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Alright, I have no choice.

I finally have to accept the fact that I have a problem.  Actually, if I’m being honest, I’ve had this problem as long as I can remember.  However, by now, I had hoped it would be solved or that I would have simply grown out of it.

You see, unlike some (read: most) of the people I grew up with who seemed to have everything figured out, I never did.  While they knew from approximately eight years of age that they wanted to become a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a preacher, a writer, an artist, a pecan tree, or whatever, I was struggling with . . . acne, knock knees, and everything else.

While they pretended to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, preachers, writers, artists, etc., even during times reserved for play such as recess, I was trying to figure out where I fit in in the scheme of things.

While they seemed to eat and drink what they expected and accepted to be their life’s work (and have a damn good time of it), I was wondering if I would ever be chosen as a teammate and not just relegated to the team that was unlucky enough to get stuck with me.

While some of my peers were planning what high school, college, fraternity, and sorority they would join, I was struggling to understand slang along with wondering if I would ever speak publicly without stuttering.

While they were planning when they would marry and how many children they would have, I was still wanting and playing with Teddy bears and dolls.

Basically, where they had certainty and callings, I had distraction and confusion.  Some refer to this clarity as knowledge of their assignment in life.  And as I looked at them go about their callings, my question always was, when would I discover my own assignment?

I was normal, I guess.  I played house.  I pretended to have a family with children.  I pretended to have a spouse.  I pretended to be a doctor, a lawyer, a preacher, a teacher, a writer, an artist, etc. Sometimes, I even had fun.

But, none of the careers stuck with me… or maybe, I didn’t stick with any of them.  It seems that as quickly as I became interested in any subject, I became equally and just as quickly disinterested.  Why?

Why did this keep happening?  And where was that blinding certainty of action?

Maybe, if I had struggled through school or a particular subject, something would have jumped out at me.  However, I seemed to do just well enough in each subject without any real commitment that nothing ever screamed at me “do this, dummy!”

So, day after day (or year after year, I guess you could say), I was waiting for something in my life to stand out.  But alas, nothing ever did.  Ever.  So, I’m left envying people who have a clear calling.  I’m left wondering why I never received such a calling myself.

Perhaps my head is too hard or my hearing too weak.  Perhaps, I am ignoring my calling because it isn’t fancy or lucrative.  Perhaps, I need to meditate or pray harder.  I don’t really know.

What I do know is that something odd is happening.

All my friends who grew up with clear purpose and who followed their respective dreams from childhood keep soliciting my opinions, input, and advice regarding their lives, their children, their spouses, etc.  And, if that isn’t crazy enough, they all seem to value my humble opinion.

While I’m walking around frustrated with no real focus and with no clear idea of what to do with myself, my friends, the doctors, lawyers, teachers, preachers, writers, artists, etc. are all asking me (and often, exhausting me) with the weight of their problems.  What does it all mean?  What could it possibly mean?  A clue?

Can anybody hear me?

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Let’s Make America Great Again!

Confession time…

Every time I hear these words or see them in print, I’m about ready to scream.  And it’s not just because Trump’s supporters covered everything from television ads to their own bodies with it.  No.  I’m sickened by the sheer and baffling level of self delusion and historical revisionism that allows someone to utter those words and actually believe them.  Can someone… anyone… please point out to the class exactly when America was ever great?

I mean, was America great when whites first arrived to America only to find native Americans and indigenous blacks thriving and, despite being met with kindness, deciding to “colonize” land that was already occupied, kill and enslave the people living there and, if that isn’t bad enough, have the unmitigated gall to refer to themselves thereafter as Americans?

Was America great when those same invaders decided to sail to Africa, ensnare and kidnap the natives there and bring them to America as slaves to build upon the newly ill-gotten parcels of stolen land?

Was America great when they forced these same kidnapped black slaves to forget their God, their religion, their name, their heritage, their language and their culture?

Was America great when they stormed from coast to coast, driving the surviving native peoples further and further from their land and forcing them into smaller and smaller pens like pets?

Was America great when they hanged, beat, raped, pillaged and sold those enslaved black people amongst themselves for money while making them build America for free?

Was America great when it wrote a Constitution that protected its white citizens that did not include either the enslaved black individuals or the natives they boxed in even though those people needed it the most?

