Socks? Check. Underwear? Uh …

I have this little job. Four hours a day, Monday through Friday.

I thought that when I retired I wouldn’t be working anymore, but that was before the gaffer – an English term for “the boss” – laid down the law.

Work or die.

I’m afraid of the gaffer, so I went back to work.

The job really isn’t so little. The company for which I work, is a regional healthcare conglomerate with bunch of offices and hospitals and about 13,000 employees. I work the Help Desk, which is laughable because I can barely help myself.

We get dozens and dozens and dozens of calls a day about broken computers, broken printers, broken phones. No broken bones, but lots of other broken stuff. I handle voicemails and emails in the mornings because I’m not good on the phones. Apparently, “What the hell do you want you dithering idiot,” isn’t considered good customer service. Go figure.

Many days, I have to be a detective, along the lines of Noah Greene, the protagonist of my three mystery novels, “Tears in the Rain,” “Tears of God,” and “My Grave Is Deep.” The voicemail prompt asks the caller to leave their name, their employee ID, their location, their computer number, a working callback number, and what they ate for breakfast.

Often, the caller rattles off, “Hi, this is Rita, my computer’s broken, call me back, bye, waffles,” and then forget to hang up the phone, so that the vm, which stands for voicemail for those of you who don’t know healthcare lingo, is a daunting 200 minutes long.

Other times, the caller leaves a message that Einstein couldn’t decipher.

Yeah, I’m calling about the paresthesia isn’t showing up on the obdormition and the sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is causing an issue with the fasciculation of the heloma durum. Can you tell me how to fix it?”

Uh …

Anyway, every Friday I need to do a timecard for my little job. I put a recurring reminder in my phone because as I’ve grown older, I forget things, like remembering to put on socks and underwear in the morning.

The other day, I finished my shift and my phone dinged with the reminder. I got up and went to get my personal computer to fill out my timecard. Got sidetracked because I had to pee. Came out to the kitchen and thought, “I’m thirsty,” and got myself a Diet Coke. Took two sips and went back to pee. Came back to the kitchen, saw that the floor needed sweeping and went to the garage to get a broom and dustbin. Saw the front lawn sprinkler start running and stood for 15 minutes watching it. Went back into the house to pee. Tried to recall what it was I was supposed to be doing. It’s in your phone, I told myself. Went looking for my phone. Passed some cookies on the counter and ate one. Then two. Then three. Washed them down with my Diet Coke and then had to … you know. Came back out, thought, “What?” Oh, the phone. Where is it? I know, I’ll call the gaffer and have her call my phone. Yes, I actually thought that. Followed by, “How are you going to call the gaffer if you don’t know where your phone is?” Passed the cookies again. Ate one. Then two. Then three. Went to find a broom to sweep up the crumbs that had fallen from the cookies. Decided I should go see a movie.

On Monday, I got a call from my other gaffer, the one I’m not afraid of.

He didn’t sound happy.

“Where’s your timecard?”

… and a cat named Pepper!

Went to the South Carolina DMV this afternoon to get a new driver’s license and plates for the BMW.

Left without the driver’s license.

Left without the plates.

Turns out, I was missing one of the 323 items I needed to prove my identity.

The state wanted the following:

A valid out-of-state driver’s license

  • An up-to-date passport
  • A birth certificate
  • Your first born child
  • A cat named Pepper
  • An elephant tusk
  • The molar from a Great White shark
  • Three robin’s eggs
  • A 10-speed Schwinn
  • 14 gold bricks
  • The Crown Jewels
  • The last 10 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues
  • A self-published novel (hey, I got one of those)
  • 2 dozen chicken feathers
  • A lock of hair from Kim Kardashian
  • Four pounds of toenail clippings
  • One pound of bellybutton fuzz
  • A … we’ll be here all day.

And I was. Four hours after arriving, a disembodied voice announced  “Now serving D 4,000 at counter three.” I staggered up from my chair and shuffled to counter three where a woman with a beehive hairdo that went out of style in 1952 put out her hand and said with a smoker’s rasp, “License.”

She took it, looked at my photo.

“This doesn’t look like you,” she said. “You used to be fat. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still fat, only not as fat as when you were really fat. Come back when you look like the fat guy on the license.”

I rushed out and downed a couple hundred chocolate covered Twinkies. I came back. Waited another four hours. Got up to the same counter, same clerk.

“This doesn’t look like you,” she said. “You used to be skinnier.”

I broke down, falling to the floor and curling into a fetal position.

“Gimme your required items,” the clerk said, as I sobbed uncontrollably.

“My cat’s name is Benny, not Pepper,” I said, holding up my spitting tabby, who was none too happy being on a leash. “That’s OK, isn’t it?”

