Sunday, May 26, 2024

"No Pane, No Gain"

By Jerry Zezima

I do windows. They’re a pain in the neck, especially if I stick my neck out the window to clean a pane, but spring has sprung and, even though I am no spring chicken, I have to spring into action to do the spring cleaning that gives me a window into my life as a suburban homeowner.

I am supposed to do the windows every spring, but if memory serves (I would like it to serve me a beer, which is what I need after doing the windows), I forgot to do them last year.

So my wife, Sue, wants me to do them now.

The problem with cleaning windows, which I can clearly see even if they are dirty, is mathematical.

We have 25 windows in our house, 11 upstairs and 14 downstairs. We also have two French doors, a storm door and a partridge in the pear tree.

There is an inside and an outside to each window, which makes 50 windows. And there are two panes per window.

Total: 100 windows.

It is logic like this that caused me to flunk not only math but logic.

But I got to work recently and was on a roll — of paper towels — when I finished the roll and had to start another one.

I also had a spray bottle of glass cleaner that kept taunting me by either: (a) being off, (b) being on stream, (c) being on spray or (d) being off again.

I wanted it to be on spray because the streaming service caused the cleaner to splash off the windows and into my eyes.

This defeated the whole purpose of the job because I couldn’t see out the windows anyway.

I could have used ammonia, but Sue said, “Ammonia smells.”

And if I needed a second bucket of the stuff, I would have come down with double ammonia.

Then I’d kick the bucket.

I played it safe — or so I thought — by using glass cleaner and paper towels on the windows in the family room.

Because they are old, not unlike the geezer who was cleaning them, I was able to unlatch only a couple of them, turn the panes inward and clean them on the outside without actually having to go outside.

The other two wouldn’t cooperate, despite my threats to smash them to bits with a ball-peen hammer. Undeterred, I got a stepladder and went outside so I could clean the top panes.

“Watch my flowers!” Sue admonished as I started to climb the ladder, which was on uneven ground and began to tilt.

As I regained my balance, a bee that was getting drunk on nectar in the flowers almost flew into my pants. Spritzing it with glass cleaner or whacking it with a roll of paper towels would have led to either an unimaginable sting or a horrific crash through a blood-streaked window.

I nervously ignored the s-o-bee, finished cleaning the outside windows and tried to get back in the house but couldn’t because Sue had locked the door.

I banged on it. No response. I called Sue’s cellphone. No answer. I was dialing the landline when she finally let me in.

“Why did you lock yourself out?” she said incredulously.

“I didn’t!” I cried. “You did!”

“Oh,” Sue said. “Sorry.”

But she did add that I was doing a good job on the windows.

“They look clean,” Sue said approvingly. “Still, we need new ones.”

“Do you know how much they cost?” I asked, telling her that I have been getting email ads for a national window company whose prices are so high that we would have to take out a second mortgage to afford them.

“In that case,” said Sue, “you better clean the rest of the windows.”

“At this rate,” I said, “I should be done by next spring.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, May 19, 2024

"Have Passport, Can Travel"

By Jerry Zezima

In case I am run out of the country, which is probably inevitable but would give me a great reason to have my own travel show, I just renewed my passport.

“Now I can visit my mother,” I told Jenn, a very nice postal employee who helped me and my wife, Sue, with our renewals at a post office branch on Long Island, New York.

“Where does your mother live?” asked Jenn.

“In Connecticut,” I replied.

“You don’t need a passport for that,” she said. “At least, not yet.”

“I can’t afford to go anywhere else,” I said. “But if I had a TV series, I would get paid to travel the world. If Stanley Tucci, Eugene Levy and Conan O’Brien can do it, so can I.”

“I’m on my third passport,” Jenn told me, “and I haven’t been anywhere farther than Epcot in Florida.”

Sue and I got our passports in 2008, when we went to Barbados for our 30th anniversary. We also used them when we went to France in 2011 for our younger daughter’s wedding. But the passports expired in 2018. And even though we have no plans — or money — to go anywhere exotic, we wanted to renew them.

“You never know when I’ll need to make a quick getaway,” I told Jenn, who wore gloves while she handled our paperwork. “Is that so you won’t leave fingerprints on my application and be guilty by association?” I asked.

“It’s because the stickers I use are too sticky and can split my fingers,” she answered. “But I won’t tell the authorities I saw you.”

Jenn agreed when I said that the worst part of traveling is packing.

“Unless you go overnight, as I do when I visit my mother, it takes forever to pick the right clothes and stuff them into your suitcase,” I said. “If you go somewhere for a week, you have to check the weather forecast and decide what to bring. And you always end up overpacking.”

“My husband has a packing list,” Jenn said. “He’s very organized. I’m not.”

