Happy -- achoo! -- holidays

Dear friends:

I’d like to thank all of you who recently shared your germs and viruses with me. Nothing says "special friendship" like a dripping nose.

Thanksgiving weekend marks the traditional start of the annual holiday blitz of shopping and parties and cockles-warming. 'Tis the season when we work-at-home types actually leave the house and interact with other humans, and we can count on contracting miserable illnesses while we're out there.

(The word "holidays" comes from the Greek holidakos, which translates to "cold and flu season." People have known since ancient times that holiday gatherings were the best places to pick up rampaging colds.)

Home-office workers are extra-susceptible to these viral onslaughts. We’re not out there in the workaday world, regularly exposed to the latest bugs, so our immunity is suppressed. Viruses take one look at our pasty indoor faces and virgin nasal passages, and you can almost hear their evil little laughs: Heh-heh-heh.

Then, whammo, they attack.

We victims are like small children who haven’t yet been exposed to the world’s germs and viruses. This is why smart parents urge their offspring to roll in the dirt and make mud pies and lick the dog. Children need to collect all the resulting immunities. We adults lose our accumulated immunities if we never go out in the world and get a booster shot of germs.

(When I was growing up in the South, we called such people “shut-ins.” They were too elderly and/or infirm to leave their homes, and they always rated a special place in prayers. I remember, as a child, being very curious about the shut-ins. I couldn’t understand why people didn’t just go to the shut-ins' homes and let them out. Why were they locked up anyway? I was an odd child.)

Most of the year, we shut-ins get our viruses directly from our own children. Every weekday, the kids go to school, where viruses hang out in the hallways like juvenile delinquents, picking their teeth and waiting for a ride. Our children embrace these miscreants and bring them home, where they run amok among the household adults.

Here’s the unfair part: The kids barely get sick, but we parents will be laid low. My teen-age son brings home some dread disease, and he’ll have the sniffles for a day or two, maybe sleep an extra hour, and he’s fine. The same virus hits my puny immune system, and I’m groaning in a bed for a week.

This time of year, though, we hermits acquire our viruses first-hand. We go to holiday parties and family gatherings, and we shake hands and kiss cheeks and dole out big hugs. During these moments of unguarded human contact, the viruses leap over onto us and sprint right up our noses.

If you’re like me, you’ll recover from your Thanksgiving cold just in time to pick up a fresh batch of viruses at Christmas. Colds and flu truly are the "gifts that keep on giving."

So thanks again, friends, for sharing with me. I hope to recover in time to see you at the New Year’s party.

You might want to skip that midnight kiss.


L.A. comin'

The folks who are putting together the next Left Coast Crime conference ask that all us blogger types remind you to register for Booked in L.A., which is coming up March 11-14 at the Omni Hotel in Los Angeles.

Some of my favorite people are among the honored guests: Jan Burke, Lee Child, Bill Fitzhugh and Janet Rudolph.

I'll be there, too.

For more info, click here: www.leftcoastcrime.org/2010/


Telephone manners

Today's tip for aspiring bank robbers: Once you have the bank manager in handcuffs, you probably shouldn't let him make any phone calls.

Five idiots walked into a bank in Henderson, NV, with a fake federal warrant and demanded to see the manager. Then they demanded all the money in the vault. When the manager refused, they handcuffed him. He told them he'd make a call to get the vault opened. Instead, he called police, who were waiting for the robbers when they came outside.

Full story here.


Sure it's a felony, but for safe sex . . .

Police in Reidsville, NC, say burglars who robbed a convenience store took only condoms and cigarettes.

The thieves broke the store's glass front door and stole $2,700 worth of cigarettes (what is that these days? Four or five cartons?) and $50 worth of condoms, police said.

No word on the party that likely followed.

Full story here.


Not kosher

Everyone knows you don't mix a cheese theft with a steak-knife assault. It's bad table manners.

Somebody forgot to tell Mark Ash of Hartford, CT. Police say Ash was spotted stuffing blocks of cheese into his pants. When accosted by a supermarket manager, Ash allegedly threatened him with a steak knife and fled.

Police caught him a short time later, still carrying the knife and four blocks of Colby Jack.

Full story here.


Not your everyday conversation opener

After finding a volunteer seedling in the yard, I say to my wife: "Where would you like another palm tree?"

Ah, California!


Back to the well

Today's tip for aspiring criminals: If you hear a teller say, "He's here again," it's probably time to find a new bank to rob.

In Tamarac, FL, the same dreadlock-wearing man has robbed the same bank four times in the past year, most recently on Saturday.

Think he maybe lives nearby?

Story here.


You have been served

Today's tip for aspiring criminals: When robbing a restaurant, always keep an eye on the cook.

A knife-wielding robber in Lincoln, NE, forgot that important rule, and was very surprised when the cook hit him with a sizzling flank steak, fresh off the burner. Police say the stunned robber dropped his knife and fled.

Full story here.