Sunday, October 25, 2015


            The last three hundred-plus times I’ve flown in airplanes, I didn’t land in them. I used to skydive, and I always looked forward to getting out of aircrafts in mid-flight. I never liked landing in airplanes.
            That’s when they crash.
            BUT … last winter my wife Diane and I had our first vacation together, and because getting to our destination meant either a three-hour flight or a three-day drive akin to roller-skating on ice, I agreed to fly with her. In a plane. Without a parachute.
            I confessed my concerns to her, not just of being airborne in an airplane without a means of air-escaping, but of how I might navigate airport etiquette and the protocols for commercial flight, which I hadn’t done in a couple of decades. Diane was savvy with the recent ways & means of air travel, and she assured me that she would guide me through. I knew that a few things had changed since I’d last flown the friendly skies.
            First, they’d become less friendly. If Diane hadn’t been there to give me some advance cues on what was coming and how to act, I no doubt would’ve been spread-eagled, body cavity-searched and shipped off to Guantanamo. This is because bumbling activity, in the eyes of the Transportation Security Administration overseers, is automatically considered and treated as suspicious activity, and there I was, bumbling around, even under Diane’s tutelage. I was hesitative, awkward, sweating and I’m sure my eyes were darting.
            In the crowd (I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “throng” in a humor column, but I will now), Diane and I were thronged into separation, so I lost my pre-flight coach.
            Panic was setting in when I bumbled forward, thronging along alone, to a semi-uniformed TSA man who soundlessly held his hand out in front of me.  I did the reflexive thing and reached out to shake it. WRONG. He’d wanted my boarding pass and proof of identification. He snapped his hand away and didn’t smile as much as I’ve ever seen anyone not smile.
            “Boarding pass and ID,” he said, smiling even less than he wasn’t before.
            I held out my driver’s license and boarding pass. He looked at them, pointed to his right and said: “Wall!”
            Now, I ask you: if someone in authority, just as you found yourself in a position of abject fear and surrender and without a clue what to do next, pointed to a wall and barked “Wall!”, would you summon up your best Leslie Nielsen impression and say “Yes, I know,” or would you say nothing, do as you were told and go stand by the wall?
            Drawing from flashbacks of long-gone boyhood time-outs in the corner (of the wall), I thought the latter was the better part of discretion, so that’s what I did. I stood there, facing the wall, and waited. I waited some more. I waited for Armageddon. I waited for Godot. I waited for the Marines (see: Guantanamo, shipped off to).
              Several people thronged past me. What? How was it possible that they’d passed the “Wall!” test where I had failed? Was there a secret word? Specialized coded carry-ons? Had Diane forgotten to tell me about the treacherous wall trap?
            Finally, after who knows how long (time warps when you’re about to lose your mind), a voice that I hardly recognized as human shouted “Sir!  Come this way!”
            Ahhh. It seems that when I’d been ordered to the “Wall!”, it meant that I was supposed to walk in the aisle next to the said wall and make my way to another checkpoint, which was apparently there to prepare me for the next pre-flight part of the shakedown/check-in.
            I know that the more I then tried to look casual and innocent, the bumblier and guiltier I presented. I didn’t place my shoes in the tray properly. I wrongly put my knapsack on the rollers and not on the conveyer belt. I missed my mark on the yellow footprints. Then came the body frisking scanner, which made me feel like I was committing a fully-clothed full monty. Before I went through, another TSA agent asked if I had any other metal objects on my person, and I unthinkingly said “Uh … well … just the metal in my legs.”
            This immediately pricked up his ears (and the ears and eyebrows of two other nearby agents, who began to throng in closer to me) and I tried to explain, as unterroristically as possible, the history of my knee surgeries and the utterly non-explosive nature of the implanted screws therein. I was near breathless with anxiety when they suddenly and inexplicably shrugged me off and waved me through. I didn’t understand how I could so quickly go from mad bomber suspect to harmless land mammal rookie, but I didn’t look back long enough to grab the wrong backpack and walk off with their plastic shoe caddy. 
            Diane had already expertly zipped through her inspection and detection lines, and was waiting for me in the post-gauntlet, fly-safe neutral zone. She’d been watching helplessly from the other side as I was over there mysteriously self-imposing my wall exile.
            Much to her credit, when I explained what had happened, she did not laugh until we’d left and returned to the ground.
            Safely. Without a parachute.
* * * * *

Senior Wire News Service syndicated humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman writes from Bethlehem, NH. He is an author, humorist and infrequent flyer.  His new book, “Walk Tall And Carry A BigWatering Can,” is now available.  You may contact him via his blog at Copyright 2015. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"DEAR WITBONES" --- Fun With Females

            "Dear Witbones -- Ask A Humorist!” is B. Elwin Sherman's agony uncle advice column for the laughlorn. Today's Witboner:
 "Fun With Females." 

