EQUAL OPPORTUNITY

I am all for equal opportunity for women.  After all, I am one.  And I personally experienced gender discrimination when applying to and attending veterinary school back in the dark ages.  Back then I was asked at my admission interview what I would do if I got married.  Women also were excluded from one of the two veterinary fraternities on campus, so that kind of narrowed down our choice.  When I graduated, I was the first woman veterinarian in the Fort Walton Beach area, and was frequently told, “I didn’t know women could be veterinarians.”  Okay, so this tells you how old I am.

Having established that I am all for women’s liberation (I am woman, hear me roar, and all that), I do have to say that there is still one area in a man’s world where I truly believe no woman should dare to venture.  What might that area be, you ask?  Killing bugs.  Killing bugs is definitely not a job for a woman.  I pride myself on being a reasonably independent, self-sufficient, not easily rattled woman, but let a flying palmetto bug come after me and I scream like a bad actress in a b-horror movie.   Not only do I scream, but I also do the “icky-icky” dance and run for cover.  If my husband is around, he will usually come running to find out if I have just cut off my finger while chopping vegetables or been hacked by an ax murderer who came through the front door he failed to lock.  Nope, something much worse.

“What?” he’ll demand, upon arriving to slay whatever dragon accosted me.

“A bug!” I’ll reply in a quivering voice, bordering on hysteria.

At this he will roll his eyes, sigh, and ask, “Where?”

I’ll point in the general vicinity of the offending insect while hovering behind him for protection.

“I don’t like bugs any better than you do,” he’ll mutter.

“Yeah, but you’re a man.  It’s your job to kill the bugs.” At least I think that’s a rule. If not, it should be.

He will usually tough it out, although if the thing comes after him, all bets may be off.  There may be a little bit of male shrieking, which is not pretty.  But generally, he will manage to dispatch the terrorizing creature to the great septic tank in the sky with a shoe or rolled up newspaper or other handy bug-killing implement.

Me, I can’t step on a bug or hit it with a shoe.  First, it requires I get closer to the creature than I am comfortable being (not that there is any distance from a bug with which I am comfortable), and second, I can’t stand the crunching sound their little chitinous exoskeletons make when squashed.  I generally can’t swat them off a wall, either, as I usually miss and just make them more angry and more determined to “get” me.  Or they crawl into an inaccessible place and bide their time until I let down my guard.

So what, you may ask, do I do when confronted by a bug when my husband is not around.  That’s easy.  I spray it.  I can stand back from a safe distance and saturate half a room with toxic chemicals in the hope of the spray getting somewhere in the generally vicinity of the bug. It’s kind of like dropping a bomb on an entire city with the goal of wiping out one enemy without actually having to go hand-to-hand combat.  What if I don’t have bug spray?  It doesn’t matter.  I spray it with something—Windex, 409, oven cleaner, Endust—whatever.  Surely something in one of those products will kill it.  Plus, while I’m spraying, I can still scream and do the “icky-icky” dance, which, as we all know, is a requirement of any bug-female confrontation.

So, all you men out there, man up and rescue us swooning females from the terrifying insect population.  Otherwise, I warn you, I have Lysol Multi-Purpose cleaner and I’m not afraid to use it!

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

I have a new amendment to propose on the next ballot. Unfortunately I didn’t think of it soon enough to get it on this year’s ballot. However, perhaps in the next several months I can stir up plenty of support to back me up. Here’s my proposal—it will be illegal to exhibit any form of Christmas prior to Thanksgiving.

