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One sweet woman
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Aunt Myrt was a sweet woman. Cheap, but nonetheless sweet.

 When I was kid, she had a job that required a great deal of travel. Aunt Myrt would always bring us "presents" from her trips.

 She would bring us things like postcards, pens and stationery from big city hotels. Momma thought they were nice gifts and we would have to use a piece of the letterhead to write her a thank you note.

Myrt once brought me a disposable shoe shine cloth. It had the name of the hotel and below that it said, "Dust them off now, but leave them outside the door for a glossy shine by morning."

I thought it was magic. I was crushed when my shoes were unshined the next day.

She brought me a bath mat from the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. It was imprinted with "Home of the Famous Blue Room."

I guess folks would step out of the tub and be thinking, "What am I going to do tonight?"

All they had to do was look down at their naked feet and be reminded of the Famous Blue Room.

Whenever Myrt brought something that we were not sure was included in the complimentary items, she would always say, "The manager is a friend of mine."

Based on the number of hotel managers she knew, Myrt could have been an associate member of Hotel Manager's Association, if there is such a thing.

If you stayed at Myrt's house, you bathed with soap stamped with the name of one hotel and dried off with a towel from a another one.

Myrt was always worried about her waistline and had some new fangled diet. She had home subscriptions to all the gossip magazines and was always using the same diet plan as some celebrity.

"I'm using the same diet as Liberace," she said one time. "His fur coats are getting too tight."

Myrt would bristle at any suggestion that Liberace pursued an alternate lifestyle.

"He's just flamboyant," she would say. I'm glad she didn't live long enough to know any differently.

She was an early user of Sweet N' Low and she always had a little supply in her kitchen drawer. This was before they were selling it at the grocery store. I assume she knew a restaurant manager somewhere.

When they came out with little ketchup and mustard packets, I don't think Myrt ever bought any more. She had another little drawer with tons of condiment packages and napkins advertising restaurants from Maine to California.

Aunt Myrt got a little worried when they issued a report that some artificial sweeteners were associated with cancer. She should have been worried more about her two pack a day smoking habit. That's what got her.

I thought about Myrt this week. I went to a fast food restaurant where they now keep all the napkins and condiments behind the counter. You have to go up and ask for them.

I guess there are a few too many folks like Aunt Myrt in the world. The ketchup and napkin control system has been in use in New York City for years and now it has spread South.

Well, I understand the whole problem of "shrinkage" as they call it. Folks will take what's not nailed down. That's why they have pens on chains at banks.

But there's something just plain unfriendly about not having napkins and ketchup at reach in a burger place and in honor of my long-departed Aunt Myrt, I won't go back.

Harris Blackwood, a native of Social Circle, is on the editorial board of The Gainesville Times. Send e-mail to