Double Take

Taking a second look at life experiences

Archive for the category “Humor”

5 of the Most Useless “Helpful” Things

Any guesses for what this is?

Any guesses for what this is? (answer below)

by Ruth Schapira

Here is a short list of things that either don’t do what they say they’re supposed to do, or are so useless, that I’m left wondering why?

  1. A metal (non-rust?) and canvas wagon made especially for the beach, to shlep all your stuff in, in order to make the beach feel more like you’re in your own backyard (I’ve actually seen this on the beach, filled with hammocks, beach pillows, comfy chairs, drink holders, and assorted coolers). The funny thing is that it’s called “Beachcomber”(definition of beachcomber:  a vagrant who makes a living by searching beaches for articles of value and selling them). Really? If you were really ‘beach-combing’ you’d get by on a lot less. I have to concede that this $100 item (approximate) would be most handy for parents who are taking their little children the beach. They really do need to bring the whole house along in order to have a more pleasant experience.
  2. A CD Audio book I’m listening to now is called “The Power of Less”. The trouble is, there are FOUR CD’s to go through, many of which contain content that’s being repeated…over and over again. Not really “Less” is it?
  3. An “instant” spout that you have to somehow shove into a huge watermelon (that you’ve already taken the time to hollow out) and pour a beverage into for dispensing. So, the watermelon lasts exactly how long before it gets all yucky? I don’t know about you, but when I take the time to open and slice a watermelon, enough juice comes out of it that I can just pour that liquid into a container for dispensing. NO?
  4. An ‘inflatable buffet’ that ostensibly you blow up in order to fill it with food, then float said thing in your pool. I guess those clever people who invented this item assume that people using it would be floating in a pool, barely making a move. Otherwise, any movement (like swimming?) would cause too much splashing, thereby getting your food wet. I guess if you’re that immobile, using the additional effort to get out of the pool to eat is just too, well, annoying.
  5. The item above is a vintage cherry pitter. At some point, someone thought it much too tedious to pit cherries and decided to invent a humanoid-looking tool. Not to be outdone, a chef’s catalog I browsed through featured a cherry pitter that pits 6 cherries at a time. This one had no interesting features, but seemed to require some bit of skill to get all the cherries positioned just perfectly in order for you to push down on the spindles to extract the pit. Of course, if you do that enough, I imagine you’d create quite a mess inside that thing. However, you might just get enough juice from those cherries to put into your handy watermelon jug, which you will probably be lugging to the beach in your brand new wagon,of course.
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What will you actually be doing if you get this job?

Does anyone read classified ads anymore?

Help Wanted? The need is pretty clear. The job description? Not so much.

by Ruth Schapira

Some people read obituaries. Me, I like to read job announcements; always have.

Years ago, reading the (generation alert) “Help Wanted” classified ad section in newspapers was an enjoyable pastime for me. The larger the paper the better, and perusing those tiny boxes in The Sunday New York Times gave me some sort of satisfaction. There were just so many ads crammed on the page. I would feel content and optimistic about the many opportunities displayed within those pages. So many people could be changing their lives. 

There were ads upon ads worth of reading, positions ranging from Accounting Clerks to Elevator Operators. And no wonder. Classified sections usually have 40% more print packed into the page than other pages do. How do I know this?  I googled it, and found it on a specs page for the New York Times. The New York Times offers employers, recruiters, human resource professionals, headhunters and executive search firms (really, aren’t there just so many people doing the hiring?) 10 columns of newsprint while most pages contain 6 columns.

So, now I read job announcements online, and the experience is confining. Scrolling can’t be compared to the expansive world of occupational choice arrayed before you, within four fully opened newspaper pages, containing 20 columns of text.  But I still gain something from the online experience. I keep current with keywords, jargon and buzzwords (not all the same thing?), I know what opportunities there are for fields that interest me, and I keep up to date with industry changes.

Some of the job postings make me laugh. Some make me cringe. One job description for a Testing Administrator required “cleaning out trash containers and turning off all lights before exiting the building in the evening”.

