A Twist of Humor

This is a column with a twist of humor. A new column will be posted every Monday.

Location: Newfoundland

I was born, raised, educated, and married in Toronto. I moved to Newfoundland twenty some years ago with my wife. So far nobody has asked me to leave. My wife asking me to leave doesn't count.

Monday, July 31, 2006

A Day At The Beach

The incident at the beach happened two years ago on August 3. I remember the date well because that was the day we had summer that year.

My family and I had gone to one of the salt water beaches that are scattered around the rugged rocky coastline of the island portion of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Except for a few minor differences the beach we went to was the same as could be found anywhere in the tropics. The sand was the same as on a tropical beach, that is it was sandy. Even the water was wet and salty just as one would expect to find near any tropical beach or for that matter most subtropical beaches.

Of course the sharp eyed nit pickers would feel obliged to point out the differences.

It is true there are no coconut trees and if one is truthful palm trees are a rarity. Also in fairness, if an accurate picture is to be painted, it has to be reported that even on a summer day the air by the ocean can have a bite to it and the water can be…..well, bracing.

I hasten to add that swimmers shouldn’t allow themselves to be deterred by the cold water as it’s only a temporary inconvenience, because once they are in the water their bodies will quickly become numb and they won’t feel a thing.

Another difference is the people on the beach wearing warm fleece sweat suits. These would be the tourists. We locals have no need of such warm attire. Our bodies have become desensitized to the capriciousness of the local weather.

The tourists, it should be noted, do not normally visit our province for the beaches. They come here to see whales, seabird colonies, beautiful if rugged coastal scenery, fishing villages, national parks, and historical sites such as Gros Morne and Signal Hill which is located in North America’s oldest city, St. John’s. Another popular tourist attraction is the shivering blue bodies of the local swimmers that not uncommonly can be found bobbing around in the shallow water close to shore.

My problem that day was not the cold water but rather the change rooms on the beach.

The change rooms were in a small old wooden structure that had a slight list to the left. The building was divided into a male change room and not too surprisingly a female change room. After some consideration I entered the male section to change into my swimming trunks and closed the door. As soon as the door was closed a black void swallowed me whole.

After fumbling around in the dark I managed to separate myself from my clothes. It was then that I noticed what appeared to be holes in the black void. While I was staring at this phenomenon I heard a female voice with a nasal twang command from the other side of the holes, “don’t be staring at me like that mister. I didn’t come here to be gawked at!”

In my confusion I turned my back on the voice from the other side of the black void.

The nasal voice squawked, “don’t be showing me your behind mister!”

In even more confusion I turned around again.

The voice squeaked, “I didn’t come here to see that either!”

I froze where I was. The next thing I heard was a loud bang, as the door on the women’s side of the building was angrily slammed shut. This was caused by the nasal voice as it exited the change room in search of help. I then felt the whole building shudder violently. After the shuddering stopped I was no longer in a dark room but rather in bright sunlight into which I squinted. Around my naked feet was what was left of the building.

All activity on the beach had ceased. The only sound came from the surf rolling onto the beach. Even the shrieking gulls had been shocked into silence. All eyes were looking at me as I stood there in an expanse of naked pink skin looking like a bewildered ornamental flamingo.

The nasal twang that hailed from parts unknown rang out, “I thought it was supposed to be quaint and picturesque here. There’s nothing picturesque about him,” it said, pointing in my direction. “If I wanted to see eyesores I could have stayed home and seen them.”

With that the sweat suits gathered up their stuff and moved on.

The locals being made of hardier stuff and used to life’s, as well the weather’s, capriciousness went back to what they were doing before my accidental impersonation of a naked flamingo intruded on their day at the beach. I, however, went digging through the rubble trying to find my swim trunks.

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

Tell It To The Judge

So there I was at the self serve gas station, with my ears flapping wildly in the gale force wind, holding onto the gas hose for all my life was worth, pumping gas into my car’s gas tank. Because the lashing sheets of rain blinded me I spent five minutes trying to pump gas into everything but my car.

