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Downtime for St. Peter (The Further Adventures of Herbert the Celestial Assistant)

Downtime for St. Peter  (The Further Adventures of Herbert the Celestial Assistant)

Herbert was relaxing in the layover lounge (aka The Between Assignments Cubicle) and pondering the possibilities for his next assignment. He was a bit nervous as to what the future held for him. During his career as heavenly assistant he had worn many hats. Some had looked good on him and some had put him on Mr. Blackwell’s list.

He had been thinking about his very first task. It began as building hills but he was elevated* to head mountain builder. It seemed like yesterday but in heaven there really was no concept of time. His revery was interrupted by Solomon, no not that Solomon.

The truth was this Solomon was at the end of the line when the bucket of brains had run out. Rumor has it that tomato soup was substituted. Too bad a grilled cheese sandwich didn’t come with it.

“Time for your next assignment Herb,” announced Solomon.

“Could you call me Herbert? Only the big guy calls me Herb,” said Herbert.

“You mean God?”, asked Solomon.

“Yes of course. Is there another big guy?”

“Well no, but no one calls him big guy.”

“Oh, you don’t say. He doesn’t seem to mind.”

“Never mind that. You have your new assignment. It is only temporary though. You are vacation relief for Peter. “

“The heavenly gates Peter?”

“Yes of course. Is there any other?”

“Well there has to be. He can’t be the only Peter in heaven can he?”

“Probably not but lets not get exi, existen, uh deep. You are pulling relief duty at the heavenly gates”

“So Peter is taking a vacation?”

“Yep. He hasn’t had one since disco was popular.”

“Oh really. Did he have anything to do with that?”

“No and if he had any say it wouldn’t have ever happened. Don’t bring up leisure suits either. It will really get him started.”

“Um, Ok. So where does one go when you take a vacation from Heaven?”

“Colorado of course.”

“Makes sense, I did my best work there.”

“Here we are.”

“St. Peter this is Herbert”

“Nice to meet you Herbert. I’ll take it from here Solomon.”

“Right. Good luck Herbert”

“Thanks.”

“Ok Herbert. The job is pretty simple really. Here is the master list for today,” said Peter handing him a clipboard.

“A clipboard really? I was expecting something cooler.”

“This is heaven we don’t throw away what works. Pay attention Herbert.
Everyone on the list gets in. You will get a new list each day.”

“Everyone on the list gets in?”

“Yes of course. You were expecting that only the cool people got in ?
This isn’t a trendy New York nightclub.”

“I was looking forward to some judging.”

“Sorry to disappoint you but that has already take place.”

“Bummer. Must be depressing for you.”

“Not at all. Too much responsibility comes with that whole judging thing. So
back to the training part if you don’t mind. The enrollees will show up
periodically during your shift. You will ask them their name and check it
against the list.”

“What’s the point of a list if they all get in,” asked Herbert.

“Because from time to time there will be an error in routing.”

“Oh, kind of like an airline losing your luggage.”

“No, it’s nothing like that. So, are you always a smart ass?”

“Yea, it’s kind of my thing.”

“Oh, ok. Well try to tone it down a bit. These folks have just departed
their corporeal existence and may not appreciate your brand of
smart-assery.”

“Sorry, I’ll work on it. What happens if they are not on the list?”

“You apologize profusely for the mixup and you ring this bell. Someone will
respond immediately to take them to their final destination.”

“You’re right, it’s nothing like an airline losing your luggage.”

“If they are on the list you give them this pamphlet,” said Peter handing
him a sheet of parchment.

“Parchment?”

“It still works.”

“Oh, yea,” replied Herbert as he read the pamphlet.”

So Your Dead. Now What?

“Catchy Title”

“Thanks. I came up with that myself.”

“Keep your day job.”

“What.”

“Nothing. Continue”

“Well. You give them a chance to read the pamphlet and then answer any
questions they may have.”

“I’m not sure I can answer any questions they have. “

“Don’t worry. As I said they are kind of numb when they get here and do not
tend to ask too many questions. Most of their questions will crop up at the
next weigh station. Those folks will handle it. Besides, I will be with
you the entire day and by the end you’ll be a pro. Don’t worry.”

“Ok, lets get to greeting.”

“Pardon?”

“You know. It’s kind of like being a Walmart greeter.”

“No, no it’s not. What did I tell you?”

“Knock off the smart-assery?”

“Yes. Please”.

The story continues.

*pun intended

The Stick Figure of Uncle Bingo (with a nod to Oscar Wilde)

If you have followed my adventures here, you know that I kind of look like everyman *. What you may not know is that I have often been thought of as being much younger than I really am. I am about to reveal my secret, so keep it to yourself folks.

In the summer of 2000 my niece came into the world and a few years later she gave me the nickname of Uncle Bingo**. Her reasoning was “I don’t know just because”. Well who was I to argue. A while later, after it looked the nickname was going to stick, I received a picture from my niece. It was a wonderful rendition of Uncle Bingo in Colorado.  The mountain peaks were jagged , the grass was green and Uncle Bingo was stick like. It was beautiful and I proudly displayed it upon my refrigerator.

Over the years the picture has remained on my fridge but is in less than pristine condition. Through cooking sessions, yes I cook and quite well ladies, late night snack raids and early morning breakfasts without my glasses, the picture has become slightly stained, smudged and encrusted with barbecue sauce , juice and yogurt. Yes in that order , it documents my path to a healthy lifestyle.  Stick Figure Bingo did not fair well and could not avoid the “crustification”.

When surprised to find out my age many people have remarked that they thought I was at least 10 years younger. If I were to estimate the age of the picture it would be around 10 years. A coincidence perhaps but it’s not as if I have lived a healthy lifestyle my entire life. I certainly had some misspent years during my youth and there was also my “pool hall “ period. No, I am sticking, no pun intended, with my story. My nieces picture has frozen me in time. It continues to “crustify” and I continue to appear ten years younger.

Go ahead, don’t believe me. You’ll change your mind when some time from now the blue, green and flesh-colored crayon succumbs to time and spillage and my physical appearance transforms from Uncle Bingo to stick figure Bingo. At least I won’t be confused with anyone else.

* see https://thesoundoflaughter.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/im-that-guy-from-that-thing/

**see https://thesoundoflaughter.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/uncle-bingos-travelling-road-show/

It’s Time to Play Travel Fee Jeopardy

Welcome to  Travel Fee Jeopardy, the game that tests your patience and your wallet.

Let us welcome our contestant Dan. He is an engineer from Colorado and he lists his hobbies as writing and outdoor recreation and he is on his way to his nephew’s graduation.  Welcome to Travel Fee Jeopardy Dan. Are you ready to play? “Yes Alex I suppose so”.

Camera Cuts to Commercial.

“Come on Dan show some excitement will you?”

“Correct me if I’m wrong Alex but basically the point of this game is to find out what travel fees I will be paying for on my upcoming trip. Correct?”.

“That’s correct. My Dan is a sharp one isn’t he.”

“Well how is that exciting?”, asked Dan.

“Well Dan that’s a good question. The excitement comes from the trepidation of what unusual and perhaps unreasonable fee could be levied. It is possible in some rare instances that the feelings you experience will be ones of relief. Now don’t you find that exciting?

“Yes, In the way that I find filing my taxes exciting,” replied Dan.

“Now your getting it Dan.”

”Glad I could make you happy Alex, it’s all about you”.

Back from Commercial:

“Well folks we just had a lively discussion with our contestant and now it’s time to play the game.”

“I’ll take Would You believe for 50 Alex”.

“Good choice Dan.  Dan your flying in to Kansas City and renting a car. What additional tax will you be required to pay?”

“Um, I don’t know a Barbecue Tax Alex?”

“Well that’s an interesting answer but it is not in the form of a question now is it Dan?”

“Um, What is no Alex.”

“You have the idea but you’re still wrong Dan.  The tax we are looking for is assessed by the car rental company that goes towards the new Sprint Center in Kansas City.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“ Sorry Dan , That is not a category but you are getting the whole form of a question theme.”

“But I am not going to use the Sprint Center Alex.”

“But how do we know you won’t change your mind Dan. Lets move along now. Choose your next category Dan and remember “Are Kidding Me?” is not a category. Ha Ha.”

“You’re a stitch Alex. I will take “Would You Believe for 100.”

“Feeling lucky in that category aren’t you Dan?”

“No but the sooner I get this over the quicker I can end this charade and get my reservations .”

“See I told you this was exciting.”

“Yea, it’s a thrill a minute Alex. Can you give me my next question?”

“Glad to see your anxious now Dan.”

“Dan your flying out of Denver International Airport. What fee is added to your ticket when you fly out of Denver?”

“What is the Snowball Tax Alex?”

“Ha Ha . I can see our contestant has a sense of humor but no the fee is not a Snowball Tax.   The tax you will be paying is the Denver Airport Tax which pays for the building and operation of the Airport.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Ha Ha, I guess Dan wants us to rename the category. We’ll take that into consideration. But, no I am not kidding you. The Denver Airport does not get tax dollars from the city or the county.”

“But doesn’t the city and county get funds from taxes on tourists Alex?” “ Oh come on Dan it doesn’t work that way. If it did you wouldn’t have to pay the Sprint Tax in Kansas City and then where would you be?”

“I would more likely to be in Kansas City Alex.”

“Ha Ha, my our Dan has a sense of humor now doesn’t he.  So Dan would you like to choose your next category?”

“What is Can I say no Alex?”

“Well that is in the form of a question so I will allow it. Besides I can see that you will be checking in a couple of bags and we make out like bandits on those.”

“ Yea I’m happy for you Alex.”

“Well Dan thanks for playing our game and being a good sport. Drop by again and play the game when you are in the area.”

“Snowballs chance in heck Alex, Snowballs chance in heck.”

“Ha Ha, You are a card Dan.”

Uncle Bingo’s Travelling Road Show

It is strange how sometimes life’s paths seem to take us away from our initial goals, but if we just give them a chance and play out the hand,  we may get what we wanted in the first place.

It was the year 2000 and the world had just survived the current disaster de jour, the millennium had come and gone and the various tools of its destruction had failed to cause a nasty smell let alone bring on the four horses of the apocalypse.  The biggest hammer, the millennium bug, the software version of the plague  had come and gone with very few casualties save for the Japanese man who had feared nuclear destruction and fled to Australia with a blow gun, a flak jacket and a chemical warfare suit.  It’s true folks . I couldn’t make that up.  I am not sure that qualifies as a casualty but I am sure his friends missed him.  It was also the year that I finally got off my butt and did what I had been talking and thinking about for some time, Uproot myself from Northern Virginia where I had landed after graduating from college. I had been there for fifteen years and I had made some really great friends but I wanted to be a little closer to my family. I had two nephews who I saw once a year and I had a niece on the way. I wanted to make sure that she did not know me as ” the uncle that showed up at Christmas, brought me a present and whose name I had to be reminded of”. Of course when they’re young they probably would take two out of three as long as one of the two are “present”.   Ok , not to fully take the air out of the “ he is such a family guy” sails but I also wanted to be in a place where I could enjoy the outdoors and ski more. I had taken up skiing several years before and I needed to make sure my jones could always be met.  Hey, when the knees are gone I am going to have to lean on my family.

I found a job in Boulder Colorado and in June of 2000 I jumped in my Mustang and took the long way to Colorado via Michigan to visit my brother. While I was there my niece had entered the world. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that I was leaving for Kansas the next day and would see her soon. Perhaps not. Perhaps it was her way of insuring that I would never forget her birthday.  Six hundred and some odd miles later I was visiting with my newborn niece.  While I was experiencing some trepidation at starting my new life, I completely forgot it while contemplating her new life. Funny thing about birth , it tends to put things in perspective.

Its strange, now that I live in Colorado I do more traveling then I ever have in the past but I see my family more often.  Usually I can arrange my travels so that they take me through Kansas for a visit. If I am not traveling I have been known to jump in my Mustang (yep the same one) for a short cruise , they are only 7.5 hours away when there is no construction on I-70 and the highway patrol cooperates.   It was during one of those “short cruise” visits during the fourth of July where my niece gave me the nickname that I love and will go with me to my grave*. Out of the blue one day she said to me “Your not Uncle Dan, You’re Uncle Bingo”. Of course her logic was solid when I asked why, “I dunno just cause you are”.  Works for me.  It also seems to work for the rest of my family who affectionately call me  , I am sure its with affection, Uncle Bingo or just Bingo.

So if you hear the sound of fun coming your way it may be the circus or you may just be getting a visit from Uncle Bingo’s Traveling Road Show. Don’ t worry, it will be entertaining and I hardly ever leave a mess. Well nothing that can’ t be cleaned up or forgiven by the next visit.

*Oh sure ,when I am an 80 year old man “Uncle Bingo” will sound kind of weird but when that time comes it will just be “endearing” or creepy. I’m betting on the former.

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