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Gee, you shouldn’t have. …Really!

Lee GaitanI think I speak for most women when I say I love to get presents.

Birthdays, anniversaries, St. Swithin’s Day — all occasions that demand presents, in my opinion.

I love getting presents so much that I devised a plan to rotate among different religions throughout the year in order to increase my gift-getting opportunities. (And in the process I learned that three separate holidays intersect on Feb. 2 — the Druid Imbolc, the Christian Candlemas and the secular Ground Hog Day. Store that little nugget away for your next trivia night.)

It’s important to note that I am the ideal gift recipient. I don’t require expensive purchases, and I am extremely easy to please. From aardvark-shaped candles to dry erase markers, I think everything is a treat. Once I even graciously accepted a pair of black XXL pantyhose from a student — and gave growing into them a real shot when another student gave me a gift card to Ben & Jerry’s.

But recently I have run up against a gift-getting situation that I’m not sure how to handle. On three separate occasions, from three separate and unrelated people, I have received various anti-wrinkle potions formulated for “aging skin.” I’m not talking about fancy body lotion sets that are more cosmetic than therapeutic; I’m talking about down-and-dirty, pull-no-punches wrinkle cream for industrial strength Shar-Pei faces. And each person that “gifted” me implied pretty much the same thing, saying, “I saw this and thought of you” or “I wanted to get you something you could really use.”

Seriously? Did no one but me get the memo that 70 is the new 20?

I can’t decide whether to be grateful or insulted. On the one (wrinkled) hand, these are expensive products, ones I really did want to try sometime, but on the other (liver-spotted) hand, shouldn’t I be the one to determine that the time has come? I was silently contemplating this very question when my husband walked in the room.

“Hey, what are you doing just sitting around?” he asked. “Lesser Quinquatrus starts tomorrow, doesn’t it? I figured you’d have the whole house decorated by now.”

He was right. It was the eve of Lesser Quinquatrus, the ancient Roman holiday celebrating flute players, but I wasn’t feeling particularly festive. “I’ve decided to cut back on holidays for a while,” I said, with a shrug.

“But what about your big plan to increase your gift-getting opportunities?” he asked, somewhat shocked.

“I’m putting that on hold for now,” I replied. “Let’s just say it developed a wrinkle or two I hadn’t foreseen and leave it at that.”

You know what, folks, here’s a little tip — next St. Swinthin’s Day, just say it with cash!

— 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 After 50, Mothers Always Write, Midlife Boulevard, Fab Over Fifty 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.

Hail to the Holland Tunnel

Charles HartleyBumper-to-bumpering towards New York City’s Holland Tunnel one dark morning this week, I began to think about the names of American presidents. Not because I’m a presidential historian; leave that to Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss.

My mind searched for presidents’ names because, as you stop and stare around New York City, you read on those Scotts green grass road signs several names of our nation’s former Commanders in Chief.

The Lincoln Tunnel, presumably named after our greatest president, “Honest Abe,” is the Holland Tunnel’s cousin. Linc is the only other gateway to Gotham City for people driving in from New Jersey.

Track this equation: two razor-thin tunnels, plus hundreds of millions of drivers entering Manhattan from New Jersey each day, equals total insanity. New York’s Holland Tunnel traffic jams extend to Texas.

The Lincoln Tunnel is named after Abraham Lincoln, probably. Wikipedia knows for sure although sometimes “Ol’ Wikiboy” gets his facts wrong.

Manhattan’s George Washington Bridge is named after our country’s first president, George. Everybody’s heard of Jorge. On a frigid night in the 1700s, he led his troops by boat across the Delaware River to fight a war. Was it the Battle of Tonka? The Peloponnesian War? The Cold War? Yes, it was the Cold War.

Here’s something you didn’t know and couldn’t care less about: I was born on George’s birthday: February 22. My parents thought about naming me George but decided not to. Riveting snippet, huh?

I guarantee you there other bridges and streets in New York City named after presidents. But America has never had a president named Holland. So why is the Holland Tunnel called the Holland Tunnel? Who was this Holland guy, or gal? Whoever he or she was, an American president he or she was not.

