Archives for category: humor column

Your flight is on time.

This includes the extra 47 minutes we’ve added to your 52-minute flight time so if we only arrive 26 minutes late we can say we were early.

We do not include in this estimation the 32 minutes it will take to move the plane to the gate, the nine minutes to open the gate door, the six minutes to wrench your carry-on out of the overhead bin, the two minutes to apologize to the woman you just hit with the carry-on as it was falling down and the five minutes to actually get off the plane without having to say “b’bye” to all members of the crew.

This also does not include the 48-minute walk from the gate (last one on the left) to the exit and the one-hour wait for a taxi.

Please continue to monitor your flight status to see if we’re going to stick with this absurd claim of being on time even though we have no idea if the flight that’s coming in, which will eventually become your flight going out, has even taken off from wherever or been built by Boeing.

Your flight has been delayed.

We’re telling you this now because we know you’ve already left the house and are heading to the airport and it really isn’t worth turning around at this point. Right now, we’re saying your flight’s delayed 15 minutes. But c’mon, even we don’t believe that.

In 15 minutes, we will say that your flight is delayed 25 minutes. At 25 minutes, we will say your flight is delayed 30 minutes. At 30 minutes, we will say 45 minutes. Then at 45 minutes, we will say that your flight is getting ready to leave from someplace else, where there has been a volcanic eruption, and you might as well go get some food or try to take a nap or finish your beach read.

At one hour and 30 minutes, we will say your flight never existed and you are at the wrong airport.

Your flight has been canceled.

This is because of anticipated bad weather. Or maybe it’s because of potential mechanical issues. It could be that the air traffic controllers need to go out to lunch. Or perhaps because it’s Tuesday. As we say in the airline business, whatever.

The next available flight to your destination is Thursday. At 5 a.m. Via Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. We recommend that you book immediately, since this is high season in Bishkek.

If you wish to cancel your trip as a result of a flight cancellation or significant delay (17 hours or more in the terminal or at least three crying babies sitting immediately next to you), you are entitled to a refund for the unused portion of your ticket. However, you will have to pay the difference between the cost of your ticket and Warren Buffett’s after-tax income.

If you wish to reschedule your flight, your rescheduled travel must occur after Wednesday and before we merge with another airline. Additional fees may apply if the stockholders reject the takeover bid and we have to sweeten the pot.

Also, your rescheduled travel must be completed before the end of the year or our introduction of a new level of economy fare, to be called “Stockyard.” Additional fees may apply if you try to sit down.

If you want to know how much the additional fees will be, additional fees may apply.

How do you stay married for a long time? It’s not easy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one of every two marriages ends in divorce. (The other one ends in Ohio.)

As someone who has been married forever — in fact, my wife and I recently celebrated what we think is our 332nd anniversary, and it’s really hard to get an appropriate card for that — we know a thing or two about marriage. As a public service, here are our marital secrets:

Secret No. 1: Have no secrets.

Admit that you were the one to finish the last chocolate chip cookie. Share the fact that for the last 17 years you have been an undercover North Korean spy. Tell your spouse that you really didn’t like La La Land no matter what you said immediately after.

Secret No. 2: Lower your expectations.

It’s important to remember that marriage isn’t always perfect. Sometimes there will be bumps along the road and the coffee will spill in your lap because someone forgot to put the cover on the travel mug correctly although I’m not naming names here. So when there are bumps, remember they are almost always your spouse’s fault.

Secret No. 3: Happily-ever-after doesn’t mean life together will be a fairy tale.

Instead of a fairy tale, sometimes married life will be a collection of short stories about people who have much more money than you do. Sometimes, it will be a limerick, usually one ending in a naughty word. Other times, it can be a crossword puzzle clue, like the three-letter ancient name for the city of Tokyo. Occasionally, married life will seem like a 19th-century Russian novel where everyone is named Goncharov or Carolnikov and you can’t tell what chapter you were in.

Secret No. 4: Don’t hold a grudge.

