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Hurricane teens blow at full force

September 01, 1999

Smithsburg High School students will have to start the 1999-2000 school year without the services of Linda Norris, better known as "the lunch lady." Norris is recovering from shoulder surgery, which will keep her laid up for indefinite period.

When we saw her this past Friday night, she said she was in pain and in need of a laugh. Write one of those columns, she said, about the funny things that happen around your house, like your battle with the groundhogs.

Well, being funny on command doesn't come naturally to me, but funny things do seem to happen around my house. This summer most of them seemed to revolve around my oldest son, who, at age 19, is being tugged between his desire to become an adult and the knowledge that this is probably his last chance to get away with acting like a kid.

For example, one day I took a load of wash down the basement steps and on passing by a small window, which hasn't been opened in the 20 years we've lived there, I felt a breeze blowing in.


On closer inspection, I found that there was no glass in one half of the window. But there was no pile of glass on the floor, or outside, which means someone had cleaned it up. I confronted both my boys, and the older one said he didn't tell me about it because:

"I thought that if you guys didn't notice it right away, then I could argue it was no big deal," he said.

Another example: I dump a load of wash out to fold it, and found that it included the pants to my good suit. My good, dry-clean-only suit.

I remind my son, who had to wear dress slacks and a shirt for his summer job, that he was told to stay out of my clothes closet. I had to lay down that rule in part because he has a bad habit of leaving chewing gum in his pants pockets.

Gum on fabric, when baked in a dryer, becomes hard and impossible to remove, which means that every time you wear the pants, it feels like you've got a sticky little hockey puck in your pocket.

His excuse: "You told me to stay out of the closet, but these were hanging on the hook, so I figured it was okay," he said.

Who could argue with such logic, or with the argument that since no one knows for sure who left the ball-point pen in the wash, ruining two of my shirts, that we should just consider it one of those things that just happen?

One of those things like when someone drops the camera that I've had since college into a stream, prompting the repair shop to tell me that I probably have acquired a new paperweight.

Or that when the hardwood, four-poster bed in someone's room collapses, it wasn't because of anything anybody did, but because it was a "piece of junk." Well, shame on me for having such a thing in the house.

Like a hurricane moving off the coast, my son has gone back to college now, leaving only his younger brother to carry on his legacy of chaos, buffeting my brain like a palm tree bending before the force of a 100-mile-per-hour wind.

Consider this: The night we visited our favorite lunch lady, my wife and I returned home in a separate vehicles. I left a few minutes before she did, so it was no surprise that I beat her to the house.

A half hour went by and I began to get worried. She'd lost a set of keys earlier that day, so I thought she might have gone back to the plant looking for them. I called, but no one had seen her.

After 45 minutes, I decided she might have had car trouble, and told my younger son I was going to look for her. Okay, he said, and went back to watching his video, which featured Wesley Snipes battling a gang of karate-chopping vampires. (Can an Old West movie featuring cowboy zombies be far behind?)

I called him twice from the road, and the second time, he told me mom was home. I turned the truck around, and began rehearsing my speech about how people can get worried when you don't tell them you're going to be late.

My wife was surprised I'd been concerned, she said, because she had called my son to let him know she was going shopping.

"Oops," he said, and we suddenly knew that my son is like a lot of men, including me, who get hypnotized by what's on TV. The captain of the Exxon Valdez was probably watching the Love Boat instead of steering the ship when it ran aground.

And if that's not funny enough for you, here's a joke sent to me by my friend Bill Kaufman of Hagerstown:

A cat died and went to heaven, where he found a line of people and creatures waiting to see God.

When it was he cat's turn, God asked him what reward he wanted for a life well-spent.

"Well,"said the cat, "I was a farm cat and slept on hardwood floors all my life. I'd like a soft pillow to sleep on."

"Granted," said God.

A short time later, six mice came before the celestial throne and God asked how he could make their heavenly experience more pleasant.

"All our lives we've been chased, by everyone from housewives with brooms to predators. We'd like to stop running and roller skate instead."

God gave them all tiny roller skates, and a few weeks later, decided to see how the new arrivals were doing.

The cat was asleep on the pillow, and God gently woke him.

"How is everything?" God asked.

"The pillow is wonderful," said that cat, "and those meals on wheels you sent by weren't bad either."

Bob Maginnis is editor of The Herald-Mail's Opinion page.

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