Unexpected guests were on the way, and my mother, an impeccable housekeeper, rushed around straightening up. She put my father and brother to work cleaning the guest bathroom. Later, when…
"I feel sorry for this soldier," joked my husband as he handed me a flier he’d found in our mailbox. It read:
Black and white
Answers to Nate
Belongs to a soldier
"I feel sorry for this soldier," joked my husband as he handed me a flier he’d found in our mailbox. It read: Lost CatBlack and whiteAnswers to NateBelongs to a…
As I stripped off my sweatshirt at the breakfast table one warm morning, my T-shirt started to come off too.
My husband let out a low whistle. I took it as a compliment until he said, from behind his newspaper, "Can you believe the price of bananas?"
As I stripped off my sweatshirt at the breakfast table one warm morning, my T-shirt started to come off too. My husband let out a low whistle. I took it…
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Pooch your arms around me!
Knock Knock Who’s there? Pooch Pooch who? Pooch your arms around me!
Teeing off on the 12th hole at a golf resort, we stopped to buy cold drinks from the young woman driving the beverage cart. As my buddy reached for his wallet, he said to her, "You’re in great shape. You must work out a lot."
Flattered, she gave him a big smile. "Thank you."
The next day a different young woman was driving the cart. "Watch this," I whispered. I walked up to her and said, "Wow, you must work out a lot."
"Yeah," she replied. "You should try it."
Teeing off on the 12th hole at a golf resort, we stopped to buy cold drinks from the young woman driving the beverage cart. As my buddy reached for his…
It was late in the afternoon, and I was putting the final burnishes on a piece of writing that I was feeling pretty good about. Yes, okay, it was an e-mail, but it was a clever one and I hated to lose it. My cursor had frozen. I tried to shut the computer down, and it seized up altogether. Unsure of what else to do, I yanked the battery out.
Unfortunately, Windows had been in the midst of a delicate and crucial undertaking. The next morning, when I turned my computer back on, it informed me that a file had been corrupted and Windows would not load. This was followed by some mysterious lines of code, which I took to be my computer saying “Serves you right, careless pea brain” in its native tongue. More graciously, it offered to repair itself by using the Windows Setup CD.
I opened the special drawer where I keep CDs that I have no intention of ever using. There was an IKEA how-to CD, which featured young Swedes assembling kitchen cabinets with nothing but a sardine can key and untrammeled wholesomeness. Mostly, there were CDs of music that my friends are always burning for me, unbidden, because they think I’ll enjoy them.
But no Windows CD. I was forced to call the computer company’s Global Support Center. My call was answered by a woman in some unnamed, far-off land. I find it vexing to make small talk with someone when I don’t know what continent they’re standing on. Suppose I were to comment on the beautiful weather we’ve been having when there was a monsoon at the other end of the phone? So I got right to the point.
“My computer is telling me a file is corrupted and it wants to fix itself, but I don’t have the Windows Setup CD.”
“So you’re having a problem with your Windows Setup CD.” She had apparently been dozing and, having come to just as the sentence ended, was attempting to cover for her inattention. I recognized the technique from a thousand breakfast conversations.
“We took that rug in weeks ago. Should I call the cleaners?”
“No, thanks. I’m good.”
It quickly became clear that the woman was not a computer technician. Her job was to serve as a gatekeeper, a human shield for the techs, who were off in the back room, or possibly another far-off continent, playing cards and burning CDs for their friends. Her sole duty, as far as I could tell, was to raise global stress levels.
To make me disappear, the woman gave me the phone number for Windows’ creator, Microsoft. This is like giving someone the phone number for, I don’t know, North America. Besides, the CD worked; I just didn’t have it. No matter how many times I repeated my story, we came back to the same place. She was unflappable and resolutely polite.
When my voice hit a certain decibel, I was passed along, like a hot, irritable potato, to a technician.
“You don’t have the Windows Setup CD, ma’am, because you don’t need it,” he explained cheerfully. “Windows came preinstalled on your computer!”
“But I do need it.”
“Yes, but you don’t have it.”
We went on like this for a while. Finally, he offered to walk me through the use of a different CD, one that would erase my entire system. “Of course, you’d lose all your e-mail, your documents, your photos.” It was like offering to drop a safe on my head to cure my headache. “You might be able to recover them, but it would be expensive.” He sounded delighted. “And it’s not covered by the warranty!” The safe began to seem like a good idea, provided it was full.
I hung up the phone and drove my computer to a small, friendly repair place I’d heard about. A smart, helpful man dug out a Windows CD and told me it wouldn’t be a problem. An hour later, he called to let me know it was ready. I thanked him, and we chatted about the weather, which was the same outside my window as it was outside his.
The Windows Global Support Center cannot reach everyone.
Though I have always been a sound sleeper, I am frequently up at 4 a.m. This is around the time that my husband, Ed, having woken up at 3, will generally crawl back into bed. Ed goes downstairs to watch TV so that his tossing and turning doesn’t wake me up. This is very considerate, except that when he returns, he likes to chat about what he’s been watching. The other night, Ed had been watching an infomercial for something called
the Steam Shark. I have a distinct memory of surfacing from the depths of sleep directly into the sentence “You can steam-clean around the base of the toilet.”
Last night it was “Honey, Bo Schembechler died.”
Schembechler, Ed explained to my inert self, was a beloved University of Michigan football coach. There is little difference between talking to me about college football when I’m asleep and talking to me about it when I’m awake. Eyelid position, basically, is the difference. Ed kept going: “He was the voice of the Wolverines.”
I was partly awake at this point, and for some reason, the sentence struck me as the funniest thing I’d heard in a very long time. Different rules apply between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m., I find. Things that would ordinarily not even qualify as mildly amusing will often, at 3 a.m., strike the ear as high comedy.
Worries are similarly warped.
I recently spent the hour from 4 to 5 a.m. worrying about the placement of two shrubs we had planted in our yard that day. Ed came in from downstairs, and I unloaded my fears about the overly close positioning of the shrubbery. I made him promise that first thing the next day, we would dig one up and move it, lest they crowd each other’s roots. In the morning, we went out to look at the plants. If anything, they looked a little lonesome there at 17 inches apart, just as the label had recommended. I am now known far and wide as the Nervous Gardener.
