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Monday, July 18, 2005

How Soccer Teaches Us That “The Whole Rest of the World is Nicer, Smarter & In All Ways Better than America”

Tyler News Headline Today: Soccer Game Leads To Bloody Brawl

A friend of mine who hails from a certain European Country which shall remain nameless was at pains through the years of our friendship to explain to me why Soccer was a far superior sport to any of the distinctly American games like football, baseball and basketball. The man held 5 doctoral degrees so I take him seriously. His argument went something like this:
  1. Soccer is a universally popular sport, enjoying a wide audience in virtually every country and culture in the civilized and not so civilized world.
  2. Soccer (or Football) as he insisted on calling it, requires more stamina and athleticism. There aren’t 9 innings. One team doesn’t sit on its collective butt while the other team plays. You don’t get huddles between plays. The field is a proper size, not like a dinky little basketball court where you only have to go a few steps to heave the ball at an undefended basket.
  3. There is an almost zen-like quality to the ebb and flow of play on a soccer field. A symphony of grace, teamwork and harmony that makes it almost an art form.
  4. Football (Soccer) brings together people from a wide range of cultures, religions, countries and tribes in peaceful competition…….
Now right here he always starts to lose me. Because:
  1. Soccer’s universal popularity is, I believe, a tribute more to its economical cost per player than to any mystical attraction it may have for the more sophisticated folks living beyond our shores. I mean all you have to have to play soccer is a ball and a flat place and some bamboo lashed together in a rectangle for a goal. You don’t need pads, helmets, bats, expensive leather gloves or Michael Jordan shoes. Okay, basketball is pretty cheap if all you have to buy is a ball and somebody spent $10,000 or so to build a park with a court in it near your house.  If this is the case, I believe you will find more kids going for basketball than soccer because there is a lot more scoring and if you learn how, you look really cool stuffing the ball.
  2. Stamina? Okay, maybe. But have you ever noticed how bedraggled soccer players look after a game. They’re so winded from running nonstop for two hours, bruised from doing flip kicks and confused from too many head butts that they don’t have anything left for flirting with girls. This is one of the reasons soccer has had difficulty gaining popularity among American boys. In American sports, the main purpose (at least the original purpose) has always been to excite cheerleaders. You have to have lots of opportunities for climactic moments if you’re going to attract the attention of one of those birds. Touchdowns, home runs, the slide into home plate, the “dunk” or the three-pointer – all these give American athletes an opportunity to show off their prowess for the girls. Soccer players on the other hand – all they do is tear up and down the field sweating and kicking a ball back and forth for an hour and in all that time they may have scored just once and it happens so fast, you don’t really see it when it does. Usually someone has to nudge you to let you know there’s been a score. A score of 1 to 0 does not make for an exciting hour for a nation noted for its short attention span. Sure the heels over head flip kick and the odd header shot like Pelee used to do are pretty cool, but they don’t happen very often and these kinds of shots have been shown in recent medical studies to cause brain damage in those who execute them too frequently. The trouble with soccer is that Americans want to be able to recognize girls once the game is over. You look pretty lame coming up to a cheerleader and going, “Hey, uh, uh……uh, Barbara, no… not Barbara, but it’s something with a “B”, right?” That’s why we don’t strike the ball deliberately with our heads in original American games (other than professional wrestling and then that’s more theater than sport). In fact, it’s usually illegal to hit a ball with your head (even accidentally) unless you have a helmet and even then it’s still illegal to “header” a person or ball deliberately even though you do have a helmet on. That’s why we use bats in baseball instead of heads. Imagine if you were trying to head-butt a baseball coming at you at 96 miles an hour. Of course, that may explain the behavior of some international soccer fans. I once tried to head butt a high arcing pass into a soccer goal once. For two days I thought I was the King of Moldavia and kept sentencing my teachers to the guillotine for impertinence. It took me two months of extra credit to get my GPA back up.
  3. I have noticed from my brief attempts at soccer that there is truly a zen-like quality to it as the good doctor pointed out. You get in the zone and the game just sort of flows. That could be because, after running nonstop for the first 30 minutes, all the blood has drained out of my head, I can't feel my feet and I can’t see for the sweat in my eyes. I’m confused and afraid to kick the ball to anyone because I don’t understand what “offside” means in this stupid sport. It goes something like - if you’ve got a guy way ahead of you down the field by himself and if you kick it to him and he's positioned so that he could actually stuff it down the goalie’s throat – you can’t. I suppose the rationale is that it wouldn’t be fair to gang up on him like that. Anyway, I’m like really zoned what with the exhaustion and the confusing rules and am so "in the zone" that I could care less if anyone actually scores. I mean, it’s kind of fun to annoy the goalies by kicking the ball at them and evidently you should even kick the ball at your own goalie if you get the chance. What’s up with that? So, I’ll give him the zen-like thing, but only because I don’t exactly know what a “zen-like” quality is and if it’s anything like how I feel after playing half a soccer game, I really don’t want to know – though it would probably explain the low scoring.
  4. Soccer as the sports world’s tool for uniting all people in peace: An observation here - At the Olympics, they don’t let the soccer players play at the main stadium. They always try to keep them off somewhere else where the riots won’t be so conspicuous on TV. 
Headline Sampler
  • 28 TRAMPLED IN BRAZILIAN SOCCER RIOT or 
  • OVER 100 PEOPLE ARRESTED IN PAKISTANI SOCCER STADIUM BRAWL or 
  • ANGRY FOOTBALL FANS PUMMEL REFEREES – MADRID RIOT POLICE CALLED.
Look, despite what half the world thinks (and half the people in our own country apparently), America is a peaceful country. We sort of got it out of our system when we had the Civil War and we really haven’t been too anxious to get into another one since (except, of course, for the Spanish-American War which was more about newspaper sales than about naked aggression anyway). Sport has always been an outlet for aggression in our society anyway. But in American sports we like to take a break pretty regularly to regroup and give the other guy a chance to catch his breath. We like our sports in little dramatic acts – a “play” executed in a well-coordinated rush or a series of duels between a pitcher and powerful batters or a quick pass, dance shuffle with a half twist that ends with the ball slamming through the net. It gives us a chance to admire the footwork, handwork or strategy on display and to nudge our neighbor and say, “Would you look at that?????” We like raids and desperate battles, special forces and the “A Team”. Soccer is too much like those decades long European wars that go on and on with massed impersonal formations of nameless soldiers getting clobbered all over the place and nobody really getting much of anywhere for all the sweating they’re doing and you’re not really sure if these guys have a plan or whether they’re just making this all up as they go.

