Sunday, April 23, 2006

Worry wart

It's too bad wart removers aren't effective on the worrying kind. It would have been nice to rub out Mom's worries and give her some peace of mind when I was growing up.

Mom's excessive worrying usually kicked into high gear when plans were made to leave the house. Even for a short trip away to go out to dinner, Mom paced around the house checking everything. She canvassed the house from top to bottom as if she was an OSHA inspector looking for a safety violation.

About 60 minutes later, we'd get the all clear and would be finally free to flee the premises. But we wouldn't get far in the car before the worry wart in Mom flared up again.

"Did we remember to shut the garage door?" she would announce about a block away from the house. "I don't remember seeing the door go all the way back down. It didn't go back up, did it? Sometimes it does that, you know."
Someone in the car should have convinced Mom they watched the garage door touch down on the edge of the driveway and stay shut. But that would have been too easy. Instead, Dad would fuel the fire with his big mouth.

"I didn't shut it this time," he'd say. "I thought I'd leave it open for some spring cleaning. Hopefully the thieves take all the shit I don't want anymore."

This would trigger a new wave of new worries.

"I think I screwed a 75-watt bulb into a lamp that only required a 60-watter," Mom would say. "We better turn around so I can swap them out. We don't need a fire starting."

Dad would shoot that down, too, saying he'd rather take the chance that the house might go up in flames rather than turn around in rush-hour traffic to check on something that was fine to begin with. The really funny thing about this was the "rush hour" he was talking about was in Bismarck, North Dakota, where traffic was seldom more than six cars (or tractors) on the road at the same time.

"I hope I didn't leave any windows open - what if it rains?" Mom would reply. "Did I close and lock the door?"

"No, you left the door propped open with a chair and hung a huge banner above it announcing 'We're out for a few hours. Feel free to loot or just make yourself at home,'" Dad replied.

We all shared a laugh about this because we would all watch Mom make her rounds around the house, checking every door - even the ones to the closets - to make sure they were locked and secure. She also checked all 22 windows. Before she left, she pulled on the front door three or four times to make sure it was locked, then unlocked it, opened it and shut it again, then repeated the re-check process. That house was more secure than Fort Knox.

The only good thing about finally arriving at the restaurant was it would get her mind off of the house. But as we walked into the restaurant, suddenly her worries were focused on something in the parking lot.

"Did we turn off the car's headlights?" she'd ask. "What about the dome light? That could drain the battery. Has the oil been changed recently? Have the tires been rotated?"

Instead of taking 20 minutes to review recent service records he has stuffed in the glove box, Dad would get sarcastic about the car's security.

"I think I might have left the car running with the doors open and a big sign under the windshield wiper that says 'Free car.' We might have to take a cab or a bus home," he said.

Just as I start digging into my burger and french fries, Mom pointed in horror toward my plate. Among my pile of fries, she spotted one that was darker in color than the others.

"Don't eat that!" she'd freak. "It's all brown. Something must be wrong with it. If you eat that, you might die. Or at least be very ill, more than likely winding up in the hospital."

At this point, Dad would snatch the oddball fry off of my plate, inspect it for a few seconds, and then pop it into his mouth. This action would cause Mom to buckle in the booth, nearly fainting from the thought of the consumption of such a skanky potato.

"Oh, Ma, it's nothing," he'd chuckle. "Just a little overcooked. The worst it could do is give me the runs."

As we walked back to the car, Mom would remove her leftovers from the doggie bag to use the paper pouch to hyperventilate into. The car was fine, but what about the house?

When we arrived back at home, Mom would see her house unscathed, so now her only worry was Dad's health. She'd lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering if her husband would make it through the night with that brown french fry slowly being digested, poisoning his body.

When a day or two passed, along with the brown french fry, Mom would finally let out a big sigh of relief. It was as if she had just been brainwashed by Bobby McFerrin. And without a worry in the world, what better way to celebrate than to go out for dinner?

Uh-oh... here we go again!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Welcome to Dumpsville

I have always prided myself in being able to turn crappy situations into positive ones. I was really put to the test with The Rockette a few years back.

I had booked a fantastic two-room suite at a well-known hotel chain as a surprise for The Rockette. At first glance, the suite looked pretty sweet. But things quickly went down the toilet when she went to use the bathroom minutes after arriving.