Was America great during the ensuing battles that followed, such as the civil war, when the north and south had different plans for utilizing the rather lucrative black peoples?

Was America great when it wanted the no longer quite as enslaved black peoples to join their military and fight, kill and die on the frontline fighting enemies that had done nothing to them while ignoring their actual enemies and tormenters at home?

Was America great when it decided to revamp the laws supposedly protecting blacks, yet never enforcing those laws, rendering the laws as useless as the paper they were written on?

Was America great when it labeled descendants of the native peoples illegal immigrants despite the fact that their ancestors were here before whites were?

Was America great when it deliberately miseducated blacks in an attempt to create a permanent underclass who would always be dependent upon them?

Was America great when it limited and controlled all banks, housing, neighborhoods, schools, churches, and all other facilities that blacks could utilize?

Was America great when it taught stories of the Holocaust in vivid detail while glossing over the horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, despite the millions upon millions who were killed each year?

Was America great when white America wanted and demanded that black America grieve for, cry harder and sympathize with victims of atrocities overseas more than they mourned for themselves and their present condition in America?

Was America great when it continuously charged black and brown people higher prices and interest rates for housing, automobiles, food and necessities?

Was America great when it allowed/allows officers of the courts to gun down, imprison, profile black people often without provocation and without repercussion?

Was America great when it attempted to punish these mistreated individuals for picketing, rallying, protesting, boycotting against being mistreated by white America?

Perhaps America was great when it provided reparations to Japan while making no effort to repair the physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and financial damages blacks had incurred directly as a result of slavery and the vestiges thereof?

You tell me!  When was America ever great?

Because, honestly, I’m a little vague on the timeframe we’re talking about here.

Can anybody hear me?

 

Remember when News was presented in a business-like format and delivered to the public without the need for musical interludes, outrageous graphics and other unnecessary entertainment related nonsense?

You don’t?  Ok, then.  So what do I mean?

I remember a time when a story broke and was simply reported.  Everything regarding the story (or at least, everything they had at the time) was presented to the masses by professional and dedicated news broadcasters.  If they had photos, they included them.  If it was an incomplete story or part of an ongoing situation, that was reported as well.

After a story was fully covered, the Anchor moved onto the next story and the pattern continued.  This procedure was followed until all stories were covered.

In between News stories—real news mind you!  Not stories about celebrity marriages or divorces—the weather was covered. . . . in its entirety.

It was not partially dispensed in bite sized pieces throughout the broadcast.  Here’s the weather for tomorrow was a simple statement, not the beginning of a mystery movie.

Back then, we didn’t sit on the edge of our seats awaiting the outcome of the forecast.  We tuned in, got the information and decided what to wear as a result of it.

We didn’t have to wait until the very end of the show to find out what we needed to do for the next day.  We didn’t have to view endless satellite and radar graphics which mean little to nothing to us anyway.

We didn’t get partial News stories, then partial weather, inundated by some 8 to 10 commercial messages in a continuous loop.

Nowadays, you can’t get up or leave the TV for any reason—not even a bathroom break—else you miss the exciting conclusion of what used to be a simple daily update!

So, you hold out.  After all, you’ve invested so much of your time and energy already.  You’ve endured countless stories about celebrity weddings, panda babies, cat videos (which I don’t have a problem with online) and sales promotions pretending to be life tips.  You’ve already waded through ridiculous muck masquerading as News.  You’ve even reviewed satellite and radar graphics regarding the rotation of the earth relative to the sun.

I advise you to do the best you can to stay.  If you don’t, you’ll have to watch it all over again, the next hour, with two different Anchors who are fully prepared to take you into the twilight zone.

Can anybody hear me?

Black cop, White cop, to-may-to, to-mah-to, let’s throw the whole thing out!

Let’s face it, regardless of the race of the police officer, they are all the same.  Yet, the media et al., would have you to believe that there is a difference  — that if an African American is pulled over by a police officer and brutalized (which may or may not result in death), somehow it makes a difference as to whether the officer involved was black or white.

People are willing to concede (albeit begrudgingly) that if a tragedy against a black person, African American or person of color is committed by a white cop then, it MAY be an act of racism.  But, if the officer is not an active member of the KKK and/or spouting racial epithets while goose stepping, carrying a noose and burning a cross, racism may be ruled out.  However, if the same level of violence occurs at the hands of a black or Asian or Hispanic police officer, racism isn’t even considered as a factor.  This is because of a fundamental lack of understanding of what racism is and what it does.

