Wrinkled Wisdom – Holy Moly Pandemic Olio

We’re still at home, mostly.  It’s fall.  It’s cold.  COVID numbers are rising.  We venture out to shop for food, necessities, and now Christmas presents.  We are spending much more money on-line, and then feel guilty about not supporting our local businesses.   Okay, we do have our nails done and hit the dentist and doctor when needed.  The bad news is that lots of friends are concerned about indoor dining.  It’s going to be a long, dark, lonely winter.  Thankfully, the family still gets together.  We are careful, of course.  We don’t want to die.  We would like to see the grandkids graduate from high school and, hopefully, college. 

But, honestly, we do have a lot of time on our hands.  So, we’ve been entertaining ourselves with COVID questions, observations, and giggles.

We are now paranoid about licking our fingers.  Licked fingers are essential for turning the pages of the newspaper and books and helping us pick up small bits of debris scattered about.  Safety or efficiency?  Tough to break old habits.  Speaking of licking, we are no longer licking envelopes.  We weren’t surprised recently to be asked not to lick a return envelope needed to pay a bill by check.  Guess we’re not the only ones who are paranoid.  Yet, with the slowdown of mail delivery, doubt any of our germs will be alive by the time the envelope is opened.

We know.  Wash your hands frequently with soap and water…for at least 20 seconds.  Time to find the chorus of a favorite song that will help ensure you’ve hit the 20-second mark.  Hopefully, it is something other than the mind-numbing repetition of singing “Happy Birthday” twice, as some have advised.  We can be more creative than that!

The pandemic may be a catalyst to end paying with cash!  Cash is a notoriously efficient carrier of bacteria and viruses.  The lifespan of various bills ranges from four to 15 years—lots of time to accumulate germs.  The phrase “dirty money” has certainly taken on a new meaning.

What about blowing out birthday candles?  Spitting all over a cake might become a no-no.  If we believe infectious disease experts, handshakes could also become a thing of the past as we’ve gotten more freaked about germs and hygiene.  Are high fives and hugs also a thing of the past?   

We’re all already feeling touch-deprived as we physically distance so we aren’t infected by goo droplets.  What does six feet apart actually look like, as recommended?  Our favorite descriptions are a dude in a top hat laying on the floor and one and a fifth Danny DeVitos.

There are some things we’ve learned because of the pandemic.  Diseases can have multiple names like COVID-19, also called SARS-CoV-2, or simply the coronavirus disease 2019.  COVID-19 is capitalized because the World Health Organization says so.  We’ve also learned that a pangolin is a scaly anteater that supposedly got COVID from a bat.  The Chinese eat them.  So, don’t eat pangolins, bats, or humans to avoid the virus.  We’ve also learned what the inside of every late night show host’s house looks like.  

We are also doing some calming things to ensure we’re not caught flat-footed in another crisis.  We’ve learned some lessons…the hard way.  We now keep at least two weeks of toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels stashed away.  Hydrogen peroxide has been added to our Apocalypse list as its uses are legion.  We can’t believe we missed it the first time around.  It is a staple of the modern medicine cabinet, always on hand for first aid needs, and gargling with it can keep a visit to the dentist off your calendar.  And, it’s a disinfectant.  Kills COVID.  Who knew?   It’s still really hard to find in stores maybe because hospitals are scooping up those brown bottles. 

And, with all of us cooking at home more, we found recycling isn’t that easy!  Junk food bags aren’t recyclable.  Huh?   Some take-out food boxes aren’t recyclable. Some triangles are so small we must resort to a magnifying glass!  

So our wrinkled wisdom for today?   Find humor where you can.  Laugh out loud.  Don’t lick your fingers.  Know you can exercise with wine bottles if you don’t have weights.  Shout “allergy” after you sneeze to keep from getting those creepy looks.  Let’s lobby for a required, seeable visual on packaging and containers that are NOT recyclable!  And, if you have any insights on stock to buy as behavior changes because of lockup, let us all know.  We missed Tupperware and Crocs.

Wrinkled wisdom: Unexpected Pandemic Challenges

The pandemic has made us very aware of the importance of physical distancing…from the refrigerator.   More time at home wearing lounge wear and lounging are also taking their toll.  Social media jokesters refer to it as the “Quarantine 15.”   We’re not laughing.   Even worse, getting on your scale and seeing the bad news could send you straight to the nearest comfort food.   

Speaking of refrigerators, want to buy one?  Good luck.

Who knew appliances are all in short supply nationwide thanks to the pandemic.  COVID-related circumstances have completely disrupted the supply chains of many industries.  That means fewer choices.  Between the two of us, we speak from experience.

