Friday, December 30, 2022

Insight: Peering into the crystal ball

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

As previously mentioned, way back in the 1990s I never missed a New Year’s Eve episode of ABC’s Nightline television program because that always featured their annual predictions show.

Nightline’s Ted Koppel would host the same celebrity panel every year of prognosticators that featured Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and former presidential speechwriter William Safire; economist Arthur Laffer, the so-called “architect of the 1980s supply side economics” movement; and former Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford, the dean of American sports commentary. For 60 minutes each New Year’s Eve, Koppel would steer the panel through a discussion of their ideas about the future and then each panelist would make three bold predictions for the new year after a short review of the accuracy of the panel’s previous year’s predictions.

It was riveting television for me because I’ve always appreciated the wit and insight of Koppel as a moderator. He was able to move with ease from topics ranging from politics to religion to business to sports, all while keeping panelist egos in check and the discussion focused on what would be in the news in the year ahead.

When Koppel retired from ABC in 2005, the annual New Year’s Eve prediction show ended. William Safire died of pancreatic cancer in 2009 and Frank Deford passed away at age 78 in 2017.

Despite the Nightline prediction program’s demise some 17 years ago, I find myself missing the panel’s humor, intuitiveness, and boldness in predicting future events. Last year, I started my own New Year’s tradition by making a few annual predictions of my own.

Let’s review three of my predictions published in this column last year for 2022 and then I’ll offer five new ones for 2023:

** I predicted last year that former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady would retire at the end of the 2021 season and instead would run for Massachusetts governor and win in a landslide election. Fact: I was partially right. Brady did retire, but then unretired soon thereafter and returned to professional football. He did not enter politics.

** I predicted last year that the price of gasoline for American motorists would stabilize at about $3 per gallon by the end of 2022. Fact: I was wrong. The current price of gasoline in Maine averages $3.44 for a gallon.

** I predicted that the Major League Baseball lockout would end in mid-March 2022, and I predicted the New York Mets reaching the 2022 World Series but ultimately losing in six games to the Toronto Blue Jays. Fact: I was partially right. The MLB Lockout did end on March 10, but the Mets and the Blue Jays both failed to reach the World Series, although each team did make the postseason playoffs. Houston defeated Philadelphia in six games to win the championship.

Here are my five new predictions for 2023 and when we revisit this end-of-year column in The Windham Eagle a year from now, let’s see how accurate my conjectures prove to be.

** Quarterback Tom Brady will be released following the end of this year’s NFL playoffs by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he will be signed again for one final season by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Brady will provide a spark that will help push the Patriots and Coach Bill Belichick back into the playoffs next year.

** The film “The Pale Blue Eye” starring Christian Bale will win the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2022. Cate Blanchett will win the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in “Tar” while Austin Butler will receive the Best Actor Award for his tour-de-force role in “Elvis.” The Best Director Oscar will be awarded to Sam Mendes for “Empire of Light” in an upset over Steven Spielberg for “The Fabelmans.”

** In women’s fashion, anything crocheted will be a hot commodity, including oversized tops and midi-length dresses. The hottest fashion trend for 2023 for men will be the return of denim to massive appeal and V-neck collars for sweaters and pullover shirts. Pink will be the trendiest color for women’s apparel while cereal and cartoon-themed Croc footwear will explode in popularity among children.

** America will accelerate scientific efforts to harness fusion, which may turn out to be a plentiful and carbon-free energy source without the associated dangers of nuclear fission power developed after World War II. On Dec. 5, scientists in California were able to use a laser to successfully ignite fusion fuel, but commercial use for nuclear fusion is still a long way away. Yet fusion does hold enormous promise for the future and could eventually power automobiles, eliminate carbon emissions for the environment and send humans into space at a mere fraction of the cost of any current energy resource. It would eliminate America’s fossil fuel energy dependence and significantly bring down the cost of everything for consumers from groceries to airline travel to the expense required to heat homes.

