Only Trailer Trash on Welfare…

TEMP: I’m thinking of disconnecting my landline. I mean, I have a mobile phone.

ROB: Do it. I did it years ago. I also cut the cable line. We just have super high speed wifi instead, and we stream everything through the Apple TV.
Is there any vital purpose your landline is serving?

TEMP: Nope. It’s doing absolutely nothing except costing me $40 a month.

ROB: Get rid of it. What’s stopping you?

TEMP: My mother.

ROB: Your mother? How is she stopping you?

TEMP: Well she says only trailer trash on welfare don’t have landlines. But she also used to say that only crack dealers had cell phones.

ROB: Well, do you think that’s true?

TEMP: What?

ROB: Did you start dealing crack when you got your first cell phone?


ROB: Were your friends with cell phones dealing crack?

TEMP: Of course not.

ROB: Well, there goes your mom’s first theory. Do you live in a trailer?

TEMP: No, I live in an apartment in Bay Ridge.

ROB: Do you do trashy things?

TEMP: Like what?

ROB Things your mother would describe trailer trash as doing, exclusive of disconnecting your landline.

TEMP: Ha ha, no.

ROB: OK, are you collecting welfare? Not that there is anything wrong with that, and you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.

TEMP: No, not collecting welfare.

ROB: So, if you disconnect your landline, will you move to a trailer, do trashy things, quit your job and start collecting welfare?

TEMP: Of course not.

ROB: Where does your mother live?

TEMP: In Florida

ROB: You have this thing that is costing you $40 a month, contributing zero to your life, taking up several cubic inches of space in a New York apartment, and you are retaining it because of some weird theory your mother, over a thousand miles away, has, and was wrong the last time she floated a theory like that?
I’d have gotten rid of it, like ten years ago.

TEMP: My mother doesn’t even call my landline. She calls my cell.

ROB: Ah, your crack dealer phone. All the more reason to get rid of the landline. And by the time your mom finds out about it, whom I assume isn’t paying your bills anyway, you will have already lived as a fine upstanding citizen without the benefit of a landline, thereby debunking your mother’s theory, just as you did before by not dealing crack from your cell phone.

TEMP: I guess so.

ROB: And you’ll be $40 richer every months. Multiply that by twelve and you could take a mini vacation in a year.
In my experience, anytime I hear a theory about an action exclusive to a subset of people, it is immediately suspect, and almost always 100% false. Politicians like to employ this tactic. It is kind of a pack mentality/stigmatization technique, but really it only is a shortcut from using your head. People don’t get enough practice with this as it is.

TEMP: That’s true

ROB: Way back in the olden days, when I was a freshman in college, I got my ear pierced. My roommate said, flat out “Only homosexuals get their ears pierced”. Which was funny, because he knew I was straight as an arrow.

TEMP: That’s a weird thing to say.

ROB: It sure is. What’s even funnier was that the girl who pierced my ear for me became my first college girlfriend.

TEMP: Was that before or after she pierced your ear.

ROB: Well after, but that makes my roommates statement even more ridiculous.
But he was an odd guy. He was thoroughly convinced if you played a recording backwards it would summon up the devil, if the artist had “impure thoughts” while he had made the recording. He was literally terrified of somebody playing Ozzy Osborne or Alice Cooper backwards.

TEMP: He was seriously afraid it would summon up the devil.

ROB: Yeah, like he’d open the door of the room, and find the devil walking down the hall. Or he’d walk into the bathroom, find the devil taking a whiz; “Oh my God! Somebody musta been playing Black Sabbath backwards!”
HE had a list of albums that could summon up the devil if played backwards. I had a few of them. He was not comfortable with that.

TEMP: That’s crazy!

ROB: He was an odd guy. He used to drink Pine Sol, too. No lie. He had a bottle of Pine sol, would pour himself a little in a shot glass, drink it, smack his lips and say how good it tasted. I thought he was putting me on until I smelled it, and yep. Pine Sol. When I said it was poisonous, he claimed he had built up an immunity.

Luckily, he wasn’t my roommate for very long. He transferred out after the semester. We went to a state university, and I think he ended up transferring to s small Christian college.