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I find myself divorced and alone in life, looking for a female partner. I recently read a woman’s magazine article that listed the top five things a woman finds most attractive in a man, and number one was his ability to make her laugh. The trouble is that I don’t know how to be funny. Can you offer some tips on how I can convince a woman that I have a great sense of humor?  HUMORLESS IN HUDSON 

Dear HUMORLESS: You haven’t given me much to go on. I don’t know your occupation or religion, (or lack of either) and you also didn’t mention your age or political persuasion (all great launch pads for humor). These particulars would help me suggest how you can best find and express your inner funny.
I could better direct you if I knew you were a Baptist or a sun worshipper or a retired ombudsman, but I’ll just go with a one-size-should-fit-all.
We’ll just assume, for starters, that when you cite “circumstances beyond my control” as the reason for your single-status, you’re not referring to your picture appearing on the post office bulletin board, or that you’ve been the object of a recent international in-flight quarantine. Most everything else can be tweaked as you go.
It’s a well-known fact that women love to laugh, because the act of laughing prompts a biochemical reaction in women which affects a part of their brain that regulates erotic thoughts and impulses. This is why female actors are always laughing in Viagra commercials.
That same part of the brain, in men, dictates why we don’t care if our socks match.
Now, if you want to give your new potential gal the giggles, you must first disabuse yourself of your humorless self-assessment. Of course you’re funny. You’ve been through a divorce, which means you’ve seen the depths of despair --- the place where hilarity lives like a troll under a bridge --- and survived.
I’ll offer just one general “tip” on how to be funny the next time you find yourself attempting to impress a woman with your wit:
Every man is funny. Just look at how we’re built. You’re reading women’s magazines looking for ways to attract a woman? I suggest that you instead rehearse cracking yourself up. Because of your grim self-evaluation, it would be best to do this naked, in front of a mirror, with props. Later, when you confess to your date that you did this to impress her, she will never take you seriously again.
Thanks for Witboning, and keep me posted.

* * * * *
Copyright 2015 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved. Questions for his agony uncle “WITBONES - Ask A Humorist!" column may be submitted to: WITBONES, c/o B. Elwin Sherman, P.O. Box 300, Bethlehem, NH, 03574. Or, you may e-mail Elwin via his blog.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"DEAR WITBONES" --- Finders Seekers Hoarders Keepers

             "Dear Witbones -- Ask A Humorist!” is B. Elwin Sherman's agony uncle advice column for the laughlorn. Today's Witboner:
 "Finders Seekers Hoarders Keepers." 

          I'm being overrun by the clutter in my house. I try to throw out things but when I do, I just later replace them with even more stuff. My floors are piled high, and there are only narrow little walkways left to get between rooms. I'm afraid I'll be discovered crushed by an avalanche of my own junk, but there's just too much for me to deal with now and I don't even know where to begin. Help! How can I stop making mountains out of molehills? SWAMPED IN SARATOGA

          Dear SWAMPED:
          Sounds like you’re a victim of HCS, or “Hoard & Clutter Syndrome,” formerly known as the “Packrat Syndrome.” It’s a form of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) and its origins lie in what my dad used to call, the “When I Was Your Age We’d Walk A Mile For A Dirt Sandwich And Be Glad To Get It" Syndrome.
          I’ve checked, and there are 8,321 books on the subject, and that’s just counting the "expert" guests on Dr. Phil and Oprah. If you’re writing to me because you need some deep insights from an armchair psychologist, I can only tell you to not even THINK about reading these books. They don’t help anyone but their publishers and authors, and you have no room.
          The good news is, your question holds the key to solving this dilemma. No, you’re not making mountains out of molehills, but you are trying to make molehills out of mountains. Fine if you’re a mole, but you need the human version.
          The solution is simple:
          1. Empty your house of EVERYTHING. Yes, I said everything. Don’t discriminate. You can’t, anyway, not in your condition; that’s why everything must go. Bag it, box it, throw it out the window, do whatever you have to do to get everything inside, outside. You’re not attempting to determine what's trash and what's treasure. As I said, you’re not capable of doing that, so don’t try. You’re a hoarder. Right now, you could find three good reasons for holding on to fuzzy green cheese or a broken right nostril inhaler.
          So, for now, everything not nailed down? Out with it!
          2.  Done? Now, only bring back inside what you absolutely need to get through the day, say: a toothbrush, a box of Yodels, and bubble bath. Do this every day for a week, and no cheating. Lug only the essentials back into the house: broken bed, half-eaten Twinkies, dirty towels, burned-out light bulbs, and your children.
          3. If you haven’t brought it back within a week, it’s junk.  Put out a “FREE STUFF” sign, and say the following out loud repeatedly until everything out there is gone:  “I’ve never seen a hearse pulling a trailer.”  It's your new mantra. Eventually, all your cast-offs will disappear. Not to worry. Someone will even take the “free stuff” sign. Free is free.
          Now … how to keep from relapsing into your hoarding behavior?
          Leave Florida and move up here to New Hampshire. We don’t hoard.
          We just hold onto things for the great-grandchildren.
          Thanks for Witboning, and keep me posted. 
* * * * *
Copyright 2015 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved. Questions for his agony uncle “WITBONES - Ask A Humorist!" column may be submitted to: WITBONES, c/o B. Elwin Sherman, P.O. Box 300, Bethlehem, NH, 03574. Or, you may e-mail Elwin via his blog.