But, before we start bitching about our new appliances, we must point to the accuracy of a term a humorist coined in 1948.  We can barely pronounce “resistentialism,” defined as “seemingly spiteful behaviour manifested by inanimate objects.”   Second that!

The refrigerator went kaput.  To add insult to injury, it moaned for a couple of days until a strong nephew wrenched it away from the wall and unplugged it.  Only one model was available for delivery in two weeks.  Two weeks without a refrigerator!!!  And, there was an unknown tradeoff.  The compressor of the new frig is so loud that it sounds like a car idling in the kitchen.   Definitely spiteful behavior!

So much cooking and cleaning seems to have worn out the dishwasher, cooktop, and stove.  It turns out that the new dishwasher’s controls can’t be seen when the door is closed, so you can’t tell when it’s running or if the cycle is complete.  Gee, what a brilliant design.

Let’s move on to the new cooktop and stove.  Every cooking show features a gas cooktop.  Experts brag that gas cooktops allow for instant changes in heat and cook more evenly.  And, gas cooktop to the rescue if there is an electric power outage.   Just need one of those long-reach butane candle lighters and, yes, you can then eat something; and, most importantly, enjoy that essential hot morning coffee. 

Okay.  Gas cooktop.  We misunderstood the sales person.  Thought the oven would be electric.  Nope.  We are adapting and focusing on the positives.  Gas stoves are reportedly more precise when changing heat temperatures.  But, what idiot puts the oven’s push-button controls right behind the gas burners??  These controls are spot sensitive and hard on old arthritic hands and fingers.  We have almost caught our clothes on fire reaching for the timer.  And the controls are hard to see.  Another spiteful appliance!

Then the washer refused to empty and the dryer seemed slow.  Crap.  More new appliances.  We reportedly have the capability to run the new ones via a phone app.  NOT HAPPENING.  Again, we can hardly see the controls.  They are dark on dark!!  To wash and dry a load of laundry, we really do need a flashlight to see what we are doing.  And, the dryer light does not stay on and is unhelpfully mentioned in the instructions.  The washer cycle explanation had to be downloaded from the internet because the instruction manual was useless.   

And, why is everything stainless?  They are advertised as smudge free.  Sure.   

Handyman did install a new toilet in the guest bathroom, but who cares.  It hasn’t been used for months.   Hmmm… lockup has been surprisingly expensive.  And, after all this time at home, well, kind of itching for a new couch and ottoman.   Oh, well, it’s good for the economy.

So, our wrinkled wisdom for today:  Buy pedestals for your new washer/dryer.  Keeps you from bending over and helps locate those panties and socks hiding from sight.  Always a plus.  Think about buying an IGuardStove.  It automatically shuts off unattended gas stovetops to prevent fires and alerts a family member you are losing it.  We aren’t there yet, but….  Consider a repairman’s advice.  High tech sounds enticing, but buy the dumbest appliances you can find to minimize your repair bills.  And, be prepared for possible disappointment from any new appliances—those darn, spiteful, inanimate objects.

Wrinkled Wisdom –Upside Down with Covid

We thought we’d be exiting Covid lockup by now.  Wrong!  We are, instead, at a standstill.  Or, maybe it’s better described as a Covid circle or cycle.  We open up; we hunker down.  We are getting the feeling that we oldies are going to locked up for months and months.  Does anyone see a light at the end of this tunnel??  Physical distancing outside with scotch and friends is not going to be fun in the snow.

We are pretty ticked at young people who are hitting bars, beaches, and partying, and driving up the Covid cases.  Let’s get even.  Let’s raise the drinking age to 35 for a year! 

That said, we are turning our frowns upside down and have gathered some random info about what’s upside down because of the virus.

♥ Gee, not surprisingly, the cosmetic industry is complaining about the drop in sales of makeup and perfume.  We get that.  Physical distancing and self-quarantining do present challenges to testing out a new product at the mall.  And, most of us are not heading to bars and parties and have limited time with family and friends.  No need to doll up to sit at home.  Delivery drivers, thankfully, don’t care what we look like.

♥Lipstick, especially, is expected to take a hit this year as we all responsibly and respectfully wear masks.  Who wants lipstick smeared all over the inside of our masks?  However, mask-wearing is prompting an emphasis on our eyes.  There is a newly-coined virus term, the Mascara Effect.  Check out television ads.  Not much for most makeup, but note the mascara ads.  Heck, should we even consider false eyelashes??   We do have much more time these days to look in the mirror; but, apparently, that is prompting us to spend more money on skincare, according to sales stats. 

