Confessions

“My boyfriend is married,” the woman sitting next to me said.

I twisted in my seat and surveyed the room. Had I walked into the wrong workshop? I thought I was in How To Become A Published Author – not Confessors Anonymous.

“And I wrote a children’s book,” she continued.

So I was in the right room! I turned and faced the woman.

“Um … how interesting,” I said before staring straight ahead – praying she wouldn’t continue the conversation.

For whatever reason, people tend to confess to me and my husband. We’re not sure why this occurs, exactly. We don’t look like priests, or interrogators. Or therapists. Yet, there have been several incidents where complete strangers share rather personal information with us. And it’s not your run-of-the-mill too much information that we’re all accustomed to. (Coworkers sharing their recent bowel woes; a woman standing behind you at the grocery store rattling off what she is making for dinner; the man waiting for his sandwich at the deli telling you why he hates a certain political party.) No, we’re talking confessions.

“So … I got an executive massage,” the man installing our furnace told my husband when he had gone into the basement to see how the installation was progressing.

“Oh.”

“Yeah. It’s right off Exit 7. They give executive massages. Know what that is?”

“Uh … I have an idea,” my husband said, “So … can I get you anything to drink?”

“Nah, I’m fine. I brought a bottle of water. But I love going to that massage place.”

Why on earth would this complete stranger tell my husband such a thing?  (For those of you who don’t know what an Executive Massage is, let’s just say it’s illegal in most states. Including the state where Exit 7 is located.)

I wish I could say my husband and I look like really nice people who love to listen to others, and that is why random people tell us rather lurid secrets. But that’s certainly not the case. If these were supposed to be serendipitous moments, my husband and I ruined our chances of helping these people. In fact, I scooted my chair several inches away from the Home Wrecking Children’s Book Author. Likewise, my husband didn’t exactly seize the moment to provide much needed advice to this man who confessed to frequenting an underground prostitution ring. In fact, my husband didn’t venture into the basement again until the furnace installation was complete.

Could it have been fate? Well, if it were, I quote Lemony Snicket: “Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.”

To Do: Find A Funeral Home

Please add Find Funeral Home For When I Die to your “To Do” list. Sound unnecessary? Perhaps you’re thinking, “Does it really matter where my wake will be since – technically – I’ll not even be there?” Think again.

For those of you who live in East Texas, there is a funeral home that resides in a former Taco Bell storefront. As if this isn’t awful enough, the funeral home has a casket on a pole advertising their services. Were the owners of East Texas Funeral Home concerned friends and family of the deceased would get lost en route to their funerals, and having a coffin in the sky would help?

“Stupid Google maps! I don’t see the road anywhere! Wait. Just wait one second! What is that ahead? A casket in the sky? Whew! We’re on the right street.”

And you thought I was exaggerating.

And you thought I was exaggerating.

After paying their condolences at the East Texas Funeral Home, hungry mourning guests may pop in next door to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.

“I still can’t believe Harry died! I mean, how old was he? Fifty – oh! Look! A Chinese buffet! I wonder if they have General Tso’s chicken. That’s my favorite.”

Now, I could very well be wrong. Perhaps you find the idea of your body being laid out in a former Taco Bell storefront with a coffin floating overhead appealing. But for those of you who live in East Texas, and don’t care for this decor, I strongly encourage you to find an alternative funeral home and remember to tell your family.

Another funeral home you may want to avoid is the Ahlgrim Family Funeral Home (click HERE for this oddity), located in Illinois. Mourners could be visiting your wake on the pretense of offering condolences, but what they are really itching to do is go downstairs and play 9 holes of mini-golf in the funeral home’s miniature golf course. There is also a game room for those of you who love a competitive pinball game. Note, however, the game room is never open during funeral services. (This may be a bit of a downer for some … more so than your death.)

Lastly, consider avoiding Drive Thru Funeral homes. Several are popping up along the country. This is exactly what it sounds like: your coffin is next to a window, and your loved ones can drive up to the window and pay their respects. (Well, sort of. I don’t know about you, but I find the effort of getting out of the car to be an integral component of  “paying respect”.)

Apparently, if you arrive before 6pm, you'll have to go inside. Dang!

Apparently, if you arrive before 6 pm, you’ll have to go inside.

Call me demanding or fussy, but when I exit this earth, I would rather not have my body displayed in a window.

“Well, there she is. Think we should turn down the radio?”

“Why? It’s not like she can hear it.”

“True.”

“So … now what? We just drive forward?”

“I guess so. Hey. Since we’re doing this whole drive-thru thing, can we head over to McDonalds?”

“Sure. Ya know, it’s too bad this isn’t the East Texas Funeral Home. There is an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet next door to that one.”

*Photo credits go to Adam J. Holland, of the Unorthodox Epicure, who braved the East Texas streets in order to provide the Casket On A Stick photograph. (Click HERE to visit his blog.) And Google Images for the Drive-Thru Funeral Home sign.*

When Life Gives You …

When a freak autumn blizzard nailed our state two years ago, many made the best of a difficult situation. Once electricity was restored, these pioneers posted statuses on Facebook like, “Didn’t have power for five days, so the kids and I camped around the fireplace and roasted marshmallows!” and “After singing Kumbaya, we all snuggled in our sleeping bags. I just love October blizzards!”

Wow. I’m impressed (and slightly nauseous). As the winds howled, these people turned a challenging situation into a good one, as I pressed my forehead to the window, watching the power lines – begging them to work.

Having the ability to take a difficult situation and make the best of it is a great quality. But having the ability to take a difficult situation and use it to your benefit is even more impressive.

