Sunday, February 25, 2024

"Not Exactly Fast Food"

By Jerry Zezima

I am out to lunch. This is especially true when I make lunch.

That’s because, in my incapable hands, organizing the second meal of the day takes so long that I am surprised I haven’t starved to death by now.

My wife, Sue, who usually eats lunch with me and simplifies matters by having an apple and a cup of tea, marvels at how I can turn something as easy as making a sandwich or a bowl of soup into something so utterly complicated.

Sue will often try to expedite matters by telling me what’s for lunch.

“There are leftovers in the fridge,” she will say. Or, “I bought you some turkey to have on a hard roll.”

It doesn’t help. If I stick the leftovers — chicken, pasta, Chinese food or, my favorite, hot dogs and beans — in the microwave, I will have to reheat them because I didn’t leave them in long enough. If I leave them in until they snap, crackle and pop, they’re too hot and I have to wait for them to cool off.

Or I will have soup, which takes forever to make because first I have to decide whether I want chickarina, creamy tomato or clam chowder. I will dump the soup into a pot, put it on the stove and set it at a temperature that is either too low (the soup stays lukewarm) or too high (it splatters all over the place). Then I have to raise or lower the heat and put a cover on the pot.

You know the old saying: “A watched pot never boils!”

Meanwhile, I have to decide what I want for dessert. Most of the time, I’ll have yogurt. It’s the only way I can get any culture.

Or Sue will tell me to eat a banana before it turns brown. If it does, I always add, much to my beloved’s consternation, it won’t have appeal.

Or I’ll have an apple, which is delicious even if it’s not Delicious.

At this point, Sue has finished her apple and sits at the kitchen table, watching as I set my place with the dessert I have picked but not the main course because, naturally, I haven’t finished making it.

On some days, I will have pizza, either a leftover slice from a pizzeria, some that Sue has made or one of those little frozen jobs in a plastic bag that I can never open without using scissors. Blood loss is a definite concern.

I will place the pizza on a baking sheet or a piece of aluminum foil, which I spritz with cooking spray. I’ll set the oven at 350 degrees, put the pizza in and wait. By the time it’s done, the rumbling of my stomach practically rattles the windows.

On most days, I will have a sandwich. This is by far the most time-consuming part of the ordeal. That is due to my indecision over whether to have a hard roll or bread. Sometimes I forget to take the roll out of the freezer in the morning so it can thaw and I have to nuke it in the microwave (see above). As for bread, I prefer Italian, but lately I’ve been having whole wheat. I am afraid to ask Sue why there isn’t partial wheat.

Then I have to decide what to put in it: peanut butter, tuna fish or cold cuts, which can be salami, turkey or, appropriately, bologna.

If I have cold cuts, I may add a slice or two of cheese. Or maybe not. After all, I want to keep my boyish figure.

Pickles or tomatoes? Another big decision.

After that, I have to pick a condiment: mayonnaise or mustard. If I can’t cut the mustard, I’ll give a mayo clinic. Or I’ll just slather on both of them.

Then I slap the second slice of bread on top, cut the sandwich in two and bring it to the table.

By the time I finally sit down to lunch, Sue is already asking me what I want for dinner. It’s a good thing I don’t have to make it or we’d never eat.

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 18, 2024

"The Oak's on Me"

By Jerry Zezima

I know I am going out on a limb by saying this, but in our yard, everything happens in trees.

The stately sentinels — mostly oaks, although a modest maple stands out front — serve as headquarters for birds that poop on our cars and squirrels that ravage the garden. The trees also have a nasty habit of being hit by lightning, dropping on power lines and falling on neighbors’ houses.

So my wife, Sue, and I called an arbor care specialist who got to the root of the problem by taking down a couple of sickly specimens and pruning others so much that our property looked like a branch office.

I love trees, especially maples, which I get all sappy about because they produce sweet, delicious syrup.

But I am not so enamored of oaks, which supposedly are the strongest trees but which litter the yard with twigs if even the mildest breeze blows through.

