Stop and Smell the Ugh, That Ain’t Roses

He was, when he worked, a hard worker. When he showed up at our house he didn’t waste any time. Then one day he completely vanished from the face of this planet. No form of communication could break the barriers he had set up. Phone calls, letters, even my personal surveillance of his house were to no avail. The people who run witness protection would do well to take lessons.

My olfactory senses are keen. My mom raised flowers and growing up the house where I lived was filled with the fragrances of roses, and camellias, and lilies. The kitchen stove perked with dishes whose odors made you imagine the familiar taste of ordinary food – sometimes with a twist. We never had fast food. It wasn’t invented. We thought fast food was when your mom slapped a peanut butter and jelly sandwich together and handed it to you as you ran out the door.

My mom invented blackened cooking, not the New Orleans Cajuns who stole the idea and made it famous. We had blackened roast beef, blackened eggs, blackened soup. When I got in college and ate my first breakfast in the commons I thought something was wrong. The toast was buttery and lightly brown. It was soft. My God, you didn’t have to scrape the blackened surface off of it. Fearing it was undercooked, I almost didn’t dare eat it.

When our kids were babies I could instantly tell when they messed in their pants even two rooms away. If I was holding a baby I would make an excuse to have my wife take over.

“Honey, please take the baby for a moment. I have to: use the bathroom, make a call, wash the car, check to see if the sun is experiencing a solar eclipse.” Any excuse to hand off that smelly child. Our firm family rule was he or she who has the baby in his or her arms changes the baby. No exceptions.

My wife’s nose does not work as fast. “Wes, this baby needs changing. Why did you give him to me?”

“Myrna, he was fine when I handed him to you. It just happened. Baby’s use the bathroom when someone hands them off.” I had her convinced babies poot when transferred. She doubted it deep down but couldn’t prove it. Dr. Spock was silent on the subject.

I love kids and babys. I do not love baby droppings. For months I had the wife fooled, or so I thought, but then she caught on. Child rearing was fun, except for smelly diapers. I was a hand’s on father. I have done my duty. Feeding, bathing, holding, baby bottles (cleaning and feeding), and yes, changing the baby, driving to school, T ball and soccer coaching, camping, swimming innumerable trips, homework, and all the rest . Our oldest is over forty and having wrestled with so many dirty diapers, to this day, I cannot look Creole Mustard in the face and would not hazard adding it to a sandwich. Instantly, the floating vapors of digested prunes and spinach come to mind. Just writing this I can smell the stuff.

The fellow I was talking about earlier was making custom cabinets for our new house. Since we were between houses and were living in a cramped apartment waiting to move in, I had the cabinet guy on a strict schedule. I am used to meeting deadlines. Thursday means Thursday. Don’t be late. We had a firm contract. Everything had to be ready by a specific day so we could move in and avoid another month’s rent. I remember when I first met the guy I had an awful cold. I spent about an hour with him and noticed a strong but distinct odor emanating from the direction of the cabinet contractor but I discounted this and attributed it to my cold. When I got back to the apartment my wife asked what was that smell. I had no explanation, she made me take bath immediately.

The stinky contractor and I crossed paths again when he came to install some, repeat some, of the units he had crafted. They were works of art. But, my God, he reeked, he stank. The cumulative stench was a combination of rotten eggs, wet straw, and chicken yard particles. My nose was fully healed but I was wishing the cold to return. I could not approach within 6 feet of the man. I left in a hurry.

A few weeks later the house was completed except for the balance of the cabinet work. Where was the man? More time elapsed. I finally gave up and hired someone else to complete the work. Of course, my original cabinet man slinked back into the picture wanting to get paid for his efforts. I am ashamed to say I employed many time honored verbs and adjectives to describe his ancestry when I told him a flat no. Stray cats began to congregate nearby sensing a meal, of sorts. I sprayed the front porch with an entire can of Lysol when he left. No way was I letting him in. We would have had to decontaminate.

First Aid for the Stinkee who is exposed to the Stinker

George Estes is a decent guy and a good attorney. I had known him for years. He called me one day and told me the odorous man was in his office asking George to sue me over the money for the cabinets.

“You gotta be kidding. Let me tell you exactly what happened.” And, I did. Finally, I asked, “George, are you suing me?”

“Of course not, the guy just walked in the door. He’s in my office right now because the secretaries were getting sick smelling him in the waiting room. I’m out in the lobby because after two minutes with him I was getting sick. Look, Wes, I really will sue you if you don’t get this guy out of my office. One of my secretary just threw up in the garbage can and the other is threatening to quit. I am going to have to fumigate the whole place.”

My loyal and sneaky friend sent the aforesaid noxious carpenter down the street to see me, I refused when the receptionist told me he was here. He wold not leave. She buzzed me again. I said no. The receptionist and my secretary came in my office and begged me to see him and get rid of him or they were quitting. I thought they were bluffing and I said no. My partner, his secretary, my secretary, the receptionist, and a client whom I never met and who was waiting to see the partner walked in my office and begged me to see the guy because they were becoming visibly queasy.

“Ok, ok, ok. I’ll see him – on the patio.” I am not polluting my office. They filed out holding their noses. I stood upwind from the guy and offered him a few bucks to go away. He accepted and I made him sign a release. Carefully, I sealed the envelop and put it in the safe. I have no clue why he smelled. I do not think he had seen a shower for years and his underwear (if he wore any) long ago must have rotted away. I called George and told him he owed me half the cost of getting rid of the man. He said if I would send him an invoice he’d gladly pay. I didn’t, but I should have.