I’m certainly not in the league of Nostradamus or the Nightline panel, but as Yogi Berra once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Wishing a Happy New Year in 2023 to one and all. <

Andy Young: Adios, au revoir and sayonara to 2022

By Andy Young

What’s to be grateful for? My goodness; everything! Life. Health. Freedom of expression. Three great kids. A roof over our heads. Electricity. Potable water at the mere turn of a wrist. Reliable transportation. Festive occasions shared with family and friends, and the time to fully enjoy them. People who appreciate me for what I am, and who don’t fret over what I’m not. A job I love. Supportive, kind colleagues. Great neighbors. Friends who constantly provide me with encouragement and affirmation, and complete strangers who do so as well, albeit without always knowing it. All the cool things and places I’ve been, and all the ones I’ll visit in the future. Old friends I’ve re-connected with. New ones I haven’t met yet. The tangible presence of people, both near and far, who impact my life every day, and sweet memories of the folks who, while they’re gone in body, remain ever-present in spirit.

But sober (or sometimes less than sober) reflection can conjure less happy recollections as well: professional setbacks, blown opportunities, broken romances, and yet another year of not winning the Powerball jackpot are just some of the disappointments many people, if they’re honest with themselves, have dealt with during 2022. Even more worrisome: the very real possibility that some of those heartaches will reoccur in the year about to begin, and yet again in the ones to follow.

I try hard to appreciate my many blessings, rather than obsess over misfortune or imperfection. But even glass-half-full types can fall victim, however briefly, to feeling blue at year’s end.

For example, I’m facing the certainty that I’ve just seen my last year containing three identical digits. I partied like it was 1999 in 1999, and the same went for the following year. Perhaps it was the more-than-two-decade drought of years containing three of the same number following 2000 which made 2022 so special. But alas, I won’t live to see another such calendar year. And sadly, those reading this probably won’t either, since the next one isn’t until 2111.

But at least we’ve all made it to 2023. Those who didn’t include world leaders Queen Elizabeth II, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Shinzo Abe; entertainers Sidney Poitier, Olivia Newton-John, Vin Scully, and Meat Loaf; sports standouts Gaylord Perry, Bruce Sutter, Maury Wills, Charley Taylor, Ray Guy, Len Dawson, Franco Harris, Bill Russell, Bob Lanier, Paul Silas, Guy Lafleur, Mike Bossy, and Clark Gillies; and alas, far too many print editions of numerous American newspapers and magazines.

And pity Betty White, whose 100th birthday would have been January 17, 2022. Anticipating the big event, People Magazine put her on its cover. That special issue of the magazine was already on newsstands when the beloved actress died on New Year’s Eve, 2021. Adding insult to injury, her passing’s timing kept her out of every “year in review” column that came out a year ago at this time.

Nothing in the future is assured, but I know one thing for certain. If, on the eve of my 100th birthday, People Magazine is still extant and I’m asked to be on its cover, I will politely but firmly decline.

And then there’s my annual end-of-year musical confusion. I totally get why “Jingle Bells” is synonymous with Christmas, and I understand the reasons “Stars and Stripes Forever” is appropriate for July 4th. But will someone please tell me who Old Lang was, and what was so special about his sign? <

Friday, December 16, 2022

Insight: The nosiest dog in the world

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but somehow my wife Nancy and I have become the owners of the nosiest dog in the world and it’s not because she has a large schnoz either.

We acquired this inquisitive creature six years ago in September from a rescue agency that brought dogs from the southeastern U.S. to New England and despite months of training and attendance at doggy obedience school, Fancy continues to demonstrate an insatiable curiosity for anyone who nears our residence.

Her owners have nicknamed Fancy as the
'nosiest dog in the world' because of her
altering them to anyone nearing, entering or
driving by their home.
It can be something as simple as a heating oil truck driving down our street, or a FedEx or UPS driver stopping to deliver a package to a neighbor, but once she hears them, Fancy springs to attention to let everyone know she’s aware of their presence nearby.