There will be no Christmas displays or items in stores prior to Thanksgiving. There will be no Christmas music played before Thanksgiving. (Church choirs, school musical groups and community musical groups are exempt IF they are practicing for actual Christmas performances to be presented during the Christmas season, which shall be AFTER Thanksgiving.) There will be no Black Friday sales until after Thanksgiving. Black Friday shall not occur until the Friday after Thanksgiving. (That’s why it’s called “Friday.” Duh!) There will be no jumping the gun to make that extra buck by starting the sales on Thanksgiving Day. That’s just flat-out wrong on so many levels. There will be no Christmas ads on television before Thanksgiving. There will be no Christmas movies in the cinemas or Hallmark Christmas movies on television before Thanksgiving. People may not begin putting up outdoor Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. Christmas catalogues can be mailed out and people may be allowed to purchase Christmas gifts prior to Thanksgiving, but it must be done in an inconspicuous manner. (After all, how can a retailer police whether or not that scarf was purchased for Aunt Rose’s Christmas present or for you to wear to the football game)? There shall be no Christmas tree lots set up before Thanksgiving, even if the Christmas trees haven’t arrived yet. No one may wear Christmas clothing in public. No Christmas cookies may be baked unless they are frozen and eaten after Thanksgiving. People may start addressing their Christmas cards, but may not mail them until after Thanksgiving. There will be no attempt to trick people by cheating and calling any of these activities “holiday” when everyone knows full well we’re talking about Christmas.

Have I missed anything? If so, in case there is any doubt, the Christmas season shall NOT begin until after Thanksgiving. Period! It’s not that I don’t love Christmas. It’s actually my favorite time of year. But because it is so special, it shouldn’t be in my face all year round. That makes it less special. There should be a sense of anticipation and uniqueness that is only experienced during those few weeks in December, such as eggnog and peppermint ice cream.

Besides all the things I have mentioned, it simply isn’t fair to cheat Thanksgiving out of its own merited day. Thanksgiving should have its own recognition, along with the anticipation of food, family, friends, and a time to simply stop and reflect on all our blessings. Although other countries celebrate Thanksgiving in different ways, our American Thanksgiving is an important part of our history, culture and tradition. As such, it shouldn’t be lost in the shuffle, shoved in almost like an afterthought, and gotten out of the way just so the Christmas season can start early. Give Turkey Day its due. For that matter, give God his due. The very name “Thanksgiving” means giving thanks. Slow down and reflect on who we are thanking and why. The mad dash to December 25th can wait one more day.

So, who is with me? Shall we see about getting this proposition on the next ballot? I would seriously consider undertaking this agenda, but I fear it would be in vain. Regardless of the outcome of the voting, Broward County will demand repeated recounts until they get the answer they want. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

JUST THE FACTS

I know I’m admitting my age, but I remember being told that back in the sixties there was a popular police drama called Dragnet.  One of the characters, Sgt. Joe Friday, frequently implored female informants to provide “just the facts.”  Actually, he used the phrase, “All we want are the facts, ma’am” (and sometimes “All we know are the facts ma’am”) when questioning women in the course of police investigations. But somehow the phrase “just the facts” has been attributed to Dragnet through the years.

I understand where Sgt. Joe Friday was coming from, as I am a “just the facts” person.  I don’t need all the details; I just want the bottom line.  Unfortunately, it seems I’m surrounded by people who feel the need to ensure I miss no detail—no matter how trivial or unrelated to what I need to know—in the pursuit of simple information.

I often get clients like this.  I will be welcoming a new couple bringing in their dog for the first time for a vague “exam.”  I will ask something straightforward (in my mind, anyway) such as, “I see you didn’t put down Buddy’s age.  Do you know how old he is?”

“Well, we got him when Caroline was a freshman in high school—” starts the wife.

“No, dear, she was a sophomore.  Remember, we got him right after she flunked that algebra test and she was so upset.”

“Oh, that’s right.  Getting Buddy really cheered Caroline up.”  The wife goes on, excitedly, “We named her after that Neil Diamond song, Sweet Caroline. We just love Neil Diamond.” She laughs.  “So it was either Sweet Caroline or Cracklin’ Rosie.  Anyway, she’s a junior at the University of Florida now.  She’s majoring in elementary education.  She was majoring in finance, but she couldn’t stand her economics professor—”

“No, Lorraine, it was her statistics professor,” the husband corrects.

