The Hitchhiker

By Jim Hagarty

There is a country song about a singer who is driving along near Montgomery, Alabama, when he spies a hitchhiker by the side of the road. A long, lanky fellow in a cowboy hat.

The driver pulls over to pick him up. The grateful passenger is Hank Williams. Fifty years after the country music icon died in the back seat of his car.

A similar thing happened to me today.

I never met my Grandpa. He died in 1950, a few months before I was born.

But there, on the side of the road, was a hitchhiker. A thin man of medium build, dressed in what seemed like Sunday clothes, wearing a neat straw hat.

I pulled over and was soon astonished that the man was my Grandfather. It was quite an experience. He was startled too to become acquainted with the grandson who had picked him up.

“Where are you heading?” I asked him. He gave me an address. I wasn’t familiar with the place. I pulled out my iPhone.

“Just wait a minute. I will enter the address in Google Maps.”

“In what?” he asked.

I tried to explain. He was fascinated with the little device I held in my hands.

“Do you mind if I go through the drivethrough?” I asked my ancestor.

“What is a drivethrough?” he asked.

He didn’t want anything. I ordered a drink at the restaurant speaker. He was startled when a voice took my order.

I was handed a paper cup at the window. I explained it contained coffee.

“In a cup made of paper?” he asked.

We drove along. A female voice on my phone told me to turn right, turn left.

Then the phone made a strange sound.

“Hey, I just got a text,” I said.

“A what?” asked my forebear.

I pulled over to answer the text. And an email that had also come in.

Then the phone rang. Grandpa was startled. I answered the call. He knew what a telephone was, but had never seen one not attached to a wall and a receiver that didn’t have a cord.

We drove a few more miles. I pulled over again.

“Do you mind if I check my bank balance?” I asked.

“That’s fine,” said Grandpa. “But where are you going to find a bank around here? And it’s Saturday. They are all closed.”

“No,” I laughed. “I will check it on my phone.”

After that, I showed him a video of two puppies chasing a tennis ball. He turned white. He had died eight years before the farmhouse he had built was outfitted with its first black and white TV. He had never heard the term TV.

We started driving again.

“Do you mind if I pop in a CD?” I asked my grandfather.

“A what?”

Music boomed out of the car speakers. He jumped a bit in his seat. I turned off the music.

We drove along in silence for a while, then I pulled into a gas station to fill up. I started getting out of the car.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Don’t worry,” I answered. I walked up to a big machine, stuck my card in a slot, removed the pump handle and filled up my tank. Replaced the handle, got back in the car, and started to drive away.

“Don’t you have to pay for that gas?” asked Grandpa.

“I already did,” I replied.

We drove along. I pressed a button and rolled down the windows. It was a hot day. The sight of the windows going down on their own surprised my Grandfather.

We passed a Chevy Volt as we drove along.

“Why is that car moving but not making a sound?” asked Grandfather.

I started to explain about electric cars.

He interrupted me.

“Could you let me off at the next corner?” he asked me.

I pulled over. Said a painful goodbye. He got out.

As I drove away, I saw him looking astonished at a young man who went whizzing by him on a motorized skateboard.

I put the CD back in.

“I’m so lonesome, I could cry,” sang Hank Williams.

A tear ran down my cheek.

Humour Writer Strikes Again!

By Jim Hagarty

I’m not sure what the job description for a humour writer might be, if one was ever written, but it would probably contain some fuzzy stuff such as “observes human behaviour and characteristics and comments humourously on the data collected by such examinations.” A more simply stated directive might say, “Pokes fun at everybody.” An even briefer outline would be, “Class clown.”

Having written humour for several decades now, I know a little of which I speak. I have come to the conclusion that we humour writers are incredibly insecure and spend our lives looking for laughs wherever we can find them. In the process, we develop a few human characteristics of our own.

First of all, we have egos the size of cathedrals. This translates onto the page as an almost insufferable superiority, albeit one that is skilfully hidden, lest our readers think us to be pompous. Our basic premise is this, however: anyone who thinks, acts, or looks differently from us, is a perfect candidate for our ridicule because, basically, to have the nerve to have ways that are not similar to our own is to be hopelessly wrong.