♥ On the upside, being “Zoom ready” means looking good.  Even for guys.  Men are googling “male makeup looks” about how to cover redness and hide zits.  They are actually buying concealer to camouflage the bags under their eyes.  Men’s grooming has seen an incredible growth during the lockdown.  With Zoom, apparently clothes no longer make the man!  Oh, and we think they should do something about those hairs sticking out of their noses and ears before going on camera. 

♥ Scads of people have invested in gold over the past few months.  That’s not a good sign.  It suggests that these investors think disaster is near.  “Gold bugs” believe it is a hedge against a stock market catastrophe.  With gold prices so high, should we head to our jewelry boxes and bundle up our old stuff and then head to one of those stores blaring “we buy gold”?   Oh, but, some are predicting gold will surpass the “mythic” $2,000 an ounce price later this year.  Maybe better to wait before cashing in and have more money for checks to mail to the kids at Christmas since we may be still stuck at home? 

♥ Speaking about investing, we are kicking ourselves for not buying stock in Zoom or Nintendo or other companies proliferating because of Covid.  Duh!

♥ We had no idea there were so many dogs in the neighborhood, all now being walked excessively.  News articles are focusing on how owners should prepare their pets to avoid post-quarantine separation anxiety.  Okay.  Interesting.  Hadn’t thought about that.

♥ No question that home projects are at the top of many lists during lockup.  The handyman is booked for months and the tree trimmer has no openings until November.  What???   No checking off stuff from the to-do list soon.

♥ Can’t watch the news anymore.  Hallmark movies are at the top of our list.  Yes, they are predictable.  They have happy endings!  And, yikes, when we tune into old movies, we realize that there are many that sure wouldn’t cut it today.  Ouch!  It’s not just Gone with the Wind.

So, our Wrinkled Wisdom for today?  Seek out all the fun quarantine memes for a giggle.  We were entertained by the one that noted that the trash goes out more than we do.  We could definitely use those panties we had when kids, which were marked with the days of the week.  It is Thursday, right?  And, remember how we used to wish that the weekend would last forever?  Happy now???   

Wrinkled Wisdom – What Day Is It?

OMG!  Another month in lock up!  We’ve been at home so long we can’t remember which day of the week it is and were shocked to realize that it’s July.  

As the weeks slog on, many states are further easing restrictions.  We can actually eat at a table in a restaurant, with physical distancing requirements limiting customers, of course.  With bar seating gone, have to order food.  We’d feel guilty taking a table to just drink and drink and drink.  And, we can go back to the gym…by appointment only.  Confession: we did get a manicure/pedicure.  

Coloradans can now travel outside our immediate area to “recreate.”   No, not recreate as in create something again like our pre-Covid lives.  Think short “e” and accent on the first syllable.  We were confused by the word; we can’t even find it in the dictionary.  It almost sounds naughty.  In this context, it refers to recreation.  We can now head to our national parks and go camping.  Stuff like that.  

Reset!  Our governor isn’t talking about more freedom for all Coloradans.  He’s urging “older folks” to stay home.  Screw that.  We are loosening up and seeing family and some friends.  Yes, we are being very careful, physical distancing, and washing our hands every chance we get.  And, of course, wearing masks.  Wait.  The new acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a former banker, just warned governors and mayors that mandating face masks is an open invitation to hold-up artists and will lead to more bank robberies.  And, we thought we were making a joke when we brought that up in a recent Wrinkled Wisdom!

Flour is back on the shelves. Too late.  The novelty of baking is over.  We’re just watching the cooking channel and ordering in.  But, television is disappointing.  We aren’t in the mood for violence, reality shows, and foolish characters we just want to slap.  We want happy endings!  And, have you noticed that everyone in the TV movies is standing way too close to each other?

Yes!  AMC will open most of its theaters in July, but admitted it has “substantial doubt” that it can stay in business after shuttering all of its locations during the pandemic.  One clever theater’s marque reads:  No close encounters of any kind.  

And, it’s going to get worse.  Executives of major television networks are assuming that the dozens of series, whose production has been halted because of the coronavirus pandemic, won’t be returning anytime soon. And, no new shows.  What about all of us couch-potatoing our lives away during the pandemic?  Entertainment has become much more important in lockup.  BC (before Covid), the conversation lulled if you asked someone what they were watching on TV.  Now, AC (after Covid), what are your favorite TV shows follows the requisite how’s the family?  

