Today Tim Miller, beloved grandfather, a former teacher and humor writer, peacefully departed this world while eating a fudgsicle. No cause of death has been provided, though in the medical report there is evidence that fifty years ago, an incident involving his youngest daughter (age 3 at the time) and a bag of BBQ potato chips right before dinner took four years off his life. It is not known how the medical examiner knew the chips in question were BBQ.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report this week and it’s not good. Despite the pandemic and fewer cars on the road, accidents and fatalities are up. I won’t go into the gory details, only that the report blames the increase on drivers taking more risks.
For example, I know I’m not the only one that pulls up to a red light, glances to the left to see a line of cars, and guns it into a right turn. I can’t be the only one that looks back in my rearview at all those cars sitting back and pretends that the cars are all coming to get me. Bad guys. That I have a head start on a daring escape. Then I floor it and scream out my window, you’ll never take me alive! And I see the light change and they’re coming, they’re coming to get me. But I’mnot gonna let ’em catch me no, not gonna let ’em catch the Midnight Rider…
Or maybe it is just me. Either way, based on the National Highway Report, we all need to drive a little safer, which I assume includes imaginary chases.
Constructive criticism, by definition, acknowledges both the positives andwhere there is room for improvement. Instead. Of? Just. Focusing on the negatives. See how grammar and sentence flow really make a difference? Let’s get to it.
The opening line has some obvious strengths. 1) It’s direct and to the point; no beating around the bush with pleasantries or nonsense and gobbledegook that never arrive anywhere near the actual direction of a point, much less a point of view, and just rambles on and on and on, quickly losing the reader. See how that can be annoying? But a lot of people do it. So good! 2) The other positive is that the opening sentence contains none other than the MAGIC WORD. Please! You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, as the saying goes. To summarize, the opening line is both direct and polite, two very strong qualities in a move-your-car note.
There is, however, a glaring weakness, which belies the overall weakness of the note: ambiguity (specifically, in the relationship between author and reader). You can’t have it both ways, folks. The opening, as written, is an interrogative sentence. Which means it should end with a…that’s right! A question mark. By using a period instead, this small but critical error falls short of two different 3rd Grade ELA-Literacy Common Core Writing Standards: (3.4) producewriting in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose and (3.3A) establish a situation.
Easy fix, though. Can you please park your car in another location? Now, the purpose and the situation are established, clearly and effectively, with the proper punctuation. This is not a declarative sentence, or even further from the truth, an imperative. The intended audience of the note is on level ground with the author, and therefore has a choice, in this case, whether or not to move the vehicle. It’s amazing how much punctuation matters. Otherwise you risk alienating— or even insulting— your audience.
Though there’s more we could look at with the opening, let’s not get bogged down and keep moving.
Unfortunately, despite the admirable intentions and use of persuasive logic, the second line also contains a significant flaw. I’ll let you go ahead and reread the line and see if you can spot it. Go ahead. It’s rather blatant. Did you get it?
The error of the second line is one middle school and high school english teachers are all too familiar with: superfluous words. In fact, an entire phrase that doesn’t belong. By writing “I realize that…” the writer is in fact weakening his position, rather than strengthening. I’m talking about the soul of wit, the hallmark of all good Please-Move-Your Car notes. Brevity. Listen to how much stronger line two would sound without the I realize: “I’m hoping not to have a car parked in front of my house for a couple of days.” Tight. Direct. Honest. And brief. Now that is a great move-your-car sentence because it’s revealing, without any fluff. Often times just deleting an extra phrase can really make a move-your-car note shine.
Now let’s clean up a couple of nit-picky errors and glean further instruction from line two. Notice that the word “of” is in cursive. It’s important to stay in one font, or, in this case, style of handwriting. A random switch can take the reader right out of a move-your-car note. Finally, diretly or dirctly is missing a letter. Spelling mistakes can draw the ire of any reader because it shows a lack of care. When you proofread, you show respect for your reader, whether you are requesting that reader to move an automobile or not.
Another common error for beginning move-your-car note writers is redundancy, which is what we see in the third line. “I appreciate your understanding and thank you.” Choose one; less is more. “I appreciate your understanding.” Or, “Thank you.” Either one is sufficient and meets 3rd grade Common Core ELA Writing Standard W.3.2.D provide a concluding statement. Notice the standard doesn’t say, provide two concluding statements.
Writing is hard work. First drafts need careful revision. Yet, with a little practice and some constructive criticism, any novice can write clear, strong, move-your-car notes to leave under the windshield wipers with pride and confidence.
Finally, in closing, it’s considered good form to sign your note. Otherwise you’re just a wuss.
It’s nice to hear from my audience from time to time. If you read a post on my blog that makes you laugh or lightens your mood, let me know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week it’s time to dive into my inbox and get some all important feedback from the readers of my Humor Faucet blog.
Peter from Georgia writes:
Dear Faucet Blog,
My neighbor told me to order some faucet cartridges for all the showers in my house, and to pretend to be the original owner of my house in order to get the lifetime warranty. He said they’re going to go out at any moment and I will have to shut off the water to my house. Can you tell me what a faucet cartridge is? Also, is this unethical? I am not the original owner of my house.
Clearly you haven’t read much of my blog. If you had, you would know that I use the faucet as a metaphor for keeping your sense of humor alive. As far as your cartridge problem, I can’t really give you any direction regarding your own ethical standards. All the same, I hope you get your situation resolved because a cold shower might do you some good. I know they help me.
Today, I realized that Delaney, my darling youngest, at the tender age of 3, has now reached that magical age where she can cross the monkey bars with my assistance. Her young growing legs, dangling and swinging wildly, are just long enough that with each brave outstretched attempt, her momentum brings her feet squarely back, right there. Each time. Where the sun don’t shine.
I’m not sure if there’s a better example that sums up being a parent. It’s magic. And it’s a kick in the pills.
Marriage is about taking risks. It’s about going outside of your own comfort zone to meet your partner’s unique personality and needs. On occasion, this might lead you into strange, bewildering territory, which is why a measured, prudent approach is necessary. Let’s see if we can conjure up an imaginary, theoretical example.
Say your partner likes parmesan cheese on pasta. But you don’t. And let’s say, in this random, speculative example, that you do the grocery shopping and, walking down the aisle one day (the aisle— see what I did there!) you see the parmesan cheese and remember the time(s) your partner mentioned, a little forlornly you couldn’t help but notice, that parmesan cheese would go great with this spaghetti.
Now, do you buy the big green can of parmesan cheese? No. That would be reckless, in this arbitrary, hypothetical example. What if parmesan is not really an all-the-time-on-spaghetti thing? Maybe it depends on something obscure, say from childhood, like noodle diameter? Then you have this big green can of luscious parmesan cheese cluttering up a shelf in the fridge for God nows how long? A symbol of excess, misunderstanding, signals crossed. An illuminated reminder every time you open the fridge. So you buy the 3 oz. parmesan cheese. Take it slow.
Will your partner have parmesan the next time you eat spaghetti? Yes. Will your partner be grateful and return the favor in kind? Let’s hope so. That is what marriage is all about. Now you might be wondering, in this far-fetched, fabulous example, will your partner have parmesan cheese for the leftover spaghetti? No. Will your partner, eating the leftover spaghetti without parmesan, notice the diminutive, 3 oz. parmesan cheese can sitting on the counter in a pile of recyclable materials and take out their angst in a blog post thinly veiled as marriage advice?
Obviously this example is not based on reality, and in an attempt at thoroughness, I went way out, off the deep end of The Actual. The point is, the next time your partner needs you for something, anything, remember to take it easy. Don’t go crazy. Think of the long game. Three ounces at a time.
The human body is amazing. You can push it beyond extreme limits, like triathlons, living in outer space, or raising three kids during a pandemic.
But your body, at some point, gets tired.
Day after day, you power through, push past, grind, rise above, find a way, drink more caffeine.
But your body gets tired.
And then the day comes. Late afternoon. Bone tired. Mind a wreck. The sunlight just starting to fade. You’ve finished your work. The kids are fine, watching something or other, popcorn everywhere. You sneak away. No one even knows you’re gone. You tiptoe into your bedroom.
You lie down.
Instantly, the fatigue begins to lift. You think of your phone. A podcast? Music? Scroll Twitter?
No. Just rest. It’s amazing.
And then it happens. You fall asleep. No one knows. In an instant, you enter that child-like, warm, womb-like state just on the edge of consciousness. One long sigh and then you’re really gone, floating off with cherubs in a soft cloud. This might very well be a personal high point of the pandemic. The cloud, the cherubs, floating away to Dream Land…
The cherubs are playing music.
But it’s not a sonata on the french horn. It’s…
Hot cross buns.
On the recorder. With xylophone backing. And someone yelling.
And that’s the moment you fall back to earth. You hear your 3rd grader practice. With the 3-year-old playing xylophone, which belongs to the 6-year-old, which explains the yelling.
You reach for that feeling of renewal, of restoration…but it’s gone. You’re more tired than ever.
Some of you regular readers of my humor blog may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in the past week or so. You may also be aware that I took over the Faucet Blog from a very nice plumber named Joe a few years back when a leak he couldn’t fix caused him to start hearing a drip inside his head, that also wouldn’t go away. Poor guy. He could hardly hold a wrench without smashing things. So of course he couldn’t keep his plumbing blog going.
Apparently Joe, now on disability and three years into hearing an interminable drip drip drip, in his frazzled state, still had access to the blog and got on recently and well, changed the darn password. My repeated efforts at reaching Joe were unsuccessful. I thought I might just have to close down the site after three short years and dozens of satisfied readers all around the world, including several countries that actually speak English. But then it just came to me. Joe’s new password. You can probably guess.
So now that little issue is resolved, I can get back to the adapted mission of the Faucet Blog, to inject a little humor and lightheartedness into people’s lives. I’m also not afraid to take on serious issues now and again. Like why some people call the bathroom the John? Is there an original bathroom somewhere, I don’t know, maybe an outhouse from the American frontier, that someone named after an individual named John? Why would you do that? Why would you call a bathroom the same name as an individual? It just doesn’t make sense. I wouldn’t want someone to use my name every time they had to go. “I gotta hit the Tim.” I wouldn’t like that all. I can imagine some John, a nice guy that never did nothing to no one, maybe his head is shaped like a toilet seat or something…watching powerlessly as suddenly his whole neighborhood starts to also call it a John. Then it spreads to the next town…
Fortunately, with the password issue resolved. I can look into the matter.
Yes, the Faucet Blog is a humor blog, but since I took this site over from Joe the Plumber, I am contractually obligated to share the following information from time to time about Vacuum Breaker Backflow Prevention. A very serious issue, I’m told. Joe, by the way, is doing fine though still hearing the drip, drip, drip in his mind that does cause the occasional fit of seething rage. Tuesdays for some reason are real bad.
O.K., here’s the thing about Vacuum Break Backflow Prevention. Again, pretty important stuff, as far as I can tell, so be sure to read carefully.
NOTE: “Several U.S. state and local municipal plumbing codes require the use of a backflow prevention device when installing a hand shower. This device is termed a vacuum breaker. If your hand shower includes a vacuum breaker it will be located in the hose, and the hose end with the vacuum breaker will include a sticker that reads ‘ATTACH TO SHOWER BRACKET.’ If the hose is not attached in this manner, water will not flow. If this is case please contact us and request the following part number:”
Now I do regret that I have somehow misplaced both the contact number and the part number. I have it somewhere. I’m confident it will turn up. You just don’t lose a contact number and part number when you’re dealing with Vacuum Breaker Backflow Prevention. So in the meantime, whatever Vacuum Breaker Backflow is, good luck preventing it.
For all you newly wed grooms out there— if there are in fact any weddings still happening during the pandemic— here’s a quick piece of advice.
In the 60’s the Byrds sang that there was a time for all things. It’s not in the song, but this includes a time to lie to your wife.
For there will come a time when you and your wife will have not had a date in a while, or even much alone time, and so finally the date or alone timeish thing you do is go shopping for a new dresser. There comes a time, in every marriage.
And so will come a time, on this shopping trip, when your wife will ask you what you think of a box of wood with drawers. She will look at you with the same lovely eyes that you peered deep into and said, “I do,” and she will say, “What do you think of this dresser?”
She will be thinking about color schemes, contrast, wall size, overall room decor, drawer surface area, and many other interior decoraterish things. You might be like me, and be thinking why someone in your fantasy baseball league up and quit in the middle of January.
So what do you do? You could be honest and say you don’t give a rip and that at the moment you really need to find a 12th person for your fantasy baseball draft in three months. Or, you could look up from your phone at the steep price tag and flatly say, “No.” Or, you could heed my advice. Comes a time, a time to lie.
You could look at the dresser carefully. You could approach the dresser and scrutinize the craftsmanship, the gliding of the drawers, the stain finish. You could scratch your chin carefully and say something like, “it’s a perfect height.” Then, after casually glancing at the price and realizing it’s waaaaaaaay too expensive, you could say, “But the color just doesn’t match the end tables.” Then you find something on sale and say, “I think this could really work.”
Comes a time.
Also, here’s just another little bonus tip: pocket lint in your belly button is not sexy.