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Moving Product

By: Frank Ferri

Hi! Are you buying or browsing? Great. Name’s Frank. You picked the perfect day to shop for cereal. End of month, deep discounts, movin’ units. You’re looking at Crispy Rice, generic Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. Affordable. But…I shouldn’t. Ah, what the hell. Between you and me, the generic doesn’t stay crispy as long in milk. I could lose my job steering you away from our store brand, but once you drive off the lot with a box, it loses half its value. And if I’m not upfront with you, you’re at the breakfast table with a bowl of mush cursing old Frank Ferri from Aisle 4.

Got kids? Four! And another on the way! No? Well, four’s plenty. I’ve got two. This is Ralph and Victor. That’s at Vic’s fourth birthday. Bronx Zoo. Had a blast. The cereal you’re looking at comes standard with eight vitamins and minerals. Tasty, not overly sweet. I add sliced banana to sneak in a fruit serving. Gotta say, it’s a pleasure dealing with you. We get a lot of guys in their late-40s buying Froot Loops, Count Chocula, kid stuff. Recently divorced, trying to look young again. Sad. Mel over in men’s hair coloring has stories! By the by, you have great taste — love your stylish maternity clothes. Really? Well, nice outfit. Flattering. Have you considered Kellogg’s? Bit pricier, but boasts 217 vitamins and minerals — but don’t quote me on that. Offers the Snap, Crackle and Pop sound system — kids love those guys. Hopefully there’s some units left in the back. Must-have cereal of the season. Oprah featured it.

Yes, there are a lot on the shelf. But I think “hundreds” is an exaggeration. Come back tomorrow? Gone. End of month. Movin’ units. Okay, okay, you want generic. But let me ask you, have you considered anything by General Mills or Post? We carry their entire lines. Golden Grahams and Honeycomb? Incredible incentives. Think Quaker and you think oatmeal, right? Well, they make Life cereal, too — with a Cinnamon option. You can’t go wrong with anything by Kellogg’s, General Mills, or Post. It was just a suggestion; you’re focused on generic. Let me go in the back, talk to my manager, run some numbers. Meanwhile, if you’ll start filling this out.

Okay, so I worked up the figures for the 24-ounce Kellogg’s. Four kids — and what looks like twins coming soon — you’ll want the big box. Oh? Good thing! Four kids are a handful! Here’s the discount I’m giving you on the entire package. This shows you’re upgrading to Kellogg’s because you love your kids. Really? Thought you didn’t want generic. Listen, no one’s beating this price for brand name, family-size Rice Krispies. Kellogg’s won’t let us go below the $5.99 MSRP, so my hands are tied there. I did cut the Destination Charge down. Had to fight for that. Probably gonna come out of my pay, but whatever it takes to put you in some cereal. I’m throwing in Nutrition Information and a Disney DVD offer. See back for details. Proof of purchase required. I could get fired for this, but I’ll honor this expired coupon. Boom! Saved you another 40 cents. That’s the warranty fee — the Kellogg’s customer service number on the side panel. Don’t want the warranty? I’ll black out the number, save you some dough. No pressure on the warranty. But if something happens, we can’t do anything. Gotta go to the manufacturer. That’s the luxury tax. Don’t shoot the messenger! You demanded brand name! And this is for the floor mats. Okay, lose the floor mats. Fair question. The Destination Charge is for getting your cereal to the checkout line. I’m not making anything on this cereal. I’m actually losing money. The generic? You’re an indecisive one! Sticker shock? Brand name’s an investment. With kids, gotta save dinero — even if it comes at the price of their health. Got two kids myself. Alex and Johnny. That’s from Johnny’s third birthday at Queens Zoo. Had a blast. I’ll talk to my manager. But I won’t be able to maneuver the numbers as much with generic.

Okay, manager thinks your best bet is going pre-opened —

That’s strange. Excuse me, sir, did you see a pregnant woman near the Rice Krispies? Never mind. I see you’re looking at Froot Loops. My kinda guy! Who says you have to grow up, right? I only buy Froot Loops and Count Chocula. Any kids? Me neither. Too busy selling cereal — and charming the ladies. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.


Some Say I’m Taking The Fun Out Of This Competition

By: Frank Ferri

I know it’s August. Anyone else want to point that out? Then let’s get started.

We’re the official judging panel for Margate’s Holiday Lights Competition. It’s our job to award points, pick a winner, and most importantly, make this the best darn competition our small town’s ever had. We’re meeting in summer because unlike my predecessor, who didn’t begin organizing until December, I actually give a flying fir tree.

