You call this a benefits package?

November 21, 1997

A lot of people say they’d like to be eighteen again. I used to think what they meant was that they wanted an eighteen-year old body and a forty-year old brain, bank account, career, etc. This is because, in my foolish youth, I thought that, whatever the responsibilities, worries, problems adults had to cope with, there were compensations. Now I’m a little older and a little wiser. Admittedly, life was rough as a teenager, but what I didn’t know at the time was that the problems wouldn’t go away, or even just be replaced by others. They’d mutate, and then other problems would be added on. Worries about pimples would become worries about thinning hair. Worries about money would…well, I should have seen that money wasn’t going to get any simpler than it was in those days. And school–the bane of teenage existence–was wonderful compared to work. At school, you were fed, you got free medical care, there were art classes, free time, and if you were like me, you got all the sleep you had missed the night before. There’s not an employer on the planet who offers a benefits package even close to that. Let’s face it: if anybody has compensations, it’s teenagers. Now I know that when adults used to say, "Life isn’t fair" to me, they weren’t doing it to be cruel. They were doing it because, as a teenager, I was a living example of how unfair life really is. Enjoy this week’s offerings that, hopefully, you’re old enough to understand.


I teach fourth grade at Westlake Elementary School in Ventura County, California. As a fun assignment, I gave the students the beginning of a list of famous sayings and asked them to provide original endings for each one. Here are some examples of what my students submitted.

The grass is always greener when you leave the sprinkler on.
A rolling stone plays the guitar.
The grass is always greener when you remember to water it.
A bird in the hand is a real mess.
No news is no newspaper.
It’s better to light one candle than to waste electricity.
It’s always darkest just before I open my eyes.
You have nothing to fear but homework.
If you can’t stand the heat, don’t start the fireplace.
If you can’t stand the heat, go swimming.
Never put off ’til tomorrow what you should have done yesterday.
A penny saved is nothing in the real world.
The squeaking wheel gets annoying.
We have nothing to fear but our principal.
To err is human. To eat a muskrat is not.
I think, therefore I get a headache.
Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry, and someone yells, "Shut up!"
Better to light a candle than to light an explosive.
It’s always darkest before 9:30 p.m.
Early to bed and early to rise is first in the bathroom.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a blister.
There is nothing new under the bed.
The grass is always greener when you put manure on it.
Don’t count your chickens — it takes too long.

10 words that don’t exist, but should

  1. AQUADEXTROUS (ak wa deks’ trus) adj. Possessing the ability to turn the bathtub faucet on and off with your toes.

  2. CARPERPETUATION (kar’ pur pet u a shun) n. The act, when vacuuming, of running over a string or a piece of lint at least a dozen times, reaching over and picking it up, examining it, then putting it back down to give the vacuum one more chance.

  3. DISCONFECT (dis kon fekt’) v. To sterilize the piece of candy you dropped on the floor by blowing on it, assuming this will somehow `remove’ all the germs.

  4. ELBONICS (el bon’ iks) n. The actions of two people maneuvering for one armrest in a movie theater.

  5. FRUST (frust) n. The small line of debris that refuses to be swept onto the dust pan and keeps backing a person across the room until he finally decides to give up and sweep it under the rug.

  6. LACTOMANGULATION (lak’ to man gyu lay’ shun) n. Manhandling the "open here" spout on a milk container so badly that one has to resort to the `illegal’ side.

  7. PEPPIER (pehp ee ay’) n. The waiter at a fancy restaurant whose sole purpose seems to be walking around asking diners if they want ground pepper.

  8. PHONESIA (fo nee’ zhuh) n. The affliction of dialing a phone number and forgetting whom you were calling just as they answer.

  9. PUPKUS (pup’ kus) n. The moist residue left on a window after a dog presses its nose to it.

  10. TELECRASTINATION (tel e kras tin ay’ shun) n. The act of always letting the phone ring at least twice before you pick it up, even when you’re only six inches away.

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