Why, you may ask, was I out in that terrible weather pumping my own gas?

I was pumping the gas so as not to inconvenience the oil companies into hiring an employee who would have had to brave the storm instead of me. That would have selfishly deprived the oil companies of some of their hard earned profits. The fact that full service gas stations have gone the way of the dodo may also have had something to do with it.

While I was impersonating an unpaid employee of the oil company I was also hard at work writing a story in my head; in other words, I was daydreaming. Because of that I unintentionally climbed into my car and drove away without paying. Such behavior is frowned on by the oil companies and the police as I soon found out the hard way.

I was working so attentively on my story (daydreaming) that I didn’t notice the pursuing police or their flashing red lights or, for that matter, the screaming siren. In fact, the story was working out so well that I became greatly animated causing my foot to press harder on the gas pedal. The result was my car roared even further ahead of the police car. It also led to two very annoyed policemen.

When I eventually stopped for a red light the police car screeched to a stop beside me. I looked over and wished the two uniformed gentlemen a good night. They in turn impolitely ordered me to get out of my car with my hands in the air and then to lean against my car with my legs spread. To say I was astonished at this rude request would be an understatement of epic proportions. Then it dawned on me! They were joking! Being a good sport I laughed at their little joke. Apparently, that was the wrong reaction because I found myself staring down the business end of two enormous guns. They needlessly informed me it was no laughing matter. I was duly impressed with the gravity of the situation and the big guns. It was at that unfortunate moment I noticed the mustache on one of the policemen.

The hairs in his nose appeared to have reached down and grasped a hold of his upper lip, and like the tendrils of a neglected vine on a trellis the hairs wove themselves into an enormous scruffy tangle where god knew what had become entangled in the weave.

I burst into laughter.

With an efficiency that would have delighted a time management consultant I was arrested and hauled before a judge to tell my side of the story.

The judge before whom I was to plead my case had a face that improbably seemed to be made up of nothing but jowls from under his chin to the top of his head. In that fleshy terrain his mouth and nose were but rumors. Only his eyes protruded through the flesh and they were as black as coal.

Given the circumstances of the case I decided to throw myself on the mercy of those protruding eyes. I might as well have pleaded for mercy from a crocodile.

As I stood in front of the judge I stared down at my shoes while he scornfully thundered, “You are sabotaging the economy by not paying for your gas. If everyone did that it would trigger the collapse of the oil companies, causing a domino effect that would bring down western civilization!”

I was still staring at my shoes, which by this point were looking embarrassed at being on my feet, when the judge asked, “Are you a terrorist bent on the destruction of our way of life?”

While still staring down at my shoes I offered an abject apology to the judge and my shoes for my heinous crime against western civilization. Neither the judge nor my shoes were moved by my apology.

The judge sentenced me to one week of walking back and forth in front of the gas station that had suffered my terrorist attack, carrying a sign that stated I was a gas thief, and if I did as he ordered and stayed out of further trouble, I would avoid any jail time.

I began my penance in front of the gas station the next day but not with the result the judge was expecting. Instead of receiving the contempt of my fellow citizens they treated me like a Robin Hood figure who had struck a blow on their behalf against the greedy oil companies. I tried to explain to them that I was an accidental Robin Hood but they were having none of that. It wasn’t long before a very large and boisterous crowd was milling about the intersection and gas station chanting, “down with the greedy oil companies!”

It was at the height of the protest when my two police acquaintances forced their way through the unruly crowd. I tried to look as inconspicuous as possible.

The policeman with the mustache asked the crowd who the leader of the riot was.

Apparently I didn’t look inconspicuous enough because the crowd turned as one and pointed at me.

As I was being led away in handcuffs I tried to tell the officers I was innocent. “It’s not my fault, really it isn’t. Not this time it isn’t.”

They said, “tell it to the judge.”

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

My Financial Portfolio

While being summarily summoned to appear before one’s bank manager may not have the same consequences as being summoned before St. Peter, it’s just as unnerving.

