Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Divorce Calculator

Did you know there is a formula that determines how likely you are to get divorced?

Just visit the “Divorce Calculator” at divorce360.com, and answer five simple questions, including:

How old were you when you got married?

What is your highest level of education?

How often have you told your wife she could have her own gravitational field?

Okay, I made that last one up. It turns out that being a complete jerk is not a factor in determining if you are likely to get divorced. It only matters when you got married.

What a relief, I must say!

I found that only 5% of the people like me are already divorced. It was reassuring to know that my wife will probably continue to stay with me even if I bring home a prostitute who suffers from violent cocaine withdrawal symptoms.

Or – dare I even say it – if I don’t wash out my cereal bowl in the morning.

But then I read that 5% means I am at “average” risk of divorce.

Interestingly, only 4% of people like my wife are divorced, which suggests I might somehow get divorced without her.


Anyway, as if the Divorce Calculator wasn’t helpful enough, the site also offers relationship advice, including “Tips for a Healthy Relationship.”

These “tips” include such valuable nuggets as “learn to communicate” and “seek out a therapist.”

I’m sure all of you out there suffering through a difficult marriage are slapping your foreheads, asking, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

As valuable and comprehensive as divorce 360.com may be, I can save my fellow husbands out there some time and legal fees by dispensing my own can’t-miss marriage advice.

Experts say one of the largest sources of marital strife is money. Therefore, you need to make more money. Get started right away.

“That won’t work,” I can hear you saying, “because my wife will just find more ways to squander our increased income.”

Believe me, I know. How dare she waste hard-earned family resources on yet another pair of shoes when you’ve been saving up to get the NFL Network?

This is why you must start hiding money.

(Don’t put it in the same place where you’re hiding the birthday present for your mistress. If your wife finds them both at the same time, you can expect double the consequences.)

Children also help ruin marriages. First of all, never blame a child for taking up so much of your attention and energy that your wife has none left over to give to you. Instead, blame your wife for wanting to have children in the first place.

Then, channel the blame into action. If your wife is “tapped out,” do things to help restore her energy and enthusiasm. She will appreciate it, and you stand to gain, too.

Even little actions, like taking a moment to rub her shoulders while she cooks dinner, or complimenting her appearance as she bends to pick up a basket of laundry, can send a clear message that her happiness is your number one concern, and that you’ll be expecting sex later.

If all that fails, you may need to take drastic measures to appease the Divorce Calculator.

Get remarried when you’re older, or go back to school. Problem solved.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

2008: Reliving the Agony, Part II

Future historians will look back on the second half of 2008 as a time when billions of dollars were wasted on futile attempts to rescue the economy and public officials engaged in record levels of illegal behavior, but Americans found New Hope.

As in, “I hope this charming young man we just elected President can back up his glittery message by, you know, making good decisions and stuff.”

Let’s break it all down:

July: Battling brain cancer, Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy heroically returns to Washington to engage in some political posturing.

The world’s eight richest countries agreed to a landmark new treaty that will compel future generations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions, thus solving the problem of global warming, at least until you and I are dead.

Congress passes a new law exempting politicians from prosecution for tax evasion, soliciting prostitution, taking bribes, abuse of power, and eating trans-fats.

August: John McCain, demonstrating the kind of “maverick” behavior that made him popular with independent-minded voters, dresses George W. Bush in drag and makes him his running mate.

Russia invades Georgia, which causes great alarm and outrage among roughly 75% of Americans, until they realize that Georgia has all those confederate flag-waving gun nuts, so they’ll be just fine.

Michael Phelps wins eight gold medals by refusing to breathe the air in China, instead holding his breath from the time he got on the plane in the U.S. until the end of his last race in Beijing.

September: In the thick of hurricane season, Americans dutifully avoid the news for a while.

The Bush Administration spends several weeks putting together a bailout proposal for the economy, but Congress rejected it because it did not include enough bonuses for highly-paid corporate executives.

Wall Street does a fantastic impersonation of Tom Brady’s left knee.

The world learns that Sarah Palin’s unwed teenage daughter is pregnant, which conservative, family values-oriented pundits everywhere declare to be perfectly normal and ok. Meanwhile, Palin refuses to release her own medical records, probably because she doesn’t want people to know she is actually Tina Fey.

October: My three-year-old daughter declares that for Halloween, she will be a cheerleader, a Tigger, a ballerina, a pirate, and a fairy. She vaults into lead in the Presidential polling.

Congress finally passes a $700 billion bailout bill, and not a moment too soon, because they barely have time to stretch and crack their knuckles before getting started on the next one.

