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Connie BerryWell, yet another dream has come true. Not only did I fulfill my lifelong ambition of being a lunch lady, now I’ve landed a part-time job at a library. I waited a full two weeks before telling you in case I woke up and it was gone.

And, as libraries go, this one is the Ritz. It’s got pretty much every cookbook ever written and a huge DVD and blu ray collection. It’s brand-spanking new and might as well be a community center-library-coffee shop. I’ve had an uncanny stroke of luck, I know.

As with most of my fantastic experiences, I pause to posit a few drawbacks. Like I’m pretty sure all the women I work with double as yoga instructors in what little free time they could possibly have. I also put forward that they keep the air conditioning in the library at around 87 degrees, judging by my constant sweating. Then there’s the whole question of whether or not I use the composting toilets or do I take the stairs yet another time to use the conventional staff toilet downstairs? I’m sure you can guess my choice.

And there’s the fact that this means I sit down maybe a grand total of 23 minutes out of an eight-hour shift. This for a woman who spent 30 years sitting at least 12 hours a day. The other 12 hours I was either eating, sleeping or drinking. I don’t even want to think about what I look like when I have to put a book on a bottom shelf. It can’t be pretty. Never mind how I look when I have to reach waaaaaay up to the top shelf, causing my shirt to rise up above my waistband revealing a sizable spare tire — likely shiny with sweat.

Despite all its pitfalls, a library job is pretty dang sweet. All those books. All those readers. All those interesting choices. I hate to say it, but already I’m noticing what books people check out. You might see some guy with a pocket protector and black socks with shorts checking out Joyce or Milton or Stephen King or James Patterson. I love that. I note this only because I’ve always wondered if the librarian stamping the due date in my book ever noticed what I was checking out. I do. Maybe I won’t in a few years. But I doubt it; I’m way too nosey.

One reason why I coveted a library job is my deep admiration for my friend Mary Bridget Swartz of Parish, New York. She worked as librarian at the town library for what seems like 60 years. And it very well might be. Bridget recently retired but I’m sure, also being the town detective, that she’s got her hand on the pulse of that old brick library. She even made it through the computerization of the Dewey Decimal System. Those folksy little wooden drawers are long gone my friends.

Anyway, me and Debbie Patterson used to walk every morning when I lived in Parish. We’d go past what I think was the only duplex/condo-looking residence in the village and boy, would we make up some sweet daydreams about retiring to that modern-looking place.

“Okay, so this is the deal,” I’d say, “when we’re old, we get jobs at the Parish Public Library and you live in one side of the condo and I live in the other.”

“Hell yeah,” Deb would say. “Chuck could help us fix it all up and we could live there in our dotage.”

I agreed to the plan even though she was the only one with a husband at the time who, by the way, I liked to call Chucker F*****. “I could drink coffee out on the deck in the morning and throw back a few beers at night. Perfect.”

I’m just telling you now, these wheels are in motion.

— Connie Berry

Connie Berry grew up reading and loving Erma Bombeck. She is former editor of The Catholic Sun newspaper in Syracuse, N.Y., and a new resident of Martha’s Vineyard where she was copy editor for the Vineyard Gazette. She lives on the island with her husband and youngest son. Her two older children read her blog, thejoblessgoddess.blogspot.com, from Syracuse.

The rest of the story

Steve EskewEven pseudo-intellectual snobs, such as I, can’t resist reading tabloid articles while waiting in line at supermarkets. Especially stories with bold and bewitching headlines like “Face of Christ on Tortilla Draws Crowd.” Or even lugubrious, catastrophic headlines like “Man’s Testicles Sucked Down Hot Tub Drain.” Don’t we just gotta know the rest of the story?

How I miss the late broadcaster Paul Harvey. Having published a book titled The Rest of the Story, Harvey produced a similar radio segment. With great glee, Harvey provided additional information about certain happenings most newscasters never made time for.

Harvey’s charm included a signature sign-off with sly pauses and a question mark as he said: “And that is the rest of the story. Paul … Harvey … Good day?”  How I wish someone with Harvey’s style were around today.

