Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I Stiffed The Little Sisters of Malawi

There it was in the morning mail, another request for a donation, this time for The Little Sisters of Malawi.  The enclosed letter says the harvest this year in Malawi was very sparse.  The Little Sisters are hungry, cold, and in dire need of food, personal items and clothing.  For a small monthly donation, I can help provide these desperately needed supplies to save the Little Sisters.

I want to help, but so many questions start spinning in my head. I understand the Little Sisters need help, but what about their Big Sisters?  And the Little Brothers? Don’t they need help also? Will these so-called “Little Sisters” hog all the loot?  Is Malawi a real country?  Is it actually cold there?  Maybe it’s warm and the Little Sisters really don’t need new clothes.  But what happens if I don’t help?  Will the Little Sisters be forced to run around nekkid?  If so, that can’t be good, no sir.

So, should I give or not?  Oh look, the Little Sisters sent me some spiffy address labels
as a thank you gift for the donation they know I will send.  I mean, what type of cold-hearted degenerate would refuse to aid the Little Sisters, especially after they took the trouble to send you a personal thank you gift?

Degenerate that I am, I decide not to help the Little Sisters. Someone else is going to have to ease their plight this time.  But what to do with these neat address labels?  If I keep them, then I feel as if I have stolen from and disparaged every one of those Little Sisters.  I image their woeful faces as they see me absconding with their address labels, without ponying up.  On the other hand, if I throw the labels away, I am wasting precious natural resources and not being environmentally “green”. Now I am a huge environmental zealot -- when it personally benefits me, when it doesn’t, my carbon footprint resembles Bigfoot. 

To save the planet, I throw the letter in the trash and put the labels in the drawer alongside the note pads from “Save the Wallaby’s”, the sticky notes from the “National Hemorrhoid Association”, the blank thank-you cards from the “Make A Sammich Foundation” and pens from a whole host of other charitable groups.  There have even been times when charities have sent me a nickel as a “thank you” gift.  Of course, I have eagerly pocketed these, not because I am a cheapskate, but because it is illegal to throw money away and I would never want to break a federal law.

Still, I feel a little guilty about stiffing the Little Sisters, so I decide watch some television and divert my thoughts.  The show is interesting, those Kardashians are having some confounding problems this week! But then there is a commercial break …..

Sad music plays and a woman in severe distress describes the deplorable conditions of neglected and abused animals.  And there they are, close-up on my big screen, their extremely sad eyes staring directly at me.  The woman, who is on the verge of uncontrollable sobbing, explains that these poor creatures are cold, hungry and in need of care.  She says only $29 a month is needed to save these abandoned pets.

I do wonder, if these animals are in such bad shape, why they are filming them instead of helping them. But only a cold, heartless, jerk would not help God’s creatures and bring comfort to this poor woman, who by the end of the commercial sounds as if she could die of sadness  at any moment.  So I grab my checkbook and start to write, when …

Another commercial begins – This man with a grim voice talks over frightening music about old people in a foreign country who are starving, neglected and living in awful conditions. Then they show black-and-white video of these aged folks standing in a line, with super-sad faces. (My gosh, these people are in such bad shape, you can’t even show them in color!) The man pleads that only $25 a month is needed to stop their pain.

However, their country is not poor and I’m not sure why these people are standing in line. For all I know it could be for Britany Spears concert tickets, and this would also explain their sadness.  And none of them look as if they are really starving.  However, I reason that helping humans is more worthy than helping animals. Sorry poor doggies, I start to write a check to help these old people, when … 

This woman appears on the screen to talk about a facility where they help re, re, uh, really messed up kids (RMUKs) engage in normal activities.  For only $19 a month you can help the RMUKs learn do all sorts of great stuff like playing flutes, dancing, and playing basketball.