November: After an historic campaign, Barack Obama makes history in an historic way by finally becoming the official Democratic nominee for President in history.

In a shrewd investment move that immediately earns the admiration of Wall Street insiders, Somali pirates capture a Saudi Arabian oil tanker.

Terrorists kill 170 people in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India. Americans remain glued to coverage of the three-day rampage until “Grey’s Anatomy” comes back from commercials.

December: Barack Obama selects Hilary Clinton as his Secretary of State, despite the fact that he spent most of the year questioning her qualifications to run a donut shop, much less hold responsibility for any sector of the federal government.

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is arrested for doing what just about every politician in the world has done since the beginning of recorded human history.

Canada’s Prime Minister implodes the parliament and establishes a government made up of elk. Nobody notices.

Americans tiptoe into 2009, realizing they have just twelve more months to try and salvage the decade.

Friday, December 19, 2008

2008: Reliving The Agony

It’s that time again, when people in the media notice there’s nothing going on, and decide to write about events in the past as though they are still relevant.

Let’s get started:

January: As the Iraq war rages on, various suicide bombings in the Middle East and endless wars in Africa rage onward, killing thousands of people you don’t know. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton sheds a couple of public tears over the stress of campaigning for President.

Which do you think gets more media coverage?

Crude oil reaches $100 a barrel for the first time ever, forcing Americans to stop and think carefully about how they can do their part to bitch as loudly and obnoxiously as possible about it.

February: Americans eagerly anticipate their Economic Stimulus payments, which are all but guaranteed to keep us out of recession.

The New England Patriots’ dream of a perfect season vanishes when New York Giants receiver David Tyree makes a miracle catch by stabbing the football in mid-air with his steroid needle.

In Hollywood, the writers’ strike finally ends, and Americans scratch their heads and wonder why no one told them they’d been watching re-runs for three months.

March: A 260-square-mile chunk of Antarctic ice disintegrates. Bush immediately sends a team of geologists to find out if there was oil under there.

In a shocking development that took everyone by surprise, Israelis and Palestinians continued to slaughter each other for the 58,673rd month in a row.

Mainers suffer through a bunch of dumpy little snowstorms one right after another. Just as you get the driveway clear, here comes another 2-3 inches; enough to bring out the plow again, but not enough to close anything. Sheesh.

As expected, Dmitri Medvedev takes over as Russia’s President, and Vladimir Putin shoves his hand up the back of Medvedev’s shirt and starts speaking out the side of his mouth.

The government lends JP Morgan Chase $30 billion to buy failed Bear Stearns, a move that is sure to pump new life into the economy.

April: Protesters, apparently irritated that China’s government keeps killing people and squelching their religious beliefs, snuffed the Olympic torch several times as it made its way through Europe. Oh, the shame!

The U.S. Senate approves a $15 billion bill to rescue the housing market, including a bunch of tax breaks for builders. There will be no stopping the economy now.

Danica Patrick becomes the first woman to win an Indy-Car race; still, no one believes my wife taught her to drive.

May: Democratic Party officials compromise on how to count delegates from Michigan and Florida; they will use their fingers.

Tornadoes rage through The South, a cyclone kills 78,000 people in Myanmar, and an earthquake registering 7.9 on the Richter Scale devastates central China. More importantly, Curt Schilling’s right arm falls completely off, making it seem unlikely that he will pitch this year.

June: After five years of investigation, a Senate committee becomes the last people in America to realize the Bush Administration misled the public, exaggerating evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

Gasoline tops $4 a gallon. Thank goodness THAT will never happen again.

The U.S. Treasury Department plans a bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a move that is guaranteed to give our economy all the stability it needs for the next 500 years.

Bill Gates quits his job at Microsoft to focus on philanthropy, making it slightly harder to loathe him.

Tune in next week for July through December, if you can stand it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Timing is Everything

Are you lonely?

Are you one of the millions who will spend your favorite spiritual and/or commercial holiday watching “paid programming,” or, even worse, visiting parents or relatives?

When you see wholesome family Christmas scenes, like a white suburban family with 2.5 children hanging red stockings by their electric fireplace, does it make you wish their wholesome family golden retriever would leave an accident under their picturesque Norman Rockwell Christmas tree?

If so, I have some encouraging words for you.

A family of your own may be on the way sooner than you think.

Look, even I’ve got one, for crying out loud.

I used to be one of you, a sociopathic misogynist with anti-social tendencies.

I was 23. It was a simpler time, when “Survivor” was the only reality program on TV, and “high speed Internet” meant not getting a busy signal the first ten times you dialed in to AOL.

