Properly following pro baseball always seems to allude me as a basketball and football fan growing up in the Washington D.C. region.  Once the Senators left, I suppose I could never quite recover from my baseball orphan post-traumatic stress.

It’s nothing to do with not liking the Nationals.  Because I really do.  They produce a consistent brand of winning and are very likable.

It’s not them.  It’s me.

Each time I try and make a real season of it—I get derailed and sidetracked by various forces.  The biggest challenge being the frequency of baseball games coupled with the slowness of the actual action.  No matter how fresh and exciting the opening week of pro baseball is and the new season promises to be—no matter how hard I try to absorb the Zen like traditions of the game as Ken Burns has documented–I still get worn down and lose focus.  And, before I know it, I have once again allowed another 4 months to go by without attending a LIVE game or really feeling like I joined in enough to feel transported.

Surely one of the funniest aspects of the slow pace of baseball must be the little fidgeting rituals that the players and staff do.  For someone like my wife, who tows the line in a very old school way when it comes to spitting and compulsive fidgeting all around one’s body, the visuals are just too inappropriate to take in.

“Why does that guy keep doing that?” she will exclaim while watching a player tug and yank and spit in ways that would most certainly result in some form of consequence in the public schools.

So, as I plop down on my favorite LAZY BOY lounger in my TV room to watch the little baseball I do, I try to fidget back the best way I know how.

The game itself is an open invitation for fidgeting and fidgeters.

I find my best position with my feet elevated at just the right angle.  I balance the popcorn bag between my knees and begin my own waiting game for sporadic outbursts of actual game action.

Meanwhile, I scratch every itch that seems most pressing on my body.

And I catch myself listening to the mellifluous voices of TV game announcers as they unveil ever old story and relevant baseball statistic in perfect harmony with the long-protracted gaps between plays.

On this given day, the play by play guy is in TOP FORM as he weaves a comforting, Curt Goudy kind of crackle and pop with each turn of phrase from his masterfully folky voice.

Soon I am tapping my right index finger on the wall next to my chair with regularity.

And I focus on the TV cameras that zoom in on the fidgeting battles taking place in the outfield, the pitching mound and the batting box.

It is a symphony of suspense and choreography.

The pitcher licks his tongue repetitively and the batter proceeds to tap the ground X amount of times superstitiously.  Bryce Harper is particularly noteworthy for his rituals with his highly rhythmical, 3 taps of the bat around the home plate before striking his batting pose—performing it as dutifully as a devout Catholic performs the signs of the cross.

After 5 minutes watching the batter and pitcher go through strikes, foul balls, and more interminable delays—I watch the next batter in the on-deck circle.  He puts a stick of gum — Wrigley’s, I believe from the close-up– in his mouth and chews it until he reaches the plate. Then he removes the wad, flips it in the air and hits it with his bat. He makes contact.

History is replete with these anomalies:  When Randy Myers climbed from the infield grass to the rubber, he always did so from the back of the mound. Henry Aaron always waited until he was in the batter’s box before he put his helmet on his head. And he always used two hands, but only after he stood the bat on its barrel end and placed the handle between his thighs.

I study as much of these mannerisms as I can before the dulcet tones of this mellow Saturday afternoon, mingled with the soothing play by play announcers voice, has lulled me into a shallow sleep.

When I wake up the score is O to O and the only action I have really seen has been of the fidgeting kind.  I note that the next batter obsessively tugs at the back of the neck of his uniform shirt while in the box and pirouettes on one foot after a swing and miss.

I look out into the outfield and watch the left fielder spit out a multitudinous shower of sunflower seeds.  During a change of pitcher, this same outfielder throws a practice baseball into the rows of fans in the section just beyond the home run wall as a memento for a little kid.

I focus back on the batter.  After a swing and miss, the next batter almost always walks forward into fair territory and then around the catcher and umpire before stepping back in.  I chart this behavior for the next 6 innings.

And then there’s this other prospect just brought up from the minor league; he does a deep knee bend before stepping in, and then he holds his bat upright and stares at it momentarily as if communicating with it.

