Verbal Hostage

There’s no dearth of problems in this world: shark attacks, cross fit, expired milk, and I hear that there is rampant twerking going on (although I can’t be certain what twerking is, I know I am afraid of it). 

Another problem is the verbal hostage taker.  I, myself, have been taken verbal hostage numerous times. Police won’t do anything about it. I have been told many a time by irritated law enforcement, “M’am, just tell them to quit talking.” Ha! If only it were that easy!  Truth be told, the verbal hostage taker is usually nice enough, adding a degree of difficulty in telling them to shut it. Being taken verbal hostage is a severe irritation and unfortunately, this person isn’t particularly charming or clever either; they merely possess an uncanny talent for talking for extended periods of time without pausing or breathing. They also lack the ability to identify socially acceptable topics.

Being a verbal hostage is uncomfortable; like trying on a swimsuit in January–it’s not pretty. They will corner you and begin a story right in the middle with no discernible thesis. 

My attention span is already that of an amoeba, so I usually check out after one to three minutes. My mind drifts to a field of green under a light blue sky as I think about all the things I’d rather be doing: undergoing a pap smear, having my spleen removed, frying bacon topless. The drone of a voice drags me back to reality and I know I need to interject a word, a gesture, or a sound of some kind. “Wow,” is what I manage to get out. Luckily, it was enough. That was a close one.

I tell myself, ‘Just act like you are listening.’ Good, I will act. I am a pretty good actor. Then I wonder if I really am that good of an actor. Well, I’ve never won an academy award and now that I think about it, I’ve never even been nominated! 

It’s about this time that I start to perspire and the verbal hostage taker asks the dreaded question, “So what do you think?”

What do I think? What do I think? I panic and blurt out, “I think puppies are cute, I think it’s embarrassing to order ‘pulled pork’ in mixed company, I think the cranberry has been typecast in sauce, and I think Play-Doh tastes pretty good.” Thank goodness the verbal hostage taker is a poor listener as well.

And just like that, it’s over. I can’t help but think this is what a largemouth bass must feel like with catch and release.


By Brandi Haas

“Honey, the basement is flooded…again.”

Fewer phrases can quicken a homeowner’s pulse than the dreaded flooded basement. There’s the mopping, the tearing up of carpet, the obligatory swearing, and worst of all, the call to the plumber.

After administering what can only be described as a colonoscopy of our main sewer line, the plumber’s diagnosis was grim. “There’s a tree root in the pipes. We are going to have to dig up your driveway to get to it and repair it.” I asked the inevitable question, “How much?” The plumber took the next 20 minutes to measure, pace, smoke a cigarette, consult a magic eight ball and then checked his calculations on an abacus.

“It comes to $4975,” he said while avoiding making eye contact with me (which makes sense, since my eye was doing that twitching thing it tends to do under duress). Now, the way I see it, when the plumber tells you the broken pipe is in fact under the driveway, necessitating the digging up of said driveway to the tune of $5000, you have two choices: kill the plumber and bury him in a shallow grave, or, laugh hysterically. I chose the latter (which ironically still seemed to scare him).

Between fits of laughter, a near-piddling, and the start of my Grey Goose and cranberry IV drip, I called my husband to break the news to him. “Well, if it has to be done, it has to be done.” My husband’s coolness under pressure is, surprisingly, one of his most annoying qualities.

“They are going to dig up the driveway!” I bellowed.

“Are you worried about the landscaping? It can all be fixed,” he tried to pacify me.

“Landscaping?! That’s the least of my worries. What if they dig up an old Indian burial ground? Which, of course, will most decidedly end with a poltergeist issue. Or worse, what if they find a pet ‘semetary’?! Do you know how many fish I have flushed in four years? That’s probably what’s causing all the plumbing issues. That’s all I need: a dozen zombie goldfish sloshing up the stairs to seek revenge on my lackluster fishbowl cleanings!”

“Zombie goldfish?” he asked.

“Yes! And remember that shaggy-looking beta that always stared at me with his one good eye?”

“You mean Daisy?” he said.

“Yeah, that’s him! You know he’s going to lead the zombie goldfish attack or become a poltergeist.”

“I don’t even know what a ‘poltergeist’ is,” my husband’s patience was wearing thin.

“Do you know that 18% of marriages fail because one spouse lacks a working knowledge of horror movies of the 1980s?” My husband is a numbers guy so I think my clever use of statistics will sway him.

“I have to go now, honey. Do not annoy the plumbers while they are working.”

Ten minutes later I’m down by the driveway asking the plumbers what I feel to be very valid questions. “Can’t this procedure be done laparoscopically? You know, a small incision, robotic arms, ultrasound? Come on, I have cable and high-speed internet! We are living in a rapidly advancing world!” Needless to say, that guy did not appreciate my vision of the future of plumbing.


Frankendriveway is healing well, no worse for wear other than a giant, concrete scar. And happily, no ancient burial grounds were uncovered.

The Organic Neighbor

Some neighbors bring out the best in us and some bring out…the crazy.

My neighbor has a totally organic garden; it’s green, it’s lush, it bears nutrient-rich vegetables free of any chemicals. Our garden consists of a man-eating tomato, mutated carrots, and the ‘little butternut squash that could’. The other day my husband and I were working in the yard and Organic Neighbor came over to say hi. I heard him extolling the virtues of keeping the earth pesticide-free so I quickly jumped behind the sandbox to hide the four-gallon jug of ‘Weed Annihilator’ I was spraying with extreme prejudice. (I made a mental note that hopping over stray legos had made me quite agile.) Once I ditched the weed killer, I walked over in time to hear our neighbor say that he and his family enjoy eating their weeds. “Most varieties are very healthy and make a hearty salad.”

Tripping over a sprinkler, my mouth got the best of me, “I fashion our weeds into hats.” At this point, Organic Neighbor and my husband glanced at me with the same look of disbelief but after 10 years together, my husband knows better than to stop me when I’m on a roll.

“It’s a fairly long, drawn-out process to dry the weeds, but I’m usually ready for weaving by fall. I finish the hats in time for Thanksgiving and we wear them while we sit around the table and name our favorite squash.”

Why stop there? “We also compost!” I exclaimed to Organic Neighbor. My husband gave me his ‘why-aren’t-you-medicated’ look and I knew he had forgotten all about the clogged toilet in the basement which can surely be considered compost.

It was about this time that Organic Neighbor said his goodbyes and backed away slowly from us. As we waved goodbye, I asked my husband, “Did I just alienate another neighbor?”

“Yup. By the way, what is a ‘worm casting’?”

“It’s worm poop,” I said.

“That guy just stood there and told me about worm poop for 10 minutes? He quoted weights and measurements!” My husband could not conceal his disgust.

“He knows his poop. Well, I’m going down to the basement to work on our compost pile. You coming in?” I asked my husband.

My husband smirked, “No, I have to clean up the yard; it’s covered in dog castings.”