She can be sound asleep and curled up on the sofa when the tiny sound of our mailbox lid being lifted by our mailman puts her on high alert and at the front window barking and letting the world know she’s keenly aware of this temporary intrusion into her domain.

When students arrive for weekly tutoring sessions with my wife, Fancy’s penchant to alert us to their vehicle pulling up in front of our home is on full display. She whines loudly and proceeds to dash from the front window to one in the dining room as she keeps a close eye on the students as they make their way up our driveway to the back door for entry.

Once inside, this 40-pound sentry gives the students the once-over to make sure they are friendly and have good intent.

Fancy takes her guard dog duty seriously. Part-lab and part-unknown, her hearing is first-rate. She is aware of car doors slamming three houses away, people talking while walking up the sidewalk, and in high-protection mode when she spots a neighbor walking a dog and passing by our house.

Her senses also know when I am home from just the sound of my car door closing and door lock activation from my remote device in the driveway.

As I approach the back door, I can see her leaping to look out the window on the door. Once she confirms that it’s me, she goes bonkers wanting to let me know that she’s overjoyed that I have returned home. Fancy hops and bounces as I step through the door and wants to lick me incessantly. Sometimes she brings me a rubber bone she’s been chewing.

This dog is also aware of the sound made by the sliding door of a van carrying grandchildren from Connecticut to visit us. They only visit several times a year, but inevitably she knows that particular sound of the sliding door and runs to the front window to confirm it’s them. Once she realizes she’s correct, she becomes frantic to alert us to our visitors’ arrival and to greet them as they enter the house.

It's a much different greeting than the one received by the guy pumping heating oil at the receptacle by the dining room window. That one is much more inquisitive and more defensive, with more pawing at the window and some associated growling.

Same thing for the trash collectors. She feels compelled to keep a close eye on that once a week from the front window and make sure the trash truck moves on to the next house on our street.

We have pity for the unsuspecting door to door salesmen or signature collectors for petitions. They have no idea when they ring the doorbell that a pint-sized ferocious guard dog is eying them keenly when the front door is opened to find out what they want. But they do hear the loud barking before the door is opened.

Friends and family are aware of Fancy’s tendency to guard and protect and usually go out of their way to say hello, calm her down and allay her fears. One neighbor and friend from across the road gives her a big hug and speaks to her in a baby voice to make her feel more at ease when she visits.

And Nancy told me that when she went across the road to visit that same neighbor last week, they both could see Fancy in the front window watching and waiting for Nancy to come back home.

The sensitivity to doorbells is not limited to the one for our front and back doors. It also applies to any doorbells she may hear coming from television programs. Once she hears a sound like that, she’ll leap into action and run around in circles to try to discern where that sound came from.

Being nosy is a trait that Fancy applies not only to guarding our home but also to finding lost objects that have fallen under the refrigerator or the stove. Her sense of smell can detect a rubber ball that has disappeared under the living room couch, or a dropped dog treat in an unlikely place.

Having the nosiest dog in the world can be a curse and a blessing. But it’s amazing how much love and laughter they bring into our lives. <

Andy Young: Hibernate, then trade

By Andy Young

Ten hours after leaving for my place of employment in the wee hours of the morning, I returned home, utterly exhausted. Collapsing into a chair beside a west-facing window, I decided to treat myself to a chapter or two of reading before tending to my evening chores. Determined to make the most of the day’s remaining natural light, I opened my book…and promptly fell fast asleep.

Sometime later I woke up in complete and total darkness. Groggily groping my way to the nearest light switch, I cursed myself for not only having slept through dinner, but likely upsetting my sleeping schedule as well.

It was 4:50 p.m.

Seasonal Depression Disorder (SAD) starts affecting people like me every year in mid-December, when the part of the day we most look forward to after rolling out of bed in the morning is rolling back into it that night.