The wife turns to her husband.  “No, Tom, it was Dr. Zimmer. Remember? He was her economics professor.”  She pulls out her phone, swipes it a couple of times and flips it over to show me.  “This is our daughter.”

I utter, “She’s very pretty.  Anyway, about—”

“No, Dr. Zimmer was her statistics professor,” Tom interrupts.

The wife puts her hands on her hips and glares at her husband.  “Tom, I’m sure he was the economics professor.  Oh!  Here’s a picture of Caroline with her boyfriend, Kyle.  He’s the nicest young boy. He’s majoring in pre-law.  His father’s a dentist.”

“Speaking of dentists,” I interject, “Buddy’s teeth could use a cleaning.  He has a lot of—”

“Oh, no. Our last vet, Dr. Bates, said he was too old to be put under anesthesia,”  Lorraine tells me.

I quickly do the math.  Buddy must be about six years old, unless Caroline was held back.  Maybe it took a couple extra years for her to get to the level of a college junior. Come to think of it, if she flunked algebra, why was she majoring in finance?  Shaking my head, I realize we are now into ten minutes of our allotted fifteen minute appointment, my next patient is waiting, and I have not one relevant piece of information about my patient, who may be anywhere between the ages of six and perhaps nine.  Unless he was a few years old when Caroline was a sophomore in high school.

“That’s right,” says Tom, snapping me out of my reverie. “Our neighbor’s dog died under anesthesia, you know.”

Lorraine turns to me.  “They were the nicest people.  What were their names again, Tom?”

“Parker,” says Tom. “John and Norma.”

“Oh, that’s right.  I think I still have a picture of them with that dog.” She swipes through her phone.  “The dog’s name was Sparky, I believe.  Or was it Spanky?  He had the cutest little trick where he would…” Her voice trails off.  “I know that picture is here somewhere!”

I try to bring up something relevant about their visit, but they are both ignoring me as Lorraine searches for that elusive picture of John and Norma Parker and their unfortunate canine.  Is there anything that takes longer than someone searching for an elusive picture to show you on their phone that you don’t want to see in the first place?

“Excuse me a moment,” I say.  I step out of the room, grab a technician and throw her under the bus.  “Find out what Buddy is here for. But don’t ask his age.”

“I can’t,” she says, crawling out from under the bus.  “I’m in the middle of doing radiographs.”

“When you finish, go in and find out.”  I throw her back, as I head into the next appointment.

Buddy’s appointment sets me back thirty minutes and I run behind the rest of the morning.

I often commiserate to my husband about people like this and he says he understands because it drives him crazy, too.  Then the other day when we dropped my car off to have the air-conditioner fixed, he started reciting to the service writer, “We had the same problem four or five years ago.  I think maybe it was closer to five years because we were doing foster care at the time and we couldn’t be hauling around all those kids in a hot car—”

“Doug!  The man doesn’t need to know about the hot foster kids!”  The words slipped out.  I just couldn’t help myself.

My husband looked like a deer in the headlights until he realized he had been temporarily  overcome with diarrhea of the mouth.  “Oh.  I guess you’re right.”

I smiled and nodded. “Just the facts, dear.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty or Less

The other day, before work, I had to make a quick dash into the grocery store for one item. We were celebrating someone’s birthday at work, and I was expected to bring my standard fare of chips.  As usual, I was running late and in a hurry.  We type A personalities are always in a hurry, even if there’s no place to go or nothing to do, so you type B’s, please get out of our way!  Anyway, I fast walked through the store and up the chip aisle, grabbed my family-sized bag of Lay’s sour cream and onion chips, and headed for the express lane.  This is where things got ugly.  The person in front of me clearly had more than twenty items in his basket, as he slowly and methodically set each one on the counter.  I felt my blood pressure rising as I counted his items. Now I realize I blogged about grocery cart rage a few weeks ago, but let’s face it, there is just so much material, I know I can stretch this out for at least a couple more blogs—like this guy in the “20 items or less lane” who obviously had more than twenty items in his basket.  Please tell me I’m not the only one who counts the things in the basket of the person in front of them in the express line.  Invariably this happens to me when I’m in a hurry and just need to pop into the store for that one thing and then find myself stuck behind someone in the express lane who can’t count.

