OH MY GOD! REALLY?

On a cold day in February, as I sat at my desk balancing my checkbook, the phone rang.  I snatched it up.  “Hello??!!”  I’m sure the caller could sense my irritation.  I’ve been told I wear my heart on my vocal cords.

“Good afternoon!” the woman said.  “Is this Joan Harris?”

“Depends.  Who’s calling?”  I was poised to hang up if she launched into a spiel asking if I was the person who handled the family electric bill, or offering me a special cable TV promotion.

“This is Debe Dockins,” she said, “I’m calling from the headquarters of the Erma Bombeck Essay Contest to inform you that you’ve won first prize in the local humor division.”

I was so flabbergasted I almost dropped the phone.  I must have said “Oh my God!  Really?” about fifty-seven times as her congratulations and instructions floated in one ear and out the other.  I’d need to send them a bio and a “head shot.”  I’d need to confirm my address and fill out a tax form so they could send me the prize money.  I’d need to commit to reading my piece at an awards ceremony on April 1st and make hotel reservations for the days of the workshop.  My head was spinning.  She said they would send a confirmatory e-mail, thank the Lord, containing all the details.

After the shock wore off, I opened the email and set about the required tasks.  I was looking forward to being back in Dayton for a spell, reading for an appreciative audience, attending a delectable array of humor writing classes, reconnecting with old neighbors and friends, noshing at our sorely-missed favorite restaurants.  Of course, it all went down the toilet when Coronavirus came to town.  They’re shooting for new dates in October, but truthfully, anything could happen.

Without further ado, here is my prize-winning essay.  I have included a link below so you can read the other winning essays and runners up if you wish.  Pretty stiff competition.

    We need these in the Ladies dressing room!

SWIMSUIT ISSUES

I almost scrapped the idea of joining AquaRobics because it meant buying a swimsuit.  Why do dressing rooms have three-way mirrors that provide a panoramic view of every bulge on your personal landscape?  Wouldn’t it make more financial sense to install funhouse mirrors that stretch corpulent customers into five-foot-ten supermodels?  As it happens, I was able to bypass the cellulite confessional because, according to the retail calendar, summer is the off-season for swim-suits.  In January, they’re plentiful as flies in an outhouse but in July, you must shop online or make do with a Wonder Woman Halloween costume.

Catalog dot.coms offer hundreds of swimsuits modeled by lanky teenagers.  You wade and click, wade and click, comparing features and trying to imagine what the suit would look like on an older, flabbier person.  They need to create a Midlife section where you can narrow your search by figure flaw, like Jelly Belly or Butt Requiring its own ZIP Code.  Or by remedy, such as Compress it with a Spandex Panel, Hide it Under a Skirt, or Draw Attention from it by Using Bright Colors on the Opposite Half of the Suit.

I ordered a navy swim dress with tiny white polka-dots.  It skimmed over my figure flaws as promised and seemed quite perfect, until I got in the water.  Submerged, the skirt had a mind of its own.  It floated at armpit level, twisting and tangling.  Doing AquaRobics was like wrestling with an umbrella in a monsoon.  After class, the sodden skirt sagged to my ankles, having somehow grown three feet while I was in the pool.  So I exchanged the swim dress for a color block tank designed to divert attention from my behind, a goal it achieved each time a shoulder strap abandoned its post and allowed a breast to escape.  I traded in the tank for a 97% Spandex racer-back suit.  The top is snug as a mammogram machine and the material in the tummy control panel could be used for building levees.  It performed commendably in the water – no tangles, sags, or peek-a-boobs.

“How’s the new suit working out?” a classmate asked.

“This one’s a keeper,” I replied.  When I hit the showers a few minutes later, I realized truer words had never been spoken.  My body heat had vacuum-sealed the wet Spandex to my torso and although the wide, X-shaped straps had gone on with ease, their removal would have flummoxed Houdini himself.  After ten minutes of contortions and tug-of-war, I heard a loud pop and the swimsuit surrendered.

The bad news?  I’ll have to buy a new suit.  The good news?  By the time I finish therapy for my dislocated shoulder, they’ll be back in season.

ERMA BOMBECK ESSAY CONTEST WINNERS

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I’VE GOT A LEGO BY THE TAIL…

For Christmas, my husband got me a Lego set.  Yes, I’m a kid at heart, but that’s not why.  This set makes, like, the grooviest model 1960’s Volkswagen Bus ever.  We’ve owned three of them, a 1973 Bus, 1984 Vanagon, and a 1966 Splittie with a rare Freedom America snow cap. I’ve been known to collect VW Bus memorabilia like t-shirts, magnets, die cast models, bird houses, Christmas lights, etc, and I could hardly believe my luck when this beauty popped up on Amazon.com, just in time for Santa to deliver it.  One tiny caveat: Legos require assembly.

I grew up making things, with blocks, Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, erector sets.  There were no Legos yet, but building is building, right?  The box said “Expert, for ages 16 and up.” I wasn’t intimidated until I opened it.  This particular set contains 1,334 pieces in twelve different colors and 235 different shapes.  Many of them are smaller than my pinky finger-nail.  There were two instruction manuals.  I figured one was English, the other, Spanish.  Nope.  You need both.  There were no words, just diagrams of its 115 complex steps.  I shoved it all back in the box and it took me a month to work up the nerve to open it again.  You build a Lego Bus the way you eat an elephant… one bite at a time.  Now that it’s done, I feel like it should be displayed in a glass trophy case, right next to my Olympic gold medal for Endurance Lego Construction.

LEGOS, LEGOS

Legos, Legos, a thousand plus
in the kit for the Volkswagen Bus
What mere mortal hand and eye
would dare attempt its assembly?

I dump the contents of the box:
thirteen bags of plastic blocks,
instruction books marked “1” and “2”
with diagrams out the wazoo

This potpourri, I organize
first by color, then shape and size
Special parts in their own piles:
headlights, hinges, bumpers, tires

I build each module, step by step,
awed at how the parts connect
Frame and axles, checkered floor,
engine, cockpit, windows, doors

Splittie windshield, louvered vents,
a roof equipped with a pop-up tent
Ensconced inside, a small homestead
cupboards, table, fold-down bed

When the final page I reach
and snap in place the crowning piece,
Do I smile, my work to see?
Take photos for posterity?

(You betcha!)

Legos, Legos, a thousand plus
behold, transformed into a Bus
and due to the level of difficulty,
they’ll remain a Bus eternally

  front view

 with splittie windows open

 in the driver’s seat

 rear view

 back hatch open

 engine compartment

 side view

with side doors open

 pop-up tent

 living area

 Z-bed down

 my favorite piece

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JUST JOAN PUBLISHED IN POETRY ANTHOLOGY!

FROM THE TOWER

For a limited time, publisher Main Street Rag is offering presale copies of FROM THE TOWER for $9 each, a 40% savings off the retail price. Click HERE to browse author bios, sample their poetry, and purchase your advance copies.  The book is set for release in December 2016.

Who is Conrad Balliet?  He’s our fearless leader, a retired teacher and poetry lover who hosts his own show, Conrad’s Corner, on our public radio station.  Conrad has provided a reading and listening venue for local poets at his home for over three decades.  I was welcomed into this group a year ago and am awed by the outpouring of talent at every session.  FROM THE TOWER, an anthology compiled and edited by one tireless member of the Tower Group, showcases the work of 25 of its poets, from beginners like me to seasoned folks with vast repertoires of publications and awards.  Head to Main Street Rag’s Bookstore and order your copy NOW!

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