My wife is a sweet tender hearted lady. She would never intentionally hurt someone’s feelings. Nor would she allow me to do so.

We were at the mall in line at a Piccadilly’s Cafeteria edging along making our selections. I don’t care which slice of pie, dinner roll, or prepared salad the person behind the counter gives me. I cannot tell the difference. Not so with my wife. She holds up the process and inspects each offering. The largest pie is her prize.

“No, not that one”, as she points and motions. “Give me the one in the back. No, the other one next to it. Yes, that‘s the one.” People behind us are become anxious. Sometimes customers who are behind us think there is something wrong with the food items she rejects.

As I was about to choose the chopped steak, an awful odor arose. It smelled of dead rodents blended with the scrapings of a cattle rancher’s shoes after a hard day of castrating unfortunate young bulls.

“Myrna, what is that terrible smell?” I ask.

“Just keep moving”, she instructs.

“I am not going to be able to eat.” The line stalls and we are trapped. “What is it?” I have the feeling she knows but is keeping it secret.

She whispers,”It’s the man behind us. Now, quiet.” As I turned to look I saw a nice looking older guy with a nice lady. Wham. It hit. The guy smelled awful. I got louder and louder.

“What is that stinking?” Admittedly, I am trying to get him to leave…quickly.

“Do not look at that man.” She commands. “He might not know he smells.” She is mindful of his feelings.

“Not know. Not know?” I am loud. I notice the customers behind Old Rotten Butt there have retreated and left their trays half full.

We plow through the interminable line. I happened to glance over my shoulder as I paid the ticket. Cabbage, two varieties of beans, a greasy sausage looking thingy, and three rolls were on Mr. Dodo Pant’s plate. My punishment begins.

“I can’t believe you said those things? You embarrassed that man.”

“Hey, I am the innocent one here. He is the stinker and under the law I am the stinkee.”

“No, honey, I was trying to perform a public service. He and his poor wife do not have noses. Maybe they were born without them, or lost them in a tragic accident while exploring an ancient city’s sewers. I don’t know. Point is they cannot smell. Ah, make that sniff.” I theorize he must have craped in his pants. “Sadly, they don’t realize it.” I lie, but with a straight face and it was a good lie too.

“You know better.” This means in Myrna Speak (of which I am fluent), I give up, you are hopeless.

We change the subject and as we pass by the Stink Family Robinson to leave, she says, “They do kinda smell don’t they?”

I consider this a singular vindication. I say nothing knowing to speak further will spoil the moment.

Wes Teel

For TH (Technically Handicapped) People Only – Otherwise Do Not Read This

  1. This is how to read the blog. The night before plug in your computer, laptop, pad, phone, or whatever. That long cord thingy goes into a wall socket. Be careful. Do not stand in water when doing this. Let charge.
  2. Before beginning say this prayer: “Lord, your wonders are a mystery to me. Please give me strength to appreciate the miracle of modern technology you have allowed to be created. Guide my fingers as they flow over the surface of the keys. May the secrets that are revealed be worthy of you. Amen.”
  3. Begin by finding a search engine. Note this is not a locomotive such as the Lionel train set you played with as a child. Google, Safari, Bing, Yahoo. (If stumped, call 3rd grade kid).
  4. Type in one of these search engines. (If stumped, call 3rd grade kid)
  5. Now, type in Oxford Observations.Com (If stumped, call 3rd grade kid)
  6. Open Oxford Observations.Com. (If stumped, call 3rd grade kid)
  7. Select an article to read. (If stumped, call 3rd grade kid)
  8. Read article (I know you can do this)
  9. Laugh your a— off (This is a required step)
  10. Share article with everyone you know (If stumped, call 3rd grade kid)
  11. Write Wes to complement him profusely (This also a required step)
  12. Turn off computer. (If stumped, call 3rd grade kid)
  13. Say following prayer: “Lord, thank you for guiding me through the maze of modern technology. I pray you will Shepard us in decent ways to employ this mystery. Also, Lord, please make available to me a 3rd grade kid in case I get stumped. Amen”

Blart

“Blart.” What the? And there it was again, “Blart.” Kinda faint. Tapering off at the end.

I am in the kitchen and she is lying on the couch. The tv isn’t playing. Maybe, I am imagining the sound or maybe the pipes in the house are making noises. When I was growing up the old house we lived in would always groan and creak for no reason – much like my mother. I walk back into the den. “Myrna, wake up. Wake up”. I say to her. No response. She won’t move. I continue to call to her. I shake her. I shake her some more.

Just then the Home Health Nurse mercifully drops in for a visit. Myrna is passed out on the coach. The RN carefully listens with her stethoscope and checks her pulse. Her heart is beating and she is breathing, but we cannot wake her despite all our efforts. This is getting serious and I begin to get scared. What is going on?

“Mr. Teel, we need an ambulance, now.” The nurse wastes no time and she quickly rings 911. Meanwhile, we continue our efforts to revive her.

My wonderful wife of many years has Multiple Sclerosis and some other health problems. That day, four years ago, we had been to her neurologist for a checkup. He tried a new medication designed to alleviate nerve pain. She swallowed it before we left for home. Myrna laid down on the couch just after we made it to the house.

The fire department arrives and six guys are busy working on my wife. They wrangle her onto a gurney. Just then a fountain of puke eruptes from Myrna’s mouth and completely covers the nearby fireman. My profuse apologies are met with a “Don’t worry. You should see a fatal car accident.” And off we sped to the hospital at something approaching the speed of light, or so it seems.

