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Business, Humor and Guts


Do you ever feel like we live in dour times, when nothing can be funny because it might offend someone, somewhere?

You see this a lot in big corporations, where they bend over backward not to offend anybody, anywhere because a tiny minority of people are offended by pretty much everything.

Then you see some rare bright spots of businesses just trying to do a good job and make a living without losing their sense of humor. An example is the sign in the bathroom of the auto shop in Huntington Beach where we get our truck serviced.

“Please don’t flush sanitary napkins, paper towels, kittens or puppies, or hopes and dreams down the toilet,” it says. I would never do any of the above, but especially, I would not flush puppies, hopes or dreams. I’m not really a cat person, but I would never dream of flushing a kitten down the toilet either.

My bill for the day, for an oil change, four new tires, and 24 new lug nuts was well over $1,400, but the funny sign in the bathroom made the financial pain a little easier to bear.

FYI: the 24 lug nuts were not a rip-off. The bitter experience of having been stranded by the freeway in Tucson in the June heat with a blown tire and stubborn lug nuts that were almost impossible to get off made me a believer. One of the not-so-pleasant realities of the Ford F-150 are the notoriously cheap and hard-to-remove lug nuts.

Another example of corporate humor in this virtually humorless age, is a flyer we got in the mail from Al Moses, a carpet cleaner in Glendale, who begins his pitch by warning would-be customers not to invest in saltwater fish tanks or chickens – both things, he says, are “instruments of death.”

“Saltwater fish just drop dead for no reason,” he warns. Consider your tank death row.”

Chickens aren’t much better.

“We started with 10 chicks a year ago, six turned out to be roosters,” his ad reads.

If you get roosters, everybody in your neighborhood will hate you for waking them up at 4 a.m. every morning and might even kill your chickens. And even if the neighbors don’t do it, the alpha rooster will eventually kill off his competition.

One of the four hens got sick and died, and although the surviving three became family pets, the cost of food, shelter and various other chicken paraphernalia, not to mention the personal labor involved, meant the hens would have to live to three times their life expectancy for us to break even in fresh eggs, he said.

On the other hand, if you want your carpets cleaned, Mr. Moses is your man.

We don’t need our carpets cleaned, we recently had it done by another company, but next time, I will call Al.

The point of all this is, I don’t want to flush away my sense of humor or my dog, I certainly don’t want to raise saltwater fish. And even though I would be tempted to raise chickens if I lived someplace where they could be free-range happy creatures, I do understand the risks.

The good news is that out there in the real world, people still have a sense of humor and that alone is enough to brighten my day.


– George Lee Cunningham

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