Unless, of course, someone asks you to do the dishes. Then you can say, sorry, I can’t, I’m holding a grudge from the last time you asked me and so my hands are full.

Secret No. 5: Never go to bed angry.

This may mean you have to avoid sleeping for several weeks. Drink a lot of coffee and pop some energy shots. If you get really tired, read a good Russian novel with characters named Goncharov or Carolnikov or watch what’s on Turner Classic Movies at 3 or 4 a.m. That’s when they have the really good ones that no one else sees because everyone else is sleeping.

Secret No. 6: Communication is important.

At breakfast, while sitting directly across the table from each other, be sure to send your partner a text. Check to make sure you’re both skimming similar Twitter feeds. Snapchat with him or her while in bed. Post to each other’s Instagram while you’re driving together to pick up the kids.

Secret No. 7: Show respect to your partner by paying attention.

Excuse me, what was that secret? Could you repeat that? Could you repeat the others, too?

Recently, I wrote about the importance of exercise and how if we want to both live longer and live better, we have to exercise even if it kills us. I noted that this is particularly true for anyone getting older, which research has shown appears to be most of us.

In fact, according to a new study published in either The Lancet or Teen People, aging patients who met the guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week found that they did not have to wear East Williamsburg hipster fedoras to appear to be younger and hipper.

But I failed to explain exactly what moderate exercise is.

Well, to begin with, we need to take 10,000 steps a day. To break that down into specifics, it means that every minute of the day we must take at least 6.95 steps, even if we are sleeping, eating or reading studies published in Teen People.

To get even healthier and fitter, we also should aim for 30 minutes of high-intensity aerobic activity four or five days a week as well as 72 minutes of figuring out what aerobic means, 24 minutes determining how to spell it and 19 minutes of deciding whether feverish manipulating of the remote control qualifies.

Aerobic exercise, which is sometimes known as cardio and occasionally known as Bob, is technically exercise that requires pumping of oxygenated blood by the heart to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Aerobic exercises, for example, would be jogging, swimming or screaming at the television set during a presidential press conference. In other words, it’s exercise that makes you gasp and unable to finish a sent … .

But to be truly fit, cardio isn’t enough. We also need strength training. We need to build up our muscle mass and get stronger so that when we are doing our cardio it doesn’t hurt as much. Also, weight-training helps you lose weight by increasing your metabolism which is the little neurological system inside you that regulates your metabols.

The question is, how do you fit all this essential physical activity into an already busy day?  There are ways.

  • Set your alarm early. Get up at 1 a.m. You can do this if you go to bed at 3 in the afternoon while making believe you are sending out work emails.
  • Turn your commute into a workout. If you are driving, whenever you come to a red light, get out of the car, run around your vehicle twice and then if the traffic has moved on, get into someone else’s car and ask them to drop you at the office. This also has social benefits.
  • Exercise at work. Instead of sitting immobile staring at a monitor, every 15 minutes reach your arms above your head, stretch out your feet and recite the prologue to the Canterbury Tales. This will work your arms, your legs and your olde English.
  • Sneak in a workout during your lunch break. Order a very large pastrami sandwich. Lift it over your head five times. Rest. Lift the pickle.
  • Multitask. While exercising, think of stopping.

Now that you’ve finally jammed your 75-pound carry-on into the overhead bin and kept this flight’s other 132 passengers waiting in the aisle for 17 minutes while you were whacking that elderly lady in 14C in the face, please turn your attention to the front of the airplane for this safety briefing.

When the seat belt sign is on, you must fasten your seat belt. Otherwise we will use rope and glue to attach you directly to the seat and will not be able to guarantee that you will come unstuck after landing.

To fasten your seat belt, just in case you’ve never been in an automobile before and don’t know how to do it, take this piece here and stick it into this piece there. Wait for the click. Then pull the strap to tighten until you can barely breathe and you’ve left stretch marks on your hips.