The game within the game continues: the catcher covertly conveys special pitching instructions with his fingers to the Pitcher.  The Pitcher nods his head then massages his baseball under his armpit before refitting his baseball cap back tightly on to his head.

The pitcher takes the opportunity to undo his Velcro wrist straps and then fasten them back on again.

While processing this, I pick my nose and signal for my dog to sit by my feet.

Suddenly there is a stoppage.  The Manager totters out on to the beautiful grassy field– looking cartoonish and out of place attired as he is in a baseball player uniform at his advanced age—and soon secret discussions are commenced with lots of head bowing and nodding.

The score is now 0-0.

Soon I am tapping my right index finger on the wall next to my chair with much less regularity.  My popcorn bowl has tipped off my lap and the dog is licking it.

As the sandman comes in to bid me sleep—I make my last adjustment—arcing my lazy boy convertible to the highest position for my legs to go high and my head to go low.

While I drift off to sleep I am reminded of some distant, old ancient baseball poem that seeps back into my memory.  I hear the poem being narrated by a combination of the best baseball play by play announcers in the history of the sport:

“There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;

There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.

And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,

No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;

Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his


Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,

Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the


“We now preempt this imminent game time POETRY action due to a deep sleep that has now settled in on the author as he drifts off completely on his LAZY BOY lounger.”


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Holding on to who we are, while traveling through space on any appointed trip, can be a very desperate proposition to cling to for many of us in this modern age.

On vacations, especially far flung ones, we find ourselves constantly reexamining our pockets for the familiar lumps of ID and money, like some primitive form of selfie braille, to be counted in the ranks of the solvent and independent.

We do this obviously, because our being able to locate our passport, money etc. etc., can be the fragile difference between being somebody and being nobody in the blink of an eye.

So, we spend our whole trip rechecking our inventory of valuables in our respective outfits, keenly aware of crowds closing in on us at escalators and sidewalks and never letting down our guard.

But it’s not just for vacation.

Who are we out in space?  Merely what our ID says?

When commuting to work, I do the same kind of inventory with nearly the same degree of frantic dependency.  Is my cell phone on the front right pocket of my pants?  Is the wallet propping up my back-left rear end pocket thus enabling me to remain sitting in my customary, asymmetrical tilt?

After all, it only takes only one or, perhaps four times, to establish a dubious reputation of failure that one never be shaken even if one were lucky enough to live the 9 lives of a cat.

It may not even be your fault.  Editorial to self—it was the slight hole in the left pocket of my shorts that caused my car keys to slide out and disappear forever.

And while I am on the subject, there’s something very specific about this phenomenon that I need to get off my chest.  Something that’s vexed me these past few years.  When I am driving in my commuter car on a work day, I get frequently plagued with a nameless discontent and vague sense that something is most definitely wrong.

Is it some nameless guilt that I needed to square with?  Some clairvoyant burden of knowing some accident is about to take place?

Or is it aching merely due to a void in my heart that only God can fill?

What exactly was this nameless anxiety preventing me achieving peace with myself you ask?

It turns out that what was getting on my nerve was TIME itself.  The need to observe it.

To be exact–what TIME was it in relation to when I need to be at my place of work?  The need to glance at my dashboard digital clock readout.  This is what was causing my disconcerting feelings of emptiness—to long an absence from keeping abreast with the current time at frequent intervals.

This means orienting my eyeballs towards the dashboard digital clock in my car as part of my driving ritual.  Only then, I discovered, was true peace of mind attainable, allowing me to resume my hobby of surfing the car radio unencumbered and with full mental focus.

Once I did and do–and realize that I am right on track for arriving on time to my place of work based on the sequence of where I happen to be, then I can merrily go back to be an impatiently compulsive consumer of sports talk radio stations and classic rock music.

It works kind of like this—”All is right with the world as I know it is only 5 minutes till 7 while passing the Xerox building, which means I have plenty of time to get to work at 7:30.”

