Saturday, March 21, 2020

If you have to ask, then you don’t have to ask

Back before these global pandemics of Trump and the Coronavirus, back in the happy, carefree days of the early 1990s, when men still wore suits & neckties to the office, there was a popular but short-lived trend towards floral neckties.  I was around 30 at the time and anxious to look as modern as those dudes in GQ Magazine, but still held out on the floral neckwear as long as I could. 

But as more men began wearing them downtown, and finally a couple coworkers in my own office, I knew my time had come and bought a couple.  (One was a dark olive with sunflowers, I grew quite fond of that one & held onto it until I moved in 2016!)

I wasn’t the only guy struggling with these though.  One morning, I was sitting at my desk looking thru the assortment of memos in my “IN” basket (this was when paper was king and email a novelty) when I was approached by our IT guy, Mark.  He was around my age, liked by everyone but not exactly known for his fashion sense.  The minute I swiveled my chair in his direction, I was greeted with what HAD to be a vintage necktie; it was a shiny ivory with laughing cherubs, their chubby little hands tossing roses above their curly-topped heads.

Mark said “Does this tie look gay to you?”  I said it looked kitschy, and kind of perverse, but not gay.  Mark then proceeded to ask the other men in our office if they thought it looked perverted, and Ed S. said “Don’t you drive a white van?”  (Mark did, full of computer gear.)  Someone asked if it was full of candy and the entire office howled. 

Finally Rich Hester (our department head) said “Mark if you have to ask, then you don’t have to ask.”   I don’t know why, but that line always stuck with me.

I thought of all that yesterday morning, when I was visiting my dear friend Kay’s blog Musings.  She shared a link to a recent NBC news story where Donald Trump had crossed out the word “CORONA” in a speech he was making about the virus and replaced it (using his infamous black Sharpie) with the word “CHINESE”.


While this should bother anyone with a conscience and an ounce of humanity, Kay and her family were particularly upset, being Asian American.  Trump’s just gotta spread that hate whenever he gets the opportunity.  (He was even called out by a reporter for it, but was defiant.)  I sure wish he’d go away with that Covid-19.  As far as viruses go, TRUMP-1 is the worst.

But it immediately got me to thinking about my own recent blog, the one about my neighbor Mike scamming toilet paper from the other residents in our building.  It’s funny…. when it happened 3 nights ago, I was ticked off.  But when I was sharing it with a friend this morning, couldn’t stop laughing.

The thing is, when I wrote about it here I pointed out he was a young African-American man in his twenties.  Should I have shared he was black?  If you have to ask…  I’m not a racist (at least, I don’t want to be) but I can be a little thoughtless sometimes. 

Anyway, I removed Mike’s ethnicity from that post and I’m sorry for even sharing his toilet paper caper in the first place… there are far bigger things happening to all of us right now. 

To be honest though, I’d love to know how many rolls Mike wound up collecting.  Eye rolling smile

native on tie

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Eleven rolls and counting until the crap hits the fan: It almost did last night

Under my bathroom sink is a blue plastic bag containing 9 prescription pill bottles.  I’ve got 3 bottles of Oxycontin, 2 bottles of oxycodone, 2 bottles of Hydrocodone & 2 bottles labeled Vicodin.   They were all prescribed for me at different times for kidney & tmj problems in the last couple years, but I was so afraid of becoming an opioid addict (after taking one) that I hid them away.  

I’ve been told those pills are pretty valuable on the street, but here’s something else valuable I’ve got under there.  Toilet paper, 11 rolls of the precious stuff!  And I’d sooner part with the opioids.

Last night I’m sitting here on my couch, listening to Brian Williams & Rachel Maddow on MSNBC while looking at my laptop, when I hear a soft knock on my door.  I go to answer it, it’s Michael who lives up the hall from me.  He’s a young man, probably in his late twenties.   He says “Hey… how are ya…” in a very soft voice, like he doesn’t want to wake anyone up.  I say I’m great, what’s up.

He says “I don’t wanna put you out, but you got any spare rolls of toilet tissue?  I was at the store… they’re all out.”

