What’s Going On In Rex Morgan, M.D.? Did Aunt Tildy get together with that wrestler? January – March 2020


And hi at last, people who want the story in Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. explained. This post’s written in late March 2020, so if you’re reading this in some far-future decade like May 2020 it may be so out of date that it’s useless. In that case, though, if I have a more recent plot summary or news about the strip it should appear here. I hope that helps. If you prefer some mathematics with your comic strips, please look over at my other blog, as it’s got that. Thank you.

Rex Morgan, M.D..

5 January – 29 March 2020

Aunt Tildy had just moved in last time I looked at Rex Morgan, M.D.. For what purpose, and for how long? I forecast we’d have some idea by March. All our other plans for March went wrong, but this one? This one came out perfect.

Aunt Tildy settled in fast, and peacefully. Making breakfast, offering to watch the kids instead of sending them to daycare. Watching wrestling on TV. Passing out watching wrestling on TV, surrounded by cans of something.

Kelly has picked up the kids from school and daycare. Kelly: 'OK, Mini-Morgans, let's get inside. I want to meet this Aunt Tildy person.' (Tildy's sprawled out across the couch, snoring, cans spread over the floor.) Mike: 'Aunt Tildy sleepin'! John: 'Snorin'! Kelly: 'Yeah ... you guys go upstairs and play, OK?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 10th of January, 2020. Little plot thread here is Kelly put in an urgent call to June Morgan. She failed to check that the cans were a soft drink. That’s made more plausible by explaining that Aunt Tildy was drinking a weird minor soda, so it makes more sense that Kelly wouldn’t recognize the label and assumed the worst but … like … are there a lot of sodas you’d think were beers if you looked at them more than five seconds? Maybe some root beer labels would be confusing but I’m not sure the premise really holds.

Don’t worry; it wasn’t demon alcohol. It was her favorite pop that she can’t get at home anymore. I understand; I live in mid-Michigan and I actually know a couple spots where I can get Moxie. Anyway, we aren’t told that it’s Faygo and that Aunt Tildy is a secret Juggalo, but, you know. Media literacy, people. Read the inferences.

Aunt Tildy fell asleep in the afternoon, like anyone might. Still, Rex Morgan presses June for details like … how old is she, anyway? June’s not sure. She remembers that when she was a kid, Aunt Tildy was forty years older than dirt, so that’s something. Well, how long does she plan to stay? June doesn’t feel comfortable asking that. Why is she here? Aunt Tildy says, no special reason, just she hasn’t seen the kids and she could die anytime, so why not now? She means why not see them now.

A lot of this storyline was Rex Morgan being all miffed that Aunt Tildy is around, and this was great. I mean, absolutely I understand the discomfort of having a houseguest, especially one you don’t really know. Especially when there is no way of guessing how long until they leave. But the amount of peevedness he brings to a houseguest who is family, who’s entertaining the kids, and who’s volunteering to household chores is great. It’s the sort of disproportionately strong emotion that makes for hilarious soap-comic reading.

June and Rex discuss Tildy's heath concerns. Rex: 'Some of those symptoms could be cause for concern. The vision issue could b cataracts.' June: 'Of course. But none of it sounds like anything that places her on death's door.' Rex: 'Well, who'd have guessed such a big fan of pro wrestling would be so dramatic?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 27th of January, 2020. Am I alone in noticing, though, that soap comics and pro wrestling rely on some of the same tools. Preposterous characters, particularly, with bombastic displays of emotion, and serving storylines that may get involved but that are always easy at any one point for a newcomer to drop into are important to both.

June and Rex Morgan recognize the plot tokens, though. If Aunt Tildy doesn’t know how long she has left, why is that? They arrange for a doctor to look at her, and Rex Morgan does too. It turns out she’s sixty years older than dirt, but that’s not any specific problem. There’s a backlog to date Zak, but there’s no reason to think her condition needs to date Zak right away. So, cool.