Now they show this RMUK in a wheelchair shooting a basket. Now that’s nice, but wouldn’t it be better to teach him a marketable skill? I mean the kid is never going to make it to the NBA, heck he isn’t even going to be a star in the wheel-chair league.  It would be better to just get him some virtually reality goggles so he could experience doing a 360-degree reverse slam dunk. Yes, $59.99 Walmart special – problem solved!  I’m just about ready to dismiss this when ...

Unbelievably, this cute little RMUK appears on the screen and starts begging for the money directly.  Apparently, the skill they taught this particular kid, is the art of solicitation.  And he is extremely proficient at it.  It’s easy to dismiss some bland corporate spokesperson, but it’s darn hard to resist a RMUK pleading for your help.  This commercial gets run repeatedly, so this kid must be helping them rake in millions.  I just hope they compensate him fairly for his work. My guess is that they collect the loot and pay him in pudding.  “Here’s some yummy pudding Timmy, we shoot the next tear-jerking commercial in five!”  

You would have to be a disgusting lout not to fork over a measly $19 a month to help this poor, sweet, RMUK.  Well played RMUK, well played indeed.  Sorry, old people, but you are going to die soon and these RMUKs have the rest of their lives ahead of them. Once again grab my pen, when …

Another doleful voice blasts through the sound bar: “Thousands of children are dying from cancer”.  But there is hope!  You can help save the children, who are at this special hospital, which does special research, which requires boatloads of money.  Unless they get my money right now, these sick children are all going to die and of course if I don’t send in any money, this will all be my fault.  Then they roll the video of all these sick kids.  So it’s my responsibility to do something, or all these cute, sick, children will die a slow, horrible, death.

This presents a terrible dilemma. Do I help the RMUKs or save the cancer kids?  I reason that I should help the cancer kids since if they get well, they can lead normal lives, where the RMUKs will still be really messed up no matter what I do. 
I am about to write my check when I realize that the person said cancer research is very expensive and they are years from making significant progress.  This means all those sick kids on the commercial are either going to recover or uh – not recover, regardless of whether I donate or not.

I end up writing checks to two locally based charities which do outstanding work in my community.  I know that almost all the money collected by these groups is spent actually helping people who desperately need it, and not used for elaborate, expensive, national television commercials.  Heck, these organizations don’t even send me address labels and that’s perfectly fine by me.

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Superiority Is Carved In Scone

After a recent dentist appointment, I stopped at my favorite coffee shop/bakery to reward myself with a delicious cappuccino, as I always do.  As the barista was preparing my drink, I realized I needed something for breakfast and began to peruse the offerings.

To my left, I spotted two humongous muffins. No, I am not referring to the waitress (and how dare you think that I was), although she wasn’t a flatbread.  These actual muffins were indeed huge, but perhaps too big. Even if the muffins were tasty, there was just too much muffin.  I know some guys will claim that muffins can never be too large, but I decided to pass on the muffins.

To my right, were a cornucopia of baked goods.  There were the standard cupcakes, pastries, etc. Then I saw it, a platter with four wedge-shaped confections.  The sign below read “Scones $3.00”.

Scones? I had heard of scones. Isn’t this something that queens nibble on with their afternoon tea.  I didn’t know they still existed.  I wasn’t even sure they were  legal, in the great-again United States.  But the scones intrigued me. Why were they $3? They surely didn’t look like they were worth $3. The muffins were only $2 and they were much bigger than these flattish wedges.  I should get the muffin, I thought.

Yet, the urge to try something new was pervasive. The barista returned with my cappuccino and asked if I wanted anything else.

There were different toppings on the scones, so I assumed there were different flavors. I did not want the barista to know I was a scone-virgin, I wanted to come off as a debonair, scone connoisseur, a man of the world, and many, many, scones. Of course, even being concerned about how a bakery employee perceives me, reflects a personality flaw that I’m sure a therapist would have a field day with. But I’ll never see a therapist, because I fear that after the first session I would be locked up and heavily medicated, and who needs that?

So, I look confidently into the woman’s eyes, turn, gesturing to the scones, and with my best Raymond Reddington voice and expression:

“The scones, what types do you have?”

