Maybe it’s time we ban dads from back-to-school shopping

Dads shouldn’t be allowed to shop for back-to-school supplies. It’s a common fact. An unwritten rule. A law that some enterprising politician ought to propose. Everyone
knows it. Dads know it. Moms know it. Poor little kids know it. Yet, every year, millions of dads still do it, and catastrophe unfolds.

I speak from personal experience.

I don’t say this in some macho, chauvinistic way. Like it’s below us or that real men should be out chopping wood instead of grabbing loose leaf paper. No, it’s more that we’re an impatient, easily-frustrated walking embarrassment to our family. And we don’t know a No. 2 pencil from a … well … a No. 3?

I went with my wife and daughter shopping for school supplies the weekend before she started fifth grade. It wasn’t my cup of tea.

The way I see school shopping: You grab a bunch of stuff and throw it in a basket. You have maybe a 50-50 shot some of it is what you need, but more importantly, you’re on the way home!

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Big technology dreams for the future

What do kids dream about now? Like big future things. Things that make them sigh in bed at night and say to themselves, “If only I had a plutonium-powered homework eraser! That would do the trick.”

I was thinking about this as I was buying a running hydration belt that would also carry my iPhone. (Hydration belt is code for “goofy runner gets parched and needs mini-canteens on his waist.”)

Anyway, the belt needs to carry my iPhone so it will connect to my new heart rate monitor. That way I can see if my heart is still beating after I try to drink water on a long run and crash into a tree … or maybe a moving car.

Anyway, it occurred to me that all the little things that I dreamed about as a kid – super-techy watches that know your location, communicators like on “Star Trek,” devices that allow video calls, little electronic pads that tell you everything you ever wanted to know, including your vital signs – are now reality. Commonplace. They’re here and we have them and even take them for granted.

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Surviving a week in Critterville

What were we thinking? In a single week, we became caregivers — albeit temporary — to a total of 15 animals. Fifteen! It’s like Dr. Doolittle time.

We’re tending to our neighbor’s flock of lovebirds, along with her adopted cat. We have new chicks, and then my brother went away and left us his dog. (I am affectionately referring to her as “Meatchunk.”)

All in the same week. How do these things happen? Why does the universe think to itself, “Let’s rain animals on the Thompsons … AT THE SAME TIME!”

I keep coming home and expecting to find a lost baby sheep or a gaggle of homeless porcupines on my front porch. “Mind if we join you, too?”

It’s not so bad — the lovebirds aren’t at our house. And actually it’s kind of fun. Besides, other people have tended to our critters, so it’s good to return the favor.

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End-of-summer trip envy

America has never been more divided. We are split in two — torn apart by a division so profound that it threatens our very being. Which camp do you fall into? Those who still have summer vacations ahead of them, or those who have already taken them?

Talk about polarization.

It is a bitter, angry camp for those who have already taken them. I know this from personal experience. I’m one of the envious souls, coveting everyone’s vacation plans as my own suddenly feel a million miles in the rearview mirror.

I don’t care where it is. Someone could tell me they’re going to Hackitup, Idaho, and my jaw drops. They could be going there to study pig slop or how potato fungus plans to vote in the presidential election.

“Really?!?” I say. “It sounds so wonderful! Is there going to be a pool with a slide? Do they have a Starbucks in the hotel lobby? Are you going to get pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse!?!”

I inquire more. I hang on every word. Oh, these darn First World problems!

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The confounding cable upgrade call

The actual recorded transcript as I called the cable company, desperately trying to learn more about bundling my services, saving money and watching the Tour de France guilt-free:

Rep: Good afternoon. This is so-and-so cable company. How can I help you today?

Me: Yes, thank you. I’m calling because I like money and want to save some with these great deals and services I’ve been reading about. Can you help me with that?

