“Man-Oh-Manischewitz!”

“Man-oh-Manischewitz!” is one of the standard catchphrases in the Webner household.  It’s an all-purpose comment that may properly be used in a variety of situations to convey surprise, delight, or satisfaction, or even as a deft substitute for a minor obscenity.  (Another oft-heard statement in Webner House is “one man’s family,” usually muttered with a sad shake of the head and heartfelt sigh while looking at a mess created by the dogs.)

Every successful relationship or team has these kinds of verbal stand-by references, whether they be secret nicknames, punchlines from old, long-forgotten jokes, a lyric from a song that was popular during college, or the tag line for ancient TV commercials about really tooth-curlingly sweet kosher wine.  You could reasonably argue that such utterances are, in fact, part of the reason why the team or relationship is successful in the first place.

These comfortable catchphrases usually provoke an inner, if not outer, smile among the members of the circle.  They reflect a deep and lasting familiarity and tradition that makes people feel special.  Often they have been used for so long that the first relevant use of the phrase has been lost in the mists of time — although in our case we can reasonably guess that one of us blurted out “man-oh-Manischewitz!” after taking a good slug of an adult beverage that unfortunately turned out to be too strong, too sweet, or otherwise unpotable, everyone laughed, and it became memorialized in the family lexicon.

“Man-oh-Manischewitz!” is a pretty good catchphrase that has come in handy over the years, and it’s also part of a very interesting story with an Ohio connection.  If you’re looking to develop your own family traditions, I commend it to your attention.

April Showers Bring Positive Personality Powers

Some of the “scientific” studies being publicized these days seem decidedly . . . unscientific.  For example, a recent study by scientists in Budapest concluded that the season in which you were born has some influence on your adult personality.

The scientists took 400 people and tried to match their personalities to their birth season.  They determined that people born in the summer are more likely to experience mood swings, people born in the winter are less likely to be irritable, people born during the fall months are less likely to be depressed, and people born in the spring are more likely to be relentlessly positive.  Why might there be some significance to your birth season?  The scientists say the seasons may affect the body’s production of certain mood-related substances, such as serotonin and dopamine.

Four hundred people seems like a pretty small sample to draw sweeping conclusions about a previously undiscovered relationship between birth season and mood, and if sampling is done incorrectly it’s easy to mistake correlation for causation.  Having known people with birthdays throughout the year, I haven’t noticed any connection between birth date and bitchiness.  In my family, all of the five kids were born in the spring and early summer, and our personality types vary pretty wildly, from sunny optimist to gloomy gus.

And how do you account for the undoubted impact of life lessons on personality?  You could be a positive spring baby, but live for decades as a Cleveland sports fans and you’ll soon shed that cock-eyed optimist for relentless, crushing pessimism.  Budapest scientists can’t possibly understand the well-known Cleveland sports effect on mood.  If all of those summer babies grow up to be Browns fans, it’s bound to skew the results.

Only The Lonely Old Guys

Yesterday UJ and I decided — unwisely, it turned out — to go to a sports bar to watch the Browns.  The place was crowded with hopeful fans, so we had to share a long table with a couple.  As the game started, an old guy asked if he could sit at the table, too.

We said sure . . . and then I was surprised to see that, rather than sitting in an open chair farther down, the guy sat right at UJ’s elbow.  During the game he kept chattering away and interrupting, clearly hoping to engage us in conversation.  At first it was weird and annoying, but eventually it got to be so absurd it was funny.  As the Browns’ horror show mounted, it became one source of humor in another otherwise grim Browns debacle.

It reminded me of an experience Kish and I had on a trip.  When we passed through a common room in a hotel, an older man was sitting there with a few bottles of wine and invited us to come back for a “wine tasting.”  Kish felt sorry for him and said we should join him, so later we did.  The guy turned out to be a colossal know-it-all who chattered away non-stop, overriding the comments of others and one-upping every observations and anecdote.  No matter the topic, he knew more about it than you did.  Name a place, even a remote spot in a foreign land, and he had had an extraordinary experience there.  It was an amazing performance — so extraordinary that when Kish and I finally escaped the onslaught, we also got a few laughs out of it.

Although they produced a few chuckles, the incidents with the Wine Guy and the Random Browns Fan were kind of sad, too.  I can see going to a bar to watch a game on satellite dish that’s not on regular TV; I’ve done it before.  But I’ve never tried to intrude on the conversations of others, and I’ve certainly never bought a few bottles of wine in hopes of enticing random people to sit and listen to my boring tales.  (That’s what a blog is for!)

There must be a lot of lonely old guys out there, searching for positive human contact.