If soccer shows us how the world is “superior” as my friend more than once hinted, then I have to wonder whether the international idea of what sort of behavior is “superior” isn’t a little warped.
 
I’m telling you, man, those guys really need to lay off those “header” shots.

Just one man’s opinion…..

Tom King

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Bureaucrat Scorned

If my recent conversations with a TxDOT engineer is any indication, I suspect we are up against it in the coming struggle to build a transit and housing infrastructure that will support the growing hordes of "seasoned citizens" here in rural East Texas. We are going to need to make some changes. Right now one in five of us is over 65. By 2010, one in four of us lake rats will be looking at retirement age. We already have pretty nearly the highest per capita senior population in the state. We're going to need housing and transportation because we're going to outlive our ability to drive and we're not going to be happy about it - and we baby boomers vote! So it's inevitable that some things about our infrastructure are going to have to change to support our graying population.

"Infrastructure"! What a ridiculous word to describe the complex network of stuff that makes life-as-we-know-it possible. If anything, things like water, sewer, trash disposal, mail, roads and phone service are more like, well - like plain old structure. Without these things, civilization would collapse. The Romans built roads and a postal system right off. Infrastructure is one of the things that kept the Roman empire in one piece so long. Some of their roads are still in place (along with one or two of their postmen, if the speed of my mail delivery is any indication).

Unfortunately, in preparing to meet the transportation challenges of the future here, we’ve had some officials in The Texas Department of Transportation who have believed that building roads was the only thing the department was meant to do. That's changing, but some of those good old boys are still there to be sure - dragging their boot heels at the very idea of taking road money and using it to build commuter rail, multi-modal transit hubs or paratransit bus services. It's not an accident that most of the TxDOT folks that think like that were originally trained as "highway engineers". If all you have is a hammer, every problem requires a nail!