Will we change behaviors after this ends?  Experts are saying we may never visit a car dealership again, because buying a new car is as easy as ordering groceries or takeout.  Nope.  If we purchase a new car, we will need lots of attention from the salesperson so we can learn about all these new safety technologies and turn off the annoying ones.  Retail stores are filing for bankruptcy.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they will go out of business, but….  More people are in the habit of buying their clothes online.  

Will we ever shake hands again?  When will we feel comfortable getting on an airplane?  

So, our Wrinkled Wisdom for today?   Okay, we admit it.  We are currently out of wisdom.  Just keep thinking this is like being 16 again.  Gas is cheap but we’re grounded for talking back to the parents. 

P.S. Our bank emailed us that June was Elder Financial Protection Month and we should all learn about scammers.  Huh?  We don’t need any tips to help protect us from fraud.  We all know about the grandparents’ scam.

P.P.S. And AARP is warning about “sextortion” scams aimed at oldies.  Sure, as if we’d fall for that one.  Bet the kids would get a laugh though.  No, the kids would definitely get a laugh!

Wrinkled Wisdom: The Times They Are a-Changin’

The lyrics of this 1964 Bob Dylan song sure ring true today.  “There is a battle outside raging.”  Today, it’s called Covid-19.   Do we oldies have a lot to look forward to as states begin to open up?  What will be a-changin’?   If Colorado’s safer-at-home guidance is the norm, not much!  Seniors must still stay at home unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Yes!  Salons are opening.  We could get a manicure/pedicure!  Necessary?  Pretty much if we want to wear sandals this summer.  We could get our hair cut and colored.  Beards trimmed.  Necessary?  Absolutely.  With selfies down 68 percent since Covid-19 arrived, heading to the hairdresser tops the list.  But, will vanity trump caution?

Bottom line?   We’re still at home.  Still physical distancing.  Still wearing masks.  Still drinking quarantinis.   If corporate America is any clue, we’ll be locked up for a long time.  Google and Facebook just told their employees they can work at home until next year.  Researchers better get hopping on a safe and effective vaccine.

Other things that are a-changin’?  Sports.  We can always watch South Korean baseball stream on ESPN.   But, U.S. baseball, football, and other sports?  Stay tuned.  Like NASCAR and PGA tours, they may return minus fans clapping and hollering. A South Korean football team came up with a unique approach to fill the empty stands…sex dolls.  That didn’t go over well.

Since we all are locked up at home and watching more television, not surprising that the sales of pajamas increased 143 percent in April.  And, it’s been hard not to notice how television advertising has changed.  It’s now “sensitive.”  There’s an endless recitation of phrases like “we’ve always been there for you;” “we may be apart, but we can stay connected;” and “we’ll get through this together.”  

No more Charmin ads going on and on about its ultra-soft product.  Instead, a Cottonelle ad urges Americans to stop hoarding toilet paper and “share a square” with friends and neighbors in need of a roll.  Quilted Northern’s new ad features shots of a production factory and delivery trucks on the road.  The message: “We’re on it.”   About time!

Thankfully, toilet paper can actually be found in most grocery stores now.  While we gazed longingly at the empty shelves for weeks, many people ignored warnings about flushing napkins, wipes, and paper towels down the john.  This led to an economic stimulus for plumbers.  Really!

Another thing that’s a-changin’?  More people are ordering groceries instead of heading to the store.  This is terrific until the wrong peanut butter brand is delivered, and we scrunch our nose in disgust.  Then we learned that the grocery store won’t take returns!   You’ve touched it.  Bummer.

Everyone now assumes you don’t have anything to do you can’t do later and there’s truth in that.  So, when you get a call from someone you haven’t spoken to in years and the conversation goes on forever and ever, just go to your front door and ring your doorbell.  Then say, “Oops, my grocery delivery just arrived.  Have to hang up.”  

And, in this tough time, don’t forget the animals.  If you received that government stimulus check, consider donating to your local zoo.  Zoos depend on ticket sales, not Facebook likes.  They are in trouble.  

So, our Wrinkled Wisdom for today?  The CDC wants us to delay haircuts and manicures—all “non-essential” appointments.  We are thinking twice about their advice when looking in the mirror.  Think twice before booking that Carnival cruise scheduled for August.  Support the Post Office; buy stamps online.  Don’t be embarrassed to admit you’ve added a bird-watching app to your phone.  No, the meat shortage is not a vegetarian plot.  In memoriam, remember Little Richard.  Play some of his music, so popular when we were kids.  His 1970 album “Freedom Blues” seems very appropriate as we struggle with lock up and can’t wait to be free again.