Anyway, once the laughter sets in, we’re both up. The topic of wolverines led to savage animals in general, and from there to a game called African Veldt. We frequently make up mindless games to wile away the time until the sandman agrees to take over the proceedings again.
“First person to run out of animals is the loser,” I said. Ed pointed out that since I had been to Africa, the game was rigged in my favor. He made me name three animals for every one of his.
“Fine. Leopard, zebra, elephant.”
“Lion,” said Ed with great confidence.
“Warthog, wildebeest, springbok.”
A long time went by. The shrubbery roots were closing in upon each other. Finally, and with great hesitancy, Ed said, “Giraffe?”
“Eland, gnu, ostrich.”
“You can’t do birds.”
“Birds are animals.”
“Okay, ant,” said Ed, and then he rolled over. He took his bottom pillow and put it on top of his head. This is known as the Ed sandwich: pillow, Ed’s head, pillow. He does this because he can’t sleep if there’s noise in the room. There isn’t now, but there will be. I make noises while I sleep, and Ed has had many hours to devote to cataloging them. Common varietals include the Click, the Tommy gun and the Darth Vader.
Light is also a problem for my husband. There can be no light in the bedroom, not even the light from the digital clock, which is hidden away on the bottom shelf of Ed’s nightstand, broadcasting the time to toddlers and gnomes. The room across the hall must also be dark. We can’t just close our bedroom door to block the light from that room, because this will make the bedroom too stuffy for Ed to sleep. That room must also have its curtains drawn. If he could, Ed would draw the curtains on the windows of our neighbors across the driveway, and on down the street, all the way to the horizon.
Different rules apply between the hours of 2 and 4 a.m., I find. Things that would ordinarily not even qualify as mildly amusing will often, at 3 a.m., strike the ear as high comedy.
There is a special room in hell where the flames are extra hot and you must sleep sitting straight up. The sign on the door says: Reserved for People Who Reclined Their Seatbacks the Entire Flight. Most of us understand the discomfort we are inflicting on the poor schmo behind us and try to limit our reclining for the lights-out portion of the flight. If everyone leans back together, in
the manner of a synchronized,
unattractively upholstered Esther Williams swim routine, then no
one is unfairly crowded.
I had a seatback diva in front of me last week. We were barely airborne, and there she was in my lap. Using my computer would now entail making a slit in my belly flab and inserting the front half of the keyboard inside me, so that the
bottom row of letters were rendered inaccessible and I would have to make do without the words banana, vixen, balaclava and many other colorful favorites.
Defeated, I tried to watch the little TV mounted in the seatback in front of me. Alas, the screen was so close to my face that my eyes were crossing. Emeril had become
a set of perfectly choreographed twin Emerils, which was one or possibly two more Emerils than I could handle. In desperation, I turned to my complimentary copy of the Sky Mall catalog and began
to read. A mail-order company was selling “the Most Compact Washing Machine in the World,” enabling,
I don’t know, Keebler elves to do laundry in their tree. “Tiki Head Tissue Box Dispenses Tissue Through the Nose!” another ad
“Who would buy this?” I said to the man in the middle seat, but he was busy waving down a flight attendant. “Miss?” He was holding up his knees. “Is there room in the overhead bin for these?”
We hit a pocket of turbulence and Bloody Mary mix slopped onto the chinos of the man next to me.
I pointed to the Most Compact
Washing Machine in the World. “You need this,” I said. The man did not smile. His expression was just like the Tiki Head with tissues up
its nostrils, displeased and clearly embarrassed about the situation yet resolutely stoic.
More and more, you must board
a plane like a general going to war. You must constantly defend your turf — your wee, airless kingdom. The occupier of the next seat will make his move upon your armrest the moment your vigilance flags. You will return from the bathroom to find an elbow planted in the little vinyl peninsula where your people once roamed free.
The battle for armrest dominance has grown ever more intense in the era of the laptop computer. The airplane seat — designed to be a chair, and never very good at it — has now been asked to perform double duty as an office. Soon people will be bringing fitness equipment and hobby craft aboard, and the company that makes the elfin washers will need to get started on looms and rowing machines.
Complex rules apply to the space beneath your seat, for it belongs, technically, to the person behind you. Not long ago, I was
on a transcontinental flight when I was awakened by
the woman behind me.
“Excuse me?” She was holding a plastic juice cup. “Excuse me? This is coming in my section.” I had put my empty cup under my seat and it had slid backward, crossing an imaginary line in the carpeting. She was peeved. Her eyes were squinty and her nostrils were flaring, as though about to dispense tissues through the nose.
People were staring, so I took the cup. Later that night, a pantyhosed foot made a stealth assault on the back of my right armrest. It was her: the Juice Cup Border Patrol.
“Excuse me?” I nudged the foot ungently. “This is coming in my
Several hours went by without incident. I was beginning to drift off, when I heard a driving, tinny noise: ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch, ch-ch … The woman behind me had mobilized the most fearsome weapon
in the modern airplane arsenal:
the Overly Loud Headphones.
I waved my hot towel in
There is a special room in hell where the flames are extra hot and you must sleep sitting straight up. The sign on the door says: Reserved for People Who Reclined Their Seatbacks the Entire Flight.
More than once I have had my brain paralyzed by what psychiatrists call Old House Delusion Disease (OHDD). My wife and I bought an old house that had every known old-house problem, including termites, not to mention a grand total of one closet, and an entire room that had no electrical outlets — a clear indication that the house was not built by or for people with a need for, say, lighting.
Were we discouraged?
No! We thought it was quaint!
Here’s how delusional we were. We had plumbing problems (of course), and in an effort to fix a leak, some plumbing guys were crawling around under our house. They emerged holding some yellowed, crumbling, rolled-up newspapers, which they’d found wrapped around our pipes, apparently as insulation. We carefully unwrapped one of the newspapers and found that it was a Miami Herald from 1927. It had a story in it about Charles Lindbergh.
So there we were, confronted with stark evidence that our pipes, in addition to leaking, were very old. It’s like being aboard a boat in the middle of the Pacific and discovering that not only were you sinking, but also your hull was made entirely of Triscuits.
How did we react to this horrible news? We were thrilled! Charles Lindbergh! It was so charming! The plumbers were also very excited, but in their case it was because they knew we would be putting all their children through Harvard.