So, what does all our anxiety about who we are in time and space mean?

Funny how that can define who you are and how happy you are.  Almost like a Zen state of reaching the very pinnacle of Maslow’s Hierarchy pyramid.

In all these cases, whether it is to our vocation or on our vacation—it says a lot about us–how dearly critical our material possessions are and our obsession with staying on time.

In fact, we can greatly expand the TIME and valuables paradigm to include this century’s obsession with mastering an infinite amount of data while we travel through space.

“What is the weather?  Who is texting me?  Who is friending me on face book?”

“Is this pop-up box really important or just a ruse?”

For the vast majority of civilized people—it becomes a never ending, nuisance of a bug—one that keeps on buzzing and never goes away for long.

So, I guess the point in all this—besides being more aware of what makes us tick–is to find a way to CARE and yet NOT CARE too much about the status of our mandatory needs—namely what time it is, knowing with 100% certainty where our valuables are, and feeling properly caught up with our social media.

If we can’t possibly detach ourselves from the parasitic definitions that keep us tethered, we can at least try to exercise some spontaneity and carefree obliviousness into the course of our movements.

And this is probably easier done locally, for obvious reasons, as it is the rare soul who can feel centered and at ease while discovering oneself to be completely devoid of passport, ID, or currency while way out in Timbuktu.

Practice the art of taking Sunday drives or leisurely dog walking strolls—anywhere around where you live.  Humble voyages that don’t require documentation.  Where being practical or following some GPS script is completely thrown out the window.

It doesn’t come easily.  Sometimes for a very long time.  At times you may feel like that really irritating, neat nick person who tries to cure themselves of the obsessive habit of picking up anything that falls to the floor–just to prove they can resist the urge and change.

But keep striving towards the simple path.  It’s easier to start the habit locally so that perhaps one day you can build on it by taking little, mini excursions from your hotel in Paris or Rome while overseas.

And hopefully we can find this path way before Alzheimer’s settles in and teaches us a very different kind of blank state, one in which we can’t even be sure who we are even with all the proper identification in the world.

We should all try claiming traveling moments where we can move boldly and feel wholly ourselves while out in space, regardless of the gear we carry.

In this way, we may actually surprise ourselves, for brief little interludes of time—that the intensity of our appreciation of the world around us, allows us to inhabit that elusive Nirvana state in which we are—gloriously, temporarily; living in radical ignorance of where our wallet is, or who we need to dial up on our cell phone, or whether our  keys and wallet remain in their familiar position at the bottom of our pocket at every 5 minute interval.

In other words—by forgetting ourselves momentarily we may discover that we have instead FOUND ourselves.  We can recharge our spiritual battery and take a hiatus from recharging our cell phone battery obsessions.

But it’s all about baby steps in this modern world.  Going off the grid, without critical gear in our pockets-is not something we can expect to do very often.

So, we do what we can and practice obliviousness sparingly.

Even if it is just one walk around the parking lot of our motel. Or an entire work commute without glancing at our dashboard clock.

Even if we are married to a very detail-oriented spouse who may show contempt for us should we misplace our keys or wallet or money or passport.

Still, it is comforting to know that even if we are married and not completely beholden to just ourselves—even then–for certain moments in time, we can move around harmoniously, like monks in a monastery, blissfully unaware of our worldly possessions.

Until that is, we are forced to come up for air again and resume our daily travel inventory of trying hard to string together consecutive days and weeks of months of never losing or forgetting anything that might get us in trouble.


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NO LONGER RESENTFUL (of distracted drivers) By John Watts

driver CELL

The longer I wrestle with the strange changes that come over all my various forms of technology; the more I sympathize with the perpetually busy hand-held users I see around me in my public life.  Makes me rethink all preconceived judgement regarding all those seemingly thoughtless people walking or driving around us casting nary a second of eye contact recognition our way.

It’s not arrogance or narcissism that drives these people to behave like that–I’ve determined all this.

It’s frantic desperation.

