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Monday, October 29, 2012

Update: Well *That* Didn't Take Long

On October 14,  I wrote a post about the jet ski experience my sister and I had while vacationing in Miami.  The blog entry wasn't the only writing I did on this topic. When we got back to D.C., I logged on to TripAdvisor and submitted a review.

In the interest of preserving my credibility as a reviewer, I didn't go on a tirade.  I just stuck to the facts and let them speak for themselves. The facts had loud voices that carried right to the ears of the company owner.  Mere hours after the review was published, he sent me a message asking if he could call me to discuss my experience.  His entreaty seemed like a step in the right direction, however belated, so I promptly agreed.

And that's where all the promptness ended.

I heard nothing more until today, the day when Hurricane Sandy's imminent arrival caused schools, governments and businesses across the D.C. area to close.  Like most people, I was working from home, trying to take maximum advantage of the fact that electricity was still running to my house.

When my cell phone rang, I recognized the Miami area code but not the number.  Earlier this morning I had emailed my personal number to several of my far-flung clients so I just assumed it was one of them.  Had I known who it was, I would have sent the call to voice mail.  A friendly chat about a stale customer satisfaction issue was not on my agenda.

But I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it was on his. After all, the weather conditions are perfect for jet-skiing.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stormin' the Courts

Hurricane Sandy dominated the news yesterday, touching off a scramble to buy generators, stockpile toilet paper, and coin irritating Halloween-themed storm terms. (The first drop of rain hasn't even fallen and "Frankenstorm" has already been worn out.)
I should've been shopping for staples.  After all, I don't want to get caught without an entire gallon of milk to spoil when the power goes out for a week.  But instead of spending the evening preparing for Sandy, I stormed the tennis courts with the Smash Hits at Worldgate Sport & Health in Herndon.

The doubles-only league requires us to field three pairs per match.  Our captain mixes up the rotation, so we rarely play with the same partner twice.  This week she teamed me with R, a petite, blonde twenty-something with a cherubic face and sweet demeanor.

R and I are the youngest players on the Smashes and had played a couple practice games together but never a match.  Based on our practice time, she seemed pleasant and cool-headed.  As far as I could tell, all of her heat went into blistering groundstrokes that whizzed low and fast over the net and proved impossible for most people to hit.  I couldn't wait to play with her.

We arrived at Worldgate a few minutes early and occupied one table in the waiting area area while the opposing team sat at another nearby. When the starting buzzer sounded, the Smashes' captain sent R and me to Court #3.  Our opponents, C and M, joined us.  I'm not good at guessing age, but estimated that R and I were about ten years younger than C and M. 

As we headed toward the far court, C turned to my partner and said, "We were sizing you up over there."  A brief spike in R's eyebrows let me know this comment rubbed her the wrong way, but she said nothing.  That's good sportsmanship for you: the triumph of etiquette over sincerity.

As set 1 got underway, R and I discovered we had a clear advantage in serving, ground strokes and court coverage.  We exploited all three as much as possible.  We struggled a bit when our opponents served, though, for reasons unrelated to executing our strategy.  Tennis players have all kinds of serving tics and quirks, and theirs drove us nuts.

C would stand behind the baseline with her feet planted, holding the racquet and ball as if on the cusp of a serve.  But instead of putting the ball in play, she'd rock her upper body up and down in a motion I dubbed "The Oil Rig."  After drilling and coming up dry seven or eight times she'd finally fire the ball across the net.  I got distracted praying for a gusher instead of preparing my shot.  As a result, I sent most of my returns into the net or sailed them into next week.  R had similar problems.

We didn't find M's serving motion the least bit annoying, but the same cannot be said for her score announcing style.  Before every serve, she would pause at length and make a somber face, like she was about to say "guilty" in a murder trial instead of "deuce" at an amateur tennis match.  To heighten the dramatic tension, she prolonged her pronunciation of the score.  The deliberate, precise enunciation located my last nerve and gave it the trampoline treatment.  If Charles Dickens was paid by the word,  M was paid by syllable duration.