We suggest you keep your seat belt fastened throughout the flight, as we might encounter rough air, which is the term we now use instead of turbulence, which is the term we used to use to indicate we’re about to plunge into the ocean.

There are several emergency exits on this aircraft. Please take a few moments now to locate them. If you find them all, you will receive 20 percent off your drink order on your next flight.

In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, a book of appropriate prayers will automatically drop down and appear in front of you. To begin rhythmically chanting, pull the prayers toward you, place them firmly over your nose and mouth and scream as loud as you can. The screams will be muffled and thus not alarm your seatmates.

If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, say your prayers first, and then apologize directly to the child for your refusal to ever get her a pet.

A life vest is located under your seat or between the armrests. Or maybe it’s in the bins, squashed by your 75-pound carry-on. When instructed to do so, open the plastic pouch and remove the vest. Slip it over your head. No, not the plastic pouch, you ninny. Pass the straps around your waist and adjust at the front.

If it still doesn’t fit, perhaps you’re not a size medium after all.

To inflate the vest, pull firmly on the red cord. If there is no red cord, pull firmly on anything you can find until something works. This would include your seatmate’s ears or the flight attendant’s bow tie.

Your seat bottom cushion also can be used as a flotation device, particularly since it’s not very good as a seat cushion, especially if you are seated in regular economy.

At this time, all your portable electronic devices — including your mobile phone, your laptop, your iPad, your Kindle, your Apple watch and your Tickle Me Elmo must be set to airplane mode until further notice.

Please remember that this is a non-smoking flight. If you smell smoke, therefore, it’s probably one of our engines.

You will find all other safety information in the card located in the seat pocket in front of you. It’s the one with the chewing gum stuck to it.

As we get older, exercise becomes more important. That’s because, as we age, our muscle mass decreases. Each year, past 40, we lose 3.5 percent of our muscle mass and since our brains are also shriveling, we can’t remember where we lost it. Maybe it’s in the back seat of the car? Could be in the upstairs closet. Who knows?

But exercise can take your mind off the reality of decreased muscle mass and getting older and help you focus, instead, on that new throbbing in your chest. With exercise, just a few minutes a day can keep your body the finely tuned machine it never was. In fact, according to recent studies, for every minute of exercise during your lifetime, you will have one less minute to complain about exercising.

Exercise also will help you live longer, or maybe it will just feel like it. Among other benefits, it can ward off a multitude of diseases, most of which you can’t spell. Exercise makes you look better, feel better and can help you sleep, as long as you don’t try to nap while on the treadmill. By releasing endorphins into the central nervous system, exercise can produce the state of euphoria, which is near Kansas and renowned for its pushups.

It engages the mind as well, prompting you to come up with even more ingenious excuses for not exercising. “Look, it’s raining dinosaurs!” is a good excuse, even if you’re under covers in your bed imagining abdominal crunches. Or, “Hey, we’re out of Honey-Nut Cheerios!” sometimes can work, particularly if you’re really out of Honey-Nut Cheerios.

We know that exercise is good for us, and particularly good for those of us who are aging, because we keep reading all these articles telling us exercise is good for us, particularly for those of us who are aging. Get out there and walk! Run a marathon! Take up kick-boxing! Beat up your neighbor! Do squats with a kettle ball while swimming during a Zumba class!

Reading all these articles can be completely exhausting, but will get your heart rate up, maybe even to the target range. (By the way, to figure out your target heart rate range, take your resting heart rate — the rate you have when listening to someone sell insurance — multiply that by the number of medications you take on a regular basis, not including vitamins and chocolate, and then subtract how many times you want to nap before it’s even noon. Remember to always exercise at about 85 percent of your target heart rate or 73 percent more than you’d prefer to be doing.)

But while we all acknowledge that exercise is good for us, and becomes more important as we age, let’s admit it: as we age, there are more interesting things to do, like reading obituaries and noticing how many obituary subjects are younger than we are. So, yes, it’s difficult to get started on an exercise regimen.