Believe me.  I am no longer passing judgement.

I’ve seen all these signs within myself and have been walking in the shoes of multitudes of others like me who likewise, have walked in my beat-up size 13 shoes too.

Chock it all up to bewilderment and frustration—due to trying to perform one simple thing, before some unexpected warning sign or some over loaded sign pops up.

We all figure that if the light is going to stay RED for a while at the stoplight, why not turn on our handhelds and do one quick little check up on something to be proactive?

It’s the most irresistible gamble we know of in this century—spinning the internet wheel for one more go-round.

Maybe a quick note to say we are almost home.  Or that quick song from Spotify that will make our lives more meaningful in between the mindless advertisements on the radio.

Only we can’t do that one little thing because the tricky variability of technology keeps on sending us one step backward.

Before we can blink, we find ourselves wrestling with unscripted mishaps.

“To install new updates click here.”

“Start your 7-day trial offer today!”

Pesky pop ups are parachuting in from all positions.

Or, if your cell phones like mine, strange little interferences that never go away in the daily operation of turning the phone like these:

“APPLE ID VERIFICATION:  ENTER THE PASSWORD FOR YOUR EMAIL IN SETTINGS:        NOT NOW       SETTINGS”  (author’s note: Despite all my efforts, I still have not been able to arrive at a password that will be accepted enough to eradicate this box from springing up every time I turn on my phone.)

“You are out of ICloud storage.”

You name the reason for the technology and I can give you a glitch to go along with it.  It could be a BUTT call (or POCKET call if you travel in more polite circles) in which your call mysteriously calls another person on its own without your involvement.  Or it could be some bizarre switch of screen on your GPS device as you are driving to some destination which forces you to scroll around to see where your map went.  Suddenly you realize you have no earthly clue about your whereabouts should that screen disappear, or narrators voice fail to speak up in time enough due to some speed bump that alters your next DIRECTIVE.

And it seems to me—what with all our fancy potential for building up new, ever replacing advancements; that we are experiencing an exponentially higher degree of helplessness over new kinds of problems occurring on a rapidly increasing basis.

So, think twice before you judge on your next commute.  Despise not that supposedly smug looking yuppie in the drivers seat next to you who seems so blissfully occupied.

Yes—even that one that is typing and talking away like he or she belongs in that unattainably stratospheric level reserved only for the hip and well heeled.

They aren’t getting more out of life than you or me.  The truth is they are frantically paddling to stay afloat in this turbulent sea of change.

And they are secretly wondering the same thing we are—am I just incompetent or is all this technology hurtling ahead too fast with too many options that spring too many leaks?

The advertising in the media always makes new claims for convenience and empowerment.

Yet most of us are feeling LESS empowered by the day.

For is older folks it is perhaps time that seize the day and stop giving in to these connectivity options while driving.

Perhaps it is time we seize our steering wheel with both hands and go back to “OLD SCHOOL” distracted driving.  Yes, that means listening to the radio, playing CD’s and scrounging around for cassette players for books on tape.

That way, even when we lunge to the floor to pick up a fallen CD while the car is moving, at least we can comprehend the situation better and use our physical movements quickly to remedy it (while also deftly shooing the dog off our lap).

Now that’s distracted driving I can live with!  It’s more manageable that way and far more comprehensible too!

And while returning to our “back to basics” boycott—let’s not forget to smile sympathetically at 21st century users and repeat this mantra to ourselves—

“We aren’t missing a thing.  We aren’t missing a thing.  We aren’t missing a thing!”


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Alas, I found myself in a very tough predicament recently.  I had dropped off some medical equipment that my Mom had once used back to the Manor Care Nursing Home in Fairfax.

I had parked my car in the front unloading area by the receptionist desk and; after unloading the one wheelchair that they accepted, apparently, had left my keys in the ignition for a few minutes too long.

This was all it took as I had a weakened battery that can’t handle even 30 seconds of having the key in the ignition—unless the motor is running too.

