The Basement Files: Life’s little lessons


It’s that time of year again, winter is still being a pain in the butt, but spring is now close enough to inspire hope. Baseball and Formula 1 haven’t started yet, and the Olympics are winding down, so there really isn’t anything interesting to watch. So it’s time to open up the grab bag and reminisce about some of the “truths,” or “life lessons” I’ve come across, and how I’ve come across them. In short, I’ve got a whole lot of nothing this week.

Lesson No. 1

I remember a lot of my childhood. My recall is fantastic. Sure, it’s mostly useless things I remember, like theme songs and obscure episodes of cartoons that I’m sure even the production staff has long since forgotten about, but there are other times I can point to a specific incident in time that changed the way I look at the world around me, and changed the way I lived my life.

One such incident happened when I was a scant young man, on this earth for a mere five years, sitting down to dinner at my grandmother’s kitchen table.

At that time, I was what is so lovingly called a “finicky eater.” I ate only a few things: macaroni and cheese, pepperoni pizza, hamburgers, chicken nuggets and my Mother’s specialty dish, spaghetti and meatballs (which is something she learned to make from her mother, my awesome grandma, and is without argument the pinnacle of culinary achievement in the history of mankind!) and nothing more.

So we were were at a family gathering, and on the menu that night was “sloppy joes.” I was having none of it, I didn’t like it, and I knew it.

“Try it, you might like it!” That’s a bunch of bull. I wasn’t buying it, I was five, and I already knew everything I needed to know in the world, and that phrase was getting on my nerves, and my family noticed. “Try one bite then, and I’ll never ask you to do it again.” Fair enough I thought, if it will shut you up I’ll … dang! This is some tasty grub!

From that day forward I was never afraid to try anything new, and if it weren’t for my adventurous attitude change I would have never found habaneros or burritos, and those are things I can’t imagine living without.

Lesson learned: Kids can be really stupid.

Lesson No. 2 and No. 3

As some of you may know (if you have great recall like I do), I have mentioned in previous columns that I sometimes get migraines when the barometric pressure takes a deep fall. I don’t know if that’s an actual medical thing, but I can predict them like clockwork just by watching the weather. During our last bouts of snow, I got such headaches, so I went to the medicine cabinet to get some pain relievers.

This is where the lesson begins. I don’t make millions of dollars doing this, contrary to popular belief, so I’m relegated to saving money by buying off-brand generics. These off brands tend to come in very similar bottles, and sometimes the pills are very similar in shape and color. So I’ve got a headache, I pop a pill and put back my bottle of ibuprofen … unfortunately the wording on the label said “stool softener.” Who put this identical bottle, with identical pills, next to my headache pills? I know, I should have checked first, that’s something I’ve been telling myself several times an hour.

Lesson’s learned: Never trust a pill bottle, and keep an extra supply of three-ply on hand.

Lesson No. 4

I don’t get political often, but sometimes I’ve got to address an issue. Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) I am calling you out. Please go to and look for my column lovingly titled “The Basement Files: E-Cigarette Arguments Go Up In E-Smoke.” Now, please, read that and do some research into exactly what an “e-cig” is and why your effort to ban them indoors by adding them to the “Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act” is completely asinine!

I’m not even a big e-cig user (I prefer, from time to time, a nice relaxing cigar), and some of the “e-liquids” don’t even have nicotine in them. There is no residual odor, there are no second-hand carcinogens. I’m not going to parrot that piece, but please, just because it looks like “smoking” doesn’t mean it is, and it doesn’t mean you need to legislate behavior that harms no one other than the user (and depending on the study you read, maybe not even that).

Let it go. You have a Ph.D in biophysics sure, but if you have an issue with the ingredients in these things, then let’s talk about getting rid of the exact same ingredients in pharmaceuticals, food preservation, hand lotions, soaps and many other everyday items. Then again, you did propose reducing the voting age to 12 back in 1989, so …

Lesson learned: Politicians … yuck! Democrats, Republicans, all of them!

Chris Hamble is a freelance writer and humor columnist serving newspapers in Minnesota and Wisconsin and is a lifelong Stillwater resident.