The Mother of All Boredom


I have no idea why the bank hired me. Apart from a warm body and pulse, I didn’t have a thing to offer Ferneyhough Savings. They didn’t have much to offer me, either. Unless, of course, you count the $9.65 an hour entry level tellers make. To be honest, I didn’t even want the job. I was just trying to survive until ski season.

Bank tellers are a dying breed that have succumbed to a lethal combination of online banking, electronic deposits and Square Cash. Unlike my counterparts of the 1950s who actually worked for a living, I spent the majority of my day staring into space. Occasionally, a waitress would come in with a wad of cash and $234 in loose change she collected from tips. Once in a while, a kid would want to cash in his piggy bank, but that was about it.

This wasn’t the first boring job I’ve had. I’ve worked dozens of dead-end gigs while working my way through college. I’ve counted ball bearings, patrolled Six Flags parking lots in a chicken costume, watched paint dry, and inspected plastic tubing. At least with those jobs I was doing something. Figuring out ways to look busy as a bank teller was a whole new slice of pizza.

Unlike my abbreviated career at Three Mile Island, we weren’t allowed to sleep on the job. We couldn’t read, eat, surf the Internet, or talk on the telephone between clients. Yet, we were supposed to look busy, lending a professional air to the three customers that came in during the day. If it weren’t for the robberies, it might have been a boring job.

The first thing I tried was imagining everyone who came into the lobby was nude. I learned the technique at a Tony Robbins self-esteem seminar. Then, I tried to see how long I could hold my breath until I fainted. I got up to three minutes before the other tellers started complaining about the colors I was turning. After I compared the number of freckles on my left arm with the right, I tried to see if I could touch my brain by pushing my index finger up through my nostrils.

The next thing I tried was pretending to be on the phone. We weren’t allowed to have our own telephones, so I brought in an old headset from my last job and taped the loose end into the cash drawer. The great thing about headsets is no one can tell whether or not you’re actually on a call. There’s no red light that blinks when you’re occupied, like the outside of a confessional, so people tend to leave you alone. Whenever a customer came into the lobby, I’d pretend I was swamped by rolling my eyes, feigning resignation and making gestures with my hands, as if to say, “I’d love to talk to you, but I’m on the phone with this guy who just won’t shut up.”

If the boss was around, I’d add some compelling dialogue: “If I told you once, I told you a thousand times, Mr. Melish. Your daughter came in yesterday with a group of Hells Angels and cashed your Social Security check. Something about needing money for her next score.” I didn’t even know she was into music.

Later, I discovered I could fill up hours simply by walking around, glaring at a clipboard. People naturally assumed that I was buried in paperwork. A friend of mine told me whenever he wanted to look busy, he’d walk around with a gallon of paint and a brush. No one walks around with a gallon of paint unless they’re in the midst of an important job. Then, there was the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza figured out he could look busy by wearing a scowl. If anyone approached him, he’d let ‘em have it. The technique worked so well, it was adopted by every cop, medical and CSI show.

Of course the mother of all boredom is the practical joke. Nothing is more dangerous than 12 bank tellers jacked-up on caffeine, with nothing to do. We’d make the rounds by gluing the manager’s telephone to her desk, sawing the legs off tellers’ stools or hiding a dead fish under the New Accounts desk. The usual stuff.

After a few weeks, the branch manager asked me to come into her office to discuss my struggling performance. “Mr. Smith, we’ve had a number of complaints about your conduct here at Ferneyhough Savings. The other tellers have complained about the colors you’ve been turning while sitting at your window. The customers have commented that you appear to be under an enormous amount of stress, yelling on the telephone, pacing the halls while carrying a bucket of paint and glaring at a clipboard. For God’s sake, man. Get a grip on yourself. You’re only an entry level teller.”

She was right. I was under an enormous amount of stress – trying figure out ways to look like I enjoyed my job. We finally agreed that Ferneyhough Savings wasn’t place for me. So, she managed to wrangle a job for me in the parking lot toll booth. I’ll probably be bored there, too. But, at least I wouldn’t have to pretend. Besides, I want to see how far I can stretch open my mouth, before something pops.