That seems to leave the story becalmed, though. So it’s time to hire a new character. He shows up the 2nd of February. Rex Morgan’s next patient is Andrzej Bobrowski, who’s outlived yet another doctor. So he’s here to let Rex Morgan die. Again, a wonderful disproportionately strong emotion to the scene. Great setup. Bobrowski is in great shape, considering he’s sixty-two years older than dirt. His only problem: the knees he wrecked in his thirty years as a pro wrestler.

Rex Morgan mentions how his wife’s aunt is a huge wrestling fan and will be thrilled to hear about meeting a wrestler. Bobrowski says not to use his real name, since who’d know that? Use his stage name: Count Crushinski. And here’s where the actual plot tokens come into play. June had remembered that Aunt Tildy was, reportedly, once married to someone called The Count. And … wait, no, seriously?

Rex: 'You wrestled as a character called The Count?' Bobrowski: 'Couch Crushinski, yes. Ridiculous name, but it sold tickets.' Rex: 'You wouldn't happen to have known a woman named Tildy, would you?' Bobrowski: 'I was MARRIED to a woman named Tildy! Why do you ask?'
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 8th of February, 2020. “Hey, don’t talk to me about Count Crushinski being a funny name. I’ve been dining out on ‘Rex Morgan’ for maybe seventy years if we ignore that weird retcon?”

Well, I didn’t see it coming, but in my defense we only knew Bobrowski was a wrestler for like three days before the revelation. Further revelations: Bobrowski regrets how he threw away his relationship with Tildy. He was unfaithful, she divorced him for that, and she was right to do so.

Still, he’d like the chance to apologize to her. Rex Morgan is glad to sound her out, possibly because he figures this is the easiest way to get Aunt Tildy out of his strip. Aunt Tildy, hearing that Bobrowski was there, calls him a rat, a stinker, a jerk, and a cheater. But she is interested that Bobrowski owned up to being wrong, and wanted to make amends. And, you know, it takes courage to reach out to someone you’ve hurt, and takes courage to admit your own screw-ups. It’s good to have courageous people in your world.

Aunt Tildy: 'You really want me back, Andrzej?' Bobrowski: 'More than anything, Tildy.' Tildy: 'Hmm ... let's see about that.' (They kiss.)
Terry Beatty’s Rex Morgan, M.D. for the 7th of March, 2020. So, you know? Seeing him? Sure. Kissing him? All right. Dating him again? Yes, worth a try. I wouldn’t move in with him right away, but Tildy is comfortable with shrugging and leaving again if it doesn’t work out. I understand there are people comfortable living like this. I am not one of them.

So she agrees to see him. It’s hesitant, for a bit, but … you know, it goes well. In a couple hours Aunt Tildy’s packing her bags, moving out of the comic strip and into Bobrowski’s place. Soon, she’s managing Bobrowski’s autograph-signing sessions. Rex Morgan can get back to buying pulp magazines and not wanting to talk to people. Anyway, I’m sure we’ll check back in on them when the next Gathering of the Juggalos happens, and aren’t you dying to see Rex Morgan in that crowd?


The 22nd of March I’m going to declare the start of the current storyline. But we saw the handoff more gradually, revisiting seeing (from the 17th) Buck Wise and Hank Harwood. Buck is off to see roots country performer Truck Tyler play. He never misses Tyler when he’s in town, and Tyler remembers him.

Tyler’s doing the show on his own, no band. This was mentioned in a daily strip (the 27th, Buck talking with Truck) and a Sunday strip (the 29th, Buck talking with a different friend). So that sure looks like it’s a something. We’ll know, if anything goes to plan, by June 2020.

Next Week!

How did the struggle between Alexa “Alexa” Watson and Chris “Schuring” Schuring” for valedictorian turn out? And will we see the storyline about high school sports cut short by the Covid-19 epidemic? Probably not by next week, but, I’ll be reviewing
what’s going on in Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham’s Gil Thorp soon.
Thanks for reading.

