Solved: A condiment conundrum

When I was working in the newspaper business, I got to know all kinds of people. From all walks of life, every social strata of the human, and not-so-human, condition. Odd ones, bombastic ones, eyes-a-poppin’-in-their-heads ones. Some heard voices, other seemingly talked in tongues at times, there were just a lot of downright creepy people.

And that was just in the newsroom.

Probably one of the more interesting ones was my boss, head of the paper’s layout desk. It was our job to take all of the stories, photos and other tidbits that make up a daily newspaper – all the news that was fit to print – and somehow get it all to fit into it, in less time than was physically, or mentally, possible.

Every day, three times a day. Then, out the door and come back for more on the next one.

My boss is one of the most intelligent men I’ve known. Attended and graduated from MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And actually belonged there. He could spew about quantum physics with one gesturing hand, while laying out a page on his computer screen with the other one. And never miss a beat, a period or a semi-colon.

Oh yeah, he did have one little problem. Just an itsy-bitsy one, really. He wasn’t exactly what you’d call a shining example of “grace under fire” when the pressure got ramped up, as it always did. The number of minutes before a deadline seemed to disappear far faster than the number of pages still waiting to be done.

He was fine, he was workable. Unless someone came up to him, at the wrong moment.

Once I looked up just a nano-second before a brand-new reporter arrived at his desk. Too late to help him, too little time to stop the apocalypse.

“Excuse me …”

The explosion was just about equal to that of the hydrogen bomb, sans the mushroom cloud.

“WHAT THE F*&&&*^###$%^^*&((*^^ A%^&&^%% F%&^^%&% DO YOU WANT???!?!!?”

Enter one tirade, exit one reporter. Swan-dive, right under my desk.

“Hey Flash, it’s OK, you can come out now,” I said as I was writing my 150th variation of “Man Bites Dog” for the front page. “I think he ran off into the pressroom. What was it you needed?”

“I was just going to ask him to point me to the men’s room,” the cub mumbled as he dusted himself off and left the area muy pronto. “But it’s OK, I don’t need it now.”

“Hey, get back here and wipe that up!”

Other than that little flaw, his only failing in life, that I could see, was working for a newspaper. How the hell a truly-talented and gifted MIT guy ended up toiling in the midst of all this mentally-numbing mayhem was beyond me.

He should have been working on discovering a cure for it.

I think this dark thought of mine was pierced by a small ray of light the other day when I read that a team of MIT engineers had come up with the answer to one of society’s most perplexing and confounding problems.

Anticipation … anticipay-yay-tion.

The cure for cancer?

The secret formula to turn straw into biodegradable and abundant fossil fuel?

Concocting the answers to Man’s two greatest, yet never-yet-answered questions:

What is the meaning of life? and,

How does Donald Trump keep that combed-forward patch of lower back hair glued to the top of his head?

Nope. None of the above.

This group of intrepid, inquistive and inventive MIT intelligensia has created a bottle coating that makes ketchup pour out like lava-on-steroids, all of it out. They say this may save 1 MILLION TONS of perfectly good but inaccessible ketchup and other squirty condiments from being thrown out each year. Oh, and bring an end to our incessant thumping, our valient but vain attempt to free just one more little tomatoey bit that until now, alas, has forever stayed stuck to the bottle’s bottom.

Think of all that ketchup. Think of all the bottle-thumping.

That MIT, it sure is a plenty interesting and smart place. And there’s a whole passel of great minds in there, no doubt about it.

But it’s also home to some really dumb career counselors.


News you can use, right about now

Look at you … will you just take a minute and take a good, hard look at yourself.

There you are, sitting alone at a picnic table in the backyard of a cousin you didn’t know existed until the “Let’s PAHTAY” invite showed up in the mail a few weeks ago. There before you, in lurid tiki-torch technicolor, you watch with dumbstruck awe as your parents and the rest of your family do a very poor, yet very drunken dance that’s best described as a mutant macarena-limbo-polka.

And you, you miserable cuss, are careening, no, make that spiraling, toward sober. You are almost pitiful. Almost.

It’s your own fault. You had to be different. You had to bring that oh-so-classy imported beer with you. The brew with the label of a sacred cow sitting at a bar and the ingredients listed in Gujarati …. but no twist-off cap.

All of the easy-access beer is gone, it’s out there, sloshing around in the bellies of the inebriated near-human mass in front of you.

So, you have your beer, you have your needs, you have your powerful thirst, but you have no … bottle opener.

You had a bottle opener. You brought your own, in fact. It was just there, right there on the table, next to the bowl of nacho-avocado potato chips. One of your best ones too – a work of art that seemed molded just for your hand and your hand alone. Cold, hard, premium aluminum – in shape of a naked woman with breasts big and shiny and strong enough to hook onto the lip of a bottle cap and … rip it off.

A thing of beauty. She, I mean it, was an engineering marvel as well as an artistic one, a true symbol of an advanced civilization. But now she, I mean it, is gone. And you can’t find her, I mean it, anywhere.

How depressing – a man and his beer and ne’er the ‘twain shall meet. It’s at times like this, when faced great and deep loss, that one turns to drink. And you ain’t even got that.

The last time you saw her, your punch-drunk Uncle Louie was holding it up, admiring it and mumbling to himself. At least that’s what you thought at the time. Now you’re worried. Uncle Louie, as he has told you every time he tops his internal 48-ounce alcoholic-beverage fill level, hasn’t been with a woman since before Fiorello LaGuardia had an airport named for him, not since Columbus stopped in the Bahamas to ask for directions to the East Indies, not since the end of the Ice Age.

And then, it comes to you. Your jaw drops; you know that this can mean only one thing. Louie has taken your buxom bottle opener, stolen her, and run off to Vegas. Your only hope is the Elvis Presley Memorial Combination Drive-Thru Chapel of Eternal Wedded Bliss/Electrolysis Clinic/Coin-Op Laundromat is closed for the holidays.

But you know it’s open. And you know Louie has their “Frequent Flyer” platinum membership card. Yes, one desperate man’s hungover cries of woe soon will be heard up and down The Strip in the morning, but what does that matter, your own personal hell is now.

Have you got a belt buckle? Sheesh, you wore draw-string shorts. Good set of teeth? Aha – so that explains why you had the two front teeth capped last year. Lemme think. I’ve got it! Have you got a chain saw?

Don’t look at me that way, of course there’s a chain saw there. No self-respecting American backyard is without one. Look under the picnic table.

See, I told you. Oh, ye of little faith ye. And a Husqvarna, to boot. Nice.

I want you to see something. Prepare yourself for the coming of your mind-numbing salvation. Click below, watch the video and kid, you might learn something:

Behold, the glory of the pre-mix-powered, two-stroke beer bottle opener …

You don’t have to thank me … just a flip of your cap will do.