The Scoop: Humor

Feb
17
2012

 

A hundred years ago, I was living in New Orleans, and, sister, I needed a job. I was in for a rude awakening. There were no openings for teachers. Nada. Zip. A big fat zero. I needed a job. Employment. Regular paychecks. I heard about an opening in a little town south of New Orleans called Port Sulphur. I called the principal and put on what I hoped would pass for self-confidence.             

“I understand you have a teaching position opening. Don’t hire anyone until you meet me!” (I was such a doofus at that age.)

            He laughed. “When would you like to interview?”

            “Tomorrow.” I knew I sounded like an overly eager beaver, but I wanted that job. You have no idea.

            I consulted a friend who had a sense of style.

            “You need help. You’ve got to make a good impression,” she said.

I was a tomboy. Born and reared in the tropical country of Panama, I had a lot to learn about life in the big city. My friend loaned me a dress with a mini skirt. I don’t know what we were thinking in the ‘70s. Those skirts were SHORT. She also suggested a few more necessities to improve my chances of being hired: make-up, Lee Press On Nails, and pantyhose. I understood the make-up and the fake nails, but pantyhose were new to me. Panty-what? We didn’t have such in the jungle. Nope. Not ever.

“Look for them where they sell the eggs,” she coached.

I searched K-Mart until I had to seek out a worker. “Uh, sir, where are the eggs?”

“We don’t sell eggs.”

“My friend said to look for pantyhose near the eggs.”

“Oh. You mean L’eggs.” He eyed me like I had just fallen off the turnip truck.

The L’eggs wall was a veritable Shangri-La, a cornucopia of glittery plastic eggs. I had no idea that you bought pantyhose by size and color. I ran my hands along the lot of them until I stood transfixed in front of the shiniest of all, silver. It was a wonderment. To me it could have been Fabergé.

Interview day dawned bright and early. I showered, did my hair, put on make-up, pressed on my Lee Press Ons, and threw the miniskirt over my head and smoothed it into place. I unsnapped the silver egg, which hinged in the middle, and lifted the top. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the contents looked like a small, curled animal with wrinkly brown skin. I pulled out the panty hose. They were 4 inches wide and 11 feet long. No kidding. The panty part looked too small for a newborn. I checked the label. Control top. Now, if you’re unfamiliar with control top, let me school you. The Army uses control-top material to stop enemy tanks. Not one has ever broken through. Ever. Spider-Man’s spidey suit is made of control-top material. Olympic trampolines are made of control-top material. I tried slithering into them. Stretching. Pulling. Sliding. Jumping in place. At one point the recoil bent me backward, and I ended up on the bed in the birthing position, panting. I finally managed to pull the waist up where I thought it should go, but the crotch part was somewhere between my knees and my nether regions. There was still a good 12 inches of wrinkly material hanging off the ends of my feet, but that was the best I could do. I put on my open-toed high heels and tucked the hanging pantyhose part in under my feet. I checked my reflection in the mirror. Not bad, if I didn’t move too much and reveal the crotch of the pantyhose was 1 inch above the hem of my dress.

            At the interview, the principal welcomed me and offered a chair. I walked stiffly and sat down, careful to smooth my hem down as low as possible. I crossed my legs into the position my mother had ingrained in me as “ladylike.” As the principal launched into a diatribe about the need for good teachers, something caught my eye. I looked down. Twelve inches of pantyhose were hanging out of the end of my high heel. My face went scarlet. I reached down as nonchalantly as I could and, keeping my eyes on his, I poked it back into place. I rested my hand on my leg, just above the knee. I felt something bumpy. I looked down. THREE OF MY LEE PRESS ON NAILS WERE STUCK TO MY LEG UNDER THE PANTY HOSE.

A shocked, guttural sound burst out of me. “UUUUUUU!!!” I slapped my hand over the Press On Nails like I was killing the worst mosquito. The principal stopped, mid sentence.

“Are you okay?” His eyebrows raised up a full 2 inches.

“Fine.”

Thank goodness for principals. They can talk all day. He continued where he had left off. I, however, hung between mortification and misery. This was the only job available in the entire free world, and I wasn’t going to strike out because of careless grooming. While the principal talked, I began rubbing my leg with both hands, trying to unstick the nails. There was no way to go but up. My plan was to rub them up out of sight and re-stick them to my leg where they couldn’t be seen. This was hard work. Millimeter by millimeter. Intense concentration. I didn’t hear a word the principal was saying. I went into a glazed over, semi-vegetative state. I lost track of time. I was beginning to make progress when I realized the principal had stopped talking. He was staring, mesmerized.