Some Things Which Are Not Alarming


But these are things that we do need alarms for as long as I am thinking about alarms.

First, we need a warning about putting things on tables. I have to preface this with a warning. I’m going to sound like a great big hypocrite. This is because I am a great one for putting things on tables. I come from a long line of people who put things on tables. Also footstools, bookshelves, chairs, slow-moving relatives, sofas, all kinds of things. We put things on any kind of reasonably horizontal-ish surface, and then putting some more things on top of that.

Look anywhere you like on my family tree and you’ll find stacked on it three magazines we figure to read someday and maybe an orange or a disused volleyball. Something in the greater orb family. On top of that is the cardboard box something was mailed to us in years ago and kept around just in case it could be used to mail something else. It will never be so used, because by that time it’s acquired too much sentimental value to just mail out like a piece of common boxery. Also by then it’s got four possibly expired credit cards, a sandwich baggie full of loose bolts and magic markers, plus an Underdog comic book, the broken-off wrist strap from a digital camera, and a block of lucite representing no clear purpose in it.

So please understand that it is not simply putting things on the table that I think needs an alarm. It is the placing of something that could get knocked off the edge of the table, that I’d like a warning system for. And here we have a problem. My love is the normal one in our relationship. I’m the one who, within the past week, has shared the cartoon where Mister Jinks acknowledges to Pixie and Dixie that he didn’t want to be transformed into a cow but he isn’t going to raise a fuss about it. (Mister Jinks is fibbing. He’s very cross, blaming them for his turning into a cow.)

My love therefore just puts, like, a can of soda down on the table. You know, anywhere that isn’t already covered by my stack of library books and unopened letters from the ham radio people and the DVD of Automan I bought two years ago and haven’t watched yet. Me, I feel uncomfortable with a soda can anywhere too near the edge. I define too near as “within three feet of a zone that could reach the edge of the table, if someone were to take a running start from at least twenty feet away, leap up, and attempt to tackle a Mello Yello Zero”. I would like the pop cans to be kept at least 28 feet away from all edges of the table, and surrounded by that little foam padding thing they use to wipe up chemical spills. And be watched over by a protective agency. I’m thinking mouse guards, dressed as Romans but carrying pikes because that would look great. They would be fully equipped with an antigravity mechanism to move the pop out of the way in case of flying tackles.

Obviously this scheme is impractical. Being 28 feet away from the dining room table would put the soda somewhere in the attic, possibly the roof of the house, depending on which side of the table we sit at. While this would prevent spills on the floor, it could cause spills on the beach gear, insulation, or squirrels casing the joint.

So I’m already the one in the wrong about whether “setting a can of pop on the table” is an alarming scenario. But furthermore, spilling a pop on the floor is maybe the best indoor place to spill it. The only thing that’s ever on the floor is our feet, which clean well, or the socks our feet are in, which also clean well, or the pile of computer cables topped with a bag of plush dolls that I got at an amusement park that I mean to give my nieces as presents and keep forgetting to do. Spilling something too near that pile on the floor might actually make me clean that nonsense up, which would be worth it. Spilling something on the floor is a boon to housecleaning altogether.

Spilling on the table? Now that’s a mess. That we have to deal with by getting the laptop computers out of the way, and maybe tablecloths, placemats, United MileagePlus reward catalogues going back to 2016, this packet of Splenda we snagged at a Tim Horton’s in Hamilton, Ontario, last summer, and four different hard drive cases, some three of which contain working hard drives that we use for backup backups. Getting all that cleared out ahead of the wave of spilled Mello Yello Zero is stressful. We should be placing our pop nearer the table edge just to make sure it spills in productive places instead.