Soured by a string of hard luck with the ladies dating back to 4th grade, I was primed for a life of irresponsible bachelorhood.

As it turns out, this was the perfect time to meet my future wife.

My parents run a dance studio, and this random woman needed a partner. I sometimes served as their dance gigolo.

Had I known what was at stake, I probably would have handled the situation differently.

I might not have shown up wearing a ratty, torn T-shirt and cut-off jeans, both smeared with tar and various other stains.

Having come straight from a couple of hours broiling on my grandmother’s roof, where I had been sealing a leak, I probably should have stopped to take a shower.

But how can I regret anything, considering how it all turned out?

Who knew that the perfect strategy was to try to sabotage any chance of attracting a woman, or even a moderately selective rodent?

It all proves that first impressions mean zilch. As we got to know each other, she realized my personality was not quite as horrendous as my wardrobe, hygiene habits, and general social awareness.

Several weeks later, we met up at a dance, and ended up sharing a meal afterward at Pat’s Pizza in Orono.

Eventually, the topic turned to relationships, which gave me the opportunity to inform my future wife that I had sworn off women.

“That’s too bad,” she said, “because I was starting to get pretty interested in you.”

This could have been considered coming on a bit strong. It certainly caught me off guard.

I’m not sure what I said, but I think it was something along the lines of, “oh.”

It had been a lot easier to embrace bachelorhood when I was convinced no honest, self-respecting women available would be caught dead in the same zip code as me anyway.

The conversation carried on, from politics, family values, and various other important topics. At midnight, she turned 30. We punched up some Elvis on the juke box and danced the jitterbug for the few stragglers left of the Friday night Pat’s crowd.

That just about sealed my fate.

So my advice to the lonely this holiday season is to get out and participate in something – volunteer at a soup kitchen, go take a dance class, whatever it takes.

And when you encounter a potential mate, be sure to either ignore that person or maybe, if necessary, tell him or her to go straight to hell.

Then send me your family Christmas card in a few years.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Revenge of the Car Buyer

“Your trade-in offer is a full $2000 less than the listed Blue Book value for a trade in,” I said. “Can you explain that?”

The salesman shrugged his shoulders and said he would go talk to the manager.

He came back five minutes later. “Tell you what we can do,” he said. “We can go ahead and leave the steering wheel in your new car. Normally, we wouldn’t do that, but I like you guys and I want to earn your business. And we’ll wipe the congealed blood off the windshield for no extra charge. That should make up the difference.”

My wife and I actually considered the merits of his offer before realizing it still left us with a payment that burst our budget like a tomato in a microwave.

Eventually, we got up to leave, saying, “I guess it’s just not going to work out.”

Maybe it was because it was the end of the month. Maybe it was because Christmas is coming up and the economy is turning the retail auto business into a ride through the intestines of a sick narwhal.

Whatever it was, I’ll never be able to explain what happened next. You should have seen the crazed, desperate look in the salesman’s eye. Then some mystical force held us in place. Profound fatigue invaded, and the urge to sleep penetrated our eyeballs, fogging the world.

Next thing we knew, we were signing the final purchase papers.

“This one is the application for title, and this one says you received notice of our privacy party.”


“And form just acknowledges that we told you about the Gap Insurance, the Body Integrity Insurance, the Tire Insurance, the Extended Warranty, the Way Extended Warranty, the Overenthusiastic Fishtailing Fender Bash Insurance, and the Beverage Spillage coverage.”

“Of course.”

“And this form certifies that you are a senseless boob who should not be allowed to have a checking account, let alone a car loan.”

“Yes, yes. Just let me sign it, already.”

Because they had to jack up their offer for our car to its actual trade-in value, the advertised special offer that brought us there in the first place no longer applied (in the ad industry, this is known as a “bait-and-switch”).

In the end, we got a reasonable price on our trade in and paid a reasonable price for our new car, but not an especially good deal.

What sickens me, though, is that I felt so unaware of the situation, letting the dealer control the process, rather than participating as an equal in the negotiation.

That’s my own fault, but it sure doesn’t make me feel any more sympathetic to the automobile industry as it begs for money from the government.

The big bank bailout was different. I went along with it, mainly because I don’t understand the financial industry.

All I know is the idea of banks failing seems just wrong. They exist to make money. They don’t make cars or computer chips or fancy toilet seats with playing cards embedded in them, or anything else subject to the law of supply and demand. They just make money. So if they can’t even manage that, we are all in deep doo-doo.

But cars are another matter. I know a lot about cars, and how cars are sold, so it doesn’t hurt my feelings at all to see any car company get its comeuppance.