P.S.  Let’s agree to dump the term “social distancing” and replace it with “physical distancing.”  Social distancing sounds, well, antisocial.  We are quite capable of having a conversation while sitting six feet apart.  More than ever, we need to laugh with and vent to our friends in person!   

P.P.S.  Stay healthy and sane!

Wrinkled Wisdom: STILL Locked Up at Home??

“Coloradans can now get tattoos.”  That was the lead of a news article discussing the end to our governor’s stay-at-home order.  Under the new safer-at-home approach, we are not ordered to stay home, just “strongly advised” to stay at home. Will this make a difference for oldies?  Not much.  We’re retired.   No escaping the house to a workplace.  

It’s going to be a long time till we can hit a bar or restaurant with friends and family.   We do some social-distancing with them; but, time together is usually cut short because we have to get home to hit the john.

Is vanity playing a big part in decisions by some governors to relax stay-at-home orders?  Salons are now open!  Looking good; feeling good.  We have been struggling with manicures and especially pedicures.  Just not as flexible as we used to be; bad news for our toes.  And, we strongly recommend against cutting your own hair after a quarantini or two.

Some governors are allowing gyms to open.  Familiar with the term “Freshman 15”?  That is how much weight students are expected to gain in their first year of college, 15 pounds.  Hmmm.  Worried about the implications of the term Covid-19??? 

Okay, the good news is that we haven’t run out of toilet paper.  And, we’re saving money on dry cleaning.  It’s not like we’re getting dressed up to go to grocery, liquor, and hardware stores or pharmacies or marijuana dispensaries.  

Our water bill may drop too since we’re living in our PJs most of the time and doing less laundry.  But we are washing our hands more often.  Hmmm.  Guess that might be a wash.  (Did we just hear a giggle or was that a groan???)

Saving money isn’t any consolation.  While the media often refers to staying home as a lockdown, we jokingly describe it as being locked up.  Yes, yes, we know it is absolutely the right thing to do; but.  We are getting lots of emails from friends with the same message:  this is getting tougher.  The novelty has worn off.   We’re antsy.

It’s fun to hear from people we haven’t heard from for ages, suddenly checking in to see if we are alive.  And, it’s been entertaining to get lots of inquiries from young neighbors asking if they can pick up anything for us at the store.  Huh?  We can still drive!  Then we realized loads of organizations have urged people to help the elderly.  And, by definition, we are the elderly!  Hate that term.

Since we are oldies and at a higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19, we asked ourselves: is it smart to take advantage of senior hours at grocery stores?  Does lumping a bunch of vulnerable seniors together at one time make sense—even if we might get to the toilet paper first?  We all have a pre-existing condition—aging.

Good thing we can’t walk into our banks.  Wearing masks could create panic.  Now we just bring multiple disinfectant wipes when we drive through or use the ATM.

We have used some of our new-found free time to do a bunch of stuff around the house.  Some projects are just so boring that we stopped.  And, social distancing at Home Depot is a challenge.  Besides, it’s just so easy to say: I’ll do that tomorrow.  Ah…procrastination!

We still don’t know for sure whether Covid-19 will result in more babies than breakups.  But, one national law firm reports that they’ve gotten so many calls about divorce that they’ve added extra hours.  Divorce mediation is now online.  A hint, maybe?

So our Wrinkled Wisdom for today?  Hang in there.  Don’t forget your mask.  Call your insurance company and drop insurance on that second car for a couple of months.  Step outside at 8 p.m. and scream and shout and howl to honor our healthcare and frontline workers.  Think pork plant closings and hoard bacon.  If you are bored, count Dr. Birx’s scarves.  And, take note.  A Maryland police department just issued a warning:  “Please remember to put pants on before leaving the house to check your mailbox.  You know who you are.  This is your final warning.” 

Wrinkled Wisdom – In Lock Up…at Home

No bars!  No restaurants!  No haircuts!  No manicures!  No sports!  No gyms!  No parties!  Not too concerned about tattoo parlors being closed.  Blaring headlines remind us daily to stay at home and exercise social distancing, especially to protect the elderly.   Heck, then we realized we are the elderly! 

Time for some levity.   That does not include the kids ditching the phrase OK Boomer to describe the virus as the “boomer remover.”

Humor helps us cope with stress and adversity.   And, stressed we all are.   So, let’s have some fun.

We love the new drink, the “quarantini.”   It’s the martini you drink while alone.  Hypothetically, if you have a cat or dog or bird or hamster, you are not drinking alone!  This is no time for guilt.  Time to chug.