I meant to have more things to be alarmed by but somehow ran out of space. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Everything There Is To Say About Holding Bottles


Now that we have some time let’s consider how to hold bottles. Bottles are a popular, common way to hold things that need holdings. Most objects are content to be petted or rubbed. Some, such as carpets and carports (they are not interchangeable!) need to be hugged. Bottles, though? They have special talents. They can hold other things, which yes, many things can. But they also can migrate away from where they ought to be and into the path where people walk. The bottles don’t mean anything bad by it. They suffer from wandering lids, and do their best to keep up. You’ve had days like that.

You want to be careful about disturbing bottles. They might be holding laundry detergent, so that the cap on it is tight enough to fall off when you touch the bottle. This teaches us something about the importance of holding bottles well. It’s more important than alphabetizing your cats. It’s not as important as locking the front door before you go on a two-week trip to another continent.

Most of us think we have a good idea of what is a bottle. The question of what is not a bottle might be a little shakier. Start for example with soda bottles. There’s not much arguing their bottle-ness. But where does a soda bottle come from? Soda comes from soda bottles. Thus we conclude that soda bottles come from soda bottle bottles. Clear enough. Where then do the soda bottle bottles come from? The only answer is soda bottle bottle bottles. From this we can infer the existence of soda bottle bottle bottle bottles. And we carry on like this until it gets funny to slip a “bootle” or two into the repetitive list of “bottles”. You see how even I couldn’t resist.

But then think about these bottle (etc) bottles. Where are they all kept? How can there be any factory capacious enough to hold an infinite regression of container-style bottles? At the factory you get soda from, yes. The bottling plant. But still, how is there room for all this? And the answer lies in the economies of scale. They have a dragon. This sort of thing is key to almost all businesses. Try not to worry about it.

Bottles can take on all sorts of forms, too. A soda bottle has some resemblance to a wine bottle. I mean, if you squint. And you’re looking at a different wine bottle. Still, neither of those looks a lot like the bridge-spouted vessels of the ancient Phoenicians. I’m told those are bottles by people who don’t seem to want me to look foolish. I don’t know, myself. The description makes it sound like it’s some kind of ship. I know they had ships in the Phoenician days. That’s almost what defined Phoenician days. You had ships, you had some carnival rides set up in the agora, you had a face-painting booth. Maybe have a Pythagorean over to light up the place. Bottles don’t seem to be part of this at all. I apologize for that, but the topic was good for a hundred words of content, so that’s something.

To hold a bottle, apply your hands to the outside of the bottle. Under no circumstances should you apply them to the inside. There’s only three possibilities for the inside of the bottle. You might have no idea what’s inside the bottle. In that case it’s probably something you don’t want on your hands, like glitter paint or finger-remover ointment. Or maybe you do know exactly what’s inside the bottle. In that case if you wanted it on your hands you wouldn’t have put it in the bottle to start with. You’d have put it on your hands. Yes, maybe someone else filled the bottle with the something. But then why did they put it in a bottle, instead of on your hands? They must have had good reasons, which you shouldn’t just ignore. You should learn what the reasons are and only then ignore them. The final case is maybe the bottle is empty. That’s harmless, if it is. Is the risk worth it? I don’t see how.

I hope this has answered all your questions about bottles, except for the obvious one. You’ll have to work that one out yourself. I have no opinion about whether socks are merely bottles for toes.

In Which The World Is A Disappointment, Blue Consumable Liquids Division


So do you remember the blue-ness in Diet Faygo Arctic Sun? It turns out it’s all in the plastic of the bottle. When broken out of its bottle and poured seen in the light on its own, it’s just another clear-to-white liquid.

I mean, it’s not a total loss, except to what I had hoped for my lifetime count of blue consumed liquids. It’s still pretty tasty and is still a great phrase for Zippy the Pinhead to chant. It’s just that, like, Diet Faygo Red Pop is more blue than this.

A photograph, from above, of a clear fizzy drink, sitting on a tablecloth.
Not pictured: ice, because we kept the bottle in the fridge and that’s plenty cool for my purposes.

