RICKSTER IS THE COLUMNIST FOR THE WEEKLY PUBLICATION, "THE SOMERS RECORD"

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Friday, August 4, 2017

ITS A JUNGLE UP THERE

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (04-27-17)

     There are people who refuse to fly in an airplane because a thousand things that could go wrong play in an endless loop inside their heads. But there is always room for one more disaster. Or two or three. Last week a United Airlines passenger was forcibly dragged from an overbooked plane as horrified passengers looked on. The fallout from the incident has left a Chernobyl-sized wake throughout social media.

     The CEO for United had one of those public relations roller coaster rides where the car gets stuck on the rails and sits there for several hours until someone comes in a crane to rescue it. At first he said the passenger, who is a doctor, was a jerk who deserved to get kicked off the plane. That didn't fly any better than a DC-10 with a runny nose cone. About every hour or so he gave another press conference to send up a trial balloon that came crashing down through the Twitter-sphere. By the end of the day he was hailing the guy as a modern-day hero. That's how you go from CEO to "embattled CEO" in a few easy lessons.

     The executive, Oscar Munoz, assured everyone that he had "reached out" to the doctor, probably to try and drag him back onto a plane, since he has said he is now too terrified to fly. New company guidelines for dealing with overbooked flights hastily been issued. First, the flight staff is to cast a fishing line down the aisle with a $1000 dollar bill attached to it, and slowly reel it out the hatch to see if anyone follows it. If that doesn't work, they are authorized to toss a few expensive-looking carry-ons down the emergency chute. Under NO circumstances is the crew allowed to drag anyone from their seat kicking and screaming. They MUST wait until they are asleep, then curl them into a ball and roll them out.

     On a different United flight the same day a scorpion dropped from an overhead bin and landed on a man's lap. The crew immediately charged the man a fee for bringing a pet on board. Then they billed the scorpion for changing seats. They quickly assessed the arachnid another fee for the in-flight snack. Once they had its credit card information they hit it with a shoe and flushed it down the toilet. Which went so smoothly that United Airlines added it as a fourth option to the above procedures. Meanwhile the passenger was not stung, but as a precaution the flight staff called for any doctor who hadn't been forcibly dragged off the plane.

     A day later it came to light that a couple on their way to their wedding was tossed off a United flight for trying to upgrade into seats that didn't have someone already occupying them. They were expelled from the aircraft, thankfully before it had taken off. And since it was a destination wedding, they simply changed the destination to the tarmac. The wedding was really nice, with the word "United" emblazoned all around them, and an open bar with really, really tiny bottles of booze.

     Following these incidents, the company stock fell precipitously. But these and other fiascos could have been more deftly handled by a better public relations staff. There are some qualified people who are now becoming available, such as Chris Christie, Bill O'Reilly and possibly even Sean Spicer. From a promotional standpoint, you should have a specific direction in mind that you want to take the conversation to. If that direction is straight down, so much the easier. By the way, if you don't think that this column makes that much sense, it's because content may have shifted during flight. Please leave your seat belt fastened.

Friday, July 28, 2017

THE JUNK IN YOUR TRUNK

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (04-20-17)
 
     This Saturday the 22nd, my friends Margaret and Judy will be volunteering at the
third annual E-Waste Recycling Day at the Somers Intermediate School, along with Mike from City Carting. I will be there, personally overseeing the Easter candy recycling project. You don't need all those calories lying around your house, and besides, those chocolate eggs are wrapped in foil that may contain stronthnesium, a metal so deadly that I might have made it up. So bring the candy over to the school and I will see that it is disposed of properly.

     By the way, if you do have too much junk in the trunk, this is your lucky day, since it will only cost you five dollars to dispose of all the e-waste and scrap metal you can fit into it. Keyboards, monitors, appliances, electronics items, computers and televisions are welcomed. Even old washers and dryers will also be accepted. Take all the wet socks out of them first so that you don't air your dirty laundry all over town. Grief counselors will be on hand for those bidding a final farewell to their beloved CD players and VCRs. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone whose flip-phone's usefulness was taken way too soon. I thought the "E" in E-waste stood for "Electronic," but it actually stands for "EverythreemonthsApplecomesoutwithanewphoneandnowImstuckwiththisuselessthing."

     But how did we get to this point? In 1998 I was sitting pretty, with my 386 computer and a 20 MEG HARD DRIVE! How could anyone ever need more than that? Now a computer practically has an expiration date, and your laptop might start to go bad even before whatever used to be in that Tupperware in the back of your fridge.

     Don't just toss these items in the trash- Mike and his staff are professionals. There may be elements inside them that are dangerous, possibly criminal elements. Barium, for instance, is a metallic substance that becomes highly unstable when it comes into contact with air. I've known at least two guitarists with exactly the same properties, and they were hard to get rid of. We can help you with any other questions that you have, like whether or not you should recycle a tricycle more than three times.