Gwendolyn, use your leverage at Borough Hall to pull records. Dig up anything on every resident. Anyone tries stonewalling you, mention the Freedom of Information Act — no idea if it applies, but sell it. If we see a household that made an honest, if underwhelming, effort to decorate, we’ll cross-reference that address with those records. If it’s an elderly couple, we’ll take that into consideration. If it’s a family with children and the house isn’t decorated, we’ll call child services — because kids deserve a house that’s festooned with love. And a crapload of lights.

Sean, as security guard at the hospital you’ll access the records department. Find charts of people on Gwen’s list, and note ailments that could affect decorating abilities. Not everyone will be in the hospital’s system. We’ll need the charts of their family doctors. Dang HIPAA makes this challenging.

Not sure if it’s laziness or faux eco-friendliness, but data show that holiday lights go off at an average time of 10:47 p.m. Look at these slides, mid-December, nothing glowing! I’ve revised the rules. Actually, I created them. The only “rule” was an absurdly vague: “Just lighten up and have fun!” That’s the kind of ambiguous bullcrap we don’t need. A new rule is mandatory exterior holiday illumination in darkness/near-darkness. We’ll take shifts doing 3 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. checks.

Schmitty, call in a favor to Public Works. We’ll need to go through residents’ trash for receipts to compare the amount spent on holiday stuff with household income. An underpaid teacher creates a festive wonderland? Extra points. People shred out of unwarranted paranoia. Just hope there aren’t any crosscutters. Otherwise, you better be good at jigsaw puzzles.

This aerial map shows Margate’s three entry points. We’ll have volunteers stationed at each, 24/7. They’ll record the license plate number, make and model of any vehicle with a wreath or bow fastened to the grill. We’ll send a list to my brother-in-law, a cop, to get their addresses. If they’re residents, we’ll tuck that info in our back pockets. Extra points for vehicle-decoration, but that’s classified — it’s only supposed to be about the outside of the home. That’s where Tony comes in.

Tony, I don’t care about your history of violence, drugs or your stint as a prostitute. I admire your burglary skills. You’ll perform interior checks of well-decorated houses (Veronica will learn residents’ diurnal patterns) to see if the inside matches the outside. Count the holiday knickknacks, then get the hell out. Don’t steal anything — it’s a Holiday competition!

Nativity scenes. No denying their importance. But this competition is secular. A nice nativity scene gets points — but no more than an attractive wreath. Unless the nativity scene is an intricate tallow carving. Live nativity scenes? Definitely an effort to coordinate something like that, but I’m not convinced living things are decorations.

Point structure. Animated items score more than, say, stationary plastic snowmen. We’ll debate blinking, solid, white and colored lights. I say weigh them equally. Novelty lights, like those icicle ones, get extra.

Demerits. Sun’s down and lights are off? Deduction. Pumpkins, scarecrows, any leftover Thanksgiving or Halloween decorations? Disqualification. Also, call me whenever you see a house with outdated decorations so I can vandalize the heck out of the place.

Exterior music. I despise it. Which brings me to the Collins family, winners eight years running. Ken Collins, engineer, software developer, smug S.O.B. Spends thousands on equipment and synchronizes lights to Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I don’t care if Kenny digs up George Handel, brings him to life, and has him conduct the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain in a performance of “Messiah” with lights blinking in rhythm. The Collins family is disqualified. That’s classified. Let Ken show off in a national competition. I’ve seen stuff on YouTube; he’ll get his butt handed to him. My brother-in-law is digging up dirt on Collins. Clean so far, but I have a feeling a felony amount of heroin might appear in Ken’s BMW. Darlene, contact your fellow bean counters and get the Collins’ tax returns. Tony, I know I said don’t steal, but snag some of Donna Collins’ lingerie. Don’t worry about why.

I’m passing out your Yahoo! emails — username is your codename. It’s not Gmail, Lester, because I don’t trust Google’s privacy policy. You’ll all need to ask for December off. I do too have a job, Lester. To make this the best damn Holiday Lights Competition ever. Now prick your index fingers and repeat after me.

That’s the spirit!


The Story Pitch That Got Me Fired From The Writing Staff Of House M.D.

By: Frank Ferri

Sit down. Okay? You need to be sitting down for this.

