On Winning the Lottery

I bought my first lottery ticket recently.

It was a $20 scratch-off that paid me a $40 prize.

Winning produced a nice little thrill, so I bought another $20 ticket right away. And lost.

I put out $40 to win $40 that day.

I’ve bought three $20 scratch-offs since then and won nothing.

To date, I’ve paid out $100 to win $40.

The house always wins in the end.

Still, some people enjoy big paydays playing the state-sponsored lotteries.

I know a fellow who hit twice for over $100,000 or so. That would be a nice little bump, to be sure.

Of course, winning $100,000 offers a teachable moment for many who have no idea how high our taxes really are.

According to one lottery-tax-calculation website, I’d have to pay about $33,000 in state and federal taxes right off the bat.

However, the feds take only 24% out of the initial lottery payment. I’d still owe more taxes, as that $100,000 would put me into much higher tax bracket.

I’d probably get to keep about $60,000 of that $100,000 and the government would get $40,000.

The house always wins in the end!

Then there is the dark side of government-sponsored gambling that isn’t talked about enough. A fair bit of the revenue generated by the lotto is generated by people with addiction issues, according to Florida Council of Compulsive Gambling.

When big payoffs hit the news, as has been the case in recent weeks, there is a surge of people spending money they don’t have to buy lotto tickets.

And the lotto has announced some big winners in recent weeks.

One poor human being holds the winning ticket in Illinois for a $1.28 billion payout.

I say “poor human being” because if that person has neighbors or relatives he’s been trying to avoid, he’d better plan on spending lots of time with them, as they’ll be pounding on his front door at all hours begging for a handout.

One had better be prepared to manage the massive burden all that money will soon visit on him — and better hire a skilled accountant and attorney for starters.

If he manages that massive payoff well, he can do a lot of good for the world — support a lot of legitimate charities — and maintain a comfortable lifestyle for the rest of his days.

Or that money will be the root of all evil in his life, as no small number of past lottery winners have experienced.

Yahoo Finance tells the stories of 23 lottery winners whose lives spiraled out of control after winning big payouts, some of whom ended up broke or worse.

In any event, one thing that fascinates me about money is that we don’t need so much of it as we think.

As I’ve written before, once a person has enough money to pay the bills and enjoy going out to dinner now and then, massive increases in wealth do not necessarily correspond with greater increases in happiness or life satisfaction.

The key to human happiness is spending time with people we love, who love us back — people who value our presence even though we’re not million-dollar-lotto winners.

In my case, I suppose a few scratch-off tickets does no great harm every now and then — and funds some good programs for those in need.

Just so long as I remember that the house always wins in the end!

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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The keys to living well

Comedian Carl Reiner was good at living well — and he lived well until the age of 98.

I recently watched his 2017 HBO documentary, “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.”

It introduces viewers to several people who are flourishing in their 90s — running races at 100, doing yoga at 98, playing the piano professionally at 100 — and it really does inspire people of all ages to get off their duff and take life by the horns.

Average life expectancy has taken a hit in the past few years due to COVID which claimed 1 million Americans, and opioid overdoses, which claimed 100,000 in 2021, reports Fortune.

It’s particularly heartbreaking that so many of the opioid deaths were young people, who had their whole lives still before them.

What a loss of human potential.

Despite recent life-expectancy setbacks, however, the truth is, technological innovation will continue to extend our lifespans.

According to the World Future Society, advances in nanotechnology and cell and gene manipulation may eventually keep humans alive for 120 to 500 years.

I have zero desire to live 500 years, but after watching Reiner’s wonderful documentary, I am inspired to dive into life with more passion and gusto right now, at age 60.

Living well and living an active life has nothing to do with age, but with the decisions we make every single day.

And choosing to live with greater vitality is not so hard to do.

Reiner says the key to having vitality in your life is to do something that makes you eager to get out of bed every morning.

In his case it was writing. He wrote a book every year in his 90s. He found a way to share his legendary humor with the rest of us.

I am finally embracing such wisdom.

I wake now at 6 a.m. and once I get my lovable lab, Thurber, situated, I go to a writer’s nook I created in an unused bedroom and work on a new dog-related blog and a book about my first year as a new dog dad (www.ThurbersTail.com).

Such simple writing brings me tremendous joy and gives me a burst of energy to manage the often stressful communications consulting work I do for corporate clients during the rest of my working day.

