Thursday, January 29, 2009


For my money, the world is divided between decent people who return phone calls and the bastards that don't. A conservative guess is that 80% of Americans don't return their calls.

This irritation came up recently when somebody called me back, and I found myself praising the guy. And I thought to myself, what's going on here? What's prompting this fit of uncontrolled affability?

People not calling back in droves is what's going on here. Being a putz instead of a stand-up guy is at the crux of my agitation.

And how do you know the person who called isn't about to offer you a good deal on that painting you wanted, or the crap in the garage you wanted to sell, or a tip on some fabulous vacation spot that nobody knows about yet. Or just some good news about somebody you actually care about or maybe even love.

But since most of you don't plan to return your phone calls, you'll miss out on all this good stuff. And that, if you want to know the truth, cheers me up immensely.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Why are some people so obsessed with scaring themselves silly?

In the case of amusement parks, we will travel considerable distances to wait in long lines and spend money for the thrill of riding the roller coaster, or some other adrenaline-rush device that has us screaming at the top of our lungs like 10-year-olds.

Others are driven to sit through 2 hours of a scary movie, which might mean seeing fiendish flesh-eating monsters wreaking havoc, or watching people endure loathsome acts of violence or degradation.

People also climb treacherous, snow-covered mountains and sometimes they even ski down them without knowing if they might fall off a hidden or unknown precipice at any moment.

There are hundreds of things people do to risk breaking their necks when they could just as easily sit in a comfortable chair and read books about spine-tingling menace and perilous escapades.

Other risk takers join the police force or the fire department or invest in a plummeting stock market.

I have no valid explanation as to why people like scaring themselves. Perhaps it's a macho thing. It could be the challenge of trying to overcome something you'd normally run away from. But I wouldn't rule out some kind of freaky-deeky turn-on.

Or maybe it stems from a sadistic kindergarten teacher. A soft-spoken, hair-up-in-a-bun, mousy type with thick glasses who once told the kids just before a nap that they were pathetic little wimps.

She probably said this: “Are you kids content to play with your stupid blocks and draw your silly pictures when you could be parachuting into a dark forest and trying to survive on nuts and berries while attempting to find your way back to your parents and civilization?”


Saturday, January 17, 2009


In order to lower the number of deaths and surgical complications – like cutting off the wrong leg – hospital teams from 8 hospitals around the world now go into surgery with a checklist.

Some genius has figured out that the doctors and nurses introducing themselves to one another before the operation will dramatically reduce the number of tragedies and botched jobs.

Apparently when a surgical team knows the names of those they're working with, there are fewer mutilations and lawsuits.

“Hand me the forceps, Fred.”

“I'm Agnes. I know the masks and funny hats can be confusing. Jane here is the gal you want.”

Using a 19-item checklist, the death rate fell enough to encourage the continued use of the idiot-proof list.

My favorite item on the list is that everything in the operating room should be kept sterile. Eureka! What a concept! Cleanliness in a place where you use sharp instruments to cut people open!

Also making the list: All the equipment needed for the operation must be in the operating room. This way, you won't have to go running all over the hospital looking for something while Dr. Carver is slicing and dicing and wondering why he got stuck with such a collection of incompetents.

Here's another key item to consider before an operation. Make sure you know the name of the patient and what he or she is in for. If she's in to have her tonsils taken out, for example, you don't want to remove a kidney.

Although I've not been privy to everything on the checklist, my gut tells me the average operation begins with the doctor making sure everyone is wearing a new pair of Latex gloves. But maybe my gut is overly optimistic.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


For those of you who still read the newspapers – and who can blame you if you don't, given the steady barrage of bad news and the advent of online coverage – you may have noticed a portion of the paper referred to as the "Corrections" section.

Essentially it lists the factual errors that the paper has made on the previous day and asks your forgiveness for their carelessness.

My take on all of their minor lapses (or peccadillos if you happen to be reading the New York Times) would have to be, "who gives a rat's ass?"

First of all, nobody really cares about yesterday's blunders. And you'll notice they never point out their colossal mistakes, just insignificant ones like the following:

"Yesterday, Mr. L.J. Smith's picture was mistakenly reproduced in reverse image. So the watch you saw on his right wrist was actually on his left wrist."

Come to think of it, something was bothering me about that picture, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

But now, thanks to "Corrections," my mind is at ease and I can sidestep the usual tossing and turning generated by such oversights.


Thursday, January 8, 2009


There's something about a woman's butt that makes it want to change seats when it comes into a restaurant.

I doubt that one woman in a hundred will walk into a restaurant, pick a table, and sit there for an hour or two through all the courses. I don't know what the record for change is, but three times would be a safe bet.

She could be facing south when she wants to face north. It could be too sunny. It might be too dark. Too near the kitchen. It could be too drafty. Too near a crying baby. Or a wheezing, coughing old man. Somebody could be staring, sneezing, yawning, or laughing too loud. Maybe she's spotted an old boyfriend that she hopes to avoid.

It could be as simple as the hunter, gatherer thing. The guy (the hunter) is in a restaurant. He spots his prey (the table) and heads in for the kill. The woman, however, has far more on her plate than a place to sit and look at a menu.

She's gathering information, namely where's the perfect place to sit for maximum dining pleasure.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Train schedules annoy me.

Actually it's not the schedules so much as the ninny pods behind the schedules. Let's say I'm taking a train out of Grand Central Station in New York City where the trip begins.

My imaginary train is scheduled to leave at 5:03 or 6:01 PM. Would it not dawn on the feeblest of minds that this numerical choice makes little sense and is of no practical value?

Why wouldn't it occur to schedulers to have the train leave the station at 5 or 6 o'clock? Just round it off to the nearest hour and be done with it. If you like, I'm open to leaving every half hour.

Train people have got to stop messing with our minds.

And does one person make these scheduling decisions? Or is a small clueless committee formed to figure out the times of our departures and arrivals? In short, how many people does it take to change a schedule?

Once they decide on this, we're all stuck with the arbitrary times that we're supposed to believe is carved in stone. THE 6:01 TO SUNNYBROOK WILL BE ARRIVING AT 7:03! No, it won't! It will get there at 7:10 or 7:20 or whenever it gets there.

Another galling thing about trains you might want to unravel. Why are the schedules changed 3 or 4 times a year? Do the train people have trouble filling their day? Do they find it amusing to waste paper? Why can't we make one sensible schedule and stick with it for five years?

WHAT A WAY TO RUN A RAILROAD may be a tired old chestnut. But it's a chestnut that's hard to poke holes in.


Thursday, January 1, 2009


This is not a typical Thistle post in that he is not ranting – he's raving about his pet posts. For the record, it's not easy to pick your favorite children, even when most of them are ill-mannered.

If you think his selections are off the mark, let your thoughts be known. A convincing case might get Thistle to reconsider his choices. But I doubt it.



  3. CATS DON'T FETCH – Aug. 29

  4. ASKING FOR HER HAND – Aug. 24



  7. HOTEL BIBLES – June 17

  8. TOP TEN CRIMINALS – June 12