Thank goodness for pity. His voice was gentle. “Do you need a moment alone?”

Thank goodness for mercy. He left me alone.

Thank goodness for grace. I got the job.

 

Jan
27
2012

Have you ever done something so dumb, so destructive, so heinous that the memory stays with you for a lifetime?

 My husband and I lived in New Orleans but went away every weekend to minister to a small church in Port Sulphur, Louisiana, 50 miles away. I was young and poor and stupid. Emphasis on the stupid part. I still had so much to learn about the savvy of running a household.

 On Friday afternoon, I set out a frozen chicken to take with us to cook for Sunday dinner. I left it on our gas stove where I would be sure to see it and take it with us when we left. Before we closed up the apartment for the weekend, I made certain the lights were out, the windows were locked, and the AC was off. We were too frugal to keep the AC running while we were out of town. And, let me tell you, Sister, the temperature was about a thousand degrees in that apartment without the AC running.

As soon as we got to Port Sulphur, church friends invited us for Sunday dinner. I was thrilled that I wouldn’t have to cook and clean up on such a busy day. I never gave the frozen chicken a second thought.

Sunday night we returned to our New Orleans apartment, and it was dark in the little alcove by our front door. My husband fished around for his keys, unlocked and opened the door, and WAS PHYSICALLY KNOCKED BACK. Instantly. On moment he was fine, the next his arms were flailing, and he was making unintelligible sounds. Then a horrible stench almost knocked me over. Actually, horrible isn’t even in the ballpark. Putrid. Deathly. I am not exaggerating. I wonder to this day why the neighbors hadn’t already called Homicide to investigate.

Now, the weird part was we were still in the dark. Neither one of us had yet made any intelligible sound. All efforts went into pushing and shoving to distance ourselves from the horrendous odor. That’s when we heard a thin, eerie WHISTLING. Demonic. Otherworldly. A high-pitched keen calling from the grave.

I managed to hit the kitchen light switch, and we both saw it at the same time. The raw, three-day-old chicken had spoiled to the point where the bag had blown up as large and as tight as a BASKETBALL. There was a tiny pin-prick in the plastic bag and the escaping gas was making the eerie whistling.

It all came to me in a rush. I had left the chicken. It was rotting in the bag. I had to get it out before my husband left me for someone with better sense. I rushed to the stove and reached out to grasp the now giant sized plastic bag. But, the minute my hands touched it, IT EXPLODED.

I am simply not gifted enough to fully describe the full impact of an exploding, rotten chicken. Mere words are not adequate. The stench, my gyrations, the flying parts, the rain of juices, my disrobing, my language. I think I actually experienced the Dark Side.

It took hours…no, days…to clean everything and fumigate the apartment. Even the curtains had to be taken down and washed. Twice.

I’m older, I’m smarter, and I still do dumb things sometimes. But, this experience gave me a gauge for judging all other situations. No matter what I’m confronted with, deep down there is the comforting assurance that it couldn’t be as bad as the chicken.

 

Jan
18
2012

“Bloom where youre planted,” Mama would spout.

I should have listened and not tuned her out.

She said it a lot,

Im kidding you not.

“Bloom where youre planted, whatever your pot!”

See, I was a kid who might grumble and gripe.

“...Dont like my teacher...just not my type.”

But Mama would say,

In her no-nonsense way.

“Bloom where youre planted, cause thats where youll stay.”

I stayed and I stood, though I kept up my guard,

Knowing Miss Burns would be much, much too hard.

I entered her room

With a heart full of gloom.

And found, with Miss Burns, that Id bloom and Id bloom.

Call the militia! Call the Marines!

For seven years later, Id entered my teens.

I hate to confess

That Id stress and obsess,

“Ive nothing to wear!” and “I hate this old dress.”

But Mama would say, “Child, we havent a dollar,

But Ill change the sleeves and put on a new collar.”

Id watch her begin

With her needles and pins,

And wouldnt you know it? That dress “bloomed” again.

Then came the time when I left home for college,

Eager to fill up my head with new knowledge.

I wrote home to Mom,

Saying, “Please, please stay calm,

But Ive met a guy and hes cute! Hes the bomb!”

Mama wrote back, saying, “Wait! Its a phase!

Trust me! Youve known him for just...14 days.”

Her words did intone,

“Agree or come home!

Bloom where youre planted but right now, ALONE!”

“But Mama,” I wept, “I might be an old maid.”

I launched, to my shame, an impressive tirade.

But Mama held fast,

“It never would last.

Youll bloom again—and this too shall pass.”

The years rolled on by, and much later, I wed,

And I tried to “bloom,” like Mama had said.

