Okay, it's Valentine's Day and I decided I was going to cook my dear, hard-working, unsuspecting wife dinner tonight.  Found on the internet the exact recipe for the occasion.  It had to do with Pork Chops.  What was needed was a 9"x13" glass cooking dish.  In the past, I've tried different recipes that have called for such exact dimensions and had to "fudge" a bit with nothing but disastrous results.  So I went to the cabinet, pulled out the Pyrex dishes, and found one that looked about the size, though in my mind it seemed a bit longer.  It was a dish inherited from my mother's kitchen.  I turned it over and read the engravings.  33 x 23 x 5 cm.

     "Hmmm," I said to myself, "no problem.  I've got a college education.  I can do the math.  Plus, Yahoo has a site that does it all for you anyway."

     Then the phone rang.  It was someone wanting to sell me aluminum siding for my log cabin.  "No, thank you," I answered pleasantly.  The phone rang again.  It was someone wanting to donate to the ....(fill in the blanks as you wish).  "No, thank you," I tell them, "I gave at the office and anyway, the Black Panthers aren't active anymore."  The phone rings.  It's a customer wanting to buy something.  I sell it to him.  The fool!  Now the dogs want out.  Now they want back in.  The cat wants to be held and rubbed.  The other cat wants to be held and rubbed.  I need to smoke a cigarette so I go outside to do so.

     Time to go.  Bring the dogs in.  Get all of the dry cleaning ready to take into town.  Give the dogs a dog bone for having to endure being inside a couple of hours.  Pick up my binoculars and journal in case an Ivory-billed Woodpecker flies onto a sign post on Edge of the Earth Rd., and finally head out to pick up the ingredients for the Valentine's meal.  Halfway there, it hits me:  I forgot to do the math.  I'm thinking now.  I'm a smart guy.  I can figure this out.  cm's vs. inches.... hmmmm.... you take the one, divide by the other.... no, no, that's not it.... you add 3.1456 to the circumference....no, no, it's not round.... hmmmmm.... maybe I don't know without the help of the objectively-minded Yahoo.

     "I'll buy one," I say out loud to myself.  "Yeah, we can always use another glass cooking dish."  Satisfied with my logic, I continued on.

     At the grocery store, I finally found all the ingredients called for which, in this case, took me five aisles all filled with people who had nothing else but time on their hands and shopping baskets that worked in the aisle like a linebacker for the Chicago Bears.  No way to get around them.  Finally, I finished and made my way to the counter.  The young lady---very attractive, by the way (hey, it's Valentine's Day, and I, as a representative of the male race, am supposed to notice things like that on this particular day)---is rubbing her hands together.  She starts taking the objects out of my cart with a Kleenex.  I suddenly feel a bit paranoid.  "How do they know?" I ask myself.  "What do they know, that I don't?"  I further ask myself.  She sees me staring at her..... hands.  "Lotion.  Just put it on," she says with an absolutely killer smile.  That explains everything.  I know it does.  From Osama bin Laden to Jerry Springer.  It all fits.  It's "lotion."

     I start out the door when I notice all the glass dishes at the door on promotional sale as it is dictated by the week of the month.  I could not care less about the price but there is no 9"x13".  There are 8"x8" and 10"x15"..... I have a sinking feeling.

     "Dollar Store," I yell to myself in my pessimistic brain.

     I finally get into the diminutive parking lot of the local Dollar Store and make my way through the crowded aisles to "dishware."  8"x8" and 10"x15".  I'm really beginning to feel a little low right now.

     "Walmart," I say to myself, without the least bit of enthusiasm.  I hate Walmart.  Never shop there.  They are the Enron of the commercial industry today.  Promise much, deliver little, and destroy all the competition.  The only thing "free market" about Walmart is that their parking lot is competitive to the Nth degree.