“That’s like me and Sue, except the opposite,” I said. “She’s very organized. I’m not.”

“He’s right,” Sue said.

“I bet he isn’t most of the time,” Jenn said with a smile.

Sue smiled, too, and said, “You’re right.”

Jenn took our expired passports, made copies of our driver’s licenses and checked our applications to be sure we filled them out correctly.

“Are you going to take our pictures?” I asked.

“Yes,” Jenn responded. “And you can’t use a disguise.”

“You can’t replace my mug shot with a photo of Brad Pitt?” I wanted to know.

“You can’t even use a Groucho Marx disguise,” Jenn said.

“I already look like him,” I noted. “If he weren’t dead, he could sue me for stealing his identity.”

“When my husband saw my passport photo, he said, ‘When did you get arrested?’ ” Jenn recalled.

She took Sue’s photo, which came out great. When she took mine, she said, “I have to shoot you again.”

“A lot of people would like to shoot me,” I said.

“No, I mean I have to take another picture,” said Jenn.

“Why, because the first one looks like me?” I wondered.

“Because you were smiling,” Jenn explained. “You’re not supposed to show teeth.”

“When mine fall out, there won’t be a problem,” I said just before Jenn snapped the second shot, which came out all right.

“You can expect your new passports in six to eight weeks,” Jenn told me and Sue as we were leaving.

“What if I have to flee the country before then?” I asked. “Can I use you as a reference?”

“No,” Jenn said. “But if you get your own travel show, you can send me on a nice vacation.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, May 12, 2024

"Fowl Play"

By Jerry Zezima

I have a bone to pick with the slobs who have been dumping chicken bones and other garbage on our front lawn. But make no bones about it, I will catch these birdbrains because my wife, Sue, and I recently installed a home security system to capture their fowl deeds.

This is the latest poultry problem I have had to cackle — sorry, I mean tackle — because it brings up the eternal question: What came first, the chicken or the egg?

The yolk was on me after Sue found a chicken egg in our backyard last year and I scrambled to find the hen that laid it. Some unknown humans in our neighborhood have chickens, one of which apparently flew the coop and used our lawn as a shell station.

I never did track down the fine feathered fiend. Nor do I know who owns the rooster that goes “cock-a-doodle-do!” at all hours of the day and night.

But I do know that some greasy-fingered individuals who have a taste for chicken keep tossing their bones on the same patch of grass out front.

The latest batch contained a clue: In a pile of used napkins and, yes, chicken bones was a receipt from a nearby grocery store.

Playing both detective and investigative reporter — I can see myself starring in my own TV show, “CSI: Chicken Scene Investigation” — I drove to the store, showed the crumpled receipt to assistant manager Danielle Hayes and asked if the store has cameras.

“Yes,” replied Danielle, “but we can’t show you the tape of the people who bought chicken here. We can only show it to the police.”

So I went to the local cop shop and spoke with Officer Quilty — she declined to tell me her first name — who said, “If you want to catch these people, get a camera.”

That’s when Sue called our alarm company and arranged for a technician to install a security system that not only would catch the sloppy scofflaws red-handed (or red-winged) but would also show the license plates of the vehicular maniacs who routinely blow through the stop sign in front of our house.

“We also want to catch the squirrels and rabbits that have been pilfering the flowers and veggies in my wife’s garden,” I told Dean Cameron, who came over to set up the cameras. “Maybe we can have them arrested, too.”

“My parents have groundhogs in their yard,” Dean said.

“Do they have security cameras?” I asked.

“No,” Dean replied. “They’re too stubborn.”

“How about you?” I wondered.

“I live in a third-floor apartment,” he said. “Unless someone has a 35-foot ladder to get in, I don’t need cameras. If I had them, they would catch my dog either sleeping or bullying my cat.”

Dean’s dog, a 7-year-old Corgi named Clementine, would eat clementines or even chicken.

“She’ll eat anything,” he said. “My sister got me high-security garbage cans because she used to turn over the garbage and eat everything in it.”

“Your sister?” I said.

“Clementine,” answered Dean, who installed four cameras on the outside of the house, including a doorbell camera at the front door.

“We used to have a doorbell, but it never worked,” I told him.

Dean also put cameras above the garage door (to catch chicken-bone dumpers), on the side of the house (to catch hungry squirrels and bunnies) and in the back (to catch any pregnant poultry that may want to lay another egg).

“You’re all set,” Dean said when he was finished.

“Thanks,” said Sue. “Now we can catch the jerks who blow through the stop sign. I just saw one. We can give the tape to the cops and get a piece of the fines. That way, the cameras will pay for themselves.”

“And if we catch those slobs who dump chicken bones in the yard,” I added, “it will be a feather in our cap.”

Copyright 2024 by Jerry Zezima