I stood there for a minute, then said “Well um… I might, but I only have so much myself.”   An awkward silence hung between us.  The phone he was carrying lit up & buzzed then, and he looked down at it & said “Hey I gotta answer this” and headed back down to his own apartment. 

Saved by the bell!  Was he planning on coming back?  I shut my door, stood there and thought for a moment.  Yes I have 11 rolls, but who knows how long it will be before our local market has TP in stock again?  I knew he was telling the truth, I was at the store earlier and saw all the empty shelves for myself… I shook my head.  Oh, Doug!  What if YOU ran out?  Give the poor man a damn roll!

gougingLook at this:  an Amazon seller has my favorite brand, $175.00 for a six pack.  it says he only has 1 left in stock too (psst.. this is illegal)

So I grab a roll from under my sink (I honestly considered taking him 2) and walk down to his apartment.  I knock on his door and hear him say “Yo, door’s open”  so I open it, and see Mike pacing back & forth in front of his big window (we all have a 7 foot square big window), talking on his iphone.

He says (on the phone) “Hey, hold on” and looks at me, standing there with my roll of Charmin.  “Hey yo, thanks for coming through.” 


He sees me looking at his table and says “Yeah, I been asking everyone, that’s all I managed to get.”  Gee Mike, are you sure you asked everyone?  We have 102 apartments here! 

I say “um… yeah, that’s how much I have too.  Can’t help ya” and calmly shut his door.  (Yes I know, I have more.)  But of all the frigging nerve.

The next person who knocks on my door for something better be asking for a cup of sugar, because if it’s for toilet paper I’m going to demand an inspection of their apartment first.  These don’t grow on trees, y’know!


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Just another day in this so called life of mine: does it look like I’m worried? (Hint: I am)

This past Friday I got a call from my doctor’s office asking how I was doing, could we postpone my appointment on March 30 with Dr. Marvi ‘indefinitely’, did I need refills on my prescriptions, and if I was experiencing any flu-like symptoms to be sure and let them know right away. 

I thanked her for the call and asked if they were reaching out to all their patients because of this coronavirus.  She said no, just the high-risk ones.  Excuse me?  What makes me a high-risk?  “Your age Mr. Morris, and your medical condition.  Are you still taking meds daily for your high blood pressure?”   Um… yes.

A little later after that call, I got on my computer, saw an email from my sister that they were visiting different stores in search of various supplies and encountering a lot of empty shelves, and a notice from my apartment building’s management that for the time being, please restrict visits from non-residents to emergency personnel only.  For real?  The younger side of me wanted to roll his eyes and shake his head at all the drama, the older side gulped and wondered if he should take this stuff more seriously.

I decided I’d better go to the store before the weekend got here, put on my shoes & coat, headed downstairs.  Our 80-something resident Jack (who spends most of his waking hours holding court in our building’s lobby) was asking everyone if they’re loaded up on milk, you can freeze that you know, ”because once the milk runs out, ya won’t have anything to put on your cereal but your tears!”   Dude, chill!  I worry more he’s going to give himself a stroke then me running out of milk…  I think I’ll add a quart to my shopping list.

When I got to the market, things seemed normal enough—I forgot to walk down the paper goods aisle to see if they’re sold out of anything.  (I’ve got 4 rolls of paper towels & 10 rolls of toilet paper at home so I think I’m good.)  I head to the checkouts, a young woman is at the register with a much older woman bagging for her.  As I watch her swish my items over the barcode scanner, I notice 2 items are displaying the wrong price on the scanner.  I say “Thoth two hummetheth—they’re on thale.”  The girl stopped and looked at me.  I say “The hummetheth… on thale.  THALE.”  

I reached into my mouth and pulled out my stablilization splint.  “The 2 containers of hummus are supposed to be on sale.”  I pop my oral splint (for my TMJD) back in.  That older woman who’s bagging my stuff walks off with my hummus, comes back & tells the girl how to null the items and enter the sale price manually.

After I got outside and remembered I needed some cash, I head back inside just in time to hear that older woman who bagged my groceries telling a woman about the man who just left, he had to remove his dentures because he couldn’t talk with them in.  Ugh!  I don’t want her to see me, I’ll get my dough another time.

