Archive for March, 2008


The little girl looked at me innocently, as if she was about to say something sweet – perhaps about bunnies or kittens – maybe she wanted to ask a question about butterflies. She cocked her head ever so slightly and…BBRRRRRRAAAAAPPPP! When her mighty burp was finished, the corners of her mouth turned up impishly and she giggled slightly as she said, “Excuse me.”

Her little exercise in politeness was clearly an exercise in following the rule of the law if not the spirit. It got me to thinking about our bodily functions and what our society requires of people when these functions arrive on the scene. To me, it seems like just an excuse for the ultra-correct members of our society to get huffy, and the rituals, if given any thought, seem a bit ridiculous.

For example, when I was younger, one of my brothers developed the ability to say “HORSEBLEEP!” when he sneezed (note, the bleep has been inserted for our younger, more impressionable readers). We would all be sitting in the dining room and my brother would sneeze – HORSEBLEEP! – and we would all have to say, “God bless you.” I was (and am) convinced that he was just trying to get away with swearing, but no adult ever thought twice about it. In fact, if I didn’t say “God bless you,” I would be the one accused of impoliteness.

I was telling this story to someone at work recently, and he told me that he gets uncomfortable with the whole “God bless you” tradition after sneezing. He thinks it’s a dumb tradition and besides, maybe the person who sneezed doesn’t believe in God. Only people in a society like ours would worry about something like that.

What about Gesundheit? It’s a more secular option, being German for “health,” and I used it for a while in my twenties when I just couldn’t bring myself to say “God bless you,” to another guy. My coworker said that he would prefer to just say nothing, perhaps even to take cover, when someone sneezes, but that he didn’t want to seem uncultured. Besides, his wife gets upset if she sneezes and he doesn’t bless her (she must have been a fan of the movie Singles), so he figures that it’s better for him to say what is required and shut up about it.

One bodily function that people just can’t seem to shut up about is hiccups. Any time someone comes down with a case of the hiccups, everyone seems to have a cure. It’s like the old joke about being lost in the woods: As a last option, sit down and play solitaire and someone will invariably look over your shoulder and suggest a move.

Some of the cures are downright silly. Wikipedia has the following suggestions: drink water from the wrong side of the glass (is this even possible?); have someone frighten you (I used to have a friend who would suddenly throw his hands in front of his wife’s face and say, “BOO!” and then, “Did it work?”); make yourself sneeze; eat a pickle; vomit profusely; and (I am not making this up) digital rectal massage.

I, myself, am a firm believer in holding one’s breath for as long as possible.

After the sneeze and the hiccup come the expulsions of gas from the body. Any incidence of these, done in polite company, is required to be followed by the words, “Excuse me.” I imagine that is because the sound or other qualities of the act have a tendency to be disruptive, and it is only polite to apologize for such disruptions. People seem to appreciate apologies. It is considered out of bounds for the person expelling the gas to: sit quietly and hope no one notices; run from the room as if on fire; laugh and deliberately attempt to repeat the act; behave like my old Air Force buddy and shout, “Look out!”

Witnesses to such an event, where the perpetrator fails to excuse him or herself – should immediately say something like, “Hmph!” The witness should then immediately think bad things about the offending party. Saying something to the effect of, “Bring that up again and we’ll vote on it,” is totally inappropriate.

The one bodily function that seems to have escaped the huffy crowd is the cough. A person could cough like Doc Holliday for hours, and no one need say or do anything. I mean, sometimes people will excuse themselves, especially on the phone, but it’s not required. That is, in my opinion, completely unfair. The cough is at least important as any of the other functions and should not be ignored. Therefore, I propose that, whenever someone coughs, it should result in poetry. If not an epic poem, then at the very least a lousy haiku, for example:

Some dust in my throat

Has caused me much discomfort

It has been removed

Equal rights for the cough, I say. It would only be polite.


