Friday, August 31, 2018

Battle of Breakfast Will Power

It was 7:30 on a recent Saturday morning. For the first time in weeks I did not have any urgent plans or appointments. I could relax all morning. For some odd reason, I had awakened briefly at 4 a.m. thinking about breakfast. (OK, it’s not that odd, especially for someone who insists on four square meals each day, plus multiple snacks in between.) I drifted back to sleep with visions of pancakes and French toast dancing in my head.

When I finally woke up and made my way into the kitchen, I saw a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in the cupboard. Mmm, I thought, very tasty, and a lot less work compared to pancakes or French toast. So, I emptied the remainder of the box into a big bowl, then opened the refrigerator and grabbed the carton of almond milk. When I picked it up I realized right away the carton was very light. I held the carton in front of me and gently moved it in a circle so the milk would slosh around. Six decades of experience as a breakfast cereal aficionado kicked into gear, and I instinctively made a few instantaneous measurements and calculations. After a moment, I smiled and murmured, “Oh yeah, there’s just enough milk in here for one more bowl of cereal.”

I joyfully poured the milk into the bowl, and not surprisingly, I was exactly right: just enough for one more rather jumbo-sized serving. I then grabbed a big spoon and shoved it deep into the pile of cereal. Oh boy, I thought, this is going to taste great!

Being the environmentally conscious “green” fellow that I am, I decided first to rinse out the empty carton and then put it in the recycling bin with the empty cereal box. This slight pause allowed the anticipation to grow as my first huge spoonful of delectable cereal drew nearer and nearer. My mouth began to water.

As I turned on the faucet to begin rinsing out the carton, I noticed some dark green splotches on the little plastic spout. “What the…” I said, and looked closer. Oh no, mold! And there was more on the inside of the carton, too. Yuck, this is not what I had in mind when I described myself as a “green” fellow. I glanced at the expiration date on the edge of the carton. Last month! Rats!

I quickly turned toward the lovely bowl of cereal and swirled the spoon. The milk was all white, no sign of green. Instantly, a titanic battle began to rage within me. My stomach declared, “It’s fine! C’mon, let’s eat!”

But my brain said, “No, silly, the milk went bad. He’ll get sick.”

My stomach replied, “Well, how sick are we talking? He doesn’t have to go anywhere today. He could spend the afternoon laying on the couch, close to the bathroom.”

My brain rolled its eyes and said, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. Don’t you have any self-control at all?”

My stomach defiantly exclaimed, “No, that’s not my job! I’m here to make sure this poor lad gets enough sustenance each and every day.”

“You mean those four square meals and multiple snacks?” my brain said sarcastically. “He certainly doesn’t look malnourished.”

My stomach pleaded, “C’mon, c’mon! He won’t get sick. Just look at that cereal. It’s a thing of beauty!”

Mustering up a herculean amount of will power, with my hand quivering with conflict, I finally dumped the whole bowl cereal into the trash. My brain nodded solemnly, while my stomach shed a quiet tear.

I had to settle for a bowl of stale Cheerios covered in orange juice. But you know, it actually tasted pretty good.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

‘And a Child Shall Lead Them’

I was born and raised Catholic, and over the years I’ve been a member of many parishes. For almost six decades every parish priest I had was older than me. When I was a grade school kid, I remember that our parish priest was even older than my parents! So, in my mind he must’ve been something like 150 years old. (But, you know, he didn’t look a day over 145!)

In recent years my parish priest was only about five years older than me, which at this point in life is not much of difference at all. But since he is a wise and scholarly man, and I’m, well, I’m still the same immature guy whose sense of humor never advance beyond the 6th grade, it’s always seemed like he was a lot older.

About a year and a half ago we got a new pastor at our parish, a young priest who was ordained only a few years before. So, after going my whole life having priests who were older than me, I suddenly had a parish priest who was younger than me. And not just younger, but WAY younger. And not just way younger, but younger than one of my daughters.  

Suddenly, the man I have to call “Father” seems more like a son to me. It’s a very weird feeling. It’s a good thing he, too, is a wise and scholarly man, so it actually does not feel like he’s 30 years younger than me; more like only 27 years.

I fully understand the reason we call our priests “Father.” They are the parish’s spiritual leader and guide. They have dedicated their lives to being the religious shepherd for the laypeople, and the title “Father” indicates the spiritual relationship they have over their flock.