Our House Delusion Disease is very powerful. Usually, when you buy an old house, you hire professional house inspectors. These inspectors are very thorough: They spend a whole day crawling around the house, and then they give you a detailed, written report, which says “Do not buy this house, you idiot!”
Not in so many words, of course. The report breaks the house down by major defects, then sub-defects. The house, according to the report, consists entirely of defects. You read the report, but because you have OHDD, none of it actually penetrates your brain, even when the inspector goes out of his way to warn you about serious problems:
INSPECTOR: I want to show you something in the living room …
YOU: Don’t you love that room? It has such character! The molding!
INSPECTOR: About the molding — I wanted you to see this. (The inspector takes a screwdriver and taps it against the molding. The molding disappears in a smokelike puff of wood particles. Then a large part of the wall itself collapses, leaving a gaping hole, through which can be seen, in the gloom, an exposed wire that periodically emits a shower of sparks, illuminating a dripping pipe covered with green slime. A rat darts by, pursued by what seems to be a boa constrictor.)
YOU: Ha ha! These quirky old houses! That can be repaired, right?
INSPECTOR: Well, I suppose it could, if you’re willing to …
YOU: I’m not worried about cosmetic problems, as long as the house is structurally sound. (You stamp your foot on the floor to emphasize this point. Your foot goes through the floor.)
INSPECTOR: Um, that’s another thing. Your floor joists have been almost entirely eaten away.
YOU: (retracting your foot) Termites? No biggie! A lot of these old houses have termites! We can just have it treated by …
INSPECTOR: Actually, it’s beavers. They’re building a dam in the basement.
INSPECTOR: I’ve never seen that before.
YOU: (recovering) Well, the kids have been wanting a pet!
At this point the inspector, who has dealt with OHDD before, gives up and edges out of the room, taking care not to put too much weight on any one part of the floor.
You, of course, buy the house. As a true OHDD victim, you would buy this house if it were on fire. Once it’s yours, you begin calling what will become a never-ending parade of highly paid craftsmen, who will spend so much time at your house that eventually they will become a part of your family, and invite you to attend all their children’s graduations from Harvard.
More than once I have had my brain paralyzed by what psychiatrists call Old House Delusion Disease (OHDD). My wife and I bought an old house that had every known old-house problem, including termites, not to mention a grand total of one closet, and an entire room that had no electrical outlets — a clear indication that the house was not built by or for people with a need for, say, lighting.
What timing! I’d just worn a hole through my llama wool sweater and used up the last of my patchouli-scented soap when I got the memo that “metrosexual” was out and “machosexual” was in. Women, it seems, have tired of men with hairless chests, so they’ve changed the rules, and the old macho is back in vogue. From now on, guys need to look and act tough — at a minimum, tough enough to open jelly jars without having to run them under hot water.
Taking my marching orders, the first thing I did was to exhale for the first time in three years, letting my belly settle back into its natural position draped over my belt. I then canceled my membership in the Tiramisu-of-the-Month club.
Gone, too, was the easy sympathy I doled out to my three-year-old daughter after she pulled the head off her Polly Pocket doll for the 12th time. “Now it’s a Marie Antoinette doll,” I told Quinn, knowing that tough love was the best love.
Gone was my simple acquiescence when my wife, Jennifer, informed me we’d be watching the Melissa Gilbert retrospective on Lifetime Television.
“Sorry,” I told her, “this TV has been reserved for a special edition of ‘Killing Cattle With Mike Ditka.’ ”
Part of the machosexual compact is to fulfill traditional male roles — to be the rock, the decision-maker. So as commander-in-chief of our little tribe, I canceled our family trip to Hersheypark. “Machosexuals,” I explained, “don’t have chocolaty good times. We have adventures.” But being a benevolent dictator, I presented an alternative.
“Who wants to go bareback rhino racing in Zimbabwe?” I asked.
Machosexuals are a patient lot, so when Jennifer said, “No, we’re going to Hersheypark,” I knew that perseverance was in order.
“Wanna take a steam bath in an active volcano in Indonesia?”
“Fly a MiG-29 at mach 3 over Moscow, going 60,000 feet straight up in the air at a 90-degree angle until the engine stalls and we tumble back to earth in a free fall, coming just ten feet off the ground before pulling up?”
“Kayak down Victoria Falls? Go skinny-dipping in the Arctic? Walk over to the mini-mart and eat five-day-old sushi?”
No, no and no.
“You don’t like to have fun, do you?”
Click! Jennifer turned on the TV and raised the volume until Melissa Gilbert’s voice drowned mine out.
Then, after much wrestling over the remote, we agreed that I should be kicked out of the house.
So off I stomped to the nearest watering hole to be with my fellow bulls. I was glad to see everyone had read the same memo as me. Gone were the cosmopolitans and chocolate martinis. In their place was only one choice: “Barkeep,” I said, “gimme a Milwaukee’s Best!” A cold, frothy one appeared before me.
There was backslapping, swearing and a quick debate on wearing helmets while motorcycling (everyone was against it). And we used the old bar food favorite, edamame beans, to throw at a poster of Brad Pitt.
After raising a glass to the machosexuals of yore — Bogie, Duke Wayne, Attila the Hun — we took out our knives and whittled some sticks before calling it a night.
Back home, I snuck into the house to avoid Jennifer. We machosexuals pick our battles and in so doing know that tiptoeing is not the same as retreating.
In the living room I found Quinn crying over her headless doll as Jennifer struggled with duct tape.
I grabbed some glue, and Jennifer handed me the doll. I reattached the head as best I could. It slipped a bit before drying, giving it that cock-eyed, self-assured look that’s so attractive in a plastic doll. Quinn climbed into my lap, and the three of us played with her Polly Pockets.
Who knew playing with dolls could be so much fun?
Humor columnist Andy Simmons tries to get reacquainted with his macho side.
I’ve suddenly become nostalgic for my old one-room, half-bath, 12-story walk-up in the city’s hovel district. Let me explain.
It all started simply enough. Soon after we moved to the country, my wife, Jennifer, decided that our backyard was sorely in need of some landscaping work.
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked. “Look at how fat and sassy our grass is. I bet we have the fattest, sassiest lawn in the neighborhood.”
That’s when Jennifer let me in on a little secret. There is no grass on our lawn. Only fat, sassy poison ivy.
I pointed out that unlike everything else in the yard, the ivy was thriving and maybe we should go after something else, like that malingering rosebush.