And then today, there was this, which I had to share with you. Ready? This is an excerpt of what I read, for real:

Actively seeking a Project Manager or Sr Project Manager with experience in a Medical Communications/ Publication Planning environment. As Project Manager you will be responsible for managing publication planning projects in a medical communications/publication planning environment. 

Huh? So, my question is, what will you be doing if you get this job?

Nonprofits: Please Stop Sending Me Mailing Labels!

Did George like receiving mail?

Did George like receiving mail?

by Ruth Schapira

We can’t throw them out and we do love seeing our name in print—in every font imaginable, as long as it fits comfortably in a 2″ long space. So, that’s why personalized mailing labels are overfilling my desk drawer. It’s a thing you can never give away. Why do I need to have a permanent relationship with sticky pieces of paper? That’s it, first it’s these labels that I’m having to save and now the US postal service stamps that don’t expire. They both want to cozy up and make a home for themselves here forever.

I know there’s no way, even if I sent 10 letters a day, that I would use up even a fraction of the self-adhesives sitting there, reminding me that I haven’t sent a letter in a very, very long time—in what seems like forever. There are more mailing labels than you can imagine, representing all kinds of animate and inanimate objects: flowers, wreaths, candles, menorahs, baseballs, dinosaurs, stricken animals, sad children. It’s as if you did a search on Google for ‘Images that get people to feel awfully guilty and sentimental so they’ll donate to your cause’ and these are the ones that you’d find.

There was an ethical question that I heard on a radio talk show years ago: “Do I have to donate to a cause because I received personalized mailing labels from them? I do use the labels, (any guesses as to the age of the caller?) so shouldn’t I make a donation?”

“No. You didn’t ask for them, so you’re not obligated. You can use them or throw them out.”

Aren’t non-profits strapped for cash? Every time I get a sheet of these shiny things, I feel like calling up the organization and asking them why they’re wasting precious resources sending me things that will (if I was a self-respecting clutter buster) end up in the trash? Why not just save the expense and put those dollars into the operating budget? In fact, you can forget the labels entirely, and I’ll even up my donation in honor of your prudent spending.

What I’m wondering is, who is actually mailing all of these letters with personalized labels? Not the people I know. Otherwise my mailbox would be filled with hand-written envelopes, adorned with personalized cutesy mailing labels, and displaying an actual stamp in the right hand corner. Instead the mail I get is sorely missing any evidence of human contact, which is why we call it junk, while online platforms nicely call it SPAM (reminding us instead of edible things in cans). What I receive in my post box usually ends up in the recycling bag.

When’s the last time a friend of yours said “I’ll send it to you” that made you think that you’d receive a letter? Since we all know the amount of first class mail we’ve been sending has dropped precipitously (this has been documented in wikipedia, which is why we know it’s true), what’s the deal here? Why the mailing labels for mail no one is sending? Is there some secret DIY site where people are coming with kitschy creative ideas for how to use those 2″ labels?

Wait, here’s a novel idea to make the post office feel a lot better: instead of counting and reporting my diminished mail output, why not track those organizations sending mailing labels instead? I’d bet those numbers sure have picked up. And you can even send me the results of your survey, but only if you’ve attached a personalized label. I won’t want to open anything else.

Here It Is! Words Worthy of a Double Take

Read all about it!

Read all about it!

by Ruth Schapira

Words, sentences, more words. We read so much content (what did we say before we used the word content?) that sometimes we don’t think about the meaning or sound of the words we’re reading. Do certain words seem funny to you? Or maybe even gross? Sometimes, I actually need to take a double take (quite clever the way I fit that in, no?) when I think about some of them, so I decided to curate them into lists (you thought content was trendy, what about curate? double take this: curating content!).

Before we go on, I promise, none of my word lists contain the word “moist”.

Why “moist” you ask?

Well, “moist” was quite the headline grabber a few years ago when this was circulated widely on the web: “Moist” And 28 Other Gross Sounding English Words That Everyone Hates . This must have created quite a stir, because BuzzFeed wrote their own contrary version a short time later: 18 Words Far More Disgusting Than “Moist”.

