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Just what the doctor ordered

Jerry ZezimaBy the time you read this, I could be dead. If so, I am going to get a second opinion.

Fortunately, that shouldn’t be necessary because I recently got a first opinion from my doctor, who not only said I probably won’t die in the next five years but predicted I will live to be 151.

I began to wonder about my longevity when I read that researchers in the United Kingdom had created a survey that can calculate a person’s chances of dying in the next five years.

I took the 14-question survey, which inquired about my age (61), my gender (male), if I am married (yes), how many cars I drive (one at a time), practically everything except my underwear size (34, in case you can’t afford to buy me another car), and the results were encouraging: My chances of dying in the next five years are only 2.7 percent and my relative age is 53, which means I seem eight years younger, physically, than I really am. Mentally, I belong in kindergarten.

Soon after I took the survey, I went for a physical to Dr. Antoun Mitromaras, who has a practice in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.

“You are in excellent condition,” Dr. Mitromaras said after examining me, perusing my blood test (good thing it wasn’t an algebra test or I’d be on life support) and looking at my EKG. “Are you active?”

“If I were any less active,” I responded, “I’d be in hibernation. Why?”

“Because,” Dr. Mitromaras informed me, “you have the heart of an athlete.”

“I hope it’s not Babe Ruth,” I said. “He’s dead.”

“You are very much alive,” the good doctor declared.

“Speaking of which,” I noted, “will I die in the next five years?”

“I don’t want to say anything because you might get hit by an airplane,” Dr. Mitromaras said. “But otherwise, you should be around for a long time. I predict you will live another 90 years.”

“I’m 61 now,” I said.

“That means,” Dr. Mitromaras said, “you will live to be 151.”

“Will you still be my doctor?” I asked.

“Of course,” said Dr. Mitromaras, who is 73. “Do you think I am going to die? Never!”

This was very reassuring because Dr. Mitromaras has impeccable credentials.

“In addition to being a physician,” he said, “I am a head and neck surgeon.”

“I’m a pain in the neck,” I told him.

“I can fix that,” he said.

“And my head is empty,” I noted.

“Then I guess there is nothing to operate on,” Dr. Mitromaras said.

“My heart is in good shape, but what I really need is a brain,” I said, echoing the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Maybe you can get a transplant,” the doctor suggested.

“Here’s what I really want to know,” I said. “Have you ever seen those medicine commercials on TV in which the announcer says how good the product is, then spends the rest of the time warning how it can kill you?”

“Yes,” Dr. Mitromaras said. “They’re very entertaining.”

“And the announcer always says, ‘Ask your doctor.’ Has anyone ever asked you about these medicines?” I wondered.

“Yes,” Dr. Mitromaras said.

“What do you say?” I inquired.

“I say that if they can kill you, don’t take them,” he replied.

“Sound advice,” I said. “The only thing I take is cholesterol medicine.”

“It’s working because your cholesterol levels are good,” Dr. Mitromaras said.

“As they say in those commercials, after I take it, I shouldn’t operate heavy machinery,” I said. “You know, like a steamroller.”

“I wouldn’t drive one, especially in traffic, because you’d get high blood pressure,” Dr. Mitromaras said. “Then you’d need more medicine.”

“Thank you, doctor,” I said as I shook his hand. “You are a credit to your profession.”

“See you next year,” Dr. Mitromaras said.

“And for the next 90 years?” I asked.

“Yes,” he promised. “I’ll be here.”

— 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 McClatchy-Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written two books, Leave 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 currently president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Your friend and mine — Mad Dog

Con ChapmanStatistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that 11.9 percent of all adult American males are known by the nickname “Mad Dog,” while the remaining 88.1 percent have a friend nicknamed “Mad Dog.” We know these figures are correct because if you add them, the resulting sum is 100 percent.

Viewed from the point of view of American females, 100 percent of “Mad Dogs” are undesirable vestiges of bachelor life, when your ability to select your friends was not constricted by outmoded and hide-bound rules imposed by females. Rules such as “Should have nice wife/girlfriend,” “Must not burp” and “What kind of lunatic has a komodo dragon for a pet?”

Your Mad Dog probably stuck by you when you needed a friend, like the time that girl who was studying Hindu culture dumped you because you ordered a hamburger at an Indian restaurant. Or perhaps Mad Dog was there as you were about to cross some major threshold into adult life, pulling as hard as he could to stop you. Consequently, you can’t drop Mad Dog like a hot rock just because your significant other finds him to be somewhat deficient in the civilized graces she expects you to possess, like not showing your kids how, if they stay in shape, they’ll be fast enough to escape injury when they throw a can of spray paint onto the barbecue grill.

