All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
February 25, 2009
Pictures don't lie.
Well, actually, in the age of Photoshop, they can lie. But I can tell you the photo below is raw and true, free of computer trickery.
The woman with the toilet seat is Lisa Smith, my sometimes on-air cohort on the radio station, Classic Rock 93 KZLE. Seeing Lisa with a toilet seat isn't all that uncommon - I mean, after all, her husband does own a plumbing business.
However, seeing Lisa carrying a toilet seat into the studio for a recent radio show is another thing.
"What the heck are you doing in the studio with a toilet seat?" I asked her on the air.
"Rob," she said as she held up a piece of paper printed with some statistics, "did you know that the average toilet seat is cleaner than the desktops at most offices? That's what a recent study says."
"There's no way," I said.
She held up the paper and waved it in front of me. "That's what this recent study says! Are you going to argue with these people?"
"Well," I said, "why did you have to bring a toilet seat into the studio? Radio is an audible, not a visual, medium. You didn't have to bring a toilet seat from the shop. You could have just read the study on the air."
"I know that, but I wanted to show you how much I trust this study."
She then pulled a sandwich out of a paper bag and placed it on the seat.
"So, you eat lunch at your desk a lot, right?" she asked. "I have here a sandwich."
"Please don't tell me you're going to..."
She ran the sandwich all over the surface of the toilet seat.
"Please don't tell me you're going to eat that sandwich after you rubbed it all over that seat," I said. "That's a new seat! It hasn't been used. It has to be new!"
"This is a used toilet seat," she said and then took a big bite of the sandwich.
"You are disgusting!"
"Yummm," she said.
"I can't believe you did that. You are vile."
"Hey, the study says it's cleaner than the average office desktop."
Then, laughing, she said: "I'm kidding. This is a brand new seat. I was just trying to be funny."
Later that day...
My cell phone rings. It's Lisa.
"Hello," I say.
"What's wrong, Lisa?"
"THE TOILET SEAT!"
"What about it?"
"I WENT BACK TO THE SHOP AFTER WORK, AND MY HUSBAND ASKED WHAT I WAS DOING WITH THAT TOILET SEAT, AND I TOLD HIM THE STORY AND WHAT I DID, AND ROB, HIS FACE FROZE!"
"What do you mean, Lisa?"
"HE SAID THAT WASN'T A NEW TOILET SEAT! HE SAID ONE OF THE GUYS JUST PUT IT NEXT TO A BOX WITH A NEW ONE INSIDE! I THOUGHT THE ONE I BROUGHT WAS THE NEW ONE!"
I can't help but laugh.
"SHUT UP! I ATE OFF A USED TOILET SEAT! I'M GONNA BE SICK!"
Two days later...
I run into Lisa's husband at a local restaurant.
"Oh, that was awful about Lisa's stunt she pulled with the toilet seat," I say.
A smile creeps across his face.
"Did she tell you what I said?" he asks. "That it was used."
"Yeah. That's horrible."
He laughs. "I was kidding. It was a new one."
"Oh, that's too good," I say. "What did she say when you finally told her?"
"I haven't," he says, still smiling.
And I haven't either. Until now.
All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
February 18, 2009
Below is a reprint from the November 1, 2006, edition of the Arkansas Weekly.
Another true story.
Setting: an Italian restaurant in Saint Louis, Missouri -- a tad before lunchtime, just a few days ago.
The dining room is empty except for the wait staff and a single table occupied by a young man, an older gentleman who is presumably the younger's father, and a frail elderly woman in a wheelchair -- presumably the mother and grandmother of the older man and younger man, respectively. She sits directly across from the older man.
The restaurant matire'd seats my brother and myself across the room from their table.
It's very quiet as we study the menu.
"They have a wonderful pasta dish with a delicious sauce," the elderly woman tells her son in a sweet, soft, and slightly shaky voice.
"IS THE SAUCE CREAM-BASED?" her son screams to her as I almost jump out of my seat.
"What is it?" the mother asks.
"I SAID 'IS THE SAUCE CREAM-BASED'? I CAN'T HAVE MUCH CREAM AFTER MY INCIDENT!"