R and I powered through these distractions and pulled ahead, 5-3. It was R's turn to serve.  If she held, we would win the set. I trotted back to the baseline for an ad hoc pep rally.

"You're serving great," I said, giving her a thumbs-up.  "Now let's get this thing done." She nodded, her face a portrait in determination.

Unfortunately, we didn't get it done that game.  Or in the next three.  We found ourselves in a tiebreaker, and before we knew it we'd handed over the first set, 6-7.  We'd also lost an hour on it and had only thirty minutes left to win the second set and force a third set tiebreaker.  The time crunch made our opponents' serving quirks even harder to ignore.

R and I kept our concentration and managed a 4-2 lead.  I was serving to close out the game and make it 5-2 with less than ten minutes to go.  My serve landed in the far right corner of the box, almost beyond M's reach.  She got her racket on it, but barely.  Her return floated to my partner, who stood at the net and watched it hungrily, the way Katniss eyed flying prey in The Hunger Games.

When it came time to execute the kill shot, though, R didn't channel Katniss so much as Elmer Fudd.  She blasted the ball right into the net.  She let out a yelp and clenched her fists in frustration.
Meanwhile, M had missed getting a fuzzy navel by inches at most.  Yet instead of showing gratitude for her good fortune, she said to R, "My shot was bad, but yours was worse!"

If she meant this comment to be funny, her attempt didn't make it over the net.  It sent R over the edge instead.  She couldn't let the offense go unaddressed.

"Nice courtesy!" R huffed and marched back to the baseline where I stood. "I've got a fire in my belly now," she informed me.

I didn't know whether to fan it or extinguish it, so I just shut up and put the ball in play.  My serve to C was a carbon copy of the one I'd hit to M (by pure coincidence, because very little of my tennis game happens intentionally).  C hit a weak return straight to R, who pounced on it and sent a volley screaming right in between our opponents.  They didn't have a prayer of hitting it.  R turned on her heel and strode towards me.  Her angelic face had gone satanic.

R and I won the second set with one minute to spare. We met C and M at the net and had started to discuss the tiebreaker when time ran out.  Under the league rules, if the match is tied and time expires before the tiebreaker begins, the victory goes to the team that won the most games in total.  R and I eked out the win by pure math, winning twelve games to our opponents' ten.

I hope I get paired with R again, because I definitely want her on my side.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Splat-ter of the Week: Banana Boat!

With the elections in the home stretch, Splatospheric had no choice but to go into hiding this week.  Our headquarters sits not just in a swing state but a metropolitan area where national politics is also the local news.  We’ve been avoiding all media outlets.  We haven’t even wanted to venture outside, because that requires us to walk past the sad remnants of our mailbox.  

After weeks of being stuffed with partisan garbage, it finally exploded, blanketing our lawn with campaign shrapnel.  We know we’ll spend weeks picking up scraps of paper helpfully reminding us that Obama interned for Stalin and that Mitt Romney doesn’t care about carbon-based life forms.  We can’t even call this stuff campaign literature—it’s pulp fiction.  (Oddly enough, these balanced, informative handouts don’t seem to talk about the environment.  Perhaps this is because you can’t projectile vomit campaign flyers statewide and then criticize your opponent’s stance on waste. ) 

But we can’t leave you hanging like a ballot chad in Florida, so here we are.  

We resurfaced to a deluge of nominations for Splat-ter of the Week.  Lance Armstrong won by a mile for the latest chapter in the blood doping saga, but even before we finished writing about it, the International Cycling Union stripped him of the title.

While we decide what to do about Armstrong’s lucrative Splatospheric endorsement deal, we’ll pass the mantle to the Runner-up: Banana Boat. The company that has brought us sunscreen products for years announced this week that it’s taking some of them back.  It recalled many of its sprays “due to a potential risk of product igniting on the skin if contact is made with a source of ignition before the product is completely dry."

Allow us to translate this into plain English: spray on a little Banana Boat and you might become Bananas Foster.  