The Day to Day Grind Tim 27 Mar 2008 No Comments

Sox and other Excuses

There is a stretch of time from the end of the Super Bowl until the beginning of March Madness that is usually known as February.  February, a time after football and before baseball gets rolling, is a dark time for sports fans, especially in a year when the local football team blew a chance to go undef….wait, I’m beyond that now.  Anyway, thanks to the resurrected Boston Celtics (whose games are must-see events for me for the first time since Pitino was in town); I have reached the light at the end of the tunnel.  The teams I picked in my March Madness pool start to get eliminated this week, but that is merely a blip on the radar compared to the fact that the Red Sox play their first regular season games next week in Japan. 

Ahhh…it just feels nice to have baseball season start, doesn’t it?  Even if it’s snowing outside next week, it will feel like the summers of my youth when I get up and flip the Sox on at 6am before leaving for work. 

Their Japan trip this year makes the Sox one of two teams with a built in excuse for a bad start to their season.  We learned this from the Yankees in 2004 when every other news story blamed their bad start on their trip to the Far East, and their players kept talking about how much that trip impacted their ability to play well.  For a time, their tears threatened to overflow the locker room and carry Yankee Stadium off into the ocean. 

Those players need to toughen up.  I know because I have a brother who frequently travels to Japan for business, and after a couple days of walking into walls there is no discernable impact upon his golf game. 

Next year, the built in excuse will be for players who participate in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March.  Players will complain that they were thrown into high level competition in March, before they had a chance to prepare.  Prepare earlier, you say?  No, that is completely out of the question.  These athletes are finely tuned machines and to ask them to start spring training in the dead of winter for an extra 17 days of baseball would be just too much.  Instead, they will stick to the way they have always done it, get hurt or exhausted, and blame the WBC.  Interestingly, the last time the WBC happened, I only remember hearing about American players complaining and blaming …Dominican players like David Ortiz seemed to just keep on smiling and smacking the ball.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with some players considering it an honor to represent their country while other players consider it a chore. 

One player who would probably be happy to represent his country next year is Slugging Doug Mirabelli.  Old Doug would probably be happy to represent anyone, since the Red Sox recently decided against keeping him around to serve as Tim Wakefield’s caddy.  I heard someone on the radio recently mention that the guy the Red Sox kept instead of Slugging Doug (Kevin Cash) is one of the worst hitters in the major leagues.  Even so, he can’t be much worse than Disco Doug (.202 average in 2007, up from .193 and .182 the previous two years). 

When I heard the news about Dearest Doug, I immediately phoned my Mother in Law (who, as has been written here before, is no fan of Mr. Mirabelli’s artistry at the bat). 

Tim (somber):  I have bad news. 

MIL (genuinely concerned):  Oh, no.  What is it? 

Tim:  The Red Sox cut your favorite player.  You won’t have Doug Mirabelli to kick around any more. 

MIL (concern has turned to sarcasm):  Oh no!  Not my Dougie! 

Tim:  Yep, and no more calls from me when he hits a homer. 

MIL:  Well, that was only about two calls a year. 

Tim:  Oh well, I just thought I would pass along the bad news.  Go Sox! 

MIL:  Go Sox!

Sports Tim 20 Mar 2008 No Comments

Oh. No.

Quick hit before I post my column tomorrow.

I have been trying to go to the gym at lunch, so today I went to the gym, ran a bit, walked a bit, stretched a bit, sweated a LOT, and then went in for the nice, warm shower…only to find that I had left my towel at home.

Now, this happened to me some years ago, and in a fit of desperation, I used some other poor bastard’s towel to dry myself (to be fair, he wasn’t in the gym at the time).  I wrote that in a column, though, and received a universal reaction of “GROSS!” from all of The Megger’s friends.

So, today I snuck out of the shower, grabbed a huge stack of paper towels and snuck back into the stall.  It seemed to work ok, exceptI couldn’t quite get that spot between my shoulder blades.

The lesson, as usual, is that I am dumb.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 19 Mar 2008 No Comments

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