Roads and bridges in New York should either be names of American presidents or non-people names such as the Brooklyn Queens Expressway or Harlem River Drive. There is no abbreviation for a road in the United States more cool-sounding than the “BQE” (Brooklyn Queens Expressway).

Why isn’t the Holland Tunnel called the Reagan Tunnel? Oh, I get it. New Yorkers always vote en masse for Democrats.

It’s true.

The Holland Tunnel was built many decades ago, maybe before our current Commander in Chief was conceived in Hawaii.

Renaming the Holland Tunnel the Hoover Tunnel to honor President Herbert Hoover would make more sense than keeping the Holland Tunnel moniker.

Herbert Hoover was an American president sometime within 100 years of the day the Holland Tunnel was built — and designed for tremendous traffic jams. So we have history to lean on.

Color me open-minded. I could live with the Holland Tunnel being called the Jefferson Tunnel to honor President Thomas Jefferson, a red head who was smart. But I would not approve of it being named the Polk Tunnel because President Polk has the dubious reputation as one of our nation’s most forgettable and least effective presidents. I don’t want to ride through a tunnel that runs beneath the Hudson River named after a lackluster American president.

I want my overcrowded-with-toxic-trucks tunnel to be named after a sturdy president. You know this is true: If the Holland Tunnel was renamed the Polk Tunnel, water would gush down from above as we drive through it bumper to bump, filling our cars, destroying our vinyl seats and causing claustrophobic calamity. My tunnel must be named after a respected and sturdy resident or no president at all.

I trust you feel the same way.

The name “Holland Tunnel” doesn’t fit with the names of New York City’s bevy of bridges, tunnels and highways. I have nothing against Holland per se. What I know of the country is this and nothing else: in seventh grade I had a crush on a brunette, vivacious eighth grade girl from that small country. Tuttie Vasquez was her name. It’s impossible to dislike a girl named Tuttie Vasquez. The name Tuttie Tunnel is an ear-sweetener. You could dance to it. Tutie never danced with me. She ended us.

I wouldn’t mind if the Holland Tunnel was renamed the Trump Tunnel even though The Donald hasn’t been president. But he will be in 2016 because, according to him, he’s the only person in the world who isn’t stupid and is good at negotiating. With Donald’s name splattered on countless New York buildings, how could it hurt to plaster his name on the entrance to the tunnel? Like the Tuttie Tunnel, the Trump Tunnel rings right. So does the Trump Tower. But stay in line. We are analyzing the Holland Tunnel, not Trump’s Towers. How many Trump Towers are there, five million? The answer is almost as many as there are people at whom The Donald hurls insults every 15 minutes.

In grade school I knew a guy, but not too well at all, named Brian Holland. I have no idea where he is. Maybe he’s in Holland and married to Tutie Vasquez. Wouldn’t that be something?

Or maybe as I type this he’s driving through the Holland Tunnel wondering why it’s called the Holland Tunnel rather the name of an American president.

Of this we should be aligned: the Holland Tunnel should never be renamed the Brian Tunnel because our country has never had a president named Brian.

We should be open, however, to changing the name of Brooklyn Queens Expressway to the Brian Queens Expressway because it would retain the cool-sounding “BQE” abbreviation.

— 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.

Baby names, teeth, God and LSD

Roz WarrenLast week a patron at the suburban library where I work spent five minutes telling a colleague  all about why (and exactly how) she should use a water pic. This inspired me to log onto my favorite Facebook Librarian Hangout to ask: “What’s the oddest thing a library patron has ever said to you?”

Within a day, I had dozens of responses. Here’s a sampling:

A woman tried to get me to help name her baby.

I’ve been asked how to make LSD.

Two recent topics? Coffee enemas and homemade cat food!

A man asked me if my biological clock was ticking. I was 21 at the time.

I had a lady ask where she could find a chastity belt. Another asked me where she could buy some weed. I sent them both to the reference desk.

Patron starts taking off her shoe. “Do you think this is infected?”

While I was checking out his books, one gent told me all about how humans could slowly build up to deriving all of their necessary nutrients by going outside and starring at the sun, and suggested that I try it.

A patron once told me that I couldn’t be Mexican because I’m not dark enough. WTF?

“You know what would make you a knockout? Lose weight!”