We do, however, commend the company for its swift response: they only let five people catch fire before issuing the recall.
So congrats, Banana Boat.  Step on up to claim your golden pancake. But don’t get too close to the griddle, lest we all go up in smoke.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Splat-ter of the Week: Pizza Hut

In honor of Pizza Hut, this week's winner, maybe we should swap out the golden pancake for a big ol' tomato-cheese pie. Not the kind that looks like it fell straight out of the pages of a food magazine, but the kind that looks like it fell straight out of a tenth story window.  We don't have a royalty-free photo but we trust you get the idea. 

Following the lead of other companies that have used the presidential campaign to promote their products, last week Pizza Hut launched an ad campaign intended to bring the perpetual "sausage or pepperoni" debate to the presidential arena. And not just metaphorically speaking, either.  The company offered free pizza for life to the voter who would pose this question to the candidates during the town hall-style debate. 

The ads drew immediate and widespread attention, so in a sense, they were a raging success.  But most of the resulting publicity was negative.  Pundits, PR firms, and the media reacted first, probably because they welcomed the chance to cover pizza toppings instead of health care.  They criticized Pizza Hut for, among other things, "making a mockery" of the American democratic system. 

They have a point.  Who the heck does Pizza Hut think it is, encroaching on a job the two candidates have performed superlatively for six months? 

The pizza titan's critics also said the presidential debates are the wrong forum for worthless, superficial discussion of  frivolous topics.  Right again.  Everyone knows debates are intended for worthless, superficial discussion of important topics. 

Pizza Hut beat a hasty retreat and conducted an online poll instead of an on-air stunt. 

For attempting to hijack the presidential stage, the chain deserves to be rebranded as "Pizza What?"  But since all they were trying to do is give Americans back some dough-- a promise they, unlike the candidates, might actually be able to fulfill-- we'll let 'em off with just a golden pizza. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Trip Epilogue: MIA

MIA is not just the three-letter code for Miami’s airport, it's also an acronym for the status of my luggage: Missing In Action. 

My bag was last seen at the American Airlines curbside check-in. The attendant took my rolling duffel and my sister’s suitcase and put them on a cart behind him.  Only one of the bags made it to Dulles alive.

Lynne and I went to the American office, where the agent told us the bag didn’t get on the flight.  She made my bag sound lazy, like it had been off smoking a Camel when it should've been listening for the final boarding call.  She took down my information and told me the bag should arrive at my house the next day.

I thanked her and said, “ I trust you’ll refund the checked bag fee.”  She shook her head, answering my non-question in the negative.  And here I'd thought the jet ski people had already locked up the J.D. Power & Associates’ Award for Excellence in Customer Hostility.

My lost luggage reminded me of another outstanding trip that splatted across the finish line.  In 2002, just before I graduated law school, my best friend and I took a cruise to celebrate my Last Spring Break Ever. 

Because my studies had depleted my savings, we snapped up one of those last-minute bargains with an affordable cruise line.  “A floating Wal-Mart,” J. called it.

The travel gods rewarded us handsomely for our procrastination. They sat us in first class on the flight from Washington to Florida.  And instead of shoving us into the cabin we booked in the “closet plus porthole” category, they upgraded us to a state room.  It had a sitting area, bar, balcony, and patio furniture.  We didn’t understand our  good fortune, but we were smart enough to revel in it. 

Our luck came to a screeching halt the final morning of the trip.  I was packing my bags while J. did the customary sweep for forgotten items.  As he pulled aside the curtains covering the sliding glass door that led to the balcony, I said, “I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave anything out there.”

He glanced out and said, “You’re right, there’s nothing out there.  And when I say ‘nothing,’ I really mean it.”  Huh?  “The furniture jumped ship,” he said.

Impossible.  I went over to assess the inventory for myself and sure enough, it stood at zero.  We had no idea what had happened to it and couldn’t think of anything to do besides wait for the cruise line to bill us.  With heavy footsteps we walked the plank and then made our way to the airport.

The Gods did not give us a smooth, first-class ride home.  Instead, they put us in the back of the plane and shook it. 

“I feel like a frog in a blender,” J. muttered, head in hand. “Perfect way to end this cruise.”