“Why evict the one thing that actually wants to be here?” I reasoned.
Here’s why: Jennifer doesn’t like poison ivy. Something about the word poison makes her think it can’t be good for you.
So we called in landscapers to get estimates. The first took one look at our lawn, then called his car dealer and ordered a BMW, the one that comes with a chauffeur. The second charged by the blade of grass. That’s when I drove into town looking for one of those cheap illegal aliens the media insists is on every street corner in America.
“Are you an illegal alien?” I asked the first man I saw.
“No, I’m the mayor,” he said.
“Are you an illegal alien?” I asked another.
“No, I’m your neighbor.”
“Are you an illegal alien?”
“No, I’m your wife, you idiot,” said Jennifer, shoving a rake in my hand and telling me to take care of things myself.
One of the problems with poison ivy is you can’t simply grab it by the collar and toss it out like some drunk from a bar. You have to suit up for battle — rubber gloves duct-taped to a long-sleeved shirt buttoned to your neck. Long pants with the cuffs duct-taped over your socks and work boots. A scarf wrapped tightly around neck and face, duct-taped to goggles and hat, completes the jackass look. Armed with pruner and weedkiller, I was no longer simply a homeowner unable to find an illegal alien to do the work he didn’t want to do. I was, in fact, a Knight of the Backyard Realm.
Since I had no idea what poison ivy looked like, I kept my plan of attack simple: Anything remotely planty goes. Ferns? Gone! Hosta? Gone! Rosebush? Gone! Trees? Gone! Mailbox? Gone! I was Sherman marching on Atlanta, laying waste to anything in my path. What the weedkiller didn’t get, I ripped out by hand. What I couldn’t rip
out, I ran over with my car.
“That’s the Japanese maple!” screamed Jennifer.
“Now it’s mulch,” I said, grinning devilishly over the whirring engine of my ’95 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.
By the end of the day, I’d rid the yard of all the poison ivy save for one sorry little clump. Like the heads of the vanquished left on spikes outside medieval castle walls, it served as a warning to any of its kin that might dare to show their three shiny leaves around here.
Hot and tired, and feeling pretty damn good about myself, I unraveled the four rolls of duct tape that had adhered to my body and stepped out of my sweat-soaked clothes, 27 pounds lighter than when I entered them. The shrieks
of horror from my 78-year-old neighbor spying my near-naked body startled me so, that I tripped down a small embankment — only to be saved by the soft, pillowy
embrace of the remaining clump of poison ivy.
As I bathed in calamine lotion, Jennifer figured out that all my tireless work had reduced our home’s value by a third. So she hired one of the landscapers to return the yard to its previous state of disrepair. We went with the guy who charged by the blade of grass. With no lawn left, how expensive could it be?
Humor columnist Andy Simmons attacks poison ivy.
Thank you for calling VeriCom Customer Care. Your call is important to us, though not as important as it is to you. If you are calling from a touch-tone phone, press or say 1. If you are calling from a rotary-dial phone, please stay on the line while a customer-care representative makes mocking, derisive faces. Para assistencia en español, go to South America and try your call again.
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For example, our records show that you used the phrase “gabbling nitwit” during your last call to customer care. This has been noted in your record and will be reflected in the quality of service you receive and the tone of voice of the customer-care representative, should you somehow manage to reach one.
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Thank you for calling VeriCom Customer Care. Your call is important to us, though not as important as it is to you.
Exchange your shivers for some giggles as we celebrate the spring season with some of our silliest reader submissions:
Stop and Smell the Softener
I had spent the late winter months waiting impatiently for signs of spring. When the first warm, sunny Saturday arrived, I eagerly unlocked the storm door and stepped onto our patio deck. I was pleased by the sight of green sprouts and the sounds of singing birds. More than anything else, I delighted in the sweet aroma of the spring air.
Knocking on the kitchen window, I beckoned to my wife to join me in enjoying the pleasures of the season. She quietly brought me back to earth when she reminded me that I was standing over the dryer vent, inhaling the scent of fabric softener.
— Contributed by George G. Busher
Your Sunday Best
Our daughter, an ROTC cadet, was ordered to Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania for field exercises. Since it was the Easter season, she requested permission to attend church services on Palm Sunday. The troops were in the field at the time, so the commanding officer agreed only if there happened to be a church in the vicinity of their maneuvers. When a small country church was seen along the road, our daughter entered quietly, hoping to be unnoticed in spite of her leaf-and-branch camouflage. But all eyes turned upon her as a small child cried in amazement, “Look, somebody came as a palm!”
— Contributed by Elizabeth Marvin
One spring day I was taking the roll in my secretarial class at our local technical college. One of the sun worshipers was absent. “Cindy won’t be here this afternoon?” I asked. “She went home to lay in the sun,” a young woman in the front row answered. Trying to correct her grammar without embarrassing her before the class, I whispered, “Lie.” Okay,” she replied in astonishment. “Cindy got sick and went home.”
— Contributed by Mary T. Upton
Every Easter our church stages an elaborate pageant. Last year the man who played Pontius Pilate had to work on the night of the dress rehearsal, and a chorus member substituted for him. As we began rehearsing Pilate’s solo, the conductor stopped the orchestra. “Pilate, I don’t hear you,” he called out. “You’re not loud enough.”
“Pilate is at work,” a voice on the stage shouted back. “We’ve got our co-Pilate tonight.”
— Contributed by Bill Dyson
Signs of Spring
In Ohio, spring is always eagerly awaited after the long, cold winters. When I arrived at work one day in mid-March, I noticed a sign gaily decorated with flowers and butterflies. It read: “Think Spring.” The first day of spring blew in with a snowstorm and freezing temperatures, however, and another flowery sign was posted. This time the message read: “Forget Spring. Think Summer.”
— Contributed by Rita Milios
Sleepless Saving Time
Twice a year, we change the clocks for daylight-savings time. And twice a year, my normally punctual assistant arrives late to work the Monday after we do so. I finally had to find out why. “Do you have a problem remembering to spring forward or fall back?” I asked. “Oh, no,” she said, pouring herself a cup of coffee. “What gets to me is staying up until 2 a.m. to change my clock.”
— Contributed by Nancy M. Payne
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Laugh winter woes away with one of these witty springtime snippets!