She promptly rattles off the four flavors.  A couple were very fancy.  I’m in new territory here, so I keep it very simple.

“Lemon, please get me the lemon”.

She wrapped up the scone and I realized I had just paid $3 for some unknown, apparently fancy food. The scone was heavier than I expected, maybe I had spent $3 for a lemon rock.  I hope it doesn’t bust my teeth, which would be ironic, coming home from the dentist and all that.  However, as I left the store with my cappuccino in one hand and the scone in the other, I suddenly felt exceptional.   This just wasn’t a typical glorified yuppie experience, no, I felt dignified.  I, Don Ake, was going to have a scone for breakfast and it was going to change my entire day.

I noticed a new hop in my step as I went to my car, not quite a strut, but much more pronounced than my usual gait. When I motioned a driver to proceed in front of me in the parking lot, instead of the standard side-wave of my hand, I gave her a stately, two-finger salute.  And inexplicably, I started to think in a British accent. By George, I started feeling rather chipper and distinguished, I did.

I was so excited about my scone, I never touched my cappuccino once on the drive
home.  When I realized this, I worried that the two flavors might be in conflict.  An English baked good with an Italian drink, ugh, I didn’t want to have a reenactment of World War II in my stomach.  

I’ll never forget that first bite. Intense lemony bread, melting in my mouth, overwhelming my taste buds in an extremely delightful manner.  This is more than just a royal delicacy, it is the breakfast food of the gods.  Oh my! Yes, it was $3 very well spent.  It was so tasty that I didn’t even drink that much of my beloved cappuccino, as to not dilute that incredibly delicious lemony flavor.

After devouring the scone and finally enjoying the cappuccino, a strange feeling enveloped me.  Suddenly I felt massively elevated, privileged and empowered.  This was status food.  It had fed my stomach and also fed my ego!  I imagined myself superior to everyone else (Okay, I realize I always feel this way, but the scone made it worse).  It was almost as if I possessed magical powers.  That book should have been titled: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Scone.  I thought I could achieve anything that day.

I began my work day (I work from home) and was soon involved in a debate with my co-worker Ron.  Silly Ron thought we should decrease our forecast 50 basis points because the Philly Fed Coincident Index had weakened.  I argued that the forecast should be increased 30 basis points on the strength of the Diffusion Index.  Everyone knows the Diffusion Index is a far superior predictor than the stupid Coincident Index, but Ron wouldn’t listen to me, as we went round and round about this.  Exasperated, finally I resorted to this:

Me: What did you have for breakfast?

Ron: I had toast

Me: That’s what I thought.  Well, I had a scone, so we are going to raise that forecast, you see.

And we did raise the forecast, because what could he say? I mean, I had a scone for breakfast and he only had toast.

Later in the day, I called my cable company over a disputed charge on my bill. The rep refused to listen to my explanation, so:

Me: Do you realize who you speaking with?

Rep: You said you are Don Ake

Me: You are speaking with someone who happened to have a scone for breakfast.

Rep: You had a scone?

Me: A large, lemon, scone.

Rep: I will remove that charge from your bill immediately, Mr. Ake and throw in a free month of Showtime. I am so sorry about our error, it won’t happen again.

Late in the day, my stockbroker called me with a hot tip.

Broker: You need to invest in Hightechia Corp. They have a new high-tech doohickey that’s going to cause a whiz bang in the market.

Me: I think I should invest in Amalgamated Scone and Strudel

Broker: What! are you stupid? A bakery instead of high-tech?

Me: What did you have for breakfast?

Broker: Cereal

Me: Of course, you did. Well, I had a scone for breakfast, so buy some Amalgamated Scone and Strudel right now.

Broker: What’s the ticker symbol on that?

Me: It’s “A” something, something.

So you see, eating a scone for breakfast changed my whole day for the better.  You can be sure I will be stopping back soon to sample some additional flavors.  In addition, I am now prepared if I ever get invited to have tea with the Queen.  The scone is truly an amazing food.