With people around the world forced to work from home and self-isolate, some are predicting another baby boom.  They joke that this generation will be labelled the “quaranteens” or the “coronials.”  

Others argue that extended, non-stop time with spouses could have the opposite effect.  Divorce.  One news outlet reports that divorce filings skyrocketed by 50 percent recently.

We are all really ticked at hoarders of toilet paper, soap, and hand sanitizers.  It’s weird to go to the grocery store and see entire aisles, once chockful of paper products, totally bare.  Local government officials immediately warned toilet paper-strapped residents not to flush paper towels, tissues, or napkins down the john.  They are not biodegradable and will clog pipes.  And, we might remind hoarders that if others don’t have access to soaps and hand sanitizers, it ups the chances the hoarder will get the virus!

Okay, we admit that we have stocked up on some important items: our favorite junk food, coffee, creamer, chocolate, medications, and batteries for our smoke alarms.  Can’t live with that chirping!   Speaking of grocery shopping, it’s now a social outing.  We appreciate grocery stores dedicating an hour during which only seniors can shop.  But, we aren’t morning people.  Getting to the store by 7 a.m. isn’t appealing!  Can King Soopers rethink that?

We are certain that self-isolating with kids and grandkids will create a resurgence of board games (not BORED), but we are realistic enough to know it’s more likely to be a Minecraft game.  Of course, no game playing until school work, assigned reading, chores, and room cleaning have been done for the day.  LOL

Since gyms are closed, we are concerned about weight gain.  Never seen so many of our neighbors out for a walk!  To keep those pounds off, gyms are moving workouts online.  And, we loved the trainer in Spain who ran an exercise class from his apartment rooftop for neighbors on his block.  

As boredom sets in, there are always projects awaiting you’ve ignored for ages.  You can clean out your closet, the basement, and your files; try a new recipe; trim the bushes and fluff the mulch; and tackle home improvement projects.  Chiropractors’ offices had hoped to stay open, as one pointed out, to soothe husbands’ backaches, strains, and pains after attacking the honey-do list!   

So our Wrinkled Wisdom for today?  Maintain your sense of humor.  Do some FaceTime with friends, your favorite cocktail in hand.  Play bridge online.  Support your local restaurants.  Take out; drive through; have it delivered.  Only watch feel-good shows on television.  Ignore the stock market.  Limit the junk food.  Gas is cheap.  Too bad we don’t have anywhere to go but the grocery store.  But, take a drive anyway.  Need to keep those car batteries charged.  And, we think we can all agree that it’s time we stopped describing a meme, photo, or tweet as “going viral.”

Wrinkled Wisdom: To Comma or Not to Comma

We’re giggling about a blurb we read recently indirectly complimenting oldies: “As I watch this generation try to rewrite history, one thing I’m sure of.  It will be misspelled and have no punctuation.”

Bunches of articles recently underscored that point with the headline: “People do grammar bad.  Google’s AI is hear too help.”  The headline substituted the homonym “hear” for “here”…the one with an “a”…as in what your ears do.  And, “too” instead of “to”?  “Too” means “also” or “in addition.”  This sentence calls for “to,” a preposition.  To be or not to be!  The media was having fun highlighting a new service aimed at improving spell check and grammar when communicating via Gmail.  

Take the period.  Periods are no-brainers.  They end things, period.  Question marks ask a question.  Oops!  Unless you are a young person who is an uptalker—one who ends statements with an upward inflection that make them sound like questions.   Apparently, kids do it when they’re not quite sure if what they are saying is true, clear enough, or could tick off their audience.  Or, if they are Valley Girls.  

Exclamation marks may be overused, but they effectively express emotion—something funny, exciting, or disgusting!!!   Okay, we’ll plead guilty on that one.  Even semicolons become clear when it’s explained they connect two related sentences.  The colon is an issue for another day.  We are always thrilled when we say “colon” and listeners do not assume we mean a body part.

It’s the use of commas we want to focus on today.  To use a comma or not use a comma can be a challenge for any writer.  Commas deserve special attention because they can make a critical difference to meaning or intent…..even legally.  

Specifically, our focus is on the controversial Oxford comma, the comma preceding “and” in a list of three or more items.  As in:  All’s fair in love, war, and divorce.  It invokes arguments and controversy.  It’s been dropped from many style books used by newspapers and publishers.  It shouldn’t be.  

There are some famous, or infamous, examples of the power of the Oxford comma.  Many people are familiar with the book Eats Shoots and Leaves, written by former editor Lynn Truss, who is gravely concerned about our current grammatical state She hoped her book would stir more people to become punctuation advocates.