Newsflash (to America and abroad):  Racism is systemic!  Racism is causative or contributory of EVERY social malady from sea to shining sea!  But, and this is the important part, racism is more complex than a white person disliking a black person or even a white person not wanting to sit or live next to or even physically touch a black person.  Racism is EVER so much more than that.  For clarity, I quote the late Francis Cress Welsing’s definition of racism:

“Racism (White Supremacy) is the local and global power system and dynamic, structured and maintained by persons who classify themselves as white, whether consciously or subconsciously determined, which consists of patterns of perception, logic, symbol formation, thought, speech, action and emotional response, as conducted simultaneously in all areas of people activity (economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, sex and war), for the ultimate purpose of white genetic survival and to prevent white genetic annihilation on planet Earth – a planet upon which the vast majority of people are classified as nonwhite (black, brown, red and yellow) by white skinned people, and all of the nonwhite people are genetically dominant (in terms of skin coloration) compared to the genetic recessive white skin people”.

Now that we have this working definition of racism in hand, it becomes clear that racism is more than just a function of individuals who classify themselves as “white.”  It is a mindset and a system of values and beliefs all geared toward the same goal.  Much like the ideas of Freedom or Independence, Racism is intangible, but subconsciously governs the actions of all people.  And these same individuals are in total control of all areas of black people’s lives.  Thus, black person attempting to live, work or play in a country built on racism must themselves conform to racist laws, policies, religion etc., in order to attain even a modicum of success.

Simply stated, if people of color (namely black or African Americans) become police officers (or occupy any other position in a country where the laws were established during their enslavement) they are tasked to enforce the same set of rules or regulations that white police officers enforce, regardless of whether the rules/regulations are racist or not.  With that in mind, it is fair to say that a police officer is a police officer, color be damned.  Once a member of any race becomes a police officer, he or she has to honor the established CREED of police officers, similar to how gang members have to operate as one entity.  The race of the police officer is immaterial.

Black persons, African Americans, persons of color or whatever other name is fashionable at the moment are disproportionally killed by police officers for infractions as minor as a taillight being out.  They are obvious target of racism in America.  As such, they would do well to treat ALL police officers as a collective and not as individuals.

My advice to anyone of color who is pulled over by a police officer for any reason, whether the officer is black or white, is to run like hell!  You’ll still die, but at least your family won’t have to argue that you are pointing a cannon at innocent, harmless officers while tripping in a sexually aggressive drug trip.

Can anybody hear me?

Lately, I have noticed a growing trend among black televangelists who are preaching a ministry of prosperity.  They emphasize that “nothing and/or no one can stop you” when you are in sync with this “holy” way of thinking.  They cite grace and faith as guarantees for success… right along with the following disclaimer:  If it’s not working for you, you are to blame.

Perhaps your faith is not strong enough.  Perhaps a monetary seed is needed.  Perhaps you’re too sinful.

In any event, YOU are to blame.  Oh wait, there is something else you should know.

You see, there is an enemy and that “the enemy” is prepared to thwart your blessings, if you are not careful.  This enemy moves through your life and seeks only to cause harm, and demonstrate its power over this world.

Nevertheless, this “enemy” is never clearly identified, nor is there any mention made of very real external forces that may contribute to your failure.

Of course, Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub and even Abaddon are all honorably mentioned (or dishonorably, as the case may be), but as for anything tangible, that’s never really discussed.  The problem is that this leaves most people with the idea that a ghost or, even worse, a red devil with a pitchfork is all that needs to be avoided to have a good life.  If you can do that, you can successfully navigate this thing called existence.   Avoiding that spectacle shouldn’t be too difficult!  I mean, how could you possibly miss a seven foot tall being with horns?

However, the elephant in the room remains largely unmolested… as it has since days of old.  It’s not mysticism, it’s people, and a particular group at that, that stand in the way.  But that little detail is left out– that is, until white televangelists takes center stage.  You see, they can discuss it.  The question becomes, will they?

