If there is any legacy I'd like to leave, it's one that includes as much humor
and adventure in it as I can continue to muster as I get older. I love
seeing both irony and humor in many of life's situations -- and being around
people who have a similar perspective.
I tell ya, there's no lack of material out there!
VIEWING THE WORLD THROUGH A HUMOROUS LENS
"The wit makes fun of other persons;
the satirist makes fun of the world;
the humorist makes fun of himself."
I've mentioned previously that I "see" the world differently than a lot
What I meant when I wrote that several months ago was pretty literal:
because of my love of nature photography, I often look at a scene
outdoors when I'm running, walking, or riding in a vehicle as if I was
taking a picture of it with my camera. My eyes are the camera lens and
my brain just sort of automatically tries to find the most pleasing or
interesting composition. It sets itself to "landscape" or "macro" mode
on its own! I rarely do this indoors because I don't enjoy taking photos
indoors nearly as much.
Then there are the more figurative perspectives I have of the
world around me. One is the frequent use of my "humor lens:"
I can find humor in just about anything! Probably more people are like
me in this regard than the camera lens analogy.
My perspective of this crazy world has morphed through the years. Whose
hasn't? Hopefully, we all gain some insight and wisdom as we age.
I may be a bit odd in that I probably took things more seriously when I
was younger than I do now. In my seventh decade (I'll be 61 soon) I'm able to laugh at
things that I wouldn't have thought humorous thirty or forty years ago.
I've always been able to enjoy good jokes and comical incongruities and
yes, laugh at my own foibles, but I've learned with time to lighten up
even more and just enjoy the heck out of however many years I
have left to live.
It was only natural that I learned to see the humorous side of things
when I was growing up.
Although I don't remember that either
of my parents had much sense of fun, I have an older brother and sister,
maternal cousins and uncle, and other relatives and friends who are/were great role
models in this regard: positive, happy people with a great
sense of humor even when things have been very stressful or sad in their lives.
LAUGHTER IS OFTEN THE BEST MEDICINE
"Life is too short to be taken seriously!"
~ Oscar Wilde
You've heard of
gallows humor and
black comedy, right? Morbid as it may seem
to make jokes about deadly serious or taboo subjects, this type of humor
can serve a useful purpose.
Being able to make jokes and
laugh at very serious things doesn't mean we don't take them seriously
Truth is, it can help us cope better during and after a crisis. I've seen
this most recently in my brother's and his wife's struggle to beat ovarian
cancer; being able to laugh at various aspects of their
circumstances has definitely helped them -- and the people who
care the most about them -- to cope with this devastating
Being able to laugh at my own foibles and faux pas, what's known as
self-deprecating humor, also runs deep in my roots. Mom was
pretty good at that.
Sometimes I'm clumsy, forget things, or say and do
silly stuff that's not really important but makes me scratch my head and
wonder, "Why did I do that?" or "Where did that come from?" I have a strong enough
sense of self to usually laugh it off as a "brain fart" or "early
Alzheimer's," despite the fact that my mother died with
Alzheimer's and it scares me more than the prospect of any other type of
debilitating or terminal illness.
Joking about my memory lapses helps me cope with the fear of dementia. Laughing at
my own goofs and clumsiness helps keep me psychologically healthy. I
love to laugh!
I figure if you can't laugh at yourself, you're taking life entirely too
One of the things that attracted me to Jim was his sense of humor and
quick wit. We're
not sure where in his family tree it came from, but I'm glad it's there!
I wish he'd write more entries in this journal because some of the
things he says in person or writes in e-mails are downright funny, sometimes
minds often think alike -- and when they don't, well, that can be amusing, too. It's
great fun to share jokes and comments with him, as our skewed view of
the world is often skewed in much the same manner! The first two
stories below are examples of that; my thoughts were pretty much
the same as his when he related the incidents to me later. They're just
small, recent examples of finding humor in situations that other people
might not find comical at all.
Everyone has a different perspective on what's humorous to them and what
isn't. I hope our readers see some humor and amusing irony in all or
part of this essay, where I will share mostly WalMart comedy and a
little bit of Texas humor.
You really can find delicious irony and humor anywhere . . . just look around you.
"Total absence of humor renders life
Jim had some unusual encounters with employees at the Livingston WalMart
Super Center in the week we were camped out at nearby Lake Livingston State Park
last month. Since we'd
been working on some modifications to the new Cameo camper (I'll talk
about those in another entry) we ran into town about every other
day to either purchase or return items we'd gotten at Lowe's or WalMart.