     Your five dollar donation will benefit the Somers PTA fund, so it's an investment in our youth. I guess we'll have to wait several years to see if it was a great investment, but I spent a whole lot more than five dollars on Rite-Aid stock, which is tanking big-time at the moment. By the way, a few years ago on a whim I went to visit my own elementary school in Chappaqua, and all the chairs and desks seemed ridiculously small. When I was a kid going to school there, all the furniture was normal sized. I don't know why everything shrank so much, but maybe the PTA will look into it.

     So stop by the Intermediate School from 9:00AM to 2:00PM and say hello to Mike, Margaret and Judy. I'll be there at around 11:00, rummaging through your stuff and making fun of you for buying a Tandy computer. Gidget, the recycling watch dog, will be ready for anyone getting rid of tennis balls. I am even told that Rick Morrissey might be there, the Somers Town Supervisor. Which is good because I should not be running around unsupervised.

Friday, July 21, 2017

SEASON'S TEASINGS

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (04-13-17)

     I know that spring officially begins on March 20th, but I always think that Easter marks the true start of the season. Even so, the way things have been going, you never know when a nor'easter is going to screw up your Easter. Usually by this time at least five Yankees are mired in atrocious slumps, the buds are on the plants, even the hydroponic ones, and three weekends worth of plans have been rained out, so I hereby proclaim that spring has sprung.

     When New Yorkers say that they love the change of seasons, the one they love to see change the most is winter. Now that the snow has melted I can see that the snowplow guy has taken out every single driveway light. In the fall I had driven some reflector posts into the ground next to each light so that he would know exactly where to aim.

     But all that is behind me now, and the arrival of spring has made me gay. I see a rabbit near the garage and I call out, "Hello, Mr. Bunny, if you were made of chocolate I would have eaten your ears off by now, and you wouldn't hear I word I'm saying." I just meant gay in the happy sense, but I still have to wonder why I love the Carpenters so much.

     When I was a young lad my sisters and brother used to get together the night before Easter for some old-fashioned egg decorating. We put the hard-boiled eggs in water that contained different colored dyes that were so weak you could wait until the Fourth of July for your Easter egg. Even our language was more colorful. The eggs were dying for so long that they were definitely dead when we got through with them. When we went to sleep my Mom would hide them around the house for us to find the next day. My Mom had limited powers of recall, and sometimes a few weeks hence a malodorous smell would waft its way out from the fireplace area, and we knew we hadn't located all of the eggs, causing a Cinco de Stinko around May fifth or so.

     They used to have a big Easter egg hunt at the Mount Kisco Country Club that my parents took us to each year. I spent the whole time hiding behind a tree, in case the eggs came to hunt me down- I didn't know if they were armed or not. I saw a bunch of golf balls and almost jumped out of my skin.

     In Washington at the White House they traditionally host an egg roll. Thousands of people show up, so they better get more than just one, unless it's huge. And don't forget the soy sauce. It's a chance for the president to let his hair down and show that he is human, if either are possible.

     The tradition started with First Lady Dolley Madison back in 1814. In 1878 during the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes, the festivities moved to the White House lawns after an act of Congress forbade children from playing on the grounds of the Capitol. During the Nixon administration, a staffer dressed in a rabbit suit was introduced as the Easter Bunny. He wandered around greeting children and possibly surveilling them. George W. Bush's Easter Bunny was none other than Sean Spicer. So if you are near the White House on the Monday after Easter, don't stand at the bottom of any hills, or you'll be walking on eggshells the whole day.

Friday, July 14, 2017

NO PAIN, NO GAIN, NO FUN

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (04-06-17)

      It's been a few weeks since my shoulder surgery, and I'm doing just fine. I'm already operating heavy machinery- our blender weighs a ton and I need a cocktail. I'm in physical therapy now, and my shoulder is definitely coming along, since I didn't want to leave it at home.

      When I walked into the clinic there were five or six other people there, one was shrugging her shoulders 30 times in a row, another was standing on one foot throwing a ball against a net and another was pushing against the wall, seemingly trying to hold it up. It was like I was in a loony bin. Which I suppose is not a politically correct term- I should have said "nut house."

      The assistant started by putting a heat pack on my shoulder for 10 minutes, then he put an ice pack on me for another 10 minutes. If a low pressure system had blown through the room there would have been a hailstorm. Then the physical therapist took my arm and bent my shoulder into an acute angle. I winced in pain, she smiled a little, and while she had me in this position she got my credit card information, including the expiration date and the three-digit code. I started to confess some things that I am not proud of, and then I made up some things I didn't even do, but am not proud that I thought of.

