How to Conversate

by Joel Habush



Ever find yourself with people you don’t know and who are sitting, standing, or sky diving right next to you? There is usually an extremely awkward silence that you would give anything to break. This happens a lot in everyday, ordinary situations, like the following:

Situation 1. You’re in a Turkish bath, in Turkey, and you perceive through the clouds of steam, what seems to be a disembodied head sporting a fez. Since you’re fluent in Turkish, you could start a conversation, but what to talk about? What to talk about?

Solution 1. Ask him where he got the fez and how much it cost. He’ll tell you where, and if it was on sale, and which fez stores to avoid. He might even say, “Wait, I’ve got a Groupon.” So you’re off to the races and will get along swimmingly, or in this case, sweatingly. Okay that one might have been a little out of the ordinary, but the principle remains. Remember people aren’t all that interested in you, their favorite subject is themselves.

Situation 2. You’re a single young guy at the laundromat; you’re two machines down from an attractive equally young woman, and you both have staring blankly at your respective clothes tumbling around—her unmentionables and your unsepeakables.

Solution 2. Search for a commanality—any one will do. “Hey look, we’re both on the spin cycle. That’s fitting for you. Obviously you’re in a spin class. You work out, right?

Situation 3. You’re standing in an interminable line anywhere— the DMV, the Post Office, or the supermarket at the wildly mislabled “Express Lane.” Solution 3. You turn to the person behind you, and you say to him, “Oh, great, now she’s writing a check—from scratch.” (Tip—First, make sure the person behind you isn’t also clutching a checkbook.)

Situation 4. You’ve just moved into suburban cul-du-sac country and don’t know any of your neighbors, except the couple whose 1/3rd acre homestead is next to your new casa, and who are the folks who invited you to this regular Saturday Night “Hi Neighbor” party. They suddenly take off, leaving you a stranger in a strange land, because they just got a phone call from their new baby sitter informing them that she’s quitting because she’s allergic to kids who have been spoiled rotten.

Solution 4 Easy Peasy. Here all you have to do is selectively drop a few phrases that are pure gold . You don’t even have to put them in a sentence. When there’s a lull (trust me, there will be plenty of them—that’s why the bar is open) just lean in and say, “crab grass.” And off they go. Next time you think it might be your turn, just say “sump pump.” You may not know where yours is located or even if you have one—it matters not—somebody already has taken the ball and is doing some fancy open field running with it.

Now, here’s a final tip for you.

You can’t go wrong with the old standby, “What’s your sign?”

When the other person responds with “Aquarius,” or “Leo,” or some such, and then they follow up with “What’s yours?” you answer smartly with, “Atlas,” and a fascinating conversation begins.


Love This? Go Tell it on a Mountain!

Members of the Wedding

by Joel Habush


RAY—F.O.B.: (Father of the Bride): Hi, Herb. How’s the Father of that
handsome Groom?

HERB—F.O.G: (Father of the Groom) Pretty good, Ray. Glad you could
meet me here. How’s the Father of the Blushing Bride?

RAY—F.O.B.: Great, though I don’t think that girl has blushed since she
was 16. She still says things that make me turn red.

HERB—F.O.G: Kids today.

RAY—F.O.B.: I’ll say. Name your poison.

Herb—F.O.G: Brandy.

RAY—F.O.B.: Brandy and what?

Herb—F.O.G.: Brandy and anything I’m from Wisconsin.

RAY—F.O.B.: Well, bumps, Herb. What did you want to talk about? I
thought we had all the expenses assigned. I got hit the hardest.

HERB—F.O.G: Yeah, but in the old days, the Father of the Groom only had
to pay for the booze. Now, I’ve had to dig down for the flowers, the
rehearsal dinner, marriage license, clergy, corsages, boutonnieres, the bride’s
bouquet, groomsmen gifts, AND the liquor—whatever happened to “cash

RAY—F.O.B.: Don’t forget the band. You agreed to that.

HERB—F.O.G.: (SIGHS) Oh, yeah, I forgot. Who are those people,

RAY—F.O.B.: The Screaming Alewives.

HERB—F.O.G.: What do they sound like?

RAY—F.O.B.: Let’s just say they’re aptly named. So what else?

HERB—F.O.G: Well, the subject of the Wedding Plaque came up, and…

RAY—F.O.B.: Say no more, we’d be glad to pay for it. That will save you
another expense.

HERB—Well, that’s just it; we don’t mind picking up the tab for a beautiful
plaque that commemorates this wonderful occasion.

carved initials hanging tree silver nickel

RAY—F.O.B.: Nothin’ doing. Paying for the boutonnieres probably put you in hock. I
saw some wonderful plaques on the Atlas website.

HERB—F.O.G: We did too, and we know the kids will think of us whenever they see
the thoughts expressed on their Wedding Plaque.

RAY—F.O.B.: Well, what if we went halfsies?