Fortunately, the TxDOT commissioners have taken the reins and started the department down the road of becoming a "transportation" department rather than merely a "highway" department. Commissioners Ric Williamson, Hope Andrade and East Texas' own Robert Nichols deserve a lot of credit in pushing the change in philosophy at the DOT. They had to change the name from "Highway Department" to "Department of Transportation" back almost a decade or so ago to get the process started and they're still struggling to get some of the staff guys out of their road-building rut even now.

At a recent TxDOT public forum, one of these road-builder guys pinned me in the corner and rattled on at length wondering why there isn’t a city the size of Houston plunked down in the middle of the Piney Woods somewhere. "We’ve got the resources to support one after all", he said. His answer to this population puzzle? We need more roads!

He couldn't have been more wrong. We don't need more roads (except for maybe Governor Perry's corridors - you know, the ones that speed trucks and Yankees through the state without giving them too many places where they can pull off the road). You see, I can tell him why there’s no "Houston Does The Big Thicket" type metropolis in East Texas. It’s because we don’t want one! Great Scott! Could you imagine all that many urban dandies descending on Arp or Henderson or Alto. For us it would be like the plague of locusts that Moses called down on Egypt.

And can you imagine the troubles all those city folk would face moving here? It would be like invading Somalia. Everywhere they would meet small bands of grizzled and heavily armed East Texans determined to fight off the furrin’ invaders.

It’s not that we actively dislike cities or would want Houston to drop into the sea or anything like that. As a theoretical exercise, we agree that something like Houston ought to exists somewhere - preferably somewhere far away. It only makes sense that in the whole vast sea of humanity a few million people might slosh up in some backwater or other - quite by accident of course. No one in his right mind would deliberately settle some place where twenty or thirty thousand other people are camped out in an area the size of a Noonday onion patch. I mean, where in hell would you fish? And imagine all those septic tanks percolating down into the aquifer and out into the lakes all at once. Horrifying to imagine.

East Texans would be able to tolerate a few city folks–retirees and the like, but only if you spread ‘em out some. City folks are like manure. You spread ‘em out over a million acres of woods and lakes and they can do a lot of good (for the economy & such), but boy howdy, you try and pile ‘em up all up in one place and pretty soon, the place is gonna start to stink!

The piney woods ought to have a big city in it!!!!! What a crock of pig pellets!

Just one man's opinion!

They're really gonna get me if the road guys read this aren't they? I can see it now - "Uh, Mr. King, we're here with these bulldozers to build a new four lane highway over the top of your house. We do apologize for any inconvenience..."

Tom King

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

If God had trouble what makes you think you're gonna get off easy?

To those of us who have children in our lives, whether they are our own, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or students...here is something to think about.. Whenever your children are out of control, you can take comfort from the thought that even God's omnipotence did not extend to His own children.

After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve. And the first thing He said was, "Don't."

"Don't what?" Adam replied.

"Don't eat the forbidden fruit," God said.

"Forbidden fruit? We have forbidden fruit? Hey, Eve.. . we have forbidden fruit!"

"No way!"

"Yes, way!"

"Do NOT eat the fruit!" said God.

"Why?"

"Because I am your Father and I said so!" God replied, (wondering why he hadn't stopped creating after making the elephants).

A few minutes later, God saw His children having an apple break and, boy howdy was He ever ticked off! "

Didn't I tell you not to eat the fruit?" God, as our first parent asked?

"Uh huh," Adam replied.

"Then why did you?" said the Father.

"I don't know," said Eve.

"She started it!" Adam said,

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

"DID NOT!

Having had it with the two of them, God's punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own. Thus, the pattern was set and it has never changed! But there is reassurance in this story. If you have persistently and lovingly tried to give children wisdom and they haven't taken it, don't be hard on yourself. If God had trouble raising children, what makes you think it would be a piece of cake for you?

Tom King

Monday, July 04, 2005

A Christian With Questions?