      After I stopped weeping she tried to make it up to me by massaging the bones in my neck and shoulder area, but since I'm unbearably ticklish, I start giggling uncontrollably. I laughed, I cried, I was hot, I was cold. It was like going through menopause while watching "The Notebook" at the same time.

      When she left the room I looked around at the other inmates and said in a loud whisper, "Don't you people see what's going on here? They're TORTURING us! Didn't you ever see "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest? We've got to get out of here!" They just kept shrugging their shoulders and throwing their balls around.

      I was about to make a break for it when the physical therapist returned and hooked me up to this machine that delivers little shocks to the affected area to stimulate it electrically. She asked me some questions, like, "How are you doing so far," and "Do you think you would recommend our program to others?" And depending on my answer, I got a bigger or smaller shock.

      I don't have one of these machines at home, so I improvised by trying to shock my shoulder with spurious allegations that I am wire-tapping it. At the physical therapist's there are electrodes hanging all over it, so the allegations may actually be true. My shoulder and I have discussed the whole wire-tapping thing. Why would anyone waste their time wire-tapping Trump Tower? This is someone who broadcasts even his dopiest thoughts to millions of people on an hourly, even minutely basis.

      There is a bird who tweets nonstop right outside my window at home. It tweets about 50 times a minute, every minute of the day, every bird-brained idea that it has, and rarely has it said anything useful. Certainly the same could be said about me, but I beat you to it, didn't I?
 

Friday, July 7, 2017

BLUE GENES

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-30-17)

     My wife got tickets to the Blue Man Group, which we had never seen and sounded like a fun and farcical evening. Beforehand we ate at a restaurant next door to the theater, I think the place is owned by Robert De Niro. I mentioned it to my wife and she says that every time we go to a restaurant I say that I think it's owned by Robert De Niro.

     All the waitresses there look like runway models, which means they are super tall and they have to bend way down to take my order. My waitress talks so low I can't hear anything come out of her mouth, but I can see her lips move. It looks like she says, "I love you," although she might have said, "veal cordon bleu." I started to wonder how many times in my past that people I thought loved me actually loved veal.

     Some of the tall models look like they could be transgender, and I silently thank god I don't have to go on dates anymore, because it's a whole different world out there. It doesn't seem like good form to ask someone you just started dating if they are transgender, it's like asking someone if they are pregnant. There are questions you simply shouldn't ask unless you already know the answer. I used to say the same thing to my math teacher in high school.

     At the end of the meal we argue over the dessert menu. I tell her that chocolate is a "super food," and my wife says it's not. Well what about a chocolate napoleon? Didn't Napoleon conquer Rome? Well it turns out he didn't, but I argued that nothing beats a Twix bar, so it should be a "super food."

     Next door the show was starting. The Blue Men are a lovely shade of royal blue, the same color I get if I try to blow up too many balloons before a birthday party. I don't know how they got that way, or if they came from some faraway place, like Ulster County. They maintain an emotionless expression the whole time, which is good, because if they got envious and mad at the same time, what color they would become?

     They got right down to business, playing a three-part drum solo while spraying the drums with colored liquids from squeeze bottles. They made such a shambles of the place I could see why they don't let you bring liquids onto an airplane. From there they did some audience participation gags involving oozing gunk, and at the end encouraged people to unroll massive amounts of toilet paper into the crowd. It doesn't hurt to be prepared I guess.

     I don't want to give the plot away since I was planning to charge you for it, but suffice it to say that there was none. It had the flavor of being back in kindergarten, where the best fun you could have was to make the biggest mess and the most noise. Most people eventually outgrow this type of behavior, and if not they run for Congress. But once in a while you just need some mindless mayhem. After they were done the theater looked like my office on a Friday.

     I think the take-away from all this was that no matter what color you are, whether you are black, brown, blue, magenta, or burnt sienna, you can make a mess and have fun with toilet paper. Even if you are an orange person in a White House, lighten up now and then!

Friday, June 30, 2017

LIFE IN THE ARCTIC

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-23-17)
 
     A couple weeks ago, spring was in the air. It was growing from the ground, it was singing from the pond next door. The crocuses were blooming and the frogs were squawking their furious mating calls. A week later the crocuses had croaked and the croakers, probably the same. Their betrothed, who were ribbited a week earlier were now croaking, "Dude, what the hell?" The arrival of spring was Fake News, and we fell for it yet again. It was a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese and hacked by the Russians.

     The blizzard of 2017 was here. I took the day off, and when I turned on the television the propaganda machine was in full swing. You couldn't see them because of the snow, but reporters were on the street to report that it was snowing. Back in the studio meteorologists were plying their meteorology. Accumulations were predicted to be somewhere between seven inches and the End of Civilization. We were told not to leave the house for any reason, and if possible hide under the bed until June.