Friday, March 27, 2015

"DEAR WITBONES" --- Big Rhode Island Nibbles

             "Dear Witbones -- Ask A Humorist!” is B. Elwin Sherman's agony uncle advice column for the laughlorn. Today's Witboner:
 "Big Rhode Island Nibbles." 

     My wife and I are writing from Rhode Island, and we can tell you that we’re sick and tired of being the butt of “small” jokes.  We love our state, we don’t FEEL small, and we want all this smalltalk to stop! ---  BIGGER IN BARRINGTON

        Dear BIGGER:  Let’s help settle this once and for all.  Firstly, any non-islandic state with an “island” in its name, already has more built-in grandeur than the rest of us combined.  Start there.  Rhode Island has more big-ness about it in many areas, and the next time you feel diminished by a “small” joke, fight back with some of these:
       You have more doughnut/coffee shops per capita than any other state.  That big fact alone already has me pondering relocation there.  As a humorist, I couldn’t muse without my morning java & pastry, so I’d find inspiration knowing that a resource was always close by.  I’ve also just learned that coffee milk is Rhode Island’s “official state drink.”
       Now I’m practically packing my bags.
       You’re also home to “Nibbles Woodaway,” known formerly as “The Big Blue Bug.”  At 4,000 pounds and 58-feet long, it is easily the world’s largest termite, found on I-95 in Providence (Google it, folks).  Take THAT, Texas!   Go FISH, Florida!
       And, if we’re talking proportions, your “Ocean State” has the largest coastline percentage of any state in the U.S., though you’ll never get California to admit it.
       You may be the smallest in size, but you're the second most densely populated.  Only New Jersey knows how to pack 'em in better than you, and ... well ... they're New Jersey.
       Rhode Island also has more existing 100-year old homes than the rest of us, easily making you the king of local landmarks, and because of your little bigness, anyone staying in Rhode Island can visit your whole state in the least amount of time.  That gives vacationing tourists more bangs for their rubbernecking bucks than they’ll get anywhere else, and with always a doughnut and coffee right around the corner.
       Biggest in my book.
       Stand tall!  Be small!
       Thanks for WITBONING, and keep me posted.

 * * * * *
Copyright 2015 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved. Questions for his agony uncle “WITBONES - Ask A Humorist!" column may be submitted to: WITBONES, c/o B. Elwin Sherman, P.O. Box 300, Bethlehem, NH, 03574. Or, you may e-mail Elwin via his blog.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"DEAR WITBONES" --- Lady Fingers Clip Joint

             "Dear Witbones -- Ask A Humorist!” is B. Elwin Sherman's agony uncle advice column for the laughlorn. Today's Witboner:
 "Lady Fingers Clip Joint." 