By the way, I’m also aware of the statement Jesus made in the Gospels, “Call no man on earth ‘Father,’” which is often cited by Fundamentalists to accuse Catholics of violating the commands of the Lord. If you’ve ever heard this claim, don’t worry, Catholics are not violating the words of Jesus. First, Jesus also told the people not to call anyone “teacher” or “rabbi.” The Fundamentalists don’t seem to be bothered by this. Second, during that episode in the Gospels, it’s clear Jesus spoke figuratively while criticizing the Pharisees for being obsessed with titles and honors.

Finally, here are a few direct quotes from the Bible: St. Stephen said, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me!” (Acts 7:2). St. John wrote, “I write to you, fathers, because you have known him…” (1 John 2:13). St. Paul wrote, “In Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel” (1 Cor 4:15).

Here’s a simple question: Were these holy saints all violating Jesus’ command by referring to men as “father”? The plain answer is: of course not.

Anyway, getting back to the main subject here, having a pastor who was just entering high school when the year 2000 arrived is somewhat strange. I have to keep reminding myself that most Catholic laypeople nowadays have parish priests who entered high school when the year 1900 arrived. No, I’m kidding. But many priests were in high school when Eisenhower and JFK were president. It’s doubly sad that we have such a severe priest shortage these days and that the men who have devoted their lives to serving God’s people are needed to work well into their 70s and even 80s.

I have to keep reminding myself that having a young, energetic pastor is quite a blessing—even if he has no idea what a rotary phone is.

 No matter how much I respect and like our new young priest, I understand that it would not be proper for me to call him, “Sonny,” “Youngster,” or, “Hey kid.” He is my spiritual leader and it’s completely fitting that I should refer to him as “Father.”

But it still feels weird. Maybe he won’t mind if I call him “Father Kiddo.”

Friday, August 24, 2018

Fighting Like Cats and Dogs

There are a lot of heated debates taking place in our society these days. There are debates between Red Sox fans and Yankee fans; debates between religious believers and atheists; and debates between those who think the president is an impulsive blowhard and those who instead think the president is an undisciplined blabbermouth.

However, the most passionate debates nowadays occur because of this one question: Which pets are the best, dogs or cats?

Let’s review some basic facts about these two types of animals. First, here are some of the positive qualities of dogs:

  • Dogs are friendly and loyal and seek to please their human masters, while cats are anti-social and aloof and ignore their human masters (except when their human masters pick up a can opener). Even the phrase “human masters” does not really apply to cats as they make it quite clear they will not be mastered by anyone. 
  • Dogs like to play and will chase a stick or a tennis ball for hours — even when their human masters get tired of the game after the first 10 minutes. Cats rarely like to play, and they never chase anything thrown by their human masters, um, I mean, their owners, uh, let’s see, I mean, their caregivers. 
  • Dogs are obedient. Well, no dog that I’ve ever owned was obedient, but that might have been my fault. With dogs, at least there is a chance for obedience if proper training has occurred, while with cats, there is NO CHANCE for obedience; obeying anyone is simply against the nature of a cat. 
OK, now for the other side. Here are some positive qualities of cats:

  • Cats are clean animals. They groom themselves constantly (although the resultant hairballs are kind of gross), while dogs usually smell like, well, dogs. When cats go outside, unlike dogs, they do not immediately track down a rotting possum carcass onto which they can roll around and acquire a nice robust scent. And cats prefer to take care of bodily functions in a discreet location, such as a neighborhood kid’s sandbox, while dogs like to leave a big ol’ steaming mound of fun right where I’m sure to walk. 
  • Cats are a lot smarter than dogs. I know this statement offends dog lovers, but c’mon, be honest, dogs are as dumb as a doorknob. As someone who’s had enough after the first 10 minutes of throwing the tennis ball (now covered in drool — the ball, I mean, not me), while the dog is more than willing to continue chasing it until at least next Tuesday, I can only conclude there is not a whole lot going on inside that little doggie brain. Cats may be pretty dumb, too, but they always look like they’re scheming to murder someone, so I get the impression there is a bit more going on upstairs than just, “Oh boy! A tennis ball! Throw it! No wait, first I have to embarrass you by licking myself. OK, now throw it!”
  • Cats don’t bark late at night in the neighbor’s yard while I’m trying to sleep. Yes, I occasionally hear the very unpleasant screeching sounds of a cat fight at night, but those episodes are few and far between, compared to the sleep-disturbing barking that occurs like clockwork night after night. 
Now it’s time for my loyal readers, all six of you, to weigh in on this debate. Please email me at and tell me why you have pets, and which incorrigible critter you prefer in your home: a dog or a cat or a blowhard president. And keep an eye out for the responses in a future column.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Let the Little Children…Be Children

In the Gospels, Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me.”