Reiner’s documentary says that another key to vitality is to keep moving. Get up. Get out. Meet friends. Make eye contact.

We are social animals and eye contact, conversation and a hearty laugh shared with friends are the foundations of vitality.

If there is something you’ve always wanted to do, there’s no time like the present, so get off your butt and do it.

Reiner explains how his wife Estelle didn’t start her jazz singing career until she turned 60. She recorded seven albums and performed in jazz clubs until she passed away at the age of 94.

It’s easy to let unpleasant current events — inflation, recession, political bickering — weigh our spirits down.

It’s important to follow what is happening in our government and exercise our right to vote.

But what is even more important is that we choose to live fully doing something meaningful and doing something we love every single day, no matter how old we are.

We become better sons and brothers and neighbors and citizens that way — to the benefit of us all.

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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The value of overbearing fathers

My father is turning 89 this week and he’s getting especially sentimental of late.

The other day, from his hospital bed, he said he hoped he’d been a good father. He said these words with a hint of doubt in his voice.

But he got the question backwards. The question he should be asking is: “Could his only boy have been a better son?”

The answer to that is a big, hearty “yes.”

His dad died at the age of 34 in 1937. So he never knew what it was like to have a big, stubborn fellow like him so heavily involved in your daily young life — someone who’d stop you from doing the many very stupid things inquisitive boys are prone to do.

I know now he was often unsure how to manage my stupidity, because his mother was often at work and he had always been free to do stupid things without a cranky parent correcting him.

When he was about 12, he and his juvenile delinquent pals nearly derailed a trolley car by setting a large stone on the tracks — just to see what would happen.

I just turned 60, but I admit that that is something I’d really like to see, too. Jail time and public humiliation are the only two things stopping me.

Boys by nature can be really reckless and the best system we’ve ever invented as human beings is to have burly, overbearing dads — dads who had been really reckless when they were boys — to protect them from themselves.

My dad sure had his hands full with me.

I never did jail time, but in my early years I clogged a toilet with an apple core, shattered a picture window with a baseball and hit a golf ball through a neighbor’s window.

As a teen I destroyed more expensive items, such as automotive transmissions, and while speeding through the church parking lot to avoid a red light I nearly hit our parish priest head-on.

But it wasn’t entirely my fault for driving so fast all the time. It was my father’s fault for buying a 1979 Ford Pinto that had a powerful six-cylinder motor — a motor that allowed me to burn rubber at will.
At least I was smart enough not to ask him to help me pay for my many speeding tickets, as my driving privileges would have been taken away.

In the modern world, many boys are being raised well by their single moms.

But there are also many boys who suffer the consequences of not having a dad around to stop them from acting on their worst impulses — or worse, becoming gang members who gun each other down for no reason.

When boys don’t have fathers to agitate or drive them crazy — and when fathers aren’t around to discipline or inflict unpleasantness on their sons — the result can be tragic.

But when good dads are around things usually work out in the end. My dad had the satisfaction of seeing me turn out all right (for the most part!) — and I did so because, ultimately, I didn’t want to let him down.
And I still don’t.

Happy 89th birthday, Dad.

I promise to fight every boyish urge to put a rock on the trolley tracks just to see how it turns out.

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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Teens not working doesn’t work for America

Here’s a trend that may not bode well for the future of our country: According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 40 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds have summer jobs — down from 75 percent of teens a generation ago.

As it goes, according to the NerdWallet website, teen summer employment has been declining for decades. Why?

One reason is that jobs typically tailored for teens are either shrinking or being taken by older folks. Another is that more teens are attending summer school, participating in extracurricular activities and volunteering.

But a third reason is the most troubling: Fewer teens are willing to flip burgers or work manual labor during their summer vacation, according to recruiting firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas.

Which is a shame, because work is good for teens. It exposes them to how industry works. It teaches them the value of a dollar. It gives them the dignity of exchanging their labor for money that they can use to support their education or maybe buy their first junker car.

But most of all, teens who don’t work are missing out on some incredible growth experiences.

I got my very first job in the summer before I became an eighth-grader. I persuaded a neighbor to hire me to cut her lawn for five bucks. She had an electric mower with a long extension cord — which I promptly ran over and destroyed. I got canned before I finished the job.