What wives and S.O.’s need to know is that Mad Dogs are essential to our way of life, just like the rain forest. The rain forest is full of poisonous snakes so you wouldn’t want to live there, but without it we’d run out of oxygen — or something. Mad Dogs may not be ideal guests for a backyard croquet party, but they are the ones who drink tequila until last call with girls named “Sheena,” then go off and get matching tattoos. If they didn’t do it, we might have to.

So your job, as a friend of a Mad Dog, is to find ways for him and your S.O. to co-exist peaceably. Here are a few tips from the last four decades of my friendship with my Mad Dog, and my three decades of marriage.

Don’t invite Mad Dog to your wedding. Big mistake. Your wedding day is the time for your bride to be the center of the universe. You don’t need a rogue asteroid like Mad Dog careening through her solar system, crashing into the heavenly bodies — her bridesmaids — that surround her like moons, dragging them onto the dance floor and asking Sy Oliver and His Society Syncopators if they know any Bob Seger.

If Mad Dog wants to crash at your place, the answer is no. The downside is too great on this one. Mad Dogs sleep late and don’t shower before entering the kitchen and asking “What’s for breakfast?” Mad Dogs don’t do dishes until they are stacked in the sink — the dishes, not the Mad Dogs — like some misbegotten work of modern architecture. Mad Dogs don’t bring cute “hostess gifts” when they come or send “bread and butter” notes after they’re gone.

If your wife asks if you know any nice men who might like an unmarried friend of hers, do not suggest a Mad Dog. If your wife’s friends wanted to meet a Mad Dog, they could do so by dropping into one of America’s many clean and friendly biker bars, or attending a National Hockey League game. Mad Dogs tend to find their future spouses by looking for women who can whistle through their teeth at professional sports events. It’s their mating call.

If, by following the foregoing rules, you find that you are gradually losing touch with your Mad Dog, that’s the price you pay for a happy and stable home in which to raise your children to be thoughtful, well-mannered and productive citizens who receive Certificates of Commendation at their high school Senior Awards Assembly.

Unlike Mad Dogs.

— Con Chapman

Con Chapman is a Boston-area writer whose works include The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox pennant race, 10 published plays and two novels, Making Partner and CannaCorn (Joshua Tree Publishing). His articles and humor have appeared in magazines and newspapers including The Atlantic Monthly, The Boston Globe and The Christian Science Monitor.

Should Brett Favre unretire to lead Jets?

Charles HartleyBrett Favre, where are you? Hunting in the woods in Louisiana? Put down your rifle. Buckle up your Wrangler jeans.

You need to come back to play quarterback in the NFL.

The New York Jets need one. Their starting quarterback, Geno Smith, suffered a broken jaw this week. His teammate punched him about some money beef.

It’s always about money.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is now the starting QB. He graduated from Harvard. This makes him one of the smartest guys ever to play QB in the NFL. All people who graduate from Harvard are smarter than virtually every else.

But does being a genius make you a great NFL quarterback?

You know the answer. You demonstrated during your NFL career that playing quarterback is about a lot more than having a high IQ. Sure, you threw the most interceptions in NFL history, but you were the league’s MVP three straight years.

Life is a mixed drink. Put down your scotch and soda, Brett. Start throwing passes to kids on high school fields in your neighborhood. Loosen your arm.

What makes you especially well suited to return and quarterback the Jets is you are familiar with the squad. You quarterbacked the team a few years ago. Remember? That was one of four years in a  row that, after you retired, you said you might come back and play.

Americans miss those summer days of high drama and delusions. Compared with TV shots of you all summer long deciding whether you will come back and play another year, Deflategate is a cheap gas emission.

Come back and play quarterback for the Jets, Jet Favre. You’re old. We know. Your gray hair tells us. But you were old when you played for the Jets. Old is just a number.

The Jets are reeling. They always are. They go from the Mark Sanchize “Butt Fumble” fiasco, to Rex’s toe fetish, to a back-up defensive playing coldcocking their starting quarterback during preseason and breaking his jaw rendering him unplayable for six-to-ten weeks.

This team needs stability. They need calm.

They need old #4.

They need the guy whose first NFL coach, Jerry Granville, called “Mississippi.”

Come back, Mississippi.

Come to New York.

Rescue the Jets. Pay off Geno’s debts.

Let’s go Mets.

— Charles Hartley

Charles Hartley is a freelance writer who has had more than 1,000 articles published in a wide range of media outlets focused on humor, sports, business, technology and consumers. He has earned master’s degrees in journalism and business administration and a bachelor’s degree in English and communications.