The book’s title is an attention getter.  Are we talking about an individual who eats, shoots someone or something, and leaves, or someone who eats greens?   Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivism, was reportedly hot on the Oxford comma.   A linguist emphasized this with the example:  This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.  Hmmm.  Is the book dedicated to all three?  Or, without the Oxford comma after Rand’s name, are the book author’s parents Rand and God?

A missing Oxford comma cost a Maine dairy company $5 million after its delivery-truck drivers sued the company for unpaid overtime and lost wages.  We are guessing that lawyers are now paying increased attention to the Oxford comma after reading about the exorbitant cost of that missing comma.  

The intensified use of texting and tweeting and emailing contributes to shorthand that is an assault on punctuation…and spelling and good writing.  Love the term disemvoweling, which describes the elimination or reduction of vowels in texts.  OMG!

Our wrinkled wisdom for today? We recognize American English is a living language, but please join us and become punctuation advocates.  Embrace the Oxford comma!  Buy Truss’s book for your kids and grandkids so they can learn to punctuate properly, write a resume that demonstrates an understanding of good grammar, and increase their chances of getting a well-paying job.  Teaching cursive writing is going the way of the buggy whip.  Don’t let punctuation and grammar become a dying art.  Poor punctuation promotes misunderstanding and ambiguity.  Let’s eat Grandpa.  Huh?? Oh, you meant to write, let’s eat, Grandpa.  Whew!

Wrinkled Wisdom: Then and Now

Remember rotary phones?  Love the recent video of two teenagers attempting to figure out how to use one to make a call.  They flunked!    Heck, remember party lines?  They were less expensive than a private line and promoted as patriotic during World War II because they required less copper used for ammunition cartridges.  

Hard to fathom today that between two and 20 families were willing to share the same phone line.  You knew a call was for you because each family had a specific ring—a mix of short and long rings.  No answering service, of course.  Our grandparents had one.  It was not unusual to pick up their phone and hear a voice on the line.  It was soooo tempting to eavesdrop.  But that was a definite no-no. 

Today, we all have cell phones.  Do we miss the old days?  Don’t miss busy signals.  Don’t miss memorizing friends’ and family members’ telephone numbers.  Now, they are right there in our cell phone contacts.  That’s sure a plus as we age…unless our phones crash!!  Don’t miss faxing stuff.  And, pay phone booths?  The kids just look at them and say…huh??  And, speaking of kids, we’re ticked off at the rash of robocalls!  Aren’t these young techies smart enough to figure out how to stop them?  

Remember when “overexposure” simply described exposing a roll of old camera film to too much light?  We sure use that word in numerous, negative contexts today!  And, no more trotting to the drug store to have that film developed.  We all ecstatically graduated to the Polaroid camera, which could produce a finished print in under a minute.  Then, digital cameras were invented.  Now, everyone simply uses their cell phone.  Instant gratification!

Remember when car makes and models were distinct, unique?  Not today.  Can’t tell a Chevy from a Jaguar.  Okay, we can spot a Mini Cooper.  Loved those old 50’s tail fins.  And, two-toned station wagons.  Station wagons???  Yes, we understand that certain shapes and features provide the best aerodynamics, which is why most cars look the same.  We support car designs that are fuel efficient and good for the environment.  But, can’t we be ecofriendly and creative?

It was tough to adapt to wearing seat belts back in 1968.  Today, the safety features on new cars have escalated and the constant alerts are both confusing and frustrating.  Love the blind spot warning system and the backup camera.  But, most drivers say they are annoyed by nanny-tech like the lane-keeping and centering systems and disable many features.  

Remember when we returned our used, glass soda bottles to the grocery store for a refund?  They were expensive to produce.  Bottlers wanted them back.  Then things changed dramatically.  Disposable containers appeared with the words “no deposit; no return.”  Early environmentalists were worried about littering.  No kidding!  We’ve all seen the photos of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the turtle with a straw stuck in its nose, and the pounds of plastic trash in the stomachs of dead whales and dolphins.  But, no one ever expected that we would be inadvertently eating and inhaling gobs of microplastics today.  Guess the Food and Drug Administration needs to get with it and require companies to list plastics on food ingredient labels!  

Remember our dance moves?  Our parents thought the Twist was scandalous.  Then came the Locomotion, the Mashed Potato, the Watusi, the Monkey, and the Frug.  Sometimes, we even wow the kids and do the Jitterbug.  Remember the first televisions?  No color—just black and white.  Programming stopped shortly after midnight with the playing of the national anthem. And, oh, only three channels.  

