The High Cost of Contentment

By Jim Hagarty
2011

I complain to anyone who will listen, an audience that is quickly shrinking by the hour, about the high cost of keeping our pets healthy. The local animal “hospital” we frequent looks like a fancy hotel. I am surprised, dressed in my best troll under the bridge clothes, they even let me in the place.

There are now 16 hearts beating in our home (and probably a few more in the form of the odd mouse nesting here and there). There are four humans, two cats, one dog and, at last count, nine gerbils. It’s a long way from the days when only two of us lived in this little shack – my cat Grumbles and I. And despite the expense, if I am honest, which I rarely am, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

They say a cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. I don’t want to be that person.

The Bothersome Rodent

By Jim Hagarty
Renowned Terrible Limericker

I once knew a squirrel named Mike.
Not the kind of squirrel you could like.
He ate seed for the birds
And his pals were all turds
So I yell, “Hey Mike! Take a hike!”

Trouble in Dreamland

By Jim Hagarty
2006

As Bugs Bunny sang: I dream of Jeannie, she’s a light brown hare

The range of subjects on which to have a boring discussion with another person is probably endless, but about the worst item l can think of is the details of our dream lives. How, I wonder, could it possibly be of any interest to me at all what crazy images blazed across the wide-screen TV in your head while you were unconscious last night? Unless you had recurring nightmares about your stabbing me 42 times with a 12-inch-long butcher knife while I sat in my chair watching a hockey game, any other spectacle played out in your brain during your REM cycles couldn’t possibly intrigue me.

And yet, people insist on describing to me, in vivid detail, every weird – and sometimes macabre – twist and turn and change of scenery and characters in the drama that was the dream they had last night. I am not denying that dreams can be very interesting, but only, I believe, to the person who experiences them. As it happens, I dream like mad all night long, it seems, and if woken during the night, can’t wait to get back to sleep to see what’s up next in the lineup.

It’s almost, ahem, a dream come true: channel-flipping all night long without the need to run a remote control and risk contracting carpal tunnel syndrome.

Of course, what is truly frustrating is how dreams end just when they’re getting really good like having your favourite show interrupted for a major news bulletin and how you can never get that dream back again.

But if having people relate details of their dreams to you is tiresome, having someone interpret the meaning of your dreams is downright annoying. And there seems to be no shortage of people willing to take on, what would seem to me to be, such an arduous and unnecessary task. Now and then, I will make the terrible mistake of sharing one of my more memorable overnight movies with someone, only to have the meaning of each scene explained to me. I think it is the complete authority with which dream interpreters weave their magic that is so infuriating.

Years ago, I was told that if you dream you are free falling (like off a cliff) but you wake before you hit the ground, it means you are having a heart attack. Using this guide, l have probably had four or five hundred heart attacks so far in my life. (What I think might be really useful is if someone could tell me for certain why I keep getting shoved off this cliff.)

If, in your dreams, you discover yourself stark naked in public, it means you have been concealing some fact and need to reveal it.

If, in a dream, you hear someone knocking on your door three times, a family member has just died or is about to die, I can’t remember which.

If you’re the bad guy in most of your dreams, it’s a sign of unresolved conflicts with others that need to be fixed.

If you want a punch in the head, insult someone’s religion, make fun of their kids, deride their politics or career of choice. But if you really want a fight to the death, try telling a dream believer that dreams are nothing more than a nightly fireworks of the brain which occur because the subconscious mind gets a chance to run the show for a few hours while the conscious mind takes a breather. My guess is, talk trash about dreams to a dream interpreter, and your tumble off the cliff might be more than just imaginary.

Some people take these things very seriously. Having figured out who they are, don’t even dream about describing your dreams to them. That can be nightmare.

At the Sound of the Beep

By Jim Hagarty
1988

It’s strange what things in an affluent society a man will come to think he requires.

First, he has to have a telephone in his kitchen so he can be in frequent communication with vacuum-cleaner hawkers, magazine pedlars and people conducting opinion polls. Next, he needs another telephone to put on his bedside table so he can answer 2 a.m. calls from inebriates wanting to order pizzas. Then he has to have a third machine to answer the calls that come in on the first two machines when he’s not home, so he’ll never again miss out on a chance for some quick and easy aggravation.

Some sort of important line is crossed when a man buys a telephone-answering device. It’s a declaration on his part that all his previous half-hearted attempts to bring perfect order into his world are over and that he’s now serious about whipping the chaos into a system.

I crossed that line last week when, on impulse, I put down 160 hard-earned dollars on a counter and walked out of a store with a sleek little apparatus that has already changed my life. There can be no going back.

When I had the machine hooked up, I thought about what kind of message I’d record on it so that my true personality would shine through without scaring people off.

“Hi! This is Jim. I’m outside washing bird dung off the back of my house right now and can’t come to the phone so if you wouldn’t mind leaving me a message at the sound of the beep.”

I played it back. It was accurate. A couple of condors, I guess, had done a fly past and scored several direct hits. But it lacked a certain sophistication.

“Hi! This is Jim. I’m in the middle of a big argument with my cats right now but if you’ll leave me a message…”

Too tacky, I decided, and self-revealing. And I don’t need any animal-rights activists banging on my door.

I toyed with, “What the heck do you want?” but decided it was too direct. I ended up, instead, with a very plain and simple statement. It’s me.

It was 10 p.m. by the time my machine was ready to go. I sat there in front of it until almost 1 a.m. No one called.

No one called all the next day.

The following day, no one called again but at least the number of messages hadn’t dropped from the day before. I finally decided the darned thing probably needed to be primed like an old hand water pump so I got three people from work to call and leave me messages.

It worked. The next morning, an uncle called. I congratulated him on being the first official caller to leave a message.

“What do I win?” he asked.

“A year’s free groceries,” I replied.

The thing’s been crammed full of messages since then. Saturday night, I gave my sister a lengthy explanation of the wonders of my new machine.

“Say, for example, I’m at work, and I want to leave a message at home for my friend,” I beamed. “All I have to do is phone home and record the message I want to leave him on the special memo part of the machine. Then, when he phones my place, all he does is press three secret numbers only he has and then the machine automatically plays him the message I left him.”

She looked at me with some disdain. What should I expect from a person whose phone is still on a party line?

“Had you never thought of just calling your friend directly and giving him your message personally?” she asked.

Some people have no imagination. No sense of adventure.

No interest in science.