Here, then, are a few common-sense suggestions to help launch your new fitness plan:

First, assess your fitness level. And don’t be discouraged when you find out you have no fitness level. At least you still have blood pressure.

Consider your fitness goals. It’s probably not realistic to think you can win an Olympic medal in Zumba. Instead, aim for something more achievable — like a participation trophy in 7-card stud.

Build exercise activity into your daily routine. For instance, try to work out every Flag Day or any morning when you intend to pay your utility bills.

Find a fitness buddy.  I recommend my friend Rob, who hates exercise as much as I do and also would prefer getting a beer and a couple of doughnuts.

And remember — before you start any exercise program, check with your medical providers. If you’re lucky, maybe they will stop you.

Welcome to your personal patient portal, created by your physician to give you digital access to all your medical records while scaring the bejeezus out of you.

On our home page, you will first find your health summary and a list of all your past medical conditions, even if you continue to insist that you never had chicken pox and it was just allergies. You will be able to discover that despite vowing to give up high fructose corn syrup 11 years ago, you’ve still got the profile of a pretty sick puppy.

You also will find on the home page all the diseases you are likely to contract over the next couple of weeks, particularly if you will be on an airplane sitting next to someone who is sneezing. And you will be sitting next to someone who is sneezing. (We are not counting as serious symptoms here that pain you sometimes feel just above your right hip or that sound in your chest you think you hear every time you swallow an avocado, assuming that both are just part of your excessive hypochondria. We are pretty sure neither pain is a sign of incipient mad cow disease.)

On the right side of the page are listed your current diagnoses, written in formal medicalese so you will be sure you actually have Ebola instead. These diagnoses include, but are not limited to:

Chiroptophobia

Fear of baseball bats

Pes planu

Hyperlepidoptera

When, in a panic, you look these conditions up, you will find out you have a fear of bats, a fear of baseball bats, fallen arches on both your feet and an excessive amount of butterflies.

Also on the home page will be your list of allergies. While you may not be allergic to all of the substances listed, frankly, why take a chance?

Now go to the page that lists your medications. In cases where it is applicable, we have used the incomprehensible generic name so you will have no idea if this is the medicine for your gout or for werewolf syndrome.

Continuing on, you will come to the results page, where you will find the results of all the tests you have taken, including the prostate exam, the cholesterol screening and the PSAT. The results of those exams are written in formulas like 2.3x10E3/uL, so good luck.

Next, click on the button that will take you to the page where you can ask your medical providers questions that they will not respond to. If the question is particularly urgent, make sure to get in touch with your friend Kim, the one who’s married to the cardiologist, before typing.

If you want to obtain a new prescription or refill an old prescription, go to the page that’s called “Prescriptions.” Do not go to the page that’s called “Treatments for Werewolf Syndrome.” You will note on this page that we do not do prescriptions through our patient portal.

A couple of years ago, I decided that I was going to try to run a half-marathon. I thought it would be a good test of my physical fitness, my determination, my perseverance and my utter cluelessness. It didn’t matter how old I was, I thought; I could be just as stupid as I used to be.

I never did run that half-marathon. I would like now to explain why.

First, I found out that a full marathon is indeed 26.2 miles long, or 26.1 miles longer than walking to the mailbox to get the mail. Second, I found out that a half-marathon is, in fact, half a marathon.

To get a better grasp of what that means: technically speaking, it’s 13.1 miles, 21.08 kilometers or, in England, 16.7 imperial liters. It’s a lot of liters. It is, in fact, the equivalent of running to the supermarket, then running back home, then finding out you didn’t buy anything at the supermarket and having to run all the way back, just for a loaf of bread.

And then it turns out the supermarket is closed. And that’s assuming that the bread was any good and the supermarket was only one state away, and mostly downhill.

In addition, I discovered, you can’t just run a half-marathon without preparation apparently. You need to train for it. I would have much preferred that meant I needed to book on Amtrak. But it turns out that means doing a lot of running even before you have to do a lot of running.

