Oh Those Stupid Races

By Jim Hagarty
2014

Well isn’t that cute, I thought. One of the horses in the race we were betting on was called You Can’t Fix Stupid. Six of us former journalism teachers were sitting around a monitor and looking out the big windows at the racetrack, following the excitement and checking our tickets after every race. We had each thrown $20 in a pot and when that was gone, we’d quit betting. This night, we were doing pretty well. In fact, by Race 5 we were up almost $500.

I’m new to this but nevertheless I was sent up to place our bets for Race 6. I took some money, approached the wicket and carefully placed $24 worth of $2 bets. When the race was over, there was great rejoicing at our table. We had won $499.80.

OMG we’ve made a thousand dollars tonight went the shouts and there were still six races to go.

One of the other teachers grabbed the winning ticket and went to the wicket to collect. He was there a long time and he seemed to be almost arguing with one of the women there. I suggested helpfully that maybe she didn’t have enough cash to pay us. Someone else said he looked like he was negotiating with the clerk. Finally, he turned and came back to the table with a disgusted look on his face. He tossed the ticket on the table in front of me. “You bet on the wrong race,” he said to me.

It was quiet on the way home, all of us in the car. The only thing that saved me at all was the fact that our winning streak carried on for the rest of the night and we ended up ahead $800. Nevertheless, there was some suggestion made that I would be left in a cornfield somewhere and the words “hide the body” were also spoken but I am not sure what that was all about. I didn’t want to know.

All I do know for sure is You Can’t Fix Stupid didn’t win, place or show, and I felt badly for him as he and I seemed to be kindred spirits that night.

Cleaned Up Good

By Jim Hagarty
2013

Picked up the phone just now.

How are you sir? Don’t understand, don’t understand, $120, don’t understand, flat rate, don’t understand, guaranteed, don’t understand, don’t understand, don’t understand, limited time offer, don’t understand, no hidden fees, don’t understand, when would you like us to start?

Never, I guess, because I do not speak whatever language you are speaking and as a result, I really don’t know what you are selling. Duct cleaning, carpet cleaning, tractor cleaning – not quite sure. I think you want to clean something.

Sorry.

Friendly guy not so friendly any more. Click.

Now, what was I doing with my life when I was so rudely interrupted? Oh yeah, I was cleaning the floor.

My Morning Protein Drink

By Jim Hagarty
2017

We face many decisions in life. Halfway through the best takeout coffee I’ve had in weeks, sitting under my favourite shade tree, I notice a dead fruit fly floating on top of the brown elixir. Curses. Try several times to scoop it out with my finger but succeed only in driving it down into the liquid, never to be seen again. Finish my drink or throw it out? Now I have to swallow a spider to catch the fly.

Deal of a Lifetime

By Jim Hagarty
2012

I bought a new, big, black, plastic garbage can to put out at the street every week. Thirty dollars or so.

Today I noticed, as I was removing a sticker from it, that it has a lifetime warranty. Really? I am 61 now. When I am 91 and the thing falls apart as I drag it out to the curb, will I really contact somebody about it to get my money back? The store I bought it at will probably be gone by then. Maybe even the company that made it.

So how much time am I going to be able to spend by then tracking down the people who promised to replace my garbage can if it breaks? And it will break because plastic left outside eventually becomes brittle and cracks. And with our garbage pickup guys treating it like they were roping a bull at a rodeo, its lifespan will be limited for sure.

So why print “lifetime warranty” on this thing when everyone knows that except for the first few months maybe, those words hold absolutely no meaning? It would have been just as true to have put “free food for the next 50 years” on it.

At least that promise I might try to collect on.

The 1964 Mercury Montclair

I saw this lovely 1964 Mercury Montclair in a parking lot at a muffler shop near my home in Stratford, Ontario, Canada recently. One unique feature of this semi-luxury car was the back window, the middle section of which rolled down. Mercury was part of Ford’s lineup of cars back then and it was always a step up from the basic Ford lines. I don’t believe Mercury even exists as a brand these days. – JH

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The Tables Have Turned

By Jim Hagarty
2012

I went for my daily walk yesterday morning and had a few things on my mind. I can’t remember what things, exactly, but I know one thing that I wasn’t thinking about when I left the house. I had absolutely no plan to get more furniture for the rec room.

