Weird Encounters with Strangers

The other day I was sitting in the lobby area of our local Department of Social Services, waiting to attend a meeting about one of the foster children I work with.  A slightly disheveled older guy walks in and sits down a couple of chairs away. We’re the only ones in the room.

A few minutes pass and the guy says, “I wonder if things will change as much in the next 42 years as they have in the last 42 years. That’s when daddy died.”

I have no response, so I nod just the tiniest bit out of courtesy.

He continues, “42 years ago, when daddy died, there weren’t all these Mexicans around here. Not that they’re bad. In fact, there’s a Mexican family next door and they’re as sweet as can be. And there was one black girl back when I was in school.”

Oh crap, here comes a diatribe from a bigot who thinks he’s a nice guy. I squirm and stay silent.

“And 9/11, who could’ve imagined 9/11?”

Please, please don’t start in on all Muslims are terrorists…

He must sense my discomfort because he changes topics and says, “You know, my daughter, she died in 2010, gosh I miss her, she used to think I couldn’t hear her when she’d apologize to people for me talking to them. I never met a stranger…”

Okay, so that topic is not much of an improvement. Of course, I feel badly that this guy’s daughter passed away and that he has apparently spent the last 42 years mourning for his father, but this is not the way to make small talk with strangers.  I ponder how to offer my condolences without inviting further information, when the DSS receptionist pops her head out of the window and tells me to go on in to the meeting. With great relief, I scurry off.

If nothing else, let’s try to extract some lessons from this uncomfortable encounter. Here are some guidelines about making small talk with strangers:

  • Talking about your dearly departed loved ones is not the best ice breaker.
  • Just because someone appears to share your skin color does not mean they share your attitudes about people of different skin colors.
  • Most importantly, sometimes it’s best for strangers to remain strangers.

This Means War

War is a small but very serious word. It’s defined as “a state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties.” It evokes images of soldiers, weapons, tanks and bombs, and the inevitable tragic loss of life.

So, why in the world are we attaching such a serious little word to events of monumental unimportance, like:

Cupcake Wars: Neither the cupcakes nor their bakers engage in any sort of armed conflict on this show. To be accurate, it’s really more of a cupcake beauty pageant.

Storage Wars: This TV show involves the competitive world of blind bidding on the contents of abandoned storage units. Will the crap in the storage unit be worth more than the purchase price? Will obnoxious bidder #1 successfully outbid even more obnoxious bidder #2?  Does anybody care? This nonsense does not even rise to the level of sibling rivalry, much less war.

Parking Wars: I’ve never watched this show, but I gather from the promos that it revolves around real people getting parking tickets and their over-the-top outbursts about the injustice of the parking tickets, the sizes of the fines, and the hassle of getting their cars out of impound. I’m sorry, but I just can’t justify using the word “war” to describe a series of irate screaming ticket recipients who are more likely to suffer self-inflicted heart attacks than enemy gunfire.

Shipping Wars: I haven’t seen this one either, but here’s the official A&E description. “Each episode of ‘Shipping Wars’ dives into the cutthroat world of these heavy-duty movers as they battle for the chance to transport the unshippable.” Seriously? Unless these guys are exchanging artillery fire as they crawl through traffic on I-95 or the Jersey Turnpike, I think the “war” label is a little strong, don’t you?

I love playing with words, but some words demand more respect than others, and this is one of them. However, in the interest of peace and harmony, I’m going to give the producers of these TV shows the benefit of the doubt and assume it was simply a lack of imagination, not a lack of respect, that gave rise to these inappropriately named programs.

Why Power Tools Are Not for Personal Grooming

It’s always alarming to read that ordinary consumer products used by millions of people every day can cause great harm, like the recent warning from the FDA about the battery operated Spinbrush toothbrush. What’s so dangerous about the Spinbrush? The FDA says that parts of it can break off during use and be “released into the mouth with great speed,” causing broken teeth, mouth and gum injuries, choking hazards, cut lips and tonsil injuries.

The obvious take-away from this warning to stop using your Spinbrush, but there’s a larger lesson here too. Miniaturized plastic versions of power tools should never be used for personal grooming purposes, after all, the Spinbrush is nothing more than an electric sander with bristles, right?

Let’s all take the opportunity to step back and evaluate our personal grooming utensils and make sure we’re not needlessly exposing ourselves to danger.

  • If you are trimming your bangs with an electric hedge clipper, cease and desist immediately. Safer options include booking an appointment with a licensed hair stylist, which might cost a few bucks, or having your six year use her safety scissors to give you the same unique hair style she gave her Barbie doll – added bonus — your hair will eventually grow back.
  • If you are drying your hair with a leaf blower, it is likely that the resulting hair style will resemble that of a troll doll, plus you risk injury from the debris that will be inadvertently picked up and blown around the room in the mini indoor cyclone you have created. A standard hair dryer is a safer option or better yet, go sit in the sunshine for a while.
  • If you are shaving your legs or armpits with an electric belt sander, wow, you have a high pain tolerance. Nevertheless, you are likely causing serious abrasions. Try a safety razor or skip it altogether and enjoy the insulating benefits of increased body hair.
  • Toenails can be tough to trim, but always remember that a circular saw is not the solution. A heavy duty pair of nail clippers should suffice.

We can all agree that good hygiene is important, but always put safety before beauty. And, for goodness sake, don’t pluck your chin hairs in the car – we can see what you’re doing in there!

An All American Casting Call

I read that in a recent interview, when Newt Gingrich was asked what actor he’d like to have portray him in a movie about his life, he jokingly replied, “Brad Pitt.”  Well, that started me thinking about who I’d cast as the main characters in the movie Road to the GOP Presidential Nomination, which I sincerely hope will be a musical.

A little disclaimer: my picks are based solely on physical resemblance. Any other similarities, real or imagined, are entirely coincidental.



The Original Ken Doll as Mitt Romney.











The Pillsbury Dough Boy as Newt Gingrich.








Greg Brady as Rick Santorum (just picture him wearing a sweater vest).









My Favorite Martian as Ron Paul.







I smell an Oscar …

Cheaper than Therapy

Perhaps you occasionally read my posts and think, “OMG, I wish this woman would stop complaining about everything already!” What can I say? Complaining here is substantially less expensive and time consuming than therapy. Still, in the interest of achieving some small measure of karmic balance, I’d like to share some tidbits of good news with you.

On the local news front, here in our little corner of North Carolina, registration is now open for a new session of  Bee Keeping School and last month there was not one, but two rousing games of Donkey Basketball to raise money for local schools. In case you are unfamiliar with Donkey Basketball, it’s just what it sounds like.

On the national front, Pfizer is recalling about a million packs of birth control pills because of a mix-up between the pills that contain the contraceptive ingredients and inactive pills that don’t. The good news is that if you took the mixed up pills, it’s not harmful. Also, the anticipated uptick in births next fall will be good news for obstetricians, hospitals, and baby product manufacturers and retailers.

Mortgage rates are now ridiculously low. If you’re one of the 6 people out there who is gainfully employed, act now and lock in a great rate.

By far the best news of the day is the announcement that McDonald’s will no longer use slimy pink goo in its hamburger meat. The goo is some sort of pink paste made from scrap meat treated with ammonium hydroxide, which is also a common ingredient in fertilizer, household cleaning products and homemade explosives. No word on what will replace the goo – perhaps actual meat??  That would be good news for cattle ranchers and consumers, not so much for cows.

So, how did I do? Are you feeling uplifted and hopeful yet?