A few weeks ago, I muttered this to myself at Mass: “Get those noisy kids away from me. Can’t you see I’m trying to be holy?!”

Hmm, I wonder who got it right, me or Jesus?

In my defense, the two toddlers in the pew in front of me were very rambunctious: chatty, fidgety, and fixated on crumpling up pages in the missalettes. Also, I have a tough time concentrating as it is, and when there are a lot of distractions, it’s very hard for me to focus and pray.

However, in reply to my defense, I suspect Jesus might say this to me: “Oh, and you weren’t rambunctious when you were a kid, Bill? And when your children were young, they never made a sound at Mass? And what’s this about distractions and prayer, coming from a guy who is surrounded constantly by TVs, radios, iPads, computers and smart phones? All of a sudden having total peace and quiet is really important to you? You could’ve fooled me. Are you sure you want to stick with that story, Bill?”

Umm, yeah. Sorry, Lord. Guilty as charged.

Instead of being totally self-centered and focusing only on how the toddlers were interrupting my usual Mass routine, I should have been joyful about the fact they were in church at all. I mean, who has been lamenting for the past 10 years about the drop in Mass attendance? Who has been writing and talking about the fact young adults are leaving the Church in droves? Right, it’s been me.

Is Mass supposed to be as quiet as a morgue, with only senior citizens who don’t make a peep? Sadly, way too many of our Masses are just like that, since so many young adults and their children do not attend anymore.

Instead of gritting my teeth and grumbling that my regular routine was being interrupted, I should have smiled at the young mother who was desperately trying to keep her kids quiet, and whispered to her, “No problem. Thanks so much for bringing them to Mass.”

But instead, I scowled. I grumbled. I rolled my eyes and wished I had gone to the earlier Mass, which, come to think of it, often is similar to a morgue with only a handful of seniors in attendance, many of whom are dozing. I wonder if that young mother picked up on my negative vibes. I wonder if that particular Mass was her last straw, and afterward she made the decision not to attend Mass anymore because of the nasty looks she received, especially from that grumpy guy in the pew right behind her. Oh Jesus, please forgive me.

Now that my conscience has been thoroughly convicted, let’s examine a couple of important points regarding this episode. First, the sacredness and supernatural miracle of every Mass is not diminished at all if there happens to be fidgety and noisy children in the pews. Jesus still becomes present in the Eucharist—body, blood, soul, and divinity—even if we are somewhat distracted. And if our quiet prayer time is disturbed, there still are 23 other hours in the day when we can pray, and maybe if a certain person shuts off his electronic gizmos, he can concentrate even though he’s not at church.

Second, if we honestly consider that popular expression, “What would Jesus do?” the answer is pretty clear: He would be delighted that toddlers, however noisy, are in a holy place, and He probably would stop what He’s doing to spend some time playing with the little tykes.

So, if Jesus can handle noisy kids in the pews, then all of us, especially me, should be able to handle it, too. I hope that mom and her kids are at Mass next Sunday. But first I think I’d better go to Confession.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Snappy Rejoinders, Part 2

Last week I wrote about “comebacks.” No, I don’t mean when famous people come out of retirement to ply their trade once again, like Michael Jordan did three times and Cher did three-thousand times (and counting). I mean witty comebacks, such as when a person fires off a clever or funny or even insulting remark at the exact right moment during a conversation.

These remarks are sometimes referred to as snappy rejoinders. Hey, I went to college with a weird guy named Snappy Rejoinders. No wait, his name was Snappy Rejowski. Never mind.

In last week’s column, I related the key parts of an episode of “Seinfeld” titled “The Comeback,” which featured George Costanza as a frustrated, high-strung buffoon. (Yeah, I know, totally out of character.) If you thought “Seinfeld” was clever and entertaining, then it’s worth looking up that episode on YouTube. On the other hand, if you thought the sitcom was tedious and narcissistic, then you still should look it up.

Anyway, as I was doing my research for last week’s column — umm, why are you laughing? Surely, you don’t think I’m this brilliant and insightful each week without some plagiarism — uh, I mean, some research involved? Do you think I know off the top of my head that the French phrase “l’esprit de l’escalier” and the German “treppenwitz” both mean “stairway wit,” that is, the clever comment that finally comes to you at the bottom of the stairs, long after the discussion is over? Of course not. The only things I know off the top of my head are baseball statistics, and since the sports page of this newspaper already has plenty of writers with batting averages and RBI data pouring from their ears, I have to write for the Features section, which means doing a little research once in a while.