     I go to the section I need, feeling the whole time like the worst hypocrite in the world, only to find 8"x8" and 10"x15" dishes.  There is no god.  I've been telling people that's the case for years.  This proves it.  Then I see it.  On the top shelf:  9"x13"!!  The only problem is that it is packaged with your choice of either an 8"x8" or 10"x15".  I don't want either of these for $7.49.  I just want a 9"x13".  Finally, finally, I see the edge of a Pyrex dish sticking out from underneath a bevy of items that no one has purchased in our new century.  I pull it out (pulling a stomach muscle while doing so), blow off the dust, and read with glee the description:  9"x13".  Proudly, as the good American I am, I carry it to the checkout and brazenly throw it on the counter.  The little gal twists it across the scanner.  No beep.... nothing.  She looks at it and does it again.  Nothing.  She gets on the microphone.  "Price check, price check," she says with a nasal drawl that would make a southerner fight for the Yankees.  Finally a young man appears who---well, I want to be charitable here---whatever he has been smoking on his break should definitely be legalized; he's laid back and very, very happy to go down the aisle and check the price.

     "There is no price," I tell him as he heads off.  "Don't matter," he replies.  The line behind me is growing.  Patience has given way to distrust.  The young man finally shuffles back to say, "Ain't no price.  Can't find it."  We all stood together there in a moment of poignant silence.  He, me, the check-out lady, and the road-rage folk in line behind me.

     "Inspiration strikes.  "$7.49," I assert cheerfully.  The check-out looks at me as if I'm Wynona Ryder.  The people behind me nod in agreement.  The young man stares at me and, after a few seconds, says, "Wow, man."

     She rings up $7.49.  I now pay the price for a single that I could have got also a.... well, you know what else.

     I head home.  When I get there and let the dogs out, the cats out, and put away the booze----oh, I forgot to mention, after this little escapade, I thought a bit of drinking was in order---I turned over the newly purchased Pyrex dish and read, "Made in USA.  9"x13".

     "Ah, ha," I said to myself, twisting the cap off the Jack Daniels bottle.  "The other one's not made in the good ol' USA.  Probably 'Commie'."  I look at it.  "Made in USA."

     "Wow, man," I say to myself.

     Now the questions come.  If the "cm" dish came from my mother's kitchen, then how did she know what she was buying?  Now, my mother was an intelligent woman.  She was also red-haired, loved a good story well told, could laugh better than anyone I've ever met, was opinionated and absolutely the greatest lady I've ever run into.  However, metrics were not in her vocabulary.  How did she know what she was buying?  Well, it could be that the sign in front of the dish read 9"x13".  Could be.  Although we're talking about West Texas here and everyone in West Texas knows the metric system is Commie-instigated..... no, that's a lie.  They're a lot more sophisticated than that and I know it (even though it's a hell of a lot more fun poking fun that way).  No, she picked up this dish because she knew what size it was without a sign telling her in metric or inches.  She needed a 9"x13" Pyrex cooking dish, went to the store, saw one, and bought it.

     Me?  I'm wishing I had a measuring tape.  I take the newly bought dish and put it up against the "Commie" one.  Exactly the same.

     "Well, we can always use another," I tell myself with as much of a manly voice as a fool can muster.

     I tear the inside paper off of the dish to find two lines of glue still stuck to the glass that any cocaine addict could only admire.  I put the dish in the dishpan and let it set for a few minutes, then take my rag and begin to rub.  The glue peels off like a scab on the forearm but does so in full length.  Now what do I do?  Can't pour it out with the dishwater; it will clog the drain and thereby require explanation to the one who, after 35 years, no longer listens to my explanations.  I search for it.  Now get this:  the glue is intact.  It does not float.  It does not sink to the bottom.  It is suspended midways and undulates with the earth's pulse.

     "Wow, man," I say to myself.

     Well, I'm happy to report that the recipe is now in the dish and the dish is now in the oven.  Smells pretty good after an hour's cooking.  Unfortunately, I'm only 1/3 of the way there.  The jury is still out and I guarantee you it's a military tribunal we're talking about.

     But still, I think about my mother owning a Pyrex 33 x 23 x 5 cm. cooking dish.  It's a real mystery.  How did she come to own such a thing?  Maybe for the reasons already suggested and maybe for another reason not yet thought of.

     Hell, I'm just happy to be thinking about her.

     It's Valentine's Day.
Valentine's Day
by Phil Floyd
(c) copyrighted by P.Floyd 2002