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Columnist, Sheila Moss, is humor writer from  Tennessee. She writes  a weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny things that happen to everyone.

   She has written for  the Daily News of Kingsport,   Griffin Journal, Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton Advocate,  and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. She has been published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks at Guidepost Books.  Her articles have appeared in numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.

    She is a former board member and past  Editor of  the, website of  the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, the oldest and largest professional organization for columnists. She is the Web Editor of Southern  and  a founder of the Southern Humorists writers' organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of

    To carry her weekly column in your newspaper, or to republish an article, please contact her. It's that easy. 

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Burned Popcorn...

Who Burned the Popcorn?

With the advent of modern technology, a new convenience has come to the office along with computers, printers, copiers, fax machines and the ever-popular coffee maker. This new convenience is the office microwave. Most offices have one hidden someplace where employees can sneak in to warm their frozen dinners or a cup of hot water for tea. Ours happens to be in an empty cubicle, empty because of the awkward placement of a large support column right in the middle of the office. But, thatís another story.

What we are going to talk about today is the popularity of the microwave for making popcorn. While it is convenient to have a fresh and healthy snack during work breaks, not everyone remembers to watch the popcorn while popping it. They simply throw it in the microwave, turn the knob, and take off to do something else while it pops. This brings up the obvious problem of burnt popcorn. Every so often, someone burns popcorn and the whole office smells, to the dismay of the other employees who must work in the stench.

Now, I must admit that I do like microwave popcorn. However, I am always very careful to watch the microwave and to stand close by while the popcorn pops so I can listen for the slow down in popping sounds that signal when it is time to take it out. Also, I am tuned in for the smallest whiff of smoke and snatch the popcorn instantly from the oven if something goes awry, before it burns badly enough to make the office smelly.

Last week I decided that lunch did not quite satisfy me, and some popcorn would be delicious. I put my bag of corn in the microwave as usual, and set the time as usual, but was distracted from my cooking duty by a ringing phone. I was not worried as I could hear the popcorn popping furiously. Suddenly, it happened. There was the unmistakable smell of something burning to a crisp even though the popcorn was still popping like crazy.

I ran to snatch it out. Too late! The bag didnít look burned, but the smoke was awful. I could not believe it, but I was guilty. What do you do with burning popcorn? I dared not open it as the smell would get out and become even worse. I was nervous that the fire sprinklers would activate. No place to throw it away and no way to get outside except down eight floors on an elevator.

"Who burned the popcorn?" exclaimed a fellow worker.

I considered playing innocent, but figured they would sniff me out sooner or later. "It was me," I admitted.

Soon others were coming around to see, "Who burned the popcorn?"

"I did," I confessed. The aroma was all over the office by now.

Every time someone else came by, it was the same question, "Who burned the popcorn?"

I sank lower and lower into my chair, feeling very guilty as I admitted over and over that I was the one stupid enough to burn up my popcorn in the office microwave. I stole the deodorizer spray out of the restroom and sprayed, but it didnít help much. Even worse, after the terrible odor finally subsided, it seemed to be reactivated every time someone else microwaved anything, even water.

"What is that smell?" they kept asking.

"Er, I guess it is from my popcorn," was my humiliating reply.

Finally, someone decided to check out the source of the problem. Looking all the way in the back of the microwave, they pulled out a lump of charcoal that appeared to have been a dinner roll in another life. Apparently, the roll was left in the microwave and forgotten until I came along with my popcorn and incinerated it. No telling how long it had been in there before I made it hot enough to burn up.

Wait a minute! You mean it was not my popcorn after all that caused the problem, but somebody elseís forgotten roll? Iíve been admitting to something that Iím not guilty of all this time? I canít believe it! Iím innocent! INNOCENT! It was not my popcorn!

My joy was short lived. Somehow it no longer seemed to matter to anyone. Iíve been labeled as one who cremates popcorn, and my stigma as a popcorn arsonist will apparently follow me for the rest of my life.

Whoops, I think I heard the microwave bell! Iíve only been gone for a minute! Is that smoke? No! It canít be! Not again!

Copyright 2001 Sheila Moss

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