We've probably shopped in more WalMarts in more states than 99% of the population on our
extended forays across the country so we pretty well know how they operate from the
customers' point of view. If you've been in one WalMart Super Center, you've
pretty much been in every WalMart Super Center. There are some minor
regional variations but overall consistency is one way the company keeps costs down.
So we quickly noted several differences in this particular WalMart.
must be a bigger problem here than in most of the stores. For example, employees are stationed at each door to check receipts as customers go
out. We see that all the time at Sam's Club (or Costco, when we had a
membership there) but rarely at WalMart.
Jim noticed that the returns procedure is a little different in this store,
As usual, one day the "greeter" at the store entrance slapped
stickers on the two items he was returning as soon as he walked in the door.
However, this woman hand-wrote what they were, added the date, and signed them. She
also adhered the stickers as tightly as she could so they were next to
remove. Our experience in dozens of other WalMart stores is that a return item is scanned electronically, a little
sticker pops out with the pertinent information, and the employee barely adheres it to the item so it's easy
for another employee to remove at the customer service desk.
When Jim took his returns to the customer service desk, the
young man behind the counter had obvious difficulty getting the stickers off. Jim
commented empathetically that they sure were stuck on there tightly.
politely agreeing with Jim, Mr.
Diplomacy -- not missing a beat -- remarked, "That's so you can't go stick them on other
more expensive items and try to return them."
Come again? Not so "someone" can't try to rob the store blind, but so Jim
couldn't do that.
Jim took personal offense and the conversation apparently went downhill from
there! Despite that, Jim tried once more to be helpful by pointing out the
specific items being returned on
the two separate receipts he presented but the employee quickly retorted,
"I'm on it. That's why they pay me 10¢ an hour
more than the minimum wage."
Methinks the guy was having a bad day at work or simply considered himself
well above the job description. Thank goodness most WalMart
employees aren't this cynical and undiplomatic with their customers or we wouldn't shop there.
Still, this fella's inappropriate remarks gave us both a good laugh when Jim
told me about them later.
"Humor is our way of defending ourselves from
by thinking absurdly about them."
~ Lewis Mumford
Another day Jim went back into the same store to get a few items and remarked
to the cashier at one of the quickie (?) lanes that he was surprised that he'd
never seen any of the four
self-checkout lines open. He'd rather use one of those than stand in line
for a cashier.
"Oh," she chirped, "We don't have enough employees to keep them
OK, think about that one for a few seconds. Self-checkout, not enough
employees . . .
What's wrong with that picture???
I might have been laughing my head off at that point but Jim was more
diplomatic. He immediately saw the irony but gently pointed out to the poor
misguided woman that it takes only one employee to monitor four
self-checkout lines in every other WalMart we've shopped in.
cashier replied, "but that would mean a cashier would have to be taken off
another line." (Think about that response, too.)
After hearing both these scenarios when Jim got home, I was thinking two
- this store must have a rookie manager, and
- this is good fodder for a comedy routine!
You can find humor and irony anywhere, even (especially?) in a WalMart store.
As they say in Texas, "The engine's runnin' but ain't nobody drivin'."
(Translated to other slang we use, "Not the brightest bulb in the pack" or
"Not the sharpest crayon in the box.")
My sister would probably say these are only a few of the reasons she
dislikes Big Box stores, especially WalMart, but they remain favorites
of ours. You just have to maintain your sense of humor and work around the
ironies when you shop there.
PARKING OVERNIGHT AT WALMART
"A sense of humor is a major defense
against minor troubles."
~ Mignon McLaughlin
While we're on the subject of WalMart . . .
Some folks find humor in our practice of parking at WalMart or Sam's Club overnight
in our camper when we're in transit from Point A to Point B.
OK, we laugh about
it, too -- all the way to the bank!
To us and many other RVers it makes perfectly good economic sense. All we want is a
safe, convenient place to park overnight so we can rest up for the next day's
journey. The stores where we
park have security guards and cameras outside and they are convenient to the
freeways or highways we're using. We don't need hookups
or any of the amenities for which private campgrounds charge $30-$50 a night.
In addition, private campgrounds are often miles out of our way.
The sun sets behind a WalMart parking lot
somewhere in NM or AZ
during one of our trips. That's our
camper and truck.
Call us cheap if you want but we prefer "frugal" and "savvy."
Once we reach our destination we're more than happy to stay in a real
campground (although more often a public one than a private one).
Another great convenience at WalMart or Sam's is being able to find just about anything we need in the store.
As much milk as we go through, for example,
we have to restock frequently. Our nine-cubic foot RV refrigerator reasonably
holds no more than two gallons of milk at one time. Jim and I go through two
gallons of milk in about three days. It's the same story with fresh produce.