The whole spa concept is foreign to me. I don’t cleanse my face; I wash it. I don’t “release toxins” or parole them or give
them time off for good behavior. Even the word “spa” is strange, like the back end of it got left off. Like someone was writing, “I’m off to the spay and neuter clinic,” but they collapsed in midsentence, the dog heaving a sigh of relief.
I have set all this aside, however, because I recently got a gift certificate for a local spa and have cajoled my friend Wendy into coming with me for a massage. We are now standing in the room known to ordinary (non-cleansing) people as a locker room. The sign on the door says “Women’s Dressing.” As though we are salads. Across the hall is the Water Closet. This spa has tried hard to be tony and European, right down to the medical background forms, which request that we “tick”
boxes, rather than check them.
The locker room is pristine, and smells like no locker room I’ve ever been in. The smell turns out to be the lockers themselves: They’re lined with cedar. “Check, I mean tick, this out,” I tell Wendy. “In case moths attack while we’re off getting our massages.”
A beautiful young attendant arrives to show us how to operate the locks on the lockers. Then she leaves to get us bathrobes and towels.
Wendy looks stressed. “Do we have to tip her for this? I
hate these places. I don’t know how to behave. What do I tip? Do I take everything off? Do I leave on my underwear?” Wendy is going to need a second massage to relieve the stress that’s accumulated while being here for the first one.
We are told to wait for our masseuses in the lounge. It’s a gorgeous, perfect lounge with expensive cheeses and orchids and pitchers of lemon water. We pour ourselves some water and finish our medical forms. Wendy is reading aloud: “Are you pregnant? Ha! No,
I just look like it!”
A different beautiful young attendant comes into the lounge to refill the water pitcher and clear
away the empty glasses. She glances briefly at the flabby, wrinkly things on the sofa, as if giving thought to how she might clear those away too.
At last our masseuses arrive to take us to the treatment rooms. I watch Wendy disappear down
the hallway, her voice trailing off: “I left my underwear on. Was that bad? I wasn’t sure…”
My masseur, Leo, tells me to “disrobe to my level of comfort” and get under the sheet on the massage table. Then he leaves the room. I notice that a
small pink flower is lying on the sheet at the head of the massage table, as though the last person was a shrub. The massage table is outfitted at one end with a small, heavily padded toilet seat. When he returns, Leo tells me to put my face inside the toilet seat, which he calls a “face cradle.”
Leo says he’ll be “opening up my muscles” and “getting blood into the area.” This doesn’t sound relaxing. It sounds like the tiger scene in Gladiator. I bury my face in the toilet and pray for leniency.
Eventually I relax. Things are going swell. Then Leo asks me if I want the “complimentary parafango
treatment.” There are so many things I need to learn before I can answer this question.
“Fango means volcanic,” Leo adds, bringing me no closer to a decision.
“Oh,” I say. “In what language?”
He doesn’t answer. He must think I’m testing him. For
the next few minutes, Leo gives me the complimentary silent treatment. This is fine with me. In my experience,
conversations in which one party has her head in the toilet bowl are always trying.
I find Wendy waiting for me in the
lounge. She got the parafango treatment on her feet. “And how was that?” I ask her.
“Really relaxing,” she says in a strangled voice that I have heard her use only once before, when raccoons got into the compost. “Can we go now?” Wendy gets
up and moves toward the door very fast, faster than you would expect for someone whose feet have been dipped in molten magma.
The whole spa concept is foreign to me. I don’t cleanse my face; I wash it. I don’t “release toxins” or parole them or give
them time off for good behavior. Mary Roach on spas.
The only good time for love to hurt is when it’s funny enough to split your sides. Make your sweetheart giggle this Valentine’s Day with this love-inspired joke collection.
Perfectly Paired Puns
As Valentine’s Day approached, I tried to think of an unusual gift for my husband. When I discovered that his favorite red-plaid pants had a broken zipper, I thought I had the “perfect Valentine.” I had the pants repaired, and gift-wrapped them. On the package I put a huge red heart on which I printed: “My Heart Pants for You.” I was the surprised one, however, when I saw the same heart taped to our formerly empty, but now overflowing, wood box. On it he had written: “Wood You Be My Valentine?”
— Contributed by Mary Lou Pittman
A Little Nuts About Love
Driving through Southern California, I stopped at a roadside stand that sold fruit, vegetables and crafts. As I went to pay, I noticed the young woman behind the counter was painting a sign. “Why the new sign?” I asked. “My boyfriend didn’t approve of the old one,” she said. When I glanced at what hung above the counter, I understood. It declared: “Local Honey Dates Nuts”
— Contributed by Theodore Bologna
Check Out a Romance
I met my husband while I was working in a science library. He came in every week to read the latest journals and eventually decided to take out the librarian instead of the books.
After a year and a half of dating, he showed up at the library and started rummaging through my desk. I asked what he was looking for, but he didn’t answer.
Finally he unearthed one of the rubber stamps I used to identify reference books. “Since I couldn’t find the right engagement ring,” he said, “this will have to do,” and he firmly stamped my hand. Across my knuckles, in capital letters, it read “NOT FOR CIRCULATION.”
— Contributed by Ruth E. Chodrow
Sweet Nothings (.com)
My boyfriend and I met online and we’d been dating for over a year. I introduced Hans to my uncle, who was fascinated by the fact that we met over the Internet. He asked Hans what kind of line he had used to pick me up. Ever the geek, Hans naively replied, “I just used a regular 56K modem.”
— Contributed by Anne McConnell
The lingerie store where my aunt works was crowded with shoppers selecting Valentine’s Day gifts for their wives. A young businessman came to the register with a lacy black negligee. My aunt noticed that the next customer, an elderly farmer, was holding a long flannel nightgown and kept glancing at the younger man’s sexier choice. When it was his turn, the farmer placed the nightgown on the counter. “Would you have anything in black flannel?” He asked.
— Contributed by Christine A. Pandolfo
9 to 5 Love
My husband, a certified public accountant, works 15-hour days for the first few months of the year. In spite of his hectic schedule, he took time out to order me flowers for Valentine’s Day. While pondering what sweet endearment to write on the card, he obviously began thinking of the many hours of work still ahead of him. His note read: “Roses are red, violets are blue. If I weren’t thinking of you, I’d probably be through.”