Pat GardnerI’m just not going back to that drugstore where they think I’m a shoplifter.

At first I thought my husband was the suspect. We tend to go around together, and we were both there when the drugstore’s public address system started blasting accusations.

My husband  doesn’t look any more like a shoplifter than I do, but I was an actual customer. I was looking for a particular brand of lip balm — a kind not many stores carry. Being almost 68, I’m even more sensitive to dry lips than when I was younger and will go to a store just to get the lip balm. (I rationalize the cost by remembering that I cut my own hair.)

I was completely surprised by the public address system giving a warning just as some stores say “Welcome” or something like that.  The warning was not a general one about shoplifting. I guess they know that mostly everybody considers it a bad idea. The voice from overhead was addressing a  shoplifter perusing a certain part of the store.

The floor was empty except for my husband and me, so I was horrified to realize that they must have thought  he was a shoplifter. While waiting for me, he was walking around the store, probably picking up objects and looking at them. Of course, he would put each item back before moving on, but maybe they thought he was warming up to keep something.

By that time I had found my lip balm, so I grabbed it and rushed to the checkout. Quickly I paid a nice young man and motioned to my husband, some distance away, that I was leaving.  Standing outside, waiting for him to catch up, I wondered if they thought we were some kind of team of shoplifters.

Probably nobody had ever wondered that about us before. Certainly we are considered eccentric. (After all, we are both retired English professors.) We must seem respectable if not boring, though. Were we attracting attention because we were not in a hurry like most people? The drugstore is in a rather upscale shopping center, so maybe my haircut made us both suspects.

Whatever had been going on, we returned to the same store the next time I ran out of lip balm. That time I knew where it was, but I wanted to look around at nail polish first. Knowing how jumpy the management must be about shoplifting, I kept both hands clasped behind my back as I strolled the aisles. That time, when the voice from the ceiling barked its warning, it identified the shoplifter as being in the cosmetics section. I was the only one there. I rushed over to the lip balm rack and grabbed two pots of it so I would not have to return anytime soon.

The young man who checked me out was as nice as the previous time and offered me a “favored customer’s card.” Did some camera set off the warnings about a shoplifter, without a human being activating anything? Was the perpetual warning why the store seemed not to have any customers but us?

I was not always this paranoid. The condition progressed in me at about the same time that I became two inches shorter. I was my full 5’6″ when I did my doctoral work. Often I would stay in the university library so long that I forgot about one of the books I was carrying belonging to the library.

As I started to walk out, a buzzer would go off. Immediately a work/study student would appear with a form for me to fill out. I was supposed to write an explanation of why I had tried to walk out with the book. The form would be sent to my dean.

I knew him from church, and he obviously found me bewildering. Each time I filled out the form, I would write a long, rambling explanation designed to make him think I was downright weird. Even after all these years, I enjoy imagining a whole file of my forms somewhere in the dean’s office. Probably some younger person serves as dean now and just knows that the folder was marked “Save.”

It is also reassuring to look at the youthful photo on my  university I.D., something I was supposed to return just before graduating. Instead, I slipped it out as a souvenir.

— Pat Gardner

Pat Gardner, a retired academic, lives with her husband and their half-spaniel dog Baggins. She enjoys meeting outrageous people in places like grocery stores.


Christine AntusI never used to be late anywhere. I was always at least 10 minutes early everywhere. I also didn’t have kids. Which means I had a clean house and pillows that never wandered away from the bed or couch — I used to think pillows were kind of like kids, right?

These days I have to start getting everyone ready at least an hour ahead of time. Even then, we’re still late and it’s usually because:

I have to wait for my two-year-old to put her pants on because, “Mommy, I do it!” First, both legs in one leg hole. Then, one leg in one leg hole and the other leg in a leg hole that was inside out. Then, both legs in the opposite leg hole. One leg in a leg hole and one leg in a shirt hole. Sometimes she’ll wave a leg hole, indicating surrender, and let me help. Other times we leave with her wearing her pants in a way only Lady Gaga can appreciate.

Everyone in my house moves at 0 miles per hour.

• The child who doesn’t have his jacket on decided this is the moment to put his train set together.

• The child who doesn’t have a shirt on decided this is the moment to look for a toy we don’t own.

• The child without shoes on is sitting on the kitchen stairs with a shoe in the mouth.

• No one is near the car.

I can never find my car keys. Let’s face it, I haven’t been able to find my brain since the birth of my first child. If my keys are not in the ignition, on the key hook, or taped to my forehead, I’m not going to find them.