I recently took a test on an Internet website ( www.Beliefnet.com ) that was supposed to sort you into categories according to your beliefs about God*. Final scores ranked along a continuum from "Hardcore Skeptic" to Candidate for Clergy. I scored a 77 and was assigned to the category of "Questioning Believer". At first I disagreed with the score. I'm actually a pretty conservative Christian, so I expected to match up with more traditional Christians in the scoring. Evidently, I’m more out of the mainstream than I had thought.

Part of the problem may have been that some of the questions on the "test" made definite assumptions about what beliefs a "confident" believer might endorse. As it happens, many of these so-called mainstream beliefs are areas of legitimate disagreement between persons of various theological persuasions. Many nontraditional believers are quite confident even though they might choose a day other than Sunday to worship or believe that the soul is not inherently immortal. It’s a common weakness of tests that the test writers pre-conceptions inevitably come into play as the questions are designed. No tester could know, for instance, that, while I believe in angels, I do not believe they are disembodied "spirits", but rather flesh and blood creatures. There wasn’t a way to express that as a choice on the test.

As a result, when I visited the newsgroup for folks of my category, I found myself reading message after message asking "Why, God?" "Why is there suffering?" "Why did you let my baby die?" "I don’t understand." Post after post begged for answers. Each was looking for some reason that would explain their pain and make it go away. These were not believers who, like me, believe firmly in God, but poor battered souls who felt lost and, while they wanted to believe in God, couldn't match up a loving God with all the bad things that were happening to them and those they loved.

And, as I expected, there were as many posts from people (and predators) offering help. Reverend Doctor Theophus offered to guide one struggling soul if she’d just send along her e-mail address. He didn’t ask for the $19.95 at the time, but you could just hear it coming. Another attempted to explain how that you just had to persevere until you die and then you’ll be reincarnated and get to try again in another life to get it right. Another offered solace in science and evolution without explaining what "solace in science and evolution" offered. Yet another said you suffer so you can understand how bad it was for Jesus when he was here. Still another said it was all part of God’s "strange and fascinating" plan - like parents punishing their children. One said you have to have suffering or you wouldn’t be able to appreciate joy. I doubt the young lady who asked her question about suffering found much clarity in the cacophony of conflicting answers.

The truth is there are no easy answers. We spend our lives looking for the answers to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything else. In his novel, The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Addams claims the answer is "42". The problem is, as Addams points out, we still don’t know what the ultimate question is.

While I believe the universe follows natural laws, I’m not a deist. I don’t believe that just because the universe and everything in it obeys the laws of physics, that there is, then, no room for God. I also don't believe in magic, even though I believe in angels. Unlike many, I don’t believe they operate outside natural law, but then I don’t understand all natural law either. Angels may exist on other physical planes or in other dimensions. Physicists, in fact, have postulated parallel dimensions, each with a separate set of physical laws which exist right alongside of our own 3 dimensional universe. I don't understand exactly how that works, but the math seems pretty solid. Was the world created in 7 days or did it evolve over some 5 billion years? The thing is, I don't care. It was done on God's time. Holy writings can only describe what men think they know about God based on their experience, education and the society in which they lived. Scripture tells what they knew about God. Nothing more. The Bible is not a book of incantations, but a living document. Those who wrote it were his penmen, not his pen.

Then, we address the next question. Does God know me, personally or did he just get things rolling an go off and leave us unattended? I'm convinced, for myself, that he does know me as an individual. If you postulate that God is a creature who is infinite, then he has plenty of himself available to pay some attention to me. Does the idea of God make sense? I think so. Nothing is more possible than that some sort of vast active benign intelligence exists out there and wants to exercise His creative energy by making planets, stars and people. Then why suffering? Let me ask you something. How do you create a creature with the ability to choose - one with total free will - especially if you plan to turn that creature loose in the universe without the danger of its wrecking everything.

Answer -just the way He did. Confine the creature to a single planet. Allow that creature to grow and learn from his own mistakes, greed and selfishness, then at the end of each life, preserve that person's spirit/knowledge/being in some way and resurrect him or her at the end of the whole vast experiment. Let each choose with the full light of his or her experience on Earth. Let each examine the way that lying, the lust for power and greed, all inherently lead to death and misery.