This is why becoming educated is a poor career move for a humour writer because as he discovers the real reasons why others are the way they are, he will inevitably lose his appetite for putting them down. And therefore, his “edge.”

The second main thing to know about the breed known as the humourist is that we were born without a conscience. There is almost no situation in life that we will consider off limits for mockery, whether it be religion, poverty, marriage or terminal illness. In fact, we love to laugh at death. The truth is, it scares the life out of us. As does marriage, religion and the prospect of poverty.

We are the original whistlers past the graveyard.

Finally, the most significant thing to know about the humour writer is that absolutely everyone we meet, sooner or later, will come into our sights. Our targets include wives, children, co-workers, friends, pets – basically any living thing that makes the mistake of wandering into our view. When one of them objects to being pummelled in print, we react with hostility, “Learn to take a joke, will ya!”

I had reason to be reminded of this last point recently when I had coffee with an old friend who is a humour writer like me. I hadn’t seen him in a while and as we sat down in the coffee shop, I removed my cap. As I did, I noticed his eyes fix in some surprise on the top of my head and his eyebrows shoot up as he noticed how completely hairless my scalp had become since our last get-together. I knew what he was doing and thinking, as I, like him, am a keen observer of my fellow humans.

I thought nothing more of it at the time, but I might have guessed the outcome of his consternation at my clear-cut cranium had I mused on it a while.

Six days later, my mouth dropped open as I read a column by my friend on the subject of male baldness and the various steps he has noticed his balding friends are taking to either cover up or cope with their condition.
My friend, of course, has a full head of hair, and so, inevitably, would find much mirth in those around him who aren’t so follicly endowed.

Had I been betrayed?

Not really.

More like repaid.

And educated.

“So, that’s how it feels,” I thought. It wasn’t the end of the world. My name wasn’t in print for all to see.

But the incident reminded me about two other features of the class clown.

We are painfully thin-skinned, better at giving it than taking it.

And we often sat alone at lunch in the school cafeteria.

If you doubt the truth of any of this, consider the fact that I have just written about my “friend” who wrote about me.

Humour writing, after all, is also primarily about getting the last word.

Thoughts Don’t Fail Me Now!

By Jim Hagarty

My brain would be a lot happier if it didn’t have Thoughts in it.

I have met a few people in my life who have no Thoughts in their brains and I have to say, they seem downright blissful.

Thoughts are a bunch of undisciplined ruffians. They go where they want, do what they want. They remind me of some of the students I had when I was teaching college. Those students loved anarchy. What they didn’t love was listening to a bespectacled, balding, old guy who wore threadbare blazers and tired old Hush Puppies.

Sometimes Thoughts co-operate and it’s wonderful. Your wedding day. “Hooray!” say Thoughts. Or a lottery win. I once won four free pitchers of beer in the Lucan hotel. My Thoughts were over the moon about that till everyone in the pub came over and drank the four pitchers dry.

But mostly, Thoughts love to wander. And they like to go where they are not welcome. Especially into lands filled with forbidden fruit trees.

Sometimes, they hike off for a day to the Past. The adventure might start off all right, but they soon get bogged down when they run into the three-headed demon known as Regret, Remorse and Resentment.

But the land Thoughts most like to occupy is the Future. The Future is like the planet Mars. You know it exists. You’ve seen the pictures. You can even catch a glimpse of it sometimes in the night sky. But like Mars, no human has ever set foot in the Future, and my guess is, no one ever will.

But that doesn’t stop Thoughts. I don’t personally see the attraction, but Thoughts just love to play around in the Future. Must be the adrenalin rush. Because they aren’t there very long until they run into an even scarier three-headed monster: Fear, Terror and Panic.

It’s damn hard to keep Thoughts at home where they belong. Home is the Present. And like any home, I guess, it can be a bit boring, maybe even messy. It is often the place where Excitement goes to die.