Now, this is no slight to black televangelists.  The truth is, they cannot fully discuss the elephant in the room.  If they do, they are accused of whining, complaining, living in the past, displaying a lack of forgiveness (which is unbecoming of a man of the cloth) or, worse of all, race baiting.

But the fact remains that, in order to have this particular “enemy” (the one that has destroyed more lives than any red devil with a pitchfork) addressed, it is up to white televangelists to champion the cause!

As such, I’m calling loudly on white televangelists to publicly, openly and honestly discuss racism and its vestiges with their congregations!

I am calling upon white televangelists to speak the truth and no longer ignore or allow their congregants to merely be Sunday Christians who go on to terrorize their employees, coworkers, neighbors, etc. on Mondays.  No amount of “Hail Mary’s” should exonerate so-called Christians from their obligation to love, honor and respect fellow human beings (as it has done so in the past).

If churches and other religious institutions continue to ignore this elephant in the room, the church will continue to decrease in influence and importance in the ever decaying world we now live in.

I mean, why attend church, synagogue, mosque at all if you experience the same mistreatment there that goes unchecked in secular society?  What’s the point?

Can anybody hear me?

Political Correctness…

What does it mean?

According to Wikipedia, political correctness in modern usage is terminology that is used to describe language, policies, or measures which are intended not to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people in society.

This sounds innocent enough but, what does it really do?

For me, political correctness is a destructive, unnecessary muzzle on the mouth of truth.  It inhibits anyone from speaking the truth to anyone else (regardless of substance) for fear of repercussion/ostracism.  Furthermore, it actually leads to the sort of resentment and disgust that mark the language it’s trying to curtail.

Think about it for a moment.

Does it promote education to be more tolerant of others?  No.  Does it teach the history behind the abuse or mistreatment of certain groups and explain WHY the statements are wrong?  No.  So what does it do?

It forces us to pretend and, if that isn’t enough, to provide fake comments/responses in all areas of our lives under the guise of not being offensive to others.  However, in the process, we offend ourselves and our beliefs.

Now, I’m not advocating that we have a free for all.  I’m not suggesting that we impose our personal truths, beliefs and choices upon everyone under the guise of freedom of speech.  To be clear:  Everyone has the right to govern their own personal truths, beliefs and choices.

Nevertheless, when these personal truths, beliefs and choices become the norm or mainstream, we have a problem.  And what’s worse is that if you don’t get on board with this madness, you become the problem.  YOU become the anti-social malady that needs to be removed.

When a country such as the United States purports that it is built on Christian principles and provides the Bible as the foundation on which it stands only to modify the teachings thereof to suit personal truths, beliefs and choices, this is not a sign of progress.  This is a mistake and “not” correct politically or otherwise.

Either the Bible is the Book that governs the lives of Christians or it isn’t.  You cannot have it both ways.  You cannot rewrite it for your convenience or to suit your lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong.  Other religions and religious beliefs have a right to be.  The individuals who profess these other religions are tasked to adhere to the rules thereof just as individuals professing Christianity are tasked to adhere to the rules of Christianity.

Love them or hate them but, The Ten Commandments, from the Bible on which this country claims it stands, are clearly stated regardless of race, creed or color.  If you state that you are a Christian, you are tasked to abide by the rules.  Period.

Now, I’m not discussing things like smoking or drinking even though the drinking of strong drink/alcohol consumption is addressed therein.  Let your conscience be your guide.

I’m not even going to discuss racism and the vestiges thereof.  I am not going to bring up the murder of African-American citizens in the streets of the United States at the hands of law enforcement and any other citizens who deem them inferior to themselves. I’m not even going to discuss sexism at all.

That’s because there are other behaviors mentioned in the Bible that are clearly condemned and deemed an abomination.  One such behavior is homosexuality.

Oddly enough, no matter what these religions agree or disagree on, they all seem solidified on that subject.  To me, that implies something.  The idea that religions that are, in many cases, literally at war with one another can agree on this and other things speaks volumes.

Can anybody hear me?

I have so many things to blog about today that I don’t even know where to begin.

I could start with outrage over the Senate’s public verbalization of their intent to block any nomination of the next Supreme Court Justice by a sitting President. I could lose myself in the knowledge that any sitting president in Obama’s position would take this opportunity yet, somehow, he is vilified for it.