One news story in particular has piqued the deepest recesses of my expiring mind for years. As I read about a pizza delivery driver getting his foot run over as he crossed a busy street en route to deliver six pizzas to a tavern, I sprang up in my chair spellbound. But the stupid article omitted the very stuff I yearned to know.

The story revealed that the pizza driver was whisked away in an ambulance with a  broken foot and was in stable condition. Witnesses said that a “wild-eyed motorcyclist” ruthlessly ran over the pizza man’s foot and sped off. Police soon ascertained that the pizza driver had been having a not-so-clandestine affair with the cyclist’s wife.

I snorted as I read that. I knew all about those lecherous pizza drivers. They moonlight as porn stars. But I digress.

My gripe is that the account in the paper goes on and on about all of the irrelevant facts cited above, completely ignoring the most important aspect of the story. Come on already, I simply cannot be the only person who’s dying to know the story’s biggest mystery: What happened to the pizzas?

Did the paramedics eat them? Did some glutton from the tavern come over and scoop them up off the street? Did dogs devour them? Did some callous truck driver run over them? Did sneaky cops gobble them down? What? What? What happened to them?

Furthermore, exactly what the hell kind of pizzas were they? Hamburger? Sausage? Pepperoni? Combination? Deluxe? And what about the toppings? No pineapple, I hope to God. But I’ll never know. I’ll never know.

Here’s another thing: isn’t it madness when we awaken in the middle of a dream and can’t finish the confounded thing no matter how hard we try? After such a horrible moment once, my insignificant other cruelly kicked me out of my own house and told to “get a grip” before returning. And to bring home a quart of milk and a loaf of bread.

Strolling the streets in despair, fate plopped me at a greasy spoon and smack dab in the middle of yet another conundrum. Ensconced by a window with a lovely view of a bus stop, I blankly stared at a bench where lay a sleeping bum.

Suddenly, a pickup truck screeched to a halt in front of the bench. A lumberjack of woman jumped out of the driver’s side of the truck and swaggered over to the sleeping derelict. Comically glancing from left to right like a crazed keystone cop, she yanked the bum’s baseball cap off his head and stuck it on her own head, jerking it down over her eyebrows. Then she quickly jumped back inside the pickup and tore out of sight, burning rubber all the way.

Oh why, oh why, oh why-o?

Realizing that I would never know the rest of the story, I launched into such a fit of rage that the greasy spoon’s bouncer kicked me out. Can I help it if I’m a guy who desperately needs closure? To top everything else off, I forgot to pick up my ball and chain’s bread and milk and was denied re-entry at home. Humph! The rest of that story should have landed her in litigation.

For peace of mind, I’ve resolved henceforth to hang closely to my Pathological Liars Anonymous meetings. Now there’s a place where the rest of any story is told in its entirety. And then some.

Steve … Eskew … Good day?

— Steve Eskew

Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.

It’s National (fill in the blank) Day

Ann_GreenWhat’s today? Monday? Tuesday? No, I mean what day is it? It has to be National Something Day.

Every time I look on Facebook, pick up a magazine or tune in to the news, it’s National (or International) Something Day (Week or Month). It could be National Be Nasty Day or National Submarine Day or perhaps National Bunsen Burner Day (all real according to the online National Day Calendar). Days, weeks and months are increasingly losing their identities as simple markers of time. I’ve been wondering how these day designations started and got so out of control.

Some groups want to draw attention to and help raise funds for important causes. I have no problems with Glaucoma Awareness Month, World Aids Day, National Infertility Awareness Week, International Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Volunteer Blood Donor Month and so on. Some diseases get the global treatment, such as World Hepatitis Day, World Autism Awareness Day and World No Tobacco Day. There is a National Constipation Awareness Month (really!), although one assumes that the sufferers are quite aware. Reading about Anosmia Awareness Day was very helpful because I was not aware of anosmia — loss of smell — and now I am. Global Handwashing Day seems superfluous, but I guess there are people who need to be reminded.