TEMP: So you let a girl pierce your ear?

ROB: Yep.

TEMP: Where did she do it?

ROB: In her dorm room

TEMP: What did she do it with?

ROB: A needle.

TEMP: Did it hurt?

ROB: Not as much as you might think. But I had been drinking.

TEMP: Did it get infected?

ROB: Yep.

TEMP: So it didn’t make you gay, ha ha!

ROB: No. What an interesting social phenomenon it would be if the presence or absence of a little hole in your earlobe dictated your sexual orientation.

TEMP: Do you still wear your earring?

ROB: Rarely. You know, it doesn’t make half the statement it made thirty years ago. When you have sixty-five year old bankers walking around with earrings, it has become very mundane. Truth be known, I don’t even remember to put it in.

TEMP: Well, I have a lip ring

ROB: I see that.

TEMP: Watch this.
[takes out lip ring, takes a sip of water, puffs out bottom lip and shoots a stream of water twenty feet]

ROB: My mother used to say “Do you have a hole in your lip?” if you dribbled your drink.
You actually do have a hole in your lip!
Only people with holes in their lip have their lips pierced!

TEMP: Yeah, but that’s actually true!

ROB: Next time I see you, I’ll show how to construct truth tables! It will do you good!

TEMP: What’s a truth table?

ROB: Well, for one, it will debunk your mother’s logic once and for all!
Disconnect that landline. Make $40!

Whose Briefcase is that on the Bench?

ROB: Whose briefcase is that on the bench?

(no answer)

ROB: Anybody’s? I just want to sit down.

COLLEAGUE: Just move the briefcase.

ROB: Yeah, I just don’t like touching other people’s stuff without permission. You know what would happen. I would move it and somebody would appear out of nowhere and say (indignant voice), “Dude, did you just move my bag without asking?”

And this begat and impromptu comedy skit:

COLLEAGUE: Yeah. I wanted to sit down. So I put it under the bench.

ROB: (playing along, nervy indignant voice, gesticulating “chopping” motions): So. You. Touched. My. Shit. Without. Asking.

COLLEAGUE (laid back surfer dude voice): Yeah, man. It was on the bench. I asked, nobody answered. I wanted to sit down. It’s under the bench.

ROB: Oh! I get it. You touch people’s stuff. Would it be cool if I went into your house and threw out all your shit? Would it be cool if I rubbed my ass all over your stuff because I (air quotes) WANTED TO SIT DOWN?? (close air quotes)

COLLEAGUE: Sorry man.

ROB: Oh. Sorry. SORRY? Does it change the fact that you put your hands on my stuff? Does that make it ok? So all is right in the world with you just because you said (air quotes) SAW-REE???
Not cool. So totally not cool.
(Indignant sniff)

COLLEAGUES: {Laughter.}

ROB: Everybody’s worked with somebody like that, right?

COLLEAGUE: Yeah. If they got like that with me, I’d start poking them. Like this: Poke. Poke. Poke!

We had a good laugh.

OTHER COLLEAGUE: Hey, that was like a Saturday Night Live skit.

PS: I moved the briefcase. The guy who owned the briefcase was just watching, enjoying the show.

A Minnow is a Fish

ROB: Mary caught a fish with her bare hands once.


ROB: Lake Michigan

COLLEAGUE: How big was it?

ROB (holds thumb and finger about an inch apart): About that big.

COLLEAGUE: That’s not a fish! That’s a minnow!

ROB: Still a fish!

COLLEAGUE: Yeah, but the way you were talking, it sounded like Mary wrestled a three foot pike out of the water!

ROB: Better than I could do. And again, still a fish!

COLLEAGUE: What did she do with the minnow?

ROB: Threw it back. What did you think she did with it?

COLLEAGUE: She threw it back? Why?

ROB: I think there was a catch & release rule or something.

He With the Droll Manner

ROB: You have a very droll manner about you.


ROB: Yes, droll. Oddly funny in a dry sort of way.

OTHER COLLEAGUE: What about me; Am I droll?

ROB: Yes, actually. You’re very droll.

