Tag Archives: comedy

Who is in the Trunk of the Toyota?


By Terence Cole @talesfromterry

A business leader taught me that there are two main ways to influence people: motivation and manipulation. Motivation is getting someone to do something for their benefit. Manipulation is getting someone to do something for your benefit. The leader said that motivation comes with a blessing, and manipulation comes with a curse. I tend to stay on the motivation side of influence, but it hasn’t always been this way. Especially when it comes to getting people to do questionable activities, such as riding the the trunk of a Toyota.

When I was in junior high, my brother and I would occasionally take trips to a mall called Northwest Plaza. It was a nice mall, but it had a bad reputation because of gang violence. However, we loved Northwest Plaza because it had an awesome arcade named Tilt, and Tilt had all of the latest games.

James was my best friend and he loved video games as much as I did. The problem was that James’s mom would never let him go to Northwest Plaza, because she was scared that something would happen to him. James was a couple of shades lighter than me, and he rarely traveled to the more ethnic parts of St. Louis.

After weeks of convincing, James’s mom let him go to Northwest Plaza with us. My brother, our friend Caesar, myself, and my homeboy James went. Three Nubians and a Caucasian.

My brother drove us to the mall. During the drive, Caeser told us about the time in which he had ridden in his friend’s car’s trunk and was scared for his life.

I thought this was hilarious, and began scheming of ways to get someone to get into the trunk of my brother’s car.

Someone like James.

We had a good time playing games at Tilt, but throughout the evening I thought about how I could get James into the trunk of the car. I continually suggested it to him, and he continually told me to go to hell.

Tip from Terence: Your friends do not always have your best interests at heart. Even if they like you, you’d be surprised at how many of them are open to watching you do stupid things. Be wise enough to discern what is going on in your relationships. If you have friends who truly do not have your best interests at heart, confront them about it, or consider changing your friends. Either they need a heart change, or you need new people to spend time with.

We left Tilt and walked back to my brother’s car. After the fifth time I had suggested that James get in the truck, I realized that he wasn’t going to do it without an incentive. We had gone all evening without eating and I decided to appeal to his sense of hunger:

Me: “If you get in the trunk, I’ll buy you dinner.”

James: “Go to hel… What are you offering?”

I looked around and saw a McDonald’s. I told him that I’d buy him burgers for dinner if he’d get in the truck. He agreed. Having heard this, my brother immediately performed a U-turn and drove to the restaurant. I bought my friend two double cheeseburgers and said:

Me: “Get in the trunk.”

Even though we were only 13 at the time, James was a big guy. He climbed in the trunk, but he couldn’t fully fit. Rather than let a lack of truck space defeat my plan, we decided to let down half of the back seat and snake James’s back so that his head was sticking into the rear of the car.

The fit in the trunk of the Toyota was snug. Really snug.

The first thing that my brother did after driving away from the McDonald’s was roll over a speed bump.


James: “Arrggh!”

My brother leaned back and said:

JJ: “Are you okay?”

James: “Yes.”

JJ: “Good.”

Then my brother put the car in reverse and ran over the speed bump again.


James: “Arrggh!”

We began to drive home. My brother, Caesar, and I were having a wonderful time hearing James wail in the back seat. Apparently, being shoved in the trunk of a car is just as comfortable as you’d think that it would be.

(Not very comfortable.)

We accidentally exited the highway early, and began driving through a park. After a few minutes we came upon a lit basketball court filled with Caucasians.

We are not racist people, but we are racially paranoid.

When there are three brothers rolling in a car with a white guy in the trunk, they don’t end up on shows like Cops. They end up on shows like Unsolved Mysteries. We immediately turned around and got back on the highway.

About twenty minutes later, we arrived at an intersection five minutes from our house. My brother then had a brilliant idea. He yelled:

JJ: “Hey James, do you feel a draft?”

And he popped the truck of the car.

Have you ever heard a guy scream like a schoolgirl because his legs were dangling in front of a Chevy?

I have.

Looking back, we did just about everything wrong during that trip. Please, be excellent to your friends. If you have somebody who loves and trusts you, then honor that love and trust. Use your influence to motivate them to do things to improve their lives, not manipulate them into doing things for your amusement. I’m thankful that nothing bad happened that night. But seriously. Don’t try this at home!


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You Mean I Can’t Flush That?

Original image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Original image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By Terence Cole @talesfromterry

There are so many things that you don’t know when you move to a foreign country. For instance, did you know that you can’t flush Kleenex wet wipes down the toilet in Korea? I wish I had known this. And I’m pretty sure that my landlord also wishes I had known this!

One morning, I was getting ready to go to work, when the intercom for my building came on. I had gotten into the habit of recording the voice messages from the intercom, and having one of my co-teachers interpret them for me. I recorded the message, then headed off to school. My Korean wasn’t very good at the time, but I could tell that the message was concerning something about my building.

