A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Totally Useless Fortunes

A few months ago, I had an opportunity to take my uncle to a Chinese restaurant. We had a good time, a fine meal, and we both got the customary fortune cookie. I forget what his fortune said – probably the usual “Happiness is what you make it” or some sappy thing like that – but my fortune was totally useless to me. It read, “Tastes like chicken.” What a rip-off!

It gave me an idea of some other totally useless fortunes we might find in our cookies. Our resulting list*, which I assume will crop up from time to time in the future, is printed below.

1. A path strewn with broken glass can cut the sole.

2. In this world it is easier to buy a war then it is to buy peace.

3. A life not lived is, like, dead.

4. Riches come, but mostly riches go to the taxman.

5. Results are best achieved in the end.

7. Money spent wisely is gone anyway.

8. Reaching high for a goal could give you a pain in the back.

9. Cheaters never win, unless they receive a golden parachute.

10. A penny saved is not worth much.

*Assisted by my wise, wonderful wife, Anne Marie.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar Picks - 2007

Once again, I have surveyed this year’s Best Picture nominees and found that I have not seen any of them. This is not surprising; I only went to the movies once last year and lost one of my favorite caps in the process. Still, in the spirit of expressing my opinion when nobody asked for it, I will proceed with my predictions for this year using only the plot description of each film to guide me. I will also go out further on a limb and, like many film critics, predict which film will probably win in addition to the film I want to see win. This is known as “saving face when your original decision sucked.”

My methodology: we should consider a theory on the purpose of the Best Picture Award.

This award is not only recognizing a superior production released within a given time period, but also a statement about how Hollywood wants to be remembered at this time in history. The honored film is the film industry’s representative to the outside world to promote whatever the industry feels is most relevant at that time. We should couple this with the industry’s awareness that the film should have the widest audience appeal as possible in order to promote their statement to as many people as they can reach.

The nominees for Best Picture are:


This film is comprised of four inter-connecting stories that take the viewer from Africa to Mexico and finally to Japan. The overall feel is very “Crash”-like, but these plot lines don’t sound as compelling as the stories in “Crash”. The fact that the characters are from different cultures and the relevancy of the situations could make the audience relate to their lives.

The Departed

This has got to be Martin Scorsese’s year to take home a statuette, if only for sentimental reasons that he got cheated out of it in the past. This film’s plot involving the Boston police infiltrating the Irish mob, and vice versa, could make for a suspenseful drama. We have the traditional conflict of good versus evil with the more recent anti-hero trend of blurring the lines between right and wrong, loyalty and betrayal. The director may walk home happy, but the producers may be the ones cheated this year.

Letters From Iwo Jima

Like last year’s “Good Night and Good Luck”, this film uses history to draw a parallel to today’s events. Here, a bloody World War II battle serves as the backdrop for a drama that questions authority. At first glance this would appear to be a guy film with appeal limited to history buffs and people who don’t mind guts and gore. The reputations of the director (Clint Eastwood) and one of the executive producers (Steven Spielberg) would certainly support the idea that this film would not shrink from the physical wreckage caused by mankind’s costliest enterprises. This is the problem with the war genre: the psychological cost lurks underneath the physical brutality, but alas, the audience does not always notice it.

Little Miss Sunshine

A disparate, bizarre, dysfunctional family unit launches a quest to get their young, pretty girl to a beauty contest in far off California. We could consider the family members as a microcosm of the society at large: each with their own issues to overcome, some repulsive and engaging (ala "Napoleon Dynamite"), but all uniting briefly for a common goal. The satirical nature of the film may limit its appeal to audiences, but it shouldn’t.

The Queen

Another drama based on historical events, this one daring to recount events in which the participants are still in power. Although based on one tragic event, the auto accident death of Princess Diana, the conflict between the public and private face of a famous person is timeless. People interested in the British royal family would be drawn to it, as would anyone else wanting to see a chick film (like my wife). The individual performances have gotten many good notices, particularly Helen Mirren, and it is this that the film will be remembered.