The next few summers, I worked at a driving range. I had to wake up at 5 a.m., ride my bike 2 miles up a hill, then pick up a couple of acres of golf balls with an aluminum picker. Sometimes, I worked the evening shift. I wore a metal cage as I worked — as dozens of people tried to hit me with golf balls. I was paid $1.25 an hour for this honor.

The summer before 10th grade, I built up a decent business mowing lawns, but the summer before my junior year — when I had my driver’s license, finally — I hit the mother lode. I put ads in the paper offering a service to rebuild stone and block retaining walls.

After a few months of mistakes and mishaps, I learned how to bid the jobs. I hired two or three others to help me run the jobs. I slowly began to master the art of cutting and placing stones. And the cash came rolling in. I was doing mighty fine for a 17-year-old and had earned enough in a few months to pay for my first year of college.

I worked a series of jobs in college: dishwasher, janitor, handyman, grass cutter. I worked as a bouncer, too, which involved kicking drunk people out of bars and mopping up that which some patrons couldn’t keep down — the most respect I ever got, then or now.

In any event, these jobs helped me learn how to socialize and work with others. I learned how to sell, bid jobs and manage money. I learned self-reliance and the joy that comes with a job well done.

As more of today’s teens miss out on such experiences, how might that affect their future? How might it affect America’s future?

Are we encouraging more kids to rely on the government, rather than themselves, to meet their basic needs in their adult years? The Congressional Budget Office recently reported that big-government programs like ObamaCare will discourage people from working.

A strong work ethic is what built America. We need to maintain our work ethic to keep our country going and produce our needed tax revenue.

That’s why I’m troubled that fewer teens want to work these days.

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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Drive-in theater rebirth here to stay

I’m going to the drive-in this weekend – for the first time in 42 years.

You see, the COVID pandemic has disrupted and rearranged our lives forever, but it has also given birth to some wonderful trends, such as the comeback of the drive-in movie theater.

According to CNN Business, the drive-in has made a rebound in the past few years and it is a trend that “looks like it’s here to stay.”


During 2019, drive-ins accounted for just 2.9% of total box office revenue.

But during the summer of 2020, thanks to the COVID lockdowns, drive-in theaters generated as much as 95% North American box office revenue.

Even as people begin trickling back to brick-and-mortar cinemas, drive-ins are still doing significantly more business than they did prior to COVID.

“Through the first 30 weeks of 2021,” reports CNN Business, they were “still gobbling up a greater share of box office revenue than they did pre-pandemic: averaging 6.2% of weekend box office dollars this year versus nearly 1.9% for the first 30 weeks of 2019.”

I’m very fond of the American drive-in theater in part because its creation is unique to America.

According to Kerry Segrave, author of “Drive-in Theaters: A History from Their Inception in 1933,” only two other countries, Canada and Australia, were able to come close to America’s “intense love affair with drive-ins.”

He writes that before drive-ins could spring up all over America during the post-World War II boom, a unique mix of conditions had to exist.

First, there had to be an abundance of relatively inexpensive land.

Second, families needed to be able to afford comfortable automobiles, such as our family’s wood-paneled Starship Enterprise station wagon.

Third, drive-ins needed lots of kids and the Baby Boom era produced plenty of those.

My family certainly took full advantage of this affordable entertainment option every summer.

And so I have many vivid memories of my father driving the station wagon around to several parking spots before finding a window speaker that worked.

He’d open the tail gate and set cheese curls and chips and ice-cold soda pop on it — one of the rare times we could devour these treats with abandon.

Soon, the blue sky fell dark, the film projector began rattling and black and white numbers — “5, 4, 3, 2, 1…” — flashed onto the screen.

Next came yellowed 1950s footage advertising hot dogs, popcorn and other concession items we could never get our father to buy. The feature film, “The Love Bug,” would finally play and our family event was under way.

I think the last time I went to the drive-in theater was my senior year of high school in 1980 — we were a bunch of would-be “American Graffiti” knuckleheads.

We went in my friend Gigs’ Plymouth because it had a trunk large enough for two or three of us to hide in.

Our ploy of getting past the theater owner and only having to pay for one ticket never worked — we always got caught, but it was great fun trying.

I won’t be hiding in my friend’s trunk, but I’m going to the drive-in theater this weekend.

We’ll go in my convertible with the top all the way down.

We’ll enjoy cheese curls and ice-cold orange soda, as we forget our worries for a little while, whiling the night away enjoying the rebirth of the great American drive-in theater.