"Oh. Yes. It is. I'm afraid so."
The waiter arrives, and the table orders.
The mother looks to her grandson after the waiter leaves.
"Brady, hon. What did you order?"
"HE ORDERED THE RIB-EYE!" the son yells. I jump again, my hands jolting the menu I hold against my iced tea. "I ORDERED THE PIZZA MARGHERITA BUT I TOLD THEM NOT TO PUT TOO MUCH CHEESE ON IT!"
"Oh yes," the mother says.
A few moments pass. More noon hour diners are seated. Our lunch arrives around the same time their lunch arrives. Starved, I dig into my pasta.
"MOTHER! I FOUND A GROWTH ON MY BACK!"
My brother and I exchange "you've got to be kidding" looks. I glance around the room to see other diners looking at their table mates with the same expression.
"What is it you say?" the mother asks with a concerned tone.
"I FOUND A GROWTH ON BACK!"
"Oh my goodness," the mom says.
"MELISSA FOUND IT! BUT IT WASN'T SERIOUS! IT WAS A TICK!"
"Oh dear," his mother says.
"MELISSA DID SOME SURGERY ON ME AND PULLED IT OFF!"
"Oh, that's good. Yes. How's Darren?"
"VERY WELL! HE'S OPENED AN ART GALLERY DOWNTOWN!"
"An art gallery...I see."
"HE'S VERY AMBITIOUS!"
By now, I realize the grandson hasn't said a word. His head is down as he quietly eats his lunch.
His grandmother turns to him.
"Brady, hon. When are you leaving?"
"Um," Brady says, as he puts his fork down. "I'm leaving tomorrow."
"She can't hear you," his dad says with a hint of irritation.
"UM..." He coughs and clears his throat. "I'M LEAVING TOMORROW!"
"Oh yes," the grandmother says.
Now, I am not making light of the frail state of the woman. I was, however, slightly astonished at her son's screaming and his total state of oblivion to the other diners. The man was well dressed, seeming to indicate, at least, some sense of respectability. Yet, if you're in any type of restaurant, yelling your conversation at the top of your lungs, you have to be in some type of zone where manners take a backseat to a certain disregard of other people.
And I don't feel as if I'm being snobbish in my thinking.
Because, really, I would think the last thing one wants to hear while they try to enjoy their lunch is a man screaming about finding a tick on his back.
* * *
All right. I'm sick of bringing this up, but here I go again.
As a Cardinals nut, I've driven to and from Saint Louis three or four times in the past month.
And every single time I cross the Missouri state line, gasoline has been holding steady at $1.99 a gallon. Meanwhile, here, it's (as of this writing) higher than it has been in the past month -- around $2.10 a gallon.
It's enough to make you want to scream in a restaurant.
All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
February 11, 2009
I've been driving an 18-year-old car for the past few months -- much to my 13-year-old daughter's chagrin.
Apparently, it's ugly to her.
"What's so ugly about it?" I asked her one day when I picked her up from school.
"Ugh," she said with the exaggerated disgust only a 13-year-old girl could muster. "Where do I start? Well, for one thing, the hood is like a mile long."
She is right. Though I haven't measured it, the hood does seem like the size of an aircraft carrier deck. Of course I'm exaggerating a bit, but I'm fairly certain one could land a small helicopter on the hood without a problem.
On this particular day, my daughter initially refused to get in the car with me. When I pulled into the school parking lot, I saw her among the kids waiting for their rides. Catching my eye she dug in her coat pocket and pulled out her cell phone, her fingers flying across the keys like the wings of a hummingbird.
My phone rang.
"Hello," I said.
"Dad!" she said. "I am NOT getting in that car!"
"Well, how are you going to get home?"
"I don't know, but I am NOT getting in that car!"
"I'm not leaving you here, and I'm not going to go and switch cars with someone at work. So you really don't have a choice."
"Dad! That car is EMBARRASSING! All the kids will laugh!"
"What?!? No. This car is cool. It's like a sports coupe."