That's how you create a race of people who can be entrusted to live forever. That's how you grow sons and daughters of God. Then you wipe away all trace of the world as it was. Fire works well for that. Or maybe you let the bad guys go on and blow themselves up. If you leave the place full of selfish evil people how long do you think it will last before someone punches the big red button.

If you are a God of space and time, you could even return those saved from the dark Earth to the beginning of Earth. Back to the Garden and the New Earth as it was and let them change history. The Fall could be as though it never was. The vast evil that came after would be obliterated and all this horror will be as though it had never been. No one will ever have suffered, died, wept or hurt. No one’s baby will have died. No one would ever be tortured, murdered, starved or degraded. Evil will be as though it had never been.

Is that what will happen? I don't know, but it would be a merciful solution to the problem of evil. All these things are possible. We can already dimly conceive of the science that could make this possible (cloning, downloading brain patterns for storage, time travel, hyperspace travel, matter transporting, etc.). Maybe heaven has a spaceport at the end of a wormhole that connects somewhere near here. Why does it have to be some foggy place with harps where we float around like ghosts forever or worse yet, get sent back here over and over till we get it right. Reincarnation is only slightly less cruel than the idea that there will be some colossal barbecue where a vindictive God chicken fries people forever. That would be really cruel of God. If God’s like that, then the devil is right!

Ultimately we must ask, "Is God even out there?" To that I’d have to answer, "Well, why not?" We can already conceive of creatures of vast antiquity and overarching intelligence far beyond our understanding. Captains Kirk, Picard, Janeway and Archer meet them every week on Star Trek. We already believe in shadows of God, but we ignore the evidence of God Himself. Carl Sagan in one of his last books, "Contact", argued that if there was a God he would show himself. Then he arranged for his main character to meet some super powerful aliens who wound up sending her back with no proof. When she asked them why they wouldn't show themselves, their only excuse was, "That's how we've always done it." How lame! At least God's excuse is that he wants to give us eternal life and there's no other way to do it.

So did evil have to exist for us to be immortal and sinless? Does it have to exist forever in order for there to be continued goodness by contrast? To the second question I would say "No!" The devil would like that to be true, but it's not. To the first question, I would answer, "I don’t know, but that’s the way it’s looking right now." We know what careful, unvarying procedures it requires to, say, create a complex substance like plastic or artificial diamonds. Interfere with that process and the substance does not form. We understand well how new ideas, great philosophies and humanitarian reforms spring from lives touched by sorrow, trial and great effort. Would civil rights have risen when it did without the lessons we learned about inhumanity when our fathers visited the camps at Auschwitz or without the great nonviolent protests of the 50's and 60's.

I think that God is big enough to have figured out how to make it all right in the end. In my own life, God is teaching me to so hate sin and evil that I am convinced that for the rest of eternity, I will never be tempted to elevate myself over any other person or creature. I believe that when this is all over, I will never feel the need to kill or steal or lie or hurt another creature. My walk with God has taught me that there is beauty and joy and happiness and that evil will not conquer good. I will, therefore, wait patiently for the end to come.

The stew is not yet fully cooked. Our society, however, rapidly approaches a boiling point at which mankind must make the great and final choice between good or evil. Then God will come, put a lid on it and pronounce it "Done!" What creed you believe in, whatever it is you think you know or don't know will not matter because you will recognize Him and understand that this was all as it had to be. Like the old hymn, we’ll understand it all bye and bye. And when we do we will all shout with one voice alongside the millions ransomed from all ages, "Heaven is cheap enough!"