We are in the ER and the doc is trying to get a response out of her.

“Miss Myrna, what is your name?” The doctor asks.

She rolls her eyes, rears back her head like a coyote crying out a mating call in the middle of the night and sings out the word, “Blart! ” Loud. I can feel the heat from our campfire as we cringe worrying if the coyotes will come attack us while we sleep in our tents. I visualize wild hyenas pictured in National Geographic screeching in anger as the lion casually steals their prey. The sound is similar.

BLART……..

“Miss Myrna, what year is it?”

Her eyes roll, mouth opens, head rears back, and out comes, “Blart!” Louder now. My father-in-law had an old hound dog named Pup. He was an ace number one squirrel dog and when Pup spied a limb leaper in the tree he reared his head back and howled. He didn’t say “Blart” but his actions were identical. Is this where she learned it? Is she somehow channeling Pup? My God, my wife has become Pup. I hope she doesn’t have fleas.

Somewhat frustrated, the doctor asks her, “Miss Myrna, do you know where you are?”

“Blarttttttt …….” she responds. This time her Blart is more refined and there is a modulation to her voice. Now, where have I heard that? Oh, yeah, yoderlers. She’s yodeling out Blart. What talent, what volume, what insanity! Metropolitan Opera star quality with a Dolly Parton Grand Ole Opry twist, of sorts.

Other doctors and a few nurses wander into the room. Apparently, news has quickly spread there is a demented person in the ER and this one is worth seeing. I hope it isn’t the demented husband they want to inspect.

Pointing at me, the doc asks her, “Do you know who this is?”

She nods her head, looks at me, and in a small timid little voice says, “Blart.”

“What the hell does that mean?” The doctor asks me.

“I think it might be Norwegian.” Like I know what the heck Blart means. That’s a dumb question to ask me. My wife is acting like some sort of Zombie nut job and he wants to know what Blart means.

“Is she Norwegian?”


“Nope,” I say. “She’s French.”


“Well, is that word French?”


Just then, and unprovoked, Myrna shouts out, “Blart!”


I tell him, “As far as I know she doesn’t speak a word of French.”

Our diligent and caring medical man is perplexed and perturbed.
The guy has no sense of humor. Clearly, the guy doesn’t think I’m funny. He gives up and signs some orders and speaks to the nurse. For a moment I thought he was going to order a drug test or mental evaluation on me. He would have been justified on both counts.

He turns to leave and tells me, “I’ll be back in a little while to check on her. Ok?”

I look him in the eyes and say, “Blart………!” Now, he thinks we are both crazy. I just couldn’t help it. There is humor in adversity.

I must have been sleeping during that class in Med School

The doc leaves and just then a strange man enters the room. He is dressed in black slacks and a shabby sports coat. He has no stethoscope, no white clinical coat, no chart and no nurse in tow to assist. By this time the room has emptied out and the ER doctor has ordered an MRI of the brain. I’m thinking this might be to see if she has one in there somewhere.

“I’m here to check your wife’s breasts.” He announces. I am surprised but assume he is a doctor of some sort. We don’t question what doctors tell us. She is laying on the table and the guy proceeds to slip his hand down the front of her shirt. I’m just standing there. I’m thinking he sure takes his time. Maybe he’s being thorough. After what seems to be forever he smiles, turns, and walks out.

What just happened? I ask myself.

The nurse returns to take my wife to he MRI so I ask her, “Who was that doctor?”

“What doctor?”

“The one who came in here and gave my wife a breast exam?

“Huh?” She says. “We don’t a doctor like that in this hospital.”

This is getting bizarre. So now I’m wondering. Did some old deviant wander in here off the street and decide he wanted to “cop a feel” right in front of me?

The following day my wife woke up in the ICU. She had no recollection of what had happened at our house, the ambulance ride, Blart, or the mysterious pseudo doctor and the breast exam. Everyone in the hospital knows about Blart. I tell her about Blart and she is incredulous. Her nurse assured her Blart existed. She is shamed.

Thankfully, everything turned out ok. She fully recovered and the MRI proved there is a brain up there – as I knew it would. Apparently, she had an adverse reaction to the new medication. I still wonder about that strange man and the breast exam. Im sure glad he didn’t want to perform a pelvic. Danged old perv.

Wes Teel

Writer’s note: Weeks later when the hospital bill came to the house I carefully checked it. There was no charge for a breast examination. Knew it.

Love, Plumbing Problems, and the True Meaning of Togetherness

“Honey, come here.” She called out.

“Ok.” I called back. Why do bad things happen just when you get comfortable in your favorite chair, your coffee still warm, feet up, not an interrupting phone call all day, and then that danged Karma bites you on the butt. It stings, but you realize this is only the initial stage of that SOB’s revenge.

“Now!” She calls.

Oooo. That sounds ominous. There is a special shrill tone in a woman’s voice that pierces a man’s ears like that first scratchy riff on a Grateful Dead song. By God, it hurts. “Right now” means your peaceful Sunday evening is over. In fact despite the speed of sound being 767 miles per hour, your wife’s cry for help reaches your ears faster.

Halfway down the hall one whiff and I knew what was wrong. Just as I turned the corner she informed me, “The toilet is overflowing”. At that point it was obvious my peaceful evening was but a faint memory. Both toilets had overflowed and the bathtubs were belching like that guy who just won the hot dog eating contest. Bet his bathroom suffered the next day.