Yes, I know it seems unfair.

In particular, in training for a long race, you are supposed to start small and build up over time. I was fine with starting small. I was so fine with it, I stayed small.

You are supposed to slowly increase your mileage until running a half-marathon is as easy as going to the supermarket and buying a loaf of bread. We know how that turned out.

When I was training, after running about three or four miles I would begin to get that certain feeling you get, that runner’s high — you know, that moment when you are certain you are surely going to die.

My feet would swell, my legs would hurt, my back would ache and my breathing would be labored. It was sort of like when I’m watching a presidential press conference.

In addition, all that preparation to run a half-marathon takes a lot of time, and, frankly, I’m a very busy person. I have naps to take, emails from acquaintances to ignore, dishes in the sink not to wash. Sometimes, I have to spend whole days figuring out how many characters I have left when I want to tweet something.

But perhaps the most important reason I gave up on my half-marathon quest was that I found out I could just buy one of those “13.1” bumper stickers and not have to prove that I earned it.

Like many of you, I have outsourced my income tax preparation to someone who actually understands how to add lines 23 through 35 and then find the smaller of lines 44 through 68 while entering the amount from 46 divided by the credit from line 73.

Unlike me, my tax preparer knows all about capital gains (or loss), S corporations, ordinary dividends, not-so-ordinary dividends, the domestic production activities deduction (Yes! It’s right there on Line 35, but only if you’ve attached Form 8917), and even whether Line 79 is more than Line 68, but only in months that have an R.

But, unfortunately, my tax preparer is not in charge of gathering all the information for my tax return. That’s my job.

He doesn’t know where I probably or possibly or might have or could have carefully stored all my tax stuff that I have to give him before he can figure out if I qualify for the advance premium tax payment credit or the 50-percent off an item of equal or lesser value if I choose the nontaxable combat pay election.

If I want to get the Depreciation and Amortization deduction (Form 4562), I would have to show him all the bills I have for when we depreciated and amortizated the house last fall. If I want to deduct Expenses for Business Use of Your Home (Form 8829), I would have to provide all the bills I paid for the work done on your house, too.

To qualify for the Profit or Loss From Business deduction (Schedule C), I have to prove that I already filed Schedule A and Schedule B, even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t have either of them on my schedule.

Meanwhile, the tax deadline is quickly approaching, and my tax preparer is already explaining to me why if Line 8 is more than zero I’ll still owe a significant amount of money even if I prefer Line 7. So, for the last several weeks, I have been searching in the obvious places — the desk, the filing cabinet, the bread bin, next to the carburetor — for a number of extremely important tax documents that he says he needs, including:

  • The W-2 forms, which I believe I had filed with the WD-40 forms that came with the lawn mower. It’s also possible I may have thrown them out when they arrived in the mail, thinking they were solicitations for satellite TV packages (“4,726 Channels — Only 43 cents for the first 12 months — then we garnish your children!”).
  • All the 1099 forms, which had been reduced from 12.99 and would have come with free shipping, too. (As long as I spent more than $65 and attached Form 1116.)
  • My carefully annotated list of medical expenses, which included doctor bills, dental bills, pharmacy bills and insurance premium bills, minus my deductible but divided by my co-pay multiplied by my medical mileage co-efficient. Unless that number is less than zero or higher than my tax preparer’s fee.
  • And last year’s tax forms. I’m sure I can find them, unless they were amortizated last fall.

 

We would like to apologize for a series of errors that have appeared in previous posts.

A report on the brunch I prepared last weekend that featured French toast, granola cups and curry-flavored hash browns mistakenly noted that president Kim Jong-un of North Korea was among the guests at the brunch.

A paragraph devoted to my inability to effectively load the dishwasher described incorrectly the machine as previously belonging to Chance the Rapper.