“You don’t look like a librarian. You should be wearing a shirtwaist dress. With horizontal stripes.”

Direct quote from one patron: “My man shaved DOWN THERE… and I didn’t like it one bit. I like a natural man.” What?? (I work in an elementary school library.)

A patron once accused me of running a sex slave ring from the express computers.

A woman once asked if I had any hand-me-down clothes I could give her daughter, since we were both “big girls.”

One man, in a misguided attempt to flirt and/or make me uncomfortable, asked me where we keep the porn. With a straight face, I told him we keep it on the third floor. (It‘s a two-story building.)

I was recently asked how to make an apple into a bong.

A patron once told me there was a cat in the ceiling. And she was right!

An elderly man once decided that it was his job to lecture me about every problem that birth control can cause.

I can’t polish my nails at work anymore because one of our patrons has a fetish and begins giving me sex advice.

A patron once told me in a stage whisper about her alien abduction, complete with biological details I’d really rather not have heard.

One patron demanded that my boss fire me for putting a hex on her incarcerated son.

A patron who was grateful for the help I’d given her with a reference question advised me to keep my kitchen knives in the laundry hamper. “So if someone breaks into your house, they can’t use them to stab you.”

Recent unsolicited advice from a patron? “If your yard isn’t clean, the mourning doves won’t come.”

A patron told a co-worker about how he’d prayed for a wife and just asked that God send him one that had not been “used.“

“I just had surgery! Want to see my scar?”

Because we librarians are courteous by nature, we can be counted on to respond to your oddball statements, remarks and requests with dignity and grace. My co-worker, for example, patiently endured that little water pic lecture rather shutting it down with, “What makes you think that my teeth are any of your business?”

Still, the next time you’re tempted to share your innermost thoughts about sex, God or teeth with your local librarian, do us all a favor. Think twice.

— Roz Warren

Roz Warren is the author of Our Bodies, Our Shelves: A Collection of Library Humor. This essay first appeared on

Ghost of behavior past

Throughout the late ’70s and into the early ’80s, while my marriage was new and my children were young, I worked for a large Southeastern construction company.Daniel Hylton

I was good at my job and I made a lot of money. A lot of money — especially for those years. There were times when I would have $2,000 or $3,000 worth of uncashed checks in my wallet.

By 1984, however, I had apparently tired of being successful and making prodigious sums of money. I wanted something less.

I decided to leave my high-paying job constructing transcontinental power lines and try my hand at — of all things — songwriting. So, I moved to rural Tennessee, about an hour west of Nashville. Now, because one needs free time to pursue songwriting, it is very difficult to maintain steady employment. As a consequence of this fact, I odd-jobbed, taking temporary work where I could find it, gradually descending into poverty, dragging my young wife and children with me. (Why Karen did not leave me for a man with a job and a fully functioning brain, taking the children with her, I will never fully understand.)

Desperate to combine my inexplicable need to be creative with my obviously explicable need for cash, I began to enter the various songwriting contests hosted by the nightspots around Nashville.

And I won a few, sometimes winning $10 or $20, enough for milk, bread and maybe a pair of shoes for one of the little ones. Usually, though, the prize was something insubstantial, such as getting your name written on the wall in magic marker, or a free bottle of beer.

Then I heard about this contest on Music Row itself, at a more upscale joint called The Dive.

The winner would get $100.


Now, I know that doesn’t sound like much now, but back then a hundred bucks paid for most of a month’s rent or bought groceries for the family for a whole week. And the contest, at the time, was being held weekly, so there would be a continuing chance to win.

On the appointed night, I put on my best pair of dark blue Levis, my crispest white shirt, tuned up my guitar, and headed into town to The Dive.

There were a lot of really good songwriters present that night, and I heard many tunes that made me think I might be way out of my league.  I was so nervous that my bladder sent me scurrying to the men’s room again and again. Nonetheless, when they called my name, I screwed up my courage and went up on stage, which was occupied by just a stool and a mike. I sat down with my guitar on my knee and spun to face the crowd. For a moment, I thought they’d all left the building. You see, though the stage was fully lit, the patrons sat in the dimness beyond the footlights — and the lights shining on me were so bright that I could barely make out the room, let alone individuals in the crowd, which was the largest group of people that I had ever confronted when armed only with a musical instrument.