So, as often happens in life, just as I was feeling proud of myself for an errand well done, I returned to discover my progress arrested and the prospects of a good day in jeopardy

Plus, it was another plus 90-degree summer day.

Fortunately, I had jumper cables of my own and quickly attached the positive and negative charges to my battery so as to be prepared for the first available Good Samaritan who might come to my aid.

This was, after all, a place of human service workers and I was a human.

All things considered, I liked my chances for a rapid-fire recovery. despite my little setback.

As I walked towards the group home lobby, I gesticulated towards a man who appeared to be a son of a senior resident who happened to be visiting.  But he looked right past me as I babbled to myself about my predicament.

Next up was a pizza delivery guy who smiled sympathetically as he discovered my situation.  But he of course, had more rounds to do and needed to scoot as time was money in his business.

This I completely understood.  And he at least gave me a few tips on what might be wrong with my battery as he exited towards his next delivery.

My next strategy was to go inside to the lobby and ask the receptionist.  She had previously been very pleasant towards me when I was donating the wheelchair a few minutes earlier.

But after explaining my situation, and that my car was stuck in their loading area until someone could help jump my battery—the receptionist had an interesting reaction.

“Sorry sir.  But all our employees are hourly workers.  None would have the time to assist you.”

I was dumbfounded at this news.  No one could be spared?

After all, in any school or special education center that I have worked at, the front office worker ALWAYS made sure to try to assist with any variety of needs that a visitor might have—including engine problems.

Someone would be surely summoned from somewhere.  Usually a building maintenance person with a jack of all trades job description.

So, after getting nowhere at the front desk, I figured I would wing it on my own and ask any employee I could find outside on the sidewalk.

Sure enough, the first worker in a white smock had the exact same answer—“Sir I am on my break and am only an hourly worker anyway.”

Then I spotted another.  This guy was even more to the point–merely pointed at his watch and walked right past me.

For my last attempt I spotted this lady dressed in hospital white who had likewise just been sitting on a bench reading a book on her lunch break.  She had a different rejection for me.

“I am sorry sir.  I take public transportation to work and have no car for you to jump with.”

So that was it.  I scanned around and found no more souls to ask.  Fortunately for me, luck was on my side as was able to call my dear brother–who just happened to already be driving around in the area and came by in a matter of minutes and to jump my car.

Problem solved in a jiffy.

Not that I was bitter or anything, but the whole experience got me to thinking about human services and the place you work at.  God forbid I ever get too careworn about my own needs and protected by my job description to NOT consider helping someone—even it was just to help them with jumper cables.

Knowing how easy it is for me to insulate myself from others and justify not getting involved–I don’t want an easy out, cover statement like “No, I am just an hourly worker” to bail me out.

It might become a habit.

After all, what ultimately drives us towards our own career calling should contain a lot more passion and purpose than just a punch clock or some easy disclaimer statement anyway.

We are all in the human services business.


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EVERYBODY’S A CRITIC                By John Watts


It must be the most universal urge in nature —bigger even than the need for survival and love.

That insidious desire to be a critic.

Surely some National Geographic special has an episode that scientifically backs this up—some obscure bottom feeder way down in the darkest reaches of the ocean–a simpleton organism incapable of forming any higher thoughts or desiring love, that, all for the sake of being a downer, will reflexively lean in a tattle tale way towards the sunlight and reveal some kind of displeasure intended to rock the confidence of the other party organism.

It could be a tiny sea mollusk using its eyes to mock errant passing fish who have done a poor job of swimming while in schools.

Or a laughing congregation of chimpanzees watching as the learning-disabled chimp picks the wrong step stool to jump up to the wrong banana during some kind of IQ test.

Heck–it could even be found with the lowly crayfish—scientists are recently uncovering.  In an experiment to test problem solving skills for a blocked and cleared path—the results were astounding. Would the crayfish, after a number of trials, learn to choose the right path and avoid the closed passage? In the first ten experiments the crayfish went as often to the right as it did to the left, but in the next ten trials the percentage of correct choices was somewhat greater.

