Mr. Owl, why do they keep making brown Tootsie Pops?

Remember this guy?

“Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?”

Wise

When you have to say “I don’t know,” but you want to appear wise about your own ignorance.

Mr. Owl is almost as old as I am. The Tootsie Pops he’s selling are older. Tootsie Pops were my favorite lollipop in those days. My boys seem to enjoy them as much as I did.

In all the years I’ve been eating Tootsie Pops, one thing has never changed: the chocolate ones (wrapped in the brown paper) are horrible.

All the other flavors are delightful, but the brown ones just plain suck. Even the texture is off-putting. The worst part is the brown always seem to be the most plentiful color in the bag.

study in brown

How did an orange one survive this long?

This is a photo of our candy bowl. It could have been a photo of any waning stash of Tootsie Pops from my childhood. The other colors disappear but the brown ones just sit there forever. Eight kids grew up in my house. We competed like wolves for treats. The brown ones collected dust.

Today, the tradition continues. Big Man is our most avid fan of Tootsie Pops. Whenever I see him with one, I tell him he shouldn’t be eating that color. “The [insert non-brown color] ones are for me,” I say. “I bought the brown ones especially for you. Those are the ones you should eat.”

He laughs like that’s the most ridiculous thing ever mentioned to him. “No. The brown ones are yours,” he answers. “You have to eat them.”

For a long time, I wouldn’t buy bags of Tootsie Pops simply because I feared my house would become full of uneaten brown ones and I’d have to move my family to a place with more storage.

But the orange ones won’t stop calling my name.

I stave off temptation as long as I can, but between me and a bag of Tootsie Pops I’m the biggest sucker.

Why do they keep filling the bags with the awful brown ones?

The world may never know.

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Toys R Us dies the way it lived: disappointing children

Guess who got stuck holding a Toys R Us gift card?

No, it wasn’t me. That would have been sad.

It was my nine-year-old son. That’s even sadder.

Last weekend Big Brother decided it was time to buy a new game for the PS4 he got for Christmas. He dug through his wallet to count his money. In the midst of digging, he exclaimed, “We can just get a game from Toys R Us. I have a gift card!”

He produced a bright, festive, probably worthless, Toys R Us gift card with the unfulfillable words, “happy birthday” emblazoned across it. He must have got it at his party last summer.

bankrupt

What kid doesn’t want a lesson in bankruptcy law for his birthday?

I knew Toys R Us is going out of business, and even though they are still selling toys for cash money, some bankruptcy court somewhere had given them the right to refuse their own gift cards as payment.

Did I know my son was holding one of those quickly-expiring cards? Nope.

My son probably knew he had a Toys R Us gift card, and maybe he knew Toys R Us is in the process of going out of business, but being too young to understand the logic of the adult world, he certainly did not know that a business can lawfully stop honoring its obligations to its customers even though it is alive enough to accept money from those same customers.

Toys R Us has been in the business of killing joy for years. One Christmas I tried to order something online for my kids. It was in stock online, but I couldn’t have it delivered because it was available in stores, except it wasn’t in stock in any store within 100 miles, so I couldn’t get it either way. They’ve always played these games, which explains their demise.

I warned my son to ask the Toys R Us cashier about his gift card before he picked out a game. Sure enough, we’d missed the deadline for redeeming by one week. The worker couldn’t even tell us how much the card was worth. Instead, she handed him this paper.

File a claim

Step 1: File a claim. Step 2: Hold your breath.

As much as I would like all the stiffed nine-year-olds in the nation to file claims with the US Bankruptcy Court, I would advise them it’s not worth the effort. The form is several pages long. If they fill it out and file it properly, they might get some portion of their $20 gift card refunded, but probably not, because unsecured creditors (e.g. gift card holders) are last in line for repayment.

Big Brother found a game on sale at a different store and used his money. He got over the gift card disappointment faster than I did. (I’m sure I’ll get over it soon.) I can’t even completely pin this on Toys R Us, though I’m not ready to exonerate them. It seems to me, this is the American legal system putting giant corporate lenders before individual children.

The foolish children spent their money on games instead of lobbyists.

How I got old and met your mother

Buster was nosing through my things and found one of the many watches I no longer wear because the battery died and I didn’t get around to replacing it. I’ve collected several watches over the years. They sit in a box with their dead batteries. It’s my way of holding back time.

