French Names

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The two men approaching the customer service desk were a classic odd couple.  The one in the lead was of slightly short stature, round in shape.  He wore a rumpled button down shirt under one of those well worn raincoats that might be brown or might be gray.  Balding wisps of hair extended from his head in most directions. 

His partner was a full head taller, a feature accentuated by the red and black plaid wool hunter’s cap, complete with earflaps, which topped his frame.  His face was long and thin, matching the rest of his body.  His raincoat matched his partner’s. 

“We’re looking for a book on how to pronounce French names”, the first stated as he reached the desk.  This was a request both broad and narrow.  “Pronounce French names” was typed into the computer but the search came up empty.   The two appeared crestfallen.

“How about I try looking for a book on using French names for a new baby?” the bookseller suggested.  The pair brightened with hope.  Sure enough, the result listed two books on French names for expectant parents.  Neither was in stock but both could be ordered and in the store within a few days. 

“That’s great”, number one said with obvious relief.  “You see, we’re getting a pair of French Poodles puppies next week and want them to have real French names.  Let’s order them both”.  Number two smiled with joy.

A smile crept across the bookseller’s face.  “I’m sure these will be very helpful.” 

Now the tall partner chimed in.  “Yup, and want to be sure that we pronounce the names right so that they’ll know when we’re speaking to them!”

The order was placed and the two left the store smiling and chatting with each other in anticipation.  

The bookseller was left with the image of two middle aged men earnestly calling “Jack! Jack!” to a slumbering dog who doesn’t respond until one snaps his fingers in realization, elbows his partner, and with a knowing look on his face now yells ”Jacques! Jacques!” - at which point the hound leaps to his feet and bounds happily toward the proud, beaming couple.

Dishwasher Cabinet

How about a dishwasher built right into the cabinet?  Stack your dirty dishes and press start - they are ready the next time you want them. 
Part of life is weathering the realizations that ideas and principals you’ve been taught growing up are wrong.  I grew up being told that our government and the people who run it have our best interests at heart.  I learned that was an idealistic dream in the late ‘60s.  I was taught that one needed to respect authority and those in positions of power.  It took only a few weeks into joining the workforce that I realized how the Peter Principal worked; that most bosses and supervisors weren’t necessarily smarter or wiser, in fact most were dumber and more foolish, they were just more aggressive.

And so now I consider myself much wiser and considerably more safely cynical.  I’m snug in my skepticism and cozy in my disbelief.  That didn’t prepare me for what I learned last week. How was I to know that 55 years of shoe tying as I knew it was all a lie?

Tying my shoes is as automatic as breathing. I estimate that I’ve tied my shoes more than 30,000 times over the years.  I estimate that the last 29,750 were done without thinking.  I estimate that 10,000 of those shoe tyings were retying shoes that came undone.  I’ve tied my shoes in the dark, looking the other way, and while involved in conversation. I had taken it for granted that shoelaces, by their very nature, become untied during the course of a day.  Just retie on autopilot and go on.

I hate to blame my parents, but they taught me the wrong way to tie my shoes.  I’ve been taught what is known as the “Granny Knot”.  I bet there’s a good chance you were taught the Granny Knot, too.  After you tie you laces, does the bow run longitudinally along the length of your shoe?  Do you laces invariably become untied?  You’re not alone.

Once I discovered this I had to begin the painful process of relearning to tie my laces.  I’m 4 years old all over again. My fingers are spastic.  What once took 3 seconds now takes 10.  What once was done while watching the news or telling a joke now takes concentration that forces my tongue out the side of my mouth.  I now finish lacing my shoes with the same sense of pride I felt 55 years ago.  It’s taking a LONG time to get used to.  All those years of habit and muscle memory won’t go away easily. And I’m haunted by the thought that by the time this becomes second nature I’ll need someone to tie my laces for me anyway.


Learn the correct way to tie your laces at Ian's Shoelace Site


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 Rossano Brazzi prepares to give mouth to mouth to a swooning Mitzi Gaynor

I grew up in a home where show tunes were played quite often.  My mother would glom on to the latest Broadway hit, buy the cast album, and then play it ad nauseum until we all were humming it in our sleep.   That is why, to his day, I’ll find myself bursting forth with lyrics like this every once in a while: 

Some enchanted evening
You may see a stranger,
you may see a stranger
Across a crowded room…

I’m not quite sure why this one from South Pacific stuck in my mind and I don’t remember all the words.  Often, the lines after “Across crowded room” become:

Duh blah blah blah blah
Duh blah blah blah blah...

To compensate I’ve invented my own lyrics over the years for those times when I feel compelled to sing past the “Across a crowded room…” part or when I’m in a particularly (peculiarly?) creative mood.

Keep in mind that I don’t have a good singing voice.  I don’t have ANY singing voice.  At best, you might describe my voice as similar to the noise made by constipated geese.  Thus Nancy has to be given a lot of credit for putting up with my spontaneous renditions of this song when the lyrics go something like this:

Sam and Janet Evening
They couldn’t be much stranger,
They couldn’t be much stranger
Than Spiderman’s costume…
Duh blah blah blah blah
Duh blah blah blah blah...


Convoluted meaning
Can be a source of danger,
And that source of danger
Can lead to an early tomb…
Duh blah blah blah blah
Duh blah blah blah blah...

Still, I’m happy to carry on the family musical tradition.  I know my mother would be proud.

PS – Here’s a link to the real lyrics.  How about giving me some of your own?  Leave them in your comments.


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