Our Riotous Boss’s Day Celebration

Yesterday morning the ever-upbeat Chipper Secretary came into my office with a big smile on her face, handed me a card, and said:  “Happy Boss’s Day!”

Eh?  Boss’s Day?

Of course!  How could I have forgotten?  That explained the din from outside the window, where the famous Columbus Boss’s Day parade was passing by.  As the CS and I looked outside to see the throngs of ecstatic celebrants crowding the streets, a band was playing one of the many selections from the great American songbook recognizing the crucial role played by bosses in our society.  One of the many floats — all of which are hand made by office workers and must be decorated exclusively with shredded, recycled copier paper — depicted an appreciative employee receiving a “coaching session” from a friendly mentor that turned around his lagging career.  It was followed by the popular Shriner mini-cars, which stopped and disgorged gangs of would-be “bosses” juggling paperweights and other desk ornaments as happy children shrieked with laughter, then a man dressed like a stapler who handed out free samples to the grateful parade-watchers.

Of course, the celebration didn’t stop outside the window.  In our office excited people gathered in conference rooms to eat traditional Boss’s Cake, each hoping to get the piece with the tiny gold bowler hat that presages a year of “exceeds expectation” performance reviews.  Later the ritual Boss’s Day games began, and one of the secretaries set a new firm speed record for successfully placing a five-party conference call while simultaneously booting up a PowerPoint presentation.  By the end of the day, exhausted but happy workers were ready to go back to their homes, ready for their families to share in the fellowship that always wells in the breast of every employee when Boss’s Day ends.

I really appreciated the card.

Another Reason Not To Celebrate Columbus Day

Columbus Day is one of those “holidays” that really isn’t a holiday in any meaningful sense of the word.  Sure, federal workers and state workers get the day off — they get every holiday off, without fail — and so do bank employees.  For the rest of us working stiffs, however, Columbus Day is just another day to slog into the office and briefly wonder why that the flow of rush hour traffic is lighter than on the average work day.

And these days many people don’t care much for Christopher Columbus, either.  Admiral of the Ocean Sea, persuader of Ferdinand and Isabella, intrepid explorer — forget all that stuff we learned in grade school!  Now we hear that Columbus brought disease and slavery to the New World and is viewed as standing for colonialism, cultural insensitivity, and a Eurocentric vision of the world.  That’s why some people insist, instead, on celebrating Indigenous People’s Day.

Poor old Chris and his lame holiday are taking a beating from every quarter — which is why I got a chuckle out of the story sent along by the Friendly Doc Next Door, about an Ann Arbor, Michigan bank that announced that it wasn’t celebrating Columbus Day because Columbus, after all, is a city in Ohio.  Why not?  College football’s greatest rivalry is as good a reason as any to not recognize a federal holiday that is a “holiday” in name only.  When Arbor Day rolls around, we here in Ohio will retaliate by not celebrating it, either.

The Wonder Of Fuel Points

When I first started driving, back in 1973, I think the price of regular gas was about 27.9 cents a gallon.

IMG_3442Then the first oil embargo occurred, and gas prices skyrocketed to — oh, I don’t know — maybe 55 cents a gallon?  And the nation was outraged.

In those long ago days, the idea that Americans would pay more than $60 to fill up their gas tanks would have been absolutely ludicrous.  Now, unfortunately, it is commonplace.

Which is why I felt young again when Kish and I stopped to fill up the tank at Giant Eagle on Sunday, and our accumulated Fuel Points allowed us to get premium unleaded gasoline for the ’70s-era price of 55.9 cents a gallon.  A complete fill-up for less than $10!  I felt like going out for a sausage pizza at Tommy’s and then taking Kish to watch the terrifying new thriller Jaws.

Who would have thought that a marketing technique like Fuel Points could make you feel like you were back in high school?

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

IMG_3440Ugh.  Today the old boring guy was pushing around the Loud Thing.  What is the Loud Thing, and why does he push it around?  Who knows — but sometimes he does.  He moves from room to room, and keeps moving a long black string that looks like a snake while he does it.  And when he moves into a room with the Loud Thing, that’s when it’s time for me to go somewhere else.

Boy, is the Loud Thing loud!  It’s so loud that it scares Kasey, and I don’t particularly like having it around, either.  It makes a noise that not quite like a bark, or a growl, or a snarl.  It’s almost like all of those things combined, and a wind storm besides — but much, much louder.

And I keep wondering, what is it?  When the old boring guy is pushing it, it is loud.  But when the old boring guy is away, it is totally quiet.  And it smells like dust.

Fortunately, in our pack the Loud Thing only comes out once in a while.  Kasey and I are happy dogs when it goes away.