“Gotta have a cat named Pepper,” she said.

“But it’s a cat,” I implored. “I don’t even like cats.”

She pressed a button under her desk and the disembodied voice said, “Now serving D 4,562 at counter three,” and a disheveled man lurched up and, wiping chocolate from his face, elbowed me aside.

Fine, I thought. I’ll just go get the plates.

“You can’t get plates here,” said another clerk. “You have to go to the treasurer’s office first, and pay property taxes on the vehicle.”

“Where’s the treasurer’s office?” I asked.

“‘Bout 100 miles north,” she said.

“Property taxes?”

“You’re car’s property, isn’t it?”

“Well, it’s my property, but I don’t live in it? I have a house for that.”

“That’s great. You can pay your property taxes on your house while you’re there.”

Signing, I asked, “Then what?”

“Then you come back here.”

“For what?”

“To get your license. Can’t get plates without a license. Just remember to bring all 323 items to prove your identity.”

Sorry my love, I need a new model

This is going to come as a shock to the woman who shares my life. No doubt it will hurt her. Maybe she’ll even cry.

But this has been a long time coming. It’s been building inside me, like a mushroom growing in a deep, dark place.

I’m not even sure how I can put it into words. Truth is, I can’t tell her face-to-face, so I’m going to do it right here. Right now.

I need a new model. Something newer with more … um, more  … oh, let’s just come out and say it, accessories.

I’m talking about a new car, of course.

What did you think I was talking about?

Anyway, it’s a sad fact that I suffer from car envy. Six months after buying a new car, I get the itch. Sometimes it’s less.

And not just any kind of car. A sports car.

I’ve owned sports cars all my life. Mustang. MGB. Camero. Z3. Z4. 350Z. 370Z. I like any car with numbers and letters in its name, especially the letter Z.

I adored my Z cars. They were sleek. They were fast. They were … me.

I was doing just fine until the day came when I realized that I needed a forklift to get out of the car.

They’re low slung, and the older I got so was I. Sometimes, it could take me half a day to get into the thing and another day or two to get out. There were times I was tempted to just sleep in the car because it would be less trouble than exiting the vehicle.

So, a few years back, I did the grown up thing and put away my sports car dreams and bought a Nissan Juke.

Perhaps you’ve never heard of it. That’s because Nissan only sold two of them. One to an Uber driver in Zimbabwe, the other to me.

The Juke is, let’s be honest, bug ugly. If you saw something that looked like it crawling across your living room floor you’d step on it.

But I manned up and bought it anyway. By the time I drove the 15 minutes from the dealership to my house, I was ready to trade it in.

I suffered for a year. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. Well, that’s a lie. There’s nothing that keeps me from eating. But I couldn’t sleep. That part’s true. I’d lie awake, dreaming of Porsche Boxters, and Chevy Corvettes and Dodge Vipers.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and I begged the woman who loves me to set me free. She relented, but said enough with the cars I couldn’t get into or out of.

“You’re not 18 anymore,” she said, and let me tell you that came as a surprise.

Still, I took her advice and I bought a used – USED!!!!!!!!! – BMW 128I convertible. It’s a nice car, but … it’s 7 years old!!! Seven!!!!! Usually, I’d have owned 3 maybe 4 cars in a seven-year span.

I so much want to ask, beg, plead, beseech, entreat her to let me fly again in a brand new, oh, say, Mazda Miata.

Unfortunately, she has stopped working full-time and has announced that from now to the end of my days we are on a budget.

“No more eating out, no more movies,” she has decreed.

“Uh, what are we going to do then?”

“We’ll sit at home, on the couch together and watch episodes of Call the Midwife.”

“And my car?”

“It’s a perfectly fine car. And it has the added bonus that you can actually get out of it.”

I suppose she’s right. It’s a fin … excelle … okay car.

It just isn’t a Boxster, or Corvette, or Viper.

Faster than a speeding bullet … mostly

I started the day with this thought: Get out of my way, Usain Bolt.

Yes, I often think about Mr. Bolt, the “supposed” fastest man in the world. I say “supposed” because Mr. Bolt has never seen me run. I am, to borrow a phrase from my favorite TV show as a kid, faster than a speeding bullet.

No, I’ve never competed in the Olympics. Because I have nothing to prove. I know how fast I am and that’s all that’s important.

I could, if I cared to, smoke Mr. Bolt. And if he were perchance to dream of challenging me, this would be my reply. “Usain? Ucrazy!”

Now, I admit in my youth, I was somewhat of a slowpoke. I think I was timed in the 100-yard dash in two and a half minutes. Maybe it was three.