I did a slow burn as I waited behind this thoughtless person with my one paltry item.  I wanted to point out to the cashier, “Hey, this dude has twenty-six items in his cart.  Didn’t you verify that before checking him out in the express lane?  After all, as an employee of this fine establishment, it is up to you to make sure the rules and regulations of this fine establishment are followed.  If you let him get away with it, sooner or later, someone with twenty-seven items will try to sneak through, and the problem will only escalate from there.”

As to the clueless shopper in front of me who was wasting my valuable time by breaking the rules, I wanted to ram him with my shopping cart and mutter derogatory remarks, such as, “Didn’t they teach you to count in kindergarten?”  Or, “Dude, five cases of beer does not constitute one item, even if they are all the same brand.”  Or, “Can’t you read?  Twenty-six is not the new twenty!” But as usual, I held my tongue because I am not a confrontational person.  Plus, I didn’t have a shopping cart, as I was in the express lane with one bag of chips. My look, however, could have skewered and roasted him.  Clueless, finally realizing there was someone behind him (probably because the daggers I was shooting were jabbing him in the back), turned around to give me a sheepish grin and a shoulder shrug.

“Sorry,” he managed, rather insincerely if you ask me, as he placed his last item on top of the already bulging heap on the conveyor belt.

“You’re not sorry at all, Mr. The Rules Don’t Apply to Me!” my brain screamed at him, while my stupid mouth mumbled, “No problem.”  Seriously, did I just say that?  Now I wanted to smack myself for being such a pushover.  It’s wimpy people like me who allow inconsiderate people like him to get away with selfish behavior.  Now I was mad at both of us.  But there was nothing I could do at that point.  Unless he pulled one of the two ultimate, capital punishment deserving, check-out taboos—having something which needed to be price checked or writing a personal check which needed to be approved.  If either of those scenarios transpired, I would be forced to let loose with one of my famous Fannon sighs, which has put fear and trepidation into the hearts of many men.  Lucky for him, he didn’t.

 

 

Trick or Treat

I loved Halloween as a child. This was back in the dark ages when children dressed up in costumes usually created by their mothers, such as an old bed sheet with two eyes cut out for a ghost. There were none of these foo-foo outfits, such as kids wear today, with all kinds of expensive accessories. Also, back then, we had to collect our candy the hard way—going door to door Trick or Treating. From the age of about five on, this was without parents in tow. Of course we lived in Leave-it-to-Beaver neighborhoods, where it was perfectly safe to go door to door, even to the houses of strangers. At each house, we got one (that’s right, one) piece of candy. So in order to really rake in a haul, we had to do a lot of walking.

Halloween was the only time of year when those miniature candy bars were available. If we were really fortunate, we might get a nickel candy bar. Back then, a nickel candy bar was equivalent to the full sized $1.29 candy bars of today. The word was quickly circulated on the street where those houses were. When our weary feet could no longer carry us to just one more house, we made our way back home to survey our loot. I would dump out all my contents and organize them into piles—Milky Way bars in one pile, Snickers in another, Nestles Crunch, and so on—and count them. I don’t really know why I did this. It probably has something to do with my rather obsessive-compulsive personality. Back then we had really good Halloween candy, none of these Nerds, Starbursts, or Jolly Ranchers. Most of our goodies were chocolate, the only true candy. Of course we had lollipops, candy corn, and the ever popular Double Bubble gum, but the bulk of the loot was chocolate.

My mother was so cool. She didn’t confiscate all my hard-earned stash and ration it out to me a little at a time, eventually throwing the rest away. Nope, she let me have the whole truck load, to eat as much as I wanted whenever I wanted until my stomach was miserable. I’m sure by today’s standards, she could be hauled in for child endangerment. I also rode in the front seat of the car, never wore a seat belt, drank red Kool-Aid sweetened with sugar, played outside without adult supervision, and walked to the store by myself (to buy candy) when I was four years old. But I digress.

