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I couldn’t wait to retire. There were so many things I wanted to do:

(1) Master the hammock so it doesn’t turn over and dump me onto the wet grass below.

(2) Dance the Argentine tango. It looks challenging with all that wrapping your leg around your partner’s leg. Gary thinks there’s a strong possibility of broken limbs.

(3) Sing in an a capella group. Gary reminded me that in my whole life, I had never hit a recognizable note.

It’s true my kindergarten teacher had even instructed me to only mouth the words, never letting an off-key note escape my lips.

Retirement promises hours reading in the Barcalounger and vacations to places where the drinks come with those little umbrellas. However, you must accept that between trips to desert isles, you will be taking charge of tasks that you didn’t bother with when you were working and raising a kid.

Upon retirement, I instantly became the family planner, list maker, gift buyer and wrapper, placer of business and medical calls, scheduler of appointments, banker, gardener, volunteer for a number of worthy causes and mistress of our social calendar.

I recently found a charge on my credit card bill that didn’t belong to me. Why on earth would I have ordered PJs for an elephant? I don’t recall ever being the custodian of an elephant. I believe that is something I would remember. I dialed the store and robo-girl answered.

“Press 1 if you want to make a payment, you deadbeat,” she snarled. This is clearly a robot with attitude issues.

“I’m not going to pay you anything,” I snapped. “I want something removed from my bill.”

“Don’t we all?” robo-girl replied. “I’m going to transfer you to a real person who might care.”

A tired-sounding woman answered the phone. In a monotone, she asked, “And what have we done to disappoint you?”

“You included an item on my bill that I didn’t order.”

“What didn’t you order, dearie?”

“Pajamas for an elephant,” I explained.

“That happens all the time,” she said. “We recommend converting those PJs into a colorful tent. Kids love them.” And she disconnected.

Making medical appointments or trying to talk to your doctor is also part of your job description. The other morning, I was studying my face in the mirror. I let out a gasp. Why was one earlobe longer than the other? My left earlobe looked like a paddle from a kayak. I called the doctor’s office. A robo-guy answered the call. “If you are having a medical emergency, hang up and dial 911.”

“I doubt a big earlobe requires emergency care,” I said.

Robo-guy sighed. He told me to explain my medical concern in five words or less.

“My left earlobe is considerably longer than my right earlobe. My right earlobe hangs down about three-fourths of an inch from my ear. The left lobe almost touches my shoulder.”

“That was more than five words,” robo-guy complained. “You really want to bother the doctor with that?”

“Yes,” I said. “Bother away.”

Reluctantly he agreed to send the message back to the doctor’s office.

Just as I was hanging up, I heard a loud whirring sound. What was that?

When I hadn’t heard from the doctor or her assistant by the end of the day or even the next, I called again.

Robo-guy claimed he had sent the messages back. “They’re probably on her desk, which should be declared a hazardous waste zone.” At the end of that call, I heard that mysterious whirring sound again.

I leaned back in my beloved Barcalounger and pondered the source of that whirring sound. And then it hit me. That was the sound of a shredder! Is it possible my messages went directly from robo-guy into the shredder?

I was exhausted and still had to call Social Security. A robo-voice announced that the wait would be 55-65 minutes.

I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew it was dark outside and Social Security must have gone home. My left ear really hurt. A moment later a lightbulb went off in my head. I am left-handed. And I do hold the phone next to my left ear. Perhaps that’s the explanation for the length of the lobe and the pain. If the phone did all this damage to the outside of my ear, I wonder what damage was done to the inside of my ear — and to my brain. This was alarming.

I knew something that would lift my spirits. After rummaging around, I found the tape cassette at the bottom of the “Everything Closet" and popped it into an aging boombox. I pressed PLAY. Please feel free to sing along.

“Do your ears hang low?

Do they wobble to and fro?

Can you tie ‘em in a knot?

Can you tie ‘em in a bow?

Do your ears hang low?”

Isn’t it reassuring to know that there is music for every situation, including sagging earlobes?

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Linda Hamner is a published author and former soap opera writer who won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1991 as part of the "Santa Barbara" writing team. She has lived in Philomath since 2006.

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