Olympic Sports that Never Quite Made the Grade


Even if you don’t like sports, it was hard not to get excited about the Summer Olympic Games. The pageantry, the colorful uniforms and swapping pins with spectators from all over the world make it a must-see event. But, they didn’t start out that way.

The original competitions have expanded from six simple feats of strength to more than 26 individual events contested on the ground, in the air, underwater, on grass, inside and outside of elaborate, multi-million-dollar athletic stadiums that ultimately wind up taking their place in history as second class bluegrass music venues and swap meets.

The Paris Summer Olympic Games of 1900 provided a watershed of athletic hopefuls. The first one was Lawn Bowling. Heavy, metal balls (weighted on one side – God only knows why) were rolled down a grass-covered lawn to see who could get closest to the “Jack” or the “Kitty.” Even though it’s still watched on BBC by over three million enthusiasts, the International Olympic Committee felt that even watching paint dry on a wall was more exciting than Lawn Bowling, so they dropped it from contention.

In the same year, Hot Air Ballooning made its debut, but was ultimately eliminated because the spectators could never figure out the best venue to watch the competition. Long before helicopters, television, sky-cams and Jumbo Trons, thousands of fans would huddle around the starting line cheering on dozens of colorful balloons as they flew off into the sunset, never to be seen again. That was it. Back to the hotel.

The original Greek Tug of War was resurrected from the games of 500 B.C. According to the rules, eight men on each side strained and grunted, attempting to pull the opposing team six feet across the center line. Because all of the contestants were so equally trained (this was long before anything like blood doping, human growth hormone and anabolic steroids gave one side a winning edge), the competition usually resulted in watching 16 men grunt, fart and spit in a Mexican standoff until the spectators got bored and left. As anticipated, the event was cancelled due to lack of interest.

Finally, there were two other competitions vying for the public’s attention: Live Pigeon Shooting and the Plunge for Distance. Prior to the days of clay skeet shooting, a dozen competitors with shotguns stood at the ready, waiting for the officials to release more than 300 live pigeons into the air. The object was to shoot down as many birds as possible in the least amount of time. While a crack shot could surgically remove more than 20 birds, the majority of the contestants ended up decimating the flock, blanketing the countryside with a stomach-churning layer of mangled bird meat, blood and feathers.

But, by far, the most boring event was the Plunge for Distance. Competitors stood perched on top of a high diving platform over a deep swimming pool. When the signal was given, the contestant dove off the platform to the bottom of the pool where they lie motionless until they ran out of breath – which felt like years to the spectators watching from the sidelines. Eventually, the crowds grew bored watching a group of men lay on the bottom of a pool and left, leaving the divers clinging to life – their eyes fixed on the gold medal.

Since then, there have been dozens of other demonstration events that never made the grade: the 200m Obstacle Swimming Race, One Hand Weight Lifting, Glima Wrestling and Korfball. Many other sports such as Buzkaski, Shin Kicking, Wife Carrying and Ferret Legging are popular and played over the world – just not enough to find a permanent spot in the Summer Olympic Games. Maybe someday…

The Real Secret to Using On-line Dating

Astonished gorgeous woman working with her notebook

It’s Saturday night around 11:30 and I’ve been telling Carol about the time I visited Nepal while on break from Harvard Medical School. I was telling Leslie how much I excel at skiing the steeps in the Chugach mountain range and Sharon and I were engaged in a long discussion about our favorite restaurants in Tuscany. All from the comfort of my living room.

I haven’t been on a date in over five years; ever since my wife left me for the Bowflex repairman. So, it’s easy to understand why I’ve so grown comfortable with sidling up to women through,,, and Plentyof – while wallowing in the safety that only deception and miles of distance can provide. But recently, I’ve started to grow suspicious of the women I’ve been meeting after reading their on-line profiles. They all seem to sound suspiciously the same.

So, after more than 45 minutes of exhaustive research, I came up with an interpretive approach for anyone hoping to find “Mr. or Ms. Right” over their wireless network.

Your first step when touring on-line dating sites should be to throw out any precept of honesty; this is hardcore self -aggrandizement at its finest. This is obviously not for people watching their sodium intake. You have to take everything you read with a grain of salt. Make that a salt mine.

Avoid anyone who goes by fascinating login names like “MountainGirl,” “MrFit,” “SexyBlonde,” “WorldTraveler,” “Love2Ski” or “Luv2HaveFun.” These are handles of people who live in the slums, spend all day on the couch and haven’t laughed since the Nixon administration.

Be careful of the pictures that people post. No one, no matter who they are, is going to use any photo of them that’s less than 10 years old. Dead giveaways of bogus photos are suspicious backgrounds like the first flight at Kitty Hawk or the Korean War. You’ll never see any photos that show what the person is really about, either. If people were really truthful with their on-line profiles, instead of posting snapshots of themselves dancing the night away on a cruise ship in the Bahamas, they’d post photos of themselves scratching their butt in a pair of stained underwear, while dragging around a half-eaten bag of Doritos.

About Me
Now we come to the section called, “About Me…” The About Me section is meant to briefly sum up your love interest’s like, dislikes and accomplishments. The problem is, everyone lies. No one is going to admit that they’ve been working in the same windowless cubicle for over 35 years and still lives with their parents.  So, to help get to the truth, I’ve compiled a handy translation guide to interpret what your web mate is saying and what they really mean:

What the profiles say


What they really mean

  • I am fun and energetic.
  • I’m immature and can’t focus on anything for more than 3 minutes.
  • I have a great sense of humor and love to laugh.
  • When I’m taking my anti-depressants, I can find simple ways to amuse myself.
  • I enjoy skiing, hiking, walking my dog, buttered popcorn at the movies, renting DVDs, listening to live music, dancing and reality TV.
  • I like hanging around bars in ski lodges, picking up the poop that my mutt has left behind, stuffing my face with junk food, vegging out with DVD rentals, carousing at sleazy piano bars and laying comatose in front of just about anything that’s on TV.
  • I’ve been around the block.
  • I’m tired, old and my skin hangs off just about every part of my body.
  • I enjoy good food and wine.
  • I wouldn’t know gourmet food if you threw it at me and I’ve never drank from a bottle that didn’t have a screw top.
  • At this time, I am self-employed.
  • Nobody can stand to work with me.
  • I’m not into money.
  • I haven’t had anything in my bank account since my Bar Mitzvah.
  • I am someone that likes adventure and having fun but also loves being home.
  • My idea of a good time is dodging bill collectors and peeking out of my bedroom window to make sure they don’t repossess my car.
  • I’m very active and always into new challenges and living life to its fullest.
  • I’m a neurotic, agitated loser who’s always looking for a scam or a shortcut to riches.
  • I am not your typical mate.
  • I’ve never gotten past a first date. Ever.
  • I have an entertaining personality.
  • I have a lot of undiagnosed nervous ticks, twitches and mannerisms.
  • In my spare time, I enjoy being with my family and friends.
  • I live at home with my parents, three aunts, their eight step children and 10 cats. They’re the only ones who will have me.
  • I am a true romantic who is waiting to meet the person of their dreams.
  • I’m a dreamer who spends all of their spare time surfing porn sites.
  • My mother is Dutch and my biological father is from Mexico.
  • My mother was a hooker from Amsterdam who was knocked up by a merchant marine while on shore leave in Tijuana.

The Search…
The logical starting point for finding your mate is to make your search criteria as similar to yourself as you can. Most on-line daters start with a search radius of 20 or 30 miles within their own zip code. For compatibility sake, they’ll shoot for an age spread of 5 to 10 years on either side of their own age and throw in a few sizzling keywords like “hot,” “sexy” or “athletic” just for good measure. I’ve never had any luck with this type of approach. Instead, I’ll throw the net out a little wider and include all women between the ages of 15 and 85, locales that include Afghanistan, the Far East and the more remote parts of the Ukraine.

Once you finally find a few unsuspecting victims to snag, most dating services have a number of anonymous methods of contacting your prospects. The first is the wink. A wink is a safe way of showing someone you’re interested without suffering any embarrassing repercussions; sort of like tossing a dead tuna off the stern to see if you can lure a shark into the boat.