At least it’s unnerving if in describing your finances the bank manager uses words like, “shocking state of affairs,” “great disappointment,” “overdrawn again,” “can’t go on like this,” “never seen anything like it,” all in the space of forty seconds.

As I made my way to the bank in a car whose best before date had expired almost a decade ago, I remembered that I was going to approach the bank manager about a loan for a new car anyway, so maybe I could kill two birds with one stone and the trip wouldn’t be a total loss.

I immediately felt better. That feeling lasted until I put my nose inside the bank’s doors.

I had thought the financial matters of the bank’s customers were confidential, but the barely suppressed giggles and he haws that ensued as I walked by the tellers and other bank employees led me to suspect that perhaps the confidentiality of my financial affairs had been breached.

Call me paranoid but it was just a feeling I had.

When I was ushered into the presence of the bank manager, I noticed he was wearing a baseball uniform. As this was unusual business attire, I asked him about it and he explained that I was the last appointment of the day, and that after he disposed of my problem he was off to play in the local businessmen’s league.

When I noticed a baseball bat lying on his desk, I jokingly asked if it was a new debt collecting tool. He did not laugh or answer me but rather proceeded to give me a fire and brimstone lecture on the sad state of my financial affairs, while lovingly - and disturbingly from my point of view - stroking the baseball bat.

I dimly perceived somewhere in the recesses of my brain that I was in trouble, much like a rabbit realizes it might have a slight problem, when, in the middle of the road, it looks up and notices the headlights of a car bearing down on him, just before he becomes road kill.

What I did next may come as a surprise to you, however, in my defence I was a little flustered and I must admit it has been pointed out to me on more than one occasion that common sense does not over flow my cup.

I asked if I could obtain a loan for a new car.

There was a deafening silence for a second or two followed by loud uncontrollable laughter. The bank manager laughed in such a vigorous manner that he flung his chair back so far that it deposited him - no pun intended - head first into the floor, causing him to be somewhat unconscious.

The baseball bat that he had been fondling also found its way to the floor.

I had picked it up and was standing over the bank manager when his secretary rushed in, saw me with the bat in my hand, and screamed “what have you done to Peter?”

That was a question I could not readily answer as my brain was stubbornly locked in neutral.

When my brain did eventually shift into gear, I saw the secretary enthusiastically giving the bank manager mouth to mouth resuscitation. When from time to time she released his lips, and came up for air, she yelled for the police.

Without any censure on my part I also have to report that for a somewhat unconscious person Peter seemed to be taking uncommon pleasure in the ardent mouth gymnastics of his secretary.

Regrettably it was at this point another woman walked into the office and screamed at the secretary “what are you doing with my husband?”

All these events as you can imagine got to be a little too much for me and I could feel a migraine clamp hold of my spinning head.

Did I mention the police were called?

They were and they didn’t waste any time rounding up the usual suspect.

After much questioning, explaining and begging at the police station I was reluctantly and apparently against the better judgement of the officer in charge, allowed to go free.

I no longer deal with banking institutions.

Even if they allowed me to, I wouldn’t do business with them.

I now keep my financial portfolio in an empty coffee can in the kitchen cupboard. And if I can somehow manage to fill enough of them, I might be able to get a new car someday.

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Unhandy Man

Ok, so I’m not a very handy man around the house or anywhere else for that matter.

But as God is my witness, it wasn’t my fault that the barbecue blew up, leaving the cat with neither fur nor dignity.

There was also some damage to my house and deck caused by the ensuing fire and smoke and when the remnants of the propane tank eventually fell back to earth, the pieces of burning missiles unfortunately took a detour through the roof of my neighbor’s house.

This didn’t do anything good for my neighbor’s roof or his disposition.

The firemen didn’t help matters any by babbling on and on about how lucky I was and how things could have been a lot worse.

That was easy for them to say, they didn’t have to deal with my wife or cat or my neighbor and his wife. Lucky? Ya, right! They should have minded their own business and gone about their job of putting out the fires, especially the one smoldering in the pocket of my new barbecue apron.

If they had done that, then I would probably still have an apron and some skin on my stomach.