I am a firm believer bad news comes in threes. At our house fours, fives, and once a seven showed up. Bad would be if she had walked into the bathroom and noticed water flowing from the top lip. That’s bad alright. This was worse. Poo city…everywhere.

She jumped out of the way so fast and sprinted down the hall at a speed NFL wide receivers would envy and she has MS and a bad knee. In a way it was almost a miracle and I admired her athleticism.

We made frantic calls for a plumber. It was Sunday evening and plumbers always take vacations in France each weekend from Friday at 5 pm until Monday at 8 am. This is without exception. We called our plumber, “Oxford Plumbers”, and his answering machine said, “Please call Monday. I will be in France”. That was odd so we called a second plumber, “Kowalski Plumbing”. Nice Polish name. The answering machine said, “Please call Monday. I will be in France”. After three more attempts with the same result I have made the deduction France is the place for plumbers on the weekends. Perhaps, they make so much money during the week they can afford to vacation on the Rivera on weekends. I don’t know. Whatever the cause, there was a total absence of plumbers from the State of Mississippi. We were stuck.

There once was a lawyer who, as the story goes, had a plumbing problem so he calls a plumber. The plumber shows up, takes ten minutes to fix the pipes and hands the lawyer a bill for $767.43. “What!” Shouts the lawyer. “You only took ten minutes and you charged $767.43. I’m a lawyer and I don’t charge that much.” The plumber looks at him, smiles, and says, “I used to be a lawyer.”

Of course, my wife didn’t want to go to a hotel because she would have to leave the cats. This makes no sense because they use the litter box as far as I know. More on that later. So we stayed. Scented candles were lit everywhere and the repairman prayer was offered up. “Lord, send me a repairman to remedy this plague that has come upon us. Deliver us from further inconvenience and misery. Spare us from being over charged, and forgive our own incompetence and inability to correct this situation for ourselves. Amen.” My father was an electrician and heard this same plea to the Almighty many times. I was taught it as a child in the hope that I too would become an electrician. Today, I can barely locate the breaker box to flip back on the lights when necessary.

Our saga continues. Naturally, after an hour or so I had to pee. For me this wasn’t a problem, I stepped out on the back porch and with ample aim cleared the porch and numerous potted plants that line the sides and cover the exits. Now to the problem.

My wife had a total knee replacement a few years ago and cannot bend it much. It still hurts and she often has great difficulty walking and stooping. It was late. We went to bed. At around 3 am I heard the call I feared would be coming, “Wes, wake up I have to go to the bathroom.” I knew it would come and I dreaded it.

“Honey, here are your options: 1. Use the kitty litter box. Too bad if the cats object. I don’t care at 3 am. 2. Go outside.”

“No”. She said.

“No to what? The litter box or outside?”

“Both.” Have you ever been put in a spot where you are magically expected to solve a problem for your wife and all of your reasonable solutions are rejected?” I have.

“Honey, what else do you want me to do? I could get one of those mason jars from under the sink but that’s going to leave a mess. So pick.”

Oh, so reluctantly, and because she was so desperate, she said, “Let’s go in the front of the house and I’ll squat while holding onto the front fender of the car. Do you think that will work?”

“Sure.” I lied. You know I lied. Men reading this passage will all say quietly to themselves I would have lied too!

By this time nature and those two glasses of tea I drank began calling to me. It’s a funny thing and perhaps caused by forty seven years of marriage, whatever is on my wife’s mind enters my mind too. If she decides she wants a snack, before I realize it, so do I. If she says let’s turn off the tv and listen to music, that is exactly what I was going to suggest. If her feet get cold, suddenly I realize my feet are freezing too. Is she performing Mr. Spock’s Vulcan Mind Meld technique on me? Is it voodoo? The power of suggestion?

Out we go. We did not dare turn on the porch lights for fear of waking the neighbors. As soon as she squats down holding onto the fender, an overwhelming need to go hits me like a wild pitch. I take a few steps away. In the middle of my most excellent and I might add accurate stream she cries, “Help me. I’m slipping.” Her knee was giving out.

“I can’t help, baby. I’m still going.”

“Help.” She cried pitifully.

I did the Native American rain dance all the way over to her. The one where you hop on one leg and then hop on the other. All the while I am holding my, well, let’s just say I am holding a substantial personal asset. Ok, maybe not exactly substantial, dang it, at least adequate. (My wife made me change the “substantial“ part. I am shamed). As I struggle trying to help her up with one hand, I contend with that asset I mentioned – and none too successfully. It is awkward.

Finally, and after much coaxing and employment of especially descriptive Anglo Saxon verbs, I got her almost up. She slips down. We both give up. It is hopeless. She just sits there on the ground and let’s go. I take a few steps back and so do I. Ah, sweet relief at last. Nirvana. Bliss. Solace. You guys know exactly what I mean.

We start over. I fetch a chair from the house for her to hold onto. She is unable to get up because the knee with the total replacement gives out. I get behind her and start pushing her up. She still has her under britches down around her ankles. I keep pushing, and pushing and she keeps struggling and struggling. I cannot help her up. My offer to call the fire department was sternly rejected. The suggestion to call the neighbor and his two sons met with so fierce a look it could have melted industrial steel.

I got behind her and pushed and pushed once more. I am sweating and grunting. Finally, I say, “If someone comes outside right now they’re going to think we’re out here at 3.30 in the morning having sex in the front yard.” It was so preposterous we both fell out on the ground laughing hard enough to wake the neighbors.

Another try, “Girl, yo butt is so white if a car comes along and shines his lights the driver will go blind.” She turns her head slowly and looks at me and then we fall down laughing again.