THIRD COLLEAGUE: I’m droll too, right?

ROB: No… I wouldn’t say you were droll….. you’re more….

THIRD COLLEAGUE: Passive aggressive?

ROB: No, not passive aggressive. Just….

OTHER COLLEAGUE: Just an asshole?

ROB: No, not an asshole. You’re humor is a little more direct.

THIRD COLLEAGUE: You’re saying I’m a clown.

ROB: Nah, clowns creep me out.

THIRD COLLEAGUE: I don’t creep you out?

ROB: Not usually.


Easy There, Jizzy!


ROB: Wow, look how high we are. Great view.

TEMP WITH ACCENT: Yes, it makes me feel jizzy.

ROB: Makes you feel what?

TEMP: Jizzy. When you look at something and it makes you excited.

ROB: Um……..

TEMP: Makes it hard to walk straight if you get too jizzy.

ROB: OK…..

TEMP: Like spinning in circles……


ROB: I think “dizzy” is the word you want. Dizzy. With a “D”.

TEMP: With a “D”?

ROB: Yeah, you must never say “jizzy”. That means something else.

TEMP: What does it mean.

ROB: Um…. google it sometime.


TEMP: Hey, I googled “jizzy”! It means…

ROB: I know what it means. You don’t have to…..

TEMP: Jizzy is a singer. See?

(shows me the google result on his iPhone. Sure enough, there is a metal singer called Jizzy Pearl)

ROB: Who in their right mind would go by “Jizzy”?

TEMP: Maybe he looked down and it made him feel jizzy.

ROB: Dizzy. Dizzy. With a D.

Stop Thinking That, or You’ll Go to the Crazy House!

7 YEAR OLD ROB: So, Mom. Space goes on forever and ever and ever, right?


7 YEAR OLD ROB: So there is no end, right?

ROB’S MOM: That’s right

7 YEAR OLD ROB: So there’s a forever after, right?

ROB’S MOM: That’s right

7 YEAR OLD ROB: So that means there was a forever before, right?

ROB’S MOM: Stop thinking about that, or you’ll make yourself go crazy!

I knew if you went crazy, you’d have to go to the “crazy house”, where they’d shave of your hair, cut your head open, take out a piece of your brain, give you electric shocks, make you wear a straightjacket and live in a room with rubber walls. I didn’t want that.

So, if I’d catch myself thinking about all that stuff, I’d think “Wow, I’d better stop thinking about this or I’ll make myself go crazy”. And i would try to stop thinking about it.

But I’d still think about it a little, then wonder, “Have I thought about it enough to make myself go crazy? And if I did, how do I hide that so my mom won’t drive me to the “crazy house?”

Fuzzy Pumpers and Filmstrips

COLLEAGUE (about my age): That guy looks like a Fuzzy Pumper figure

ROB: Yeah he does.


COLLEAGUE: Fuzzy Pumper.


COLLEAGUE: You don’t know what a Fuzzy Pumper is? Hey Rob, she doesn’t know what fuzzy pumpers are!

ROB: Oh, Fuzzy Pumpers were great. They were these little hollow figures. They were shaped kind of like half a capsule. They were about three inches high, and had perforated scalps. Lots of these little holes……

COLLEAGUE: Yeah, and you would pack it with Play Doh.

ROB: And there was this barber chair with a crank. You’d sit the figure on the chair, and turn the crank, which would operate a piston….

COLLEAGUE: And the piston would push the Play Doh through the little holes in the scalp, so ti looked like hair growing out.

ROB: And you could style it with molds and stuff. I think it came in a set, too. Mom, dad and a couple of kids. All bald as a boiled egg! Until you made them grow Play Doh hair.

COLLEAGUE: Yeah, it was so fun!

YOUNGER COLLEAGUE: I’m assuming you were little kids when this was a thing.

ROB: Yeah.

YOUNGER COLLEAGUE: I can’t imagine grown men having so much fun with it.

COLLEAGUE: No, it was a thing in the late 70s, early 80s. I doubt they make them anymore. Probably a choking hazard or something like that.

