Monday, January 23, 2017

Simple Ways to Amuse Yourself

Bored? Nothing on TV? Bored with what’s on TV? Looking for a way to kill time rather than do something productive? (That’s the one I always vote for, which is why I don’t have more books on the market.) There are all sorts of fun things you can do that don’t involve self-abuse, or abusing others. That’s what today’s blog is about. Here are a few of my favorites:

If you know you’re going to be stuck in a car for a significant length of time, there are all sorts of games you can play, by yourself or with others. I’ve mentioned the speed game before. If I’m on a major highway, I’ll hold the car steady at the speed limit and see how many people pass me. Usually, it’s everybody. I can say this with certainty: whatever the posted speed limit is, the real-life speed limit is at least ten to twenty MPH above it. It's rare in this game to find someone going slower than I am.

For a variation on this game, hang back at or below the speed limit and watch the other drivers. It’s more fun than watching Nascar because you’re part of the action. Massachusetts is a great place for this. I suspect Dale Earnhardt learned how to drive on Massachusetts highways. If you’re driving through Ohio, sticking to the speed limit is your best bet anyway. They’ve got tough cops in that state.

If you find yourself stuck in traffic, try the Distance Game. That’s where you check out the license plates of the cars around you. The car with a plate farthest from your current location is the winner. For instance, I’m in Pennsylvania, so a plate from Texas wins, unless I spot a car from California. Border states like Maryland or New Jersey don’t count.

This game can get tricky if you don’t know your geography. Suppose you’ve got a plate from Ontario on one side and a plate from Wyoming on the other. Canada’s a different country so they win automatically, right? Not in PA, they don’t. Geographically, Wyoming is farther away, so they take the prize. Maine vs. Ontario, I’m not sure. I’d have to measure on a map.

National parks are a great place to play this one. Wandering through parking lots at Gettysburg, I’ve seen plates from all over the US, including Hawaii (now there’s a helluva drive for you). The all-time champ (to date) was the car from Guam. I spotted that one right here on Rt. 30 in Lancaster. I’m not quite sure why anyone would ship a car from Guam. It must get fantastic mileage.

Once you’ve parked and gotten out of the car, there are other fun things you can do in public to safely mess with other people’s heads. I spend a lot of time at my local library because that’s where I get my free Internet. I’ve also decided it’s time I cleaned out a percentage of my book collection. We’re talking over forty years of accumulated comic books, magazines and paperbacks. Yeah, I could just donate the paperbacks, but where’s the fun in that? It’s more fun to take a book I don’t want any more and just leave it in a random place—a bus stop, a doctor’s office, a hospital waiting room. If you leave them in a public place, like the bus stop, you can go back periodically and see if it’s been picked up. I recommend you don’t try this in a grocery store or any other place that sells books. You could get somebody charged with shoplifting.

When I go to my local comic store, I always pick up the freebies, even if it isn’t something I’d ordinarily read. Marvel especially puts out free “samplers” of their latest offerings, mini-magazines with a couple teaser pages of a dozen stories or so. And, of course, there’s Free Comic Book Day in May, when I’ll pick up my one freebie and three-four others for cheap. When I’m done, I drop them off in the children’s section of the library. These tend to disappear rather quickly; it does say “free” on the cover.

I don’t think the staff’s throwing them out. One time I left two samplers, one featuring upcoming Marvel comics and the other focusing on Star Wars. The Marvel book sat there for months, and was pretty tattered by the time it finally disappeared. The Star Wars book vanished within three hours. There was a boy sitting there when I dropped both of them off, and I suspect he’s the one who took it home. It’s hard to resist the lure of the Dark Side.

Besides books, I’ve been pulling another little mind game on library patrons. I start my day with a cup of tea to get that caffeine jolt. I like Red Rose, partly for the taste, partly for the little porcelain figurines they offer free in every box. I’ve amassed a large collection over the decades, some of them duplicates. I’ve never gotten a complete collection of any given set. I’ll have six of one figure and never get even one of others. Maybe they’re distributed by region or something.

Anyway, I decided to have a little fun with librarygoers and started leaving my duplicate figurines in places around the building. Out of reach of little kids, unfortunately. They’re the ones most likely to enjoy the fun of this, but I can’t guarantee some little darling won’t find the figurine, pop it into their mouth (they’re small, some about the size of a quarter), swallow and choke. Next thing you know, the library’s going to court. See what society has come to?

So the first two I put out in plain sight (one on the thermostat, the other on a shelf) but out of reach of children. Every couple of days I checked on them. The one on the thermostat vanished fairly quickly, but the other sat out there for weeks. I recently set out two more. The one was right out in the open, in a place kids could see. It vanished overnight. The other is sitting placidly in a potted plant on a windowsill. Kids don’t look at potted plants, so that one could be there for a while.

Yeah, I know. It doesn’t take much to amuse me. This is long-term humor.

Another thing you can do for fun, and to avoid work, is to write a blog instead of working. Kill two birds with one stone. Can’t beat that with a stick.

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