Monday, March 10, 2014

Parting shot produces pungent after life

Dear Skunk:

After two weeks, I am waving the white flag. You win.

Until we met 14 days ago, I would listen to people talking about how their pets were sprayed by skunks and be ever grateful that I had never had to deal with such a stinky mess. Then I accidentally ran over you on Garden Valley.

Granted, running over a skunk isn’t the same as getting sprayed by a skunk, right?

That’s what I thought. I was so very wrong.

I assumed you sprayed me at the last minute, before my headlights overtook you (again, my deepest apologies). But when I mentioned this theory to my friend Julie she laughed out loud. Did I really think you had time to aim and fire as I was barreling upon you at 50 miles per hour, she asked.

Turns out Julie used to work for a company that cleans up messes in homes after a catastrophe occurs, including a skunk coming inside and spraying the interior. She gave me the low-down on what really happened.

Apparently, when I hit you I ruptured your scent sack (who knew?) which, put simply, means the joke’s on me. Not only do you have my full attention, but my deepest respect; I had no idea the wrath you were capable of unleashing.

I had to park the car in the driveway outside of our attached garage that first night because the stench was permeating the entire household. My son, who was a passenger to this joyride of death, inadvertently left his clothes on the floor of his room, and refused to sleep in there two days after the clothes were washed. This was the time it took for your stench to evaporate. According to Wikipedia: “The smell aside, the spray can cause irritation and even temporary blindness, and is sufficiently powerful to be detected by a human nose up to a mile down wind.” I am here to say “true that.”

A few days after I hit you I had an appointment in Eugene. It was raining that day so I thanked my lucky stars and assumed that the rain water would wash away any lingering proof of my crime against the Garden Valley Skunk Gang. Silly me. Again, Julie explained that skunk spray is an oil-based substance, and had I ever noticed how well water and oil mix?

In retrospect, I do believe Julie was having fun at my expense.

So I headed over to Champion Car Wash and asked them to give me an underbody wash. The guy taking the money acknowledged my predicament by admitting that he wasn’t breathing through his nose. Unfortunately, the guy at the end of the car wash, the one who’s there to dry off the car, was not breathing through his nose either.

Again, from Wikipedia: “Frequent encounters with dogs and other domestic animals, and the release of the odor when a skunk is run over, have led to many myths about the removal of skunk odor. Due to the chemical composition of the spray, most of these household remedies are ineffective.” NOW you tell me.

Finally, after day 14 we are able to park the car in the garage, but it still stinks to high heavens when you walk out of the house into the garage.

I’m not sure where I’ll send this letter, especially given the fact that you’re dead, but I had to write it to pronounce you the victor of our competition. I admit the error of my ways, and I tip my hat to you and your kind.

The Stinky Burmeisters

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. You can reach her at or you can follow her on Twitter at EBurmeister.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Beware the acronym: Your message may be LIT (lost in translation)

In 1943, David Davis of Bell Laboratories coined the term acronym as the name for a word created from the first letters of each word in a series of words (such as SCUBA, which stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus). Since then, generation after generation has created more and more acronyms, causing more confusion than clarity if you ask me.

IRA could be something you put money into for retirement, or it could be a group of rowdy Irish revolutionaries. IOU stands for I owe you, so in actuality it should be IOY. IEEE could stand for Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers or it could be the sound a hyena makes.

See how confusing it can be? And really, if there’s any truth to evolution, shouldn’t we be getting better at communicating more effectively? Instead, this upcoming generation is adding to the problem with texting acronyms. Thankfully we have a 18-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter to help us navigate our way through the labyrinth of LOLs, TTFNs and BCs or I fear we’d be TL (totally lost).

I got an email the other day that had CYA in the text and it stopped me in my tracks. What does CYA mean? Can you ask? Can Yosef act? Cathy’s yelling again? (Because I know Cathy, and she does have a tendency to yell, but I digress…)

I feel like each year I understand less and less, setting me up to make disastrous mistakes in communicating to the younger set. And I know I’m not alone.

My sister Peg is in the same boat. She is a high school English teacher in Ohio and she’s one of the coolest people I know. Of course she’s a hippie, but in the best sense of the word (meaning she showers regularly but still wears Patchouli and cool clothes). All that to say she’s a pretty hip teacher, with her finger firmly placed on the pulse of teenage culture. So when she was talking to her class about some surprise and told them to “keep it on the LD” she wondered why they all started laughing. “Mrs. G---,” a student said, “I think what you’re trying to say is ‘keep it on the DL – down low.’”

Another teacher came to Peg wondering why students were sprinkling “101” in various places throughout their written work. It took them a while to figure out that students were actually interjecting “LOL,” which stands for laugh out loud.

If this is happening to people my age, I can only imagine what happens to our parents’ generation. One person shared that her aunt thinks that the aforementioned LOL means “lots of love,” so she’s been sending notes, cards and messages that are wildly inappropriate, unbeknownst to her. Think of the disastrous results that can occur from not knowing that LOL means “laugh out loud.”

• “It’s your birthday. You don’t look a day over 40! LOL!”
• “So sorry to hear of your loss. LOL.”
• “Happy anniversary. I don’t know a couple that seems better made for each other. LOL!”
• “Your baby is adorable. LOL!”

See what I mean? It’s important to nail this down.

So let’s KISS (keep it simple, Sherlock) and stop with the acronyms already. Say what you mean, even if it takes a few more seconds out of your day. It’s not like we’re in such a hurry that we don’t have time to complete our sentences with good old-fashioned words. Besides, it’s the LYCD (least you can do).

Eileen Burmeister is a Winchester-based freelance writer. She CBR at or you can FHOT at EBurmeister.

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