Also while our streetlamp remains unpainted, I did use it the other night to watch a big ol’ skunk trotting merrily across the street, down the neighbor’s yard — past a rabbit who just stayed uncannily still, possibly for fear the skunk would ask for that money back — and finally off towards the woods. So I have to rate this a net positive to the community so far.

Today’s Complete Distraction Comes To Us From The Beverage Division


So then I had to get this.

Me holding up a two-liter bottle of the solid blue-colored Diet Faygo Arctic Sun. The logo has a strongly mid-80s graphic design style of blue letters for 'Faygo' and 'Arctic Sun', a green script 'Diet', and lemon-yellow radial streaks centered on the words 'Arctic Sun'. The background is some souvenirs from amusement parks, including Canobie Lake Park.
I know you may be distracted by that window ornament in the background for Canobie Lake Park. It’s an amusement park in the town of Salem, New Hampshire, and if you find yourself in New England for some reason I recommend visiting the place. I mean, they’ve even got a Caterpillar ride, with the retractable canvas cover, and do you know where else you can find one of those? In the year 1938 and that’s about it.

I know, I can feel how excited you are too. There’s several great reasons to. For one, it allows me to finally truthfully increment my lifetime count of “blue fluids consumed”. For another, “Diet Faygo Arctic Sun” sounds exactly like the sort of thing that Zippy the Pinhead would start chanting for three, maybe four panels straight while standing near miscellaneous roadside attractions. It’s something that just keeps on giving.

Statistics Saturday: Some Minor Hassles Made More Exciting By Labelling Them “The Great ___ Fiasco”


  • The Great Dead-Battery-In-The-Radio-Set-Clock Fiasco
  • The Great Trying-To-Put-My-Ancient-iPad-Back-On-A-Data-Plan-That-Somehow-Requires-A-Lengthy-Discussion-Among-The-Sales-Staff-And-The-Manager-Apologizing-And-Offering-Me-An-Amazon-Firestick-Whatever-That-Is Fiasco
  • The Great Trimming-The-Branch-That-Keeps-Dropping-In-Front-Of-The-Satellite-TV-Dish Fiasco
  • The Great Breakfast-Nook-Light-Fixture-Falling-Off-Hitting-My-Love-On-The-Head Fiasco
  • The Great Can’t-Buy-An-HD-Antenna-That-Adequately-Picks-Up-Local-Channels Fiasco
  • The Great Tried-To-Use-iTunes-To-Listen-To-A-Thing Fiasco
  • The Great Struggling-To-Take-A-Photo-At-The-Amusement-Park-Where-I-Look-Neither-Asleep-Nor-Bug-Eyed Fiasco
  • The Great How-Do-We-Get-Our-Saw-Out-Of-The-Weed-Tree-Trunk-That’s-Heavier-Than-We-Thought Fiasco
  • The Great Me-Trying-To-Get-A-Large-Pop-With-That-In-The-Midwest Fiasco

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index continued its slide today, falling another 22 points despite attempts to rally traders behind the news that the 1st of July is less likely to be a Saturday (or Thursday) than it is any other day of the week and therefore shouldn’t they feel special that they got to see one like this? There won’t be another one like it until 2023, after all. This did nothing to help.

220

Statistics Saturday: Things Found In The ‘Cans And Bottles’ Recycling Bin


  • Styrofoam coffee cup
  • Cherry Coke Zero can
  • Paper coffee cup, half-cup of tea
  • Banana peel
  • Four-day-old newspaper
  • Dr Pepper Cherry Vanilla bottle
  • Bundle of plastic wrapped around itself
  • Oatmeal cookie
  • Paperclip
  • Snow
  • Unmailed, unaddressed Christmas card envelope torn open
  • Sprite Zero Cranberry can

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

Analysts say the Another Blog, Meanwhile index was unchanged today because what started out as a casual staring contest turned into a who-can-stay-quiet-the-longest contest, and from there it was a short step to a who-can-hold-their-breath-the-longest contest. In all the contesting nobody got around to doing any trading. No, nobody held their breath long enough to pass out and we’re getting to think that isn’t a thing that can actually happen.