I could go on and on about there being no justice for Freddie Gray, et al. However, I would probably run out of ink due to the sheer numbers of those maimed or murdered at the hands of the police at any given time. And then, I could thoroughly crush my spirit by remembering that these are only the ones that make the News. A lot of others occur with little to no fanfare.

I could discuss the lady who made off with a purse containing $10,000 of tuition payment monies after the owner left it unattended in a local coffee shop. But, in truth, the owner of the purse would receive as much ire as the woman who took off with it. Who in the world travels with $10,000 in cash in their purse and then leaves the purse unattended? The purse should have been surgically attached to her hand!

I could discuss the Black Lives Matter campaign.

. . . . the Cops/Blue Lives Matter campaign.

. . . . the Animal Lives Matter campaign.

However, the need to have these campaigns in the first place speaks volumes about the society we live in.

Why isn’t it obvious that all LIFE matters?

I could discuss Black History Month but… (see entry on Black Life Matters campaign above.).

I could discuss the OscarsSoWhite “controversy!” But, I don’t care enough about the Oscars nor what they stand for to even waste ink and paper.

I could discuss Bill Cosby, however, I am tired of hearing about him. Either file charges against him, arrest him, try him in a court of law and not in the media or let him be.

I could discuss Peyton Manning but… (see entry on Bill Cosby above).

I could discuss the 22 year old man who took pictures/films of under-aged (elementary school) children engaging in sexual intercourse. However, I cannot wrap my mind around the idea that elementary school children can actually physically engage in sexual intercourse, nor that no one was paying enough attention to the situation to realize what was happening on SCHOOL premises.

I could discuss the UBER driver that snapped, killed about 6 people, injured 2 more, snapped back and continued his work day as usual. But, if I were to do that, I might put my foot in my mouth.

I could discuss the decision by some states to allow transgendered individuals to choose the public restroom that they most identify with. After all, the sheer magnitude of social unrest and possible crime due to imposters pretending to be transgendered, and other safety issues, etc., should outweigh any quick decisions made in order to feign sincere interest in solving this social issue. But that’s a nonstarter as well.

So, I’m not going to.

I prefer to discuss the 106 year old woman who visited the White House, hugged the President and the First Lady, kicked up her heels and had the time of her life! Boy would I love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with her and pick her brain.

She made me happy. I like that. So that’s what gets my attention today.

Can anybody hear me?

There is something in the air that I just cannot quite put my finger on; a vague disquieting feeling that makes everything just a little out of focus. Oh, I know what it is: It’s that everybody seems so miserable.

I don’t care who they are, where they work or what capacity they work in, their gender, orientation, religion or class, they are all miserable, just the same.

The pain shows on their faces, in their movements and actions as well as in their inability to be kind or helpful to others, even when it is within their power.

It feels like they are too mired in their own suffering to concern themselves with anyone else’s…or maybe they’re just unwilling to assist someone else in feeling better when they feel so bad. After I am kind to them in spite of themselves, everything comes pouring out! It all comes flowing to the forefront like an erupting volcano!

I cannot tell you how many times someone is treating me harshly, while I am ignoring the abrasiveness and continuing with the conversation in a pleasant matter, when they suddenly begin to tell me their deepest secrets!

Stranger concept at work maybe? That could be true in one or two cases but, for the most part, it’s not applicable. You see, some—in fact, most—of these people are not strangers. They are neighbors, coworkers, family members, the mailman, the bus driver, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, etc. They are fully aware that they will see me again. However, at that moment, they cease to care.   They need relief.

I get to hear all about their feelings of failure as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a son, a father, a brother, a sister, and a person.

I get to hear about their fears, hurts, disappointments, family problems, health problems, job woes and regrets.

The voices, the faces and the problems all differ, but they all seem to have one thing in common: They seem to be in search of/need someone to let them know that all is not lost…that it’s gonna be okay…that nobody is perfect.

In spite of my own desire to bury my past under a layer of concrete, I find myself discussing my trials and tribulations (past and present) just to let them know they are not alone. Sometimes reliving it is painful but, if it helps somebody, I do it anyway. I just want them to know that I really do understand what they are going through.

Some people just want you to listen. They don’t want criticism or advice. They just want your ear without judgment.