I have to go back home for a “second.” On the way, someone realized they forgot their favorite bear and the fabric of the universe was going to tear if we didn’t turn around right now. Of course, once we got home, no one remembered where it was. Six hours later, here we are — minus the bear, which somehow got lost in the car on the way. Which means we might be here for another five-and-a half-hours, just so you know.

My kids forgot where the garage is. Except when we don’t have to go anywhere. Then it becomes a magical room full of things that don’t belong to them.

Everyone has to go potty.

• The first one didn’t have to go.

• The second one did have to go, but needed privacy. Then needed the step stool. Finally, needed more toilet paper because whatever was left on the roll was now on the floor, in the toilet and wrapped around the child.

• On the way back to the car the first one did actually have to go potty.

• Once I got everyone in the car, the baby had a blowout.

I have spit up in my hair. I didn’t notice right away but found it when I had to clean out the syrup. You can’t just wipe the smell of sour milk out of anything with a wet wipe, so it took a careful and creative way of using the right amount of shampoo and water to spot clean.

I have to change because I had poop on my shirt. You’re welcome.

Someone got hungry. Because no one ate breakfast. They were too busy playing in the garage and trying to creatively put their legs through the correct pant leg holes.

I forgot you were having a thing. I never remember what day it is anymore. Most days I don’t even remember to brush my teeth until 9:30 p.m. You’re lucky I can remember who you are because on a good day I can’t even keep my kids’ names straight.

So, now that I’m here, and your thing is over, we can call it coffee or a playdate. I know you don’t have kids, but you have a few pillows. Those are kind of like kids, right?

— Christina Antus

Christina Antus is the senior editor at Mom Babble. She lives with her husband, three kids and two cats who still haven’t caught the red dot. When she’s not neglecting laundry, or avoiding the grocery store, she’s writing and making mediocre meals for her family. You can find her overthinking things on her blog or on Facebook sharing dinner recipes and house-cleaning tips. Just kidding. It’s mostly a lot of nonsense and nothing useful.

Lost in translation

Lee GaitanIf you’ve ever been offered baked goods made “from scratching” or asked if you give hard “testes,” there’s a good chance you teach English as a Second Language (ESL).

Our crazy language is a minefield of unintended consequences, just waiting to ambush new learners. One seemingly insignificant change in spelling or pronunciation can affect meaning in a very significant way. I had the same experince a few years ago when I changed one teensy little vowel in Italian and instead of asking for my room key ended up inviting a hotel clerk in Florence to have sex with me. In the most explicit terms possible. (Not that I was opposed to it, mind you, but I still needed my key.)

Those teensy little changes will get you every time. That’s all it took for one of my favorite students to become temporarily — but hilariously — lost in translation. Olga had only been in the U.S. a few weeks when she enrolled in my adult ESL class. One evening she came to my room about 15 minutes early and we began chatting. She wanted me to know how hard she was working outside of class to improve her English. She had started reading the newspaper in English, she said, and as a result, she’d made an important life decision.

“I read an article about how is good for the woman to have the condom,” she told me with great certainty. “So, I decide I want buy the condom.”

As diet Coke was shooting out of my nose, she quickly reassured me of the wisdom of her plan.

Si, si, Lee, I think is very good idea,” she insisted, nodding her head vigorously. “You have the condom, Lee?” she asked.

“Well, not on me,” I said, a little flustered. “I don’t really, I mean, my husband had a vas—. Um, never mind. No, I don’t have a condom.”

She was looking at me quizzically when suddenly — pop—the light bulb flipped on for her, but not quite all the way. “Oh, Lee, I know what you think. You think I am crazy. Is so much money for buy the condom.“

“No, it’s not that,” I said, puzzled.

“No worry, Lee,” she continued. “Is cheap for me because I no buy new condom. I only buy used!” She dramatically drew out the word “used” for about three syllables.

I couldn’t even speak. All I could picture was a clothesline with a little row of freshly laundered condoms pinned to it, just a-swinging in the breeze.

In my head I was screaming, Oh, dear God, here’s 10 bucks—please splurge, buy new!

Then suddenly — pop — the light bulb again flipped on, but this time for me and, I was pretty sure, all the way. “Olga, what do you think a condom is?” I asked.

“Uh, is like apartment,” she answered with a casual shrug of her shoulders.

“No, my dear Olga, it is most certainly not like an apartment,” I said emphatically.