And during my research about snappy rejoinders, I discovered there actually are people whose job description is “Improv Consultant.” That’s right, these people get PAID to help clients become more adept at firing off witty comebacks. One such improv consultant is Jim Tosone, who developed a program called “Improv Means Business.” Another improv expert is Belina Raffy, the CEO of a company called Maffick. She, too, helps business people sharpen their clever comment skills. 

Improv experts focus on three main areas. The first is not to think too much. (If that’s true, then most of our modern culture is well on its way to success!) Raffy says people should not overthink a situation. Just listen to the other person, be in the moment, and fire off whatever comment feels right.

The second area is to develop your spontaneous mental muscle. Many professional comedians write down and memorize dozens of insults and clever comments, so they have a full arsenal of wisecracks at the tip of their tongue. The improv experts want normal business people to do the same. Reading some of the legendary comments made by Winston Churchill or W.C. Fields is recommended, along with watching episodes of clever sitcoms like “M*A*S*H” (or “Seinfeld”) and taking notes.

The third area is to work at muzzling your inner critic. This means to ignore those inhibitions or internal judgments we all make, while trying to discern if a comment is funny or offensive. The experts encourage their clients to suppress these cautionary feelings and just blurt out whatever pops into their heads.

I honestly can’t imagine how these clients are able to pay the improv consultants’ fees. Because if they truly follow these three steps, they’ll be fired (or indicted) by the end of the week. I’ve never heard of such nutty advice. It makes people like George Costanza and Snappy Rejowski seem normal.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Faith Adds Years to Your Life

A recent study published in the journal “Social Psychological and Personality Science” found that people who are religious live an average of four years longer than people who have no ties to religion.

A smart-aleck friend of mine made this comment: “Religious people don’t live longer; it just SEEMS that way because church is so boring.” Ha ha, very funny.

The researchers at Ohio State University were quite surprised at the findings, and they were not sure exactly why average lifespans increased so much for folks who are involved in their churches.

Maybe religious believers live longer because faith in God helps people cope better with the stresses of life. Or maybe it’s because if a person knows he’s going to church on Sunday morning it makes him less likely to stay out until the wee hours carousing on Saturday night. Or maybe the reason religious people live longer is because church potluck suppers serve only health food. Um, wait a minute. The church potluck suppers I attend serve the greasiest and fattiest—and tastiest!—food imaginable. So, it can’t be that.

Well, whatever the reason, it’s nice to know that faith in God and regular church attendance can increase a person’s longevity.

The government passes many laws and imposes countless regulations, which are designed to improve the health and safety of citizens. Some examples include seat belt laws, prohibitions against smoking in public areas, outlawing the use of certain toxic chemicals, and laws that prohibit the sale of alcohol and tobacco to minors.

Maybe it’s time for our politicians to pass a law that requires everyone to attend church each week. After all, if it adds an average of four years to people’s lifespans, it seems like the perfect opportunity for legislators to improve the health of the American public.

I think I’ll contact Senators Blumenthal and Murphy and demand they propose a bill that forces people—in the name of health and safety—to go to church every week.

OK, OK, I’m kidding. I would never do that. Our poor secular senators would probably have nervous breakdowns.

You see, I’m a big fan of the First Amendment’s freedom of religion, which of course, gives people the freedom not to practice religion if they choose. Throughout history, whenever societies forced people to get involved with religion, bad things usually occurred.

Besides, faith is not the kind of thing you can force a person to have. Faith in God is a lot like falling in love. It happens because of a powerful attraction, along with much hope and joy. Also, God is a gentleman who never forces Himself on us. He longs to be in a loving relationship with us, but ultimately, we must decide if we will enter into the relationship.

In addition to the benefit of living on average four years longer, faith in God can give us the most awesome benefit of all: eternal life in Heaven. That’s the real reason religion exists, to help us enter into a faithful relationship with the Lord, which is the path to eternal life. To paraphrase what St. Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth, if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our faith is in vain and Christians are the most pitiful people of all.

However, Christ did rise, and He promised that if we put our faith in Him, we too can rise to eternal life. So, the four extra years of life here on this earth are a bonus. But dwelling in God’s heavenly kingdom forever is the real prize. In the meantime, feel free to indulge during those yummy church potluck suppers. Apparently, no matter how greasy the sausage and peppers are, we’re still going to live longer because we have faith!