I’m thinking what if a cop car on patrol rounds the corner?

Cop -“Ah, sir, sir, what’s going on here?”

Me – “Nothing officer. We’re just checking to see if the grass needs mowing.”

Cop – “Put down that white object and raise your hands slowly.”

Me – “Officer, that’s my wife’s butt.”

Cop – “I said put it down.” He calls for backup.

I return to reality. After more attempts, she makes it upright. Taking no chances I hustle her in the house shutting the door. We clean up, sort of, and make it back to the bed. We settle down. I am almost asleep as she turns over and says to me, “Is my butt really that white?”

I am groggy, tired, and in need of sleep, yet my mind immediately senses the trap she sets.

“Course not. Go to sleep.” I ain’t no fool.

It’s like when your lady asks you, “Do you think I’ve gotten too big for this dress?” Despite the fact the fabric is stretched to its endurance and a button has flown off, only a complete imbecile says yes! “No, baby. Looks great on you.”

The next morning we again prayed for the appearance of a plumber. I was fully prepared to buy some adult depends or a much larger kitty litter box. Whatever it took. I was over the outdoor nature bathroom experience.

He came. He saw. He conquered. The plumbing was fixed. My former life returned. Life is bliss – until the toilet overflows again.

Wes Teel

The Professional Alcoholic

I could feel him staring at me from three seats back. He was disheveled and old. I think. Which in some men can be difficult to tell when they are not sartorially at their best. His uncut beard was white with age. His hair was white too. That’s not exactly right. It was that peculiar shade of grey mixed with a yellowish hue. His hair, I presumed, had once been blond. You couldn’t say it was long or short. A hair clipper and shampoo had not been acquainted with his scalp for some time. He fidgeted in his seat awaiting his turn at what accidentally passes for justice.

“As is the case in our criminal justice system, Monday mornings for many courts are arraignment days. In municipal court this usually involves handling all of the cases where arrests were made from Friday evening until Monday morning. The usual gamut runs from domestic violence, assaults, petty thefts, your odd peeping Tom, the DUIs who couldn’t bond out, and, of course, the public drunks.

What a Job

There is a small courtroom in the basement of the jail which is reserved for arraignments. This was more cost effective than transporting our unwilling guests downtown to the municipal court building. There are never defense lawyers there. The entire exercise is to “process”. We let them know the charges, ask if anyone wants to go ahead and plea or have a court date set, and assign a court appointed lawyer for those who qualify. In and out, in and out. If you do this job long enough, or as my predecessor warned me, too long, you get to know the customers (prisoners). We have quite a few frequent flyers. It is a bad thing being on a first name basis with the bailiff and the clerks, and worse yet, the judge.

A very pretty young lady appeared at arraignment who had been arrested for DUI. She had been at a wild party and foolishly decided to drive home. Not only do the police cars have video cameras but so does the station where the official intoxilizer machine records their alcohol levels when they “blow” into the tube. This lady was so drunk she was cussing up a storm and raising hell making threats against the police, the mayor, the governor, and there was some mention of her third grade teacher.

Party On

“Lady,” the arresting officer pointed out, “do you know you are being recorded and the judge is going to see everything you do?”

“Wad you say?”

“You’re being recorded. The judge is going to see this.”

“Where the damn camera.” She demanded. The cop dutifully pointed it out.

Suddenly, she pulled down her tank top shook her substantial assets at the video recording and said as loud as she could, “Hey Judgie baby, I’m Stephanie, baby. I ain’t drunk or nuthin. Let’s party.”

The cops added the charge of Indecent Exposure. Perhaps, a first for the police station. I think the officers just wanted to show off the evidence, so to speak.

Her turn came and I asked her how she wanted to plea to DUI and Indecent Exposure?

“I ain’t pleading to not nuthin, not nuthin at all cause y’all ain’t showed me the evidence.” She said.

“Ma’am, we don’t show you the evidence here, we just set a trial date if a person does not want to plea guilty.” I explained.

“I ain’t pleading, I ain’t saying anything more cause y’all won’t show me the evidence y’all are hiding. What y’all all afraid of, huh. Ain’t got nuthin on me?”

The prosecutor was on the ball. “Judge, I know this is highly unusual, but can we please show her the evidence now?”

“I ain’t going to no room with no cop. Y’all show me right here. That’s right. Show me.” She demanded.

“Ma’am, you don’t want to do that in court in front of these people.” I suggested.

“Do too,” she quickly imparted.

“Ok. Please set up the monitor and show her right here and right now.” I ordered.

That old adage to be careful what you ask for applies. She didn’t know she was the evidence.

So they played the full recording. Car swerving, being pulled over, falling down in the grass, and wanting to go pee.

When we got to the “Hey Judgie” part she reddened, slumped down as far as she could in her chair, put her hands over her face and sheepishly said she thought she might as well enter a guilty plea after all. I dismissed the Indecent Exposure charge. I understand the tape has become a staple at the P.D. and all beginning DUI officers are required to see it. By coincidence, a great many cops now volunteer to make DUI arrests.

An irate local businessman appeared in front of me one Monday morning. He had gotten so drunk at a football party he tried to walk home, lost his wallet, cell phone, and one shoe somewhere along the way. Our trusty constabulary swept him up from the side of the road and since he reeked of alcohol they tossed him in the drunk tank. He managed to sober up right at the moment the clerk motioned for him to come forward.

“Where the hell am I”, he incredulously asked as he limped his way to the front.

“You’re in jail.”