It also wasn’t my fault when I cut down one of the old dead trees in the backyard and it fell on the dog house causing permanent but not fatal damage to the house and occupant, namely the dog.

He now walks with a limp, and growls and scowls when he sees me. Although except for walking with a limp, he did that before the incident with the tree.

The vet said the dog had suffered brain damage, caused by the tree coming to an abrupt stop between his ears. I asked how he could tell the difference between before and after. This question earned me an icy stare, and an inflated bill.

Then there was the episode with the car that wasn’t my fault either.

There was something wrong with the watchacallit somewhere in the engine. So, trying to save a bit of money, I took the engine apart, to fix whatever was wrong with it, and one thing led to another.

I’m here to tell you, it’s a damn sight easier to take something apart than it is to put it back together again. I would have been alright if I had, had the proper tools

I think it’s going a little too far though, when my son’s friends aren’t allowed to come to our house, because it’s too dangerous.

It wasn’t my fault when the bookshelves I put up fell down on Randy and broke his arm. Between you and me I don’t think his parents gave him enough milk or vitamins when he was younger, causing his bones to be brittle, hence the broken arm.

I don’t think any reasonable person could fault me on any of these unfortunate accidents that were beyond my control.

However, my wife is not a reasonable person and she faults me on all these things and then some.

If I sound a bit testy or whiny it’s because my wife has hidden all my tools, power or otherwise. Also, thanks to the town council and other busybodies, I am no longer allowed to own a barbecue and while this makes them and my neighbor happy, it makes me crabby.

I have this urge to build or fix something. At the very least you would think I’d be allowed to make a fire and throw some meat on it, but I can’t even do that because there are people watching me, waiting.

I do the best I can and if from time to time through no fault of mine, it falls short…..well, excuuuse me.

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

Little Augie's Financial Emporium

As my wife and I had decided after some debate to let our teenage son reach his next birthday, we had to face the possibility of his going to a university.

This caused us to ask that age old question asked by parents the world over, “How the hell are we going to pay for it?”

It was no good going to a bank because the last time I went to a bank to ask for a loan the bank manager laughed so hard at my request he fell out of his chair, onto his head, causing him to suffer a severe concussion. That resulted in my being banned from all branches of this bank.

So how would we pay for it?

Well after a trip to Little Augie’s Financial Emporium, which is conveniently located next door to a health aids store that thoughtfully stocks a full range of crutches and fiberglass walking casts; I had the answer.

Little Augie was going to pay for it.

In return for this favor all he asked for were some small considerations, such as three hundred per cent interest; and if payments are late perhaps a kneecap or broken arm, or if the payments are not very late an unimportant finger or two.

For this large and dangerous investment we parents would like something substantial in return, like a doctor or lawyer. Even an accountant or teacher would be acceptable. It’s not like we are asking for something unreasonable like an orthodontist.

There are other ways for this investment to go sour besides a low rate of return. It could go bust altogether; or as they say where I live, “The arse could come right out of her.”

For instance, how would you like to be the parent who scrimped and saved and had midnight visits from Little Augie and one day your child came to you after three years of university and said, “I’m dropping out of school so I can go out in the world and find myself.”

You might scream, “Find yourself. What do you mean find yourself? You’re not lost, you’re standing right in front of me.”

When they release you from the hospital after using a defibrillator to restart your heart, you may or may not look at the situation in a calmer way. Of course, it’s hard to look at anything through rapidly twitching eyelids.

I know of one realistic father who, after taking stock of his son’s academic potential, got him a job at their local donut shop. He then bought a big screen plasma television complete with a turbo charged surround sound system with the money he had set aside to help pay for his son’s education.

I know this probably disqualifies him from any father of the year awards. However, it does keep him away from Little Augie’s Financial Emporium, and perhaps even more importantly, the health aids store next door.

Personally, I’ve decided to roll the dice and invest heavily in my son’s education. Who knows, he may strike it rich as an orthodontist and then he can support me in my old age, in a style I’d like to grow accustomed to.

© Mike Cook 2006