It was I, now, each day,

When my kids were at play,

“Bloom where youre planted,” they both heard me say.

But oh, how we want things—bigger and better.

Then one day we find were a credit card debtor.

My checkbook held naught!

I was in a tough spot,

For trying to live much too big for my pot.

Id forgotten to bloom in a pot just my size,

And that is when trouble will always arise.

When debts are assuming,

Mortgages looming,

Odds are that happiness will not be blooming.

My lifestyle had taken possessions for granted.

I had to RELEARN to bloom where Im planted.

It isnt the “stuff,”

Possessions or “fluff,”

That make us feel deep down that we have enough.

Its focusing in on the blessings from God

And learning to live with a life slightly flawed.

The car has a dent?

Your bracelet is bent?

Your son tracked in mud, or worse, wet cement?

Need to lose weight?

Hairstyles not great?

Dont like your husband, or friend, or roommate?

Dont have a job?

Head has a throb?

Your boss is demanding and sometimes a snob?

Your son wants a turtle?

Cant find your girdle?

And lunch with your daughter is sometimes a hurdle?

Kids always fight?

Cant sleep at night?

Your first grader cant get her shoes tied just right?

You can go far

In the place where you are,

No matter how humble, how small, how bizarre.

So shout hallelujah! Take nothing for granted.

Give God the glory, and bloom where youre planted.

 

Click here to download Bloom Where You're Planted 

Dec
30
2011

          When I was a teenager, my whole world revolved around my youth group from church. There were about 60 of us, and we were a rowdy, happy group. Our church was within walking distance from the high school, and we were given an hour and fifteen minutes for lunch every day. That meant lunch at the church together for grilled cheese and tomato soup or hamburgers and French fries and breakfast once a week. We did some serious laughing and swapped all the latest gossip over food.

            Our customs were a little weird. After Christmas, everyone looked forward to the huge Christmas tree burns we would have. Everyone looked for all the old, dried-out Christmas trees people put out by the curb. The deal was, you tied the tree behind your bike with a rope, then biked it home. You did this until you had a pretty good stash. Most of the church youth groups in the area were planning for their Christmas tree burns, too, and finding those dried-out trees meant war. It was not unusual to wake up and find your stash GONE, stolen in the night, swiped by one of the other youth groups, no doubt. Even so, we racked up more than 100 trees, maybe more. That was a serious pile of pine and icicles.

            The night of the tree burn would rival Dante’s Inferno. Imagine the heat the enormous pile of dried-out pine generated. The flames leapt 40 and 50 feet into the sky. Our custom was to line up, and every kid had a tree that was his or hers to throw. We were at least 100 feet away because of the immense heat emanating from the burning starter pile. Then the insanity began. When your turn came, you grabbed your tree with an intense grip and ran like an idiot toward the giant flaming pile. As you got as near as you dared, you heaved the skeletal tree up over your head with as much force as you could muster. I swear some of them burst into flame in midair, they were so dried out and flame ready. Then, with your face burning and your hair flying, you turned and ran back to the line to do it all over again when your turn came. Why our parents and our youth leaders would allow this barbaric ritual is anyone’s guess, but it was repeated year after year. To my knowledge, no one was ever hurt or burst into spontaneous combustion, a miracle, if you ask me. What didn’t kill you made you stronger.

Dec
19
2011

 

 

Just when I get all the glitter vacuumed up from last year’s decorations, it’s time to put out this year’s decorations, and for me, the sparklier, the better. If something has glitter or sequins on it, I want two of them. Three. I’m a sucker for shine. A pushover for glitz. When I was a kid, glitter was made out of metal. Mothers warned, “Don’t get that stuff in your eye, or you’ll go blind.” Glitter was pretty scarce in those days. When it turned up, it was a wonder. In kindergarten, I was a clock in the Christmas show at school. My daddy provided a cardboard box for the costume and painted it for me. The art teacher glued on a clock face, complete with Roman numerals. The older kids in the special ed class added glitter, carefully glued to each numeral. Wearing it, I was in my glory. Glitter for all to see. A star was born.

Today glitter is made from plastic, and though it won’t blind you, it has the cling factor. Try to embellish a craft project with glitter, and it sticks to any and all surfaces, including your underwear. Don’t ask me how it gets in underwear. Doctors are still looking into that. I’ve found glitter clinging to the inside of my freezer, the pages of my high-school yearbook, the dog’s water bowl, and the top of a casserole I baked for my neighbor. Future civilizations will have to interpret these clinging sparkles because, like cockroaches, you can never really get rid of excess glitter. Some glitter is finer than dust, which leads me to think that maybe we might breath it in. Check your tissue the next time you sneeze. You’ll see.