Some special days/weeks/months are, of course, the brainchildren of marketing geniuses, such as the National Onion Association’s promotion of National Onion Ring Day. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who came up with National Froot Loop Day, National Oreo Cookie Day, National Frozen Food Day, National Tater Tot Day, National Barbecue Month (not to be confused with National Hamburger Month) and National Iced Tea Day. Let’s not forget National Popcorn Day, especially if you’re at the movies. Just to wrap it up, there’s National Dessert Day.

Some, like International Talk like a Pirate Day, are all about fun, shiver me timbers. Who can complain about Date Your Mate Month, Aquarium Month, Candy Month, Dairy Month or Rose Month?

There’s something for everyone: Go Fishing Day, International Panic Day, not to be confused with International Picnic Day, National Splurge Day and International Sushi Day. I’m not sure how one upgrades from National to International; maybe there’s a National Upgrade Day.

I can certainly get into Man Watcher’s Day and possibly Peculiar People Day. Who can argue with National Hugging Day, National No Housework Day, National Goof-Off Day, and, depending on my mood, National Be Nasty Day? I’d be interested in meeting whoever came up with National Multiple Personalities Day and Everything You Think is Wrong Day.

National Answer Your Cat’s Question Day speaks to me because I’m owned by a cat. National Play God Day and National Tell a Lie Day are disturbing, but I’m intrigued by National Increase Your Psychic Powers Day.

One problem with these “days” is that I sometimes feel like I’m supposed to do something about the subject in question. If a disease awareness day teaches me something or motivates me to donate, that’s a good thing. Feeling obligated to eat a donut on National Donut Day is not. I would need a National Break Your Diet Day (not yet on the National Day Calendar).

Some national days are born from whimsy, and I admire those who know how to manipulate social media enough to make them go viral. Like whoever started National Bubba Day to celebrate those lucky enough to be named Bubba. Among my favorites is Accordion Awareness Month created by a professional accordionist just because. Yes, with enough effort you can start a National Something Day, too.

There could come a day when day-naming inclined people will simply run out of ideas. Then maybe we’ll have National National Day, National Nothing Day (oh, wait a minute, there is a National Nothing Day), National Day Day or, perhaps, National Leave Me Alone Day. I thought of National Snapchat Day — as soon as you are aware of it, it goes away — until I found out Snapchat info can be saved. Oh, well. Perhaps in the near future there will be National I’ll Bet You’re Sick of These Days Day. Day, month or year, I’m all for it.

— Ann Green

Ann Green is a freelance writer, editor, PR consultant and tutor.

Things a politician can learn from a cat

Allia Zobel NolanOf the two presidential front-runners, only one that I know of (having done exhaustive research on that most trusted source of trivia knowledge: the Internet) has had the privilege of learning strategies from association with a cat, i.e., Hillary Clinton, who I’m sure, picked up some savvy pointers from her late, great, stray rescue, Socks.

Though she has since gone over to the dog side, Clinton most certainly must have internalized some beneficial guidelines from her beloved Socks, which have undoubtedly helped her get this far in government and in life. With this in mind, come November, I won’t be voting on the basis of what I’ve learned about either candidate’s stance on Mexican walls, tax reform, immigration or emails. Instead, as an avowed ailurophile (Google it), and since I respect and agree with the majority of decisions cats make, I’ll be checking the box of the candidate whose demeanor and platform is the most cat-like.

Now I’ve never voted for a woman or a man on the basis of her or his relationship with an animal. Still, it’s an interesting concept. What’s more, under the circumstances, there may be a certain kind of logic to it — particularly if you consider this: People say you can judge a man (woman) by his/her friends, and presumably our candidates’ pets are their friends, then ipso facto, it’s not unreasonable to judge the woman or the man — through association — with the pets he/she has had. In any event, it beats tossing a coin.

Okay, so what are some of the recommendations Secretary Clinton could have picked up from kitty Socks that she could never glean from her current companion animals? Here are a few:

Be peace-loving. Do not use aggression, as some others do, to get your point across. Don’t engage in macho shows of bravado. Don’t bark loudly, bare your teeth, or bite anyone on the leg.

Be discerning in your allegiance. Be judicious and focused when it comes to loyalty. Do not be at the beck and call of any stranger who pets you, nor be easily swayed by anyone who gives you a treat.

