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Just time to relate a scary and hilarious middle-aged moment. Driving back from my son Ed's soccer tournament, and he is starving. Dad, I'm soooooo hungry, he moans from the front seat. My poor little boy! I investigate my pockets and come up with kleenex, gum, and a parking ticket. Not a lot of nourishment in any of them. So we take the next turn off, and find a fast food megaplex: five or six outlets, each with their own drive thru. In effect it's a food court only you don't have to leave your car. Pick one, I say.

It's dark, and raining, and my windshield wipers don't work very well.

I don't care, he says ... only of course he does, and as I pull up to the place-your-order microphone at McDonald's he says, No, not McDonalds, and so I keep going and when I get to Wendy's he says, No, not Wendy's, and I keep going, around the outside of the complex. There! says Ed, but I don't see. He points through the fogged windshield. There's a Tim's, he says. I want a toasted bagel with cream cheese. And a sprinkle donut. And chocolate milk. So I pull up to the next microphone, roll down my window in the streaming rain, and proceed to place my order. What size chocolate milk? I turn back to ask. Ed is staring at me. His lip is quivering. Dad, he says. You are talking to the trash can.

And so I am. There's a picture of a donut and coffee on it, so I guess it looks something like the thing you order into. But not very much. It's a trash can all right. Just like this one.

Oh, my. I have a picture of myself a few seconds ago, a dad in the rain, talking earnestly into an open trash can, and lose it. It's not like I'm turning into my own father here -- I've bypassed him and gone straight to Mr Magoo. I begin to sputter. Ed of course is laughing heartily beside me. This is definitely a story for the whole family.

I pull ahead to the real order microphone, and almost lose it again. The lady behind the window asks if I'm all right. I don't know, I say.

The Chinese pictograms for crisis and opportunity are famously linked. (I recall Homer Simpson using the term crisitunity.) I wonder if there is a similar relationship between pictograms for amusing and horrifying?


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