The guy sitting next to him heard this and said, “Oh, you were on the cruise, too?”  We nodded.  Apparently, he and a few friends--all police officers in Rhode Island-- decided to take a vacation together and had booked the budget-friendly trip on a whim. J. asked him what he thought of the experience.

Our new cop friend laughed. “Well, it was great, but I felt sorry for the people staying next to us.  I think it was a couple on their honeymoon and, well, we got a little rowdy toward the end.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry,” J said. “If they're typical newlyweds, they didn't even notice the noise.”

The policeman chuckled. “Maybe not, but I bet they noticed their deck furniture was missing this morning.”  J and I looked at each other, brows knitting.  The cop paid no attention to our faces and kept right on talking, belly-laughing as he gave himself up.  “We...hahaha….threw…hahahah…. it…hahaha…. overboard!”  Tears started to trickle down his cheeks.

J’s reaction mirrored my thoughts.  “Well, great. I can hardly wait to tell the cruise people that four of Rhode Island's finest got drunk and decided to clean house.”

To our surprise, the bill never came. Good thing, too, because this didn't seem like the best test case for the third party sovereign immunity defense.  Not only did I not get charged, but the experience proved valuable to me this week: Compared to losing an entire balcony full of rented furniture, my little luggage splat barely registered.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Well *That* Didn't Take Long

Letting my sister write a guest blog post was my first mistake on this South Beach trip. I felt pretty confident in my prediction that it wouldn't be the last. I just didn't expect to be right quite so soon.

My second major lapse in judgment occurred less than 12 hours after the first, when Lynne asked if I'd like to do a jet ski tour of Miami.  I fell prey yet again to the "why not?" philosophy that has tried to kill me several times over the course of my life and said "yes." It sounded like a great way to see the Miami skyline, check out major landmarks and enjoy the water.

We took a 30 minute cab ride from our South Beach hotel to the pickup spot at a Biscayne Bay marina. The jet ski people arranged our transport, which turned out to be an under-the-table hookup between the tour company and the off-duty cop who serves as the marina "dockmaster" on the weekends. For a few extra bucks he's willing to leave the dock unsupervised and pick up a fare. Perhaps we should've taken that as a sign.

On arriving at the marina we signed a bunch of forms that made us responsible for anything bad that happened during our outing, including global warming. The staff then gave us a safety briefing that, in terms of content, focused more on brevity than the safety.

"It's a little choppier than normal out there, so if it gets rough try to remember to hit the gas," he said. "Sounds weird but the jetski takes waves best at higher speeds."

We did great in the no-wake zone. After that, all bets were off. So were my sunglasses, which the four-foot whitecapped swells claimed moments after I hit one of them head-on at a high rate of speed, just like the instructor told me to.  I've earned my reputation as the family leadfoot and I love the water, but these conditions kept me from enjoying what should've been the happy marriage of two loves.

The next wave that swamped me blasted off the thick coating of (allegedly) waterproof sunscreen I'd applied, along with the top layer of my skin.

Nevertheless, the sun didn't burn me, which I found odd.  Perhaps the copious amounts of Biscayne Bay water that constantly soaked me formed a protective barrier of salt.

Apparently that's just one of many great health benefits salt water provides. For example, I read a few articles yesterday indicating that it has sinus-cleansing properties. These blurbs failed to mention that, if you ingest as much of it as I did, it acts more like a nasal enema.

The choppy seas limited the 'tour' aspect of our trip, too.  At the halfway point our guide gave us a sign to pause.  He came up to each of us one by one (we, meanwhile, bobbed up and down like we were on aquatic pogo sticks).  Ah, some tour information at last.  He approached Lynne and me and gestured to the series of tall buildings strung together along the shoreline. We waited, expecting the kind of locals-only insight you pay top dollar to get.

"That's the Miami skyline," he said.

Satisfied that he'd given us our money's worth after imparting this jaw-dropper, he told us to turn around.

On the return trip we rode with the current, but catching large swells from behind doesn't cause the rider to spend any less time airborne.  Lynne and I looked like Tom and Jerry on jetskis.