Societies that have existed for centuries at extreme upper latitudes have had generations to adjust to an annual spell of extended darkness; it’s in their collective DNA. But for those of us living where inland bodies of water don’t stay frozen from September through early May, driving to work in the dark and coming home in the dark for what seems like months is the draggiest of drags, particularly when the trip home generally concludes no later than 4 p.m.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of technology, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Whoever invented headlights that turn themselves off automatically after the car is shut off should be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, even if their creator resides somewhere outside the good old U S of A. Prior to that bit of inspiration countless drivers (well, at least this one) were annually treated, on some beautiful weekend day in April, to coming back to a motor vehicle with a dead battery. That was thanks to having started their car earlier that morning, reflexively turning on the headlights, driving to their destination, arriving there in broad daylight, and then forgetting to turn said headlights off.

Speaking of technology, I wish today’s innovators would take a break from inventing rocket ships for uber-wealthy space tourists, pint-sized vacuum cleaners, or talking computers that will play their user’s favorite Barry Manilow song (“Siri: Copacabana!”) and come up with something more useful.

Hey movers and shakers: how about conjuring something that will allow an individual to sleep from the day after Thanksgiving through April 16, and while doing so, banking what would be their normal hours of consciousness for use at a later date? Or even better, make it possible to bundle up the hours they’ve accumulated during their hibernation and trade them to some skiing/snowboarding fanatic who’d agree to sleep through their summers, bank those hours of unconsciousness, and then swap? I’d gladly give up December through March in exchange for some winter-lover’s May, June, July, and August. I’d even throw in all of April and early May if they’d give me September and the first half of October.

Were such a deal available, I’d make it in a heartbeat. Sure, I’d be giving up New Year’s Eve and Day, Christmas, and St. Paddy’s Day. But imagine living a year that included two Memorial Days, two July 4s, and two Labor Days. And by generously ceding the second half of October, I’d get to enjoy leaf-peeping season, but leave the drudgery of leaf-raking season to someone else.

Going winterless and having two summers every year is something I hope to dream about when I go to bed tonight.

At 5:30 p.m. <

Friday, December 9, 2022

Andy Young: A picture that merits only one word

By Andy Young

Like other Americans who still value the freedom to not only think for themselves, but to express their thoughts and opinions publicly without fear of governmental reprisal, I have very strong feelings about a wide variety of issues.

This photo of garbage and litter along State Road
175 near Windsor Locks, Connecticut was taken
while Andy Young  was out for a walk recently.
For example, I oppose the death penalty. I think it’s barbaric, plus it strikes me as incredibly hypocritical for a government to punish someone who committed murder by committing state-sponsored murder itself. Or, as I was taught a long time ago, two wrongs don’t make a right.

But I also understand why other intelligent, completely rational people can hold a different view of capital punishment than I do. People raised on “an eye for an eye” have every reason to believe that, at least in some cases, capital punishment is exactly what is called for.

I believe smoking cigarettes is a very bad idea. But I understand why others consciously choose to light up regularly. After all, tobacco products are designed to addict their users, and once hooked, smokers have powerful motivation to continue their habit.

A woman desiring the right to independently choose how she deals with an unwanted pregnancy is completely reasonable, but so are the inherent beliefs of those who see all abortions as murder. Those who encounter racism on an everyday basis are understandably concerned with it, just as some of those who’ve never experienced it genuinely don’t see it as a problem.

There are plenty of other issues I have strong feelings about, including climate change, immigration, the Second Amendment, animal rights, marijuana legalization, the Electoral College, iniquities in the justice system, social media’s influence, the Pledge of Allegiance, academic and societal elitism, critical race theory, charter schools, outsourcing of jobs, vegetarianism, and how greed is destroying professional athletics nearly as quickly as misplaced priorities are ruining youth sports.

But I also fully understand not only the rights of others to hold beliefs that are anathema to mine and the many completely legitimate rationales there are for those people to feel the way they do.

There is, however, one issue I feel exceptionally strongly about which confronts every American every day, and about which I cannot understand anyone holding any beliefs other than my own. That subject is littering.

I generally begin my day with a brisk walk since early morning exertion is a great way to get both my mind and my body jump-started.