I mumbled something by way of introduction and immediately swung into my first song, briskly setting pick to guitar string.

I looked out, opened my mouth — and forgot the words to the song. A song which I wrote.

There followed then a long — way too long — awkward pause while, like the proverbial deer, I gazed into the headlights of oncoming disaster and frantically searched the dark recesses of my skull for phrases that I recognized and might possibly utter in tune-like fashion while strumming a guitar.

And then, as the disapproving silence thickened, the words finally came.

“Alrighty, folks,” I stated brightly, affecting what I hoped would be a magnificent recovery, and once again put pick to string. “Here we go….”

One strum, and — Boing! — the pick slipped from my fingers, ricocheted underneath the strings, and disappeared through the sound hole into the dark interior of my guitar.  I looked down, stunned.

And my brain froze.

Forgetting in that terrible moment that there were two or three spare picks in my pocket, and sadly forgetting that there were also a couple of hundred people immediately to my front, I upended the guitar, holding it aloft, shaking it above my head while I desperately tried to dislodge the pick from the black hole whence it had gone.

Sporadic chuckles arose here and there from among the crowd as I continued to wildly agitate the instrument over my head, willing the pick to appear. Then, as my struggles continued unabated and my hope for a rescued pick remained unrealized, more chuckles, giggles and outright laughter swelled from the shadowed gathering.

That awful collection of sound caused my brain to lurch forward for one brief moment. And in that moment, I remembered the extra picks in my pants pocket. Turning a deaf ear to the scattered giggles and the occasional rude suggestion, I thought bravely, I can still salvage this.

Lowering the guitar to one side, holding it by the neck, I stood, reaching into my pocket.

And the room erupted.

Gales of laughter beat upon me like the waves of a storm-wracked ocean.

Puzzled by the reason for this obvious — and horrifying escalation — of my humiliation, I stared dumbly out at the shadowy crowd for a long moment, and then I looked down.

And the reason for the raucous shouts of laughter became immediately obvious.

Evidently, on my last trip to the men’s room, I had neglected to zip up the fly in my blue jeans.

Protruding from that most private of all clothing apertures, extending stiffly outward for five or six inches, was the crisply starched tail of my best white shirt.

The crowd, by that time, had decided that I was not in fact a contestant, but rather the comedic relief.

I, in that same moment, decided that I was done, finished, my short-lived “career” over.

Turning, I fairly leapt from the stage and ran for it, pausing in the artists’ room just long enough to sling my guitar into its case, and then I bounded for the side door. I was running like a rabbit by the time I reached the parking lot.

Three-quarters of an hour later, utterly dejected, having had 45 long, miserable minutes to ponder one of the most embarrassing evenings of my life, I pulled into the driveway of our modest home. Karen met me at the door. I could do nothing but stand there, head down, guitar case in hand, my heart and my dreams squashed like insects upon the walkways of life.

“How did it go?”  She asked — and then I managed lift my head and she saw my face.  “Honey, what happened?”

The kids were in bed, so I put my guitar away while she made us a cup of cocoa; then we went into the living room and sat down on the couch, where I stared down at the carpet and glumly related to her the events of the evening.

It was about the time that I was telling of the unzipped fly and protruding shirt-tail that I heard the stifled guffaw emanating from the general direction of the love of my life.

Startled, I looked over at her.

You know how it is when you want to laugh but know that you shouldn’t? Like when you’re at a wedding, or at a funeral, or in church, or like when your beloved husband is laying out the sad details of his recent and raw humiliation, and something just strikes you as too funny?  And the eruption of good humor is abruptly way too urgent to contain or suppress?

You get a terrible case of the internal giggles, your shoulders shake, the corners of your mouth decide that they simply must turn upward despite your best efforts at maintaining decorum, and your eyes water.  Yeah, we all know what that is like. It has happened to us all.

Well, that was my gentle and genteel wife as I told my tale of woe.

Apparently, she could see the whole thing very clearly with her mind’s eye.

She tried to be sympathetic, God bless her; she really did try.