We got back to the dock and sized each other up.  My sister was covered in more salt than Lot's wife.

When we went inside to retrieve our deposit, a staff member handed it to us and said, "Remember, our guide works for tips."

"Here's one," I said, "Don't take people out in these conditions."

The company offered no apology for the poor judgment it showed in sending us out in four foot swells (though they did cancel tours for the rest of the day) nor for failing to deliver as promised.  Funny when an experience that gives you far less than you paid for offers so much more than you bargained for.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Splat-ter of the Week: FIRST EVER Guest Poster Edition

Reporting live from South Beach in Miami, we bring you this week's top splat-ter, nominated by our sister, Lynne, who happens to be here with us.

As if being related to us weren't distinction enough, now she can add "first guest poster" to her list of honors. Lynne volunteered to do a guest splat at a time when our staff needed a bit of a break, so we accepted her offer with gratitude and without questioning. (After all, it spared us the pain of having to watch the Vice Presidential debates for material. When it comes to TV that embarrasses us to be an American, the debates rank right up there with Honey boo boo.) 

In hindsight, we probably shouldn't have skipped the questioning.  Oh well, it's not the first suspect decision we've made on this trip, probably won't be the last.

Here's her contribution:

Splat-ter of the Week: The Hotel's Tornado, aka Miz Yank

Those of you who know the blogger herself may empathize with me most. To hear the blogger tell it, she is neat and orderly. Tidy even.  I, perhaps, believe that sentiment could be...ummm...how do I say this nicely???  Well, inaccurate.  It just so happens I have a recent example to support my position.  The two of us are sharing a very nice hotel suite in South Beach.  The suite has a kitchenette, a living area, one bedroom and one bath.  Upon arriving yesterday and taking some time to get settled, I was, in fact, settled.  Suitcase neatly placed by the foot of my bed, toiletries lined up in the bathroom, all items accounted for.  My roommate, however, was a bit less organized.

Aside from the clothes strewn on the floor and over the suitcase, items were missing in action (a book, hair products, God knows what else) and some herbal sleep aid (which stinks to the hilt) along with other hangover remedies were strewn on the kitchen counter.  None of this do I mind...I just find it funny for someone so "neat"!  Within an hour of us having arrived our pristine hotel room looked like a tornado had run through it.  It was then, as I was tripping over a pair of shoes left in the doorway, the idea came to me.  Miz Yank needs to step up and claim her golden pancake...That is if she can find it!!  Good times.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Eggplant Surprise

Someone left an eggplant at my front door on Friday night. No note, no bag, just the eggplant, sitting on the step in the space between my storm and front doors. 

Over the years I’ve come home to the occasional surprise—flowers, a wreath, a basket of chocolate-covered fruit—but none of those experiences prepared me for the unexpected arrival of a piece of purple produce.

I live on a very friendly street where people go out of their way to get to know each other –a rarity these days –so I assumed one of my neighbors had left the eggplant for me.  But how would they know I even liked it?  Eggplant polarizes people, unlike tomatoes, cucumbers, or other less controversial items gardeners could hand off to just about anyone.  In fact, many people file eggplant with brussel sprouts and liver, in the “Foods Mom Served As Punishment” folder. 

(My mom, an accomplished cook and extremely kind soul, didn’t try to foist any of these on us, even though my father actually loved liver.  (We blamed his perplexing affection for organ meat on the cigarettes he smoked until his forties.  In exchange for letting him keep his lungs, they took his taste buds.  It was a good trade.)  Mom almost never granted his request for liver, which my siblings and I very much appreciated.  Our gratitude for her benevolence allowed us to forgive her when she once made a dish called “Shipwreck.”  Inexplicably, the name did not deter her.  Nor did the fact that one of the main ingredients was ketchup.  As I recall, baked beans, hotdogs and bacon rounded out the list.  If only she had served it on a funnel cake we could have called it “State Fair.”)

Knowing that some people turn up their noses at the mention of eggplant, I don’t tend to talk about it unless I know I’m among aficionados.  I imagine NASCAR fans follow a similar approach.   