There's usually something we need. Consequently, we always drop some $$$ at the WalMarts and Sam's Clubs where we park overnight.
Not only is it convenient for us, it's a good way of saying "thanks for the free parking."
There are downsides, of course. It's healthy when we find humor in that,
Bright lights, nearby trains, and traffic noise are the
biggies. It's usually a little quieter at Sam's Clubs because the stores close
overnight (most WalMarts are open 24/7 now) but the Sam's we choose for
convenience sake are usually close to busy freeways and sometimes rail lines,
too. They also keep their lights on all night and clean their parking lots at
This is our newer camper and truck
parked at a relatively quiet Sam's Club
with no construction or train noise. We even had a
Bradford pear blooming outside our door.
We managed to find two Sam's Clubs within the past year where construction workers
were doing their thing after the stores closed. We didn't know that, of
course, until after 8 PM and we were all settled in and didn't want to move. One crew was working on the
building's façade, the other adding decorative stones with a front-end loader
to the dividers in the parking lot. You can imagine how noisy that was!
Ear plugs solved those problems pretty well but not entirely.
That's the real price we sometimes pay to stay overnight at a Big Box store
but we still managed (later) to laugh at the humor and irony: Boy,
we sure know how to pick 'em, don't we?!
Occasionally we find a community that has local ordinances prohibiting
overnight parking in a WalMart or Sam's Club lot. Those are usually precipitated by
nearby private campground owners who are losing business, not Wally World. In
fact, a couple WalMart managers have told us it's perfectly OK with them to
park there despite city ordinances. They weren't their idea. They appreciate the business loyalty
of many RV owners.
We usually move on when we see those ordinance signs,
however, preferring not to be awakened by a possible knock on the door at 3 AM
by the local sheriff whose sister owns a private campground down the road.
There's nothing funny about that until much later!
Despite the negatives we appreciate the generosity of the company and will
continue to do business with them.
LIVING AT WALMART VIDEO
Staying one night in a WalMart or Sam's Club parking lot is fine
but folks who abuse the privilege can ruin it for others. Some definite no-no's
parking near the entrance in a big rig, dumping gray water in the parking lot, littering,
staying several days in a row, or
looking like you're "camping" there.
Which lets me segue into the next topic . . .
"I just lost my job in this troubled
I couldn't make the payments so the bank
foreclosed on me.
Well now I've hit the road, looking for the
land of the free,
And this is what I found in every little
from sea to shining sea . . . "
"I'm livin' at a WalMart, America's free
Livin' at a WalMart, night parking is
Well, ain't that somethin', though I ain't
I've got everything I need . . . at a
Good livin' in my little RV."
~ first stanza and refrain of a song on Pat Pepin's CD, In It
For the Long Haul
We recently found a hilarious YouTube
video by Michele Midnight Productions with Pat Pepin
singing a song called "Living at
WalMart." You gotta watch it! It's just over three minutes long and
requires Adobe Flash on your computer.
[Warning: this is one of those catchy little tunes that may stick in
your head for a while . . . ]
Although the video is "over the top" and (hopefully) a farce, it
illustrates all the goods and services you can find at a WalMart Super Center.
One-stop shopping has always been as important to Jim and me as the
corporation's generally low prices but
until we watched this video we hadn't really thought about the wide
scope of offerings.
Just think of some of the basic things you can purchase at most Super WalMarts:
- groceries and deli items
- "health" foods or fast food like McDonald's and Subway
- wine and beer
- clothing, shoes, and accessories for the whole family, from infants to
- watches and jewelry
- electronics of all types
- furniture, home furnishings, and decorative items
- books, magazines, movies, and music
- sporting goods, bicycles
- camping equipment and supplies
- vehicle parts (like tires) and supplies
- hardware items
- cleaning supplies
- office supplies
- greeting cards and party supplies
- postage stamps and mailing supplies
- pet food, beds, toys, and other items
- indoor/outdoor plants and gardening supplies
- OTC and prescription medicines
- other health and beauty items
- eye glasses, contact lenses, other vision supplies
- craft items
- gasoline and sometimes diesel fuel at some locations
How many different specialty stores does that cover? As some wags say, if
you can't find it at WalMart, you probably don't need it!
Now consider some of the services they offer, which cover
several more specialty businesses:
- take-out food or in-house fast food restaurant
- vehicle maintenance
- cell and Trac phone service
- banking, insurance, investing, and other financial services
- tax preparation
- eye exams
- blood pressure check-ups
- Docs-in-a-Box at some locations
- hair cuts and styling
- professional portraits
- photo processing
And I bet you've seen the news stories on TV of couples who meet at WalMart
and even get
married there! The video includes that, too.