The second tool at your disposal is the anonymous email. Since most on-line dating services routinely filter emails between clients, you’re not allowed to send them your real email address. Instead, every now and again, you’ll get a nice little note in your inbox that says something like, “You’ve got a new message from Blonde4U; Subject: Leave Me Alone or I’ll Get a Restraining Order!”

About My Life…

If you’re not turned off by now, you’ve got one more, handy tool to use: the “About My Life” summary. If you were to reduce your entire life into a single paragraph, it would look something like this:

Hair: Lots of it growing on my back
Eyes: Bloodshot
Best feature: Love handles
Body art: Tons of tattoos
Sports and exercise: Mutton busting, throwing rocks at cars, arm wrestling, tossing the boomerang, spraying graffiti on underpasses, log rolling, jousting, tug of war, holding my breath
Exercise habits: Only out of necessity
Daily diet: Anything that I don’t have to make myself
Interests: Smoking cigarettes, recreational drug use, tattoos, body piercing, burglary, discovering new porn sites
Education: Left school after the 3rd grade
Occupation: Unemployed
Income: An allowance from my mother
Languages: Some English, Tagalog, fluent Yiddish
Sign: Stop
My place: Or yours?
Pets I have: Pythons (12)
Pets I like: Various reptiles, fleas, maggots, gerbils, pit bulls

So, you see, there’s no excuse to be alone these days. Not as long as you have a computer. So fire up your PC, stretch out in front of a roaring fire with a can of beer and your keyboard and get ready to meet Mr. or Ms. Right! They’re out there waiting for you.

The Tour De France Has a Female Winner!

sexy cyclist

Paris, France – Five years after the professional cycling world began allowing women to compete in the three month long Tour de France, the cycling world was stunned when a 21-year-old law student from Long Island, New York became the first woman in the 105-year history of the race to wear the coveted yellow jersey. But the victory did not come without incident.

Flora Eloise Hobble, member of the Stay Free Mini-pad team won the 220 kilometer race in just over 12 weeks, literally destroying her male counterparts through a combination of arguments, temper tantrums and the silent treatment.

“I got off to a pretty shaky start,” said Hobble. “My team director managed to misplace my custom made, carbon fiber makeup case on the flight over, so I had to send him out in search of a replacement. Fortunately, this being France and all, we were able to get one flown in from Paris, just minutes before the start of the first stage.” Three days prior to the race, six other women from four teams were disqualified for using banned breast implants. Although the disqualified cyclists claimed to have participated in rigorous wind tunnel tests, it was determined that the implants did not comply with strict International Cycling Union guidelines for aerodynamics and gave them an unfair advantage over their competitors – especially the men.

The integration of women into what has been traditionally an all-male athletic competition did not come easy. Many complained that including female competitors into the lineup would serve as an unnecessary distraction to the male riders. “I haven’t seen my girlfriend for over two months,” complained Jan Ullrich, star rider from team Stanozolol. “And if you think its easy hiding your arousal in these skimpy, skin-tight cycling shorts, you’d better think again.”

A number of course modifications were made to accommodate the female athletes. In past races, the three-week, 2200 kilometer race was punctuated by alternating stages of flat time trials and brutal mountain climbs with two rest days in between. To accommodate the female athletes, the race has been shortened to 220 kilometers and extended to three months, so that the average ride is no longer than 1.8 kilometers a day. Rest days have been replaced with 15 shopping days.

This year’s route was nearly identical to the 2006 course, except for the elimination of all of the hilly stages through the Pyrenees and the Alps and both the individual and team time trials. “A lot of the women athletes complained last year that the tour was just too damn hard,” said Joseph-Marie-Arnaud Jaillet, Director of the Tour de France. “And quite frankly, I just couldn’t put up with any more whining, so I caved in and shortened the course.”

The first day began uneventfully with Hobble and her teammates taking an early lead. “To tell you the truth, I could have gone out a hell of a lot faster,” said George Hincapie, member of team Discovery. “But I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ride behind all of those beautiful lycra-clad butts.” And in fact, that was the intent of the members of team Goddesspads. “We knew that would get the guys,” said Cheryl Simonelli, domestique to Flora Eloise Hobble. “And if that didn’t work we were prepared to unzip our jerseys or remove them completely.” Just such a move was pulled in 2009, which resulted in the disqualification of two women athletes from team Estee Lauder for exposing excess cleavage.

After a delayed start from Esch-sur-Alzette, the second week of competition finally got under way. “We didn’t get out of town until almost noon,” said Aaron Seraphim, sprinter for team Cofidis. “Dona Spunsler of team Midol wouldn’t come out of her trailer. Someone said she was in there crying and refused to start the race.” After further investigation, officials discovered that one of the other competitors made a remark that her butt looked “a little big” in her yellow shorts. “She took it pretty hard,” said Seraphim. “In fact, I heard a rumor that she’s thinking about jumping ship at the end of this year’s season to join the Quick Step team. They wear really cute dark blue shorts that make their athletes look slimmer.”

A number of other changes have transpired since women have been allowed into the tour. Take for instance, the feed zones. “During the early days of the tour, we had to eat whatever they gave us as we flew through the feed zones; power bars, bananas, whatever,” said Bob Roll, television commentator for this year’s tour and husband of Harriett Binney, member of team Depo Provera. “But that’s all changed. Now, most of the women have elected to get off their bikes for an hour and congregate at small sidewalk cafes, where they’ll have tossed green salads with a low-fat vinaigrette dressing and a bottle of Evian water. Plenty of time is allowed for the female athletes to freshen up their makeup before getting back out onto the course.”

Even the equipment has changed. While all of the cyclists in the tour still use some form of state of the art carbon fiber or aluminum frame, many of the bikes used by the female competitors now come equipped with additional features such as cell phone slots, Starbucks coffee mug holders and large mirrors for those quick mascara touch-ups.

As the fourth week of the race ended, a number of riders were involved in a horrific crash with just 100 meters to go to the finish in Cambo-les-Bains. Elinor Neugebauer from team Vagisil was reaching down for her water bottle and broke two of her nails. When she abruptly stopped in the middle of the peloton to examine the damage, she caused 34 of her fellow competitors to crash. The carnage was the worst ever recorded in the history of the Tour. “While a number of athletes with broken collar bones, dislocated fingers and severe road rash brushed themselves off and continued the race,” said Roll, “Neugebauer’s injuries were deemed much more serious. She was transported off the course by a Flight for Life helicopter and taken to a local manicurist.” A specialist in acrylic nails was being flown in from the United States. “We won’t know until later tonight if they’ll be able to repair those two nails or if she’ll even be able to resume racing tomorrow.”

During the final day of the race, the peloton had to face some of its most grueling terrain: the designer stores on the Champs Elysee. “We did pretty well when we were out in the countryside,” said Noemi Nastasi from team DivaCup. “Cruising past all of those farmers and young French boys without any shirts was pretty easy. But when Chandra Goldsby saw that Prada boutique, I knew we were going start losing some serious time.” One by one, as the women passed Sephora, Armani and Gucci, the field began to thin out. By the time the remainder of the peloton cruised into the finish there were only two women cyclists left: Hobble and her domestique, Twana Kruszewski.

“It was a thrilling experience. One that I’ll never forget,” said Hobble. When asked what her plans were after winning the most prestigious bicycle race in the world, she said, “Well, first off,  I’m going go home and get a pedicure. Maybe have a few of the girls by for a sleepover and a pillow fight. Then it’s back to school. I’ve got some Civil Procedure and Torts to catch up on.”

With Rentals Like These, Who Needs Friends?


This started out as a bad year. In less than 6 months, I lost my job, condominium, car and girlfriend. Even the cat packed up her litter box and left. When my parents heard the bad news, they immediately snapped into action: they fled to Boca Raton and dropped me from their Christmas card list. The exodus continued with all of my aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews and my one remaining frat brother. Then it hit me. Friends and relatives are just things. Things you can rent.