Most astounding of all, other crayfish in the audience could be heard on tiny little recording devices making barely detectable sounds of derision when the performing crayfish were going down the incorrect path—which seemed to have a very deleterious effect on the performing crayfish’s confidence in gaining successful closure.

Furthermore, even though this peer pressure seemed to motivate the erring crayfish into doing better (after a large number of trials the animal came to choose the right path to the water)—the offending bystander mass of other crayfish simply switched gears and found even picker details to make fun of anyway—to include the posture, the lack of coordination found in the performing crayfish, and the most popular put down of all in the crayfish community—“why did it take so long to figure out where the cleared passage was in the first place and was it really the best way to go?”


But enough of the animal kingdom.  Let’s return now to the world that we understand better—a far more primitive environment—the human classroom.

As a teacher, every time I start to feel the warm glow of achieving closure while passing out paper assignments—I have been constantly stymied by some small detail mistake contained within said document.

It could be a typo or some other anomaly that I discover, or my students see before I do—which is far more unsettling.

It could be a lack of symmetry in the letter to number ratio of a MATCHING portion on a quiz.  It could be a rogue caption without a picture that got overlooked.  Or a multiple choice listing WITH several clever wrong choices while critically lacking the CORRECT one.

Either way—-A hand will raise, or a voice will interrupt.

It could be of a very passive, timid nature— “excuse me sir, I can’t figure this problem out.  What does THIS mean?”

And the “THIS” of course refers to some area of culpability on my part—be it formatting or some far more egregious offense that I made (never mind the brilliance or the creative elements).

All this means that in mere seconds, I am reassuring young Bobby that it’s not his fault, and that it was my oversight entirely.

Another instructive case of revealing to the youth that YES, adult authority figures can make mistakes—and, in my case, with great regularity.

Everybody’s a critic.  There’s one born every second.

But still I return to work every day and plug on.

Before I retire from teaching and trundle off meekly to any modest form of retirement plan that will take me, I want to someday produce the PERFECT quiz or worksheet.  One that is beyond dispute and without any need for revision.

Was it entertaining?  Was it too simple or too hard?  Did I include every item in the quiz that I should?

Were the accommodations accommodating enough?

Of course, it is perhaps most painful, when endured by a Gifted and Talented student in a classroom.   In my case, teaching a class called Basic Skills, which was mostly just a study hall chance for kids to catch up on their homework and study for other weightier courses.  I especially recall this one bright kid taking fiendish delight in reminding me of some factoid that I was unaware of, or some science or calculus principal that I never heard of.  Only through some adept use of humor and misdirection, and telling myself that I was a liberal arts guy and not a part of the sciences–was I able to save face around this “know it all” kid who would look me directly in the eyes and attempt to devastate me with some complicated formula that I had no clue how to solve.

But, as I said before with the animal kingdom, labels such as Gifted and Talented make little difference when it comes to critical license.

I know this first hand because I have had the lowest level special education students demonstrate this phenomenon to me over and over again.  Pervasively low-level kids that can’t dress themselves, go to the toilet reliably, or write their name independently.

Even these kids will have a light bulb go off in their heads and suddenly break out in hysterical laughter while gesticulating to some coffee stain that I spilled on a worksheet.

It might be their only group contribution made for the entire school year.

Therefore, I remain the nervous one at the desk, sick of being a work in progress, waiting for a hand to be raised or a voice to sound regarding my latest hard copy release.  I am the one fervently hoping to pass the test while they sit smugly in the driver’s seat—breezing their way to more good grades.

So, as I say, the striving goes on for me, to get closure on that one flawless piece of teacher made evidence.  After all, the law of averages dictate that it must occur eventually.

And when it happens it will be a work of art that will be met only with silent approval.  Even by the sharpest devil’s advocate.  A crowning release that the secretary will applaud me for, due to my having used the copier frugally and without any expensive excess of colored pictures.

Because, it’s not ultimately the students that are being judged on their test performance, it’s me as the test maker.