     All the airports were closed, and not one person entered the country. The president immediately took credit for solving the immigration problem. "Forget the wall. We're going to build a blizzard, a great, great blizzard, a wonderful blizzard. It will be the greatest blizzard in history!"

     It didn't used to be like this. Back in the old days, Mr. G would come on the air and tell you the weather. You never heard words like "polar vortex" or "cold advection;" the guy wouldn't even tell you the other letters in his name.    

Cheap as I am, my wife finally convinced me to hire a snowplow guy. But as a compromise measure, I went out and bought an electric snow blower, which plugs into an outlet in the garage via a huge extension cord. This device is not exceedingly powerful, but I figured it could handle the smaller snowfalls of about a quarter inch or less.

     Tuesday's accumulation was so voluminous, that I thought it would be a good idea to crank up the electric snow blower and try to get a jump on things before the plow guy came. It was the equivalent of emptying the lower Mississippi River into the upper Mississippi River a teaspoon at a time. The wind was gusting so hard that it blew the snow back inside the snow blower, and the snow blower blew it back out again. It was nature's way of saying, well I can't print exactly what it was nature's way of saying, but I wish nature had phrased it a little differently. Every time I use the snow blower with the huge extension cord I am amazed that I am not electrocuted. I will continue to be amazed by this until such a time as I am electrocuted.

     After all that, the power went out. It was still light out, and I thought it might be kind of nice to go old school- start a fire in the wood-burning fireplace, heat up some leftover pizza on top of it and curl up with a good book. I forgot to heat up the flue first, and smoke billowed out of the stove and filled up the room. I had to open up the outside door to clear the smoke, so it was freezing inside. Then, all of a sudden the power came back on. Thank god, because first of all, it was almost time for Judge Judy, and second, I don't know how to curl up a book.

Friday, June 23, 2017

THE COLD SHOULDER

SPECIAL TO THE SOMERS RECORD (03-16-17)

     My shoulder has been giving me problems lately. It's really just one problem, IT HURTS. It's not the sort of injury I would need a first responder for- a second or third responder could handle it. If you were an ambulance driver, and you were watching "Dateline," and they were investigating the wife's disappearance, and the husband was helping with the search and crying during the press conference, I would tell you my shoulder is not such an emergency that you couldn't wait until the police circle back to the husband, who probably did it for the insurance money.

     My question is, how did this shoulder get injured in the first place? I didn't fall, or try to break down a door or try to throw a block during a running play or anything. It's not my tennis-serving shoulder, I already had that one fixed. This particular shoulder sits around all day doing nothing, except to help me get up from a sitting position, or put on my jacket. When I tried to explain to my doctor that I might have hurt my shoulder putting on my jacket, he looked at me like he thought I might be talking about a straight jacket.

     The surgeon was a little more understanding. Surgeons know how fragile the human body can be, and it makes them slightly giddy. He looked at me from top to bottom, and it was obvious he could pick out five or six things to operate on right off the bat.

     He sent me over for an MRI, and the technician made take everything out of my pockets, like I was going to a Yankee game. He asked me if I was claustrophobic, and I assured him that I am not. He mentioned it a few more times, to make sure I don't have a fear of enclosed spaces. By the time I was inside that thing, I felt absolutely sure that I was claustrophobic. Luckily I was able to go right to sleep, because the loud banging noises reminded me a little bit of my old Datsun B-210, which I loved.

     Looking over the MRI films, the doctor said I have a bone spur that is digging into my rotator cuff, and that he was going to have to shave it down. I told him that I don't care if there's a little hair on it, maybe just give it a Brazilian wax and let's call it a day. I waxed my car last weekend and there's not a hair on the thing.

     This made him even more determined. He pulled out a model of the shoulder area, and showed me exactly what he was going to do. A couple pieces fell off and landed on the floor, and I hope he washes them off before he sticks them back in my body. He said if he didn't like the looks of my rotator cuff, he was going to snip it and re-attach it. I've had rotator cuff surgery before, and I didn't like it much, so I said no thanks to that. I told him if he gets bored he can open up my cerebral cortex and fix whatever the reason is that I suck at math. He didn't laugh at that, but he made a note for the billing department that I can't add very well.

     Down at the billing department I tried to get a straight answer about how much this little setback was going to set me back. The doctor's office referred me to the surgery center, which referred me to the anesthesiologist's office, which referred me back to the doctor's office. As I was trying to figure it all out I realized that the deductible on my car insurance was much less than on my health insurance. I wondered if maybe I could park my car on a small incline, put it in neutral, climb out and gently run over my shoulder. But I knowing me, I would sprain my knee jumping out of the car.