However, I wasn’t very far into a recent stroll before I was moved to capture the unsightly image accompanying this essay.

I was walking along State Route 75 in Windsor Locks, Connecticut at the time. But this discouraging photo could have been taken in any state in the union.

Seeing garbage casually strewn along our nation’s roadways has always made my blood boil, but as years pass my anger over this scourge has turned to despair, because unlike constructing sensible governmental policies that grandstanding elected officials of all political persuasions can all agree on, the solution to littering is easy.

If everyone picked up their own trash (or better yet, refrained from discarding it haphazardly), there’d be no problem. The ratio of one person to one responsible disposer of refuse couldn’t be simpler.

Some see “A picture is worth a thousand words” as nothing more than an old cliche, but the adage’s meaning is perfectly clear: ideas are often better conveyed through an image than they are through any number of carefully chosen verbal descriptions.

Maybe most pictures are worth a thousand words, but the photo accompanying this column requires just one.

That single word is, “Why?” <

Insight: Recalling a newspaper carrier’s Christmas

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

My parents didn’t believe in giving their children an allowance and it was never easy to scrape together enough money to go Christmas shopping for gifts for my family each year.

Once I turned 12 though, that problem was resolved, although trying to find suitable presents for three people for $15 was a significant challenge. It amounted to spending no more than $5 per person and even in the 1960s, that wasn’t a large budget for gift-giving.

The reason that I suddenly had money at all was the result of being able to work after school let out delivering the afternoon newspaper in my neighborhood. I would make my collection route on Saturdays and if I raised enough to pay for the newspapers I delivered that week, tips I received were considered as my profit.

After a few months of chasing down residents to pay for their newspaper deliveries, I found that the best time to make collections was at suppertime on Saturdays. People tended to be home at that time and seemed willing to answer the door then.

With more than 100 newspaper subscribers on my neighborhood route, making collections was time-consuming and work best suited for an accountant. There would be weeks where nobody was home during my collection time, or they didn’t have change for a $100 bill, or if they were home and the lights were on inside, they simply didn’t answer the door.

It always seemed that I was constantly behind on my collections and making a profit was next to impossible. To make sure my newspaper bill was paid, I’d have to ask my father for a short-term loan to make up the difference I lacked, and he’d inevitably ask me why I couldn’t collect what was owed to me by the subscribers.

One Christmas, however, things changed dramatically. It was December 1967 and a subscriber on my newspaper route invited me inside his home when I was making a collection. He told me that he was a reporter for a local television station and asked me what I like the most about delivering newspapers.

When I mentioned to him that I read the newspaper every day and wanted to become a journalist someday after attending college, he was overjoyed. He asked me about delivering newspapers and I mentioned how difficult it was to keep track of subscriber’s accounts and then having to collect the money for their bills every week.

He then reached into his wallet and gave me a $50 bill which he said was a tip for outstanding service throughout the year and he mentioned that when I got ready to choose a college for journalism, he could advise my father and I about what things to watch for or avoid in the application process for journalism schools.

That Saturday my collections went smoothly, and the $50 tip helped me net a profit that week of $25, which was more than enough to make a trip to the store for Christmas shopping that coming week. It also helped me repay my father for a newspaper bill shortage of $5 that I had borrowed from him for the previous week.

The next weekend my father dropped me off at a shopping complex and the first store I shopped at was a candy shop. I found a wrapped box of assorted chocolates for $3.95 for my mother and then at a nearby home improvement store, I purchased a large flashlight for my father for $3.99. For a donation of 25 cents, outside the store I was able to have the flashlight box gift-wrapped by some Girl Scouts.

At the toy store, I found a Matchbox car carrying case for my younger brother for $4 and took it back to the Girl Scouts to wrap it for another 25 cents. I returned home and counted my change and to my pleasant surprise, all my Christmas purchases amounted to $12.44, leaving me a total of $7.56 left over.

I decided to save that money for the next time I was short on my newspaper collections so that I wouldn’t have to ask my father for a loan that week.