After the devastation settled in, I made up my mind that I was never going to own friends or family again. If I couldn’t rent someone, I didn’t need them. The following Monday, I began rebuilding my life.

I knew the first thing I’d need was a girlfriend. Someone to share the essence of life –holding hands and laughing while we skipped along the beach, picking up my dirty laundry, doing the vacuuming, cooking, and cleaning the bathroom in my pathetic little studio apartment. Maybe even someone to argue with when the urge moves me. So, I went directly to

There are a number of companies that rent girlfriends to life-long bachelors, philandering husbands or anyone else who wants all the benefits of saying “I do” with none of the commitments of uttering “I will.” I looked into because they were an international firm with a reputation for providing wholesome family values to men and women from all walks of life. I was also attracted to Rent-a-Friend because you can choose a woman who shares your interests. From rock climbing to going to football games, getting sloshed at night clubs, engaging in phone sex – all the things my last girlfriend never wanted to do. They’ll even lie to your parole officer if you ask them.

Another advantage of renting a girlfriend from Rent-a-Friend was having offices in 42 countries around the world. Why should I pay for two airline tickets, extra baggage and everything else that goes along with vacationing with your girlfriend, when I can have a stand-in waiting for me at my destination? I’ll save a bundle.

In addition to my rented girlfriend, I occasionally find myself in the position of needing a gorgeous woman to accompany me to upscale events like the Academy Awards. What to do? That’s where Al Lampkin Entertainment comes in. Al Lampkin Entertainment is in the business of renting celebrities to nobodies like me for the evening. For a mere $1,000,000, I can be seen hanging out with Annie Lennox, Carrie Underwood, Chaka Khan, Britney Spears or Hillary Duff. And when I really want to get people talking around the water cooler, I opt for the additional obnoxious entourage of paparazzi, complete with blinding flashes and teen-age girls jumping up down, screaming for my autograph.

Once I settled in with my rental girlfriend, I thought it would be fun to have an open house so that my friends could see my new digs. The only problem was I didn’t have any. Fortunately, not having any friends or relatives isn’t a problem these days – just rent them.

I went back to Rent-a-Friend and spoke with Charmaine about my situation. “Rent-a-Friend has packages for everyone, ranging from the small nuclear family to the large brood with dozens of grandkids,” said Charmaine. She suggested that since I was starting over with a cheap rented apartment, I begin with the Basic Family Sampler. “The Basic Family Sampler consists of a slightly alcoholic father, a Jewish mother puffed up on Botox, a sister in therapy and two senile grandparents – all for only $499 a month.” She was even nice enough to throw in a teen-age daughter who hated me, for free. “Additional brothers and sisters are available with 3 hour minimums. Mothers-in-law, chain-smoking aunts and obnoxious next door neighbors can also be rented by the hour, day or week. And, everything you spend on rental fees goes towards purchasing them, should you wish to do so.” I don’t know why I’d want to do something like that.

Since it had been so long since I had anything that resembled a normal conversation within a cohesive family, Charmaine suggested that I start with the 900-Minute Plan. “The 900-Minute Plan let’s you spend up to 900 minutes a month conversing with any members of your rented family,” said Charmaine. “After 9:00 PM, you can talk to each other for free. Conversations on the weekend are unlimited and any minutes you don’t use, roll over to the next month.”

Three months after my new family settled in, my daughter Beatrice announced at the dinner table that she was 3 months pregnant and had to get married. “Great,” I said. “Another monthly rental to feed.” The first thing I did was complain to Charmaine about renting me a defective daughter. “Technically, Beatrice’s pregnancy isn’t a defect,” she said. “It happens to lots of 16 year old girls who ride with the Hells Angels.” She insisted that I’d have to rent Beatrice, her baby and her old man as a set. She couldn’t split them up.

It’s been five years since I’ve started my new rented life. I’m ecstatic. With the money I’m saving by not having to pay condominium association dues, property taxes, car payments or supporting real friends and relatives, I can easily afford my rental fees. Add to that all the money I’m saving on birthday presents throughout the year and I’m coming out miles ahead. Thank you Rent-a-Friend!