So, without the dreaded and overly used “moist word”, here are my lists of words that seem curious and disgusting:

WORDS THAT MAKE NO SENSE TO ME

  • Dogmatic (what comes to mind here, is an automatic dog — you know, the term for when a dog jumps up and down when seeing the dog-walking leash, or for when he salivates when seeing dinner poured from a bag, or for when he begins sniffing every new person’s private parts.)
  • Shoetree (really, is this like an oak or an elm?)
  • Shoehorn (what’s with these shoe words, anyway? I haven’t seen one of these in the Philharmonic recently, have you?)
  • Textured Vegetable Protein (It’s a mouthful to say, and positively weird to think that this might, in fact, go into your mouth as a food item. I doubt you’d prefer the more common acronym TVP when disclosing to your guests that you’ve prepared food they are about to ingest with the stuff, as in “Here’s my delicious chili recipe, prepared with TVP”. Yes, I do use it!!)
  • Thumb Drive (really? What exactly did your thumb have to do with the data that’s on your drive? And if it did, well, that’s another matter for another time….)

WORDS THAT SOUND WAY TOO DISGUSTING TO USE

  • Corpuscle (most medical terms have this effect on me, so I’ll try hard to limit myself to just a few. Think about it, did you just envision an image of a corpse? With no muscle? Yuck. Come to think of it, muscle doesn’t sound so wonderful either.)
  • Mausoleum (note that I’m not talking about what’s inside this thing, but the word alone conjures up for me a museum of mauses, not a pretty sight. No one would ever say “so, did you get to see that exhibit in the mausoleum?”)
  • Pew (really, that’s not exactly the best way to get me to stay at synagogue/church. “Here, let’s just sit in this pew”.)
  • Poultice (now, this is a thing that is supposed to be put on an injury to heal it, but I just think of chicken…and I’m not imagining a nice thing happening to that poor chicken either.)
  • Posture (and what occurs when you don’t have it, i.e. Pustule. Of course, I’m kidding. Pustule is related to that other word often used to describe nasty eruptions on the skin and equally disgusting-sounding, Pimple.)
  • Spelunking (for those of you who don’t know what this is, you can thank me now. This activity holds absolutely no appeal for me, as it is associated with places that are dark, dank and moist ….and you know I wouldn’t want to be involved with anything like that.

Things That Go Screech In The Night

by Ruth Schapira

Sometime last year, in the eerie middle-of-the night hour when all is still, I awoke to a horrific sound….a wailing unlike any I had ever heard. It was the most pitiful sounding, yet the strongest scream. I couldn’t determine whether it was an animal or a human…which made me feel sick. I had never heard a sound like this before.

The wailing continued as scary images made their way into my brain…maybe a car ran over an animal and it was lying in the street, in terrible pain. What if it was a person? (listen again, no, it didn’t sound like a person). Should I call 911 and maybe they would send someone to put the animal out of its misery? What if there was a hit and run, and it was lying in the street? There are so many deer around, and we’ve had some close run-ins (no casualties thank Gd), maybe it was a little deer crying in pain.

I couldn’t believe my husband was able to sleep through this cacophony of noise and since I was scared enough not to go through this myself, I gently shook him. Shook him again. (Wow, that man can sleep). 

“Sorry honey, but can you hear that?”

Hear what?”

Wait, you’ll hear it in a second…” (I definitely thought he thought I was crazy for waking him up at this hour and I was starting to get nervous myself, hoping that I wasn’t hallucinating a version of a bad dream).

There it is, can you hear that?”

Uh…you mean that barking noise.”

(Okay, so now you probably think that I am a little hyperbolic, and was hysterical over some dog barking really, really annoyingly. For sure this won’t win me any more points with the dog lovers out there since my last blog was about dogs running wild).

Yea, that awful barking sound. (here I was, agreeing rather quickly that it was a barking sound so he wouldn’t go right back to sleep, thinking I was nuts).

Doesn’t it sound like something got run over by a car or something? Do you think it’s a deer? Or a dog? (Stop that, I wouldn’t wish any animal harm).

I think what he said next was a comment, like those men who are disturbingly practical in the face of imminent fear would make, just so he could get back to bed, though I can’t really blame him, after all it was almost 4:00 am).