Now and then, exhausted from their scary journeys into Forbidden Lands, perhaps, Thoughts will park it in the leather recliner and be happy to take a day off.

Brain is forever grateful for those times.

I don’t know where they get their energy, because Thoughts rarely sleep.

They’re too busy planning their next roller coaster ride.

My Chariot Awaits

Coffee cup

By Jim Hagarty

I started a blog two weeks ago to entertain the masses.

And to make money.

So I did an Internet search on how to start a blog.

Mission accomplished.

Then I did some more searching, this time on how to make money from a blog. Imagine my surprise: There are a million ways. Or are there?

I finally settled on the words of advice from a blogger who makes $100,000 a month. That is a nice round figure, I thought, and he seemed pretty humble. So I became his disciple.

There were sites I found by people who make many times more than $100,000 a month but I am not a greedy man. I can get by on $1,200,000 a year.

My guru had 20 suggestions. I looked them over carefully. They seemed to make sense.

His biggest pearl of wisdom came when he discussed his opinion that the riches won’t come from the blog itself. Instead, they will happen as a result of what I am able to sell on my blog. And what I need to sell is my expertise.

I need to think of myself as a teacher. Imagine what it is my readership needs, assess what it is I have expertise in, and then match those two things up.

Expertise. Hmmm.

I took an hour out of my day and just sat and thought about my expertise. What is it, I asked myself, that I am an expert in? What things do I know that many people don’t know and how can I align that knowledge with the needs my readers have?

My brain started doing its brain thing. The session extended into a second hour. I encountered some difficulty in singling out something I know that most people don’t know and need to know.

Ideas started to come. I know how to prevent my breakfast cereal from becoming soggy. (Hint: Pour the milk in the bowl first, then the cereal.)

I know that the best way to trim your fingernails is to use a toenail clippers.

Good ideas, I knew they were, but the wheels ground to a halt.

Then, jackpot!

This winter I discovered how to easily peel that pesky free coffee sticker off the side of a McDonald’s coffee cup. Without giving too much of the secret away, the answer is to peel it off while the coffee is still inside the cup. The hot coffee melts the wax holding the sticker to the cardboard.

I was elated.

Following my guru’s next steps, I am going to write an e-book about easy sticker removals and post that for sale on my blog.

I will compound that success by coming up with a beautiful, hardcover, coffeetable version of the e-book. I will sell it for $29.95. Correction: $39.95.

Third, I will organize a speaking tour about the subject of sticker peeling.

Fourth, a YouTube video.

And finally, I will offer courses on the subject. On-line and off. The eight-week, real in-person course will cost students $599.00. Correction: $799.00. And bring your own McDonald’s coffee cup, contents still inside.

I was over at the local Chevy dealer today. They have two new Corvettes in the lot. One cherry red, one silver. I can’t decide which one to get.

Ah, what the hell?

I’m going to get both of them.

My VP Proposal

Luigi's policy positions are complicated.
Luigi’s policy positions are complicated.

By Jim Hagarty
Punn Ditt Inc.

You might have heard there is an election going on in the United States.

No need to fill you in on the race to become the new president, but the candidates are moving into a new phase of considering vice-presidential running mates.

Donald J. Trump is busy testing out possible VPs. High on his list apparently was Yosemite Sam but the rootin’ tootin’ loudmouth is seen as too calm a personality for the ticket.

A bunch of politicians have lined up as possible choices for Trump to consider. A stellar crew if ever there was one.

Sarah Palin is even willing to take another shot at it. Last weekend, she explained that she wouldn’t need much examination by the Trump campaign as she is probably the most “vetted” person in the country.

That may be so. But if a successful vetting is all that is required to occupy the office of vice-president, I would like to offer my cat Luigi for consideration.

Palin might believe she’s been thoroughly vetted, and maybe she has, but I know of no creature who has been more vetted than Luigi.

There was the time he ate three feet of ribbon that he somehow found but after much vetting, he survived the ordeal.