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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The Need to vacate this summer

I sure could use a vacation about now — but I have no plans to take one this summer.

That’s the breaks for self-employed people like me who do not enjoy paid-­vacation benefits. When I do not work, I do not get paid.

However, nearly one in four American workers are not taking a summer vacation, either — in part because we’re the only advanced economy in the world that doesn’t mandate employer-paid vacations for them.

This is the time each year when I envy my friends in vacation-rich countries around the world.

In Kuwait, according to Far and Wide, employees receive 30 days of paid vacation. When including days off for religious holidays, employees can enjoy up to 64 days of paid leave — 13 weeks off a year.

In France, the government mandates every employee get at least five weeks of paid vacation. French workers average 37 days of vacation a year — and 22 paid holidays on top of that.

Austria requires employers to give their workers 25 days off and 30 days off to those who have worked 25 years or more.

The Austrians also require one of the great job perks of all time: Employees can clock out at 3 p.m. on Fridays rather than suffer on until 5 or 5:30 as we Americans do.

Compare these generous time-off policies to America, where employees average about 15 vacation days a year.

We Americans really can’t complain. We’re world famous for being a nation of workaholics, even in good times.

In tough economic times such as now, when costs are soaring and the buying power of our paychecks is shrinking, we have to work even harder to keep revenues coming in.

We don’t like our government telling us or our employers how we ought to conduct our business or how many vacation days employers must provide.

Our style has been, for the most part, to favor freedom over mandates of any kind.

Goodness knows our government has been so busy handing out goodies to citizens, it’s just a matter of time before the freedom lovers are overrun by the benefit lovers.

It will be a sad day if that ever happens. We’ll have a perpetually anemic economy, and all of us will have to struggle more to find the job opportunities that’ll bring us happiness and wealth.

That said, we Americans could learn a thing or two from our vacationing friends around the world.

“Vacating” from the stresses, responsibilities and worries of our daily lives is great for our health.

We know we should take off work and go somewhere with our loved ones or friends and completely get lost for a week at a beach or lake.

We know we should find more time to sit at an outdoor restaurant as the sun goes down, enjoying good wine, conversation and the delicious foods we never have time to prepare.

We know we should step off the earth just for a little while, laugh heartily and sleep until we are fully rested.

Vacating, or vacation, is good for each of us — and America. It restores our equilibrium and helps us become more productive, civil and poised when we return to our daily lives.

Ah, heck, I’ve talked myself into it.

I’m going to plan a trip to the ocean this summer and let its powerful waves wash my daily worries away — for a day or two, anyway.

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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Why we oooh and aaah on the Fourth of July   

It’s been way too long since I lit a sparkler as the sun goes down on the Fourth of July.

I’ve enjoyed many day-long celebrations with friends and family on the Fourth in many different ways, but they usually end with a gathering on a hill or a parking lot where we have an excellent view of the fireworks staged by one of several local communities.

When I was a kid, we usually went to the parking lot at South Hills Village mall in Bethel Park.

We’d unload the car and set up our makeshift picnic area with beverages, snacks and lawn chairs.

As we eagerly waited for the sky to fall dark so the fireworks could start, the adults would help us kids light our sparklers.

We’d marvel at their blinding beauty — until we heard the first “woof!” of fireworks being launched.

We’d oooh and aaah like a children’s chorus as the magnificent colors filled the sky.

And then we’d brace ourselves for the grand finale — the massive unleashing of colors and concussive sounds that filled the air with smoke and the sweet smell of sulfur and culminated in loud clapping, cheering and honking.

Afterwards, as we waited in the car in the parking-lot traffic, a great melancholy would set in.

We realized that our wonderful day had met its end and we’d have to wait another long year before we could enjoy the experience all over again.

July 4th was never just any old holiday celebration to me.

I didn’t fully understand it then, as I do now, but on the Fourth we really were celebrating our many freedoms and the many blessings that millions of people in countries around the world never get to experience on a daily basis.

We are free to peaceably assemble and protest or support ideas we disagree or agree with.

We are free to speak our mind candidly, without fear that our government is going to toss us into jail.

We have the freedom to come and go as we please — the freedom to quit our jobs and risk it all to start a company and become our own boss.

That is what Eddie Gabor’s dad did many years ago when he came to America from Hungary.

Eddie Gabor was my grandmother’s long-time companion. She’d lost her husband years before and had her share of loneliness until she met Eddie at church.

