “He’s got the ball. He’s  running with the ball. The crowd is cheering. He fumbles the ball. The crowd groans. A man in the stands is shouting. His face turns red. The Quarterback looks offended.”

    Or, what about a news show where the voice explains: “The President promises this. The President promises that. Congress promises that and this. The President vetoes that but will go with this.”

    The voice chokes up. Your TV blows up and it’s time to read a good book.

    Esther Blumenfeld