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Comeback Kid

Have you ever been in a conversation and the opportunity arises for you to offer a really clever comment, but unfortunately the clever comment does not occur to you until about 20 minutes later?

Sure, we’ve all been there. The meeting has concluded and you’re on your way back to your cubicle. Or the person you’ve been speaking to has already said goodbye and left. Or you’re driving home, and suddenly your brain says, “Ooh ooh, I got it! If you just say THIS in reply to THAT, it will be so funny!” The only problem is, the moment for your witty rejoinder has come and long gone. It’s way too late now to employ your brilliant comeback.

There is a phrase that describes this situation: “l’esprit de l’escalier,” or in English, “the wit of the staircase.” French philosopher Denis Diderot came up with this phase after getting into an argument at a party. He was angry and flustered during the argument, and he didn’t begin to think clearly again until he had gotten to the bottom of the stairs.

In doing a little online research, I could not discover whether Diderot ran back up the stairs, located his adversary, and proclaimed his clever comeback. I hope he did not do that. The only thing worse than thinking of a witty comeback far too late is to say it out loud anyway after the moment has passed. When you can’t think of anything clever to say, you look like a dimwit. But when you return 10 minutes later and blurt out your witty reply, you look like a dimwit with serious emotional problems.

There was an episode of the sitcom Seinfeld called “The Comeback.” During a business meeting, hapless George Costanza is wolfing down free shrimp, and a coworker says, “Hey George, the ocean called. They’re running out of shrimp!” George becomes flustered and humiliated as everyone in the room laughs, but he can’t think of anything to say.

Only while driving home does George think of a reply, but it’s too late. The rest of the episode shows George frantically scheming to attend another meeting with the same person — including paying for a huge bucket of shrimp — so he can launch his clever comeback. Because it’s George, of course, it backfires big time.

The Germans have a similar term, “treppenwitz,” which also means “the wit of the stairs.” However, over the years the German phrase has evolved to mean the exact opposite, that is: something said in an attempt to be clever, but which is actually very rude and offensive.

This is what happened to George in the Seinfeld episode. He flies to Ohio to sit in on a meeting he really doesn’t need to attend. He brings an expensive bucket of shrimp and starts chowing down hoping to provoke the same comment from the same coworker. When the coworker obliges and says, “Hey George, the ocean called. They’re running out of shrimp!” George triumphantly stands up and exclaims, “Oh yeah? Well, the jerk store called, and they’re running out of you!”

For a few moments, George basks in his victory, until the coworker nonchalantly replies, “What’s the difference? You’re their all-time best-seller.”

Everyone in the room starts laughing and George turns red. Recalling an inappropriate suggestion from his oddball friend, Kramer, George blurts out, “Oh yeah, well, I slept with your wife!”

Oops. Treppenwitz.

The room goes silent, then someone whispers to George, “His wife is in a coma.”

Oops. Major League treppenwitz.

So, maybe we should just follow the advice our moms gave us when we were kids: If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything until the jerk store calls.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Who’s Watching? Big Brother or Heavenly Father?

These days we hear a lot about surveillance video. The technology has improved so much, there are now tiny security cameras everywhere. Police have dashboard cameras and body cams. Most public buildings have dozens of small cameras recording everything that happens from multiple angles. More and more people are installing security cameras in their homes. And, of course, almost every time someone does something foolish, somebody else is standing nearby with a smart phone, recording the incident. If the behavior is especially embarrassing, the video will be posted to social media and by dinnertime approximately 50 million people will have seen it.

Conventional wisdom is that surveillance cameras provide information: who did what and when. In the context of law enforcement, this makes sense. If something is stolen or vandalized, or if someone is assaulted, we want to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Additionally, behavioral scientists tell us when people know their actions and words are being recorded, they act differently. They are more likely to be on their best behavior.

People being on their best behavior because they are being watched is not really a new phenomenon. Throughout history many people have modified their actions and words because they were being watched—watched be God.

Now, don’t roll your eyes. Think about it. What do we as Christians believe? We believe our Heavenly Creator is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. That is, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present. You think the surveillance system down at the bank is sophisticated? It can only record what we do and say. But God is aware, not only of those two things, but also of what we think! God can read the human heart and mind.

Speaking on behalf of sinners everywhere, I have first-hand knowledge that the human heart and mind are not exactly wonderful all the time. God being aware of our every thought, word, and deed can be a rather uncomfortable concept.

