Help! I lost my wife!!

“I’ll never find her in here,” I said to myself after three passes through the center aisle of a local “big box” store. I looked goofy rubbernecking my way up and down the same aisle looking for my wife. I should know better than to go shopping with her.

Has this happened to you, men? You’re in the (shudder) mall with your bride, walking side by side, happy as a clam.  Things are going fine when you turn to speak to your wife and realize she‘s no longer next to you. A quick scan around you reveals that she has completely disappeared. You are smack dab in the middle of the largest store in the free world and you are hopelessly lost, and, you’ve misplaced your wife. There is no way you will ever find her. Been there, done that.

The holidays are here again. It seems prudent to me to offer some advice to men on the subject of missing “mall wives.” Were a study commissioned, we would no doubt  find legions of men wandering aimlessly in malls nationwide searching for wives who are themselves lost in perpetual shopping mode. Perhaps in my own small way, I might be able to save one couple from a life in fruitless search for one another.

Men, when you enter a mall or any big box store (except hardware – more on them later) you must make it your sole purpose to keep your wife in view at all times. She is, in a large store environment, fully capable of disappearing the moment you are distracted. It is a genetic ability they have and you must be ready for it.

Good method; Walk on her left side just slightly behind her. Keep your head turned to your right  enough to keep her in view while being able to navigate in front of you.

Better method; Hold her hand. That works most of the time. Careful! She will try to slip your hold. Don’t be hurt. She can’t help it. Unlike us, women have a shopping gene. They are only reacting to what instinct tells them to do. It has nothing to do with you.

Best method; The best method is not to enter any large store with your wife at all. It cannot be avoided, so the best way to keep from losing her is to find some way to “tether” her to you if possible. Before you leave your house, find a way to get her purse and take all of her cash and credit/debit cards. If you can pull that off, she has to stay with you if she has any intention of satisfying her shopping need. I guarantee she will not lose you no matter what happens. This is a tough job though as wives have the ability to know if their purse has been searched. You do this at your own peril. Good luck.

I mentioned hardware stores earlier. You are safe there for the most part. Just be careful about going into any of the sections where they sell flooring, kitchen supplies (especially cabinets), appliances, and the landscaping section. You are safe around tools, lumber, and plumbing. Well, maybe not. She can get “ideas” for projects for you to do for her. Forget it. You’re not safe in a hardware store either.

You’re on your own.

NEXT WEEK: The most dangerous female on the planet: Your daughter

Nature 1, Me 0

My hometown, Greenwood, Indiana has a community garden. There are thirty-four 20’x20’ plots there. For a small consideration of $20.00 per year ($30.00 if you don’t live in Greenwood), you can rent one of these plots and set your hand at raising your own food. This year was my first year to try the “grand experiment” as I called it at the beginning. It has been an experiment alright, though it would seem that nature did the experimenting on me.

It was my stated intention to raise mostly potatoes on the idea that they would be easier to grow and the harvest would be large. So, I ordered a couple of pounds of Kennebecs and a pound of sweet potatoes. You’ll want to remember this part as it will come up later. We also bought a couple of peppers and tomatoes to fill a gap along with a bunch of bush beans. We were ready. So was nature.

We hauled in and spread several inches of the free compost that the city has. A kindly neighbor came over in his handy-dandy John Deere garden tractor and tilled everything in. He was good at what he did and the finished product was a thing to be admired. There was not a prettier or more level piece of plowed ground in the entire garden, maybe even the whole  county. I was sure I was the envy of my thirty three neighbors. Well,  I spent an afternoon or two putting everything in. What a gorgeous plot I would have. I sat back and waited for the inevitable bumper crop of potatoes, beans, peppers, and tomatoes that would make me the star of the Greenwood Community Garden. What I did not count on was nature’s sense of humor in dealing with my hubris.

It was a really wet spring, wasn’t it? It rained so much that I could not walk on the plot for most of the spring. What I did not see when this journey began was my little plot and the one next to it was in a very low point in the garden. On top of that, my neighbor to the west had built her ground up a good deal higher than mine. I could’ve gone fishing with all the water. Course, all of my peppers and tomatoes and maybe half of my potatoes were under water a good deal of the time. The sweet potatoes survived just fine. Figures. I don’t even like sweet potatoes.

When things did dry out, the entire weed kingdom decided to lay siege to my garden. I never saw so many weeds. I would no sooner clear a nice, clean patch of weeds then they would all migrate en masse to the other side of the garden.  I get that cleared off then they would go right back where they started. They were toying with me. I fought back, though, and kept them at bay for the most part at the cost of several hours on hands and knees. In all my efforts, a little life shown through, mostly with the sweet potatoes. It is now November and here is the harvest: no beans, tomatoes, or peppers, Two or three palm sized Kennebecs, and maybe ten pounds of sweet potatoes.

I’ll be back next year. So will nature.

How did you wind up here?

“How did you wind up here?” A relatively new acquaintance asked me how I wound up in Indiana and, more specifically, on the Southside of Indianapolis. Having spent the bulk of my adult life as a soldier, I had wandered the world through four separate tours in Germany and nine different states. I met every definition of a vagabond. Of all the places that I could possible end up settling in, my friend wanted to know, was why and how is it that I came to be here? “It’s really a pretty simple story,” I said.

We were living in Germany back in the early nineties. The Army, in its infinite wisdom, decided that my final tour before retirement would be Fort Benjamin Harrison. “Fort Ben” was known as a pretty laid back place so I was more than pleased to get the assignment. We were also intending to retire to the Louisville, Kentucky area so we would not have far to move once I did retire. All in all, it was a pretty good deal for us. The only problem was I did not know the first thing about Indianapolis or Fort Ben.