The Academy will most likely continue its dark theme from the last few years. "Million Dollar Baby" ignited a controversy for its dark ending, and there were many dark threads running through last year’s winner, "Crash". I’m feeling that the Academy may want to go on a whimsical, albeit dark, ride across country.

The Oscar should go to Little Miss Sunshine.

The Oscar will probably go to Babel.

Friday, February 23, 2007

An Endorsement for Philadelphia Mayor – Not!

I believe that the dictionary could use a variety of definitions when it comes to the word “chutzpah.” No words would be needed, but a drawing or photo of someone who most defines chutzpah at that moment could be used next to the word. Everyone seeing this illustration would then immediately know what the concept means. In the Philadelphia area we could use a photo of the mayor’s brother, Milton Street, in the dictionary given the events of the last few weeks.

Last week, Milton Street announced that he would run in the Democratic primary for the office of mayor. I’m not sure what his qualifications are, but I do know he has been a businessman, former city council member, community activist, and high profile pain-in-the-neck. Oh yes, he’s also under indictment from the federal government on corruption charges, which seems to be standard procedure for anyone in Philadelphia politics in recent years. I have to admire his efficiency; usually a Philadelphia politician would get elected first, then run afoul of the federal government after they have served their term for awhile. Street is so efficient that he has this requirement under his belt already. I’m sure that took a load off the minds of the Philadelphia electorate.

After his announcement, the media questioned his residency qualification. It seems that you actually have to live in the city in order to be placed in charge of it. As far as I know, this rule is in effect in many cities in this country. There are reports that he lives in the city, but other reports put his residence in New Jersey. Street’s response, in traditional political double-speak style, was to question what the media meant by their question. He asked them to clarify the difference between where he has been domiciled, or where he lives. They press the issue by asking, “Where do you live?” His response, “I live wherever I am when I get tired at night!” (Cue Papa Was A Rolling Stone here.)

That was last week. This week a few police officers in New Jersey remembered that there are a few outstanding traffic warrants against the mayor’s brother. The charges total over $3,000 and are ten years old. Naturally, our man Street was taken into custody, spent a few hours in lock-up, and made a political show of shaking all the police officer's hands when he was released within camera range of the local media gathered for this performance. At that time, he made some excuse that he thought that the tickets had been taken care of a long time ago. I can see that. I can see where you might forget about paying some traffic fines (for a few days), but that’s it! Now he is claiming that the arrest is politically motivated and he is going to sue the police department for harassment.

Dear reader, please take a moment to slap yourself in the forehead in disgust if the spirit moves you! Go ahead, I’ll wait...

Welcome back! Then, a few days ago, a war of words broke out between our man Street and City Councilman Michael Nutter. Coincidentally, Mr. Nutter has also thrown his hat into the primary ring for mayor. Nutter has called Milton Street an example of what’s wrong with Philadelphia. Mr. Street has responded that Nutter is a “watermelon man”, or someone who is more white than black on the inside.
Gentlemen, gentlemen, please! An episode of “Amos and Andy” had more dignity than this public display. Mr. Street, really! With such name-calling we don’t need the Klu Klux Klan and their racist vomit!

Mr. Mayor, perhaps you should send your brother on an extended vacation. Please understand we are not laughing with him, we are laughing at him! We can only imagine how embarrassed you must be. Just one request please, Mr. Mayor. Don’t send him away too soon. We’re having too much fun with him at the moment, and we’re sooooo bored with Britney Spears' mental breakdown.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Odds and Ends - February 2007

Some of my thoughts on recent events:


I never paid much attention to this woman when she was alive, but I have a feeling that the media will draw her death out like they did for the O.J. Simpson trial. The story so far: Playboy playmate marries very rich, very old man, who dies shortly thereafter. She spends the rest of her life fighting with the man’s family over his billions. The case is still not resolved when she dies, leaving behind a five month-old daughter, an outdated and possibly invalid will, and a string of men claiming to be the baby’s father which stretches from here to infinity.