Well, we can’t do anything about it now.” (see, I told you, practical.

Not to be deterred, I got out of bed, slowly drew open the blinds, and checked everywhere to see if there was something in the street in front of our house. Nothing. The next street up. Nothing. 

I stayed awake for the next hour, watching my husband fall blissfully back asleep (how do they do that?) and then the sound stopped. Ugh. By now it was almost morning. 

Then next day on my way to work, I drove up and down a few streets to see if there was a bloody remnant of the last night’s tortuous sounds. I was compelled. Nothing.

Later that evening, I spoke to my friend and relayed what I had heard. 

Without a second’s pause she offered “That was a fox staking out its territory.”

(Are you kidding me? How could she possibly know that? We’re not living in the great plains of Africa, or wherever those foxes live…maybe England since that’s where they hunt those poor things. But here in suburbia?).

But I calmly said: Oh, really? Why were they making that horrific noise? (I guessed she’d know all manners of animal behavior by this point).

“It’s the mating season and they’re staking out their territory.”

How do you know that?”

“I hear them around here too.”

Well, now I really am thinking that I’ve been clueless all these years and apparently have a lot of guts to put this in a post, since it seems that everyone knows the mating sound of a fox.

Just to satisfy my curiosity, I checked on Google, for ‘sounds foxes make’ (no, not the song silly) and found one on You Tube. So here, you listen to it, (the sounds I heard matches Vixen’s Sound’, the second one recorded) and see if that wouldn’t scare you in the middle of the night.

Please say yes.


I Don’t Really Care That Your Dog Is Friendly

Man. dog. leash.

Man. Dog. Leash.

I know I risk alienation from dog lovers by writing this. Caution to the wind. Here goes.

Recently, while my husband and I were on an uphill hiking trail in Vermont, something happened that occurred several other times, while on other trails, in other states, so I know it’s not just a “Vermont thing”.

Dogs are required to be on leashes in most national and state parks. There are plenty of good reasons for that, so I won’t spend your precious reading time with explaining those rules.

So, for those people who decide to take their dogs (unleashed) on hikes this post is for you. There are a variety of places where you can watch your dog enjoy the great outdoors, unrestrained by a leash.  In fact, aren’t there places called ‘dog parks’ where dogs get to run around all they want?

I don’t want to navigate rocks, tree roots, streams, or slippery slopes while keeping an eye on your dog and preventing said dog from sniffing, touching, or tail-slapping any part of my body.

Most of all, I don’t want to make friends with your dog.

Your response of “Don’t worry, she’s friendly” doesn’t quite deal with my concerns.

What am I supposed to do? Hike down the entire mountain just to tell the park ranger that you’re not following proper park protocol by not keeping your dog on a leash?

So, the situation is not very hopeful. Also, it’s very unlikely (who am I kidding, it’s impossible) that you will read this.

Most likely then, you’ll continue to take your unleashed dog to accompany you on your hiking adventures, thinking that we would love a close encounter with your friendly dog. You will continue to believe that your dog is the cutest, most adorable creature that deserves to be above any silly leash laws.

Me? I’ll at least feel that in this tiny space, I’ve said my piece. So there.

steeptrail

7 Revealing Signs That You’re Not The Age You Said You Are

This is an age test. Do you know what this is?

This is an age test. Do you know what this is?

Most people over the age of 35, when asked how old they feel, give an age approximately 7 years younger than they actually are.

This has been tested numerous times, by the people who test those kinds of things.

But how is it that most people feel this way? Do we all just live in denial? (Don’t answer that, it’s a dangerous question).

You know when you’re getting up there in age when guessing celebrities’ ages becomes a satisfying and fun activity.  Especially when you ask Siri and she answers you on the spot, not judging how many times you actually ask her to do this. She doesn’t ponder this question at all “Doesn’t she have anything better to do than ask me how old people are”? 

An even more engaging past-time is naming the different types of cosmetic procedures someone might have had. “Hair extensions, definitely”. “Botox. You can see it, right there.” “Breast Enhancements, trust me.” You do this while watching one of the voice, dancing, or talent shows that tend to feature people who have had the work you’ve been talking about.