I then filled her in on the difference between “condo” and “condom.” One teensy little letter.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the particular shade of red her face turned. When the blood, shock and laughter finally receded, she shook her head and said, “Ah, si, it is like you say in the class. One little letter makes the big difference.”

Ah, si, indeed it does. And in this case, adding one teensy little “m” could be the difference between using that spare bedroom in your condo as an office — or a nursery!

— Lee Gaitan

Lee Gaitan is the author of two books, Falling Flesh Just Ahead and My Pineapples Went to Houston — Finding the Humor in My Dashed Hopes, Broken Dreams and Plans Gone Outrageously Awry. She also has written a chapter in the bestselling book, The Divinity of Dogs. Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Better Over 50, Mothers Always Write, Midlife Boulevard and The Good Men Project.  She lives in suburban Atlanta with her husband and dog and blogs at Don’t Just Bounce, Bounce Back. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

The good, the bad and the ugly

Amanda ElderI know that time is fleeting. I know that I’m going to get through my mountain of dishes, put the rag down, and my children will be grown.

That is why I am trying to be present. I am trying to enjoy these precious moments with my children, but sometimes that is just way harder than it should be.

My three-year-old pretty much mirrors a teenager — the way he stomps his little a** away and slams a door every time he is told something he doesn’t want to hear. He gets so offended when I tell him to please stop screaming “butthole!” in the baby’s face. As if I’m being the offensive one here…

He is a short list of reasons my darling son got pissed off today:

1.) I mixed his yogurt. Same way I do everyday.

2.) He didn’t go fast enough on the slip n’ slide. Never mind the fact that he pretty much had a splash park in his yard.

3.) Batman’s cape got bunched when he sat on his Bat Jet. And I refuse to cut off Batman’s cape.

Did I mention it is only 10:30 a.m.?

I need wine and a babysitter.

— Amanda Elder

Amanda Elder is an elementary school teacher-turned-stay-at-home mom to two boys. She relies heavily on coffee and wine — and stays up too late blogging about the good, the bad and the ugly of motherhood.

Focus pill

Anne BardsleyI’ve heard of focus groups, but never a focus pill.

My husband suggested I take one daily. Just this morning before he left for work, he said, “What are you going to do today? FOCUS,” he reminded me!

I assured him I absolutely would focus. I immediately began to ponder what I should “focus” on. The dogs needed baths. I needed a facial. The floors needed a good cleaning. I had a doc appointment and a hair appointment. I needed to find a website designer. I think I volunteered for something, but I don’t know what, where or when.

So, this focus thing is going to be a challenge. Oh, did I mention a friend bought a little houseboat? I have to go see it. Focus, Anne, focus! I can do this. For the love! We are out of creamer again. Who the hell is gulping the half and half? Add it to the grocery list that I was focused on last night. Where is the damn list? I open the refrigerator and there next to the empty half and half container is my grocery list. I left it there for safe keeping.

Who was the genius who said, “A busy mind is a healthy mind?” That ranks right up there with some other fancy saying that I can’t remember because right now I just had a flash that we need lettuce.

Wait. I open the fridge and add toothpaste to the grocery list.

Let’s get back to “Focus” now. Breathe in. Breathe out slowly. I attempt a yoga pose on the floor, and I can feel myself slowing down. Jump up and run to fridge to add toilet tissue to the grocery list. Back to the floor to continue my Zen-like thoughts. As my breathing slows, I can feel my shoulders drop as I slip into a relaxed state. My eyes pop open and I jaunt back to the fridge once more to add peanut butter to the grocery list.

While I am there, I notice a piece of coconut cream cake. I swear it called my name. I only ate half of it before I returned to my Zen state. More breathing. It can get boring after two minutes. By now I realized that I should not have eaten that cake. I should have had ice cream instead. I grunted as I got back up again to be sure we had ice cream in the freezer.

My husband called to see how my Focus day was going. I told him it was a great day so far. I bragged about my breathing experience and relaxed shoulders. I think he was actually proud I was taking his advice. He said it would be great to see me more relaxed. Then he asked if I’d mind picking up his shirts at the dry cleaner. When I said, “Hold on I’ll add it to the list in the refrigerator,” he hung up.

How am I supposed to focus after that?

— Anne Bardsley

Anne Bardsley lives in St Petersburg, Fla., with her “wrinkle maker” of a husband and two spoiled cockatoos. She’s still recovering from raising five children. She is so happy she didn’t strangle them as teenagers as they’ve given her beautiful grandchildren. She is the author of How I Earned My Wrinkles: Musings on Marriage, Motherhood and Menopause. She blogs at Anz World.

Reflections of Erma