Be an independent thinker. Do not live for approval, nor base important decisions on the approbation of anyone else. Above all, do not be influenced by the crowd. (If anyone suggests this highly desirable characteristic is snooty, aloof, patrician, remember that’s rubbish…and you are merely showing courage of conviction.)

Exude patience and restraint. Strategize by waiting and watching before you pounce, if, indeed, the situation calls for pouncing at all.

Be a savvy conservationist. Do not expend energy — especially your own — on trivialities such as fetching or shaking hands. Like Winston Churchill and other noted dignitaries, nap often, as daily short bouts of shut-eye are important to a statesman’s well-being

Don’t be greedy. Unlike others, who believe more is better, don’t gobble up everything in sight; consume only what you need to survive. What’s more, take great pains to share — particularly mice and garden snakes — with your constituents.

Be humble. If you’re polydactyl, don’t brag about it. A leader is much more than their paws.

Exude civility. Cultivate a gentle person’s manners, be impeccably groomed at all times, and make the best of impressions. Handle yourself admirably when dining with important people. Never roll in the mud before conferring with a foreign official and never ever beg for table scraps.

Learn how to turn a convenient deaf ear when you need to.

And finally, become an expert at routing out rats and other vermin, something that can come in handy for any POTUS wanna-be.

— Allia Zobel Nolan

Allia Zobel Nolan is the author of Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much and 200 other titles. Overachiever. Humorist.

Ham and cheese on why

Bad things happen to me and I ask, “Why?”

Michael PicarellaThe other night, my wife and I took our 11-year-old son and his friend to dinner, and two total strangers sitting across the way paid our bill. They told us we were a “lovely young family.”

“God bless you,” the guy with our tab said.

I asked, “Why?”

Whether good things or bad things happen to me, I’m always asking, “Why?”

Why? Why can’t I accept things as they are and not question the reason or meaning of it all?

It’s not easy crafting these “why sandwiches,” and they’re by no means your typical bologna and cheese. Rather I make a mean Dagwood.

Look at my 30th year alive: Doctors discovered that my perfectly good heart had a problem, and they said I had to get a pacemaker. I asked, “Why?” and added all the fixings to my concern. Around the same time I wrote and directed a fairly mediocre viral ad campaign that got inducted into the Viral Hall of Fame, and again I asked, “Why?” and followed that up with, “That silly ol’ thing I made?”

I simply cannot believe that I deserve the worst or the best, so I couldn’t wrap my head around two businessmen I never met paying for my meal.

“What are they after?” I asked my wife. “You think they’re gonna pitch us aluminum siding or try to include us in some pyramid scheme? It can’t be mere kindness.”

“Or maybe that’s all it is,” my wife replied.

“Should we buy them drinks?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “We should just accept the gesture.”

“How do we accept the gesture? Do we ask how we can help them?”

“No, we say thank you.”

I never thought of that.

My wife and I got up and took our son and his friend over to the two gentlemen, shook hands and offered our gratitude. That was it. Then we walked out, never to see them again.

Guilt — my companion for life. It didn’t need to set in. It’s always there. I kept asking myself, Should we have done more? Should we have exchanged contact information so we could stay in touch? By accepting such a gift are we saying we deserve and demand money to be thrown at our feet?

My wife knows how guilt haunts me constantly, and she asked, “Why can’t you accept the gesture? You deserve it.”

“Who says I can’t accept the gesture?” I asked. “OK, I can’t accept the gesture. It’s just not right — people don’t do that kind of thing.”

Despite how it seems, I was more than grateful, believe me. Money’s been tight, and my wife and I should’ve stayed in for dinner that night. After a long day of work, however, neither my wife nor I wanted to cook. It was my suggestion to dine out. I can’t help it — I love restaurants, especially the whole they-do-all-the-cooking-and-cleaning part of it.

Luckily my wife explained how going to restaurants is expensive and tried to reason with me.

“We’ll order waters instead of soda,” she suggested. “That’ll save us 20 bucks right there.”

Needless to say, we had no business inviting our son’s friend to dinner with us, but he happened to be there when we impulsively decided not to eat at home.