121

On The Convenience Store Shelves


So there sitting on the bottom row of the convenience store cooler, beside the Towne Club flavors, was something new to my experience. Snap Punch. I didn’t get it, what with their having Diet Ruby Red Squirt. But if I read the label right, they’re offering the decent yet slightly watery taste of Snapple, plus interesting and I guess true enough facts like “Beavers were once the size of bears”, topped off with way more hitting. So we’d get to ponder things like, “Wait, does this mean beavers used to be a lot larger, or did bears used to be smaller? Ow! OW! Quit that! OWWW!” It’s a weird business model, but you never really know what’s going to work until you try it.

Smaller Good Gifts


I realize it’s the time of year anything at all might be a gift. The self-service checkout stations at Meijer’s have started spitting out gift receipts for most anything. It turns out one of those things is if you buy a plastic cup to use the Coke Freestyle machine. I would snark about a 22 ounce fountain drink as a present, but I’ve realized that it’s not bad. There’s no breaking it and if you throw it out, it just caffeinates the lawn. This time of year the lawn needs it.

I just don’t know how you’d keep it gift-wrapped and fresh through to Christmas. Maybe they’re angling the soda as an office-party gift instead. Office Christmas Parties might be any convenient day between early Thanksgiving week and the following year’s New Jersey Big Sea Day. I won’t be sending one out anywhere.

The Freestyle Coke Mistletoe Flow is all right, I guess, although it’s pretty heavily vanilla. I expected some more peppermint. It’s not their fault. I just went in with unrealistic expectations.

Making Myself Not Understood


I was at Taco Bell, which is a tiny bit interesting because until about two years ago I’d never eaten at one. It isn’t like I have anything particular against Taco Bell, even though their corporate overlords used to have the supervillain-corporate name of Tricon Global, and now have the faintly-Orwellian menace name of Yum! Brands, Inc. I just never got around to it before. I probably should have. I sincerely like their extruded burritos. But I’ve always liked extruded things.

What I want to get at is that besides the seven-extruded burrito and a cheese quesadilla I ordered a pop. I did this because I was thirsty and this was Michigan. One thing I’ve known since childhood about the midwest was that “soda” was called “pop” there. This I heard before the 90s, when everybody got on the Internet and started discussing how they call the same things by different names and how other places than home pronounce words wrong. (That was all anyone talked about online all 1997.) When I moved to Michigan, I found this “pop” thing was true. But the guy working the register didn’t understand me. I said a regular pop, and please, and still didn’t get my point across. So I gave up and said “soda” and that was fine.

Thing is, this keeps happening to me. Or at least around me. I ask for pop from people who should be used to people asking for pop, and they don’t know what to make of that. I’d understand confusion if I asked for pop from someone that would be unusual, such as in New Jersey, at a furniture store, from the guy the building code office sent to check on a crack in a load-bearing pillow. I couldn’t complain much if the guy chose to slug me. But why is this confusing?

I have to figure the problem is my accent. I come from New Jersey, and I’m not more defensive about that than average, and I must just say words like “pop” in ways they don’t understand. I don’t have a very strong New Jersey accent. I routinely surprise people when they hear where I’m from. “You don’t sound like you’re from New Jersey,” is the sort of thing I get. “I’d have guessed you were from … ” and then they’re not able to pin down just where they were thinking I was from, and they knock over a pyramid of soda cans and run away in the confusion.

