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  • Writer's pictureJim Pfiffer

What are you kids doing in there?

Weekly humor column by Jim Pfiffer, Elmira NY

Raising kids is difficult for parents.

Raising eight Pfiffer kids is hell for parents. That’s why Mom and Dad have free first-class-no-questions-asked-front-of-the-line-all-expenses-paid passes to heaven.

Nothing, not even a housefly, can keep their eyes on that many kids at once. Hell, it’s hard to just keep track of all of our names. That’s why Mom relied on all her natural senses as well as ESP and eyes in the back of her head to keep tabs on us.

I was most impressed with her long-distance sense of hearing. It gave her our location in the house, who was with whom, who was crying, who was laughing and who was socking someone else?

It was the lack of noise that put Mom on red alert. Silence meant that we were up to no good and we wanted to keep it on the down-low. When the sounds of silence reigned, Mom’s antenna popped and did speedy 360s until she locked on to the source of silence. She responded with her famous suspicion-toned “What are you kids doing in there?”

We responded with our famous innocent-toned “Nothing!”, which increased Mom’s suspicions because it meant we were doing something we were not supposed to be doing.

That caused Mom to race to the scene of the crime, as I was busy trying to get rid of the evidence or somehow pin it on one of my siblings.

When I was six, Mom’s early warning systems alerted her to a background noise she had never heard. It came from me and my sister, Sherry, who was five.

First, some background info.

My Mom, like many moms of the 1950s and ‘60s, dreamed of owning an Electrolux vacuum. It was the Cadillac of cleaners, expensive, well-built and possessed the horsepower to clean up after eight Pfiffers. It could have used this ad slogan “Cleaning up after the Pfiffers sucks. Electrolux provides that suction.”

Mom and Dad saved for months to buy an Electrolux canister vacuum with nifty attachments and an extra-long cord. The chrome-trimmed metal vacuum resembled a scuba tank on its side, mounted on pencil-thick wire runners. Its sleek and aerodynamic curves exuded industrial sucking power. One end had the sucking hole and the other end had the blowing hole. The hose was made of thick upholstery-like material. An internal replaceable paper bag trapped the dirt.

The Electrolux was in our home for a few days when Sherry and I decided to give it the PPDT or “Pfiffer Product Durability Test.”

We attached the hose to the blowhole, stuck the other end in the toilet bowl water, and blew it into a bubbling boil, leaving us giggling with delight.

Mom heard the laughter, smiled and thought “Apparently, Jim hasn’t started teasing his sister,” and went on with her housework.

Our product tests were strict. That’s why we tested both ends of the vacuum. We inserted the hose into the end that sucks and dropped the other end into the toilet water.

We fell back and rolled on the Pine-Sol-scented linoleum floor in fits of belly-holding laughter as the Electrolux sucked up the water in swirling seconds.

The crazy mixed sounds of howling laughter and sucking liquid caught Mom’s attention and sent her racing to the bathroom.

She burst into the bathroom, saw what we were doing, yanked the plug out of the wall, and instinctively hugged us in maternal relief that we had not been electrocuted by the Electrolux. Once she was sure that we were OK, her instincts gave way to irked reality when she realized we had ruined her prized vacuum.

She yelled at us and grounded us for so long that I just got ungrounded last week.


Eight Pfiffer kids generated a lot of stupid stunts. Mom and Dad suffered way too many “scary/relieved/angry/gray hairs” incidents because of us. We’re all still here, thanks to their keen senses that sensed when we were being senseless.

Good job, Mom and Dad.

P.S. There was a popular TV variety show back then called, “Art Linkletter,” which featured a segment called “Kids say the darndest things.” Our home version was “Kids do the dumbest things.”

Jim Pfiffer’s humor column is posted every Sunday on theJim Pfiffer Facebook page, Hidden Landmarks TV Facebook page Jim lives in Elmira with his wife, Shelley and many pets, and is a retired humor columnist with the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper. Contact him at


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