Tom
(c) 2005

* The Beliefnet Score Sheet:
Hardcore Skeptic - But interested or you wouldn't be here!
Spiritual Dabbler - Open to spiritual matters but far from impressed
Active Spiritual Seeker - Spiritual but turned off by organized religion

Spiritual Straddler - One foot in traditional religion, one foot in free-form spirituality
Old-fashioned Seeker - Happy with my religion but searching for the right expression

Questioning Believer - You have doubts about the particulars but not the Big Stuff
Confident Believer - You have little doubt you’ve found the right path
Candidate for Clergy

Friday, July 01, 2005

Hold the Pickles

I put off going to see a doctor for a physical for 3 years. Before you flog me with irate e-mails, I want you to understand something. I do not recommend avoiding regular physical examinations, especially when you get to be my advanced age. Too many things can go physically wrong with you that a simple physical could have caught in time. I do realize this. That said, I also knew going into the thing that once that nurse got me on those scales, my eating days were basically over.

Unfortunately, I am one of those people who are hungry all the time. I was always hungry as a little kid. It wasn’t that we didn’t have food around. It’s just that, growing up in a backwater East Texas town (we actually had a lower east side), I didn’t get to sample a lot of gourmet cooking. Most of my body is the product of a steady diet of baloney and beans. My sister says this explains a lot of things about me.

In the fifth grade, I landed my first job working a five mile long newspaper route at $5 a week. I bought my very own used metalflake gold Schwinn Stingray bicycle with my earnings. I practically invented motocross bicycling, pedaling the thing like a madman through ragged woodland shortcuts, offroad and on. I weighed 75 pounds sopping wet when I started earning money of my own and with the steady exercise, stayed scrawny. I soon discovered, however, that having your own money gives you actual choices at the candy counter. No more either/or guff from Mom. I was an entrepreneur, a man about town with my own cash and a sugar-crazed junk food junkie. Despite vigorous daily exercise, I managed to put on about 20 pounds in the next year or two now that my beans and bologna diet was being supplemented with peanut butter bars and cheese crackers (they were cheap and available at W.O. Belz’s store where I dropped off five papers for his newsstand every day). I didn’t know what an enchilada was till my sophomore year of high school when my class went to Pancho’s Mexican Buffet. The all you can eat Mexican food place was a revelation. At the time I weighed in around 110 pounds in my skivvies.

Then I discovered pizza and double decker hamburgers. By my 17th birthday, I weighed 155 pounds. That was the summer, I first experienced the joy of carbo-loading. We didn’t actually call it that, but in retrospect, that’s what it was. I had taken a summer job at Lone Star Camp as a trash collector/handyman at $10 per week. It didn’t pay much, even by 1971 standards, but the waterfront girls ran around in bathing suits all day and most of them were unattached and I just happened to be the only acceptable available single guy on the place that wasn’t already going steady.

There were three other guys living in the male staff cabin we all shared. They were okay in the looks department so far as that went, but all of them shared one major (and fatal) flaw. These swarthy Bohemians had all decided that a daily swim in the murky waters of the camp lake sufficed as an adequate bathing regime for anyone and didn’t trouble themselves with the application of soap. Anxious to maintain my boat dock in the moonlight monopoly on female companionship, I allowed them to remain mystified as to why they couldn’t get girls, while I went through a case of soap and three economy-sized bottles of cheap cologne in just over a ten week period.

I was doubly in heaven, thanks to our crusty camp cook, Jack Heiser. Jack cooked plain simple food, heavy on potatoes, cheese and plain vegetables. There was dessert at every meal - something that was almost beyond my comprehension. To top it off, Jack used to save me ice cream bars for doing little favors for the kitchen staff. It’s a wonder we didn’t catch pneumonia. My buddy, Mark and I used to have to stand in the walk-in freezer in our bare feet and wet swimsuits eating our ice cream so that none of the other staff would see us. None of them were ever offered ice cream, because none of them had managed to learn that sucking up to the head cook had major benefits. I put on 15 pounds of hard muscle that summer and was kissed by a girl for the first time in my life. Food was fast becoming inextricably linked with joy. I spent 5 summers at Lone Star, but the food was never better than the two summers Jack was in charge. The man was a culinary genius as far as I was concerned. Then I met Sheila.