I feel sorry for the baby. I will go out on a limb and speculate that her first words will be “Where’s my Mommy? Who’s my Daddy? How many zeroes are in my bank account? Answer the third question first. Goo, goo!”


I also feel bad for Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid and his family. They’ve had to endure an embarrassing amount of publicity since their two sons, Garrett and Britt, have broken so many laws that they look like Public Enemy Number One and Two. One threatened a motorist with a gun, and the other smashed his vehicle into another car while high on heroin. The accident happened near my house, and injured a young woman.

What is more startling is that both incidents happened on the same day! Maybe the stars were aligned against the brothers that day. It is also worth noting that charges weren’t filed for nearly two weeks after the incidents. This has caused some speculation that the authorities were giving the Reid boys preferential treatment, although I believe that the Keystone Kops had replaced the local police during the interval between the incidents and the dates when the brothers were arraigned. Why should it take so long to get the wheels of justice rolling for these guys? If it had been you or me, you can bet that we would’ve been processed (charged, arraigned, and bailed) within hours!

I’m relieved that these boys are, finally, off the road. Right now they are a public menace. The accident could have happened to me or my wife, or any one of my neighbors. At least Garrett is getting treatment now, but I think Andy should go further to ensure that these incidents aren’t repeated.

Andy, you’ve done your best to raise your children, but they’re grown men now. As men, they should be expected to suffer the consequences of their actions. Therefore, I suggest you trade your boys to the Dallas Cowboys. A few weeks with T.O. should straighten their asses out. Or maybe not...


I am astonished at what events have captivated the public’s attention during this month. We’ve gone from a teenybopper pop star showing signs of a breakdown because she shaves her head, to a teenage girl who can’t stop hiccuping, to a piano-playing Pennsylvania pussycat becoming a media star on YouTube. Yes, I think I understand now how George W. Bush was "elected" President...twice!!!!!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The President Who Cried Wolf (Again)

Oh, W! Whatever will we do with you? First you sold us this idea of a war because the other side was a threat to us with their WMDs. Then you predicted that we would be greeted as liberators in Iraq. Next, you rewarded those people in your administration that failed miserably to get the desired results.

Now you’re crying out that Iran is supplying one of the insurgent factions in Iraq with weapons that are being used against us. The ironic part about all this is that, for the first time in your administration, you may be right on this issue. Your history haunts you; no weapons of mass destruction were found, our forces have been greeted with roadside bombs instead of outstretched arms, and your loyal friends have moved on and away from this mess in Iraq.

What part of no credibility don’t you understand? Oh, I know, you’ll respond that you understand that people won’t believe whatever you say because you say things that they find hard to believe. Did you like that last sentence? That is a classic W. statement. Do your speechwriters actually put sentences like that in your statements, or do you ad-lib them?

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is it’s not your message that is hard to swallow this time. It’s you, you are the problem. Oh, perhaps if you had admitted you made some errors a long time ago, people might have more faith in what you’re telling them now. You couldn’t do that, heavens no, that might go against the Bush family credo or something like that.

Perhaps you need to find someone that people will find more likely to believe. Maybe someone like Yoko Ono. Yes, you’ve fallen so far, that even Yoko is more believable than you are. Maybe Hillary Clinton...oh, right, she’s from the other party and she even voted for your war. How about Barack Obama? He’s well spoken, no skeletons in his closest that your side hasn’t found yet and...oh, wait. He’s been against your war since the beginning.

Sorry, W. It looks like you’re on your own again. I know that your administration will engage the enemy (American public opinion) in an all-out assault on the most dangerous fronts, namely the Sunday morning political talk shows. There, you’ll do battle with the liberal media, and you’ll know that your cause is just and fair, because you are the President! It’s a pity that your people can plan and execute a battle on America’s airwaves, but you can’t fight a war to save your life, or any other of the 3100 American lives lost so far.