When I went outside, construction was taking place in front of my building. I couldn’t tell what was going on, but the owner of the apartment looked upset while he spoke to the foremen of the construction crew. I greeted the apartment owner, and then went to work like usual.

At our first break, I remembered that I needed one of my co-teachers to interpret the message from the intercom. I had a wonderful co-teacher named Ms. Rose, who not only spoke English very well, but also was an angel to my family and I. She was my unofficial Emo “이모” (auntie in Korea).

I handed Ms. Rose my iPod and asked her to interpret what she heard. She listened to the message for a few minutes, and then we had the following conversation:

Ms. Rose: “They are having a problem with the sewer pipes at your apartment. Something like cloth seems to have been flushed down the pipes, and it has plugged up the entire apartment complex.”

At first I thought to myself, “Well, that puts me in the clear. I certainly haven’t done anything like that!”

But then I though to myself, “Aren’t the wipes that I use kind of cloth-like?” I looked in my bag and brought them out. Before then, I never really thought to double check and see if flushing them was okay, but figured that now might be a good time to find out:

Me: “Ms. Rose, are these okay to flush down the toilet?”

Ms. Rose: “Not at all! You see this little picture on the back of the pack with a toilet with an X through it?”

Me: “I do now.”

Ms. Rose: “That means that you shouldn’t flush them. Kleenex makes wipes that can be flushed, but these aren’t that kind.”

All of the English teachers in the building worked in a shared office, so everyone could hear our conversation. An American English teacher named Crystal then added:

Crystal: “Yeah, but even if someone did flush those wipes, they would have to flush a ridiculous amount to stop up a sewer system!”

The problem was that I did flush a ridiculous amount of those wipes. In fact, I was using so many of them, that I had started buying them in bulk packages!

I wanted to hold it inside, but my spirit urged me to tell the truth. I’ve learned over the years that when your spirit is unsettled, it will remain unsettled until you do what you know you should do:

Me: “Ms. Rose, I think I broke the sewer pipes of my apartment.”

I then explained to her that I had no idea that I wasn’t supposed to flush those wipes, and that it was truly an accident. I’d thought to myself, “How can something from Kleenex possibly be bad for toilets!”

I asked her to call my landlord and tell him what happened.

Ms. Rose then told me that it would be better if I didn’t say anything, because I might be liable for the damages to the sewer. I knew that she meant well, but I also knew that my spirit wouldn’t be settled until I had fessed up. I told her that I understood that I might have to pay, but that I wanted to be upfront with the owner.

Shortly thereafter, I headed home for lunch. While walking, it dawned on me that there was no way that Ms. Rose was going to tell my landlord anything! By nature she is a mild-mannered person who does not like to bring up sensitive topics. Talking to a landlord about how the resident foreign teacher broke his apartment’s pipes with Kleenex, is not a conversation that she had any intention of having. The only way this conversation was taking place, was if I made it happen.

I dropped my things off at my apartment, and went to the office of the building administrator. My apartment’s administrator was a middle aged lady who was very nice and helpful. She also didn’t speak any English, so on my way to the office I practiced what I was going to say in my bootleg Korean.

When she saw me, she ushered me into her office with a smile and asked how she could help. We then had approximately the following conversation in Korean:

Apartment Lady: “How can I help you, Terence?”

Me: “There is a problem with the bathrooms of my apartment. Yes?”

Apartment Lady: “Yes, there is a problem with the sewer pipes.”

Me: “Maybe that problem was from me.”

I then showed her the wipes that I had been flushing down the toilet.

Apartment Lady: “NOOOOO!!! Terence, how could you!!!”

Me: “I’m sorry, but I not know. I’m very sorry.”

Apartment Lady: “Okay, okay. The apartment is being fixed. Don’t use these anymore, okay?”

Me: “Yes. I not use them from now on.”

Apartment Lady: “Good. Also, do not tell the apartment owner. Okay?”

Me: “Okay.”

To be honest, since the entire conversation took place in Korean, I couldn’t be 100% sure that she told me not to talk to the owner of my apartment. However, I seem to remember her holding one finger to her lips in a, “Shhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone,” kind of way.

I walked back to my apartment and was thankful that I had confessed. Even though it would have been nice to try and slide by and not tell anyone what I had done, I realized that wasn’t the right thing to do. My spirit tends to guide me on things, and whenever I choose to ignore it, things go poorly. My spirit told me to fess up, so I went ahead and did it.

As I walked back into my apartment, I saw a wooden plank beside its entrance. What looked to be a pile of dirty rags sat top of the plank, and the entire mess was positioned next to an open sewer hole. I was pretty sure that those “rags” were actually a mountain of non-flushable Kleenex, that I had been flushing down the toilet for weeks.

