OUT OF CONTEXT: Does this column make me look fat? Yeah, I thought so.

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I’m confused.

Somebody left a small bag of trash on my doorstep the other day. As I looked around, I noticed that a similar bag of trash had been left on the doorstep of every other house in my neighborhood.

“That’s odd,” I thought. “Must be some kind of prank.”

But what’s confusing is that I think the bags of trash were left by … the telephone company. Honestly.

Inside the bag was a big, yellow, booklike thing. With telephone numbers on each page.

It took me a second to realize that I was looking at a phone book.

I can’t remember the last time I used a phone book. You see, my kids are grown and no longer need a booster seat at the dinner table. And ever since we got central air conditioning, there’s been no need to prop open a door in our house.

Why do telephone companies still deliver phone books to everybody? Don’t they know that nobody uses them anymore? Haven’t they heard of — the Internets ?

If you want anything, all you have to do is go to the World Wide Web and you’ll find it on somebody’s list — Craig’s list, Angie’s list, Schindler’s list.

Remember those commercials that encouraged you to use the phone book? “Let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages.” (Yeah, I think that commercial was conceived by the same advertising genius who gave us “Hey, Kool-Aid!”)

Anyway, I decided to let my fingers walk through the phone book to see if it’s still useful.

I opened it and started looking up numbers, but the print was so small I needed a magnifying glass to read it. There was no other way to increase the size of the text.

The phone book had ads inside, but they didn’t move or make any sounds. No dancing babies or a computer voice saying, “Congratulations, you have just won … ”

And it didn’t have any recommendations from people I don’t know or have any reason to trust. Not one.

So I looked at this heavy, clumsy, hard-to-read, non-interactive piece of retro software and began to get annoyed as I realized that the phone company had just given me something to throw away.

“Why can’t they throw away their own phone books?” I thought. “Why do they have to outsource this job to me?”

I decided I would do something about it.

So I placed the phone book in my recycling container.

Then I placed my recycling container in my car.

Then I drove my car to the phone company and left my recycling container on the doorstep with a note: “Outsource this!”

•••


A few weeks ago I wrote about how my favorite liquor store in Pasadena, Md., never cards me because, let’s face it, there’s no way I could pass for 20.

Well, somebody there read the column — and now they’ve started carding me.

Not every old-timer who goes in there. Just me.

I wish I could say it makes me feel young again. But that’s what the beer is for.

•••


Is anybody else creeped out by seeing Halloween decorations next to Christmas decorations at the supermarket?

To me, the Halloween skeleton standing next to the Santa Claus figurine looks like some kind of before-and-after display … but I’m not sure which is the “before” and which is the “after.”

Either way, it looks like an eating disorder was involved.

•••


When I first heard that NASA had crashed two spacecraft into the moon this month, I was afraid it was a DUI-related accident. (“Houston, we have a problem. David Hasselhoff’s up here and he wants to drive.”)

But NASA intentionally crashed the probes into the moon’s south pole to look for hidden ice. Which, to me, sounds like crashing your car into a telephone pole to find the air bag.

The crashes had been expected to kick up miles of lunar dust, which NASA scientists would analyze for traces of ice.

NASA hopes to find some lunar water because it would help in setting up a base on the moon. You know, for showers and stuff.

A co-worker made an astute observation. She said, “Isn’t it weird that President Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize on the same day that the U.S. unilaterally attacked the moon?”

•••


I’m a safe driver, but some people say I drive too fast.

Unfortunately, most of them operate the speed cameras in the District.

They enjoy sending me photographs of me in my car and asking me for money.

I think they’re blackmailing me.

•••


I hope you’re feeling OK, and if you’re not, I hope that you’ll be feeling OK real soon.

I hope that people everywhere are feeling OK or will be feeling OK real soon.

I hope that animals everywhere feel OK, even those we eat. Because happy animals taste better.

And I hope that this message gives me the inside track for next year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Because I’m taking that $1.4 million award and I’m going to Vegas, baby!

That’s the real audacity of hope.

You can reach Carleton Bryant at 202/636-3218 and cbryant@washingtontimes.com — but only if you’re not from the phone company.

About the Author
Carleton Bryant

Carleton Bryant

Carleton Bryant is the assistant managing editor for strategic planning and development/special projects for The Washington Times. He previously served as The Times’ Metropolitan desk editor, Features desk editor and an assistant National desk editor, as well as a National and Metropolitan reporter. He currently writes a humor blog and weekly humor column — both titled “Out of Context” — ...

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