Now I did hear you say that your plan for Iraq is taking shape. This statement implies to me that you never had a plan when you invaded Iraq in the first place. This is something that the rest of the world figured out oh, about three years ago. If you really believe this statement, then maybe you’re finally seeing the error of your ways. Maybe there’s hope for you yet, W.

(Speaking of Yoko Ono, Happy 73rd Birthday!)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine’s Day Advice for the Lovelorn

Today is a special day for hearts all over the world, regardless if you’re fanning the flames of romance or throwing cold water on the fire of passion. The following are lines that will be heard today in either situation. Please, dear reader, feel free to use these lines to spread the love on this day.

1. “I love you for all the happiness and sunshine you bring to my life.”

2. “Don’t hurry back from running your errands. I need time to change all the locks.”

3. “My heart belongs to you today and always.”

4. “You (expletive deleted)! You’re breaking up with me after I’ve given you the best weekend of your life?????"

5. “Your warm, caring ways overwhelm my soul and my being.”

6. “Love you, love your cat? Fine with me! Come here, pussy!"

(EDITOR’S NOTE: It appears that Mr. Gunther is not quite feeling the true, loving spirit of the day. Therefore we are discontinuing his “advice” for the lovelorn. Next week in this spot we will present suggestions on what President Bush can do with Iraq. In the meantime, Happy Valentine’s Day!)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Snicker, Snicker

This didn’t take long, but an overly sensitive world has already consigned a Super Bowl ad to the trash can. The object was a Snickers candy bar, and the lengths some people will go to get a taste of it. In the commercial, two mechanics are examining an auto engine in a repair shop. One mechanic opens the candy and sticks it in his mouth as he absent-mindedly looks over the engine. The other mechanic, seeing the candy bar sticking out of the first mechanic’s mouth, bites down on the other end. Both men eat away at their respective ends of the candy bar until their lips meet in the middle. Horrified, they both jump back, sure that they almost kissed. One of them suggests that they each do a manly act. Each rips hair off of their chest and yells out in pain.

Some gay groups objected on the grounds that it was homophobic and encourages violence against gays. One blogger even compared it to Matthew Shepherd. Subsequently the ad has been pulled from the television and the Internet.

Um, aren’t we going a bit overboard here?

Satire can be a prickly fruit. It can be seen to have a tough skin covering an idea that points to some foible cherished by society. The sweet flesh of the fruit makes a rewarding comment on the object, but we must beware. Sometimes the juice tastes sour to some, and instead of a humorous comment, the satire itself becomes part of the idea it is aimed at skewering. It is a blurry line; depending on which side of the line you stand, it can disappear entirely.

I believe that this is what has happened here. Let’s identify the object of the satire: the idea that two men kissing each other is unacceptable in society. Here we are asked to believe that two very straight, macho men accidentally do this deed while eating a candy bar. We could argue that the candy is a proxy for the apple Eve was warned against in the Garden of Eden. As for the candy bar being a phallic symbol, sorry, I’m not going there. We can readily identify the men’s orientation by their work (mechanics as opposed to, for an extreme example, hair stylists) and their work uniform. Yes, I agree that these are stereotypical ideas, but advertisers have to resort to such devices when it’s only a thirty second spot and there is a lot of material to cover.

The men discover what has happened and jump back away from each other and into their traditional heterosexual roles. Since sexual orientation is hard-wired into each of us (evangelical Christians will howl at this notion), then the act of one heterosexual kissing another heterosexual of the same sex is unnatural to them. Now let’s throw more weight on their shoulders with the idea of what would society think if they knew we kissed each other.

Quick, run for cover, and now we peel back another satirical fruit: the idea that men must reaffirm their heterosexuality by doing something brave and courageous, but not necessarily smart. They seem to be saying, “Look, we are real men. See how we can withstand pain!” If anything, the commercial points its farcical finger at the lengths heterosexual men will go to assert their manliness. I’m the one that should feel insulted, but guess what, I’m not. I consider this barb to score a bull’s eye on the dartboard of truth.