Alas, the droll aspect of the whole sordid affair was too much for her, and eventually she had to gain release. To this day, however, I am not convinced that it was absolutely necessary it devolve into her lying back against the cushions, gasping for breath as she pointed at me and giggled uncontrollably. The only consolation I have is that — though she won’t admit it — I’m pretty sure she wet herself.

Oh, well.

There is an epilogue to this sorry tale. Two, actually.

A week later, I tapped a reservoir of courage, went back to The Dive, sang my three songs — and won. And they had raised the stakes. First prize was now 150 bucks  The next day, to celebrate, we took the kids to McDonalds for Happy Meals.

The second epilogue is not quite so uplifting as the first, at least for me.  You see, every now and then — as recently as just the other day, in fact — I will find Karen leaning over a counter or sprawled over the back of a chair, fairly convulsing with good humor. Looking up at me with streaming eyes, she will tender the question between eruptions of giggles.

Remember that time you went into Nashville to sing in that contest?

Yes. Yes, I do.

And it’s still not funny.

One doesn’t require ghosts, I guess, when one is haunted by his past.

— Daniel Hylton

Daniel Hylton is the author of the recently completed Kelven’s Riddle series.

When life gives you 100 years,
make lemonade

Laurie OienThe familiar saying, of course, is…when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I must say, though, if anyone lives to 100 years and beyond, they most definitely turned their lemons into some awesome lemonade and deserve to celebrate with a nice cool glass of it, as well.

These days we’re living longer and getting the chance to enjoy it fully and positively. I was recently inspired by a story of a 100-year-old woman who teaches exercise class at her senior living community. Now there’s a lady that turned her lemons into lemonade. She expressed that her motto is, “moderation, attitude and gratitude.”

This is a great motto to live by, but additionally, if you’re blessed with good family DNA, it could avoid having your lemon picked before its time.

My family lemon tree has some genuine longevity and I’m banking on my DNA not denying me of my big glass of earned lemonade!

Not long ago, my grandmother celebrated her 96th birthday and, unbelievably, her mother lived to be a wonderful age of 104. See, good DNA! My parents are just kids compared to this, so I’m depending on them being around for a while too! They eat healthy, live a positive lifestyle and definitely turn life’s lemons into lemonade!

This positive attitude doesn’t fall far from the lemon tree, not just with me, but with my kids, as well. In fact, when my daughter was in sixth grade, her class was given a project to write their life story, which included their own obituary. Yes, really, their OWN obit! I thought this was the most unusual project for a sixth grader. If you’ve never read an obituary written in the spirit of a 12-year-old, then let me fill you in.

Her obituary read that she had her own successful designing TV show, which included designing a fabulous dream home. She had three wonderful daughters and married the man of her dreams. This all sounds about right if I were forecasting my perfect life. However, the best part of this obituary was that she held the world record for being the longest living person at 118 years old!

The sunniness doesn’t end there. Of course, not only did she live a long and dreamy 118 years, but she died peacefully in her sleep with a smile on her face! Yes, a SMILE on her face!

Well. I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’m thinking she must’ve had some pretty fantastic lemonade!

— Laurie Oien

Laurie Oien is a wife and mother living in Minnesota and determined to uncover the second half of life with zest and zeal. She has a background in marketing and accounting for the last 25 years and recently discovered that one can’t live by adding machines and numbers alone. Therefore, she created an easy meal and humor written lifestyle blog. Laurie is a food enthusiast, loves comedy and enjoys writing and creating a story with a humorous twist. Bringing a smile to others might be her true calling. Visit Laurie’s blog, A Square of Chocolate, and join in for a smile at

My hip hugger

Anne BardsleyBack in my teen years I wore hip huggers. They hung perfectly on my hips. Back then I never had to suck in my stomach. Actually, I don’t suck in those old stomach muscles now with my current hip hugger. This one stays firmly in place regardless of what I do, or where I go. This hip hugger’s name is Riley.

I think she may actually be related to Suzanne Summers. It’s very possible she used that thigh buster machine in the womb. She has thighs of steel. Her chubby legs are firm as can be. She looks at me with her big hazel eyes and says sweetly, “Gigi, hug you.” Naturally, I have to pick her up. Once she swings onto my hip, she clamps down with her sturdy thighs and she cannot be removed. I can load the dishwasher, she remains. I can walk the dogs, she remains. I could very possibly take a shower and she might slide off. No guarantees of a slippery Riley.

