Attack of the Cheesewoman

My wife Staci made me go to a wedding last weekend.

Staci makes me go to everything.

If it weren’t for her, I’d be happy.  Like Howard Hughes, I’d be high on morphine rocking back and forth in the closet of a Las Vegas hotel room, but I’d be happy.

My resentment is what makes me buy her birthday cakes shaped like Menorahs with “to Stan” written across the top.

Then a family wedding rolls around, and she gets her vengeance.  She makes me attend.

The weddings themselves are survivable.  Survivable because in church, people talk less.  I can just sit there in silence and memorize the Canadian provinces, west to east, which is what I’m doing when I close my eyes in church.

But the receptions that follow are hell in a cheesebasket.  Hell because they include the vicious troika of dancing, relatives and speeches.  Cheesebasket because that is what I was staring at in the double-row buffet line as the large woman across from me tried to clasp a cheese cube with the only pair of tongs available.

And so I waited.


Because the woman could only clamp one cube of cheese at a time.

It was clear her woeful display was no doubt due to the way she was holding the tongs.  They were pressed between her fingers and palm.  It was as though she were the only member of the species to not receive the “opposable thumb” memo.

I should add that none of this was remotely fair.  I had skipped my table’s trip to the buffet and waited for every other table to have their trip to the buffet, so I could go absolutely last.  When there would be no people.   And no chance of conversation.

But no.  The same cruel irony that rendered the musically-gifted Beethoven deaf and the telescopically-gifted Galileo blind delivered unto the misanthropically-gifted Stephan the being known as Cheesewoman.

Seconds ticked by like hours.  It was all I could do to keep from helping.

And by “helping,” I mean grabbing a handful of cheese cubes and throwing them at her.

I thought about leaving cheese-less, but cheese is the one thing Staci had asked me to get for her when I got up to go to the buffet line.  Oh, the cruel master of vengeance that is Staci, gleefully sending me into Dante’s eighth circle of hell for some cheese.

And then Cheesewoman spoke.   And I slipped into Dante’s ninth circle.

At least I assumed it was Cheesewoman speaking.  It was hard to see her face over Mount Cheesamanjaro.

“My husband always has me get some for him,” she said, smiling.

I thought about not responding.  Divine retribution for her gluttonous one-woman Cheesapalooza.

But I did, marking my first kind act of June.  (Actually, my second, if you consider the fact that I refrained from tossing cheese at her.)

“Mine, too,” I replied.

And then she stopped smiling.

And I realized what she was thinking.

Stephan was gay.

Gay because “mine, too” meant I was getting cheese for my husband.

So I clarified my remark.

“For my wife.  I meant, for my wife.”

“Oh,” she said, “I wasn’t gonna say anything.  Because in this area, you never know.”

It was said with an unmistakable condescension and disdain, and coming from the Cheese Wizard, it was more than I could take.

So I said one more thing.

“I meant my husband.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“Her name is Stan.”

They Call Me Mr. Pastis

My last name is pronounced “PASStiss.” It’s Greek. I don’t really care how people pronounce it, but most people who say it for the first time give it a French twist:   “pahSTEES.”

It’s not a problem, because few strangers try to pronounce my last name on a day-to-day basis.

Except my eternal nemesis:

The Safeway clerk.

For reasons unknown, someone at my grocery store has decided that when the clerk hands me my receipt, they should glance at the name on my Safeway card, and say, “Thank you, Mr. Pastis.”

Except it doesn’t come out that way.

Instead, it’s “Thank you, Mr. Uhhhhh” followed by a pause long enough for me to read all of the headlines on the front page of the National Enquirer and the Weekly World News.

And that’s when my stomach starts hurting.

Not because they’re about to make my name sound closer to “Pepe LePew” than “Pastis.”  But because I’m going to have to interact with another human.

You see, I’m a guy who will avoid sneezing in public to avoid the danger of some stranger around me saying, “Bless you.”

A few weeks ago, the exchange reached a new low.  Instead of the usual French-sounding “pahSTEES,” the Safeway clerk handing me the receipt gave my name an entirely new twist:


Yes, pasties.  For the innocent among you, take a few moments to “Google Image” that one.

Of course, I should have let it go at that.

But that would have been something normal people do.  And besides, I have a history with these Safeway clerks.

So I replied.

“It’s ‘PASStis.’  Not ‘pasties.’  ‘Pasties’ are something that strippers wear to cover their nipples.”

It’s here that I should tell you something you’d probably have no reason to otherwise know:

Safeways can get really quiet.

I believe I heard crickets as the clerk handed me the receipt and put the last bag in my grocery cart.

She did not ask if I needed help taking my groceries to the car.  She did not thank me for shopping at Safeway.

She just looked down as I shuffled out of that Safeway in shamed silence, the back wheel of my shopping cart squeaking all the way.  And all I could think was one thing:

My comedy is far ahead of its time.

A Confession That Does Not Cast Me in a Flattering Light

I fill out every contest form I can find.

I’m talking about the little index-card-size forms you see in magazines, at grocery store checkout stands, in gyms, at hotels, etc.  You enter for a chance to win a vacation, a car, spa treatments, money, etc.

Of course, no one ever wins these contests.  The only reason companies have you fill them out at all is so that they can put you on a junk mailing list that you will then stay on until long after you are dead.

You may say to yourself, why would somebody who hates all contact with the outside world do something like that?  That’s where I should mention the following:

It’s not my name and address I’m filling in on those little cards.

It’s my cousin Louis’.

I don’t know when I started this quaint little Louis tradition, but I know it goes back a number of years.  At least a dozen.  And now that I’ve gotten the ball rolling like that, I think it would be wrong of me to stop.  I feel pangs of guilt if I walk past one of those forms without putting Louis’ name on it.

The cards often ask for information regarding your income and career.  I always give Louis the highest income possible, as I think this increases his odds of getting more junk mail.  That’s always the goal.  If it’s a contest in a hunting magazine, and they ask how often you hunt, Louis hunts every day of the year.

Louis has tried to win trips from Sweden to Thailand to Nova Scotia.  Boy, has he tried.  He’s tried to win living room furnishings, a date with Pamela Anderson, a trip to the Oscars, a boatload of DVDs, soda for life, pedicures, boats, weightlifting sets, encyclopedias, tropical fish and spa treatments.  I can’t even count the number of trucks he’s tried to win.

And as far as I know, poor Louis has only won one thing.

A mailbox he can no longer close.

I know I should stop.  But I can’t.   I do not want to cut myself off from the joy I get from thinking of Louis’ face every time he gets to his mailbox and sees he signed himself up for another hunting and fishing catalog.

I’ve also never told Louis I do it.  But I plan to one day.

That day will be when Louis calls me to tell me he’s won a vacation to Hawaii in a contest he didn’t even enter.  And I will tell him for only one reason:  He will owe me half of that prize.

Hey.  I did all the work.