But the thing is, it should not be uncomfortable. You see, God is not the Big Brother of Orwell’s nightmarish police state. God is not spying on us to gather evidence so that we, the perpetrators, can be brought to justice. God is instead our loving Father. He knows what we are doing because He is God (that’s just part of the job description; He knows everything!), but since He is our loving parent, He longs for us to become more holy and good.

God wants us to grow in faith and love, and to become less selfish and cruel. When we sin—even if no other human being knows about it—God is not looking to condemn us. He wants to forgive us and send us forth with the words of Jesus: “Go and sin no more.”

This fact should make us more comfortable, rather than the modern high-tech surveillance society, which often makes people paranoid.

Think of that sappy song by Bette Midler, “God Is Watching Us.” When that song comes on the radio, no one changes the station because the idea of God watching us causes paranoia. (However, a person might change the station because they’ve had their daily quota of schmaltz.) The song lyrics say God is watching us from a distance. To be theologically correct, God is a lot closer than that. When we were baptized, the Holy Spirit—a Person of the divine Holy Trinity—came to dwell in our heart. So, God is watching us from as close as you can get, from right inside us.

They say character is defined as what you do when no one is watching. In our modern surveillance society, it seems that a security camera is watching most of the time. This may cause some people, out of fear, to act better. But people of faith have always known that our Heavenly Father is watching. We should strive to live holy lives all the time, not because we’re afraid of getting in trouble, but because it’s simply the right thing to do and it pleases the Lord.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Travail of Traveling

“Hey Bill, you should go to that national sales meeting in Dallas next month,” my boss recently said to me.

Oh no, the only way to get to Dallas is to travel. And traveling means planning and packing and long security lines and dragging a suitcase through the airport and uncomfortable airplane seats and needing to use the airplane bathroom but then realizing we’re making our descent into DFW and no one is allowed to leave their seat during descent which means doing a painful leg-wiggling tap dance for the next 25 minutes until I can get off the plane and run to a men’s room in the terminal. Traveling also means getting lost in an unfamiliar city and lumpy hotel mattresses and dozing off during meetings because of a lack of sleep due to the lumpy mattress and going out to dinner with a bunch of obnoxious salesmen from Illinois and hotel wake-up calls that never happen and frantically shaving while in the shower and running to meet the shuttle bus with a hunk of toilet paper on your chin to stop the bleeding and then realizing you left your cell phone charger in the hotel room — again. And at that point, the whole painful cycle repeats itself for the journey back home.

The dictionary says the word “travel” originated during the Middle Ages in northern England, coming from the word “travail,” which means to toil, or to labor. So, the original meaning of travel is, “To make a laborious and painful journey.” Even 700 years ago, they understood that going to Dallas for a national sales meeting was sure to be a royal pain in the butt. There were no fun and games involved with traveling back in those days, and there are no fun and games involved with traveling nowadays.

For the past few months people have been asking me, “Where are you going on vacation this summer, Bill?”

When I reply, “Nowhere,” they say, “Oh, you’re not taking vacation this year?”

Then I say, “I didn’t say that. I’m taking time off, but I’m just not going anywhere.”

“How come?” they ask. To which I reply, “Because I want my vacation to be ENJOYABLE!”

OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. My wife and I have traveled on vacation fairly often over the years, and we usually enjoyed ourselves. But as the years go by, it seems like traveling is more and more becoming travailing. It’s turning into a genuine northern England Middle Ages laborious and painful toil. On my next trip, in addition to airport terminals, lumpy mattresses, and lost cell phone chargers, I won’t be surprised if I encounter oxcarts, bow and arrow-wielding bandits, and the occasional outbreak of bubonic plague.

Because traveling has morphed into travailing in my mind, I’m amazed at friends who excitedly tell me of their retirement plans. “Oh, it’s gonna be great, Bill!” they exclaim. “As soon as I retire, the missus and I are going to travel the entire country for at least six months!”

“Why?” I ask. “Do you want to keep experiencing the toil and drudgery of work?”

I bet after they return from that six-month retirement saga, he’ll be saying, “I’m so tired! I need to go back to work fulltime so I can get some rest!”

Luckily for me, a lot of financial procrastination during the past three decades means I won’t have to worry about retiring any time soon. I can relax and enjoy my 50 hours per week at the office. No risk of running into oxcarts, bandits, or bubonic plague for me. Unless, of course, they send me to Dallas again.