— Contributed by Cindy Wolf
Mower Than a Greeting Card
My friend Mark and I work in a lawn-mower-parts warehouse. Somehow Mark got the idea that his wife did not want a card on Valentine’s Day, but when he spoke to her on the phone he discovered she was expecting one. Not having time to buy a card on his way home, Mark was in a quandary. Then he looked at the lawn-mower trade magazines scattered around the office — and got an idea. Using scissors and glue, he created a card with pictures of mowers, next to which he wrote: “I lawn for you mower and mower each day.” Mark’s wife loved it. The card immediately graced their refrigerator door.
— Contributed by Gene Hyde
About a year had passed since my amicable divorce, and I decided it was time to start dating again. Unsure how to begin, I thought I’d scan the personals column of my local newspaper. I came across three men who seemed like they’d be promising candidates. A couple of days later, I was checking my answering machine and discovered a message from my ex-husband. “I was over visiting the kids yesterday,” he said. “While I was there I happened to notice you had circled some ads in the paper. Don’t bother calling the guy in the second column. I can tell you right now it won’t work out. That guy is me.”
— Contributed by Pat Patel
Making the Grade
My high-school English teacher was well known for being a fair, but hard, grader. One day I received a B minus on a theme paper. In hopes of bettering my grade and in the spirit of the valentine season, I sent her an extravagant heart-shaped box of chocolates with the pre-printed inscription: “BE MINE.” The following day, I received in return a valentine from the teacher. It read: “Thank you, but it’s still BE MINE-US.”
— Contributed by Brad Wilcox
Read All About It
Every Valentine’s Day our campus newspaper has a section for student messages. Last year my roommate surprised his girlfriend with roses and dinner at a fancy restaurant. When they returned from their date, she leafed through the paper to see if he had written a note to her. Near the bottom of one page she found: “Bonnie — What are you looking here for? Aren’t dinner and flowers enough? Love, Scott.”
— Contributed by Richard B. Blackwell
Devoted and Determined
During World War II my parents had planned a romantic Valentine’s Day wedding. Suddenly my father, then stationed at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts, received orders to prepare to ship out, and all leaves were canceled. Being a young man in love, he went AWOL. He and my mother were married four days earlier than originally planned and he returned to base to an angry sergeant. After hearing the explanation, the sergeant understandingly replied, “Okay, okay!” Then, as an afterthought: “But don’t let it happen again!”
— Contributed by Sandra L. Caron
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Share a laugh with the one you love.
America is a culture that cannot agree on how to end an evening. Some people are huggers. Some peck, some shake. Ed and I were at a dinner party last week that was particularly treacherous, in that it combined old friends and total strangers, each requiring a different skill set. Ed is better at this, and I turned to him for guidance.
The first to leave was our friend Laurie. “Kisser-hugger,” whispered Ed. “No problem there.” Her friend Jim was trickier. We’d met him only once, and though I had a dim memory of him as a hugger, I couldn’t say for sure what kind. There’s full-body frontal, lip/cheek, cheek/cheek, and there’s combo. I stepped closer to Jim, imagining a panel of judges off to the side and a team of commentators speaking in hushed tones. “It looks like they’re getting ready for a single-side, lateral cheek press with shoulder clasp. That’s got a difficulty factor of 5. Let’s see how Roach does. In the past she’s had trouble with her finish.” I pictured them wincing quietly. “That’s going to be tough to recover from.”
Other cultures have managed to agree upon a national protocol for greetings and farewells, and they simply get on with it. The French kiss each other twice, perhaps because no one else will. The Dutch
at some point trumped the French with a triple cheek buss. The English, my people, will step closer and raise their arms to your shoulders while simultaneously leaning away, imparting a vague impression of affection while at the time suggesting it’s quite possible they find your kind repellent.
Cross-cultural goodbyes are especially trying. I once met a French Canadian author in an airport and spent a pleasant hour chatting with him. When his flight was called, we stood up to say goodbye. I went for a peck, but because he had turned his head in preparation for a double-cheek press, my mouth collided with the side of his nose. We rushed to make corrections, but it was like trying to steady a plummeting jetliner. The embrace spiraled out of control and crashed to the floor. Black smoke billowing from the departures hall for days.
Cross-generational hugs are also tricky, as I learned with Laurie’s mother the other night. A kiss or hug might seem inappropriate,
but a handshake might be taken as standoffish.
“Let her make the first move,” whispered Ed.
I worried that she might be plotting the same thing. Ed acknowledged that that was a problem, in that we’d both be awkwardly standing there. “High noon in a Clint Eastwood movie” was how he put it.
So I made the first move. I flipped my poncho over one shoulder and removed the cigar. I was going for
a cheek/cheek. Though people refer to this as a kiss, it is technically an embrace. It is physically impossible to kiss someone else’s cheek while he
or she is kissing yours, unless you have highly elastic, protuberant lips. Orangutans can manage the simultaneous cheek kiss, but have the good sense not to bother.
The rest of the table had stood
up and begun gathering their coats. We were toward the back of the pack. A man with whom I hadn’t exchanged a word was drawing near.
“Hug,” Ed whispered urgently. “If you’re at the end of the line, and everyone in front of you has been doing the hug, you have no choice. You have to go to the hug.”
So I hugged the man, perhaps a bit too exuberantly. He extracted himself as quickly as he could without actually pushing me away. The judges shook their heads sadly.
I can’t tell you how happy I was
to get home, where the people I
love come and go without any of this fuss, unless one of us is heading off for, say, a year in Tripoli. “See ya!” “Bye!” It’s so wonderfully
“The French kiss each other twice, perhaps because no one else will.”
As far as my husband, Ed, is concerned, the greatest thing about the Great Outdoors is that it remains outdoors. In particular, Ed hates ants.
“I don’t hate ants,” Ed will insist. “I just want them to live in their own houses. I don’t go barging into their homes uninvited, do I?” Ed would have you believe that it’s a matter of etiquette, of shoddy ant manners, and that if we’d gotten to know the ants, come to think of them as our friends, he’d be happy to have them over. Six-thirty, then? Great! Will the soldiers be coming or just the workers?
I tell him to ignore them, because they’ll be gone when the rain ends and their homes stop flooding. I care about drowning ants because once I left my cousin’s Ant Farm outside when it rained, and the farmers all died. I guess I’m still working through the guilt. Whatever the reason, I think of our kitchen as a port in the storm, an ant refugee camp, providing crumbs and shelter in time of need.