My darling wife to be was schooled in the culinary arts by her grandmother, a brilliant Louisiana-style country cook and later by my own beloved grandmother, an equally brilliant Texas-style country cook. She soon surpassed them both and since we married in 1974, I’ve gained about a hundred pounds. The woman has prepared meals that would be illegal in most Northern states. I’ve seen stray dogs kill each other fighting over stuff she’s thrown out because it "wasn’t any good." I know because I participated in several of those dogfights myself and I’m not ashamed. She practices some sort of kitchen voodoo. Her homemade whole wheat dinner rolls need no butter. Her mashed potatoes have inspired no less than 31 marriage proposals. Most of the guys were friends of mine and I was sitting right there at the table when they proposed. There are several respectable deacons in my own church who are just waiting for me to die so they can make their move. One of them keeps jumping out at me from behind things and shouting, "Boo!" and then asking me, "How’s your heart?"

When the doctor got a load of my weight, he said what I knew he would say. "You need to lose some weight." I had expected it, but hearing the actual words almost broke my spirit. For, though my wife hates to see any creature go hungry, she really hates the idea that I might die and not be around the house to fix broken stuff and rub her feet. I started my diet the same day.

It’s one of those no carbohydrate, high protein diets that’s designed to really screw up your metabolism and make you lose weight in a hurry. Now I’m right next to a vegetarian. I live on carbs. My two favorite things in the world are mashed potatoes and homemade rolls. So, here I am stuck eating eggs and sausage, pounds of salad and snacks like fat free turkey breast lunch meat rolled around a cheese stick. I am not really hungry and I eat a lot of food, so it’s not too bad. It’s working too. I lost ten pounds in ten days, but boy howdy am I getting tired of eating the burger part out of the middle of a Whopper and throwing away the bun.

I went to a fast food place the other day (I won’t mention which one) and I asked for a Big Jack. Now I looked all over the menu for the one that looked like it had the most lettuce, tomatoes, onion and pickle and that’s the one I ordered. Now, being wise to the ways of advertisers, I told the disembodied voice in the box that "I want the veggies well-represented on my hamburger." This seemed a simple request and I confidently drove up and paid the teller at the first window. I have discovered why they take your money first. That’s so you have less leverage if they screw up your order. Anyway, I got my burger and before I drove away, I took a peek.
The double meat had been replace by one fat patty. Hiding under the bun was a couple of shreds of lettuce, a transparent slice of tomato, two onion pieces and an anemic looking pickle. Cheese drooled over the whole mess and glopped over the top was a nondescript pile of some pinkish brown substance. "What’s this?" I asked the girl at the window.

"That’s the extra dressing you asked for," she smiled sweetly.

"I didn’t ask for any extra dressing," I told her. "I wanted all the vegetables like on the picture on the sign.

"We don’t make them quite like that, sir," she explained.

"Well I’m on a diet and I’m cranky and I wanted the big hunk of lettuce and the thick tomato slice with the purple onions and half a jar of pickles like it shows on the sign."

"I’m sorry, sir, but I thought you wanted extra dressing."

"What did you think I said?"

"Didn’t you say you wanted the wedges with salad dressing into the burger?"

"Does that make sense to you?"

"Not really?"

"Then why didn’t you ask me to clarify what I said?"

"But sir, we do care if you said..... uh, whatever it was you said."

"I’m beginning to see the error in my approach..."

"Sir, we have this restaurant sprayed for roaches twice a month..."

"Never mind, miss. I really haven’t time for this."

"About 3:30, sir."

A person could lose weight just trying to make this gal understand relatively simple English. It is now my practice to only use exact words and phrases which are printed on the menu as these are the only words on the register buttons. It’s pretty dull, but it gets you something vaguely resembling what you want. Any extended attempt at lively conversation with one of these speakerphone goddesses can get you stuck with the deep fat fried pig’s feet and a diet cola. Most of these ladies seem to be working at their maximum capacity already and your attempts to be literate and scintillating will not likely be appreciated.

What’s really scary is that these legions of pimply faced teen-aged drones are providing the bulk of the monotonous fast food that our nation consumes in such frightening amounts. Why are we gaining weight, then? Are our adolescent children deliberately stuffing their unsuspecting parents with calorie laced junk food? If so, why? Do they want us to croak off early so they can get all our money?

Is it a plot to make us all unattractive in order to prop up their fragile pubescent egos at our expense? Coincidence? You decide!

Tom
(c) 2005