So, here is more items on my checklist if you want to quickly assess whether you’re really 7 years older than you told that person you were:

  1. You hate the word  “sucks” and actually miss the days when people would go around saying “that just stinks” about something they didn’t like. Back then, you definitely got the idea, and even might have had an unsavory picture in your mind based on what exactly it was that stunk. You find no need for its replacement with a word that connotes all kinds of problematic images about the activity of sucking.
  2. You look back in disbelief when, approaching a door in a public place, and actually in reaching distance, someone quite younger than you barrels right past you, (as if you were walking below the posted speed limit for pedestrian walking), pushing themselves in first.
  3. You don’t use as many apps on your phone as you should. In fact, those at least half your age regularly use twice as many apps on  their phones as you do.
  4. You actually use a thing called a radio (excluding streaming services). If you use it as an alarm, to hear the news, or to listen to music, it belongs on this list. You can’t say it’s an app, now can you?
  5. You, like me, cringe when you read highly personal information on Facebook. For instance, it is a continual question why married people wish each other Happy Anniversary in a public forum. After all, if they have such a happy marriage, don’t they live together? Couldn’t they just have wished themselves a Happy Anniversary in person?
  6. Deep, deep in a closet somewhere, are dusty remnants of one or more of these ancient artifacts:  cassette tapes and/or player, VHS tapes and/or player, CD’s or CD player, or heaven forbid (and this object might just put you on another list entirely….) 8 track tapes. Notice I didn’t mention vinyl records, now a collector’s item. Those old enough to have them never, ever described them by the material they were made from. They were just records.  (If people reading this are wondering what those things actually are, well, you can google it).
  7. Feeling real good about something you bought at a store, you tell another person under the said age of 35 about your coup. You slap the side of your head and lamely say “Oh Yea” when they say, quite astonishingly “Oh, I’m surprised you actually went to the store for that, they sell that online at ____________.”

 

Home Is Where The Heart (And Work) Is

Thankfully, this is not my house.

First, I need to say that I’m grateful that my husband and I own a home.

But we’d be the first to say (and have said) that basically, when it comes right down to it, we have no business owning one.

Why? It’s not like we haven’t worked hard and earned the privilege.

It’s simply because we’re not handy. How would you know this? There are tell-tale signs, I assure you.

For one, when you walk into our garage, there’s no workbench staking a claim by the back wall.

Or walls of pegboards, filled with dangling bright orange power tools, organized in size order, their cords neatly tied below just waiting to be taken (literally) for a spin.

There are no bookmarked YouTube videos that show us how to spackle, stain, or paint.

Although once we did do a search for a video that would help us figure out why we heard water running from one of our toilets. We bookmarked one of those, then decided to call the plumber after all. (He came, fixed the thing in about 5 minutes, charged a bundle, but in the end, had to return because we heard the water running again. This caused us some satisfaction, I have to say, because it was apparent that even the plumber might not be so handy at times).

We can’t rely on our neighbors, as my parents used to. (This I wonder about often now, like how did they happen to know an electrician and a plumber, who would simply stop by and fix things as part of a neighborly visit?).

Our friends aren’t members of trade unions, and don’t have skills in any of those practical areas I wish I had taken up in high school, if it weren’t such a stigma at the time. You know, classes like wood shop, car maintenance, or budgeting…courses with content that would be infinitely more helpful to me today than let’s say Advanced Algebra. (Even my home economics course was only minorly helpful, as the only recipe I remember cooking was apple fritters and I haven’t made that even once since graduating high school).

We love our home, but are not fans of the intense time and responsibility involved—the fixing, tinkering, replacing, inspecting, and weeding (even though I have to admit that the process taught me a valuable lesson).

Apartment dwellers or home owners who rent out their property have this thing beat. They use a management company and let them do all the work. Sign us up.

Photo by Ruth Schapira 

How To Sell Raisins To A Four-Year-Old

A Grapes to Raisin Story

A Grapes to Raisin Story

One morning in my kitchen, I discovered how effective stories are in selling products.