And I will feel like the genuuus that I always knuw muself to be!!


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SUPERIOR GERMAN ENGINEERING (flawless even?) Buy John Watts


Scientifically efficient and neat.  Aren’t those some general stereotypes of Germanic traits?

And as we know, when channeled into military pursuits and global conquest, these traits are legendarily notorious for producing some costly results for everyone involved.

But let’s return to the civilian world.

Superior German Engineering.

The “Vorsprung Durch Technik” (progress through technology} advert strapline used by Audi since the 1980s has promoted this, and it probably started to become generally known in the 1970s.

By now this trust factory with the German resume (stronger than an Angie’s List endorsement) is etched in our subconscious by now–from cuckoo clocks, to Birkenstock sandals all the way back to their invention of the world’s first spark plug.

But perhaps this quest for superiority has reached a new arena for world conquest: retail consumer perfection.

Recently I noticed this claim as an advertising stamp of approval for a number of as sundry products being peddled on TV etc.

Some of those pesky and cheaply produced,” As seen on TV” ads that just won’t go away.

Just take a look at “Flawless Brows.”  And its counterpart: “Flawless Legs”

And these products are flawlessly guaranteed primarily because of the superior German Engineering applied to each and every one.

If you weren’t impressed with the actors and the uncanny way that eyebrow and leg hairs came right off, with laser precision, then the big selling point to close the deal is the “German Engineering.”

Because its superior.  Even the fact that the commercial seems cheesy and features no name actors becomes inconsequential when you factor in the “German Engineering” claim.

How else could you explain the 18-karat gold plated, hype allergenic head being sold for only 29.99?  Or the built in LED light that allows you to see like never before and the blade that never hurts your skin?


It reminds me of the TV ads some years back about some space heater units that were supposedly hand crafted meticulously by the Amish community.

This was a head scratcher to me because the end products looked kind of flimsy and most definitely NOT very folky or hand crafted.

But there they were on my TV screen—devoting the kind of quality time to their craft that only the Amish can—even though to my eyes these heater boxes looked awfully unsubstantial and prefabricated when they were done.

Could it be that these real-life actors were just dressed up in fake beards and Amish apparel like low budget Civil War reenactors?

Unfortunately, I never bought one of these space heaters, so I can’t comment on their reliability.

But it does seem that we as consumers intrinsically need some kind of feeling of HAND CRAFTED dedication with our products.  Some kind of warm and fussy claim that what we bought is traditional and ESTABLISHED back in the golden days of somebody’s recently immigrated ancestors.

Because with all the changes flying past us every day, and the helplessness that engenders, if we can’t have the genuine thing, the best we can do is purchase a Cracker Barrell kind of meal experience where we can at least surround ourselves by old fashioned heirlooms.

But if all that can’t happen, then German Engineering sure sounds like a pretty sure thing doesn’t it?

I have seen this claim on some other day to day products in my possession.  And it is as mundane as the expendable dog leashes I buy for my pet.

“Made in Germany.”  Which automatically makes us think—no sweat shops, no conveyer belts, and no labor exploitation.

Surely this will mean a dog leash that will never malfunction or let me down.

Superior German engineers are on the job right?

Well, not quite.

For I have found most of my dog leashes to be very temporary and flawed.  Often, the leash gets jammed and refuses to extend or retract.  I have even had one Made in Germany leash in which the chord snapped in half.

Which all leads me to think about the “SUPERIOR” German engineering claim.

Isn’t it possible that SOME of these German engineers are just so so?  Perhaps even downright below average?

Surely this must happen from time to time.  Were only human after all.

As lauded as Germanys vocational system might but and their state of the art apprenticeship program, certainly there must be a few flawed German Engineers that slipped through the cracks.

My fear is that the “Man in Germany” “German Engineering” claim, if too frequently conjured up, will water down the product and serve to only disillusion our hopes and dreams.

I’ve already had more than a few shattered and jammed dog leashes to bring this point home.