Along the streets I walked, turned a corner and there they were: Four, perfectly good, solid wooden TV tables, all standing in a wooden case. Interesting. As I was looking them over, Frank, the crossing guard, who was sitting in his car nearby, said, “If you want ’em you better take them ’cause I’m going to throw them in my trunk when my shift is over.”

“You can have them,” I said, nervously.

Then I continued my walk, and this thought began to obsess me. I had to have those tables. Had to. The thought that Frank was going to get them started driving me crazy. As I walked, I pictured two futures: one with the tables and one without and believe me, the one that included those tables was much preferable to the one without.

I picked up my pace and was practically running by the time I hit my driveway. I ran into the house, grabbed my keys, drove the van like crazy over to the street with the tables and raced down there. Frank’s car was still there, but he wasn’t inside. I couldn’t see, couldn’t see, are they, what is that?

YES!

No one anywhere on Earth at that moment was happier than I was as I loaded them into the van. Funny how something I didn’t even know existed 10 minutes before became the whole focus of my existence until they were safely tucked away in my garage.

Next year, they’ll be sitting out at our curb with a “free” sign on them.

I bet Frank comes by and gets them. I just bet he does.

Specializing in Fear

By Jim Hagarty
2017

I have a problem with authority. And authority figures. Childhood thing, I think.

This character defect is behind the four times in my life that I have been fired from a job. My Dad always said every good man should be fired three times so I have done him one better. I must be a great man.

Unfortunately, the authority figures I fear the most wear white coats and are gainfully employed as medical specialists. And now that I am well into my seventh decade of wandering aimlessly around this planet, I find I am encountering medical specialists more often than seems desirable.

With most of the specialists I see from time to time, I am able to play it fairly cool and disguise my terror. I smile, use a little humour and am suitably deferential. But there is one guy who scares the pants off me.

Now some specialists order me to take my pants off and this man is not in that business. Nevertheless, I stand before him every time as though I was in line for approval by an admissions committee at a nudist colony.

I don’t know exactly what it is about this specialist that has me dreading appointments with him months in advance. But I think it has something to do with the fact that he was apparently born without a sense of humour. And he was endowed with an overabundance of ability to be sarcastic.

He is not the least bit shy about scolding me, as though I was a two-year-old, slumping in my high chair. In fact, he has actually, sternly and loudly ordered me to sit up straight in my chair.

“I told you to sit still,” he has remarked.

“Look straight ahead!” he has said. “I did not say look to your left.”

I went to see him on Monday and could hardly sleep Sunday night, waiting for the encounter which was scheduled for 10 a.m. I was up and showering at 8 a.m., fully two hours ahead of the appointment at an office a five-minute drive from my house. I showed up a half hour early.

Finally, he came to the waiting room and called my name, directing me to one of his examination rooms and ordering me to sit in the “chair on the right”, or at least that is what I thought he mumbled. I walked into the room and panicked. There were three chairs there. It was hard to tell which one was the one on the right. I chose the one in the middle and fortunately, I guess, chose the right one.

He came in and barked out a few questions which I tried to answer without fainting. Then, as he always does, he asked me to tell him what medications I am taking. He may as well have asked me to read out the alphabet to him backwards, skipping every second letter. Or to recite to him the table of minerals, if there is such a thing. I couldn’t remember the name of even one pill.

However, trying to be helpful, I said, “Actually, I did what you told me to do last time and went and got a wallet-sized printout showing my medications from the pharmacy.”

“Well, where is it?” he asked.

“It’s in my wallet. In the car.”

“So, when you show up at emergency some day, and they ask for this information, you’ll tell them it’s in the car?”

I slithered out of the chair in a puddle and oozed under his desk.

I would ask my family doctor for another specialist but I would have to drive 40 miles for appointments and for all his abruptness, I know that my guy is one of the best around.

Besides, I’d just be terrorized by a new specialist is all. Because it is not their problem; it’s mine.

I just hate anyone telling me what to do.