Anyway, things have come a long way since the good old days of the Halloweens of my childhood. Now it’s not safe to allow children the fun of Trick or Treating, so we dress them up in elaborately themed and expensive costumes and drag them to the mall, where they are inundated with handfuls of candy without having to earn it. Or Trunk or Treats, where they proceed down the line from one car to another, again, without any effort, where they are showered with candy. It takes them about ten minutes to haul in what took me three hours and blisters on my feet to accumulate back in the day. Where’s the fun in that?

Then there are the fall festivals, where, at least, there is the pretense that the little goblins have to earn their treats by playing carnival games where everyone’s a winner. Our church always has a fall festival on Halloween as a safe alternative to Trick or Treating. But here’s the thing. Where Halloween is concerned, I’ve never really grown up. On Halloween, I expect to have to earn my candy. Sure, I could just go to the store and buy ten bags of sweets, but that takes all the fun out of it. Of course, being a mature adult, I feel a little silly playing children’s carnival games. Plus, the kids in line behind me get irritated. So I have to resort to the only other method of getting Halloween candy. I make my kids do it. Then I can share (steal) their loot. But now there are bouncy houses at all these festivals, and guess what the kids all want to do? For the life of me, I don’t see why. There’s no candy involved in bouncy houses.

“Darion, get out of that bouncy house and go win me some candy!” I yell at my son.

“I don’t want to. I want to stay here.”

“No you don’t. You won’t get any candy.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want candy.”

What? Not want candy??? Where did I go wrong with this kid?

“You come out right now and give someone else a chance to jump in the bouncy house!”

“There’s nobody else waiting in line.”

Drat. There’re only so many times I can hit the candy buckets at the games before responsible adults start raising their eyebrows at me. Plus I can’t exactly go around with a trick or treat bag in hand. Sigh. I suppose at some point I have to suck it up and behave like a grown-up. Otherwise someone may hand me a nasty-tasting watermelon flavored dum-dum.

THE LETTER OF THE LAW

“Have you or a loved one been injured or killed by a big truck? Call attorney I. Ken Nailem at 555-5555 now to bleed the miserable s.o.b.s dry!” Are you as sick of these sue-happy lawyer ads on television as I am? Honestly, there are at least a dozen lawyer commercials for every thirty minute show. And who writes these ads, anyway? Seriously, “Have you (delete ‘or a loved one’) been killed (delete ‘or injured’) by a big truck?” I am so tempted to call and say, “I was killed by a big truck. Please sue them for me. Unfortunately I will be unable to make a personal appearance in court.”

“Have you or a loved one been treated by a doctor or medical facility who was legitimately trying their best to help you and suffered an ingrown toenail as a result? The law offices of May Kempay and Will Takem are standing by to receive your call and tell you how much your claim may be worth.” Again, I want to pick up the phone and the minute someone answers, blurt out, “How much money can I get?”

Now I do realize there are valid reasons for taking someone to court, who, through negligence or incompetence, has caused injury (or worse) to other people. And I believe that victims are entitled to compensation. However, to me, these ambulance chasing ads are the height of poor taste. Surely, if the law firm is reputable, clients will find them without the sensational hype—which leads me to believe that the lawyers in the television ads are more concerned with their pockets than their clients. And speaking of pockets, have you ever thought about how much those ads cost? Where do these lawyers get all that money for advertising?