Okay, so we’re offended. Fine, let’s make sure no one is offended ever again. Let’s discard the ages old notion that comedy and its horrid by-product, laughter, is a truly human emotion that is necessary for survival. Let’s pass a Constitutional amendment to outlaw jokes. A snicker would be considered a misdemeanor, a guffaw a felony. All comedians should be banished and/or executed. Comedy Central should go dark with all possible haste. I dare say that these measures will lead to such a build-up of tension that the average life expectancy of every man and woman will be reduced to the age of 25. At that time, the internal stress in each of us would simply make our hearts explode.

Now, who’s leaping off the deep end?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Cupcakes and Harmonicas

Fifty years ago today, my parents were married near Philadelphia. It was not a large affair and there wasn’t enough time to sew a wedding dress or arrange flowers. Dad was scheduled to report for active duty in the Navy in a few days. The nuptials had to happen quickly before he shipped out.

I’ve never seen any photos or movies taken that day; in fact, I’ve never heard of any photos taken on this occasion. I don’t know if everyone present forgot to bring a camera, or whether it happened so fast that no one thought about preserving the ceremony. We would ask Dad about it and he would joke that he played the harmonica and they had a reception of Tastykake cupcakes. I always laughed at his story because he never owned a harmonica in all the years I knew him, but he very seldom gave any other details.

The few other details I have heard leads me to believe it was not the happy day that my Mom could have had, or deserved. For example, I’ve heard that Dad’s older sisters cried because they believed their baby brother would burn in Hell for marrying a girl outside his religion. I know it’s not necessarily a reflection on me - I wouldn’t be born for another two-and-a-half years or so – but I have allowed his subsequent ex-communication to affect my life. It has biased my belief in organized religion. I know it shouldn’t, but that’s me.

My point is a wedding is one event that so many people plan to the minutest detail, and then spend thousands of dollars on its execution. Ironically, many of the marriages that begin with these luxurious events don’t last. My parents had a simple, small wedding and their union lasted 48 years. Their mutual affection for each other saw them through happy and turbulent times, raising two sons, and overcame many differences – religious and otherwise.

I would love to have a party for them today, but it wouldn’t be the same without Dad here. Instead, each of us who knew them can spend the day quietly remembering the happy years they were together. My mother, brother and I each have our own set of memories that we can rifle through today. I’m sure there will be smiles and tears, and perhaps we can imagine Dad playing the harmonica while the cupcakes are divvied up. The event and how it played out doesn’t matter that much now. It’s just important that it and the events during these last fifty years happened at all.

Love you, Mom!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Many Short Films About Beer, Cars, and Financial Services

This week, I had the opportunity to view many short films about products and services that I may not have, may not want, but I will have to have any moment now. These films were interesting and entertaining, and interspersed with some sort of sports event called the Super Bowl. I tried my best to ignore the game, since I could care less about who was playing. Neither team was from Pennsylvania, so why should I give a damn?

Obviously the commercials were mostly geared with the male adult in mind, since that is the target audience for the game itself. Specifically, no perfume or feminine hygiene spots were in evidence. Financial services, careers, and male hygiene were also in the minority, but beer and cars/trucks were abundant.

Okay, let’s briefly summarize the first half of the game. There were a group of men in white jerseys running up against a group of men in blue jerseys. Both groups ran back and forth, back and forth for the better part of an hour or so. My interest in the game peaked when one of the teams (Chicago) scored first. This took all of 5 seconds from the first kickoff. Fortunately, the commercials came back quickly.