She prefers to hang on my hip like an appendage. Every time I try to put her down I get a cry, quickly followed by an award-winning smile. She has my number. Last week at the beach she had my number once again. She refused to let her feet touch the sand. It was a very long walk to the water. By the time we got our beach chairs set up, I needed aspirin, a huge fan and an ice bucket challenge to cool me off. She stayed firm, never flinching. I was in her grips.

I attempted to sit in a chair and had to shift her. Those muscled legs went into a frenzy trying to get back around my hip. She settled in facing me with her legs around my waist and put her head on my chest. A little body heat is always a good thing in 100-degree weather at the beach. Again, she smiled at me, and all was good in my world. I think I may have even hummed, “What a Wonderful World.” What I’m really saying is I love you.

After she went home, I went to the beach with my husband. It was 90 degrees with a light breeze. The water was crystal clear and tranquil. Sailboats dotted the skyline. I had a chair all to myself. It was just not the same. I heard a voice in my head ask, “Gigi, hug you?” I put on my sunglasses to hide my tears.

I love my hip hugger!

— 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.

Writer under deadline:
Add speed to your writing

Linda CraigIf you want to speed up your writing, then learn how to touch-type and take the time to eliminate your mis-key errors where you press a key with the wrong finger. Plan your work with as much detail as possible so that you avoid writer’s block and so that you work flows correctly and fluently.

Here are some tips geared toward Millenials, but helpful reminders to beginning writers.

Write notes

If you are struggling, then isn’t it possible you are doing it the hard way? People overlook this tip as just another piece of filler in a never-ending barrage of online content on the subject, but it is the most powerful piece of advice you will ever read if you want to speed up your writing.

It is not a technique or a trick; it is more of a mental aid. Your brain is not like a computer or a camera. It doesn’t store big chunks of detailed information; it is more like the Google search engine in that it picks up certain key elements and stores the rest for later. That is why a smell or a song can bring back long-forgotten memories from times past. What does this have to do with notes?

If you research something and write notes, even if they are bullet point notes, those notes are used by your brain as key points. When you go back to your notes and read a bullet point, your brain brings up all the information you remember about that point. It makes writing faster and it dramatically lowers your chances of getting writer’s block, which is a writer’s biggest time waster.

What drinks up most of your time?

Forget your research, layout and thinking issues for the moment and consider your actual writing technique. What is it that takes up most of your time? Some good examples are people writing with capital letters. Many people have to look at the keyboard to locate the shift key, and some people press it with the wrong finger. Practicing using the correct finger and practicing using it without looking may help you dramatically.

Another common “time vampire” is when a person has to press a number key. Most people cannot press the numbers above their keyboard without looking, and this is especially true if they have to press the shift key and use a symbol from the line of numbers. Practice writing numbers and/or symbols so you don’t have to look at the keyboard.

How good are you at typing?

Some people brag about how quick they are when they write on their computer. Some people use word counter programs and brag that they are writing at a rate of over 40 words per minutes. That is cute, but it is meaningless. Forget testing yourself with those programs.

Test yourself by thinking up something you want to write. It can be any old thing, from describing the smell of your lover to what you are planning to do tomorrow. Put your hands over your keyboard and set them in place. Now, close your eyes and write your piece. If you make a mistake, you can even try deleting with your eyes closed.

Write a short passage and open your eyes. If most of what you wrote is correct with few mistakes, then you are a fast writer when you are not distracted. Your biggest problem is not your writing speed, it is the amount of times you take your eyes off your screen, or the amount of times you stop and remove your hands from their position on the keyboard. Work on these issues and not on the issue of making yourself a faster typist.

— Linda Craig

Linda Craig is writing enthusiast and a professional editor at Assignmentmasters. Her passion is modern British literature and digital education tools.

Calling directory assistance

Gianetta PalmerFor someone my age, mid 40s-ish and up, calling directory assistance was something you only did in cases of extreme emergency.