We enjoyed the night. And the food was delicious. I wasn’t worthy.

“There’s nothing you can do about it now,” my wife said days later when I was still obsessing.

“There is something I can do about it,” I said. “I can pay it forward.”

The plan was to go out, find a lovely young family enjoying their meal, and pay their tab.

Before all the “whys” could pile up, I just acted. We didn’t even sit down to eat. I picked out a family from the foyer of the restaurant, and when the hostess asked, “How many?” I pointed and asked for “their bill.”

When the couple and their two sons came over to greet us, they said, “How kind of you, thank you so very much. …We can’t accept.”

Then they paid for their food and walked out, never to see us again.

I was hanging on their last words, and true to form I asked, “Why?”

— Michael Picarella

Michael Picarella is a writer, amateur family man and fascinations expert, with a taste for cookies, milk and the American Dream. His book, Everything Ever After (Confessions of a Family Man), is a collection of stories you can’t live without from his family humor newspaper column, “Family Men Don’t Wear Name Brands,” that appears in the Acorn Newspapers. In 2016, he won an honorable mention in the humor category for newspapers with 50,000 circulation or less in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ national competition. He is also the co-creator and writer of Jack-o’-Lantern Press, a monster blog for monsters only. He’s the filmmaker behind two feature-length tales of suburban noir you’ve never seen, and a content creator whose marketing campaigns include a series of viral ads that was inducted into MarketingSherpa’s Viral Hall of Fame, which everyone should already know.

Vacation rental

 

Natalie CinelliIt seemed like a really good idea. We would rent a beach cottage with my sister and brother-in-law for a week when we flew home for a family visit. What could go wrong?

What a silly question! We all know things don’t always go as planned. Take, for example, our Canadian friends who rented a condo in Florida for a month. They discovered the place was crawling with ants. Ants everywhere!  The little critters even hitched a ride back home in their luggage. “We literally had ants in our pants,” Marg told me. “Some souvenir!”

Or the friends who checked in to their rental only to discover the plumbing didn’t work. Fortunately, the husband never goes anywhere without his tools. His motto is  “Have toolbox, will travel.” So there he was under the kitchen sink. And my friend was mopping up the floor. Instead of soaking up the rays on the beach. Some vacation!

And how could I forget my bad experience? I was bitten by a scorpion in our rental house in Nevada. I was lucky that the little bugger was not the truly venomous variety or, as the emergency room doctor exclaimed, “You’d be dead right now!”

The sting was excrutiating and I screamed bloody murder. My thumb was numb for a month. But, hey,  at least I was still alive.

This time, however, I thought I found the perfect place on the vacation rental website.

• Two bedrooms
• Two bathrooms
• Tastefully furnished
• Close to downtown
• Steps away from a beach
• Ocean views from the porch

“What do you think?” I asked my sister. “Don’t the pictures look great? And the price is fantastic!”

My sister and her husband decided to drive to the shore to check out the house before we finalized the agreement.

Turns out the house was not where it was supposed to be according to the site’s map.

It was not near downtown, it was not near a beach.

It was situated at the tip of a busy cove thriving with  lobster boats and lobster traps.

Flies all over the place.

Not exactly the peaceful scenic view we were expecting.

“Where’s the ocean view?” I asked the owner. “There’s another house in front blocking the view.”

“Well, not if you look off to the left side of that house,” she explained. “Then you can catch a glimpse.”

I knew the price was too good to be true!

Undaunted, I searched the website again and discovered a real gem:

“Newly renovated, three bedroom, two bath, walk to the beach.”

I couldn’t contain my excitement. Once again I asked my sister to check it out. She contacted the owner and was able to go inside the house.

Looking around, she thought she had inadvertently walked onto the set of one of those home improvement TV shows.

The “newly renovated” house was actually a work in progress. And this was Week One.

“How can you guarantee that this rehab will be completed in time for us to rent?” my brother-in-law asked.

Guess what? Even the Property Brothers couldn’t give us that guarantee.

Not to worry. We have finally found a cottage that seems ideal.

