This week's correspondence included a suggestion for the next time I can't come up with a topic to write about: Don't write a column.
Another kinder, gentler suggestion came from a quilter who said there must have been quilters in Killough Valley when I was growing up, and a column about quilting would be a treat. Indeed, there were plenty of quilters in those Ozark hills over yonder. Thanks for the idea.
But I have plenty to write about this week, thanks to e-mail authors who never tire of taking me to task.
Dear Joe: In a recent column you mentioned using bleach bottles for crafts. It sounded like you were making fun of crafts made from bleach bottles. I want you to know that my 9-year-old granddaughter, Louella, made a swan out of a bleach bottle, some old sheer curtains and two amber buttons for eyes. It's the most precious thing I own. Just imagine how your not-so-funny comments must have made my granddaughter feel. Don't you have a shred of compassion? Granny With a Gripe.
Dear Granny With a Gripe: Unfortunately, what I don't have is grandchildren. If I did, I'm sure I'd have some bleach-bottle swans of my own, and I'd be singing a different tune. But until I get some grandkids to spoil and can tell them embarrassing stories about their fathers, I'm going to remain fairly grumpy about bleach-bottle crafts. If you want to take out your anger on anyone, let me give you the e-mail addressees of my sons.
Editor: Are you really a sourpuss? It seems like you're mad about something all the time. I can't believe you took a whole column to whine about your phone bill. Get a life. There are important things you should get really mad about, but I don't see you writing about them in your column. Miss M.
Dear Miss M: The size of my phone bill is a minor concern compared to some of the things that truly upset me. And since you don't have a choice, I'm going to give you a couple of examples.
Something that really gets my goat is a toilet stall in a public restroom that has a door that swings in instead of out. Who thought of that? I guess I should be glad there is a door at all. But I don't appreciate getting ready to leave the toilet stall and coming face to face with the realization that, in order to escape, I have to somehow swing the door into the space I am occupying. Frankly, I occupy a lot of space. If I were in charge of public health and safety laws, the first thing I'd do is ban either public toilets with in-swinging doors or big people.
Something else that makes my blood boil is an owner's manual that is written for more than one model. It's bad enough that the Japanese translators are guessing at the English version, but what good does it do me, the owner, to be told that this gizmo or that geegaw is found only on Model 87E663GP889? You have no idea how long it takes me to figure out what I bought is Model 87E663GR889, which has neither a gizmo nor a geegaw, although it does have the advertised thingamabob.
Mr. Sullivan: I've been to the SEMO District Fair every year since I was kid. I love the fair to death. But my cousin, Rory, says he's tired of the fair and doesn't see why we have to have one every year. What can I tell my cousin to make him see how wonderful and important it is? Tilt-A-World Bob
Dear Tilt-A-World Bob: The first thing I'd do, Bob, is tell Rory that the fair this week at Arena Park would be something like the "19th District Fair" instead of the "148th Annual District Fair" if we didn't have it every year. You can check my math on that, but I think I'm close. And for a newspaper column writer, close ain't bad. I think 148th sounds better than 19th, don't you?
R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.