Al Batt: I’m a wonder — I wonder what I’m looking for 

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2022

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

I remember my uncle smoking cheap cigars. When flush with cash, he’d move up to affordable White Owl cigars. I knew when that happened because I could smell the burning feathers.

Al Batt

He chewed on the end of a cigar like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western until the stogie became eligible for carbon dating.

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I was at an airport when a guy fainted onto the baggage carousel. He came around slowly.

I could remember those two things, but I couldn’t remember what I came into the room to get. 

Memory can be a tender subject, but we all forget things. If I was lucky, I remembered to bring one mitten home from grade school. That was lucky because I used that mitten to wipe my runny nose. 

Now back to the near present during the time of presents near. I couldn’t find it and I needed it or I wouldn’t have been looking for it. I’d just seen it a few minutes ago or maybe it was last week, but now I couldn’t even remember if I was looking for a whatsis, a whatchamacallit, a thingamajig or a doohickey. There had been an earthquake in Alberta. Maybe one had hit Minnesota and moved things to clever hiding places. 

I think everybody has gone into a room and been unable to remember why. I hope that when you go into a bathroom, it’s easy to remember the reason. Does walking through the doorway cause forgetting and, if so, why does that simple act purge the memory?

Maybe it was because of the money I came into unexpectedly. Not exactly manna from heaven, but I found a penny on the floor. I’d picked up a penny from a parking lot earlier in the day to help sustain my riotous lifestyle. Hearing no baying bloodhounds in the distance, I put it in my pocket. The second penny allowed me to put in my two cents’ worth.

What are you willing to bend down to pick up? Some might say, “Dime doesn’t pay.”

I pick up coins. I place them into jars — non-interest-bearing piggy banks. It’s tax-free. I hope no one is doing hard time for not reporting a found penny.

A saying goes, “Find a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.” This is a modern take on folklore from ancient civilizations that believed metals — like copper — were gifts from the gods intended to protect people from evil. Metal currency was linked to wealth and good luck. 

When I was a runny-nosed urchin wearing one mitten, I heard this, “When an angel misses you, they toss a penny down, sometimes to cheer you up, to make a smile out of your frown. So, don’t pass by that penny when you’re feeling blue; it may be a penny from Heaven that an angel tossed to you.”

A man, lacking a cherubic demeanor, claimed to have wrenched his back picking up a penny.

A penny doesn’t buy much other than a smile and good luck, which should be enough. People have many methods of saving money. The most popular may be by not buying things.

The legend is that my great-grandfather tied two aged shoestrings, one lengthwise and the other crosswise, over his wallet. As he untied those strings, it gave him time to give a purchase proper consideration.

A neighbor told me he buried money in old cream cans in his farmyard. I’d heard he invested his money in a mattress. Not in a new mattress, he stuffed it into his old mattress, the one he slept over.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote this in “Little House on the Prairie,” “They had never thought of such a thing as having a penny. Think of having a whole penny for your very own. Think of having a cup and a cake and a stick of candy and a penny. There had never been such a Christmas.”

Squirrels are great at finding things. They have excellent memories because they don’t have to remember passwords. They can smell buried treasures. I’m going to work on my olfactory skills.

I wonder what I can’t remember to find smells like and how I can increase my ability to smell other than by not showering?

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.