I know what people expect from a New Jersey accent. It’s a bit loud and fast, with touches of 1940s Movie Brooklyn in it. College football is unpronounced. The average sentence will have something that has to get beeped out. Instead of clearly pronouncing the “-ing” at the end of words, speakers punch something. Maybe a person, maybe a tree, maybe the shoreline, maybe the abstract concept of justice, maybe a vending machine. Just something that’s available. The New Jersey accent is a crossing of the basic Atlantic Midlands dialect with swerving across four lanes of heavy traffic to cut someone off. I haven’t got a strong accent, because I’m too shy to punch an extruded burrito in a Taco Bell in Michigan. Most of my accent expresses itself in referring to Bruce Springsteen as if we were on a first-name basis, taking a surprising amount of guff for talking about people in queues being “on line”, and in getting into tiresome arguments about how people in other states are forced to pump their own gas. Also I expect to be able to order pork roll, although not at Taco Bell. I like to think my natural speech is a good bit rhotic, but I have no idea what that means. I might just want to be rhotic for the attention.

Except that doesn’t make sense because I hate drawing attention to myself. I feel like I’m taking too much of the cashier’s attention just by ordering my food. Going back around and explaining that by a pop I mean a soda, which is how he would have said pop is just horrible. I want to curl up in a ball underneath the plastic packs of chili sauce and go unnoticed, except they’d probably catch me when I snuck off to the bathroom. Except what would I have to go to the bathroom for if I can’t get a pop to drink?

It’s Great Being Tall, In Case You Wondered


So we were at pinball league — not that one, the other one — when I reached up and plucked a can of soda out of thin air. “How did you do that?” my love demanded, as the soda was a surprise even though it was just a can of Diet Mountain Dew. Well, there’s these small shelves, a couple inches wide, running just below most of the ceiling at the pinball league’s location. All the taller people put their drinks up there, out of the way. “What is it like being tall?” my love wanted to know, and I don’t want to sugar-coat it: it’s pretty great.

There’s down sides, of course, like how you can’t be comfortable in an airline seat unless you gate-check your legs, but nobody’s been comfortable in an airline seat since 2007, when United started charging $25 per flight segment for “Double Plus Economy” seats in which flight attendants would not repeatedly batter passengers with bags of rocks. But otherwise, being tall is a great thing and I suppose it’s only fair to tell you about some of the privileges.

First, you’re never actually fat as long as you’re tall. Until five years ago I weighed about as much as the Principality of Andorra, but because I could peek down over top of the refrigerator, all that obesity did was make me look even bigger yet, since people could see me from so far away. When I started losing weight — I’d leave some in the junk drawer, some outside the garage for the squirrels to use as nesting material, some in the Weird-Sized Falling-Apart Books About Motorcycles section of the library — I got appreciably skinny, and yet that didn’t hurt my apparent tallness either. It just made me look more like a compass needle, the tallest of all the orienteering tools.

The next thing is you never have to play basketball again. If a social group starts talking about basketball of course they’ll look to you, as a tall person, as a ringer. You can just shake your head and wave them off, saying, “Oh, I’m no good, you should stick with people who can really play,” and everyone will assume you’re being self-effacing. If you stand firm on this they’ll suppose you’re more interested in their having a good sporting match between roughly equal teams. If they draft you into the game anyway you can do like me, standing around looking befuddled and thinking about rockets, and as long as you ever at any point touch the ball in any play that ever results in a score, you’ll get credit for being a good team player. You can’t lose except by actually participating, and showing that you can’t dribble without the ball somehow hitting your foot, your nose, and your car simultaneously. You didn’t even take your car to the basketball game. And yet — smile afterwards and you still look charming.

Tall people always get to influence society — George Washington was put in charge of the Continental Army because he was taller than anyone else in the room, and he finally won the Revolutionary War when qualified negotiators established King George III was shorter than him — but it’s not always in obvious ways. For example, as someone more than six foot two inches tall, every year I get to introduce two new phrases that become common sayings even though people don’t know quite what they’re supposed to mean. I’m not perfectly satisfied that I’ve got my late-2014 choice perfected just yet, but, what the heck, you’re friends, or at least readers. This time next year, when you realize you don’t even clearly remember life before everyone used the aphorism, “it’s as real as bowling”, know that’s one of mine. You’re welcome.