Off I went in search of people who had been to Fort Ben. The all important question anybody wants to ask before moving was where was the best side of town to live? I asked I don’t know how many people but they all said without exception, “Move to the Southside.” The Southside is without doubt the best place to live they all told me. After about the fifth or sixth person to answer with the same rejoinder, I felt compelled to ask why (computers were not real common at that time so I couldn’t just pop on the web and get a quick answer).  Here are the answers I typically did get:

“The Southside is kind of like its own small town.”

“The pace of daily life is slower down there.”

“The people on the Southside are real.” (What, and the northerners are not? Are they aliens?)

And the best answer was, “That’s where all the country folk are.” (I’m serious. Somebody actually told me that).

So, now I have this mental picture of a small town complete with Sheriff Andy and Deputy Fife (where’s Gomer?), the people don’t move very fast, they are apparently as real as anybody you’d find anywhere, and they’re all country folk. I was raised in the Texas Panhandle so it sounded just fine to me! My bride, being from Seattle and a bona-fide city girl was not so sure but, being the good sport that she is, she came along (I’m glad of that!)

We’ve been here now seventeen years and I could not imagine living anywhere else. I tell folks my heart is still back in Texas. You know, I think it is immigrating. The Southsiders are, by and large, good people, and they work hard at what they do. I like being around and among them.  Most importantly, they are “real”.

The check out dude

You know, I just don’t like those automated check out lanes at the grocery stores. They aren’t near as much fun as regular check out lanes. The ones that have an actual, living, breathing human being as opposed to the automated screen that says “Welcome valued customer!” I just don’t get that warm fuzzy feeling dealing with a computer that does not know my name or indicates that it wants to. As long as it knows I have a preferred customer card or whatever, it seems to be ok with that. Computers must be lonely.

Well, actual check out clerks are much more fun. The wife and I were at Meijer the other night doing a little grocery shopping. It’s not my favorite activity but we get a little time together and grocery stores are one of the best places on the planet to people watch. Anyway, we had to go to a live person check out lane as we had too many groceries. I guess the computer at the automated lane can’t handle more than 10 or 12 items for each “valued customer.” Well, we were checking out and I got to watching the clerk. He was probably in his 50’s or so. As he worked, I noticed he was being very particular about what bag he put each item into. He twirled that fancy carousel around like it was a top so he could put certain things in certain places. He had a very defined method to his process. I deduced that this was no ordinary clerk. The computer makes you bag your own groceries but this man had brought science to the art of grocery bagging. I wonder if he went to bagging school or perhaps he even taught it. I stood transfixed at his prowess with the carousel in the full and grateful knowledge that I would, for once, not find my bread underneath cans of applesauce and cat litter. I deduced that this fellow was of a professional background. He was probably an engineer or maybe a chemist.

The suspense finally got to me and I was compelled to ask, “Sir, please tell me what it is that you do during the day for I perceive that you are more than a mere grocery technician?” (I really didn‘t ask this way. It just sounds better on paper). “I am a self-employed civil engineer,” he said. I knew it! I glanced at my wife with a self impressed look that I get when I am “in the know.” He went on to tell me that he had taken this particular job as a part time position only so as to augment his current income. Like many others, he had to deal with the recession and I think he found a nice fit for himself. Meijer ought to have him teach bagging technology. Good luck to you sir.

Girls got cooties!

(NOTE: The following is a preview for a book I am working on. Some of the stories will appear here and some will be only in the book. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it).

I remember one typical summer day back on Hall Street in Amarillo, Texas. I was in my front yard with several of my neighborhood buddies. We were gathering to head off to one of the four or five fields we used to play in. The last of the bunch showed up on their bicycles. As they pulled up, they all yelled in unison, “WE HATE GIRLS!!! GIRLS GOT COOTIES!!!!” The rest of us responded in robust agreement and wondered aloud how anybody could ever question such a universal truth.  This truth has been passed on from father to son from the dawn of time. Regardless of age, all girls have cooties. The ONLY women on the planet who do not have cooties is one’s own Mom and, possibly, The Virgin Mary. All the rest are terminally afflicted.

For us in those early days, we had one supreme area of protection that shielded us from the neighborhood girls and their attendant cooties. Surrounding Hall Street was four of five fields (depending on who was counting) that we practically lived in when not in school. They were of various sizes and locations and each had its own particular attraction (more on that later). The neighborhood Dads all assured us that it was against the law of the Great State of Texas and probably also the law of The Almighty Himself for a girl to enter any of these fields. We were safe there. For our own protection, it was incumbent on us to get their as early as possible on Saturday morning and not return until supper (in retrospect, I think this may have been a parental plot to get us out of and away from the house on Saturdays). In looking back over forty years ago, I do not recall ever seeing a girl in any of those fields. Well, wait. There was one. Oh. Um, never mind.

It was our purpose in life to avoid any of the cootie infestations that had afflicted our older siblings and all adults. We did not understand back then that we would all eventually be infected and there was not much of anything we could have done to prevent it. Not knowing that, we used every tradition and trick in the book to avoid the inevitable. We had a lot of work to do back then you see. There was World War II to re-fight, countless rabbits to torment and an unending supply of lizards, snakes, and mud puppies to deal with. We had baseball games to play and candy to swipe from Mr. Russell’s store and from the Toot N’ Totum. This great struggle of boyhood took place in the fields surrounding Hall Street.

This is our story.