R.S. Williams

All I want is to get the words right.

Tag: Well Played!

Rubber Soul

In the summer of 1988, in a gas station restroom in Aynor, South Carolina, my sister and I encountered our first-ever condom machine. Sure, we had heard about such contraception contraptions, thanks to Health & Human Development class. Mom had even confirmed for us that there really was such a thing as a vending machine for condoms.

Somehow, though, Val and I had never actually seen one of these mysterious metal boxes for ourselves. All we’d ever seen for sale in a bathroom vending machine were pads and tampons. But on that nasty-humid July day in Aynor, there the condom machine was—bolted to the wall in all its mute, naughty glory.

And since this was South Carolina, where of course in the late 1980s they didn’t have a teenage pregnancy epidemic or people with STDs or anything like that thankyouverymuch, the condom machine’s offerings were concealed by a large metal flap that bore a sign in inch-high letters:


Which meant, naturally, that Val and I were straightaway going to lift the flap.

As we did so, the flap made a loud crrrreeeeEEEEAAAAK.  There was no way that anyone outside this one-seater women’s restroom couldn’t hear it. It was a cheesy haunted-house-quality noise, too, no doubt alerting everybody in the Aynor Amoco  that the occupants were most certainly perusing the rubber selection. I’m pretty sure the creaky flap had been designed that way, state public health initiatives be damned. “Better barefoot ‘n pregnant than have everybody in the store know you’re gonna get laid,” or something like that.

The four different types of condoms in the machine scandalized our sheltered teenage eyes. There were plain, nothing-special condoms, of course. There were condoms bearing the dubious claim of being “ribbed for her pleasure.” Next were the Stallion’s Pride condoms, “For the Larger Man,” secreted away and SORRY, SOLD OUT. The last offering was a random and wonky selection of “fruit-flavored” condoms. Creativity must have died a slow and painful death when the latex process engineers met up with the marketing team in Rubber Flavorings 101. Time after time, it’s the same old boring fruits, banana jokes notwithstanding. Think about it: Why don’t we ever see any new, original condom flavors? Why not, say, licorice? Why not root beer, or cornbread, or BBQ?

We tried not to laugh. But the harder we tried, the funnier it was. The sign’s if-we-can’t-see-it-then-it-doesn’t-exist mentality was just so silly. Val was 12 and I was 14, but even at those young ages we could see through the high-and-mighty moral smokescreening. (It works, too, even today. Note the plentiful public outrage whenever the topic of condoms for high school students appears in the news.)

Again, remember that this was the late 1980s—long before the advent of smartphone cameras that people could take everywhere with them. Hilarious as the whole scene was, we couldn’t snap a photo of the prophylactic tomfoolery before us. We also needed to get back to the car before Daddy started to worry that we’d tumbled off to Wonderland down a public toilet rabbit hole.

I was washing my hands, still giggling, when Val said, “Don’t look!”

“Don’t look at what?”

She broke up laughing. “Don’t turn around until I say so.”

“Okay.” I dried my hands, and stood there staring at the floor, my back to her. “What are you doing?”


I heard Val rummage through her handbag. Then I heard the crrrreeeeeEEEEEAAAAK! of the condom machine flap, the quick light ffffrrrppp of a thick notepad, and the small skrrrtsksksksk of what was either a very busy pencil or a lone mouse scurrying across acoustic ceiling tile on a Tuesday afternoon.

Then, finally, I heard the crrreeeEEEEAAAK-THUNK-THUNK! of the metal flap settling to rest. “What the—what are you—”

“All right! Let’s go.” My sister stood bright-eyed and smiling with her hand on the restroom door, her purse tucked under her arm.

I took one look at her face, then at the condom machine. Lifting the big metal warning flap, I spied a purple Hello Kitty sticky-note pressed directly over the condom logos. Scrawled upon it, in Val’s distinctive handwriting:


Photo: “Condom Cathedral Window No. 4” (LaGrange, Georgia – 28 September 2016)

© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


“At free safety, from the University of Georgia…”

Mid-September 2013. My afternoon English 1101 class prepares to write their second essay of the semester. (Students’ identifying details have been changed.)

ME:  All right—in the Week 8 folder online, you’ll see some good, A-plus sample essays from former students.
STUDENT 1:  Can we see some bad essays?
ME:  No.
STUDENT 2:  Why not?
ME:  Because I want y’all to do well on Essay 2. I want you to follow what the successful essays are doing.
CLASS:  Awwwwwww!
ME:  I’m serious. We learn by studying strong examples—by watching people who are good at what we want to do. [turning to Student 3, a football player] What position do you play?
STUDENT 3:  Defensive end.
ME:  Perfect! [turning to class] Think about it this way: I can show you how to tackle, or [Student 3] can show you how to tackle. Whose example is going to be better?
CLASS:  [Student 3]’s example.
ME:  Right! Because [Student 3] knows what he’s doing, and has for a long time. He plays college football. I don’t know anything about football. Why follow my tackle demonstration? I’d be terrible at it.
STUDENT 3:  Aww, don’t say that, Professor. I bet you’d make a good free safety.