And were I to want or desire it, I bet those “As Seen On TV” ads with “Flawless Legs” and “Flawless Brows” must have more than a few lemons being unloaded to the public.

It’s just too good to be true with that ACT NOW sale right?

But just to be sure, I decided to do what any good journalist would do—I did some research on my own time for you the reader.

Which means, I looked up a consumer site on line and copied and pasted it.

So here you go:

Lillian May claims in her review of the Finishing Touch Flawless Legs- “It hardly removes any facial hair.”

Darlene Parker told in her review-“This is really just a man’s electric razor but with only 1 razor head. It does the job but not very smooth. It is great for when running behind and you don’t have time for creams or wax.”

Marlene Todd is disappointed and says- “the Finishing Touch Flawless Legs It does not work on course hair.”

Gloria Sanchez—“I like the Made in Mexico products mas better!”

So, there you have it.  German Engineering gets a few raspberry awards for their shoddy job with Flawless Legs and Flawless Brows.

Hair removal products are NOT producing the peace of mind and happiness you thought and my dog leashes are not indestructible!

Shame on you Germany!  Not ALL of your engineering is superior!

It’s probably just as well.  The last thing Germany needs is another superiority complex.

And my life would have been forever altered had my leashes never snapped or had I fell in love with all those hair removal products as seen on TV.

I would have become even balder than I am now, nor would I have ever known the thrill and uncertainty of wondering how long my dog leash would hold out.

For this, I am thankful for every so so German Engineer that slipped through the cracks.

We can’t all be supermen, right?

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NO ONE LIKE ME By John Watts


When it comes to demystifying some celebrity or highbrow person you emulate or are jealous of, the “putting on of pants” metaphor is often employed as a fail-safe way to kind of crumble the marble facade of some fabulously famous person that we couldn’t even put ourselves in the same sentence with.  Such a line is meant to remind us that they too are just flawed, flesh and blood mortals underneath.  The cliche goes something like this: “Just remember–he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like you and me.”

Apparently, it must be wickedly effective; based on the countless times it is employed as a grade A bubble buster and field leveler for the unsure underdogs everywhere in world history.

It’s meant to remind us that we are all fallible human beings with the same DNA makeup for making mistakes.  Thus, it is supposed to fan the barely flickering flames of hope way down in our soul that we aren’t so very different.

The only other fall back line I can think of that compares, and it is generally employed solely for public speaking purposes, is the “imagine your audience all sitting in just their underwear” strategy just as you collect yourself to face them at the podium.

But with older age and its accompanying stiffness, I have found a way to be an exception to the “putting on pants” line and do a sharp detour away from the rest of my predictable, fellow humans.

In fact, short of acquiring dementia and thus being free to arrive at work only in my underwear, what I am about to announce grants me safe immunity from any of those common verbal ploys at downplaying someone’s special qualities.

Because someday I hope to invent hydraulic pants.  Pants that will allow me to simply drop down into the correct openings without any fuss.  No lunging and no hopping.  2 legs at the same time!

Advanced age is making this a necessity—what with my increasingly sore and stiff limbs and the challenging prospect of reaching below my waist to put on a sock are reach a fallen penny.  All acts that elicit grunts and groans.

Think of it.  The world is rapidly going this way more every day.  All the “As Seen On TV” ads testify to this with hand dandy products that help us access things better–from arm extenders that grab hard to reach stuff to hydraulic jar openers for arthritic wrists and fingers.

I just pray that before I reach retirement—I can be the ONE unique human being that puts his pants on differently than everybody else.  (The reason for this is that when I am retired there will be no point developing hydraulic pants as any type of pants as I will only wear pajamas and sweat pants anyway and it at this point no one will care how I put my pants on—especially if I have health aides to do it)

So, to summarize, my hydraulic pants breakthrough must happen in the next 10 years or so in order to make an impact.

After hearing of all the overwhelming stats that remind me of my average-ness every day of my life—I deserve that much.

Just give me my 10 minutes of putting on pants fame! (before the rest of the world catches up and its all the rage on face book)

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