My family was grateful for their Christmas gifts and enjoyed spending time together over the holidays.

The following fall I moved on to attend high school and gave up my paper route to attend sports practices after school. By then the route had grown to more than 250 subscribers and I could no longer fit all the papers for delivery into the carrying racks I had installed on the back of my bicycle.

The subscriber who gave me the huge tip was Tom Schell, who went on to become the anchor for a while on the evening news for the ABC affiliate station in my hometown. In the 1970s he became better known nationally as a reporter and correspondent for ABC’s popular “20-20” Friday-evening program hosted by Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters.

I was able to eventually earn my degree in journalism and have had a long career working for newspapers. But it all began in my neighborhood as a teenager delivering papers on my bicycle. <

Friday, December 2, 2022

Insight: Reliving the past through old home movies

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

To revive and restore my holiday spirit, I recently watched a DVD that I had a friend make for me from a collection of home movies that my family had taken when I was a child.

From 1957 to 1962, the Pierce Family had a four-door
1957 Ford Fairlane that held a surprise for its owner 
when he traded it in for a 1962 Chevy Impala.
My father had purchased a Kodak Brownie 8mm camera and would film special family occasions such as birthday parties, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas mornings unwrapping presents or summer vacation trips. We also had a Kodak 8mm movie projector and screen, so once he had the films developed, our family would gather huddled in a darkened room and view them.

Sometime after my father’s death in 1991, my mother handed me a box of these old 8mm films that she had found on a shelf in his closet. She thought that the longer that they were not used, the possibility existed that the film could deteriorate, therefore losing the precious memories contained there forever.

I was able to have a camera store transfer the 8mm films onto video tape and eventually my friend Derek Suomi converted the tape into a DVD. About 2012, I made copies for my family members which I gave them as stocking stuffers that year.

Looking at some of these home movies now, after all these years have passed, is a feeling that’s hard to describe. It’s somewhat comforting to glimpse my past, but nostalgic to see people, places and activities long gone and forgotten courtesy of the hustle and bustle of daily life in the 21st century.

I vividly remember my father’s green 1962 Chevrolet Impala, but one of the films on the DVD had him standing by his two-tone 1957 Ford Fairlane sedan, complete with a V-8 engine. I had completely forgotten all about that car.

My father once told me that my mother wanted the two-door version of the Ford Fairlane, but he insisted on buying a four-door version after my younger brother Doug was born that same year. As a family we would go to the Burger Park drive-through in Henrietta, New York on Friday nights in the Ford Fairlane for 12-cent cheeseburgers and when my parents weren’t looking, my brother and I would sometimes stuff our unwanted burgers under the back seat of the car.

Of course, with my father being a thrifty sort of person, when he traded that car in at the dealer for the Chevy Impala five years later, he removed the back seat to look for any change that may have fallen under there and discovered the remnants and wrappers of more than 100 half-eaten moldy cheeseburgers.

Watching our old home movies, I was fascinated to see that everyone attending Thanksgiving dinner at our home in 1959 wore dress-up clothes for dinner, including me. There was footage of my father carving the turkey wearing dress slacks, a white dress shirt and a necktie.

When the camera panned the living room early on Christmas morning in 1960, the film showed the image of more than 100 Christmas cards lining the fireplace mantle. And I noticed that our Christmas tree was covered with tinsel which my mother called “icicles.”

I know some people still send Christmas cards through the mail, but that practice seems to decline more with each passing holiday season. I also haven’t spotted tinsel for sale in stores for many years.

One item I did notice on our family’s fireplace mantle in that 1960 film was a set of four hand-painted antique angels holding red candles and each angel having a large red letter on them spelling N-O-E-L.

One Christmas Eve in the 1990s, my mother told me the story of how she had inherited the set from her late father in his will when he died in 1956.

She said that the ceramic angels were given to her father by his grandfather, James McIntosh. Before his death in 1924, he had told the family that he had purchased them at a shop in Scotland before emigrating to Canada at the age of 16 in 1856. He carefully protected them on the journey and then again when he moved to Rochester, New York for work in the mills there in the 1860s.

