But do you really mean it?

I was cleaning out the spam filter, and I noticed a certain pattern to many of the spam comments I have received.  Apparently I’m quite popular with the spambots:

  • “Your story-telling style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing!”
  • “Your story-telling style is bravo, keep it up!”
  • “Your story-telling style is awesome, keep it up!”
  • “Your writing style is awesome, keep up the good work!”
  • “Your writing style is spectacular, keep it up!”
  • “Your humoristic style is witty, keep up the good work!”
  • “Your writing style is bravo, keep doing what you’re doing!”

But of all these permutations, the one that fills me with the most pride is this:

  • “Your humoristic style is bravo, keep it up!”

Thank you all for your support.  My goal is to keep bringing you the bravoest humoristic stylings I can.

Hush hush, sweet puppy

I went to the mall today to buy some shirts and shoes, which in America are integral parts of receiving customer service.  I had no problem obtaining shirts, but the shoes were more challenging.

You see, I suffer from Acute Footwear Aphasia, the inability to explain what kind of shoes I am looking for.  Whenever I ask the sales assistant for something, they look at me like I’m speaking Klingon.  (Disclaimer: the Klingon word for shoe is ‘waq’.)

Let me explain.  At the first store I entered, I looked around for a couple minutes, and upon not finding what I was looking for, I approached a young lady wearing a name tag.  I said to her, “I don’t know if they even make them any more, but I’m looking for a pair of charcoal gray Hush Puppies.”  (Disclaimer: I don’t care.  They’re comfortable and I like them.)  The sales clerk tilted her head and stared at me with that look that said, “Sir, why do you want to put fried cornmeal on your feet?”  Instead of saying that, however, she said, “Let me check with my manager.”  As she walked toward the counter, I followed behind her and said, cheerfully, “You’re going to consult the tribal elders, aren’t you?”  She laughed and said, “I guess so.  I’m new to the store.”  It turned out she was 18 (although she looked 23), and this was her first job.

The manager was busy with another customer, and by this time I realized that they didn’t have what I wanted, but the grown-up in me could not let this poor benighted child continue to live in ignorance.  So I said to her, “Come with me, I’ll show you what I’m looking for.”  I went and found a pair of brushed suede sneakers, and a pair of dress oxfords, and said, “I want this shoe (the oxford) in this material (the brushed suede) in charcoal gray.”  Her eyes lit up as she realized that I was asking for a wildebeest with Pegasus wings, in charcoal gray.  “We don’t sell those, but you might try the department store next door.”

I thanked her and walked into the department store next door.  The shoe department is right next to the mall entrance, so I walked past the women’s shoes until I got to the end of the shoe department.  I then turned around and went up to the saleswoman and asked, “This might be a stupid question, but do you have a men’s shoe department?”  She pointed and said, “Yes, it’s directly opposite from here, near the other entrance.”  Happy that men’s shoe styles had not descended to the level of pumps and strappy sandals, and comforted in knowing that both store entrances were guarded by shoe departments, I set off for men’s shoes.

When I arrived at my destination, I came upon two shoe clerks, both young men in their 20’s.  The older-looking of the two was attempting to explain to the younger (who later explained that English was not his first language) the concept of “diva”.  The older lad was struggling for a definition that did not begin and end with the word “Cher”, a word which meant nothing to his co-worker.  Being a natural born explainer, I took over the explanation of the diva archetype, and provided a string of examples (Mariah Carey, Celine Deon, Madonna in her heyday, Miley Cyrus if she lives that long) until I saw the light come on and he said, “Beyoncé?”  (Disclaimer: “Beyoncé?” might be the word in his people’s tongue for “What the heck are you talking about, stranger?”)

Having brought enlightenment to yet another young person, I steered the conversation back to my quest.  “I’m looking for a pair of charcoal gray Hush Puppies.”  Immediately, the glow of enlightenment was extinguished from both men’s eyes, only to be replaced by a look that said, “Why do you want to put fried cornmeal on your feet, o Explainer of Divas?”  I walked over to a shelf I had noticed on my way over, picked up a brushed suede loafer, and said, “This, with laces, in dark gray!”  He relaxed a bit and explained that they didn’t carry anything like that, and had never heard the term Hush Puppies.  (This is when he explained that English was a second language.)

I’d be fine if the problem was that I’m hopelessly dated and out of style.  I am.  I just find it sad that, even though the Hush Puppy Co. is still in business, apparently nobody under the age of 30 knows it.  (Disclaimer: I will have to verify this on Monday with my two young co-workers, the one who has never seen Star Wars, and the one who didn’t know who Barney Fife is.  I don’t think I like what I’m going to find.)


Like most states, North Carolina raises revenue by allowing people to purchase vanity license plates for their cars.  Unlike bumper stickers, which allow a car owner freedom to express an idea (possession of an honor student, an emotional attachment to a particular breed of dog, a political view held during some previous election cycle, etc.), vanity plates allow more extroverted automobiles an opportunity to stand apart from their peers.  (Disclaimer: I drive a gray sedan.  This is the soulless corporate drone of automotive expression.)

The problem is that a vanity plate only has room for 8 characters.  Admittedly, when your only forms of communication are honking and breaking down, this is a downright verbose medium for idea exchange.  But still, with only 8 letters to work with, there is a premium on being both pithy and precise.

I bring this up because, as I was driving home this evening, I was in traffic behind a particularly gregarious Mercedes-Benz, proudly stating for all the world to see that it was, in its own “words”, a


I’m pretty sure I know what the Mercedes was going for, but the whole way home, all I kept thinking was, “What a stylish fly larva!  I’ll bet you can attract more women with that vanity plate than with honey or vinegar!”