New cars and trucks were getting a heavy sell during the game. Detroit really needs the business now, what with three major automakers announcing losses and layoffs. One commercial stressing GM quality was ironic in its portrayal of an assembly line robot making a mistake and paying with its own life. Many critics noted this spot for its bad taste, given Detroit’s problems. So, if business is so bad, why spend millions on 30-second spots showing products that the general public is no longer buying? Couldn’t this money have been better used in retraining the soon-to-be unemployed assembly line workers? Take heart, autoworkers! There were several spots from CareerBuilders that you could use in your future, so the evening wasn’t a total loss.

Half –time show: The Artist Once Again Known As Prince! A real trooper, braving a downpour to play his electrified sound, generating the most fantastic array of guitar string vibrations since Jimi Hendrix died. A good medley of cover songs and his bigger hits, and bless his soul, he brought back go-go dancing for the occasion! Then the show ended and the game started again...bummer!

The second half: more running up and down the field, a lot of rain, a question of did he or didn’t he have both feet on the ground when he caught the pass, appeal, appeal granted and on and on. Too much game and not enough shots of the cheerleaders! How do they expect to make this game the big annual event for male testosterone if they ignore the cheerleaders? Come on, NFL, give them their own pre-game show!

I enjoyed the Budweiser commercials best of all, even though it’s not always my brand of choice. All right, so they call themselves the King of Beers, but I’m just not willing to get hit with rocks, get slapped, fight off scheming gorillas, pick up chainsaw-bearing hitch-hikers, or praise ice coolers on the beach just for a Budweiser. Don’t get me wrong, I like beer, but there is only so much I’m willing to do to get it.

This is all that I got out of the monument to American commercial excess known as the Super Bowl. If I could get away with it, I would watch it just for the commercials, and fast forward through the game itself. I realize that these words are sacrilegious coming from a white male, but I must be honest about the entire experience. The Super Bowl is not only a great avenue of escape from the humdrum of everyday life, if only for a few hours, but it is also a great example of misplaced priorities and resources in this country. I can only imagine how much good those millions of advertising dollars could have done if applied to such causes as hunger and justice. Oh well, I will have to keep dreaming...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Release the Democrat–ics!

I know this is hard to believe, but I do sometimes try to find other things to write about than stupid President tricks. I don’t necessarily mean that the President is stupid, but it could also mean that his actions or words are stupid. Then again both meanings could apply. His remarks on NPR (as quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer*) leaves him wide open to many interpretations. He started out apologizing for leaving the ic off the word “Democratic” during his State of the Union address. Okay, fine, but he kept talking and put his foot in his mouth again.

He is quoted as saying, “There is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I’m sorry it’s the case, and I’ll work hard to elevate it. (Italics mine.)

Personally, I think the ic controversy got more press than it deserved. The rest of his statement makes me want to slap my forehead in disbelief. Let’s take it one sentence at a time.

This distrust he mentioned didn’t just spring up yesterday. If we must put a start date on it, then may I suggest that it started on the day Pierre L’Enfant surveyed the swampy area where the Lincoln Memorial now stands and declared, “Let’s build a capital here!” I dare say that, except for a few periods of time when the country was truly united behind one cause, that the distrust has continued unabated ever since.

After acknowledging a difference of opinion, President Bush can then take the lead of resolution and say something that will inspire both sides to seek common ground. Unfortunately, he didn’t do that; he declared war on those opposing him. This has been true to his form all along. On one hand he says that all debate is welcome, then acts surprise and hurt when someone actually takes him up on his offer. Worse, he labels the debaters as people who are aiding and abetting the enemy. Oh yeah, this really helps cool emotions on both sides of the aisle.

So now he wants to escalate the troop numbers in Iraq, and elevate the conflict between him and his political opponents. Now the ball is in the Democrats, I mean, Democratic court. I imagine they will react by siccing Obama and Hillary on the Fox network. They could probably unleash Howard “Mad Dog” Dean too. John Kerry should probably stay home and keep quiet.

