Gotcher Bumpus!

I often get email meant for other John Youngs. My favorite accidental correspondent is Terry B_____., who accidentally sent me this letter today:

“As many of you know, I am the Union County Director of the National League of Junior Cotillions. We teach manners, etiquette and Ballroom Dance to 5th through 8th graders at Rolling Hills and Firethorne Country Clubs.
Recently I have had several Parents request the possibility of a full class on table manners and etiquette.
I would like to hold a Three Course Informal dinner at Mucci’s Bistro downtown Monroe on a Monday evening in the next few weeks before the busy Holiday rush. I am looking at Monday, November 29th as my first option. The students will be served bread, salad, entrée’, dessert and beverage.”

It’s taking all my willpower not to order fifty pounds of live white mice, plus a Burmese python in a burlap sack, to be delivered to the front door of the restaurant on Monday night. Or deliver a towering stack of Boston cream pies, clearly marked with stern signs saying “NOT FOR THROWING”, which will of course immediately result in a free-for-all pie fight.

Or I could hire a runner to securely tape a box of itching powder to the bottom of Mucci’s banquet table. A note announcing its presence could be taped inside the restroom, where middle-schoolers will retire to hide from all the ETIQUETTE TRAINING. These poor, wretched pawns will see the note, check under the table, and realize that they have become an instrument of pure, glorious chaos.

The possibilities boggle the mind.

(The phrase “Gotcher Bumpus” is from immortal free-spirit Penrod Schofield, the hero of Booth Tarkingon’s turn-of-the-century novels. The Penrod books are as relevant today as in 1910, and should be required reading for everyone.)

Gotcher Bumpus!

Illegal to feed other people’s parking meters?

Over at Lose It or Lose It, we’ve been making short videos demonstrating what we’re doing with the money that folks forfeit when they miss a weigh-in. We mean to be funny and upbeat — Randy is going out and making people happy with the money, but he is getting the credit. The point is that you should keep your money by hitting your goals, so you can go out and make people happy!

In our first video, Randy went out and tipped big at Salad Stop and Fennario with JP Toto’s forfeited fifteen bucks, and in the video below, Randy donates fifty bucks from Corey Floyd to the United Way:

We’re thinking about what else Randy can do: stand at Wally’s Wiener World and buy everyone’s hot dogs? “Thanks, RANDY!” folks will say to the camera. “You’re the best, RANDY!” Or, for instance, Randy can feed all the parking meters up and down Gay street in West Chester, becoming a hero to the townsfolk.

While we were discussing the parking-meter idea, the nice woman behind the counter at Salad Stop told us “you know, it’s actually illegal to do that. It’s illegal to feed someone else’s meter. Crazy, huh?”

I was intrigued. This sounded an awful lot like urban folklore (no, it’s not really illegal to write on a dollar bill, for instance.) So I Googled up the phone number for the West Chester Parking Department and asked the woman who answered the telephone if it was illegal. “Why would you that?” she asked, laughing. “Can I have the money instead? Anyhow, I don’t know, I’ll ask the manager.”

A pause of a minute, and then a gruff male voice came on the line. “Why would you do that?” he asked. Except he wasn’t laughing. “No, really — WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?.”

The bizarre thing was, he really sounded angry, as if I had offended him. I told him it was just a hypothetical question, that we were talking about it and it sounded like urban folklore to me. Was it true that-

“Yes, it’s true”, he said, “and if we see you doing it, we’ll call the police and have you arrested.”

Now, let me be clear — this is not a blog post about a parking services manager being grouchy. Fine, the guy was grouchy, I’d expect that. But why did he sound so deeply angered? What previous history was I unaware of? Had West Chester been beset by a lawless gang of Bolshevik meter-feeders in the sixties, and this fellow was duty-sworn to enforce the draconian meter-bolshevik measures enacted forty years ago?

The answer, says Snopes, is “maybe”. In some towns, apparently, folks would follow ahead of the meter-readers, stuffing quarters in the expired meters, then putting an envelope under the windshield wiper announcing what had been done and asking for a donation – more than a quarter, less than the fine that had just been avoided. If I were a meter-reader, I would be annoyed by that. Was that the explanation?

After reading Chapter 104 of the West Chester Ordinances, I can’t see anything about feeding someone else’s meter at all — only a prohibition on feeding a meter so that a car overstays its maximum time. For instance, if you’re parked on Gay street in West Chester, you’re only supposed to stay for two hours max. If the car had been there for an hour and forty-five minutes, and I went up and pumped the meter so that an hour remains, I’d be violating the ordinance by allowing the car to overstay its welcome. Is that what the problem is?

Or is it just as simple as “full meters don’t generate tickets, and tickets are where the money is?

UPDATE: some more googling reveals this Jackass clip of “The Meter Fairy” involving a mincing ballerina. A lot of Jackass stunts started as Camp Kill Yourself pranks here in West Chester… yeah, that might explain the anger.

Illegal to feed other people’s parking meters?

Weekend Adventures: Tigers! Sailboats! Formal wear!

This weekend, Kate had a sewing retreat with her friend Ericka. When that happens, I flip out and try to pack as much adventure as I can into the daddy-daughter weekend. This is probably genetically-coded behavior. Anyhow, this weekend was a doozy!

First, we went to the Philadelphia Zoo, where I discovered that in the couple of years since we’ve been here, zoos have started using aquarium technology so that you can get INCHES AWAY FROM THE GIANT TIGER, who of course is acting all cool and collected like it doesn’t notice all the kids just a whisker away:

Philadelphia Zoo with Lydia

Sunday morning, we got up at the crack of dawn to drive down to Delaware City, so we could make the trip through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal with Will and Stephanie, as a part of their trip from Maine to the Bahamas!


Will and Stephanie’s 37-foot Benetau cruising sailboat is SO FREAKING FANTASTIC. I’ve lived in Manhattan apartments that were smaller, and that were not cunningly integrated with propane stoves, and diesel engines, and folding tables and all sorts of awesomeness. Seriously, as you can see in this short video, I think this is the closest you can get to living on the Firefly. Except Everybody is nice like Kaylee (well, except for Euonym the cat, who is a candidate for Jayne.)

Hot Cocoa in the Cockpit!

We motored through the canal from Delaware City to Chesapeake City (you can see more photos in the photoset here), eating Stephanie’s cranberry scones and drinking hot chocolate, then took a taxi back to our car. What a GREAT day!

Back home in WC, we helped my dad finish cleaning out his house before a real-estate sale on Tuesday, and he re-discovered my grandfather’s fox-hunting evening scarlet. This is the tailcoat that I wore to my high-school graduation:

Helping my dad clean out his house before closing. Exhibits A and B

Phew, what a weekend! I’m glad Kate is home now — I’m worn out!

Weekend Adventures: Tigers! Sailboats! Formal wear!