I try to provide that too though I struggle with knowing when to give what. If I continue to care about people the way I do, I’m sure I’ll master it sooner or later.

Still, I don’t seem to be making any progress on getting exactly WHY everyone is so sad. I haven’t even figured that out for myself.

Can anybody hear me?

Tired . . . Tired . . . Tired. . . .

I don’t know about you but, I can’t do this anymore. I am so tired and fed up with my job and my life! Nothing is going the way I thought it would go. I cannot believe I rushed through my childhood to get to this overrated thing called adulthood!

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suicidal. I don’t want to die! In fact, the opposite is true. I just want to live! I mean really live . . . not just killing time while I survive from paycheck to paycheck. I don’t want to just hop from weekend to weekend with only tedium in between. I want a real life where you get to work and play! Simply stated, this ain’t it!!

I’m not even talking about being filthy rich or anything like that. I don’t want notoriety or the inability to walk the streets! I certainly don’t want to be in constant fear that some knucklehead is gonna kidnap one of my children either!!

I just want to be comfortable. I just want to not worry about EVERYTHING! Bills. Education for my children. Insurance. Employment. Wars. Violence. Constant repairs. Listening to endless complaints and filing even more myself.

It’s enough to make you want to get under the bed and stay there forever.

It’s enough to make you want to be a child again, forever under the protection (and support) of someone else!!

I mean, think about it. There are only about five things you get to do as an adult that you aren’t legally allowed to do as a child:

  • Driving
  • Sex
  • Smoking
  • Drinking
  • Voting

Let’s face it, you’ve done all of those things by the time you are 21! After that, what’s next?

If you don’t know, let me tell you.

Responsibility!!!

That’s right…responsibility. Before you even get to “enjoy” this thing called adulthood, you get weighed down by a thousand concerns that are dropped on you all at once. You worry about completing college/trade school, then living single for a minute before getting worried that you’ve been that for too long. Then you worry about getting married and before you now it you’re having babies. Adorable, lovable, utterly helpless, dependent and self-centered babies.

Now you focus on the children until they get tired of the attention that they once demanded and cherished and the vicious cycle begins anew, only it’s them finding out the horrible truth about growing up and not you.

So, right about now, childhood should be starting to look really good. How many are with me?

Can anybody hear me?

Ever hear somebody telling a really long story? You know, the kind that drags on and on for several minutes longer than the actual content would suggest is possible. Have you ever noticed that, right as they are finally getting to the end, they add: “And another thing,” before spewing more nonsense? I mean, you are already almost hating the sound of their voice as well as their deviated septum when, just like that, “and another thing” puts an end to any hope you had of getting away.

Somehow “and another thing” leads to another couple of minutes, which then leads to hours of more talking and often a word for word re-telling of the entire story in every painful detail!

For the sake of politeness you, once again, try feigning interest while your mind is wandering here and there. After all, you were raised to be polite, right?

Anyway, a couple of well placed, “Aha’s”, “Oh’s” and “You’re kidding’s,” really come in handy and make it seem as if you are somehow remotely interested in what this person wants to—not “has to”—say!

Oftentimes, the storyteller is so wrapped up in their own story (and relatively minor glory) that they don’t seem to notice the glazed over look that you know has to be in your eyes.

Do you ever wonder if these individuals—you know, the ones you run from when you see their profiles on the horizon—even know how annoying they truly are? You have to wonder, are they having fun at your expense? Can they not see the emotions you are trying to suppress? Are they ignoring your obvious discomfort or do they not care? Or, worse still, are they really THAT oblivious?

We may never know.

What I do know is there are more than a few of them walking around in my general circle (i.e. place of employment, at the family reunion, etc.). Somehow, they seem to make a bee-line to me.

Who am I kidding?

I’m a freaking magnet for all things crazy, annoying, stinking and needy. People see me and immediately decide that I am the one to bother, sit next to on the train, question about the intricacies of life or solicit monies from, as if there is a tattoo or neon sign on my forehead inviting all matter of nonsense to come my way.

With the invention of answering services, caller ID, etc., I have been able to control the flow of foolishness that comes from many of my annoying family members and former friends. However, handling the annoying public is another animal altogether. Nowadays, you must navigate this hazardous land carefully to keep from being shot, stabbed or worse, talked to death!

Can anybody hear me?