Another vetting process found a lump above his eye. I believe he might have been assaulted by the dog when no one was home.

Also, he has the teeth of a pirate lost at sea for three years, something that came to light during his recent intense vetting. A thousand bucks would clean those chompers right up, we were told. We have opted for giving him an eyepatch and renaming him Ahoy!

Not sure how much Sarah Palin’s vetting cost her but Luigi’s in-depth background examinations have us eating mac and cheese six nights out of seven. (The seventh night, we skip the cheese.)

Our cat, like Ted Cruz, was born in Canada. But he does not have Canadian citizenship or a passport so I think he would not be disqualified on that basis.

“Luigi for Veepee.”

Nice slogany ring to it!

I hope this helps.

Grand Old Party On

By Jim Hagarty

As it turns out, even as a Canadian, I can join the U.S. Republican Party.

My registration kit came in the mail today. I was excited to open it up. It is a 12-page booklet entitled, “How to Become an Asshole.” For another $150, I can send away for the gold edition, “How to Become a Total Asshole.” The kit I got helpfully leads me through the 10 steps I need to take to become a basic member.

  1. Cranium Reduction Surgery. I am instructed on the procedure for removing 90 per cent of my brain. Great advances have been made. No need now to open up the skull. It can be done with an unintrusive laser procedure.

  2. Anger Heightening Management. I am instructed to write down the top 10 things that make me mad. Then add 10 more things to that list. Then another 10 and so on until my lists tops out at 100. It is is okay to include “list making really pisses me off” as one of the 100.

  3. Hatred Quotient Testing. This is flagged as the most important of the 10 steps. There is a helpful list with checkboxes beside each of the 35 items on it. I have to deeply hate a lot of things. Muslims. Foreigners. Non-white people. Toyotas. Gays. Hollywood. Mexicans. Bankers. Michael Moore. The list is extensive. The two top items: Women. And Myself. The instructions regarding hatred helpfully spell out. “Trying to hate a lot of things without hating yourself, is like trying to take a sip of water by tipping a rain barrel up to your lips. Try as you might, you will be wet all over when you are done. Go ahead. Self-hatred is not that hard to achieve.”

  4. Reality Uncheck. This section lists 100 “so-called” facts. I am to memorize them and then deny that any of them are true. Number 56: I am a human being. No I am not.

  5. Selfishness Meter. The kit includes a handy and stylish silver bracelet I can wear, the face of which turns various colours depending on how I feel towards others. The face goes ruby red when I am successfully thinking only about myself. Green shows up if I find myself caring about anything other than my own well-being. A helpful warning beep sounds if I begin to slide out of red to yellow and a horn sounds when I slip into green.

  6. Violence Appreciation Scale. There are various tests to assess my acceptance of violence as a useful everyday lifeskill. And questions to guide me along. Such as Road Rage is: Fantastic, Wonderful, Amazing. (Check one only.) And would you be willing to shoot to death someone who keyed your Camaro. This is an easy one for me. Of course I would.

  7. Lying Liar Workout. Again, a number of tests and questions to assess how well or poorly I am able to lie. I talked to someone who took this test. As it turns out, the only way to pass it is to lie when answering each and every question.

  8. Religious Fanatic Puzzle. This was tricky. If you saw Jesus hugging a lesbian, would you be willing to walk up to Our Lord and tell him to knock it off. The correct answer is yes. You are also asked to rate yourself regarding how close to the front of the line you expect to be when the Rapture starts. (Easy for me. I will be number 9, right ahead of Mother Teresa.)

  9. Education Eradication Pledge. I am instructed to sign a pledge promising to learn absolutely nothing new for the rest of my life. I will also need to attend one of 10 Un-Education Centres (privately run) where 20 weeks of intense instruction will cause me to forget 85 per cent of everything I ever learned. This will be easy for me as I have already forgotten 75 per cent of everything I ever knew.

  10. Da Do Ron Ron. Last on the list is a series of 10 prayers I will need to learn to recite. They are all directed towards the ultimate Lord and Saviour St. Ronald Reagan.