Eddie’s father had come here seeking a better life for himself and his family, as millions still seek to do. He took the first job he could get — janitor.

He eventually started his own cleaning business and ended up employing scores of people and servicing the largest skyscrapers in downtown Pittsburgh.

Eddie Gabor’s father built himself a beautiful stone home high on a hill in the suburbs on the edge of a park that has one of the area’s most spectacular Fourth of July fireworks displays.

It was also the home where, for 20 years, my extended family would gather on Independence Day to watch the fireworks — because Eddie’s father was able to achieve his American dream there.

I’m not sure yet where I’ll be oohing and aahing the fireworks this 4th, but one thing is certain: Our country’s current problems notwithstanding, I’ll make sure to thank God for the many blessings we continue to enjoy.

I’ll be sure to light a sparkler or two.

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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Summer bike hikes a relic of the past  

Sitting in my home office I am greeted by a cool breeze coming through my open window and the sweet sounds of summer outside.

It’s late June, which used to be peak bike-hiking season for kids — but now it’s mostly adults who go on long rides on their expensive high-tech bikes.

The bike has come full circle, I suppose.

From its inception in the 1800s the bicycle had been produced mostly for adults.

In the early 1900s it offered an inexpensive way for working-class folks living in urban areas to get to and from work.

As America prospered — as the automobile became the chief mode of travel for the masses — bike sales plummeted.

Sales wouldn’t begin to grow again until millions of Baby Boomer kids living in the wide-open suburbs drove up demand.

I got my first “spyder” bike, a red Murray one-speed, when I was nine and rode the wheels off it in only a few years.

The 1970s was the Evel Knievel era, you see. Every kid with a bicycle sought to emulate the iconic daredevil.

We built ramps from scraps of warped plywood set on uneven blocks.

Then we took our bikes to the top of Marilynn Drive — so steep it might as well have been a cliff — and roared downhill, made a hard left onto Janet Drive, and pedaled like mad until liftoff.

Our parents didn’t make us wear helmets or pads back then, which is why the average kid was covered with more scrapes and bruises than an NFL player on Monday morning.

When a landing went totally wrong — when a kid went down especially hard and wouldn’t get up — his family was alerted, a wood-paneled station wagon would arrive and the moaning kid would be carted off to St. Clair Hospital for stitches or a cast.

Despite the risks, or maybe because of them, our love affair with spyder bikes was common to every kid in every community across America in those years.

There were three reasons.

First, we were surrounded by wide-open roads and a county park — we had plenty of places to ride.

Second, parents weren’t yet terrified by the 24/7 news media to let their kids out of their sight and we were permitted to go on long bike hikes so long as we were home by supper.

Third, as the post-World War II economy continued to boom, our parents had just enough excess dough to buy us new bikes — something their parents could never afford to do for them.

None of us kids back then had any idea how lucky we were to have bikes and the freedom to enjoy them to the max.

It’s too bad today’s kids reportedly are losing interest in bikes.

As a Washington Post article says, “The number of children ages 6 to 17 who rode bicycles regularly — more than 25 times a year — decreased by more than a million from 2014 to 2018, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.”

Bike sales did increase during the covid pandemic, but it’s mostly adults who are buying and riding them now.

Adults have been reclaiming all kinds of activities — dressing up for Halloween, summer camp for grown-ups, prom do-overs — that only young people used to do.

Add bikes to the list — including electric bikes that more adults are riding to work to offset the high cost of gasoline.

Meanwhile, today’s kids are inside engaging with their electronic devices.

I hope, at the very least, they’re sitting by an open window enjoying a cool breeze and the sweet sounds of summer.

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell, creator of the infotainment site ThurbersTail.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist. Email him at [email protected]

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What My Father Wants Most

My dad isn’t doing so well.

His wife of 65 years and six kids could be doing better, too.

He’ll be 89 in July and his body is showing its age.

His legs don’t work so well due to stenosis of the spine, plus he’s been in and out of skilled-nursing centers and hospitals the past few months with infections and other issues that won’t relent — the two worst months of his long life.

The hardest part is that he is apart from my mother. Boy, does he miss being with her.

After all these years, they still hold hands as they fall asleep each night — or did before the ambulance took him away after a bad fall.

They met when they were teens in high school. My mother saw the big fellow arguing with his friends over whether a lemon slice would leave a stain on a Formica countertop.