When I got home and saw Jack still sitting in the lobby, I pulled out my quart of milk.  “It’h going right in the freezer.”   He didn’t say a word, just grinned & nodded at me.

After I got on the elevator, pressed 4 and got to my floor, Opal (the woman who lives down the hall from me) was waiting to get on.  She saw my bags and asked how things looked outside.  I said pretty normal.  She told me there were 20 infected people in Pennsylvania, it was only a matter of time.  I felt like we were talking about the end of the world and us becoming zombies. 

I wonder just how bad things are going to get?   

Thursday, March 5, 2020

As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again (from paying a small fortune to file my taxes)!

I just completed my taxes.  I owe $62.00 to the Feds, and $597.00 to State.  (Ouch!  Well, in Pennsylvania it’s a flat 3% tax rate and I underestimated my quarterly tax payments.)

But I’m still rubbing my hands together in glee:  for the first time in years, I WAS ABLE TO PREPARE AND E-FILE BOTH MY FEDERAL & STATE TAX RETURNS FOR FREE.

Last year when I was sweating over my taxes, I was using the online edition of Turbotax Premier.  At the final review phase, I was checking all my numbers and something felt amiss.  I pulled out my taxes from the year prior, and yep—I was missing an 8606 Form (for reporting a Roth conversion from my IRA).  

When I called Turbotax, I got a man who didn’t have a clue what I was talking about and switched me to his supervisor, a cheerful woman who insisted the form was just a fomality.  I explained to her that no, it wasn’t; I HAD to file the 8606 form to keep from getting hit with a 10% early withdrawal penalty.  She suggested I pick one up from the Post office, fill it out myself and snail-mail it separately “if it would help me sleep better”.

This is what I was paying $139.00 for??

A couple days after all was said & done, I got another call from Turbotax, a cross-sounding woman who said the form WAS required, and now available for e-file.  After I told her I already took care of it, she said “What I want to know is, WHY is someone at your income level using our most expensive software?  We offer a free version of Turbotax right on our website, Mr. Morris.”


I told her it’s for ‘simple’ taxes only.  I tried using it before, but got a pop-up screen saying my taxes were too complex to qualify for free filing and I’d have to pay for the Premier version.   She said “Well, you’re still paying too much—if you purchase the DELUXE next year, you’ll save $30.00.” 

I told her I’d love to save thirty bucks, but the deluxe version didn’t process investment transactions.  She told me I was wrong, but she’d check.  She came back and said the online deluxe didn’t, but the CD deluxe did.  (Why is there a difference?)  I told her I couldn’t use the CD Deluxe as I didn’t have a working CD drive on my computer.  She asked me if I had a COSTCO membership.  I said no and c’mon, enough.

I knew their products better than they did!  As God is my witness, I’d never pay for Turbotax again!

And now, a year later (and wondering how I’d be filing my taxes this year) I caught a spokesperson from the IRS on CNBC a couple days ago, explaining why the government didn’t supply their own tax software products.  He said the IRS had an agreement with tax preparation companies that they wouldn’t supply free software if H&R Block, Turbotax & others did.  “You just have to go thru the IRS website to get access to them.”

I went to, clicked on “Do your Taxes for Free”, selected good ol’ Turbotax from the list of available suppliers, and instead of that screen above, got this one:


When I clicked to begin, it asked if I filed with Turbotax last year:  I said yes and they pulled all the information up.  “Any changes to your personal information, Douglas?”  Nope.  When it asked if I had any investments, I thought here’s where I get the boot and said “Yep, I have a 1099-R form, a 1099-F, a 1099-B, a 1099-DIV…“

It let me know my 1099s were found online & imported.  Nice!  A few questions later, it announced we were done, and e-filing for both Federal & State were completed.  Really??  It never asked for my credit card information, or recommended I upgrade or buy additional audit products.  It worked just the same as Turbotax Premier, without all the hassle.

Well, I still owe that small bundle to the Fed & State—and in the last couple weeks my stock portfolio has lost around 70K in value, thanks to Trump’s coronavirus (yes, I’m blaming him).  But I still saved $139.00 filing my taxes!

Life is good.  Nerd smile