Ed just wants to slay them. And there are products on the market to help him do this. They tend to come in two categories. The first appeals to the man who loves a good battle, especially one where the enemy is unarmed and the size of Wheatena. These products have names like Maxforce and the aggressive if ungrammatical Real Kill.
Ed knows better than to try to get UN approval for this sort of thing. He knows I believe in a humane, organic approach. I once got Ed to stop killing the spiders in our bedroom by telling him the spiders eat the ants. Of course, this isn’t true. Unlike humans, spiders are no good at what my mother used to call “drawing ants.” They do not leave wet Popsicle sticks on windowsills or open honey jars out on counters. Ed bought my theory, but only for a while. I’d come into the room and see him on his hands and knees in the corner, inspecting the webs. “If I don’t see ants by Friday, you’re in trouble, my friend.”
Pesticide companies understand the husband-wife ant dynamic. Many have a separate line that emphasizes the nontoxic quality of the products, which is quite a bold marketing move for what is essentially a weapon of mass destruction.
One company tries to make ant death seem like a holiday in France. They have a product called Ant Café, so that rather than picturing the little guys gasping and writhing, you picture them sipping bowls of café au lait, smoking Gitanes and leafing through Le Figaro, which is hard to do at the same time unless, like the ant, you have six hands.
The last spray bottle Ed brought home was a brand called Safer’s. He read to me from the label, pausing now and again to make ant pâté on the counter. “It combines bait with borax,” he said, as though this made any kind of sense, as though helping them have whiter whites had always been the idea. “Fresh Mint Odor, honey!”
I’ve never encountered this kind of fresh mint odor. Imagine smelling some mint that’s growing on the lawn of a petrochemical plant. It’s that kind of fresh mint odor. When Ed wasn’t looking, the Safer’s went away on a holiday in France.
For a long time, Ed didn’t say much about the ants and I thought he’d made his peace with them. Then I found some of those little ant cups that leak brown, sticky, evil stuff and do not match our decor. He thought I’d like this idea, because no spraying and dying-on-the-countertops was involved. “They take the poison home and die there!” Ed said cheerfully.
I did not like the idea and I said so. So we had a little argument about the ant cups. Things may have gotten a tiny bit out of hand. I may have threatened to get some “jerk cups” and put them out in the places Ed goes to feed. A door slammed at some point. The ants watched for a while, and then fled for their lives. We haven’t seen them since.
“One pesticide company tries to make ant death seem like a holiday in France. They have a product called Ant Cafe.”
Once you hit 40, it is time to think twice about miniskirts. Also, string bikinis, midriff-baring tops, skintight or low-rise jeans that have been sanded white the length of the thighs, as though the wearer had been tied to a bumper and dragged facedown around the block a few times. These are clothes for young people.
Alas, this is what the stores are selling. Today’s popular clothing chains appeal strictly to teenagers, who can be counted upon to change their tastes every 30 days, as the latest Cosmo Girl or Teen Vogue arrives in the mail. Customers like me cannot possibly afford new clothing more than once a decade, owing to the financial strain of paying for teenage children’s rapidly shifting fashion needs. So no one bothers to make clothing for us.
This is a dangerous situation. Expose a middle-aged woman to nothing but miniskirts and abbreviated tops for long enough, and she’s bound to cave. One day, when her self-esteem is dangerously high and the dressing room lights dangerously low, she’ll try on something designed for her daughter and say to herself, “Oh, why not?” If she happens to be shopping with her children, the answer to this question will be provided for her. But middle-aged husbands offer no such reality check. They live in a candyland of denial and residual carnality. They still, bless them, like to see a little flesh.
My husband recently made me try on a bikini. A bikini is not so much a garment as a cloth-based reminder that your parts have been migrating all these years. My waist, I realized that day in the dressing room, has completely disappeared beneath my rib cage, which now rests directly on my hips. I’m exhibiting continental drift in reverse. The buttocks, too, have overrun their boundaries, infringing on territory that rightly belongs to the thighs. I have encouraged my thighs to do something about this — restraining order, guard dog — but they have not. Your thighs are rarely there for you.
“Cute!” says Ed dementedly. “Turn around.”
“You turn around first.”
Ed does not understand what all women my age understand. The mature lady’s buttock does not wish to come out and take a bow. Designers of mature ladies’ swimwear know this. They’ve built little curtains into their designs, enabling the sagging buttock to keep hidden, and/or cast votes in privacy. God help me, I’ve entered the Age of Skirted Swimwear. This is the age right after Accessorizing with Reading Glasses and a few years before Can’t Name Anyone on the Radio.
Even the knees are in on the betrayal. I recently saw a tabloid photograph of a 40-something Demi Moore with her knees circled in red, highlighting the fact that they were disappearing under the shifting shoals of her thighs. Ha-ha, I said to myself. Just deserts for having a face and breasts (and a boyfriend) that look 25. Then I looked at my own knees, which I plan never to do again.
The foot is more or less the one body part that time leaves alone. Well into your 70s, you can wear whatever style shoes you feel like wearing. Positioned, as they are, at the bottom of the heap, gravity is not an issue. Or so I thought. Shortly after the swimsuit debacle, I tried on a pair of pointy-toed black pumps, the sort that actresses on “Sex and the City” were wearing for 30 days back in spring.
“How do those work for you?” the salesgirl asked. I told her they were pinching me, and not in an appreciative, you-look-just-like-that-gal-on- “Sex and the City” way.
“You know,” she said brightly, “your feet flatten as you age.”
I went to find Ed, and I told him about my flattening instep. He smiled and put his arm around me. That still fits, and for this I’m happy.
“A bikini is not so much a garment as a cloth based reminder that your parts have migrated.”
Check out our collection of some of the funniest jokes ever! These short, laugh out loud jokes are some of the best that the Reader’s Digest editors sample each month while reading through the thousands of new joke submissions that come piling in.
Two doctors and an HMO manager die and line up together at the Pearly Gates. One doctor steps forward and tells St. Peter, “As a pediatric surgeon, I saved hundreds of children.” St. Peter
lets him enter.
The next doctor says, “As a psychiatrist, I helped thousands of people live better lives.” St. Peter tells him to go ahead.
The last man says, “I was an HMO manager. I got countless families cost-effective health care.”