ROB: I bet it’s worth a fortune on eBay. At least for a whole set.

COLLEAGUE: Yeah, Fuzzy Pumpers were so cool!

YOUNGER COLLEAGUE: You from the 80s were easily amused.

COLLEAGUE: Well, you had all this interactive stuff. You know what we got in school? Filmstrips!

YOUNGER COLLEAGUE: What’s a filmstrip?

ROB: Just about the world’s biggest disappointment. You’d walk into the classroom, see the movie screen pulled down, and think you were going to get to see a movie. Then you’d see the filmstrip projector. It was this little wimpy green thing on a cart with a lens that stuck out and projected on a screen.

COLLEAGUE: But the picture didn’t move. Like a slide show. Like a low tech Power Point presentation, except more boring. Some filmstrips came with a record or cassette that would beep when it was time to advance the film to the next frame.

ROB: Sometimes it didn’t even have that! Sometimes the teacher would have to read aloud.

COLLEAGUE: I hated film strips.

ROB: So did I. The only thing more disappointing than that was the overhead projector.

COLLEAGUE: Right! You thought you were going to get a movie aaaannnnnnnd nope! You were just going to take notes!

ROB: And I had this teacher that would spit into a tissue and wipe the transparency clean with that. It was so gross. At the end of class there’d be this soggy, wadded up tissue with all colors of overhead projector ink all over it.

YOUNGER COLLEAGUE: What was the point of all that?

COLLEAGUE: To torture students.

ROB: With boredom.

Going to Seattle in a Handbasket

Discussing Greek Gods:

COLLEAGUE: How many Greek Gods were there?

ROB: Well, you had Hermes, you had Appallo. You had Athena, the God of Wisdom, you had Poseidon,

COLLEAGUE: Is that all?

ROB: No, there were more. You had Hades, God of the Underworld.

COLLEAGUE: Oh right. He was in charge of Hell.

ROB: Not hell, exactly. You went to Hades even if you didn’t do anything wrong.

COLLEAGUE: So everybody went to hell?

ROB: It wasn’t really hell. You just didn’t have a choice of whether you went there or not.

COLLEAGUE: Well, that doesn’t sound very nice.

ROB: Well, I imagine not too many people WANTED to go there. Remember, you had to go across this river. The river Styx, like the rock band. You didn’t have a choice. And once you got there there was this three headed dog keeping you from leaving.

COLLEAGUE: And this wasn’t hell?

ROB: No. You’d go there even if you were good. It was just kind of dim, grey, bleak. It actually probably was cold. And even if you got out, you’d still have to go across water.

COLLEAGUE: It sounds a lot like Seattle.

ROB: Except the three headed dog. No three headed dogs in Seattle.

COLLEAGUE: Give it time.

Don’t Put It In Your Mouth!

COLLEAGUE: I’m going to feed my cat as soon as I get home, but I can’t find my cat food spoon.

ROB: Your cat food spoon?

COLLEAGUE: Yeah, the spoon I use for cat food.

ROB: You have a designated spoon for that? You don’t just use a regular spoon?

COLLEAGUE: No way. That’s disgusting.

ROB: Do you not wash your silverware?

COLLEAGUE: Just the fact that that surface has been used for cat food grosses me out.

ROB: Even after it has been washed?

COLLEAGUE: Well, you clean your toilet, don’t you? But you wouldn’t eat out of it.

ROB: Aside from being gross, yes, I’ll allow that, there are ergonomical and logistical problems that woulld make it difficult.

COLLEAGUE: I used to have a dog that would drink out of the toilet.

ROB: Probably didn’t do him any harm, unless you never cleaned it.
Did you know a telephone is germier than a toilet seat? And in a hotel room, the TV remote is the filthiest thing in the room.

COLLEAGUE: That’s why holding onto the pole in a subway skeezes me out.

ROB: I once saw a fat guy hold the pole between his butt cheeks. I actually wrote down the number of the car and the pole position so I would never hold onto that pole. I lost it, though. I am sure they have cleaned the pole since then, and any related germs have since died.