I really believe that the President meant to say “eliminate” the distrust. I can see where he got confused. After all, they both start with the letter “e”, and they both have virtually the same amount of syllables, and um...okay, I admit it. I’m grasping at straws, and for whom? I have to realize that the leader of the free world is not able to master the English language.

Fortunately, he realizes this too. During the same interview President Bush said, “I’m not that good at pronouncing words anyway.”


*"Bush says missing ‘ic’ an oversight", The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 30, 2007, Page A13.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Robbery Etiquette, or Never Be Rude to a Mugger

One of my loyal readers, who I will refer to as Mom, recently sent me an e-mail on what to do if you are ever held up at an ATM machine. The suggestion she passed along was for the victim to punch in their PIN number backwards and this action would alert the police that a robbery was in progress. The theory goes that the police would immediately answer the summons to the robbery location.

This is all very nice and too good to be true, because it is. I responded to Mom that I had seen this idea listed as an Internet hoax last year. At this time, the technology does not exist to enable the ATM machine to call the police. Even if it did, I don’t think any human being, no matter how well they’re trained, could respond quick enough to apprehend the robber in the act.

Let’s say (theoretically) that you are withdrawing money from your account at an ATM. A robber approaches from behind, pokes you in the back with a weapon, and demands your money. We’ll time this - robber approaches and demands: 3 seconds. You think what to do, think of any way out, discount every avenue of escape, and punch in your PIN – theoretically, 10 seconds. The robber grabs your money, jabs you with their screwdriver weapon (I’ll explain this tool reference later), and runs off – 10 seconds. As we can see, it is all over in less than a minute.

Now, let’s say the police are alerted, and a dispatcher assigns a patrol car to investigate – 15 seconds. The patrol car races to the robbery location – 5 minutes. The robber is long gone. The act itself wasn’t prevented, but at least the police are on the scene a little quicker than the more conventional method of calling for help via cell or land phone.

I’m glad Mom brought this up because it gives me a chance to explain proper etiquette at a robbery. I feel I am an authority on this subject due to an experience I had some years ago. No, no, no, I was not the robber, but I was a victim of an ATM mugging.

It happened on a Saturday afternoon, Labor Day weekend, 1991. A friend of mine and I were withdrawing money from an outdoor ATM on Annapolis Road in Landover Hills, Maryland. I had finished my transaction and I stood off to one side waiting for my friend to finish her business. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a shadow come up behind me. The next thing I knew, an arm was around my neck and some object was held against my throat. A voice, which I assume belonged to a young gentleman from the hood (and I’m being charitable with this description) said, “I’ve got this against your throat. Give me your wallet.”

At that point, another young gentleman from the hood came around from the other side of the ATM, poked a screwdriver in my friend’s back, and made the same demand. I could see all this happening and at first I thought someone was joking with me. I quickly realized that this was very serious and with one motion of my arm I pulled my wallet out of my pocket and handed it to the fellow behind me. By this time his partner had my friend’s money as well and they both ran off to a waiting van.

Now this is where my lesson begins. I don’t know to this day what was held against my throat. It could’ve been a gun, a knife, a screwdriver, or the fellow could have just pretended he had a weapon and pressed the knuckle of his finger against my neck. I decided against asking him what was the object he held against me. I felt that it would be bad manners on my part to ask such a thing, since he already had the upper hand in the situation. So, I opted to act polite, survive the ordeal and count my losses (and blessings) later. One of those blessings came six weeks later, when despondent, on the verge of alcoholism, and $65.00 poorer, I met the love of my life. I’ve been a happier man since then, although Anne Marie will probably disagree.

As for the robbers, I don’t know what happened to them. The last I heard, they had been apprehended and were awaiting trial after a series of robberies that grew more violent as they went along. I assume they have served their time by now and are either back on the streets or dead. It’s a shame they didn’t stay in touch, particularly since I was polite and handed my money over to them, no questions asked. No letters, no Christmas cards, nothing. You have a brief life-altering encounter with some people and after that they act like they don’t know you. Oh well, go figure...