“Say the name of the party you are trying to reach. If you know your party’s extension you may dial it directly. Press the pound sign at any time to hear a listing of the company directory” the robotic voice of the automated answering system at Titan Industries politely instructed me. 

Neville Carter” I replied. For some reason I always felt silly talking to robo machines. 

“Devil Carter. One moment please.” 

Before I could repeat the correct name, I heard a click and the on-hold background music started – a dramatic instrumental arrangement of Climb Every Mountain. About two minutes later the music stopped. 


“I’m sorry. There is no listing for a Devil Carter. Say the name of the party you are trying to reach. If you know your party’s extension you may dial it directly. Press the pound sign at any time to hear a listing of the company directory.” 

I cleared my throat. 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t quite get that. Say the same of the party you are trying to reach. If you know your party’s extension you may dial it directly. Press the pound sign at any time to hear a listing of the company directory.” 

NEVILLE CARTER” I annunciated as clearly as possible.

“One moment while I try that party.” 

Click. Classical music.

Ok” I said to myself. “Hopefully we’ll get it right this time.” 

“I’m sorry. There is no listing for a Neville Carver. Say the name of the party you are trying to reach. If you know your party’s extension you may dial it directly. Press the pound sign at any time to hear a listing of the company directory.” 

CARTER. NOT CARVER” I said slowly and loudly. I was getting impatient. 

“One moment please. 

Click. Jazz music. 

“I’m sorry. There is no listing for a Carter Not Carver. Say the name of the party you are trying to reach. If you know your party’s extension you may dial it directly. Press the pound sign at any time to hear a listing of the company directory.” 

“What the freaking hell! This is ridiculous!” I bellowed into the phone, all the while hearing the same monotonous speech in the background. In complete exasperation I hung up. Then I had an idea: if I call back and press “O” for operator I might actually get a real live person. 

Here goes nothing” I thought as I dialed the number. One ring, two rings. 

Upon connecting I immediately pushed “O” while gleefully shouting “Take that, you robotic bitch!” 

Then I heard the most beautiful words ever – “Titan Industries. How may I help you?”  

“Neville Carter, please” I requested. 

“Right away, sir.” 

One ring. Two. Three. I started feeling nervous. Finally my call was answered: “You have reached the office of Neville Carter. Your call is very important to us. We are experiencing extremely high caller volume. You are currently caller number 17. Your wait time is approximately 90 minutes. You may continue to wait or call back at a more convenient time.” 

Click. Country music. 

Damn insufferable machines! I decided to go to Titan Industries in person. I stowed my dog eared copy of How To Make Friends and Influence People into my backpack and headed for the train. 

Finding a seat, I took out my beloved book. The train started then stopped. The lights went out and a recorded message crackled through the speakers: 

“Attention passengers. Due to mechanical difficulties all service is indefinitely delayed. We apologize for this inconvenience. Thank you for your patience.” 

“WONDERFUL!! JUST FUCKING BLOODY WONDERFUL!!” I screamed into the darkness. 

NAR © 2023


Angry mobs stormed the front and back doors, yelling and wielding crowbars, guns and other weapons. The sound of breaking glass preceded the screeching alarm – another ‘smash-and-grab’ incident that had become so prevalent in shopping centers across the US and the Bradbury Mall was no exception. This time it was the exclusive Hermès shop located three stores down from the Cinnabon where Estrella worked.

“Everyone into the storage room. Now!” barked Jeff, Estrella’s boss.

Jeff, is this really necessary?” Estrella countered. “By the time we get everyone in the back room, those thugs will be gone. They’re not interested in us.”

“Estrella, I’m not going to argue with you. Get Rosita and go into the storage room now. You too, Carlos and Eddie. Everyone – let’s go.”

Rosita screamed as gunshots rang out, bullets pinging loudly off the steel beams in the plaza. Shoppers scattered for safety, the cacophony of yelling, gunfire and shattering glass filling the mall. As Estrella guided Rosita into the back room, she caught a glimpse of one of the looters. She recognized him as Ozzy, a gang member who hung around the bodega near her apartment. “Desgracia! Worthless garbage!” she spat out.

Once everyone was safely inside the storage area, Jeff locked the heavy metal door. Breathlessly, he slid down onto the floor. No one said a word. Rosita trembled in the corner of the little room while Estrella comforted her. Eddie and Carlos sat on boxes staring at the floor. No matter how many times these incidents happened, no one knew what to do but everyone had the same two questions: why were these lootings being allowed to continue and was it worth going to work every day?

Jeff spoke softly. “Listen, folks. I know this is taking a toll on everyone and I’m just as frightened as you but it’s my responsibility to take care of you. The security guards aren’t allowed to carry guns and they’re in as much danger as we are, probably more. We can’t take risks; we all have families waiting for us at home so we’re just going to have to take cover in here whenever this happens. No arguments. And always remember to take your cell phones with you. Comprende?” Everyone nodded in agreement.