The product? Raisins.

The eater/buyer? My four-year-old grandson Jonah.

Let me explain with a story.

Sunday morning Sammy and Jonah declined whole-wheat banana pancakes in favor of much simpler and healthier fare…..yogurt.

So, now that I wasn’t making a fuss over pancakes, I decided to make the experience more special than just putting a bowl full of yogurt in front of them.  Instead, I created a  ‘yogurt bar’ for breakfast.  Next to each bowl of yogurt I gave them a decorated plate filled with a selection of toppings: walnuts, bananas, granola, kiwi and raisins.

Jonah, quickly said “I don’t want the raisins.”

I gently asked why, and he just shrugged his shoulder and shook his head.

I obligingly took them away.

Sammy, just shy of six, asked where raisins come from.

Well, all anyone has to do (even someone as young as Sammy) is ask for a story and I’m there.

I proceeded to explain how grapes grow, the different colors of grapes, and how they can be pressed into grape juice, fermented into wine or dried to turn into grapes.

I talked about the importance of sunshine (thanks Sun-Maid!), and that as the grapes dry into their wrinkly state, the natural sugar in them makes the fruit taste even sweeter.

I said that if they wanted to, they would be able to make raisins themselves*, just by taking a bunch of grapes and leaving it in a sunny place.

Who can resist the grapes to raisins story on this package?

Who can resist the grapes to raisins story on this package?

The more I talked about the raisins, the more I think Jonah regretted  his decision.

It was a matter of seconds after I finished the raisin story that Jonah said: “I’ll have some raisins too.”

He quickly chewed them all, foregoing adding them into the bowl.

So, did my story sell Jonah on the idea of taking back his raisins and eating them with such delight?

I’m not sure, but it makes a memorable story.

(You can see how easy it is to dry grapes that turn into raisins here , let me know how they turn out!).

photo credit: by Veronique on http://www.wikimedia.com

Does the cashier need to be authentic?

"Have a Nice Day!"

“Have a Nice Day!”

by Ruth Schapira

In our everyday lives, we can become as robots. Not seeing, hearing, or reacting to what’s around us. This experience can happen in your local supermarket.

A short time ago, I was at the “12 items or less” express line, counting my items to make I did not go over the limit (do you do this too?). I didn’t want the person behind me to think that I wasn’t following proper supermarket etiquette. After I paid, the cashier said “Have a nice day” and I said “thank you, you too–have a great day!” and mentioned that actually I forgot something, and would be back in the line again.

Why did I even tell her this? Does my interaction with the cashier have to be ‘real’? Would she actually care that I forgot something? Doesn’t she have enough to think about without minding my business? What’s it to her if I show up in her line a few minutes later?  Was she getting paid by how many people she served that day? 

She ignored my comment, and I quickly went to get the item I forgot. I got back into the same line no more than 3 minutes later. I couldn’t help myself: “Hi, I’m back” as if she cared that I returned for a second or even third time. She didn’t acknowledge my attempt to connect with her, and wasn’t remembering that I had been there a few minutes earlier. I was her next transaction, and it was not part of her job to notice things like this. So, she scanned my one item, fetched a new bag and said “Thank you, Have a nice day” as if she saw me for the first time. She must have said these words hundreds of times before. This is just another version of “Hello, How are you?” that she says in the beginning of the transaction, not expecting or wanting a reply.  This is what we expect from our transactions.

So why did this tiny interaction bother me? It wasn’t that unusual or unique. Things like this happen to everyone almost every day. Why write about it? 

She’s a cashier and has a job to do. So what if she doesn’t relate to the people in her line. She was trained to say the same thing to each customer, over and over. This happens everyday and everyone just moves on. Get over it. 

We are surrounded with opportunities, sometimes small and insignificant ones, to connect with people. On a person-to-person level. Not a person-to-machine level. We need to grab what we can, when we can, to make interactions with people pleasant and yes, even a little significant.

The cashier has little reason to acknowledge me other than just being an authentic person who interacts with another human being. We can behave as people, even for the most minor interactions, which I don’t think is a bad thing at all.

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