My mother gave the angel set to me along with a large box of old family Christmas decorations when my wife Nancy and I bought a home in Florida in 2007 and we still have them.

The saddest part of watching the DVD was seeing members of my family, close friends and beloved family pets that are no longer with us. My Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Bernie, Aunt Bernice and Uncle Ray, our friends Bill and Ida Topham, Marge and Bob Bartlett and Marge’s mother, Sue Coleman, have been dead for years, but their kindness to me will always be remembered. The same can be said for our family’s beloved dachshund dogs, Fritz and Weenie, who were present at many holiday celebrations through the years but have long since passed.

I haven’t watched this particular DVD for a number of years but each time I do, it’s a trip down Memory Lane for me and a great opportunity to reflect about how blessed I have been in my life.

It’s true that nothing is ever really lost to us in life if we can remember it. <

Andy Young: Getting the last laugh (Almost)

By Andy Young

My high school guidance counselor was responsible for convincing me to try attending college. He accomplished this by laying out every available (at the time) alternative to furthering my education, listing choices that included cutting grass, washing dishes and pumping gas.

Andy Young shows off a copy of his latest
book, Work(s) in Progress which has 
demonstrated his expertise at writing
and his business acumen.
I’ve never regretted my decision to continue my studies, and not just because the subsequent rise of self-service gas stations would have wiped out the most alluring of my other three career options shortly after my 21st birthday.

But transitioning from high school slacker to university attending slacker wasn’t easy.

The first issue: finding an affordable school which admitted students with lackluster grades and a paucity of (okay; zero) extra-curricular activities. Fortunately. I was accepted at a large state university where the total cost of room and board for a semester was expressible in a mere three digits, but then came the next quandary: selecting a major. I wasn’t quite sure what a “major” was, but when I learned that business majors weren’t required to take any science courses, learn a foreign language, or write lengthy thesis papers, I eagerly signed up.

Unfortunately, the business school’s academic requirements turned out to be slightly more rigorous than I had expected. That was why, after four years of attending my classes semi-regularly and passing nearly all of them, I received a letter from the dean dismissing me from the program for having failed, after eight semesters, to have completed the lower division (freshman and sophomore year) requirements.

True, I had been given plenty of prior warning but to be fair, every time I took a required pre-business course, like statistics, calculus, or computer science, I ended up flunking it. That’s why I began opting for classes like Peer Counseling, Mythology, and History of Connecticut, which allowed me to remain a fulltime student while simultaneously staying off academic probation.

I wasn’t broken-hearted about my business school excommunication, but it seemed a shame to have squandered four years of higher education without graduating.

That’s why, after consulting with several knowledgeable peers familiar with finding eminently passable (“gut”) courses, I transferred to the School of Liberal Arts and, two years later, emerged with a bachelor’s degree in English.

Several people questioned that diploma’s value, but I silenced them by immediately putting it to work coaching high school basketball, substitute teaching, and cleaning rain gutters for people too frail to do it themselves.

Decades later it’s only an innate sense of decency that keeps me from thumbing my nose at those responsible for my premature banishment from business school.

I’m actively using my English degree to encourage and teach young people to effectively communicate, both verbally and in writing.

Not only that, I’m now a published author whose most recent collection of essays, Work(s) in Progress, is now available at several Southern Maine bookstores. Take that, University of Connecticut School of Business!

However, there is a tiny bit of irony in my remarkable success story. The consignment agreement I signed with the bookstores gives them a percentage of the price of each copy of Work(s) in Progress they sell, which is fair enough. However, after doing some math I discovered that my cut of each sale is less than the per-book cost of printing!

The bottom line: thanks to my lack of business acumen, every time someone purchases a copy of Work(s) in Progress from the bookstore, my “profit” is negative 90 cents.

Getting the last laugh on a person or entity one believes has wronged them must yield quite a satisfying feeling. Getting the second-to-last laugh, however, seems a little less rewarding. <