After a while an announcement came over the mall’s PA system informing everyone that the situation was under control. Jeff asked his workers to help clean up, then they could go home; he lightly squeezed Rosita’s hand, assuring her he’d drive her home. Estrella complained vociferously about the ‘smash-and-grabs’, saying it was “a disgrace for these animals to carry on like this, spreading fear and endangering people’s lives, while no one did anything to stop them!” Frightened, tired and sad, she left the shop in tears.

Estrella’s car was parked in the municipal garage below the mall. She decided to use the winding ramp down to the employee parking level instead of riding the elevator or using the enclosed stairwell. As she walked she  heard glass breaking; the looters were back. Thankfully she was on her way out. Suddenly a car alarm went off and Estrella realized the sound of breaking glass was car windows being smashed – cars in the garage.

There it was again. And again. And again! The smashing became louder, faster, closer. Someone was in the garage and they were following her. Estrella quickened her step and the crashing sounds kept pace. She could see her car at the end of the ramp and broke into a run, desperately rummaging through her purse searching for her keys. She could hear the footsteps now. At last her fingers locked around the remote and she frantically pushed all the buttons until her car lights flashed and the rear hatch opened. Running for her life, she swung open the driver’s seat door, madly pushing the buttons to close the hatch and lock the doors. Shifting into ‘drive’, she sped out of the garage swerving wildly.

Estrella drove as fast as she could until the mall was no longer visible in her rearview mirror. She gradually slowed down and stopped as the traffic light changed to red. Her heart began to beat regularly and she exhaled. “I’m never going back there again” she said out loud.

The light turned green and she continued to her apartment. Pulling into a parking spot, she turned off the ignition and reached for her purse. Her blood ran cold as she felt a jagged piece of glass at her throat. Ozzy’s familiar gruff voice whispered in her ear “No, chica. You definitely are not.”

NAR © 2022


Every morning I take the train to work in lower Manhattan from Far Rockaway, New York and back home again in the evening. Along with a multitude of fellow commuters, I ride the underground transit system (affectionately know as ‘the subway”) for a total of three hours round trip. That’s a long time to observe the parade of weirdos entering and exiting the train. 

Riding the subway for as long as I do, it’s easy to become familiar with my fellow passenger’s quirks and foibles – even assigning them made up names to go with their peccadilloes. And let me tell you – people are strange! 

Far Rockaway is where the commute originates so I’m always guaranteed a seat. A couple I call Marge and Homer gets on the same train as me. I have determined from their heated conversations that they have been engaged for about six years. Marge is ready to get married; Homer’s not. She talks about her biological clock; he talks about nothing but his upcoming promotion at work. Then Marge reminds Homer he’s been saying the same thing for five years now and their discussion becomes more heated with every chug of the subway.

First stop: enter Malodorous Man. This guy is always guaranteed a seat in the corner all by himself. The fact that he desperately needs a shower would be enough to keep people away but he also brings his breakfast on the train – a raw onion which he peels and eats with gusto as one would an apple. 

At our next stop Mr. Obsessive gets on. He immediately takes out a can of disinfectant and sprays it in the direction of Malodorous Man who indignantly shouts “Hey, I’m eatin’ here!”. 

Mr. Obsessive goes to HIS seat (where no one else dares sit because everyone knows it’s HIS seat), cleans it and begins his routine. First he unties his shoe laces making sure they are of equal length. Satisfied that they are, he reties his laces, then adjusts his socks so they reach the exact same height on both legs. He smooths his trousers, unbuttons and re-buttons his jacket, aligns the amount of shirt cuff visible from his jacket sleeves, straightens his tie and adjusts his hat repeatedly. Finally all is well in OCD Land

At stop number three Malodorous Man departs and the Tattoo Twins get on, a teenage boy and girl covered from the neck down with multicolored tattoos. They lean against the door and start making out while MrObsessive huffs in disapproval. 

Totally out of character Marge suddenly declares to Homer that she’s “had enough” and moves to another seat next to Bob the Builder, a good-looking construction worker. Homers not happy about this; perhaps he’s noticed the same thing I have: whenever Bob the Builder enters the train he winks at Marge and pats his impressive tool belt. Bob and Marge begin a quiet conversation while Homer fumes. 

Next stop and Mr. Obsessive fearfully sidles, past the Tattoo Twins who reach out and knock his perfect hat right off his head. Shocked by this unnecessary assault, Mr. Obsessive stares at the now unwearable hat, sniffs in disdain and scurries off the train. 