“I’d never met anyone like that before!” she recounts with laughter.

Once he set eyes on her, that was it for him, he told me. He told me he knew right away he would marry her and he did.

He was a tough son of a gun. He grew up in the city streets, where fist fights were common — though few dared mess with him.

He went on to become a football star with several scholarship offers — in 1953, Chuck Noll, then team captain at the University of Dayton, took my dad to dinner with hopes of getting him to sign.

My dad broke a lot of hearts when he didn’t sign — his mom’s, his coaches’ and lots of people who saw his potential — but he didn’t sign because all he wanted then, as now, was to be with my mother.

He got a good-paying job with good benefits at Bell Telephone. He worked hard and often long hours to provide for my five sisters and me and spent little on himself.

It is difficult to watch such a powerful, capable man become weak.

It’s maddening to see how the institutions that are in business to care for the elderly sometimes see my dad as a revenue-generator, not a human being.

There are lots of wonderful people providing care in these places — some are saints.

But there are others who are not so polite to the patients who are dependent on them for their most basic needs.

We Purcells are imperfect people who have had our share of downs and are having one now, but the ups have been wonderful and there were many of them.

Human suffering abounds in this world — particularly in nursing homes, where we see so many elderly people wishing God would take them from their worn-out bodies, so they may be at peace.

Suffering often brings clarity, however, and even peace as it forces us to sort out what is truly important from all the noise.

As my sisters and I do our best to help our parents get through this difficult period of their lives, here’s what’s important to me:

My dad and mom still share one of the greatest love stories of all time and we hope and pray they will soon be able to hold hands as they fall asleep each night.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

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Learning to Enjoy Life’s Real Agitations

Americans are so angry about so many things — with partisan politics topping the list.

Politics is important, to be sure, because as we know from experience the ideas and policies implemented by our highly fallible government leaders can have beneficial and/or grave outcomes.

But in the social media era — as we carry our angry politics on our smartphones in our pockets all day — it’s taking up much more of our daily lives, and making us more miserable than ever.

As I get older — as I realize I’ve taken politics a little too seriously over time — the real agitations of everyday life are becoming much more noticeable to me.

For example, I love banana cream pie, but few restaurants serve it because the bananas turn brown before all the pie is sold and people who don’t know their bananas won’t buy it.

Which means I must go without it.

How about parking tickets?

I’ve had far too many for one man. Lots and lots of them.

I can afford parking tickets, but, boy, do they fry my bacon — especially when the meter maid is sticking the ticket under my windshield wiper as I walk back to my truck.

I especially dislike how “squeeze” mayonnaise dispensers stop dispensing when only half of the mayo in the bottle is gone.

While we’re on condiments, I really hate how that vinegary water comes out of the yellow mustard bottle and saturates your burger with ick before any mustard ever comes out.

Or how about coffee?

The first cup every morning is glorious, but why is the second always a monumental let down?

And why do they put cotton in my vitamin bottles that my fingers are too fat to remove?
Same with texting. My fingers are too big to text — so I use voice translate, which mangles my words and leaves my friends and loved ones in a perpetual state of confusion.

A few more daily agitations I’d like to point out:

– Summer goes by way too fast every year. Why doesn’t winter do that?

– I used to think that computing power and access to endless information would make us all smarter, so why are they making us less nimble and much more rigid-minded?

– Why is it so that in a large, wonderful country like ours, a handful of people too often have way too much power to influence what we think and do by restricting what we read, see or say on social media?

I love freedom, but the trouble with freedom — real, genuine freedom — is that when you truly embrace it you unleash all that is good in the human heart as well as things we may find unpleasant.

I am sorry so many humans are suffering in our world and that troubles me most of all.

We may try to blind ourselves to it, but it does have a way of clarifying your mind and making you realize how good we have it.

It’s a realization too few of us are able to have even though we live in a free, prosperous place, albeit one with imperfections that need to be worked on.

In any event, there are a lot of things more agitating to our daily lives than the improper place we give to hyper-partisan politics.

How much better off we’d be if more people put on their curmudgeon glasses and started enjoying real agitations as I am learning to do!

Because real daily agitation abounds, people. Now open your eyes and enjoy it like I am learning to do!

Copyright 2022 Tom Purcell, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Tom Purcell is an author and humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Email him at [email protected]

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