A recent aside about my running prowess referred imprecisely to how long it took me to complete a recent 5K race. The reference should have noted that it was a 1K and it was actually not a K but an R.

A sentence alluding to my plans for retirement misstated the relationship between two of the characters in Handel’s Third Oratorio. The two are not sisters but are, in fact, financial advisors together at Goldman Sachs. Also, it was not Handel’s Third Oratorio but a hip hop revival of My Fair Lady.

Because of an editing error, a recent question mark should have been a semicolon.

A listing of promises I’ve made to myself that I haven’t yet fulfilled erroneously attributed all the fault to myself. Some of the fault should have been shared with others who have egged me on, including but not limited to Kim Jong-un.

A catalog of the items I have recently lost misidentified the contents of my wallet. Instead of a driver’s license, three credit cards, four health insurance cards, 17 dollar bills and a small sheet of paper with a phone number written on it that I could no longer attribute to anyone I knew, the contents actually included only 11 dollar bills, my car insurance card and an old newspaper clipping of a recipe for eggplant parmesan.

A recent notation concerning eggplant parmesan should instead have cited risotto a la Milanese.

A column devoted to prunes misspelled the names of my children. They are Dick and Jane, not Othello and Desdemona.

When writing recently about the threat of nuclear annihilation, I mistakenly gave an outdated title to Captain Kangaroo. He is no longer a captain but is, instead, a chief petty officer (ret).

Because of a writing error, a column that should have been about the Top 10 Places to See in Kazakhstan was wrongly focused on questions about repairing my lawn mower instead.

A correction in a recent post incorrectly corrected a mistake that had tried to rectify an error that referenced a gaffe included in a lapse that was part of an inaccurate oversight.

We sincerely apologize.

 

Not as sharp as you used to be? Want to improve your mental abilities or ward off cognitive decline? Can’t remember what the word cognitive means?

Are you becoming worried that your intellectual prowess isn’t nearly as prow as you would like? Or are you just simply concerned that you’re losing your mind and can’t remember where you put it?

Don’t worry. Now, thanks to a new generation of interactive games, riddles and clever Internet-based whangdoodle programs designed to prey on anyone who has ever forgotten her keys or failed to nab a Nobel Prize, you can train your brain to do better.

These programs are like going to a gym for the brain, except that you don’t have to wear shorts that are too tight or strain your elbow doing bi-lateral curls.

No head bands! No need to waste time reading or studying or even actually looking for your keys! No figuring out calculus equations! No going to the lab and having to put on those icky white lab coats!

Yes, you can improve your working memory, your cognitive flexibility, your processing speed and your gas mileage — and you can do it without actually flossing your medulla oblongata.

No need to get on the treadmill to exercise your brain. All you have to do is just play some games and solve some riddles. Like these:

  • Two trains are heading to Chicago, one from New York and the other from New Orleans. The one from New York is traveling at 103 miles per hour. The one from New Orleans has a better snack bar. What time is it in Peoria?
  • Carol’s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May. What was the third child’s name? (I should tell you that even Carol got this one wrong.)
  • If it’s 3:15 p.m. in Bogota, Colombia, why are you in Bogota? Weren’t you supposed to be in Piscataway, NJ?
  • How many three-letter words can you make out of Piscataway, NJ? How many three letter words can you make in Piscataway, assuming you were stuck there during a snowstorm and couldn’t get to the brain gym?
  • Repeat all these numbers without looking at your phone or asking Carol, April or May for help: 6
  • Without looking at your phone which is still, probably, in Bogota, Colombia, what letters on your phone keypad correspond to the number 6?
  • Find all the verbs in the above paragraphs and arrange them in a grid that will look like the Eiffel Tower. Do it again, this time while eating a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • In a labyrinth, start at the bottom and find your way to the top before the train gets to Peoria.
  • Which of the following doesn’t belong:

Rhinoceros

Elephant

Giraffe

Warren G. Harding

Now explain why your answer was “giraffe.”

  • Connect the dots. Please don’t ask which dots.