But I worked hard on my quickness and speed and there came a time nobody, and I mean nobody, could beat me from the car to the front door of McDonald’s. I left skid marks on the pavement I was so fast.

Anyway, I woke up today as I do most mornings thinking Usain ain’t got nothing on me.

Then I went to the gym.

I recently joined a rec center owned by Beaufort County here in beautiful South Carolina. It has an indoor walking track that I normally own. Normally as in I’m normally the only person on the track. But still.

Today started like most days, with me motoring around the track so fast that the breeze I created was pushing the hat off my head.

Then something remarkable happened. A young woman sauntered past me. When I say sauntered I mean she was, um, sauntering. Ambling. Moseying. Meandering.

She wasn’t walking fast. More like, slow. Very, very slow. Kind of, uh, sluggish like.

I picked up my pace. She wasn’t going to pass me, no sir. About five seconds later she was out of sight.

OK, maybe I’ve slowed some. I just turned 70 after all.

But, I told myself, you’re still a speed demon.

And then an old woman sped past me.

Pushing her walker.

She has an advantage, I thought. She’s so bent over her nose is touching the ground, helping her inch along.

Unfair, I shouted. Cheater.

Everybody looked at me. Looked at her. Looked at me. And burst out laughing.

I was never so humiliated.

Ever heard of Usain Bolt? I asked the guffawers. He’s scared of me.

I picked up my pace. I was going to catch that old woman, obviously a relative of Usain’s, if it was the last thing I did. I became a blur. She became a small dot on the horizon.

By the time I finished, I was sweating and winded. Back to my car, I slunk. Took me 10 minutes to get into it, but once there, you can’t believe how fast I was in getting to the nearest McDonald’s.

Take that Usain.

The bike, the ground, and standing still

I fell off my bike the other day.

Saying I crashed my bike would sound manlier, but the truth is I fell off the bike.

While standing still.

Now this is no easy feat. You’re standing, waiting to cross the road and … and … and then you go boom. On the ground.

I wrote the other day about going for a ride and 6,386 degree weather and forgetting my water bottle and turkey vultures that just wanted me to die and donate my organs to the TVFK – the Turkey Vulture Food Kitchen.

What I didn’t mention is falling off my bike.

Because, you know … embarrassment.

My bike pedals have cleats, which means I can lock my bike shoes onto them, which theoretically gives my foot and ankle a greater range of motion than traditional push pedals, or even stirrups.

That is if you’re not older than dirt and have ankles that are frozen as solid as the tundra in Green Bay.

So anyway, I’m clipped into the pedals. Every time I come to a road, or driveway, I usually give a little twist to my right shoe and unclip it so that I have one good leg to stand on.

I did this very thing as I approached a crossroad. I came to a stop. Stood there for a moment. Or should I say, leaned there. Against a street sign.

My left foot is still clipped into its cleat.

Now a smart man might have freed both feet, but, you know … stupidity.

I wait for cars to pass. And wait. And wait. Suddenly, my weight shifts. To the left.

I go to put my left foot down to steady myself , but you know … dead brain cells.

Suddenly, the ground is rushing up at me. Suddenly, it greets my derrière with a thump. Suddenly, I’m rolling around in the dirt. Suddenly, I can hear the guffaws of drivers in their cars as they whiz by.

Slow as a grizzly rousing itself from deep hibernation, I rise, dust myself off and am thankful I see no bones jutting out from my skin. I take a step and nearly fall from a pain in my groin that is unprecedented in the history of the world. The pain, not my groin. No jokes, please, about my groin.

Couple of years back, I had a hip replacement, and since then, I’ve had a knifing pain on the inside of my left thigh. I thought maybe it was a hernia. How I might have developed a hernia while in surgery, I didn’t know, but I had no other explanation.

I went to another doctor who did a bunch of tests – X-rays and MRIs and poking – and told me that it was likely that something was pinching a nerve ending. And not in a good way.

“To replace the hip, your surgeon had to lift and move a bunch of nerves. They’re like spaghetti. Did you ever pick up spaghetti and put it back on the plate? It never goes back the same way.”

“I don’t put spaghetti back on the plate,” I said. “Whatever comes off the plate goes in my mouth.”

So the pain is always there and my falling off the bike made it worse. Much worse. Much, much worse.

Still, because I’m a man, I continued the ride and it was later I discovered I had no water and that I was going to die.

Somehow, I survived and that night I told my life partner what had happened. I was, of course, expecting sympathy. Some cooing. Some sweet murmurs of compassion.

What I got was, “What the heck is wrong with you? You don’t have a leg to stand on.”

Well, at least, that much was true.