It’s no wonder medical malpractice insurance rates have sky-rocketed, which translates to higher medical costs to patients, many of whom can no longer afford medical care. In addition, the costs of bringing a new drug or medical devise to market have soared, due to lawyers just waiting to jump on any potential complication. “Have you or a loved one taken the drug ‘placebo’ and then suffered athlete’s foot, a broken fingernail, slamming your hand in the car door, a fight with your spouse, your child flunking kindergarten, aphids on your roses, or your dog getting fleas? Other side effects may include the inability to pass up a doughnut shop, a craving for country line dancing, dandruff, and hypochondria. Even if you chain smoke, weigh six hundred pounds, drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or play Russian roulette, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the law offices of Sue M. All, Seymour Incourt, Les Gettam, and Ima Shark for information on how you can stick it to Big Pharma, the greedy, money grubbers who care nothing about the damage ‘placebo’ does to you and your loved ones. We all know their only goal is get rich at your expense. Shark, Gettam, All, Incourt will only retain 90% of your settlement because our only concern is making sure you get what is rightfully yours.”

The only attorney ads I actually find amusing are the ones featuring a prominent local attorney whose son relates how dedicated his father is because he completely ignores his family on vacation while constantly conferring with clients on his cell phone. One of these days when that attorney promises in one of his commercials to personally return my call, I’m going to call him just to see if he does.

Look Out Nashville

At my veterinary clinic, we often keep a radio on for background music. Usually it’s tuned in to a rock station, which is okay, even if I would prefer elevator music or oldies. But since I work with mostly young people, I can’t afford to come across as totally obsolete. Even if my “use by” date is getting closer and closer to expiration. But occasionally someone will switch the station to country western. Suffice it to say that country western music is not my cup of tea. Not only is it not my cup of tea, it’s downright offensive to my delicate sense of what should and should not be classified as “musical.” Now before anyone reading this blog gets their knickers in a knot (and you rednecks know who you are) about my honest revelation, let me just say that being offended is quite in vogue these days, so we’re all perfectly within our rights to be offended by each other.

It’s not just the twang of the so-called music and the nasal, whiney delivered lyrics, but have you ever truly listened to some of these songs? They’re mostly downers. Girl (or boy) breaks up with you, your dog runs away, your pickup truck gets repossessed, your beloved Aunt Edna gets hit by a train, and Cousin Dwayne gets drunk and lands in jail. And the titles—Queen of My Doublewide, Bubba Shot the Jukebox, Red Solo Cup, Did I Shave My Legs for This. I ask you, can anyone truly take this as a serious art form?

Everyone at work knows about my aversion to country western music. But every so often, I hear the unmistakable sound of said genre jarring against my sensitive eardrums which are trying ineffectively to keep from having to deliver the message to my soon-to-be offended brain.

“Okay, who turned on the goat-roping music?” I’ll challenge.

There will be a sudden flutter of activity as everyone assures me THEY didn’t do it and a move to change the station.

But then, one day, as I was perusing the appointment schedule, I got to thinking. It seems we get some pretty innovative descriptions for the medical conditions we are to encounter that day. Some of these would make excellent titles for country western songs. Let me run a few by you and see what you think:

1. Red skin and diarrhea.

2. Sneezing, sex, and nail trim. (To clarify, the owner wanted to know if the rabbit was male or female.)

3. Dog may be pregnant by her brother.

4. ADR (Ain’t doin’ right.)

5. Sick and only has fifty dollars.

6. Sore that won’t heal.

7. Got into the trash.

8. Neighbor poisoned the dog.

9. Losing hair and teeth.

10. Hissing and hiding under the bed.

So, what do you think? If I could get some good music and lyrics to go along with these titles, is there a possibility I could be onto something? Personally, I think they’re a lot better than “Take a Drunk Girl Home.” These titles convey all the pathos and angst required for C and W music, while being completely new and fresh. If you know of someone who would be willing to team up with me, I think the sky’s the limit. Look out Nashville!

 

Award winning author, Ellen Fannon, is a practicing veterinarian, former missionary, and church pianist/organist. She originated and wrote the Pet Peeves column for the Northwest Florida Daily News before taking a two-year assignment with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. She and her husband have also been foster parents for more than 40 children, and the adoptive parents of two sons.  Her first novel, Other People’s Children, the humorous account of the life of a foster parent, was released last November and is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the trunk of her car. She lives in Valparaiso with her husband, son, and assorted pets.

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