HERB: Done and done. I’m glad we could agree. Say, old buddy, you
wouldn’t consider doing the same thing on the booze, would you?

RAY—F.O.B.: Not a chance in hell.



Love This? Go Tell it on a Mountain!

Eat, Prey, Evacuate

by Joel Habush

That’s behavior that dogs and cats have in common. They aren’t really that much different from each other. They’re animals. They have animal instincts and exhibit animal behaviors. It’s their owners who differ. In the pet world there is a definite dichotomy between dogs owners and cat owners. Are all dog owners insecure and boasters?


Are all cat owners masochistic and apologists?

Could be.

Let’s look at the facts. Don’t worry if you’re new to doing such a thing, I am, too.



Dog Address Plaque

 Labrador Address Sign

•A dog owner will brag about how his dog brings him his pipe and slippers every night when he comes home. Doesn’t matter that he no longer smokes—it took him a helluva long time to teach him that trick, and he’s not going to go through that again just to unteach him.

• People regale me with stories of how they love being greeted at the door with huge leaps onto their bodies, and having their faces licked all over. And when their spouses won’t do that, their dogs just might.

• Dog owners like it when they are obeyed. A power to command an animal to sit, beg, lie down, and speak makes them feel like modern day Jack Bucks. (If you’re under 5.0 I’ll save you the trouble of googling him. He was an acclaimed wild animal collector and trainer, and was known as “Bring ‘Em Back Alive Jack Buck.

• They say dogs make great companions, but when I had one, with a wife and a bunch of kids running around, a dog was mainly just in the mix, just another mouth to feed. An expensive mouth—since super market dog food wasn’t good enough for him, although apparently super market human food was perfectly fine for me. No, we bought special formula food, prepared in “clean rooms” by dedicated scientists—this is true, in the pictures they’re all wearing lab coats. •To hear dog owners talk, God never made a dumb dog, and theirs was smarter than the rest of dogdom. Well, I had one, and although he was beautiful he never was a candidate for Uncanny Canine of the Year. I’d throw a stick, and sure enough he took off like a shot, grabbed the stick, often in mid air…and then kept on going—he was a Golden Retriever, but apparently had nobody told him.

• I tracked him down by car a few miles away ten minutes later. It didn’t take much tracking to find a winded dog taking his 80 pound rest in the middle of the road. I just clucked a little, and smiled as he piled with joy into the front seat, slobbering all over the dashboard, ready for our next adventure. No true dog owner type would ever tell that story—. A guy loves to tell you that when he mentions his mother-in-law’s name, King will start barking as if Lizzie Borden was coming through the window, axe in hand. Now, that’s another thing. Dog owners love to give doggedly macho names to their dogs, even if they’re female. Names like “King,” “Spike,” “Fang,” and “Cujo” are just a few examples. Remember, these dogs didn’t name themselves. All that bragging makes dog owners almost as obnoxious as baby owners, or worse, grandchild owners.



Garden Cat PlaqueCat in the Plaque

• Cat owners are a perverse lot, and we’re proud of it. We do more mock complaining than pointing to accomplishments—because they have none. We say (and mean it) that our cats don’t do tricks, not because they’re stupid, but because they’re smart and have figured out that they don’t have do any tricks. We’ll still feed them and brush them, and clean their litter boxes. All they have to do in return, when they feel like it, is jump onto our laps and start purring.

• We rail at their actions, but the our pride in their indifference and chutzpa shows through. I’ll talk about one of my cats invariably jumping onto my desk, block my view of the computer screen, and then go stand over my fresh cup of tea, his underbelly visibly shedding dander and lord knows what else into the cup. He’s not the one who has to make the fresh cup of tea. It’s a toss up whether I have a smart cat, or he has a stupid owner. So what’s the psychological reason that cat owners revel in telling stories like that? That’s a rhetorical question. I don’t want to know the answer.

• But here’s a puzzler. When we do brag on our cats, our highest praise might be “Tiger isn’t shy. He likes people. He’ll follow you around. He’s just like a dog.”

An attractive dog or cat sign shows your pride and love for your pet. Show it to him or her. If they’re as damn smart as you say they are, they’ll be able to read and understand it.


By Joel Habush

Love This? Go Tell it on a Mountain!

Taking a Giant Step Further—Frank Lloyd Wright and The Prairie School Style of Architecture

by Amanda

  “The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.” ― Frank Lloyd Wright Frank Lloyd Wright’s goals and influence preceded, […]

Read the full article →

Door to Door Solicitors, an Unnecessary Evil

by Joel Habush

  Exclusive to Atlas Signs and Plaques by Joel Habush Of course, that’s not for everyone. There just might be some people who want perfect (or imperfect) strangers coming, uninvited, to their door. Perhaps they’re lonely—so they wouldn’t put up a warning sign. Solicitors take the absence of such a sign as a welcome mat. […]

Read the full article →