Impulsively, a jilted Homer jumps up and punches Tattoo Boy in the nose who retaliates by shoving Homer backwards on his ass. A few passengers give Homer a thumbs up. Somewhat embarrassed yet proud of himself, Homer glances over at Marge for her approval. She, however, is too involved with Bob the Builder to notice. Homer tells Marge “it’s our stop” but she shakes her head and snuggles closer to BobHomer huffs off and looks back just as Marge fondles the tip of Bob’s hammer. 

Welcome to the daily subway sideshow where everyone is strange except me – or am I? 

NAR © 2019


It was Saturday afternoon and the old priest sat in the confessional, humming and examining his fingernails as he waited for the penitent to arrive. Usually the most devout went to confession every week, sometimes more than that. Most of the confessions were harmless while others could curl your hair. 

Just as the priest was about to nod off, a middle-aged woman entered the confessional and said “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I committed adultery twice this week.” The priest was understandably upset but forgave her, told her to say six Hail Marys and advised her not to let it happen again. 

During the week eight more people confessed the same sin. The priest forgave them all but by the end of the month over fifty people confessed to committing adultery and he was ready to scream. He was so disappointed by the behavior of his parishioners that the following Sunday he greeted the congregation with the following announcement: “From now on if any of you needs to confess to committing adultery, don’t say that word. Instead say you tripped in a pothole and fell down – something along those lines. I don’t want to hear that distasteful word ever again.” The people were embarrassed and ashamed to look at the priest but they honored his request and did as he asked. 

Months went by and the number of people who tripped in potholes or fell down was mind-boggling. Even people from other churches began coming to confess their sins to the kindly old priest. After all, saying “I tripped in a pothole was much more palatable than admitting to committing adultery. The penitent parishioners certainly were creative and the priest heard every euphemism for “adultery” under the sun! 

Suddenly the old priest passed away and was replaced by young priest fresh from the seminary and anxious to do God’s work. The new priest knew nothing about the “adultery arrangement”. One day a young woman came to confession and admitted to tripping in a pothole and twisting her ankle on a cobblestone … twice.  The priest was rather perplexed but simply replied “That’s alright, my child. Just watch your step next time.” This happened so often that the young priest felt compelled to take the issue of the potholes up with the mayor and city council. 

The priest telephoned the mayor and they planned to meet the next day. “Mr. Mayor”, the priest said. “Something needs to be done about the deplorable conditions of the roads in this town. People keep tripping in potholes or falling off broken curbs every day.” 

Oh, that” he answered and everyone began laughing hysterically when they realized the priest had no idea about the secret of the potholes. 

The priest was taken aback and angered by the mayor and city council’s cavalier attitude. 

“This is no laughing matter, Mr. Mayor! I can’t understand why you think it’s so funny. Why, your own wife tripped and fell in potholes six times last week!” 

NAR © 2019


Other brands of crayons can be found in every toy or arts and crafts store around the world – various sized boxes containing a multitude of colors – but none can compare to the “King of Crayons” – CRAYOLA! 

Originally all that was available was a thin mustard-colored paper packet with drab green lettering which contained eight crayons – one each of black, blue, brown, green, red, violet, orange and yellow .. fine, reliable, steadfast colors indeed .. the proud forefathers of what was to come. 

As time went on, more colors were created and updated boxes were designed .. until finally in 1958 the crown jewel of crayons made its debut. Nothing compared to the new bright yellow and green box with red letters emblazoned across the front shouting out “64 DIFFERENT BRILLIANT COLORS WITH BUILT-IN SHARPENER!” This was indeed The Grand Crayonon”! 

One peek inside the magic box revealed to curious and imaginative kids everywhere a rainbow battalion of wax soldiers standing at attention in their cardboard armories ..  a plethora of pigmentation, a confluence of chromaticity, a legion of luminosity .. colors galore! 

No longer were kids confined to a measly eight colors. Now, instead of one red there were four, five hues of orange, eight varieties of yellow, six choices of green, a profusion of eleven blues, five purple shades, an assortment of eight pinks, an incredible selection of ten browns, two grays and one each of silver, gold, copper, black and white. One of the blues was called cerulean, which everyone thought sounded more like a gas than a color! 

The artistic possibilities were endless: the sky was no longer just blue but actually sky blue and midnight blue. Trees weren’t plain old green – they were forest and pine green. Flowers were carnation pink, brilliant rose and periwinkle. Lemons and olives were, believe it or not, lemon yellow and olive green!  

And just when you think the pinnacle has been reached, along comes the totally unexpected .. washable crayons, erasable ones, scented, fluorescent and even glitter crayons. Now oranges, grapes and cherries smell like fruit, tulips and violets smell like flowers and reflecting stars sparkle and shimmer in the Pacific Blue. 

It’s no wonder why something as ineffably magical as playful, colorful crayons should have their own theme park .. The Crayola Experience .. a fabulous place where kids and adults can participate in “The Power of Creativity”.  

Thank you, Crayola, for coloring our world!

NAR © 2018