“Did the Saints win, where’s my wallet, where’s my shoe, oh, yeah, where’s my wife?” At least he had his concerns listed in order of his priorities. I like an organized person.

“I can’t be drunk cause I’m here.” Inescapable logic.

“Sir,” explained, “I think you have that reversed. You were drunk and that’s why you are here.” He was released. Embarrassed, but released. That’s what we did with the Public Drunk offenses. We just let them sober up and come Monday morning they were released with “time served”. Sort of like Otis the town drunk on the Andy Griffith Show. Off he went, still a good bit hung over. I was later told he called his wife to come get him, but after two more hours of waiting he called a cab. How he got back in his house much less paid the cabbie I don’t know.

Otis, the Original Professional Alcoholic

Casinos are everywhere and a mixture of transients escaping the cold weather or looking for menial jobs brings in the public drunks. They can be most interesting and sometimes the most pitiful. Sadly, former military members appear in their ranks at levels that did not exist in years before. Homelessness is the common denominator. Sadness is the rule.

Finally, we came to the poor guy who kept staring at me all morning. “Mr. Endris, you are charged with Public Drunk, sir.” I said.

“Public Drunk. Public Drunk. Why I never! I’ll have you know sir I am a professional alcoholic!” He boldly and indignantly declared.

“Good Lord. They weren’t supposed to pick you up. I am so sorry. This jail is only for nonprofessional drunks. Why, you have no business being here.”

Suddenly, the gentlemen pulled at his coat, adjusted his shirt collar and straightened right up. I reached all the way over the bench and shook his hand and he gladly reached back.

“It’s these rank amatures who give you professional alcoholics a bad name. I am tired it. Officer, you release this man instantly. He is a professional.” I ordered loudly. The Bailiff smiled.

He stood there and for a second we bonded, as they say we had a moment. He was proud of being a professional alcoholic and duly recognizable by a court of law as such. He adjusted himself and didn’t say another word, but as he left he turned around and gave me a little salute. I saluted back.

The criminal justice apparatus, especially on the lower rungs, has a multitude of flaws, and this court level is where most citizens come into contact with the system. There is no place to properly house and treat people who habitually suffer from substance abuse. Unless you have access to insurance, heartlessly you are all alone and at the mercy of the streets. The same is true of persons in need of mental health treatment. The overwhelming number of prisoners in jail should not be there and are suffering from untreated mental health issues. Treatment has the possibility of success. Incarnation has the certainty of failure. The cruelty of the system – and the politicians who refuse to recognize this human disaster and do something – is that society suffers from this uncaring neglect. Those who pass through the portals of the law are all in some way victims.

At least from time to time a judge can add a small amount of levity to the proceedings and thus humanize the process. People understand. It is not intended to be dismissive. Jail is no place for rehabilitation, only misery. If only, if only I could do more…

Wes Teel

Writer’s note. I am long retired but recall these stories as if yesterday. I trust you will understand the profound impact some of the defendants had on me. I occasionally wake up having what my wife refers to as a “court-mare”. She tells me to recess court and go home. Sleepily, I roll over and comply.

You See the Strangest Things in the Mississippi Delta

Flat, flat, flat. This could well describe one of my past girlfriends. My future wife ran her off some fifty plus years ago and still throws her looks up to me from time to time. “She was so mousy.” I am not entirely certain what mousy means and I am not about to ask. Of course, I am glad the so called mousy girl left my life because next in the dating line of succession was my beautiful wife.

Paul Simon sings in the song “You Can Call Me Al”: He ducked back down the alley, With some roly-poly little bat faced girl.

I like that song. Not sure about the roly-poly little bat faced girl though. Poor darling. I shudder to picture her. Don’t blame me for Mr. Simon’s ugly shaming. Or maybe the girl was some sort of vampire. I don’t know. I’m just glad my wife decided to settle on mousy for my former lady friend. In comparison I can live down a mousy girl. I would never recover from a roly-poly little bat faced girl. That would haunt me.

Romance always has two sides to the story. My version differs. She says she had to pursue me for months before I asked her out. I say I was playing hard to get. She says she gave hints. I say I thought she was dating someone else. She says she flirted with me. I say I had no idea. She says I only wrote her one lousy letter when I went off to be a summer camp counselor. I say I was pretty busy and anyway I was in the Sick Bay and was able to set aside the time to write the said one lousy letter. That’s my story and I would not tell it that way unless it was 100% true – mostly.

Ah, back to flat, flat, flat. We were riding through the Mississippi Delta this week coming back from an appointment in Jackson. We took a back road going to Greenwood in order see the countryside and to eat at a wonderful restaurant, The Crystal Grill. It is a gem. More on that later.

Cotton, cotton, and more cotton

The Delta is a contradiction. Monetary wealth. Grinding poverty. The fella driving into town in his old pick up may be a millionaire, so don’t be quick to judge. Desperation on the faces of some people. Spirit and spiritually in the eyes of others. Dried up dusty picked cotton rows. The pure beauty of a deer crossing from one field to the next, ears alert as if his life depends on it, and it does. We are originally from the Mississippi Gulf Coast where by comparison life is lived in the fast lane. The beach, casinos, hurricanes, traffic – fast, fast, everything so fast. But, here, the big river rolls on and the pace of life in the Delta mirrors the ancient stream. Slow and seasonal. What is next has been and will be again. Somehow the people feel it.