They also drop disgusting brown gunk that stains our vehicles, clogs the gutters and leaves the yard looking like a herd of cattle fertilized it.

And don’t get me started with acorns, which the squirrels love but which drive me — you guessed it — nuts.

Still, the deciduous darlings wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t topple over like drunken revelers.

The first time it happened, on a dry, windless morning, I was upstairs in my office, working hard to avoid working, when I heard a tremendous crash. I looked out the window to see that a not-so-mighty oak on our side of the fence had fallen on the attached garage of the house next door.

Fortunately, our neighbors are very nice people who said they wanted to get a new roof but couldn’t afford one.

“Now our insurance company can pay for it,” the guy said.

“Thanks,” his wife added.

“You’re very welcome,” I replied. “It was nothing.”

The next mishap occurred when one of two towering oaks in the backyard was hit by lightning. I was shocked — shocked! — to see zapping going on there.

Sure enough, the top of the tree had been sheared off.

We called the aforementioned arbor care specialist, who came over with a crew that used a chainsaw on the fallen wood and gave a crewcut to the rest of the treetop, leaving it looking like Curly of the Three Stooges.

Logs littered the yard, so I loaded them into the car and drove, with Sue, to the dump. It was our 42nd wedding anniversary.

“Isn’t it romantic?” I cooed.

My bride’s gaze told me in no uncertain terms that I was a lumber-jerk.

A couple of years ago, the top of a neighbor’s tree — an oak, naturally — collapsed onto power lines above our property. The electrical box on the back of our house was ripped off, the power went out and the torn and tumbled treetop, which fell for no discernible reason aside from maybe ants or termites but certainly not wind, lay in a heap next to the fence in our backyard.

The neighbors (not the same ones whose roof was smashed by one of our trees) paid for half the cost charged by the arbor care guy to cut up and cart away the rotten wood. Insurance covered damage to the house.

Most recently, a storm toppled the top of yet another oak in our backyard. Back came the tree crew to cut it up, take down the rest of the tree, fell the one that was hit by lightning, and prune dead branches from other trees, including the big oak in front of the house that provides plenty of shade in the summer but makes our lawn look like it was manicured with a flamethrower.

The work was good not only for our house and property, but for the trees themselves.

“Now the birds can’t poop on our cars,” said Sue. “And it looks like the squirrels have been dispossessed.”

“If they think they’re coming back to drive me nuts with their acorns,” I said, “they’re barking up the wrong tree.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 11, 2024

"Leave It to Geezer"

By Jerry Zezima

The day after I turned 70, I got an email urging me to buy burial insurance.

“Now more than ever, it’s time to make sure your family is protected,” it said. “You may qualify for amazing rates on burial policies!”

I was sure I didn’t qualify because I am not — at least so far — dead.

But I began to wonder if reaching a milestone, which is better than having a kidney stone, makes advertisers think you are not long for this world.

Even if you are still alive, you may be considered so decrepit that you will need to spend all the money you plan to leave to your family, which in my case would keep them in the lap of luxury for about a week and a half, on such geezer necessities as hearing aids, walk-in bathtubs, liposuction, hernia mesh implants, and knee or hip replacements.

I’ve gotten email pitches for them, too.

When I told this to my mother, Rosina, who will turn 100 in November and is sharper than I am (so are houseplants, but that’s another story), she said, “Even I don’t get these emails. They must think I’m dead.”

Granted, Mom already has hearing aids, all the better (or worse) to pick up my stupid jokes.

“Maybe I should take them out when you’re here,” she said.

Her knees give her a lot of trouble, which means she will be sidelined for the baseball season. But at 99, she’s too old to get replacements.

“I’d bounce back from the surgery,” she said, noting that she has recovered from several broken bones in the past decade, “but I don’t like hospital food. So I’ll use my walker and do laps around the house.”

“I may be 70, but I’m not too old for a knee replacement,” I said.

“Do you need one?” Mom asked.

“No,” I replied.

“How about a brain replacement?” she inquired.

“I haven’t gotten any offers,” I said.

“Keep checking your email,” Mom said. “It would be worth the money.”