For starters, making a long distance phone call was not done on an everyday or anytime occasion. At my house we had one telephone and it hung on the wall in the kitchen. It must have had at least 50 feet of cord attached to it because you could take it outside, across the porch and almost to the end of the sidewalk. That was your only chance for privacy — at the end of that long cord. Of course, calls were never uninterrupted because someone was always running in and out the door or you were being yelled at to get off the phone because there was work to be done.

When mom was going to make a long distance call, we all gathered around and tried to pick up any good tidbits of information such as who was coming to visit, where we were going on the family vacation or who had gotten sick and died. Long distance was for important and emergency calls only — plus, it was downright expensive. And you never called the operator for any reason other than to ask what time it was after a long power outage.

My, how times have changed.

Nowadays, when I need to find a number, I normally use — and usually with mixed results. You have to be careful what you click on, though, because a wrong click can send you on a search for every pervert within the tri-state area or even worse — a site where all of the Republican presidential candidates are playing “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the biggest bore of all?” (Everyone’s a winner!)

Through trial and lots of error I can usually find the number that I’m looking for, but this wasn’t the case recently. I finally decided — as a last resort — that I would call directory assistance. I remembered the number — it’s 1-the area code-555-1212; in my case it was 1-706-555-1212.

The following is my conversation:

Nationwide Directory Assistance (DA): “If this is a police or fire emergency, hang up and call 911. Say your city and state, like San Francisco, California or Chicago, Illinois.”

Middle-Aged Fat Woman (MAFW): “Rome, Georgia.”

DA: “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

MAFW: “Rome, Georgia.”

DA: “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Please say your city and state like San Francisco, California or Chicago, Illinois.”

MAFW: “Rome, Georgia.”

DA: “Okay, did you say Augusta, Georgia?” (Um, no — it’s on the opposite side of the state.)

MAFW: (Yelling loudly into the phone) “NO! ROME, GEORGIA.”

DA: “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

MAFW: “Rome, Georgia.”

DA: “I’m sorry; your call cannot be completed at this time. Goodbye.”

Now, I know I’ve acquired a Southern twang these last 30 or so years that I have lived south of the sweet tea line (Kentucky/Ohio border for those that don’t know). but it doesn’t have THAT much twang. I didn’t have a cold so I didn’t sound nasally; I decided to try it again and this time I used my radio voice and e-nun-ci-a-ted ev-er-y darn syl-la-ble.

It was the exact same results: The automated voice wanted to connect me to Augusta, Georgia. I don’t know, maybe it had a Caesar complex or something.

Not one to give up, I changed tactics and decided to call the operator directly. This I did reluctantly because somewhere in the back of my mind I could still see my mom holding the phone bill and shaking her head yelling: “Who’s been making long distance calls?” and “Who called the operator?” while all of us kids scattered to the far corners of the property.

The following is my conversation with the operator:

Operator: “Hello? Operator.”

MAFW: “Hi, I’ve been trying to get a number at directory assistance and it doesn’t seem to be working.”

Operator: “I’m sorry about that. It’s fully automated.”

MAFW: “I know. I kept asking for Rome, Georgia, and it kept giving me Augusta, Georgia. Those towns are on opposite sides of the state.”

Operator: “I’m sorry you’re having trouble. Did you hang up and try again?”

MAFW: “I tried several times, so that’s why I’m calling you.”

Operator: “It’s fully automated.” (For the third time.)

MAFW: “I see. Can you connect me to the number?”

Operator: “No, ma’am. It’s fully automated. Make sure when you get your bill that you weren’t charged for the attempt.”

MAFW: “What?” (Realization finally beginning to sink in.)

Operator: “Directory Assistance is fully automated. We no longer give out numbers.”

MAFW: “Even for a fee?”

Operator: “Not even for a fee. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

MAFW: “I need a number in Rome, Georgia.”

Operator: “I’m sorry. Have you tried”

— Gianetta Palmer

Gianetta Palmer lives in the North Georgia Mountains and is the author of Reflections On A Middle-Aged Fat Woman and Scrunchie-Fried. She recently finished her first novel and blogs regularly on her popular website. Visit her at Or on Twitter @mafatwoman.

Reflections of Erma