St. Peter replies, “You may enter. But,” he adds, “you can only stay for three days. After that, you can go to hell.”
Timing Is Everything
A guy shows up late for work. The boss yells, “You should’ve been here at 8:30!”
The guy replies, “Why? What happened at 8:30?”
“Martin Levine, owner of a movie theater chain in New York City, has passed away
at age 65,” the newspaper obit read. “The funeral will be held on Thursday at 2:10, 4:20, 6:30, 8:40 and 10:50.”
—Merrill Markoe, Late Night With David Letterman, The Book (Villard)
What’s in a Name?
A young man called directory assistance. “Hello, operator, I would like the telephone number for Mary Jones in Phoenix, Arizona.”
“There are multiple listings for Mary Jones in Phoenix,” the operator replied. “Do you have a street name?”
The young man hesitated, and then said, “Well, most people call me Ice Man.”
A duck walks into a drugstore and asks for a tube of ChapStick. The cashier says to the duck, “That’ll be $1.49.”
The duck replies, “Put it on my bill!”
How many Deadheads does it take to change a light bulb?
12,001. That’s one to change it, 2,000 to record the event and take pictures, and 10,000 to follow it around until it burns out.
Joe and Dave are hunting when Dave keels over. Frantic, Joe dials 911 on his cell phone and blurts, “My friend just dropped dead! What should I do?”
A soothing voice at the other end says, “Don’t worry, I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s really dead.”
After a brief silence, the operator hears a shot. Then Joe comes back to the phone. “Okay,” he says nervously to the operator. “What do I do next?”
After a long career of being blasted into a net, the human cannonball was tired. He told the circus owner he was going to retire.
“But you can’t!” protested the boss. “Where am I going to find another man of your caliber?”
Say a Little Prayer
Squirrels had overrun three churches in town. After much prayer, the elders of the first church determined that the animals were predestined to be there. Who were they to interfere with God’s will? they reasoned. Soon, the squirrels multiplied.
The elders of the second church, deciding that they could not harm any of God’s creatures, humanely trapped the squirrels and set them free outside of town. Three days later, the squirrels were back.
It was only the third church that succeeded in keeping the pests away. The elders baptized the squirrels and registered them as members of the church. Now they only see them on Christmas and Easter.
A bear walks into a bar and says, “I’d like a beer ………… and some of those peanuts.”
The bartender says, “Sure, but why the big paws?”
A grasshopper hops into a bar. The bartender says, “You’re quite a celebrity around here. We’ve even got a drink named after you.” The grasshopper says, “You’ve got a drink named Steve?”
A guy walks into a bar and there’s a horse serving drinks. The horse asks, “What are you staring at? Haven’t you ever seen a horse tending bar before?”
The guy says, “It’s not that. I just never thought the parrot would sell the place.”
Playing With Our Words
My wife was in labor with our first child. Things were going pretty well when suddenly she began to shout, “Shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t, can’t!”
“Doctor, what’s wrong with my wife?”
“Nothing. She’s just having contractions.”
A panda walks into a bar, sits down and orders a sandwich. He eats, pulls out a gun and shoots the waiter dead. As the panda stands up to go, the bartender shouts, “Hey! Where are you going? You just shot my waiter and you didn’t pay for the food.”
The panda yells back, “Hey, man, I’m a panda. Look it up!”
The bartender opens his dictionary to panda: “A tree-climbing mammal of Asian origin, characterized by distinct black and white coloring. Eats shoots and leaves.”
The 16th tee featured a fairway that ran along a road. The first golfer in a foursome teed off and hooked the ball. It soared over the fence and bounced onto the street, where it hit the tire of a moving bus and ricocheted back onto the fairway.
As they all stood in amazement, one of the golfer’s friends asked, “How did you do that?”
The golfer shrugged. “You have to know the bus schedule.”
Not Fade Away
- Old accountants never die, they just lose their balance.
- Old musicians never die, they just get played out.
- Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal.
- Old daredevils never die, they just get discouraged.
- Walt Disney didn’t die. He’s in suspended animation.Live and Learn
Psychiatry students were in their Emotional Extremes class. “Let’s set some parameters,” the professor said. “What’s the opposite of joy?” he asked one student.
“Sadness,” he replied.
“The opposite of depression?” he asked
“Elation,” he replied.
“The opposite of woe?” the prof asked a young woman from Texas.
The Texan replied, “Sir, I believe that would be giddyup.”
Man’s Best Friend
A poodle and a collie were walking down the street. The poodle turned to the collie and complained, “My life is a mess. My owner is mean, my girlfriend is having an affair with a German shepherd, and I’m nervous as a cat.”
“Why don’t you go see a psychiatrist?” asked the collie.
“I can’t,” replied the poodle. “I’m not allowed on the couch.”
Q: Why are dogs such bad dancers?
A: They have two left feet.
Next Time, Let’s Stay in a Hotel
Two campers are hiking in the woods when one is bitten on the rear end by a rattlesnake. “I’ll go into town for a doctor,” the other says. He runs ten miles to a small town and finds the only doctor delivering a baby.
“I can’t leave,” the doctor says. “But here’s what to do. Take a knife, cut a little X where the bite is, suck out the poison and spit it on the ground.”
The guy runs back to his friend, who is in agony. “What did the doctor say?” the victim cries.
“He says you’re gonna die.”
Did you hear about the weekly poker game with Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus, Leif Eriksson and Francisco Pizarro? They can never seem to beat the Straights of Magellan.
—Pun American Newsletter
Six guys are playing poker. After losing $500 on one hand, Smith clutches his chest and topples over, dead at the table. To decide who’s going to tell his wife, his buddies draw straws. Anderson picks the short one.
“Break it to her gently,” they all urge.
“Leave it to me,” he says.
When Smith’s wife comes to the door, Anderson says, “Your husband just lost $500 playing cards.”
“How much?” the wife yells, eyes blazing. “Tell him to drop dead!”
What’s Black and White and …
A penguin walks into a bar, goes to the counter, and asks the bartender, “Have you seen my brother?” The bartender says, “I don’t know. What does he look like?”
A pair of cows were talking in the field. One says, “Have you heard about the mad cow disease that’s going around?”
“Yeah,” the other cow says. “Makes me glad I’m a penguin.”
Laugh more, live longer with the funniest jokes ever.