            Recently, I treated a young friend to lunch at a special, very expensive restaurant to celebrate the successful end of her school term. Our food looked delicious when it arrived, but one of the almonds in my baby spinach salad was too hard to chew and turned out to be a false fingernail! I tucked it into my napkin and didn't mention it to anyone as I didn't want to ruin the festive occasion.
            My problem now is that she's written to ask if she can take ME to dinner after her graduation ... at this same restaurant! I don't want to tell her what happened there, but I can't bring myself to go back. What should I do?  --- FINGER FOODS IN FREEPORT

            DEAR FINGER FOODS:  First, congratulations to you for not making a scene at the time, but had you acted reflexively by shrieking “HEY! What’s this freakin’ fake fingernail doing in my spinach?!” ... none of us would have blamed you.
            Indeed, it must have taken all your composure to finish the meal without letting on or showing your disgust. I'd like to know how you got through an entree & dessert without imagining all kinds of suspect culinary intruders.Was that an eyelash in your vitello tonnato? Could that extra crunch in your chocolate chestnut cake have been a stud earring? Try not to think about it.
            Yes, obviously, you can't return there. Your friend wouldn't understand why you're scrutinizing every dish like a mad scientist and demanding an up-close inspection of all ten fingers and both ears & eyes of your server. But, you will need a good reason to redirect both of you to an alternate eatery. Try this:
            Tell her that you've developed deipnophobia --- a rare, abnormal fear of dinner conversation --- and that you wouldn't want to ruin your meal together by being mute.  I'd suggest a ride on the nearest rollercoaster (the whippy upside-down, 'round and 'rounder kind). For me, this is always my best last resort fix, no matter the problem, when all else fails. There's precious little that a few intimate shared g-forces won't cure, and you won't want dinner first, anyway.
            Thanks for Witboning, and keep me posted.
* * * * *

Copyright 2015 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved. Questions for his agony uncle “WITBONES - Ask A Humorist!" column may be submitted to: WITBONES, c/o B. Elwin Sherman, P.O. Box 300, Bethlehem, NH, 03574. Or, you may e-mail Elwin via his blog.   

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"DEAR WITBONES" --- Look At This Out Loud!

             "Dear Witbones -- Ask A Humorist!” is B. Elwin Sherman's agony uncle advice column for the laughlorn. Today's Witboner:
 "Look At This Out Loud!" 

            I am an old man. How old? Here's how old: something is happening to me now that started some time ago as an occasional thing, but now it goes on all the time. People talk to me like I'm hard of hearing or senile, shouting at me and/or speaking very slowly. What can I do about it? It makes me mad and depressed.  What can I say to these people without offending them? --- NOT DUMB OR DEAF IN DANVILLE

            DEAR NOT DUMB OR DEAF:  Let's start at the end of your letter, and begin with you not worrying about offending anyone who begins their conversation by offending you. They could use some enlightenment, if not a comeuppance. Instead, it's time for you to have some fun with this.
            In defense of people (always a hard thing for me to do, but I try), they mean well most of the time. For instance, people often turn to me for help because I’m a writer, so they believe that I must know the difference between an assumption and a presumption.
            Turns out I do, but I try not to lord it over anyone. I could assume, for example, based on the scant evidence you’ve provided, that you look and act like a rickety-pickety, crotchety old wretch of a man who mostly ignores everyone, drives for miles with his turn signal on, makes awful noises when he eats, wears mismatched socks and talks to himself in public, but I shouldn't presume that.
            It’s clear, however, that you have become a victim of the all-too-common discrimination of ageism. I can safely presume that.
            But, before you go much further, you should make sure that you’re NOT hard of hearing.  People may be yelling at you because you’re not otherwise reacting to them. How else would you know?  Go get your hearing checked.  I’ll wait.
            Now, all okay?  CAN…YOU…HEAR…ME?  PUT YOUR GLASSES ON!
            (Sorry, I couldn't resist, but as an advancing upper middle-ager, I'm simpatico and entitled.)
            I did mean what I said up there, though. You do need to give up the anger and despair, and instead turn this into a source of entertainment for you. Have fun. BE fun.
            Next time you’re spoken to like you’re … well … as you say: dumb and deaf, try this: 
            Stranger:  “EX…CUSE…ME, SIR.  ARE…YOU…LOST?”
            You:  “No, I’m tense, but it’s okay.  I've been in the past, tense; I’m now in the present, tense, but once you screw off I won’t be in the future, tense.” 
            Think about this for a while, and come up with your own little list of snappy retorts. You could also take the initiative on occasion, and speak softly to a stranger, whispering something, anything. It doesn't matter. Most people now, as you yourself painfully report, increasingly think you’re damaged goods, anyway. When they apologize (and they will) for not being able to understand you, simply yell: “WHAT ARE YOU … DUMB AND DEAF?”
            Thanks for Witboning, and keep me posted.

* * * * *

Copyright 2015 by B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved. Questions for his agony uncle “WITBONES - Ask A Humorist!" column may be submitted to: WITBONES, c/o B. Elwin Sherman, P.O. Box 300, Bethlehem, NH, 03574. Or, you may e-mail Elwin via his blog.