When Life Gives You Lemons (Or A Confused Grandfather), Make Lemonade (Or Buy Beer).

Our neighbor opened her home to her father when his Alzheimer’s became too advanced and he could no longer live alone. This was quite an adjustment for the family – especially for our neighbor’s sons. The oldest (Jason) was forced to give up his bedroom for his grandfather, and had to share a bedroom with his younger brother.

Yet, Jason used this seemingly unfair situation to his benefit. One afternoon during his Senior year in high school, Jason coaxed his confused grandfather into his car. He and his friends then drove Grandpa to a convenience store. (Lucky for Jason, Grandpa loved car rides.) They proceeded to put Grandpa in a wheelchair, plop a six pack of beer on his lap, and wheel the confused, old man up to the cashier. Grandpa was then instructed to hand the cashier the six pack. Grandpa was certainly over the legal age to purchase beer, and the cashier had no choice but to let them purchase it.

Hate Your Job? Find a Refuge (Or Watch The Price Is Right).

Several years ago when I worked in a hospital, there was a cleaning lady (perhaps I should use the politically correct title she was given: Housekeeper) who clearly did not enjoy her job. She went about her work with a permanent scowl on her face, giving the sinks a haphazard wipe; the floors a cursory mop.

One morning, as the Housekeeper was cleaning a patient’s room, she noticed the patient was asleep while the television was on. After propping her mop against the wall, the Housekeeper gingerly eased herself into a chair and quietly tilted the TV in her direction.

Eventually this became routine. Every day, the Housekeeper would poke her head into random hospital rooms, find a patient who was comatose, and proceed to watch her favorite soap operas and game shows. This continued for quite sometime, until a patient who was not in a coma – but merely sleeping – opened his eyes to find his TV on and a strange lady sitting in the chair next to his bed.

To all of you who brave October snowstorms by doing crafts by candlelight, or teaching your children how to canoe when your driveway is flooded – I am deeply impressed. But to those of you who use confused, elderly men to purchase beer, or manage to watch television and get paid for it, well, more power to you.

Think You’re So Tough?

I give my empty plastic water bottles to the homeless instead of cashing them in for their five cent refund. “How nice of her,” you must be thinking.

Well, you can stop. There is nothing altruistic about my giving empty water bottles to the homeless. In fact, it’s pretty selfish. I don’t want the 5 cent refund because I am deathly afraid of the bottle return room. Ever been? If not, let me forewarn you: It’s brutal.

Last summer I hauled three garbage bags overflowing with empty bottles to my local grocery store’s bottle return room. When I entered, there was a man with a long, dingy stained beard and shopping cart full of bottles. We nodded a greeting to one another and I watched as he expertly fed his bottles into his machine. He moved in a rhythm that reminded me of an interpretive dance. It was almost … artistic.

Inspired, I fished out my first bottle and tossed it into the machine. Instead of creating my own fluid interpretive dance, however, I screamed and jumped back. The machine had sucked the bottle from my hand with intense force and an accompanying crunching sound.

I gingerly inserted my second bottle. The machine immediately spat it out. I retrieved the bottle and tried again. The machine spit it out a second time. I looked over at Dirty Beard for help. He came over, took my bottle and effortlessly tossed it into the machine.

“You have to use more force,” he said.

I shoved another bottle into the machine. It was accepted! I rammed in a fourth bottle, then a fifth. It was getting fun! Soon I had the same rhythm as Dirty Beard. As I slowly emptied my first bag, a public transportation bus parked outside. A stream of people entered. They took one look at my two garbage bags full of bottles and instantly became grumpy.

“Almost done?” one lady asked curtly.

I looked down at my bags, “Well, not really.”

The bottle return machine sensed I was nervous. It immediately began rejecting the bottles I tried to feed into its cavernous mouth.  I could hear people sighing behind me as I battled with the temperamental machine. Then, to my horror, the machine groaned and froze.

“Now look what you did!” someone said.

I stared at the machine – mentally begging it to start working again. I even reached into the machine (risking amputation) and tapped the trapped bottle with my finger. It didn’t move.

“I’ll go get help,” Dirty Beard offered.

I thanked him profusely and, like sharks to blood, the crowd behind me attacked the machine he had left. Most of them did the same bottle return dance as Dirty Beard, and within seconds several had finished returning their bottles.

Dirty Beard returned with a store employee . She marched up to the broken machine and peered inside.

“What animal did this?” she snapped.

Animal? Everyone exchanged smug looks. There was a moment of awkward silence until I slowly raised my hand.

“That would be me.”

The store employee’s eyebrows shot up. She looked me up and down.

“You? You did this?”

Swallowing, I nodded. Was I the first person to break a bottle return machine?

“You can’t be so rough,” she sighed, turning back to the machine, “You gotta be gentle with these things.”

I was confused because Dirty Beard had told me to use more force.

“I’m sorry,” I explained, “But this is my first time.”

First time? Well! That was the wrong thing to say. Everyone turned to look at me with their eyebrows raised. The store employee shook her head in disgust.

“Now I gotta call the vendor. This machine is broke.”

Audible groans were heard around the room. Fumbling with my bags, I leaned over and ripped the receipt from the machine.  I had returned a total of $1.35 cents worth of bottles.

“Here,” I said, handing my two remaining bags of bottles to Dirty Beard, “You can have these.”

I turned and fled. I ran to my car and climbed inside, grateful for its familiarity. There are a lot of things in life I know I’m not tough enough to handle.  Add returning bottles to that list.