Flipper Flopper by Courtney Mehlhaff

One of my sister's friends was telling her once how much she loves dolphins. She mentioned that she'd be going on vacation soon, and that one of her dreams was to swim with these playful creatures.

My sister, fresh off seeing a couple documentaries, warned her friend away from this activity. "Don't support those places. They mistreat the animals and sometimes have to give the poor things anti-anxiety meds because they're so stressed out."

Her friend considered this for a moment. Then she said, "Wow. That does not make me want to swim with dolphins . . ."

My sister breathed a premature sigh of relief.

". . . ANY LESS!"

Holy High Roller by Courtney Mehlhaff

My family and I attended church in my hometown this past Christmas Eve. Since the regular pastor had recently moved away, we had an interim pastor conducting the service. He was an older, no-nonsense fellow who gave the impression there wasn't much he hadn't seen.

When it came time for the children's sermon, a rather large group of kids gathered around him. Part of the sermon involved Bible story books, which the children in attendance would be receiving as gifts. 

However, partway through handing them out, the pastor realized he didn't have enough to go around. He did a quick headcount and seemed momentarily flustered. I wondered if he would incorporate this conundrum into his message somehow, perhaps as a lesson in sharing or generosity toward your neighbor.

"I'll tell you what," he finally said, matter-of-factly. "If you didn't get a book, see me afterward and I'll give you a buck."

Never has preaching been more practical.

Showstopper by Courtney Mehlhaff

I'm now going to tell you a little story that combines arts and culture with scatological humor, and I really don't know what else you could ask for from an embarrassing tale.

A few years ago, I had tickets to a show in Minneapolis. The play was M. Butterfly. I invited a friend along, and we decided to eat beforehand at an Italian restaurant close to the theater. 

As we walked the few blocks through downtown after dinner, my belly felt a bit rumbly, but it had settled somewhat by the time we found our seats -- which, by the way, were excellent, and this will become a very important detail very shortly.

We sat down and started leafing through our programs. Things were still not sitting quite right with me, but I figured I'd be fine. I figured wrong.

Perhaps you're a person with an iron constitution whose innards have never betrayed you. You lucky bastards will never know the horror of feeling your stomach absolutely bottom out at an inopportune time. But that's what happened to me. My intestines revolted, I seized up in a sweaty panic, and right at that exact moment, the lights went down and the show started.

So there I was. Smack dab in the middle of the center row of floor seats, with ten people on either side of me and no option for escape that didn't involve disrupting an entire section. It was a real shituation.

At that point, I made a command decision. I was just going to gut it out till intermission. I would put myself on lockdown and will my body to obey through sheer, desperate concentration. 

It was one of the longest hours of my life. But I made it. And when the house lights came up, I swear to god my friend turned to me and said, "You know what? You have an amazing ability to sit perfectly still during a performance."

I'd known her for well over a decade at that point, so I simply turned to her and said, "Yeah. That's because I was trying not to shit my pants."

Then I'm pretty sure I elbowed her out of the way on a mad but careful dash to the ladies' room, where terrible things happened that I fear are still talked about in hushed yet reverent tones.

The second half of the show was much less of an ordeal. But I'll always remember that evening as the night I saw (you have to groan this pronunciation for full effect) MMMMMMMM Butterfly.

Gimme Five by Courtney Mehlhaff

When my sister was in college, she was hanging out with friends one night, and a member of the group decided to tell what they thought was an entertaining anecdote. But the punchline landed with a resounding thud, leaving everyone unamused.

Another friend looked at the storyteller and said dryly, "Next time you tell a story like that, you should end it with '...and then I found five dollars.'"

Of course, this was just his snarky way of admonishing people to give their listeners at least something interesting to take away from a tale. But it truly is a great shorthand way to acknowledge with a wink that a joke didn't work or that an anecdote was, in fact, unremarkable.

Basically, it can be used anytime you don't get the response you'd hoped for. Alternatively, you can ask it as a question if you're on the receiving end of a snoozer conversation: "... and then you found five dollars?"

My sister and I now use the phrase regularly, and some friends have added it to their repertoire as well. I'd encourage anyone to incorporate it whenever possible, with one rule: you can't adjust it for inflation. Because the only thing more boring than stumbling upon such a small amount of money is that story you just told.

Split Decision by Courtney Mehlhaff

My parents have been happily married for 43 years. So imagine my consternation at seeing this written on their household calendar last weekend:

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Not only did I think it was a weird thing to have to schedule, much less remind themselves of, but it appeared this was not their first crack at it. And this time it was in all caps, which to me means the situation is serious.

Turns out they're big fans of the HBO series and didn't want to forget the season two premiere. Whew! These two crazy kids are gonna make it after all.

The Eyes Have it by Courtney Mehlhaff

Over Christmas break, I played a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity with my family and some neighborhood friends.

If you're unfamiliar with this game, it features wildly inappropriate, very random, and quite possibly offensive words and concepts that you use to fill in the blanks of hypothetical sentences.

Those with a twisted sense of humor enjoy it. My family finds it hilarious.

On this particular night, someone played a card with the phrase "Having anuses for eyes."

And in a stroke of sheer genius, one of our friends piped up with, "I can't see shit!"

Jurassic Lark by Courtney Mehlhaff

I recently made a $20 impulse purchase at Target in service of a pun.

When I saw this dinosaur cookie jar, I immediately knew two things: I had to own it, but more importantly, I had to fill it with an assortment of teabags. Because . . . .

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Totally worth it.

A.I. Don't Think So by Courtney Mehlhaff

Whenever I read an article about how artificial intelligence is the greatest threat to humankind, my first thought is, "Damn straight. For the love of God, stop giving robots human characteristics and emotions! Nobody needs this!" And I have a brief panic attack while I imagine a scenario in which Skynet becomes self-aware.

And then I think about my relationship with Siri. And that makes me feel better.

Because if computers' ability to take over the world is measured by how well this electronic imbecile can understand the simplest of sentences that I speak . . . well, let's just calm down.

I honestly can't think of a single interaction I've had with Siri in the car that didn't make me want to throw my phone out the window.

Just a few days ago I was driving home from out of state, and I texted a friend from a gas station asking if she wanted to hang out when I got back to town.

She replied yes and asked if I'd like to grab dinner together when I arrived.

By that point I was driving again, so I enlisted Siri's help to craft a reply. After five straight minutes of misunderstandings and restarts, my friend received the following message, naturally sent by mistake:

"Hate you Siri I hate you so much"

This was by FAR the least profanity-laced combination of words that Siri could have grabbed out of the air in those five minutes, though they captured my feelings quite well.

When I saw what I'd sent, I tried to rectify the situation with a follow-up message, but I was laughing so hard that Siri kept producing a text that translated "ha ha" into "bubba."

We're safe for now, people. I'm sure of it.