Rep: Most definitely, sir. Let me run through some of the many choices we are currently offering. Let’s see … we have a DVR special that comes with two toppings and a side of marinara … hold on. Wrong special. OK, here we go. Our top package comes with 800 channels, 792 of which you will never watch, plus a DVR that can record 87 shows simultaneously. But don’t worry: You don’t have to watch any of those, either.

Me: OK … um … what else does it come with?

Rep: Let’s see. It says here you are eligible for our new Super Extreme WIFI modem. What makes it “super” and “extreme,” you ask? The fact that we named it that. Plus, it is so powerful, you can communicate with the probe Juno, currently orbiting Jupiter.

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A family river-rapid down memory lane

Panic set in as I walked up the aisle — straight to the front of the line. Where would I put my wallet? How would I protect my bag from the water? What would my hair look like after the deluge? Did I really want to walk around a theme park soaking wet, my pants drenched, people wondering why I would go out in public like that?

“Look, honey! That man wet himself … all over!”

It was the Congo River Rapids at Tampa’s Busch Gardens. I hadn’t been back to the park in over a decade. Now three generations of Thompson — my dad, my daughter, my wife and me — were boarding this wobbly raft. All the riders who just came off were drenched. DRENCHED! One woman was complaining she almost drowned. She wanted CPR from a snappy-looking employee.

What am I an idiot, I thought? This isn’t what grown people do.

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Ways to beat the Florida heat

Boy, nothing prepares you for July in Florida. Doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived here, or how many Florida summers you have under your belt. This month always rolls around and it’s just a shock to the system. Like we never saw it coming. So with the heat pouring on, it’s time to remember all the ways we Floridians know to beat the heat.

• Put your foot down. I had to do that on July 4th. My mother planned to have us eat at her house under the grape vine arbor, when the afternoon heat index was still hovering around the boiling point of lava. “There’s a nice breeze blowing,” she said. Only, it wasn’t a breeze. It was air that had caught fire and was racing by, searching for water.

“No, we’re not eating outside,” I finally said. “We’re not doing anything outside. It’s Florida, and smart people prefer to live.”

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Rumbling in L.A.

Don’t really know what this says about me. That I went to L.A. to get a National Society of Newspaper Columnists Award. I learned all kinds of wonderful things and met some terrific people. I shook hands with Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts’ and “Dear Abby.” I had dinner at the Will Rogers Ranch and got to go to The Getty Center. I stayed at the house of a friend in Hollywood who works on “The Bachelor” and marveled at his stack of Emmy Award nomination DVDs that all said, “For your consideration.”

And yet, through it all, my biggest takeaway and most captivating moment? Standing in a hotel elevator pondering something quintessentially L.A.-ian: What does the earthquake button do?

Because there was one in the elevator. Right next to the fireman button. And the call for help button. (Which apparently just won’t do if a tremor strikes.) It just said, “Earthquake,” and left the rest to my imagination.

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Yes, that was me on WJCT in Jacksonville

WJCT, the NPR-affiliate in Jacksonville, Fla., played one of my award-winning columns and had me on for a brief interview on June 29. Didn’t sound too bad, if I do say so myself. (But radio is way more terrifying than typing words!)

You can hear the piece here:

And here’s the full podcast with interview. I come on around the 45th minute:

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Thompson wins award from National Society of Newspaper Columnists

NSNC Humor award 2016My weekly column in The St. Augustine Record won a second place award for humor writing in the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ 2016 Column Contest. The awards were handed out at NSNC’s 40th annual conference in Los Angeles on June 25, and I had to be there … just to make sure it was for real. Because I didn’t believe it until I could see it for myself.


The award was in the humor category for print newspapers under 50,000 circulation, and it’s the first national award I’ve received for my column.

The NSNC gave out more than 25 awards at its 2016 conference, and also recognized Pulitzer Prize winning-columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. and “Dear Abby” author Jeanne Phillips. Dang! Talk about good company.

Read more about it:

Check out the three award-winning columns here (and yes, one of them is a letter to a cat!):
A letter to Little Joe, the cat

A TRUE Disney dream come true

Light bulb insanity

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