Driving on back roads is an intriguing experience. From the interstate you do not participate in the grit and life of the people of the Delta. They are not living at the pace of other people. They cannot. The roads are long and monotonous until you slow down and come to a little town or crossing. A small church out in nowhere is not uncommon. Otherwise there are soybeans and cotton fields. Old black men on porches will wave to you if you wave to them. Your curiosity makes you think what their lives are like. You wonder if their grandchildren have moved away, if their friends are still alive, if the awful heat of an August in Mississippi can be survived another year. But drive on you do.

We passed the most interesting political sign. A gentleman was running for Sheriff of some county I forget now. His name was Head. “Sheriff Head”. More and more Head signs appeared as we barreled down the ribbon of semi even pavement. “Elect Head Sheriff”, one enormous sign read. I, no, I couldn’t have seen that, could I?

“GIVE HEAD A CHANCE” it read.

Now that is a slogan worth remembering. I wanted to stop and take a picture of it. “You are not stopping”, my wife told me.

“But, honey, I have to have a image of that marquee. No one would believe me.” Oh, what a joy to be on this guy’s campaign staff. TV ads saying, “Head to the Polls”, “He’s way a HEAD in the polls.” What is Mr. Head’s day job? Could he – forgive me – run a Head Shop? The possibilities while not endless are exciting and risqué.

“You just drive on. I’m hungry,” she offered. She gave me the look. She has a Masters Degree in Education and taught the public school children of our state for twenty four years before she had to medically retire. I know the look. I respect the look. I do not lightly disregard the look. Her mother taught for forty three years – mostly third grade. She had the look too. Her dad taught for thirty six years and was a high school principal. He had the look also. I thought I was going to experience it when I asked for my wife’s hand in marriage. He took pity and spared me the look.

When I am subjected to the look there is a line clearly delineated. You want to cross that line, you need to cross that line, you think about crossing that line. The look is a power much like The Force. You buck up your courage to try to cross that line.

“Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda.

I pause. Yoda, fool you never had to live with a woman. What the heck do you know?

I drove on.

It was either an extraordinary disregard of common sense to have as a campaign slogan “GIVE HEAD A CHANCE” or – and this is the riveting part – an exercise in political courage. I cannot figure out which. But, you know what, I’d dang sure vote to GIVE HEAD A CHANCE. Come on, what self respecting mature and somewhat fun loving person wouldn’t GIVE HEAD A CHANCE, in the political sense, of course! I mean really.

In Greenwood there is a business we drove by called Kum N Go. Yeah, it made me pause too. What possibly could they sell there? Is it some sort of exotic sex store out in the middle of the Mississippi Delta? The Bible Belt? Say it ain’t so. A seedy escort service where the ladies arrive by pickup truck and not taxi? Is there a companion store called the Easy Kum N Easy Go? The mind boggles.

“Myrna, I’m stopping this car. I’m going in the Kum N Go. I have to see what the heck they are selling in there.” (There is such an establishment. I am not making it up.) I speculated, could they be supporters of GIVE HEAD A CHANCE? What a coincidence. Meteors crash more often in the middle of a prime time televised SEC football game. This must be fate. You cannot stop fate.

“We’re not stopping. I’m hungry.” There it was, the look.

I drove on.

Ah, the Crystal Grill. Our destination. It sits in downtown Greenwood. Our car bumped over the railroad tracks and right there on a corner is what looks to be a block long old, old brick building which seems to slump. Greenwood was once a thriving north Mississippi community. It’s population has been on a steady tailspin. Except for growing cotton there are no jobs to be found. All the young people move away. Fast. There is the feeling of being in another time and place. The father of our friend Katherine was the mayor years ago. He ate at the Crystal every day according to her. I can see why. Today, the mayor is a woman. What would he think about that?

We enter. The place coined the word quaint. The floors are laid in an ancient tile pattern. You can buy a Crystal Grill T shirt advertising the place is air conditioned. That must have been a novelty when it opened those many years ago. Underneath our table some of the tile was broken. I couldn’t care less and would have eaten on the floor. There is a room in the back where I suppose local business clubs must meet. A wonderful African American lady was our waitress.

I said I’d try the scallops.

“Un uh.” She said. “You don’t want that”.

“Well, what about the chicken?” I asked.

“Nope. You don’t want that neither.”

This was a singularly unique experience having a server telling me what I didn’t like. The last time was my mama telling me what to eat. I know the server was trying to be helpful and I appreciated her. She kinda had the look too. I bet she swatted her children when they were bad and hugged them the rest of the time. She had a heart. She was a real person and you could tell she enjoyed her customers. How the heck do all these people get the look?

“Ok. Can I have the fried oysters?” I willed her to say yes.

“Uh huh. You want that.” She affirmed. I sighed in relief.

“Creamed corn?” I looked up for guidance.

“Un huh.” She endorsed.

“Sweet tea?” Please say yes.

“Uh huh.”

My wife ate fried shrimp and loved them. My oysters were perfect. For desert we had the best coconut ever with meringue at least four inches high on top. How did they do that? Oh, yeah, why didn’t the waitress didn’t tell her what she could eat?

Coconut pie a la Crystal

There is in the small Delta town North Carrollton, Mississippi (trust me the community hardly seems capable of having a North and a South Carrollton, but it does) a most marvelous establishment called the Rayburn Trading Center. Run by Mike Rayburn. He sells antiques. Not like the fancy antique stores in some expensive building with exorbitant price tags. Mike smiles. It is a sincere smile on a white bearded face. He is a genuinely nice man. You can tell. He describes how he used to be a Boy Scout. So was I. He played baseball. So did I. He tells me about his open heart surgery so I hike up my shirt and expose the long zipper like scar running down my chest from a triple bypass. The Zipper Club we call it. Zipper Club members are required by our bylaws to discuss our medications. Membership dues are simple. Develop arteriosclerosis and/or have a heart attack. I choose the heart attack entry fee. We bond.