My wife, Sue, who is my age, agreed.

“You could probably use one,” she said.

Since we are about to begin a bathroom renovation, I asked Sue if she wanted a walk-in bathtub.

“No!” she said. “What am I, 90?”

Sue also said she gets emails about burial insurance and knee replacements.

“They must think I’m old,” said Sue, who is very youthful.

I admit that we should consider getting hearing aids because we frequently can’t make out what the other one is saying.

“You don’t listen to a word I say,” Sue will say.

I know she says this because every once in a while, I am actually listening.

Other times, Sue will start to say something while she is walking away. When I don’t respond, she will say that I am not paying attention.

If I do respond, she will say that she was talking to herself.

When I say something, it’s usually not worth listening to.

And when we are watching TV, one of us will ask the other to turn up the volume.

“Alarming fact: More than 48 million Americans hear so poorly that their quality of life significantly suffers as a result,” one hearing aid ad claims.

I hear what they’re saying, but I am going to pass up this tempting offer. In fact, I am going to ignore all the other email pitches I have been getting since I turned 70.

“Let’s print them out, dig a hole in the backyard and dump them in,” I told Sue. “Then those annoying companies could pay us for burial insurance.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 4, 2024

"Driving Course Is an Auto Motive"

By Jerry Zezima

My wife thinks I drive too fast. Our younger daughter thinks I drive too slow. Since I am neither a white-knuckled NASCAR wannabe nor a little old man who tootles along in the passing lane with his left blinker on, this means I drive just right.

And I recently proved it by getting an A in an AARP Smart Driver Course.

I took the six-hour online class for one of the following reasons:

(a) To prove my wife and daughter wrong.

(b) To be a safe driver.

(c) To get a discount on my auto insurance.

If you guessed (c), you would be correct, although the first two were factors as well.

I was correct on 94 percent of the test questions in the course, which fortunately did not require me to get behind the wheel of a used sedan with a driver’s-ed instructor who would probably go into cardiac arrest if he knew I flunked the same road test my older daughter, then 16, passed with flying colors.

But that was an anomaly, which sounds like a foreign car, because I have gotten only two tickets and had just one accident (the other guy’s fault) in more than five decades of driving.

Still, I thought it was a good idea, as an “older driver,” to take a refresher course. This allowed me to sit at my computer and proceed at a leisurely pace, which would have infuriated the driver behind me if I had been in an actual car.

It also allowed me to do things I am not supposed to do while driving — eat, drink and talk on the phone — but which I see plenty of other drivers do, usually while cutting me off and giving me a one-digit salute if I honk my horn at them.

This is the kind of dangerous stuff that Joe and Maria, the hosts of the AARP Smart Driver Course, warn against. And they go to great lengths to emphasize the right and wrong ways to operate a motor vehicle. They also review such basics as wearing a seatbelt, adjusting the mirrors and inspecting the tires.

“Check your fluids,” they add. I think it’s a good idea to check your car’s fluids, too.

But Joe and Maria, who do voiceovers while their photos appear on the screen, aren’t the only people participating in the course. Real-life seniors, including a married couple who argue while trying to figure out a map, appear in several videos.

One guy says, “The last thing I want to do is be a burden to my family, so I am going to keep driving for as long as I can.”

It’s a good thing I’m not in that video because I would have said that being a burden is my goal. And if you ask my family, I achieved it long ago. That’s why I am still driving.

I must say, however, that I got a lot out of the course. Yes, there’s plenty of stuff I already knew, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded about such important things as how to depress the brake. (My guess: Insult it.)

People change as they get older (I changed my socks last week) and not everyone is at the same skill level when it comes to operating a motor vehicle.

Some people shouldn’t be driving at all, especially the idiots who routinely blow through the stop sign in front of my house.

That’s why I’m glad I paid attention through all six hours of the course. It helped me get 117 out of 125 questions right. That’s a score of 94. In other words, I aced it. And I graduated — with a certificate — motor cum laude.

This will impress my wife and daughter. They’re the best backseat drivers I know.

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima