Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Incidental Reader

Occasionally I’m a bit strange.

I suppose you expect an example to prove it.

A few years back I was reading a used paperback I’d picked up at the used bookstore Martha frequents. I was reading away, just as happy as a book-reading clam, until I turned the page. Or tried to turn the page because it was stuck to the page behind it.

Usually, the reason two pages are stuck together is because they weren’t fully cut during the manufacturing process or, if the paper is extremely thin, it’s probably static electricity (although I’m not an electrician). But that applies to new books, and I was reading a used book.

So, innocent that I was, I peeled the pages apart. And screamed. Staring at me on the page was a glob of grayish-greenish-yellowish STUFF that was quite possibly dried snot or worse, petrified loogie. Leftover pizza is not grayish-greenish-yellowish. Even after a week (trust me, I know). M&Ms are not grayish-greenish-yellowish because they don’t make a gray color.

No, dear readers, I was convinced I was looking at human effluvium. I had the good sense to scream again and throw the book across the room, but then I went into mental meltdown. Who (or what) had been reading the book before me? Worse yet, how many who (or what) had been reading the book before me?

I don’t believe in the boogeyman or Freddie or Jason, but I believe implicitly in human slobs. The kind with hair on every inch of their body (females included), terminal dandruff, and those who make odd grunting, groaning, and snorting noises. The kind who smell bad, talk with their maw open whilst eating so they spit dead goat or whatever all over, and those who don’t ask their public toilet mates for toilet paper if their stall has none.

The kind who dripped or hocked into a perfectly good book that cost me $1.25. The bastard.

Martha, who grew up on a farm and therefore finds very little to disgust her, told me to get a grip. “Just read around it, for Christ’s sake,” she said. But it was too late: I was in the back yard burning it and standing well upwind of the smoke.

So now, I’ll tell you why I’m occasionally a bit strange.

I absolutely refuse to read a used book, and I haven’t read one since that incident in 1978. Even when I purchase new books, I never take the top one: that’s the browser copy and therefore it’s USED. Rather, I dig way down into the pile for a fresh copy, hoping hoping hoping it’s untouched by a who (or what) . . .

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Gift

One of my few faults as a loving husband is that I don’t shower my beloved with gifts. On the husband gift-o-meter the needle is stuck between “you’re a thoughtless asshole” and “the divorce papers are in the mail.”

It’s a good thing for me that every time the postage rates go up the mail gets slower.

When the rate went from 39¢ to 41¢ last spring, I had to fuck around with a lot of little 2¢ make-up stamps so I could use up my old 39¢ leftovers. This spring the rate is going up to 42¢, which means I’ll have to fuck around with a lot of little 1¢ make-up stamps so I can use up my old 41¢ leftovers. That will leave me with both extra 1¢ and 2¢ stamps, which always fall out of the postage folder every time I pick it up. Ever heard of the game 52-stamp pickup? I could throw them away, but I’ve decided to save them; I’m betting that the next postage rate will be 45¢, in which case I’ll have to fuck around with all my 1¢ and 2¢ make-up stamps so I can use up my old 42¢ leftovers.

And at 45¢, the divorce papers will never get here.

Lest you think I’m a complete monster, I’ve given Martha plenty of gifts over the past thirty-four years. In fact, I gave her one just a few weeks ago.

My beloved is a sudoku freakazoid—and the harder they are the better. Being an accountant eight or nine hours a day isn’t enough for her; she has to come home and beat her brains out on number puzzles. She’s been beating her brains out on Mensa Absolutely Nasty Sudoku, Volume 2, and looking with maniacal glee for Volume 3 in the local bookstores. To no avail.

So, computer wiz that I am, I searched Amazon, found Volume 3, and ordered it immediately as a GIFT. I like to save a buck when I can, so I used Amazon’s free shipping—forgetting, of course, that it would come in the . . . mail. I may have mentioned this, but every time the postage rates go up the mail gets slower.

But putting the postage thing aside for a future blog, Martha’s GIFT arrived in a box that could have held twenty books. It was on our doorstep instead of the mailbox, and naturally Martha tripped over it when she came home from work (I wish I had a buck for every time I’ve watched her fall in the front door).

‘Whatever you ordered from Amazon is here,” she said, throwing the box at me while she dabbed at the blood on her knees.
“That isn’t for me,” I said with anticipatory excitement. “That’s a GIFT for you!”
She opened the box after putting ointment and gauze on her knees and elbows and said, “Volume 3!” She was pleased for about three minutes until she flipped through the pages. “What the hell is this?” she asked. “All the puzzles are filled in already!”
“I know,” I said. “Amazon wanted $6.95 for a new one, but they also had one used for $1.50. Isn’t that great!?”

And that's why I don't shower my beloved with gifts: Martha thinks I’m a cheap bastard. On the cheap-o-meter the needle is stuck between . . .