Today’s glitter is not your father’s Oldsmobile. Now we have designer glitter: ovals and orbs, twists and twizzles, spirals and spangles. There is Glitter by Martha Stewart. She went to prison on trumped-up charges, but the girl makes a mean glitter. Seriously. Martha Stewart glitter is beyond gorgeous. But my obsession with glitter isn’t just about using it and displaying it on crafty objects and seasonal decorations: it’s owning it. I can never own enough glitter. One bottle of turquoise glitter dust leads to silver, gold, and peach. My obsession leans toward being a glitterholic. I consider my bottles of glitter part of my personal assets. I’m too thrifty (read: cheap) to buy it at the craft store for full price, so when I find it for a cut-rate price at T. J. Maxx, or at a garage sale, it’s cause for celebration. I’m officially part of the glitterati.

Now that I’m all decorated, it’s time to enjoy. Later, I’ll ride herd on the loose glitter that sparkles from my carpets, bedding, counters, shower tiles, bathtub, and dining room. Yesterday, I found a stray sparkle on the butter dish. The day before, the dog had some on her nose. Glitter: can’t decorate without it, can’t get rid of it. At least it won’t make us go blind.

Nov
16
2011

 

            One lovely spring day, when everything in the world seemed innocent and inviting, I had an experience so humiliating that it still makes me cringe when I think about it today.  My friends Barb and Jim from Indiana were visiting. Sun lovers, they expressed an interest in all sorts of outdoor activities. We’d been to the beach, so we decided to go on a long canoe trip down the Rainbow River in central Florida. That struck a chord in me. I loved being on the river, especially when we’d had plenty of rain and the river was up.

            Barb and I decided we would wear bandeau bathing suits. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that term, a bandeau bathing suit has no straps, so your tan lines won’t show.

            BANDEAU noun \ban-ˈdō\ A bathing suit held up by an elastic band, worn by fools and those who don’t know any better.

            A thick wide band of elastic holds up the suit in front—the band, and what Mother Nature has endowed you with. Mother Nature had been generous to me. So, off we went with our husbands for a day of high adventure.

            That day we shared the river with about twenty 12- to 13-year-old Boy Scouts. We kidded back and forth with the boys, vying for first place, joking good naturedly about all sorts of things. They stopped to swim; we went ahead. We stopped to picnic; they shot ahead. The Rainbow is incredibly beautiful, so we stopped to take pictures and point out turtles and bass and gar.

            At one point, the Rainbow river turns and narrows through a rock gorge. Since the water was high on the day of my adventure, that meant that thousands of gallons of water suddenly had to squeeze through a smaller space. The force of the water can be tremendous. When our foursome turned the corner, we were surprised to see many of the Boy Scout canoes stuck together in a glut, right where the river was surging through the smaller gorge. I saw that we were going to ram them, so I stuck my paddle in the water to try to slow us down. No deal, Lucille. The force of the water pitched me out into the rushing river and sucked me forward with lightning speed.

            As a child, I had once almost drowned when I got caught under a giant rubber raft at the beach and couldn’t get out from under it. That day on the Rainbow, I saw myself being sucked underneath the knot of 15 or so canoes, and I panicked. I reached up in desperation and grabbed the side of one of the canoes to stop me from going under. I gripped it with a death grip. I held on, BUT MY BATHING SUIT WENT TO MEXICO (thank goodness it didn’t go to Chile!). I felt what was happening, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. My head was still under 2 feet of water, my hands were gripping the side of a canoe, and there I hung in all my glory.

             I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold my breath  much longer, so I looked up from down under the water. I saw the shadowy figures of several boys. They were looking down with their mouths hanging open. One boy pointed while talking to the others. I couldn’t hear his voice, of course, but I read his lips.

            “LOOK AT THOSE!!!”

            I hung there, suspended between drowning and humiliation.

            Everything happened at once. My husband rescued me. He reached down to haul me back into our canoe and somehow managed to pull up my suit in the process. The canoes came untangled and started making their way through the gorge. We spun in an eddy while my face tried to return to its normal color. It would have been nice to have made a hasty exit, but there was quite a lot of river to cover before the gettin’-out place.

            We only saw the Boy Scouts one more time that day. As we paddled by their noisy group, they went instantly quiet, except for one boy, who stage whispered, “She’s the one! Her! Her! Right there!”

            There’s good news about this story, however. I learned to respect the Boy Scout motto, Be Prepared. The Boy Scouts learned an anatomy lesson. The bad news is that I was Exhibits A and B.