Tip from Terence: One thing that Westerners may find surprising about many Asian countries, is that you are not supposed to flush paper products down the toilet. This could be because their sewer systems aren’t designed for this kind of waste, or it could just be a way to prevent sewers from clogging. Most restrooms will have a special waste bin dedicated to used paper products, and you are supposed to throw all used paper waste into this bin. I should have realized that this was why I should not have been flushing paper ANYTHING down the toilet, but old habits die hard. I lived in South Korea for three years, and I can count on one hand how many times I put used paper in that bin. Whoops!

Later on that day, I received a knock on my apartment door. It was the owner of the building. He was an older Korean gentleman who used to work with the American army at one of the local bases, and he spoke English quite well. The owner never bothered to speak Korean with me, because he KNEW I would understand every word he said if he spoke in English:

Owner: “I knew it was you!”

So much for the owner not finding out about what I’d done.

Me: “I’m really sorry. I had no idea that I could not flush those wipes. I’ve stopped using them. Again, I’m really sorry.”

Owner: “How could you not realize this?”

Me: “I’m really sorry.”

Tip from Terence: In the words of the master of personal relations, Dale Carnegie, “If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.” If you make a mistake, it is best to admit it as quickly as you can and not make excuses. Apologize sincerely and you will be given much more leniency than you might have received if you had tried to shift the blame elsewhere. Carnegie was an American, but his principles are timeless and work well around the world.

The owner’s face then softened, and he explained what happened because of the Kleenex. The reason the wipes caused so much trouble, was that one of the tree’s roots in front of the apartment had grown to the point of breaking through the apartment’s sewer pipes. My Kleenex wipes were caught in the roots of the tree, which is why the system had gotten backed up.

My mistake had illuminated a problem that the landlord didn’t realize that he had. In my mind, I was a hero for helping him realize his problem!

Of course, I didn’t actually say this to the landlord, but I did stop worrying about whether or not I’d be charged for the damage. The events turned out well (or at least not too badly) for everyone.

And yes, I did stop using the non-flushable wipes. I moved on to the actual flushable kind, because I still loved Kleenex wipes!


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Dodging Blows at Christmas

Countdown in Auckland New Zealand

Countdown in Auckland, New Zealand (image from Wikipedia)

By Terence Cole @talesfromterry

Click here to watch the video of this story on YouTube

A couple of years ago I was in New Zealand for Christmas, and my girlfriend and I were shopping in a grocery store called Countdown. We had just checked out with our groceries, when we saw members of the Salvation Army singing. Like many others in the store, we stopped to enjoy the music.

Tip from Terence: Because New Zealand is in the southern hemisphere, its seasons are the exact opposite of the United States. Even though I was there during the Christmas season, the weather was around 80 degrees! While people in the United States may think of snowflakes and Santa Claus for Christmas, New Zealanders think of beaches and barbecue.

A gentleman stood next to me. His clothing and demeanor looked rough, but he was smiling and enjoying the music along with the rest of the crowd. I looked at him and smiled. He looked at me and smiled… Then he PUNCHED me in the throat!


“Cough! Cough!”

Normally, I have good reflexes and should have been able to prevent this! However, not only was I holding two full bags of groceries, but who expects to be punched while listening to the Salvation Army sing at a grocery store?

All I could do was look at him and say, “Why did you do that?”

I then heard my girlfriend yell from the front of the store, “LET’S GO!!!!”

I walked away. About two minutes later the rage caught up with me and I was furious! What on earth just happened? Who assaults someone while listening to Christmas music?

While we were walking home my girlfriend was berating me. She told me that I should have known there was no way to reason with that man, because it clearly looked like something was wrong with him.

She was right, but my mind was racing too much to think about her words. All I could think about was what might have happened had I not walked away. I’ve had three years of Taekwondo training, and every scenario that went through my head ended up with me at a police station!

I got home and began to forgive the man. “Lord, please forgive this man for punching me in the throat! Forgive him, bless him, and release him!” Years ago I learned that forgiveness is a choice and that it should be done as quickly as possible. You don’t necessarily forgive someone for their benefit, but because it removes poisonous anger from your spirit. And because forgiveness is a choice, it can be done whether or not you are at fault. You can’t be sure of why everything happens to you in life, but you can respond in a way that does not keep you in bondage to bad experiences.

After fifteen or so minutes I was calm again.

Looking back, I’m glad that I walked away, because any other response would have been bad for everyone involved! I don’t know what was wrong with that man, but I hope he was able to get the help that he needed.

Remember, just because it looks like everyone is having a good time, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention. There are both good and “questionable” people all over this world. You just have to be able to discern who is who. Happy travels, and be sure to stay vigilant even if you are listening to the Nutcracker Suite!


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