• Close to the beach
• Walking distance to shops and restaurants
• Two bedrooms
• Two couples
• ONE BATHROOM

I’m just hoping the plumbing works. My husband doesn’t have a toolbox.

— Natalie Cinelli

Natalie Cinelli is a freelance writer who has had articles published in the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald and American Baby magazine. She wrote a humor column, “In a Nutshell,” for the Suburban News in Reading, Massachusetts. She also worked as a lifestyle editor and columnist for the Lawrence Eagle Tribune in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Chloe and Poppie’s excellent adventure

 

Jerry ZezimaWhen it comes to writers who are famous for turning real-life adventures into literary gold, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway had nothing on me. That’s because their idea of adventure was to go rafting down the Mississippi, prospecting for gold, deep-sea fishing or big-game hunting.

These pitiful excursions are walks in the park compared to spending two full days with a toddler.

That’s what I did recently when I was in charge of watching my 3-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, with whom I actually did go for a walk in the park and who has turned my life into one giddy adventure after another.

The latest one began at 8:15 on a sunny morning, when my wife, Sue, and I arrived at Chloe’s house, which later that day would become her old house because she and her mommy and daddy were moving into a new house. Sue’s job was to help coordinate a mission that turned out to be more complicated than the invasion of Normandy.

My job, for however long it took, was to watch Chloe. It took 11 hours. And the whole next day. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, I got off easy.

The first thing I did was to take Chloe to one of her favorite places: Dunkin’ Donuts.

“D!” Chloe exclaimed as she reached for the letter-shaped door handle. “For Dunkin’ Donuts!”

I stepped up to the counter and ordered a bag of Munchkins, which I shared with Chloe, and a cup of coffee, which I didn’t. Contrary to what the surgeon general might say, sugar and caffeine are absolutely essential for any geezer who is about to spend an entire day trying to keep up with an active child.

Next we went to Safari Adventure, which sounds like something Hemingway would go on but actually is a children’s recreation center that would have knocked even him for a loop. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations, although the new owners, Lindsey and Daniel, kindly gave Chloe a cup of ice cream with sprinkles on top.

It was 9:30 a.m. and already she had enough energy to power Manhattan. I figured she could burn it off at the playground. Instead, it almost burned me out.

For two hours, we ran around, going from slide to swing and back again. On the biggest slide, I took her up the stairs and hurried back down to catch her at the bottom. En route, I cracked my skull on a low-hanging bar that blessedly was made of plastic. If it had been steel, I would have bent it. If it was wood, I would have splintered it. Either way, I’d owe the playground a new slide.

Next we went to my house, where I made Chloe her favorite lunch, chicken nuggets, which I cooked in the oven without, somehow, burning the place down. Afterward, we went outside and spent the afternoon running around the yard. Then we came back in, where we ran around some more. I turned on Chloe’s favorite TV show, “Peppa Pig,” and caught my breath before making dinner (you guessed it: chicken nuggets) and playing with her until Sue came home.

That night, Chloe and I slept like babies.

The adventure continued the next day, when I set up her plastic pool outside and frolicked with her in the 6-inch-deep water. Then we ran under the sprinkler and, like Peppa Pig, jumped in muddy puddles. We also swung in my hammock, where I usually have a beer but refrained this time, even though I needed one because soon we were blowing bubbles and running around the yard again.

Around dinnertime, Chloe’s mommy and daddy came over to pick her up.

“Did you have fun with Poppie?” her mommy asked her.

“Yes!” Chloe chirped. “I had fun with Poppie!”

“Did you have fun, Poppie?” I was asked.

“Yes!” I chirped. “I had fun with Chloe!”

That night I slept like a baby again, outdoing Twain and Hemingway and dreaming of our next adventure.

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows BestLeave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Olympic sport that transcends the world

Sammy SportfaceIt’s not women’s beach volleyball — although that’s pretty sweet. It’s not the NFL or the NBA or the MLB. It’s not women’s tennis. It’s not LeBron James or Michael Jordan or Kevin Durant. It’s not “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” or “Harry Potter” or “Rocky.”