© R.S. Williams (all rights reserved)


The Sugar Hill Gang would be proud.

Kickin' it Old School (Road) One Time

I should have moved here back in the D-A-Y.

Northwestern Troup County, Georgia
18 March 2012


© R. S. Williams (all rights reserved)


Aaaaand we’re back!

After a weeks-long absence and a move to a new domain, I’m delighted to be here again. I have truly missed you all. It’s hard to put into words just how wonderful it is to be back.

Saving and re-posting all my content at this new address wouldn’t have been possible without the excellent tech support of Stephen J. Neri at GoDaddy.com. Stephen’s patient and meticulous work over the last couple of weeks have saved my professional and creative hide, and I recommend him to everyone in need of web hosting and support.

New content will be up starting tomorrow morning—the first Nearly Wordless Wednesday in nearly three weeks. See you then.

Overheard in the hallway

A: Is it time to go home and drink?
B: When is it not time to go home and drink?

Run-On: Not Just a Really Long Sentence!

Thank goodness for Grammar Girl’s parody of those awful Head On ads to help explain run-on sentences. Some of my students have had trouble understanding what’s wrong with their run-on sentences. Comma splices and sentence fragments are in there, too. Perhaps this will help.

Overheard on campus

In classroom doorway, immediately after lecture.

Instructor: Do you know what we’re doing?
Student:    Yes. I also know I should come to class more often.


Monday fun

Thanks, Best Coast, for the back-to-work smiles.

Either work hard or you might as well quit.

And this is a sign (uh!) you can’t touch.

LaGrange, Georgia—14 July 2012

Statler & Waldorf: Home at last

Leave it to these two to sum up the entire Internet in 17 seconds. And don’t forget that only Statler and Waldorf could heckle Milton Berle into a stammering mess.

The Weather Channel’s new iPhone app: Darn near perfect

In mid-April, I purchased my very first iPhone. The weather app that came with it was barely functional and looked like a mid-’90s NetScape refugee. I needed something that worked well and matched the sleek, efficient design of my iPhone. Why not the Weather Channel’s new (and free) iPhone app?

While I’d read some high praise for TWC’s new and improved iPhone app, I was still suspicious. Their far-too-busy local forecast page, another recent redesign, had me thinking the app would be a disaster. Thank goodness I was wrong!

Well, mostly wrong. Continue reading

Give him the ball and get out of the way

The 2012 NBA Finals begin tonight. There will be much trash talking. No championship series would be complete without it.

However, to paraphrase an old saying, it ain’t trash talk if you follow through. Witness:

I won’t get started about my disappointment in my Boston Celtics. Or in the fact that we have a weather-themed NBA Finals this year. [deep sigh]

Edited to add: My disappointment is minor compared to that of Seattle basketball fans. Their former Supersonics are now the Oklahoma City Thunder, and playing in the NBA Finals. My condolences, y’all.

AS SEEN ON TV: Cuddle up with the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse!

So we’ve got Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death. Who’s missing?

Oh, right.

Behold the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse: Stupidity. Or maybe his name is Marketing Coup. I’m not sure. Continue reading

Even if it’s bold italic

A classmate pointed me to this hilarious parody of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” Whoever said you can’t mix typeface geekery and pop music obviously didn’t know what they were talking about.

Creativity strikes in the strangest ways, at the strangest times. “What font should I use for this invoice?” Hey, it happens.

I’ve blogged before about my love for some typefaces (fonts) over others, and Continue reading

Well, now that you mention it…

Wednesday morning in a computer-enhanced writing classroom.
After taking roll at the start of class, I ask students about their Spring Break plans. (Names and details have been changed.)

ME: All right, so Spring Break is next week, and—  [students cheer]  —and as you’ll recall from the syllabus, Essay 2 is due the last day before break. That way, you’ll be worry-free during your vacation. So who’s going out of town? [students raise hands] Where are you going, Tommy? Continue reading

Herding cats: This is how you do it

I first saw this ad during the Super Bowl in 1999 or 2000 (I think). Over a decade later, it still makes me belly-laugh.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you herd cats and create a memorable ad.

Yes, it’s Finals Week. Why do you ask?

During final exams, even a “wet floor” sign is game for UWG’s mischievous students. (TLC Building, University of West Georgia, 24 April 2012)

Good thing I wasn’t drinking a soda when I spotted this the other afternoon. Dr. Pepper up the nose really hurts.

Indeed, it’s Finals Week. Thank goodness the students haven’t lost their collective sense of humor. Bless whoever who saw the laugh potential in this yellow plastic sign. All we need now are parachute pants, a cardboard refrigerator carton, and a huge boombox. Ollie & Jerry, anyone?

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