"Ha!" She almost barked. "Whatever. It looks like a car an older lady would drive. You just need an Easter bonnet hat and lots of eyeliner."
Is it me, or is the national media going overboard in negative coverage of our economic woes?
No doubt the situation is a mess and a worry, but the manner in which the media have covered this thing is borderline apocalyptic. But what should one expect? This is standard stuff from those who gather our news. Good news from Iraq was but a blip on the media radar (and, yes, despite Keith Olbermann might have had you believe, there was some good news from Iraq, according to some friends I know who were stationed there). A major accomplishment of the most recent President Bush was ensuring the United States had a much stronger role in combating AIDS in Africa than any other country, but you barely heard a peep about that. And the manner in which the media are suddenly magnifying every Obama administration blunder is par for the course.
Yet their doomsday coverage of the economy is taking the cake. One would think Wall Street was in flames. Again, the situation for many companies and workers is perilous and depressing, but the pessimistic pounding coming from the media does nothing to encourage and help.
An example: I spoke to a local businessman who said that he recently cut back on personal spending because he had been hearing nothing but "the sky is falling" talk from the media.
"But then I sat back and thought about it," he said, "and I realized my sales and income were the exact same as last year. I had just heard so much doom and gloom that I had it in my head I couldn't spend what I had been spending. There's no telling how many people out there have such a negative mindset thanks to the media, and they're scared to spend even though their finances might actually be better than they think. And when they don't spend, then it's like a vicious circle that starts affecting other businesses."
Again, I'm not inferring that the economy is not facing some dire challenges. It is. But there are some optimistic stories out there that could be covered.
Maybe some hope could shine through the despondent coverage and help inspire people and illuminate the fact that Rome isn't burning.
All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
February 4, 2009
Let's begin with an actual letter I recently received from one, Hill Billy Hank. The return address on the envelope was listed as "RFD Sulphur Rock."
Der Mr. Rob.
Thank yu so much for artickle in the Hillbilly Times about your trip to Nu York.
It just made all us hicks day. We unzes won't never git to go to Nu York and we get to see how rich folks git to do.
Yu jest made our day.
Maybe in the future, yu could print pictures of you fabalus house and your cars.
We probly be inpressed about that too. You just never no, what you will see in a free newspaper forced on you whether you wont it R not.
Hill Billy Hank
Why, thank you so much Hill Billy Hank for such a kind letter. It was my pleasure to share with you and other readers highlights of my recent trip to the Big Apple. However, for some reason, I think "Hill Billy Hank" is a pseudonym. I suppose you didn't want to leave your real name, but that's fine. I also think your grammar and spelling are both much better than they are represented in your letter. Call me crazy, but I think you were trying to be either a) satirical; b) sarcastic; or c) both. That's cool. I appreciate good sarcasm and satire as much as the next guy.
Now, Hank, you're smart enough to know you don't have to be rich to go to New York. Or Disney World. Or any other major tourist destination in America.
And, I'm not sure people would enjoy pictures of my apartment or my car, but I'll take that into consideration -- as I do any suggestion for a column.
Finally, Arkansas Weekly is indeed free, and it's mailed to over 21,200 households every Wednesday. Our wonderful advertisers and the fine people who place free personal classifieds in our paper know that no other local publication can reach as many readers as Arkansas Weekly. And our readers don't have to pay a dime to see our advertisers' ads as well as read our articles and columns. Plus there are thousands of folks out there who appreciate the grocery inserts from Kroger, Bill's Fresh Market, and Town & Country/Price Chopper. Those things come in handy -- particularly in these somewhat challenging economic times.
Of course, Hank, if you feel Arkansas Weekly (or Hillbilly Times, or as one competitor hilariously refers to us: Arkansas Weakly) is "forced on you whether you want it R not," well, then all you have to do is drop it in the wastebasket.
But, apparently, you don't do that. I mean, you took the time to open the issue that featured my column concerning New York. And you obviously took the time to read my column, as well.
So, thanks Hank! I appreciate you reading Arkansas Weekly, I appreciate you reading "All Over the Map," and I appreciate you taking the time to respond to my column.
Oh, and our advertisers thank you, as well.