So, House is being his surly self, belittling staff, annoying Wilson, snipping at Cuddy. You’re with me? Pretty standard stuff so far. Okay, so a patient is rushed in by his parents. House doesn’t even look at the kid. It’s just a kid. House just keeps his head down. He’s doing something more incongruous with the serious situation. He’s whittling wood. Maybe fashioning a boat out of a block of Honduras mahogany. No. A stethoscope. He’s carving a stethoscope. He never whittled on the show before, but that doesn’t mean he can’t, right? Anyway, he’s still at it with his chisel or knife or whatever. Wait. Scalpel! He’s whittling with a scalpel. Genius. He keeps his head down and just says: “Pituitary microadenoma.” Long pause. Close up on House. Then he adds “Releasing way too many hormones.” He just knows where and what the problem is without even looking up. We sorta give House superhuman powers, but we do it subtly.

Anyway, this kid’s pituitary gland is messed up or whatever. Our physician consultants can add detail.

House wants to try a new procedure. No. The procedure doesn’t even exist. There’s not a research study in the country — in the world — testing what House has in mind. He just invents it on the spot.

You guys are dying to hear what it is. Look at your faces. Okay, hold on to your lattes.

House wants to use a high-powered vacuum to suck the patient’s pituitary gland out through the ear. He builds it himself out of stuff lying around the hospital — you know, a little nod to MacGyver, but not so overt.

House makes a bon mot about getting frisky in the janitor’s closet with Cuddy and got the idea when he saw a Hoover canister vac.

Like I said, there’s no precedent for this, so House gets one of his doctors on the case. Maybe the hot chick with Huntington’s. She calls the patient’s health insurance company. And here is where we make television history: A full 38 minutes of the show is dedicated to the staff fighting, pleading and begging the insurance rep, whom we never hear on the other end of the line. The docs take turns on the phone. They’re asking to speak with a manager, but no dice. We have the most talented and respected doctors explaining to someone who possibly has a high school diploma why the insurance company needs to cover this.

It’s excruciating to watch. That’s the point. We juxtapose House’s seemingly unlimited capabilities that we established earlier, with the frustrating experience of dealing with an insurance company. This will resonate with anyone who’s ever had to go through that phone call of hell with a miserable insurance rep who makes the experience as unpleasant as humanly possible.

Finally, House takes the phone, and everyone is looking at him. But he doesn’t speak. You think he’s gonna speak, right? Nope. He just unscrews the bottom part of the receiver, and puts the phone down. It’s one of those older phones with the round ear and mouthpieces that have lots of holes in them. Yeah, you know the ones — usually a creamy light beige color? Anyway, he uses it to finish the vacuum.

Now the intensity is ridiculous. There’s no time. The insurance company is gonna have blood on its hands. Viewers are thinking, “who is gonna pay for this? Is this some to-be-continued crap?”

Cut to the O.R. House delivers another witticism. Maybe, “I’m a doctor not David Oreck. Let’s hope this works.” Then he raises the vacuum to the patient’s ear.

Success! Our physician consultants can invent some remotely realistic way in which a doctor can suck a pituitary gland out of an ear. We pay them plenty. So, surgery’s done and the kid comes to — instantly. The anesthesia wore off at the exact moment the pituitary came out because House administered the anesthesia himself — he anesthetized the kid and he’s not even an anesthesiologist! House did it perfectly of course. So the kid gets out of bed and skips over to the windowsill where House’s unfinished wooden stethoscope is. He turns it over in his hands and looks at House and says: “I want to be a doctor like you.” House rolls his eyes and says something like, “Well, enjoy the several hundred thousand dollars of student loan debt, kid.”

Cut to a month later. House is at his desk, looking pensive. Wilson walks in and says, “I never mentioned it, but I respect what you did with that vacuum procedure. That took guts — and suction, lots of suction. Hopkins, Lahey, Mayo, all the clinics are clamoring to perfect it.” House doesn’t seem happy. He says good night in his rude way, flicks the lights off with his cane and snaps, “Lock up my office when you’re done.”

House leaves. Wilson stays. He turns on the light and looks on House’s desk. We see a bill from the insurance company — they rejected coverage for the vacuum procedure. We also see a check — and wait for it — it’s from House’s personal checking account. Made out to the insurance company. He’s paying for it with his own money. The check is for thousands — no, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

You know how we do that a lot? Give glimpses into the soft side he rarely shows?

Episode name? “Cleaning House.” Because of his name and the fact that he uses a vacuum cleaner.

Look at you. You’re all speechless. You love it, don’t you?


The New 9-1-1

By: Frank Ferri

Thank you for calling 1-866-742-8794 extension 895 — the new 9-1-1™! Make sure your children commit it to memory — it’s an important one!