ROB: Come to think of it, cell phones are pretty filthy, too! And you know what? Back in the early 2000s, I used to have one of those old blue Nokia phones. The cheap one that came free with the plan. Big heavy thing. And it had this antenna that stuck straight up. I somehow got this nervous habit of gnawing on the antenna. One day, I just gnawed the tip of the antenna clean off. Still worked, though. In retrospect, I am just thinking of how germy that cell phone was. All those little recessed buttons. Like little apartments for germs. I’d set it down anywhere, once I even accidentally dropped it in a puddle. That thing must have been a regular block of pestillence. I hope I built up a hell of an immunity.

COLLEAGUE: I accidentally dropped my cell phone in the toilet once.

ROB: Bet you never put any part of that phone in your mouth after that.

COLLEAGUE: I didn’t go in after it.

ROB: Well what else could you do?

COLLEAGUE: Well, it’s not like it would work after I fished it out! I considered flushing it….. It was a little tiny flip phone and it probably would have gone down. But I just left it.

ROB: You just left it? I’m assuming the toilet wasn’t yours.

COLLEAGUE: No, it was at an office I once worked at.

ROB: And you left it for the maintenance person to find? Along with the rest of the contents? And put a toilet out of commission? I’m shocked!

COLLEAGUE: yeah….. not proud of that. But it was a shitty place to work. No pun intended.

ROB: And you were out a cell phone. I bet if it was an iPhone, you’d go in after it.

COLLEAGUE: You don’t put your iPhone in your mouth, do you?

ROB: Nah, too big. Plus, I have since dropped the habit of gnawing things when I got nervous. When I was a kid, though, every one of my pencils was full of teeth marks. I always had little pieces of yellow painted sawdust in my mouth. You want germy, think of how pencils circulate around an elementary school classroom. And if you think kids wash their hands enough, I have some ocean front property in Nebraska to sell you. I once got in trouble for gnawing a pencil in half.

COLLEAGUE: Why did you get in trouble? It was your pencil.

ROB: No it wasn’t. It was some other kid’s. I was always losing pencils. But you could always identify them as mine by the teeth marks. I had a teacher once tell me I would get lead poisoning!

COLLEAGUE: So that was how you dealt with nervousness.

ROB: Yeah, Yoga wasn’t much of a thing back then, they hadn’t invented the resiliant foam that squeezeballs were made of, so……
I remember when I was in in music school for undergrad, we had to take conducting, and we all had to have a baton.

COLLEAGUE: A conducting stick?

ROB: Yes, it’s called a baton. It was about a foot and a half long, the shaft was made of wood, painted white, and it had a cork bulb on the end. The particular model I used for the class was called the King David 29-B. I could use it to scratch my back.
I was terrible at conducting. And I dreaded it, because I sucked at it so much. Once, before a conducting exam, I was so nervous, I bit the end of my King David 29-B right off.

COLLEAGUE: You bit King David’s head off.

ROB: Or his feet off, depending on which way you look at it. Anyway, instead of this nice, tapered point, it now was this jagged end. Looked like a stake you would impale a vampire with.

COLLEAGUE: Did you still go to your exam?

ROB: Yes. The conducting professor was an old blind guy who would watch you conduct through a little telescope. He didn’t notice the chewed off baton, but he sure noticed my shitty conducting.
I hid when I saw him coming down the hall for the rest of the semester. He was very blind, but I’m sure he would have recognized my profile as belonging to the world’s worst conducting student. The music school had lots of little alcoves and stairwells you could duck into.

COLLEAGUE: You sounded like a nervous wreck. When did you stop gnawing on things?

ROB: Right around the time I turned thirty. Somewhere along the line I must have inhaled a big cloud of zen, and learned to relax.
I don’t put germy things in my mouth anymore. It’ll probably extend my life.

COLLEAGUE: Unless a truck hits you.

ROB: Thanks for that. I’m sure you could find a plastic spoon somewhere you could use until you find your cat food spoon. Or you could use just a regular spoon. I do, and have suffered no ill effects.

COLLEAGUE: Yet. Hey, look at that guy over there sucking on his car keys!

ROB: Yeeeech!