His shop contains unique objects. He has no fancy building. The entire staff is him. No sales pressure technique. You can look all day if you want. And, my wife would if I didn’t start acting antsy. We love this place and we have purchased several pieces of furniture from him and innumerable small objects. Go there if you get a chance.

P.S. Mike will bargain with you.

I have touched only a tiny fraction of Delta culture. There is much, much more. I still wonder about Mr. Head. I hope he wins. And, I don’t care what my wife says. I’m going in the Kum N Go next time we pass that way.

Wes Teel

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

She was mad. I had failed to heed her warning and she was hot…not hot in the sense that oh, man, she’s hot. But oh, God, she is hot now. I better run. Fast. We had failed to communicate. Since about the second grade I began to perceive boys and girls were different. Not just physically either. I couldn’t quite explain it. I am sixty nine years old and I still cannot explain it.

“Change the names. You can’t use real names. And, while we are talking about what you write, not one mention about what happened at Ship Island, and don’t you ever use my name!” She commanded. “Never, never ever tell the beached whale story. I mean it. You better never tell it again.” She was serious in that special way wives get when you know your life is in danger if you cross that line. You want to cross that line. You need to cross that line. But, in the end, assuming you have the desire to live another day, you don’t cross that line.

I threw down my computer tablet. Frustrated because I asked my wife to proof some material and she very kindly read it and offered some constructive suggestions. I don’t like having to reevaluate my work. It’s perfect on the first draft, or so I believe. Is it a man thing or a writer thing? But, I asked for it and she delivered. I just didn’t like what I was hearing. I knew she was right but I didn’t want her to be right. I wanted her to agree with me. My sincere and repeated apologies finally prevailed and we were friends again.

There is a famous line from he movie, “Cool Hand Luke” played by Paul Newman. In it the warden (Strother Martin) tells Luke (Paul Newman) after having the guards beat his ass, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” It wasn’t in the script. Martin just made it up on the spot and ad libbed it. His words rung so true the director left it in and since 1967 when the movie came out these words are in the public consciousness.

Women and men do not communicate the same way. There is a wonderful article in PscyhCentral by Richard Drobnic in July 2018 entitled 5 Ways Men and Women Communicate Differently. The following ideas are taken from it.

Men are directional. They think and speak in a straight line. There is a known direction to the process. Women on the other hand use communication to discover how they feel and what they want to say. They see it as an exercise in sharing and intimacy and bonding with the one they love. It is circular with much repetition before coming back to the issue at hand.

Men tend to be problem solvers and want to efficiently arrive at a solution. Not women though. They aren’t always searching for a solution but seeking someone to listen.

My wife often says, “Let’s talk.” This is an invitation to have a conversation about something. I’m sitting there thinking, “Why doesn’t she just start talking?” She’ll also announce the topic. “Let’s talk about the house.” As opposed to just going ahead and launching into a discussion about the house. It is setting an agenda for her. That’s kinda ok. At least I know what I am supposed to talk about.

To her, the objective is to engage in dialogue back and forth. To me, I just want to answer the question and solve her problem. Neither method is right or wrong. Each represents a process addressing how to arrive at a solution, or in her case to arrive at how she feels about a solution. We are both hard wired in our brains for these approaches.

A guy I know was balking at his wife’s request to immediately take out the garbage. He told her he didn’t want to take it out. She said, “But, I want you to want to take out the garbage.” Well, dang it, he took it out, of course!

She was in terms of “woman think” assuming he should just take out the garbage because it needs to be done. He was thinking in terms of “man think” there a thousand more important things going on. I’ll get to that chore sometime, maybe even this week. The garbage comes Thursday. What is her rush?

When the woman initiates the conversation the man assumes she is seeking his advice. The woman doesn’t always desire a solution, she wants someone to patiently listen. The listening part is the solution for her. Men, including me, have an enormous problem understanding this aspect of “woman think?”

Ladies, listen up. When a guy is feeling stressed about a problem often he will withdraw into a private space. He does not want to talk about it. This is his coping mechanism. Subconsciously, by withdrawing he is seeking to destress. Women cannot fathom this behavior and interpret this as his not wanting to “share” which is an integral part of their relationship. Resentment can build up. She thinks he is unreasonably shutting her out of his life. Ultimately, if she trusts him and gives him some space he will re-emerge fully engaged.

Men simply don’t like being told what to do (even if we need to be told). For women it may be better to suggest rather than dictate. “You need to mow the grass it looks terrible.” The guy is thinking I’m back in he third grade again. What about, “Honey, do you think the lawn is kinda high?”

Women don’t want their feelings minimized by their partners. “Well, you’re just letting yourself get too emotional about this.” To a woman she hears her feelings aren’t important and she is being marginalized. How about, “Honey, I know you’re upset. Do you want to talk about it?” Which means, I am willing to listen non critically.

Well, that’s the lesson for today. It, here are some examples of our theme.

My wife said, “You need to wash the car.”

I heard, “Honey, keep watching the game.”

She said, “Let’s go out to eat somewhere nice tonight.”

He heard, “Let’s get a hamburger at McDonald’s.”

She said, “I just want to sit here and have you hold me now.”

He heard, “Let’s get naked.”

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

Wes Teel