I shouldn’t say this, but I guess you know about taller people being able to see the tops of refrigerators. There’s a thriving zine culture of fascinating reading materials distributed exclusively on the tops of taller consumer appliances. I guess you could get a stool and examine them but I don’t think you’d appreciate the social mores quite well enough. Sorry.

In all, I’d say that given the choice between being tall and not, I recommend being tall, because it would hurt my knees to crouch around all day and even then I wouldn’t be all that not-tall.

I Should Have Gone To Burger King


Oh, no. No. She noticed me, didn’t she? She saw.

But it’s so nice to eat in a restaurant now and then. It’s warmer than a fast food place, the furniture is cozier, there’s something more generous in it being trusted you will pay when you’re done than putting your money up front. It’s so much less likely there’ll be the guy rambling about Iraq and the Federal Reserve to the baffled university student who can’t find a graceful way out of this and doesn’t want to just bolt for the door.

But she saw me.

I just tapped my glass. It wasn’t on purpose, I was just fiddling around because the hand wasn’t needed for the book and it has to do something and it’s either fiddle with the cutlery or touch the glass. But the glass was almost empty, just soda-stained ice and the straw left, and now … yes, she’s come. What if she thinks I’m beckoning her over to demand a refill?

She dips her head and smiles and I just know she’s thinking I think she’s there to jump to my whims. Diet Coke isn’t much of a whim, but it’s the contextually appropriate one. I don’t want to be one of those customers. I want to just fade into the background and someday, eventually, pay my check. I can’t save the situation. “Thank you,” I say, before she opens her mouth. One.

“Would you like a refill?”

“Thank you,” I say, fumbling the first word so it comes out in three syllables. Two. She grins and takes the glass and I’m panic-stricken that she doesn’t remember it’s diet I was drinking. “Er, that’s Diet Coke,” I say as she recedes, marking myself as someone who beckons the waiter over and barks out refinements of my demands. Why oh why did restaurants stop putting slices of lemon in diet soda? It saves so much agony in making sure the waiters remember who the freaks are who care about the difference. “Thank you,” I pitch after that, whether she hears it or not. Three.

I shouldn’t have said anything. She surely remembers. There’s just me at the table, there’s no complicated ordering going on. I wouldn’t dream of it. I didn’t change soda mid-meal, unless now she thinks I did because I specified and now what must she think of me? At this point she’s got to have figured my only saving grace being that I didn’t demand things be sent back to the kitchen, and is working up such a sarcastic blog post about me that’ll go up on the Internet somewhere I won’t even see. Good heavens. Why don’t I flee? No, that would be worse, clearly worse.

I see her again. She’s got the soda. Maybe it’s diet. Maybe not. “Thank you,” I say, as she gets near the table, and she nods. Four. Does she mean the nod? Is she just putting up with me? Does she suspect how this is all a horrible mistake? Is she aware how much less tense I’d be if she just hadn’t noticed me? How much I wouldn’t have felt under-served? How I could’ve paid and been on my way to have something embarrassing happen at the video store instead? I can’t explain any of it, that’d just take up her time and it’s not like she can un-pour the soda.

“Thank you,” I say again, as she walks off to patrons who she hasn’t got every reason to hate. Five. I said “thank you” five times for a soda I had no reason to care about getting until it was too fraught with emotion to not get. I have to do something with it. I take a sip, and then a longer one. If she looked back at my table then she knows the soda was used for its intended purpose. The crisis is passed. I can wait a decent time and then hope she brings the check.

“Oh, you are thirsty,” she says, taking me by surprise. “Would you like another?” Something has stolen ten minutes and two-thirds of the soda, and my hands are resting on it again.

“No, thank you,” I say, and realize I forgot to say the “no” part out loud.