1-866-742-8794 extension 895 — the new 9-1-™ is made possible by the Altria Group (formerly Philip Morris Companies Inc.) and other corporate sponsors dedicated to keeping this emergency service free.

Please listen to the following menu in its entirety as it changes hourly.

For fire-related issues and emergencies, press 1.

For situations requiring police assistance, press 2.

For situations involving the ingestion of a potentially dangerous substance, press 3.

For all other questions, comments and concerns, press 4 for our automated additional help menu, featuring a voice-guided tour to help you maximize your 1-866-742-8794 extension 895 — the new 9-1-1™ experience.

To hear this menu again, press 5.

You pressed 1. If this is correct, press 1 or say “Yes” after the beep. If this is incorrect, press 2 to return to the previous menu or say “Previous menu.” I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Please wait for the beep and try again.

Okay, so you’re having a fire-related issue or emergency. If you just have a question about fire safety or would like your local fire company to make a presentation at your child’s school, press pound to return to the main menu, then press 4 for the additional help menu.

If this is a fire emergency, please remain calm and tell us how urgent you think the situation is by using your keypad. Enter your number based on a Likert scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being something equivalent to a small grease fire and 10 being along the lines of a full-fledged conflagration or a regretted act of self-immolation. When you enter the number, it must be two digits followed by the pound sign. For example, if your toaster caught fire and you have wooden countertops, you might press “05#”. If you have granite countertops, you might press “02#”.

Sorry, I didn’t recognize that command. Try again, and remember to press pound —

You entered 9. If this is correct, press 1 or —

Okay, 9 is a serious emergency and time is of the essence. Enter your five-digit ZIP code, then press pound.

We’ve done away with the need to enter your four-digit ZIP code extension. But if you know it and want to enter it, do so now, then press pound. Entering your four-digit ZIP code extension could expedite the response time. But 1-866-742-8794 extension 895 — the new 9-1-1™ makes no guarantees as to response times.

You entered 0-8-4-0-2. If —

Before we connect you to the Margate, New Jersey Fire Department, enter your address. Press pound after each part of your address. For spaces, use the star key. For example, for 510 Main Street, press 5-1-0-#-*. Then press the numbers that correspond to your street name, and press pound. In this case, Main Street would be 6-2-4-6-*-78-7-3-3-8-#.

You entered 1-1-4-8-*6-6-7-8-4*-4-8-6-7-8-4-6-4-8-6-6-*2-8-3-6-8-3-#, indicating your address is 1148 North Huntington Avenue. If this is corr–

Now tell us whether it’s a “business,” “apartment complex,” “single family home” or “multiple family home” after the beep.

I heard “single fam–

On which floor of your single family home is the fire? Use two digits followed by pound. For example, if the fire is on the second floor, press 0-2-#. If it is in the attic or basement, press the numbers that correspond to the letters, then press pound. To save you time, the number for attic is 2-2-8-4-2-#. For basement, press 2-2-7-3-6-3-6-8-#. If the fire is in a crawlspace, press those corresponding numbers. Due to the small number of calls for crawlspace fires we’ll skip telling you the number. If you would like to hear the number for crawlspace, press 1 or enter it on your own.

You said the fire is on the second fl–

You’re likely not a professional firefighter, but in your best estimation, tell us how fast the fire is spreading. Use a Likert scale, with 1 being “at a testudinate pace” and 10 being “with the utmost celerity.” We’ve received numerous requests for the definitions of these words, so we’re excited to announce the launch of our dictionary feature. To hear the definitions of these words press 1. The dictionary feature is made possible by the National Education Association. Use two digits followed by pound. So if your fire is spreading at the pace of, say, an overweight cat that doesn’t scare easily, you might enter 0-5-#.

You know your vocab! You said the fire on the second floor of the single family home at 1148 North Huntington Avenue is spreading fast. You’re being routed to your local fire department. After you speak to them, would you be interested in participating in a short survey? We value your feedback and your participation will help us improve our services and save more lives. To participate, stay on the line after speaking with your fire department, then press *-6-#.

If possible, we recommend exiting the site of the fire. If you choose to participate in the survey, please bring a cordless phone with you.

Thank you for calling 1-866-742-8794 extension 895 — the new 9-1-1™ brought to you in part by McDonald’s, where for a limited time you can get two Egg McMuffins for just $3.99.

Good luck with your fast-spreading fire at 1148 North Huntington Avenue in Margate, New Jersey.