I had no specific recollection of telling anyone on my street that I liked eggplant, so I just started thanking every neighbor I encountered.  No one claimed responsibility.  I began to canvass my friends. A typical exchange went like this:

Me: How was your weekend?
Friend: Great. I took the kids to soccer and [spouse] did [“yardwork” or “nothing,” depending on the spouse].  How was yours?
Me: Good.  I got an eggplant.
Friend: We went grocery shopping, too, but eggplant never made the list.
Me:  I didn’t get it at the grocery store.
Friend: Where’d it come from, then?
Me: I don’t know.
Friend: You mean you’re not buying local?
Me: No, I mean it showed up on my doorstep.
Friend: Through one of those co-op programs? [One of my closest friends, at this stage of the dialogue, said, "If someone left me an eggplant I'd take it as a threat."]

 As of this post, the mystery remains unsolved. I guess it’ll stay that way because I promptly roasted and ate the evidence without even thinking to dust for prints.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Mark and I got married on October 2, 2010, so Tuesday should have been our second wedding anniversary.  We didn’t make it to our first anniversary so, really, last Tuesday was the first anniversary of our not having a first anniversary. 

I had no specific plans to avoid observing the date, nor did I intend to confront it head-on like I did last year.  Either approach seemed like overdoing it, I thought. So I did exactly nothing, yet somehow it turned out perfectly.  Perfectly awful, that is.

I dislike Tuesdays and have for years.  The day has nothing going for it, in my opinion.  Monday has plenty of detractors but at least on that day you still have residual good vibes from the weekend.  Wednesday represents the weekly tipping point, and Thursday is just a gateway to Friday, which is enjoys premium status as the weekend opener.  But Tuesday, it’s got nuthin’. 

I’ve been preaching the badness of Tuesdays since the early 1990s, when I felt I had enough evidence to convert it to the following theorem: “Nothing good happens on a Tuesday.”  If you were born on a Tuesday, don’t blame me but do consider suing your parents. (And don’t lose hope altogether: as with all theorems, the occasional exception surfaces.)

So calendar-wise, I started off in the hole.  Then Mother Nature came along and flooded that hole with torrential rain that lasted most of the day. (My actual wedding day featured cloudless blue skies and seventy degree temps.)  

Rainy days can be great when timed well, but this one wasn’t.  I had recently hired a lawn service to rehabilitate my ailing yard. The company uses a multi-phase approach, like all good rehab programs. Phase 1, which they finished two weeks ago, consists of killing the weeds.  In my case, this entailed killing the yard itself, giving me the only albino lawn on the street. 

In Phase 2, the service re-seeds the whole lawn.  They finished that on October 1, maybe 16 hours before the non-niversary rains began.  The street I live on slopes rather steeply and my house sits toward the bottom of the hill.  When we get a deluge, the water rushes downhill and goes tearing through my backyard before it ends in a pool who knows where.  Based on the biblical downpours on Tuesday, I probably didn’t retain a single seed but a homeowner in East Falls Church should awake to a spectacular and verdant lawn in just a couple weeks.

At 2 p.m. on Tuesday, I went to the periodontist for a follow-up appointment regarding my gums because it turns out that the recession didn’t hit just the auto industry.  You might wonder why I scheduled the appointment for a Tuesday, given the Theorem, but my move was calculated. 

For over thirty years, dentists, orthodontists, microendodontists (and even full-sized endodontists) have waged assaults of varying magnitude on my mouth.  In all that time, not once has a dental professional burst into the room and said, “Please, let me fix your mouth for free! I beg you!”  Instead, they act like a humane neighboring country and basically offer my cash refugee status from its war-torn home.  This allows huge quantities of it to make a swift and safe exodus out of my wallet and into theirs. 

When I had the initial consultation a few weeks back, the periodontist ended it by patting my shoulder.

“I’m confident I can help you,” he said,  which is universally understood to mean, “Thank you for offering to finance my family’s two week trip to Bora Bora.”  I went straight for the Tuesday appointment, not wanting to endanger the other days of the work week with the likelihood of staggeringly bad dental news.