Buster showed me the watch. “Look. I found and old, old, old, old, old, old watch. It used to be yours when you were a kid.”

That means I’m one or two olds older than the watch. It’s true, I’m old. I’m 50, which isn’t old in general terms, but it is old for the parent of a kindergartner. When Big Man gets to kindergarten I’ll be two years older.

Time all over again

An old watch on a young wrist.

To Buster: The abridged story of my relative elderliness

Yes, Buster, I am old, compared to your classmates’ fathers. It’s not the way I planned it. You see, I was supposed to marry my high school sweetheart. Only, I didn’t have a high school sweetheart. The best I could do was a high school crush. It’s considerably more awkward to marry your high school crush. Unlike all the romance you’ve projected onto her from afar, a marriage is something that both parties should be aware of.

Then, I was supposed to marry that wonderful girl I met in college. But you see, Buster, I was too focused on my studies in the field of beerology to go around falling in love. There was that one potentially wonderful girl who might have turned my head, but she was either less wonderful than I thought, or she spent every single Friday and Saturday night washing her hair. It was probably the latter, because one night I saw her walking arm in arm with a frat boy, and he looked like he knew a lot about conditioner.

But that was okay, Buster, because once I made a name for myself, it would be easy to find a wife. Turns out it’s harder than you might think to make a name for yourself in retail management. Plus, when you hit your late 20s, all the college kids who work for you think you’re over the hill. And when you assign them to clean the store’s bathrooms, they think you’re horribly old – like wicked stepmother old.

Then I got to my 30s and it got harder to meet people, including people to marry.

But here’s the good news, Buster. One day in my middle 30s, your mother came along and everything fell into place. It took a while to convince her where everything’s place was, but it worked out perfectly in the end, because now I have her, and you, and your brothers in my life.

See, Buster, if I’d married according to the plan, you wouldn’t be you. You’d be somebody else, or no one at all. I wouldn’t like that. I waited a long time for Mommy and you kids, and maybe that makes me a little old, but it was worth the wait. You’ll never find a man more satisfied at being old.

Never too old to be a young dad

Time to pick up the kids from elementary school. Better get the donkeys saddled. (Image: Russell Lee/US Farm Security Administration)

After years of writing, I finally have a story to die for

If you’ve visited before, you may know that I have self-published a few books. When you self-publish enough books, you get noticed. Some authors get noticed by readers, but I find that I get noticed much more often by aggressive marketers, trying to sell me their publishing platforms. These platforms usually come at a high price for very little useful platform, so I disregard the advertisements.

When this marketing piece appeared in my mailbox, I assumed it was from a fly-by-night, vanity press that had bought my name from a mailing list in the hope I possess three important characteristics:

  1. I am ignorant of publishing scams.
  2. I harbor dreams of penning the autobiography of my quietly fascinating life.
  3. I do not know what the word fascinating means.

Before tossing the piece into the recycle bin, I turned it over to make note of the name of the publishing company trying to take advantage of my feeble-minded sense of self-importance.

That’s when it hit me. Publishing companies, even the shady ones, don’t have Memory Gardens in their names nearly so much as cemeteries do.

I am not being recruited by a shady publisher, but by a shady plot in a peaceful meadow. They’re not trying to sell me a two-bit book layout for my memoirs; they’re trying to sell me a hole to bury my carcass.

This is disturbing, because nowadays these marketers know more about you than you do. Last year, AARP was all over my 50th birthday like flies on sheet cake. What does Memory Gardens know about me that puts me on the same prospect list with Great Depression Babies? Should I take heart that it’s addressed to me OR whomever took up residence in my death trap of a home after my demise?

I guess the best thing is to find the humor in it, of which there is plenty. I do enjoy the Resolutions theme: A new year is a time for resolutions. Why don’t you resolve to die this year?

I also like the appeal to the control freak: By planning your final arrangements in advance, you can still tell everybody what to do even after you’re dead. After all, you wouldn’t want them to grieve in any way but the one that suits your departed ego.

But the best laugh is reserved for the smallest print:

“Our sincerest condolences if this was received during a time of mourning.” In other words, “We hope we’re not too late, but if the next of kin need to throw something together right away, we are such considerate people, and by the way, we still do have plots available.”

Having considered all this, I’ve decided I’m not writing my autobiography or resolving to die this year. I’m hoping to keep my story to myself for a while longer.