Yep, you can find just about anything you need or want at a WalMart Super
Center. I'm sure I've missed a few things, too. Think about it when you shop
there next time, unless you prefer to go to separate stores for all of the
above. Even loyal WalMart customers like Jim and me don't use all those services; we prefer to use more
specialized businesses for some of them.
Much of this applies to Sam's Club and Costco, too. They have a
more limited selection of goods but offer some services to
small business owners that WalMart doesn't offer.
If you prefer a little higher quality, Target Superstores offer almost as much variety as WalMart
. . . usually at a little higher price, of course. And even large Kroger "grocery" stores now
carry indoor furniture! Lots of businesses are trying to emulate the one-stop
"Don't worry 'bout the mule, son,
just load the wagon."
(Translation: "Just do your part
and I'll do mine.")
In our multiple visits to
Texas we've learned that it has a lot more to offer than oil rigs, cowboys, and ranches as big as Rhode
Island. It's also got plenty of culture, reputable colleges, cool space vehicles,
a wide variety of terrain and weather, numerous things to do, much colorful history
. . . and a good sense of humor about itself.
Texas is more than a state. It's also a state of mind.
Even if you're just passing through the Lone Star State you can't escape reminders of
The state is so proud that it has
over 11,500 historical markers along its many thousands of miles of
roadways. That's amusing in itself to me. It would take a lifetime to stop and
read them all!
"Six Flags Over Texas" isn't just a theme park. That slogan and
business name came from the six flags that have literally flown
over what is now Texas.
Actually, there were more than six flags. That number doesn't include
any Native American flags or the multiple flags used by these six
governments: Spain (which had two different flag designs
during the nearly 300 years it ruled most of the region),
France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas (two flags, one of which is the
current state flag with its iconic Lone Star), the
Confederate States of America (from 1861-1865, when Texas
temporarily seceded from the Union), and the United States of
Native Texans are just about as proud of their sense of humor as their
history. Many Texas legends and tall tales derived from the era when the region
was a separate country unto itself. More contemporary wags have not only
maintained that tradition, they've continued to add to it.
Former President Lyndon Baines Johnson was one of its better-known
storytellers. At his presidential library in Austin you can hear an animated
life-sized LBJ in his cowboy clothes telling some of those stories. There are many others who are still out there weaving tales and keeping alive
the myths and legends that make Texas seem larger than life.
I get a real kick out of the "Don't Mess with Texas" billboards and ads.
What a great slogan! Begun in 1986, the campaign uses typical Texas bravado
and humor to combat the evils of
litter. It also sends a secondary message, I think, about the fierce
independence these folks have. There are some political renegades even today that would
like to secede from the Union again!
I wanted to use the "Don't Mess with Texas" logo here but it's
trademarked; even the slogan is trademarked by TXDOT. You'll have
website to read all about the successful anti-litter campaign and see a
quarter century of its clever ads . . .
"This ain't my first rodeo . . ."
been around a while.")
Then there's Texas slang and Texas wisdom. You hear examples everywhere. They are similar to the
colloquialisms and sayings I heard when I lived in Georgia but there's usually more "cowboy" in genuine Texas sayings than your average
One of the funnier expressions I've heard in Texas was at the Conroe YMCA when we were camping
at Huntsville State Park last month. It may not be exclusively Texan but it was the
first time I'd heard the saying -- Jim's, too, when I told him later.
One older fella greeted another one with,
"Good morning, young man." [Both men had to have been at least 80
years old.] "How ya doin' today?"
"I'm just happy I'm still lookin' at the green side of the grass!" came the quick reply.
That's a good one! I was on a nearby weight machine and too amused to stifle my giggle. The
were very happy to entertain their new audience (me! almost a geezerette) for the next ten minutes.
I was starting to feel right at home by the time I left the Y that day. Those
guys were a hoot.
It's impossible to visit or live for very long in Texas without hearing some
tall tales and regional humor. That's one of the state's many charms. I've
learned to take what most native Texans, especially older men, say with a
healthy dose of skepticism because they love to pull your leg.
When I hear what I think may be a tall tale, I just smile and play along.
That way the person doesn't know if I bought it or not. They're pleased either
way because they've passed on the tradition.
Go find some! It's real easy no matter what state you're in.
(Yes, that's an intentional pun.)
Next entry: the many charms of Brazos Bend State Park in Texas
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil