Beware increasingly sophisticated cybersecurity scams

Here’s a story that is growing bigger by the day: Cyber scams are on the rise.

My elderly family member fell for a common scam a few weeks ago: His screen appeared be locked by “Microsoft” and he was urged to call the number the phony security alert displayed.

If you call that fake number, a fake Microsoft representative will ask you to provide access to your computer, so he can steal sensitive data or download malicious apps.

To be sure, in the digital era in which we all now live 24/7, you must assume that every email, text and phone call might be a scam!

Google “ransomware attack” and you’ll see a sizable list of big companies and entire cities that have been completely shut down by scammers.

Scammers also spoof text messages. Apparently from reputable companies, such as banks, these messages trick individuals into revealing passwords or credit card numbers.

Scammers continue to succeed with the good old landline telephone, too. I received a call this year from a man claiming he was from the Social Security Administration, who told me my account was blocked and he would help me reactivate it.

Aware that Social Security never makes phone calls (unless you’re having a legitimate conversation with it), I knew what the scammer was after: my full name, birthdate, address and Social Security number.

I asked him how he could sleep at night, knowing he was hurting innocent people. He cussed at me and hung up.

The greatest worry about scammers is that elderly people are especially at risk. They’re more trusting of callers from government agencies and more likely to fall for one especially mendacious tax scam.

Using phishing techniques, scammers access data on a taxpayer’s computer, then use that stolen information to file a fraudulent tax return in the taxpayer’s name and have the refund — often larger than is actually owed — deposited into the taxpayer’s actual bank account.

According to Intuit, the scammers then “contact their victims, telling them the money was mistakenly deposited into their accounts and asking them to return it.”

Many victims, fearful of the IRS, readily comply.

According to Pew Research, Americans view cybercrime as their greatest security concern. But what are government agencies doing to combat it?

Not enough.

Americans are often victimized by scammers operating from elsewhere in the world. How can the bad guys be tracked down and forced to make amends?

Nation-states are often behind sophisticated attacks on organizations. Russian-financed scammers are actively targeting our utilities, election systems and other systems.

Creating new laws and agencies to combat cybercrime is a daunting challenge.

Cybersecurity bills passed by the U.S. House move slowly through the Senate. Even if the Senate passes them and the president signs them, regulators could take months to draft and implement actual policies. Scammers aren’t bogged down by such bureaucratic red tape.

What it comes down to is that every individual must learn to detect and avoid cyber scams. The Department of Homeland Security has helpful info at

Always verify that an email, text or link is legitimate before you click. Always be suspicious — because scammers are getting more sophisticated by the day.

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at Email him at [email protected].

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Father’s Day: A 1974 Plumbing Disaster

Editor’s note: A version of this column was last published in 2016.


In 1974, when I was 11, I flushed an apple core down the toilet.

You see, my father had remodeled our basement into a family room with a powder room.

Always looking to save a buck — he had six kids to feed on one income — he bought the cheapest toilet he could find.

It never did work right, and since we couldn’t afford a plumber, my father spent much of his spare time unclogging it.

Armed with this knowledge, then, it’s remarkable I did what I did.

One Sunday morning, after chomping on a large Washington apple, I lay on the family room couch, too lazy to get up and properly dispose of it.

I noticed, some 12 feet away, that the toilet lid was up.

In a moment of insanity, I aimed the core at the toilet and flicked my wrist. The core floated majestically in the air, a perfect trajectory, then landed in the center of the bowl with a satisfying “kir-plunk!”

I later flushed it and never gave it another thought — until a few months later when another clogging was reported.

As fate would have it, this happened on a Sunday morning, as I lay on the couch, holding another Washington apple core. I watched television, while my father fought to free the clog.

But nothing would free it. The plunger failed, but not before he was soaking wet. Two jars of Drano had no effect. Even the plumber’s snake, which my father borrowed from our neighbors when all other measures failed, would not dislodge the mother of all clogs.

In a fit of rage, my father unbolted the toilet from the floor. In one mighty heave, he lifted it off its mount and set it in front of the television.

He knelt before the black hole in the floor. He reached his mighty paw inside, then his forearm, then his biceps.

His head was pressed hard against the cold, wet linoleum, sweat dripping off his nose, the veins in his temples about to explode.

His eyes lit up.

He had something.

He carefully removed his biceps, his forearm and then his paw.

He was on his knees now staring at his clenched fist.

He slowly unpeeled his large, grimy fingers.

In the center of his palm, there it was: A black, rotten apple core.

I could go into detail about his incredible reaction — how he ran through the house shouting, “Who the hell flushed an apple core down the toilet?”

I could describe the shock and horror he felt when he discovered that his only son and only hope in carrying on the family name was the idiot who did it.

But I won’t. I will tell you I was paralyzed with fear, a fear born out of respect.

My father loved me and wanted the best for me. He wanted me to master basic virtues — at the very least to master common sense — and I failed spectacularly.

It would have been easy had he been like the weak, hapless fathers portrayed on television these days.

But he was the opposite of weak. He was not afraid to discipline me and strengthen me to prepare me for the difficult challenges all of us must face in life.

My heart aches for so many children who are without direction, because they lack guidance from a cantankerous, masculine father who dresses them down, so he can build them back better — into polite, sensible, responsible human beings.

The way my father did when I flushed an apple core down the toilet in 1974!

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at Email him at [email protected].

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Needed: The common sense humor of Will Rogers

Our politics sure is divided these days. Tempers are flaring and minds are rigid and closed. Here’s the solution: the wit and wisdom of legendary humorist Will Rogers.

“The short memory of voters is what keeps our politicians in office.”

“We’ve got the best politicians that money can buy.”

“A fool and his money are soon elected.”

Rogers spoke these words during the Great Depression, but they’re just as relevant today.

With 24-hour cable-news channels and social media feeding people “information” that affirms their biases, people forget it isn’t Democrats vs. the Republicans. It is we the citizens vs. our ever-encroaching federal government, as these quotes make clear:

“Things in our country run in spite of government, not by aid of it.”

“Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”

Today, unfortunately, we’re getting more government than we’re paying for. We cover the difference by borrowing billions every year or printing more money.

As the king of the velvet-tipped barb, Rogers never intended to be mean, but to bring us to our senses. One of his favorite subjects was to remind the political class that it worked for us, not the other way around, as he explained with these memorable lines:

“When Congress makes a joke it’s a law, and when they make a law, it’s a joke.”

I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”

Rogers’ thinking on American foreign policy really hits home today:

“Diplomats are just as essential to starting a war as soldiers are for finishing it. You take diplomacy out of war, and the thing would fall flat in a week.”

“Liberty doesn’t work as well in practice as it does in speeches.”

Rogers was born and raised on a farm in Oklahoma. His wit reflected the heart of America — the horse sense, square dealing and honesty that were the bedrock of our success, as these funny lines demonstrate well:

“When a fellow ain’t got much of a mind, it don’t take him long to make it up.”

“This country is not where it is today on account of any one man. It’s here on account of the real common sense of the Big Normal Majority.”

Franklin Roosevelt, a frequent target of Rogers’ barbs, understood how valuable Rogers’ sensibility was during the years of the Depression:

“I doubt there is among us a more useful citizen than the one who holds the secret of banishing gloom … of supplanting desolation and despair with hope and courage. Above all things … Will Rogers brought his countrymen back to a sense of proportion.”

A sense of proportion is clearly what we’re lacking right now. The ability to think clearly and objectively and reaffirm that government works for us and not the other way around. Surely, we can all agree on this Rogers’ quote:

“Congress is so strange. A legislator gets up to speak and says nothing, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees.”

What we need now more than ever is the calm, clear perspective that Will Rogers brought to our country. He offered sound advice on how we can get started:

“If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can’t it get us out?”

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at Email him at [email protected].

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Memories of my free-range childhood

It was the first time in my childhood I had an excuse for coming home late for dinner, but nobody — not even the cops — would listen.

In the summer of 1972, when I was 10, Tommy Gillen and I built a dam in the creek on the other side of the Horning Road railroad tunnel.

We’d been building up the dam for days to create our own three-foot pool in which we chased after crayfish and minnows — our own cool spot to while away the hot summer afternoons.

We’d just completed adding another row of blocks to the dam when I heard my father’s voice booming from a few blocks away, calling me home for dinner.

That was the rule for kids then: We were free to roam the hills and fields, ride our bikes and build shacks and dams, but God help us if we didn’t respond when our parents called us home for dinner.

Just as Tommy and I were clawing our way up the bank of the creek, we heard a motor racing and tires screeching. Then we heard a spectacular crash.

As we got to the top of the hillside and ran toward the tunnel, we saw a lime-colored Plymouth Roadrunner, a popular muscle car, roaring away.

The driver was young — 20 or so — and had long hair. I’d seen that car and driver before and figured the fellow lived nearby.
When we ran into the tunnel, we saw Grandpa Johnson’s ’68 Corvair convertible smashed against the wall.

Grandpa Johnson told us that the long-haired fellow side-swiped him as he passed him in the tunnel, forcing him into the tunnel’s side wall.

He and his wife were pretty shaken up, so Tommy and I ran up the street to his son’s house, where he lived, to tell him what had happened.

By the time we returned, the police had arrived. I tried to get their attention but they weren’t much interested in what a lousy kid had to report.

“Did you get a license plate?” said the cop.

“No, sir,” I said. “But I got a description of the driver and vehicle.”

The cop grunted and turned his attention back to the adults.

I got home for dinner 30 minutes late and, boy, was I in trouble.

I tried to explain what had happened — how Tommy and I were being good citizens — but they would have none of it.

Still, I was lucky to grow up when I did. I had no idea I was living in the original “free-range childhood,” in which children are encouraged to learn outside the house on their own.

With summer upon us, the media are publishing articles that offer parents tips on how to make their kids go out and play.

But the articles generally suggest that adults organize and participate in the activities — because today’s kids aren’t allowed to do much of anything on their own.

Nor are they free to figure things out for themselves — a skill that is essential for succeeding in adulthood.

I was grounded for being late for dinner, but that didn’t stop me, a huge fan of “Adam-12,” from doing important investigative work!

I spent hours near the accident site, keeping an eye out for that lime-colored Plymouth Roadrunner!

Regrettably, the long-haired, hit-and-run jerk was probably careful to never drive through that tunnel again.

He’s lucky, too, because this motivated 10-year-old would have recorded his license-plate number and got him sent to the slammer!

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at Email him at [email protected].

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For Memorial Day, honoring family members of those who serve

Ida Ayres never served a day in the armed forces, but at 95, she knows plenty about the sacrifices of war.

“Through six wars, I have been the daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother of family members who served, or are serving, their country,” Ida told me.

During World War I, Ida’s father, Sam DiRenna, fought for the Italian army. DiRenna, who was born in a small town near Naples, was captured by the Germans and spent 13 months in a concentration camp. The German’s branded his forehead — a scar he retained for the rest of his life.

He was declared a hero in Italy for overcoming the brutality. He eventually settled in America. He sent for his wife. They gave birth to Ida and two sons, Angelo and Pasquale. Life was hard during the Depression years, but Ida’s family prevailed.

But then America was thrust back into war — a war in which both of Ida’s brothers would serve. In 1944 Angelo enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Pasquale followed in 1945. Angelo was stationed on the LST 1040 and Pasquale served on a carrier.

Their letters home arrived every three or four weeks, then Angelo’s letters stopped coming. Six months passed without a word. Ida was distraught, her mother barely able to function. Finally, word came that Angelo’s ship had been in a typhoon. But he survived.

Both brothers returned home and the world was finally settling down. The economy grew at record rates. Ida eventually would marry and have two sons. Her husband Harry had fought in Korea before she met him (he’d doctored his birth certificate and found himself on the front lines as a 16 year old kid). After they married, he was called to serve another tour in Korea. Thankfully, he returned home safe.

But in 1966, her husband was called back again. This time he left his wife and two sons behind to fight in Vietnam. As an Army major, he was lucky to survive 12 months of dangerous air missions. In one battle his best friend had both arms and legs shot off right next to him.

In 1968, Ida’s oldest son, Sam, announced he was eager to join his father in Vietnam. Fresh out of high school at 17, Sam became an Army medic. He saw some of the worst horrors that that war produced, horrors that are with him still.

Thankfully, both Harry and Sam made it home. Finally, Ida hoped, life could get back to normal. And for the most part, life did get back to normal. America went on to enjoy an amazing run of prosperity. We were riding high until 9/11, when we were thrust into conflict again.

Ida’s youngest son, my good friend Thomas Ayres, is a West Point graduate. He served as a Judge Advocate General for three years in Afghanistan and Iran. Before retiring in 2017, after 33 years of service, he served as the Army’s 20th Deputy Judge Advocate General.

To date, all of Ida’s living grandchildren have served or are serving. Sam’s son served in the U.S. Marines. Tom’s daughter is married to a Marine pilot. One of Tom’s sons, a West Point graduate, is serving in the Army. His other son serves in the U.S. Coast Guard.

The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country — those who have risked all to protect the freedoms we enjoy.

While we honor them, let’s also pay homage to the parents, children, siblings and spouses who are quietly sacrificing for their country.

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at Email him at [email protected].

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The importance of home ownership

Home sales remain sluggish thanks to high interest rates and a shortage of homes for sale, and that is really bad for America.

Because as more Americans become life-long renters, they will never experience the misery of owning a home.

My first home, which I bought as a broke freelance writer, was a fixer-upper in need of major renovations.

Boy, did my father and I suffer when we renovated the bathroom.

The project started well enough. We tore down the old wall tile and put up wallpaper and a tub surround. We painted the ceiling, then put down a new stick-on tile floor.

All we had to do to was reinstall the commode.

The bolts that had secured the toilet to the floor had both broken. The hardware-store guy sold me a kit to reattach them.

My father spent an hour reattaching the bolts. But as we attempted to fish the bolts through the commode’s bolt holes, we discovered they were too short.

“Son of a … !” said my father.

“The idiots gave us the wrong bolts!” I said.

I raced to the hardware store and bought longer bolts. My father spent another hour getting them in place. We were finally able to reattach the commode.

But another problem arose: the wax goop that seals the commode to the sewage pipe wasn’t thick enough to seal anything.

“Son of a … !” said my father.

“The idiots gave us the wrong goop!” I said.

After another visit to the hardware store, our third attempt to secure the toilet succeeded. But we needed to reattach the water fittings.

To reattach the water fittings, you have to wedge your body between the tub and the commode. Then you have to screw the water-line bolt, made of metal, into a plastic pipe coming from the commode. But they won’t screw together.

So you have to keep trying to screw them together until you bang your head on the commode, which makes you angry, so you attempt to stand quickly, which kicks the newly-laid floor tile out of place, and then you bang your shin on the toilet, which causes you to throw whatever you’re holding through the bathroom window.

Eventually, we got the metal water-line bolt to screw into the plastic pipe — but we stripped the threads. When we turned the water back on, a leak sprouted that made Niagara Falls look like a lap pool.

“Son of a … !” shouted my father.

“The idiots!” I said.

I raced back to the hardware store and bought every plumbing fitting ever designed by man: glue, sealant, putty, rubber washers, pumps…

Eventually, we got the commode installed. We got the sink installed. We sealed every leak. The miserable job took several hours more than we had planned.

The point: If more Americans experienced such miserable home-ownership experiences, they’d become grumpy and suspicious of political yarn spinners.

They’d never vote for politicians who print billions of new dollars to give us government goodies — the same fools whose reckless spending created massive inflation, which triggered high interest rates, which is why it’s nearly impossible for younger people to buy homes.

Nobody understands the need for common sense and good government policy better than a home owner — especially a home owner who is so broke he and his father have to do their own plumbing.

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at Email him at [email protected].

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For Mother’s Day — teaching the art of laughter

My mother would have been considered eccentric had she been financially wealthy.

She would do almost anything — and wear almost any silly costume — to bring joy into the lives of others, much to the embarrassment of her six children.

But she is wealthy in the ways that really matter, and her greatest wealth is teaching the art of laughter.

She knew the benefits of laughter long before scientific studies confirmed them. When she wasn’t laughing herself, she was teaching us how to.

Most nights after dinner we sat around the table relating stories about what one of us had done and laughing aloud.

While many parents in the neighborhood went to social events Saturday nights, my mother preferred to stay home.

We’d make banana splits and watch the Carol Burnett show, and as Tim Conway’s old-man routine caused me to laugh so hard I’d fall off the couch, she’d sit there watching me, delighted to see me learn her craft so well.

She collected friends who were even livelier than she. One lady, Marty, had five children of her own. Both had been housewives their entire adult lives — both wanted to try their hand at writing.

In the 1970s, my mother began getting published in newspapers and magazines — Erma Bombeck humor, mocking the life of the housewife.

She and Marty wrote a play, “Betty’s Attic,” and it was performed by a local theater company.

They sold jokes to comedian Phyllis Diller. They were thrilled to see Diller perform their jokes at a live show — delighted to see the laughter their jokes provoked.

The writing gigs never produced much money, though, so my mother concocted a plan to generate extra cash. Did she get a part-time job at a bank or a department store, as normal moms in our neighborhood did?

No, she had another idea that embarrassed her children considerably: dress up like Miss Piggy, Big Bird, Raggedy Ann and Clown Clara and stage children’s parties for parents eager to pay her.

It was easy for her to bring instant order to a room of 40 kids or more. She still has an amazing way with children.

She was soon staging three parties every Saturday and, to avoid costume changes, staged all of them as Clown Clara.

As fate would have it, though — I’m not making this up — a thief in the area had been robbing banks dressed as a clown.

Well, while pulling into the driveway at the home of one of her gigs, a police car came roaring in behind her. A cop jumped out and began barking orders at her. He thought she was the bank robber!

It took some time to clear up the confusion — at one point the cop thought my mother was in cahoots with the guy who hired her to stage his kid’s party — but when everyone finally figured out what was going on, she had but one response: a giant burst of laughter.

All of those incidents happened 40 years ago or more. My mom kept doing parties throughout her 60s.

In her 70s, she penned a half dozen lively children’s books, which are still available on

Now in her 80s, she is sharing incredible treasures with her grandchildren and great grandchildren to ensure that they, too, master the art of laughter.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom!

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at Email him at [email protected].

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National Day of Prayer

The National Day of Prayer is on May 2nd this year. I surely need to get better at praying.

Like a lot of people, I don’t pray until things go sour or I have some daunting challenge heading my way.

I pray Monday mornings when I’m behind on projects that are due.

I pray every April 15 — after cursing — when a large sum of taxes is due.

I pray vigorously when people I love are ill or worse.

My best prayers have come in the mornings after a long night at the pub, when I “pray to porcelain.”

Prayer, according to, is a “petition or entreaty.”

It is a conscious attempt to embrace good and root out evil by asking God to give us the grace to be better.

To me, prayer is like tuning a radio. It is a deliberate, conscious effort to hear and understand with greater clarity what good and truth and beauty are and then, hopefully, better align myself and my actions with them.

Hopefully, with prayer, we become more understanding, forgiving, loving and gracious — we become less trapped in the narrowness of our limited points of view.

Some may think the concept of prayer is silly — that reaching out to a higher power to get closer to truth is silly.

But you know in your own heart that it makes sense — that we all long to be more virtuous in our deeds.

We are always moved by the virtuous hero in a movie who risks all to achieve a greater good.

We always root for the hero who is willing to die because of the power of love and good and right.

The trouble is, even the most virtuous among us struggle to do good all the time, which is why we must pray.

I pray that those in my country whose hearts are filled with anger and hate will be given the grace they need to overcome these emotions.

I pray that our growing polarization and lack of civility in our politics give way to peaceful, constructive discussion and unity.

I pray we find the wisdom to address the many real challenges we are up against.

Various scientific studies confirm that people who pray recover more quickly from health issues than those who do not.

Studies also show that people who have others praying on their behalf heal more quickly than those who do not.

Look, prayer is something people from every religion and culture have felt the need to do since there have been people.

If you believe, as I do, that there is order in our conflicted universe — if you believe there is good and evil and the two are at battle everywhere every day — then isn’t the purpose of prayer simply to understand and embrace the truth?

You pray to know good. You pray to avoid evil. You pray to better embrace good and root dishonesty and evil from your being.

You need not be religious to agree that there is a regular battle going on between good and evil.

This battle rages in every human heart. It rages within every religion, political system and on and on.

This battle rages because we humans are mighty imperfect and in continual need of improvement.

That’s why this flawed person must get better at praying.

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at Email him at [email protected].

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Advice for 2024 promgoers

Editor’s note: A version of this column was published in 2017.

Social media is driving up the cost of proms, as promgoers are under intense pressure to post glamourous prom photos on their feeds, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Some girls are spending $2,000 or more on their custom prom dresses. A typical cost for boys is $700 or more.

I offer some advice to 2024 promgoers, based on my own prom experience in 1980.

I didn’t know my date very well. She was in my photography class, pretty and, more importantly, available.

We arranged a pre-prom date to get to know each other. We played tennis on a blistering-hot day, then headed back to her house for something cold to drink. After she berated her sister for drinking all the Tang, she turned her turret on me.

“I heard about you, a regular class clown,” she said. “You better not show up in a limo, wear a top hat or cane or do anything else to embarrass me.”

I knew right away things were going to work out fine.

Still, I wanted to impress her. I was running a stone-masonry business in those years and was making a lot of money for a teen. I figured I’d use some of that hard-earned dough to win her praise.

I bought her the finest corsage in our high school. I bought a box of expensive steaks, snacks and other refreshments for the after-prom party. But my investments turned out to be bad ones.

On the afternoon of the prom, my friend Gigs and I — we double dated — took a drive to the prom hall to make sure we wouldn’t get lost later.

Later that evening, we picked up our girls for photos and false enthusiasm. We were late for dinner (we got lost) and the awful night was under way.

I’m certain my date didn’t spend hundreds of dollars on her dress as girls do now, though I remember she looked great.

The truth is, I can’t remember what she was wearing because I hardly saw her all night long. She and the girl Gigs came with spent most of the night in the ladies’ room, while Gigs and I counted how many times the low-budget rock band played “Cocaine” (nine).

Finally, around 11:30 p.m., the dance was over. Unlike teens these days, we didn’t use our credit cards to retire to the honeymoon suite. We took the girls home. But our suffering was just beginning.

We picked up our dates early the next morning and drove to a country cabin where my friend Cook was having an after-prom party. The cabin was a two-hour drive, but it took us five (we got lost).

My date didn’t utter a word until about 2 p.m., when she challenged Gigs and me to a tennis match. I took it as a good sign. It wasn’t.

Gigs is an outstanding athlete and I’m no slouch myself. Once the game got under way, our testosterone got inflamed. Every time we scored, Gigs and I high-fived each other, laughing loudly. We creamed the girls, and after the match they refused to talk to us.

Gigs and I spent the rest of the day tossing a football and eating steaks. Around dusk, the girls found us and told us it was time to leave. We got home five hours later (we got lost) and the torturous affair was finally over.

So, I have some advice for 2024 promgoers: Spend as little money as possible on fancy duds to impress your social-media followers.

Be content that you’re about to have one of the most miserable experiences of your life!

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at Email him at [email protected].

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Longing for the days of email rudeness

Boy, is technology making us ruder. It all started with email.

You see, long before the era of nasty Facebook posts and mean tweets — long before people had such an easy means to be rude to each other — there was a much tamer version of email rudeness.

Let me share an email incident I experienced firsthand in 1999.

Having just moved to Washington, D.C., I joined a large writer’s organization, hoping to meet other writers — or, to be more precise, WOMEN writers.

I got permission from the writer’s organization to send a happy-hour invitation to all of its members on its email broadcast list or “listserv.” This was how groups of people communicated electronically before websites and social media were common.

About 40 writers attended the first happy-hour gathering — one that would turn out to be the last.

As it went, one woman there was particularly attractive. I soon found myself in competition with another writer fellow, who was also trying to win the lass’s attention.

She soon made it clear that she had zero interest in either of us knuckleheads, and that she came only to discuss the writing craft.

Soon after she landed her blow, the other fellow and I quickly realized the pickings were otherwise slim — and also that some women writers came to meet men.

One woman, a large woman of overpowering verbosity, soon had us pinned up against the bar. For the rest of the evening, she shoved a dozen opinions at us on every subject under the sun. It was the first time in my life I was happy to hear the words “last call.”

The next morning, I got an e-mail from the other fellow. He thanked me for organizing the event, then said, “and for goodness sakes, for the next happy hour, don’t invite any more loud, large, obnoxious women!”

I was surprised by the rudeness of the fellow’s e-mail. That should have been the end of it. But it was just the beginning.

You see, instead of e-mailing his response only to me, he unwittingly sent it to all of the members of the writer’s organization, some of whom, much to his poor luck, were also large women of overpowering verbosity.

I don’t know how many e-mail responses came that day, but the number surely topped 100. The storyline was quickly established: Our heroine, who was so viciously attacked, did nothing to deserve such abuse and, incidentally, it’s typical of misogynistic men to feel threatened by intelligent women.

As for our male villain, he was dubbed an idiotic male rogue. He should not only apologize, but he should resign from the writer’s organization, give up writing, and move to another city, where, hopefully, something bad would happen to him.

Well, that incident happened well before smartphones and social media gave people license to become increasingly rude to each other.

According to the journal of Computers in Human Behavior, these technologies give us an anonymity that enables us to post things we’d never say to another human in person.

Psychology Today says that a simple “lack of eye contact” is what is driving increasingly nasty tweets and posts, making rudeness in our society “our new normal.”

Today’s growing social-media incivility makes me long for the good old days of email rudeness, when you could only offend a couple hundred people at a time.

Copyright 2024 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

See Tom Purcell’s syndicated column, humor books and funny videos featuring his dog, Thurber, at Email him at [email protected].

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