I had chosen wisely.  The doctor took me through an 18-slide, thirty-minute presentation on the anatomy of teeth and gums.  Due to gum recession, the bones of my teeth had shifted and were starting to sink, Venice-like.   Periodontists combat this by constructing a wall of sandbags in the patient’s mouth. 

I’m kidding.  A mouth lined with two feet of grit would be preferable to the actual remedy, a charming procedure known as “gum grafting.”  This is a form of oral surgery in which the periodontist scrapes skin from your palate and sticks it on to your gums.  The extra skin fortifies them.  Without the boost, your teeth would be like the top girl on a two-person cheerleading formation –they'll stand up but they might be a bit wobbly and eventually they could topple over.

After he explained this (in slightly more technical terms) he summed up by saying, “The good news is you don’t have periodontal disease.”  Dentists love to inform patients using the good news/bad news format so I knew where he was headed next.  The impish look on his face warned me that he was going to attempt humor along the way.  “The bad news is you do have ‘patient’s disease.’” He let out a little chortle and elaborated.       

I’d somehow gone overboard in taking care of my teeth, he told me.  On hearing this I didn’t feel like laughing.  I felt like punching him. 

I managed to squelch my pugilistic urges but couldn’t suppress the need to defend myself.  I pointed out that I used an electric toothbrush, like the experts say you should. True, he said, but it was the wrong kind of electric toothbrush for my dental bone structure.  Of course.  I must’ve missed that when they covered it in law school.

And my habit of flossing two times a day was too religious.  Apparently I should’ve been on a more agnostic frequency.  The cost of my hygienic overzealousness and weak dental genes? $7,500.  (Figures that a procedure this expensive goes by a term whose secondary meaning is “corruption or bribery.”)

“How much are dentures?” I asked.  I could do a lot with $7,500, such as buy first-class plane fare to Italy, where my mouth could decompose amid picturesque scenery.  But the credit card companies have trained me well and I understand that teeth are “priceless,” so I guess I’ll be having my gums grafted instead of going on a nice vacation or five.  But I’m heartened to have a chance to help send somebody else on one.   


Friday, October 5, 2012

Splat-ter of the Week: Teddy Roosevelt

We’re talking about the mascot, of course, as opposed to the real former president.

By way of background, professional baseball beat a path out of the Capitol in 1972 -- the Senators left town, briefly raising citizens’ hopes that the House of Representatives would follow them.  As soon as people realized that, not only did they lose their baseball team but they were still stuck with all of Congress, a cloud of gloom descended on the city. 

The sports funk lasted about 30 years.  It lifted in 2005 when Canada realized that a baseball team had somehow landed in its hockey collection.  Shortly thereafter Montreal sold its unwanted Expos on EBay for a quarter, plus $600 million for shipping and handling.  D.C. snapped up Canada’s reject, plopped it into RFK stadium and called it the Nationals.

But not all reinventions go as smoothly as Madonna’s, and this one ran into a slight snag: the team stunk.  Fortunately, the owners had planned for this contingency and made sure the games had enough between-innings entertainment to keep fans engaged, no matter how the team fared.  The most popular gimmick was the Presidential Races, instituted in 2006.  At first the footrace between the four Mount Rushmore presidents took place in cartoon form on the stadium big screen.  Eventually, the team owners sprang for mascots, and live action racing began.  Even as the format of the event evolved, one thing remained constant: Teddy never crossed the finish line first.  He lost as creatively as he did consistently, not unlike the Nats in 2008 and 2009 (when they boasted the worst record in the league).  His splat lasted 500 games and featured hundreds of unsuccessful comeback attempts.  But despite his record, he didn’t give up. 

On October 3—the day after the Nationals clinched the National League East-- Teddy finally crossed the finish line first.  No one knows how his history-making dash will affect future fourth inning derbies but one thing’s for sure: The race between the four Ruchmore presidents with enormous caricature heads is way more entertaining than the contest between Barack and Mitt.

For getting up off the ground after being stuck in it for years, you deserve the prize, Teddy. And the golden pancake will look great alongside that NL East trophy.