Geriatric Gratitude

cell phone

I’m sitting in the waiting room, waiting for my number to be called. With time to kill before my annual colorectal exam, I thought it might be a good time to compile what I call my geriatric gratitude list. This isn’t a mamby-pamby list you usually have to endure reading about the joy of waking up in the morning, having a job, your hamster or fully grown children. No, instead it’s my opportunity to look back on some of the more important things that have been invented since I came into this world decades ago.

At the top of the list is the Mickey Mouse Club. Who could have made it through childhood without Disneyland or Annette Funicello? In 1954 frozen TV dinners were invented for people who really DID eat dinner while they watched TV. Of course, it would be another year before I’d be able to slide those aluminum trays into a microwave oven. However did I survive?

Then, there’s the cell phone. It was as big as a brick and held a charge for a staggering 20 minutes. You couldn’t do anything with it except make calls. No selfies, email, or Twitter. I could never afford one. Nor could I afford to have a phone in my car. Largely because I wouldn’t own my first car until 1967. It would be 34 years before I bought my first iPhone. 1973 was the year that Velcro, Mr. Potato Head and Nike waffle sole running shoes were invented. Try to imagine your life without those.

Both the Kodak Instamatic and digital cameras (the type that weren’t inside your cell phone) were invented during my lifetime. So were the Sony Walkman, Super Glue and television remote controls. All of which, contributed to my obesity and sedentary lifestyle.

On the medical front, coronary bypass surgery (which, thankfully, I haven’t needed yet), liposuction and rhinoplasty came upon the scene, followed by electronic pacemakers, artificial knees, Viagra and Prozac. I’ve haven’t needed most of those, either, but I’m happy to report that blood-sucking leeches are making a comeback.

How could any of us survive today without personal computers and the Internet? Yet, I managed to do so until 1990 when the ARPANET was decommissioned. Later that day, I learned how to kill most of my time at work glued to porn sites, shopping and online dating. It only took me 18 years to get tossed off of for violating dating profile guidelines. This was followed by a number of other life events: text messaging, Facebook, social media, Wikipedia, Skype, email,Wi-Fi hotspots, photocopiers and voicemail.

I know I’ve missed something, but I’ll try to include them in next year’s birthday celebration. Until then, I’ll see you at the ATM the next time I need to transfer Square Cash into my Paypal account.

The Wilhelm Scream

Wilhelm Scream

In the early days of the film industry, it was hard to find a good scream. Before the invention of sound bites, directors who needed a blood-curdling shriek from actors often got rather paltry sounding yelps. That is, until Private Wilhelm entered the scene.

In the 1951 war classic Distant Drums, a soldier is dragged under water by an alligator as he wades through a treacherous Florida swamp. After the filming was completed, sound engineers recorded a series of screams that were added during post-production. Two years later, in The Charge at Feather River, a soldier named Private Wilhelm (played by Ralph Brooke) takes an arrow in the leg. Similar to modern sound engineering processes, the Distant Drums scream was resurrected from a vault and added to Wilhelm’s impalement scene.

What became known as the Wilhelm Scream is actually thought to be the handiwork of a popular television and screen actor named Sheb Wooley. He and other actors from Distant Drums were asked to contribute various sound bites to the film. Wooley later went on to play in classics such as High Noon with Gary Cooper, Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales and the hit television series Rawhide. But it was Wooley’s contribution to radio, the hit song Purple People Eater that ultimately overshadowed his success as the originator of the Wilhelm Scream.

Over the years, the Wilhelm Scream has enjoyed something of a cult following. One of the scream’s biggest fans was Ben Burtt, the sound effects editor for the original Star Wars in 1977. While perusing the sound archives of Warner Brothers Studios (who owned the rights to the Wilhelm Scream), he came across the scream and decided to use it in his film. He became so fond of it that it became his signature sound bite in other productions including the Indiana Jones series, Them, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Howard the Duck, Willow, Beauty and the Beast, Batman Returns, Reservoir Dogs, Aladdin, A Goofy Movie, Toy Story, Hercules, Small Soldiers and Lethal Weapon 4. More than 50 years later, moviegoers can still hear Private Wilhelm scream.