Adolescent fiction is a big business today.  Think Harry Potter.  Remember the reading habits of our youth?  Nancy Drew for the girls and the Hardy Boys for the…well…boys.  That was about it!

Our wrinkled wisdom for today:  Feel smug that we oldies can’t be beat on the dance floor, even if we are huffing and puffing to make it through the entire song.  Feel smug that we have adjusted to the surge in technology during our lifetime.  Buy a new car while you are still able to learn all the new safety features…and turn off the annoying stuff.  Here’s a fun quiz.  What album did you own as a LP, tape, and CD, and now stream on Spotify?  Let us all know in the comment section.  Finally, plastic litter will outweigh fish in the ocean in a couple of decades.  Think about the grandkids eating/inhaling microplastics throughout their lives.  Let’s get plastics out of our lives!

Let’s Talk about Toys

The holidays are now behind us and we find ourselves totally engrossed by the topic of toys.  Yes, toys—objects children, the grandkids for example, play with after Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa.   

One annoying object (noun) to which we object (verb)?  Screens.  We are amazed at the time kids spend playing games on computers or portable gaming monitors.  Not to mention the cost! Do kids read books anymore??  Do they even know they can read a book on a screen? 

Screens don’t require or encourage kids to move around or personally interact with anyone.  We won’t even get into the research indicating links to obesity, depression, and a poorer quality of life.  Nah.   

Yes, kids can play on a screen outside.  But that defeats the purpose of being outside…actually playing.  We think of playing as an activity that includes movement, creativity, and, hopefully, opportunities with peers to learn about collaboration and leadership.  We applaud bike riders, skateboarders, and roller skaters, as long as they wear helmets and refrain from texting.  

To be fair, screens aren’t limited to kids.  All of us have been in a restaurant and rolled our eyes at a family or group of friends looking at their phones…constantly.  You’re eating out.  It’s special.  Have a conversation even if it’s about the latest apps and available upgrades!

We oldies spent a lot of time inventing activities indoors and out when we were kids.  It was amazing what fun could be had with a sheet, clothespins, and a clothesline. Yes, a clothesline.  Showing our age!  Our old baby carriage became a stagecoach.  Hairy poison oak leaves became a bed in our imaginary camp.  Well, that wasn’t such a good idea.  We learned the hard way: “leaves of three, let them be.”

As girls, we played with a lot of dolls.  We loved the diversity…big, small, soft, hard, walking, talking.   Today, numerous dolls objectify women, are too sexy, send the wrong body images, or promote certain tasks and jobs inappropriately linked to gender.  What are these toys teaching our little girls???  Hmmm….not good!

Toys directed to boys seem generally the same—guns, good guys and bad guys, trucks, tanks, superheroes. Although, today, many of these characters have moved to outer space.  

A number of board and card games we played are still around.  But, the complexity of some new games boggles our minds.  Here’s our rule.  If the game’s instructions are more than two pages, we are not playing.

And while we applaud the educational value of various toys, we have observed many sitting on the shelf in favor of Minecraft, which, yes, we know, can have educational value.  We also know there are gamer tournaments and scholarships. But, like readying your kid to play professional sports, have a Plan B. 

We can’t discuss toys without remembering the tee shirt many guys used to wear: He who dies with the most toys wins.  Note the shirt says “he.”  Toys in this context, we surmise, are expensive cars, motorcycles, boats, etc.  It should have read: Toys=$, I win.  Personally, we always thought it was a foolish statement.  If you are dead, someone else simply inherits your estate and enjoys your toys.  They win.

Recent holiday shopping reminded us how choices available at the toy stores have really proliferated.  We were overwhelmed and had difficulty selecting what to buy.  When we were kids, we could count on both hands the number of toys we had.  Not today.  Kids’ rooms are jam-packed with toys.  Is that good news, we asked ourselves?  So, we Googled.  Nope, research indicates that children who have too many toys are more easily distracted and don’t enjoy quality playtime.  Fewer toys mean more creativity.

Our wrinkled wisdom for today:  We know grandparents, aunts, and uncles spoil children with lots of toys.  We suggest keeping some at your houses for the kids’ visits.  Donate toys to philanthropic organizations after the kids outgrow them.  Please don’t buy huge teddy bears; they are impossible to clean!  And, whatever you do, don’t buy toys that make noise, including musical instruments. (That flexible keyboard did not go over well with the kid’s parents.)  And, keep toys’ receipts.  You never know.  For their sanity, parents may want to return it.