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This morning it is gloomy out and I have a whole suitcase full of peevishness to unpack. Read on and see if any fit in your satchel.

The good doctors recommend a single glass of red wine once a day in the interests of heart health. Now that's a prescription both of us can live with. Since we are not rich I look for the low-priced "prescription," which comes in a gallon bottle from the ever-helpful Mr. Patel's alcoholic emporium on Shervette's Corner in Eldersburg.

Our favorite flavor is California Chianti. There's one teeny problem. When you pay less than a sawbuck and a fiver for a gallon of grape pressings you don't get a cork but rather a screw top. You know the kind, with a perforated ring attached to the bottom of the cap which must be broken loose as you open the flask for the first time.

Time was when I tried to open these beasties with my bare hands. Failure is humiliating -- now I trek down to my basement workshop and pull my water pump pliers from the pegboard.

This tool, also known as slip-joint pliers, will adjust wide enough to encompass a bottle or jar cap and has handles long enough to provide formidable leverage.

With its help the seal is defeated, the bottle is opened and we can splash healthy portions into goblets left over from the Maryland Wine Festival.

Those of us who have passed fourscore years and 10 face this bottle cap problem over and over.

But what do seniors do who haven't graduated from the ordnance automotive school? The wine industry should give serious thought to an easy-open cap for us mature adults ... or else they should sell slip-joints in every liquor store.

Then there is the baby aspirin bottle. Prescription medicine can be ordered with senior caps but aspirin, like wine, isn't prescribed.

So one is reduced to lining up two little arrows and pushing mightily with both thumbs. My thumbs aren't what they used to be, sad to state.

Wait, there is more. The phone rings at inconvenient hours, often when my wife and I are both settled in front of the television in the recliners with blankets around our legs and a diminutive dog curled up on each lap.

So one of us must unrecline, unload the lap, unwind the blanket and mute the television, all preparatory to moseying over to telephone receiver.

You've already guessed who it is -- a robot calling machine sternly warning us that our automotive warranty is about to expire, or they have an important message about credit cards. Well, both our vehicles were bought during the Bill Clinton presidency and our lone credit card is not a problem.

We are on the Federal no-call registry; therefore these calls are illegal. But the understaffed FCC has minimal enforcement ability.

I have a solution: Make the devices themselves illegal, like hand grenades and marijuana bongs.

The Federal no-call registry exempts political campaigns and nonprofit organizations. I would take away the exemption for politicians and license their use for nonprofits.

My Knights of Columbus Council makes robot calls now and then to let me know about the fish fry, or who is sick or expired. That's OK. For the rest, outlaw the machines.

That's easier than trying to trace the illegal calls.

Oh well. The crocuses are in bloom and the rest of the flowers are looking promising. Perhaps this column will be more cheerful in two weeks.

But don't count on it.


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