It’s not Danica Patrick — although she’s pretty nice. It’s not Anna Kournikova — although she’s pretty nice. It’s not the women’s steeplechase. It’s not the Main Event poker match in Las Vegas. It’s not the X games nor the Y Games nor the Z games.

It’s not Muhammad Ali. It’s not Greco-Roman wrestling. It’s not Lance Armstrong nor Joe DiMaggio nor Pistol Pete Maravich. It’s not Carolina tag football — what a lame game — trap shooting, the Nordic Combined, the combination of hydrogen and oxygen, the hammer throw, rowing, the Tour de France or Alpine skiing.

It’s not Donald Trump nor Hilary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders, all three of whom have major issues. It’s not Republicans nor Democrats nor Indepenents. It’s not Lyin’ Ted nor Crooked Hillary nor Pocahontas.

It’s not historical novels nor Sports Center nor Clubber Lang, who once hit on Rocky’s wife on the stairs of a Philadelphia government building.

It’s not the Ryder Cup, which Americans always choke away anyway. It’s not Yvonne Goolagong. It’s not Tom Brady nor Giselle Bundchen.

It’s not America nor China nor any of the seven other planets.

It’s not even God Himself nor the other gods themselves. It’s not the Holy Trinity either nor the Holy Ghost of Ms. Muir. It’s not the creation of the Earth, the size of the oceans, nor the stars in the sky. It’s not Pluto nor the Starship Enterprise. It’s not Spock nor the Lone Ranger.

It’s not any of these things. It’s not any of these people. It’s not anything of this world as we know it. It is more important, more cosmic, and more metaphysical than Heaven and Earth and the afterlife that awaits us all.

It is this thing, this act, this spectacle, this Hell on Earth happening that is about to unfold next month in Brazil at the Summer Olympic Games.

It is this weird sport in which the athletes spend most of their lives with their heads underwater alone with their thoughts and unable to speak with anyone, not even their coaches or teammates because you can’t talk when your head is underwater. It is mental torture, torment and self-inflicted tyranny. It is this questionable thing, looking at a black line underwater and staring at it. It is a twisted pursuit.

Staring at the line, it guides you to nowhere. You move your arms and kick your legs in quiet, by yourself, for a huge part of your life, missing countless conversations with friends, parties, normal things almost everybody else does. Your life is abnormal, a form of interpersonal imprisonment.

And for what purpose? Sixty seconds of racing on NBC? Two minutes, maybe. And then it’s over. All that time underwater, living like a fish when you aren’t one, to have a one in a million chance of finishing first, second or third and only getting your national anthem played if you finished first, which is pretty much impossible for almost everyone.

It is this whacked-out thing of wonder we know as swimming.

If you have ever stood on a starting block before a swimming race, you would understand why swimming is the greatest sport of all, the most demanding, the most stressful, the most exhausting, the most scary, the most humbling, the most embarrassing, the most brutally honest test of your strength of character and ability to fight through physical pain to finish a race.

Swimming asks a simple yet profound question of you every time you race: How tough are you? And another key question: Are you a loser or a winner?

There is nothing like swimming in any other part of life. It’s the epitome of pain and strain and going away by yourself to have mental wars. It is being naked in front of people for them to see if you have the talent and toughness to swim faster than the others on the starting block alongside you.

You dive in the water at the start of the race and within five seconds you feel terrible. You want to stop. Everything about the experience is unpleasant and gets worse as the race progressed.

When you dive in the water, you find out what a weak person you are, how dominant water is compared with you. You struggle to breathe.

You want to leave. You want to heave.

Swimming is bigger than the world, more vast than all galaxies, and the most mind-crushing thing you can do with your life because the pain is so great, so constant, and so much more intense than anything else anywhere.

By comparison, basketball, baseball, football, politics and the open seas are jockstraps.

Compared with swimming, Donald Trump is clam chowder and Hillary Clinton a slice of celery. Compared with swimming, Bernie Sanders is an aardvark.

Compared with swimming, Earth is a footnote.

— Sammy Sportface

Sammy Sportface is possibly America’s best blogger. He is only mildly interested in the truth. To read his new book, Wipe That Smile Off Sammy Sportface, go to Amazon.com.

Reflections of Erma