"Oh. My. God," The Rockette said in a trembling fearful voice. It was a much more frightened tone than the "there's a huge spider in here" voice. This was more like "there's a serial killer in the bathtub" kind of scared. She then let out a shriek. I ran in to help, only to discover a sight far more sinister than I could have ever imagined.

"I lifted up the toilet lid, but instead of a sanitation strip across the seat, I saw that stretched across the water," The Rockette said, pointing to a huge dump in the stool. "It looked like a tree limb. It was so awful I just screamed."

This thing was humongous. Whoever gave birth to that monstrosity must have had a midwife in the bathroom with him to have hot water and towels ready. There's no way the mystery crapper got that brute out without using Lamaze. Afterwards, he probably wished he would have had it removed via emergency C-section.

I called the front desk clerk and told her the situation. She was very unsympathetic to my poop plight.

"I think you need to fix this," I said. "I don't get it. Even Motel 6 leaves the light on for you. This place is higher up the hotel food chain. I'd figure you would at least flush."

The maintenance guy arrived seconds later, plunger in hand. He cheerfully said "I heard you have a problem with your toilet."

"It's not our problem," I assured him. "But whoever was in this room before us has bowel problems of apocalyptic proportions. It's like a chunk of telephone pole. I'm afraid to flush it."

The maintenance guy took a gander in the stool and laughed. He was about to flush it, but I pushed his hand aside. It didn't seem right that he be the hotel's only eye witness. We already had some shit, so why not stir it up a bit? I called the front desk again.

"I'm an easy-going guy and can put up with a lot of crap," I told her. "But this is real crap. And there's a lot of it. If we have to look at this log, I think you should, too."

I didn't stop there. Besides the front desk clerk, I also insisted the maid who cleaned the room, the head housekeeper, and the manager all take a peek at the poop. I also suggested a call be placed to Guiness World Records to record this moment in history.

Two maids were next to arrive at the crime scene. After seeing the fecal annaconda, one maid glared at me and said "Well, I'm not touching it."

"Well, I'm not asking you to be a sewer snake handler, I'm just asking you to clean it up," I said. "I'm sure as hell not going to do it. And here's a pointer: Just because the lid is down, it does not mean the toilet is clean."

The maintenance guy was a big fan of bathroom humor. He kept snickering and giving the maids a hard time which one of them was going to "fish it out."

"If you fish a whopper that big out of water, you would normally hang it on your wall," I said. "But that's bigger than a fish. That shit is like a ship. It probably has a proper name and was christened before making its maiden voyage to bottom of the untidy bowl."

At this point, The Rockette had to leave the room because she was about to burst into laughter. I continued making comparisons to the turd's size, such as Babe Ruth's bat and King Tut's mummified femur. Only the maintenance guy was amused.

The head housekeeper was next to enter the bathroom. He immediately turned into Matlock. He knew better not to demand I bend over for dingleberry DNA analysis. Instead, after looking at the log and asking no questions, he announced to the room that the culprit who did it must have been the guests who were in the room before us because their plane was delayed and they were let back in the room after it was cleaned.

No shit, Sherlock!

"Well, I just can't believe there is no blood trail from the stool out the door, so we'll just have to assume the bad guy got away," I said. "What's important now is not who shit or how to clean it up, but how you will wipe this from our memory."

The maintenance guy took this as his cue to try and flush Nessie back to Loch Sewer. The Louisville Slugger struggled before finally disappearing. But the toilet became instantly plugged.

Then the manager arrived and asked to see the log. Without the real McCoy to look at, he asked for every gory detail. So naturally, I let him have it. When I was finished he knew the color, texture and how many kernels of corn were in it.

The manager offered two free drinks or a free breakfast for the "inconvenience," but he probably offered it so I would quit talking shit to him.

"Well, two drinks would be a start to forget that fancy fencepost," I said. "Breakfast would be good, but that's pretty much free already anyway. Dinner on you would be a great gesture for us to move past that first impression your hotel gave us."

The manager bristled slightly, but quickly agreed to the deal, which ended up having a cash value of $59.

That night, The Rockette and I sat in a dimly lit dining room enjoying steak and shrimp dinners. We clinked our wine glasses together. An older couple sitting near us looked over admiringly until they heard my toast.

"Here's to $59 shits."