If You Need Me, I’ll Be Busy Rescuing Kids from a Burning Building

Years ago, when I had to come up with weekly blog topics on ENT conditions, I set up a bunch of Google Alerts. These are notifications you receive whenever Google finds new results based on search terms you specify. Mine were based on keywords such as ears, nose, throat, and allergies. Whenever a relevant article was posted online, I’d get an email with a link. This proved helpful in coming up with new topics (especially after my 37th post on “ear infections”).

When I left that company, I deleted most of those Google Alerts. I kept only one: my name. And promptly forgot all about it.

Until I received a Google Alert a few weeks ago.

Keep in mind, those Google Alerts only pop up when my name appears in a news article online. My not-common-at-all name. Which is hardly a secret, given that I have a link to my book right here on the blog.  

My initial reaction was one of excitement. Ooh, I thought. I’m getting famouser! Forgetting for a moment that, in order to become famousER, you must already be famous to some extent.

And that famouser isn’t a word.

OK, then. The article must be about another Mark Petruska. There aren’t many of us, though I am friends with a Mark Petruska in Pittsburgh. No relation at all; I found him on Facebook years ago and sent him a friend request with a two-word message: Why not? We’ve followed each other ever since. MP #2 is a cool cat. A fellow liberal and family man. The only strike against him is the fact that he’s a Steelers fan, but hey, nobody’s perfect.

In any case, I clicked on the Google Alerts link, excitement and anticipation building, eager to see what my mystery doppelgänger had done that was so newsworthy. Maybe he was a scientist who had just discovered a cure for cancer or built a time machine or solved a challenging math equation like the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture. Perhaps a doctor who had just performed the first successful brain transplant. Or maybe he was just an everyday Mark who had saved a bunch of kids from a burning building or thwarted a would-be assassin using nothing more than his quick wits and a paperclip. Whoever this other Mark Petruska was, I was sure he brought honor and dignity to the name.


This other MP is no scientist, doctor, or brave citizen. Not even close. Fire was involved, yes…but not in the way I’d hoped. My doppelgänger, it turns out, is an arsonist in Sheffield, England. He’d set fire to a friend’s camper van after a falling out.

Even after reading this, I tried to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Anybody can make a mistake, I reasoned. It was probably a spur-of-the-moment crime, one black mark in an otherwise exemplary lifestyle.

Nope again.

Turns out, this guy’s got a rap sheet a mile long. He has prior convictions for burglaries, thefts, and attempted robbery. That last one bugs me the most: not only is he a criminal, but apparently, he’s not a very good one if he couldn’t even follow a simple robbery through to completion.

Oh, the shame.

The only silver lining? Bad Guy Mark is now serving a seven-year sentence for the arson attack. At least that should keep him out of the headlines for a few years, sparing me another Google Alert.

Barring some crazy prison escape involving hostages.

I’d better get to work on that math problem to restore my good name just in case.

Can somebody lend me a hand here?

It’s hard to believe another holiday has come and gone. Christmas Eve, we went to see It’s a Wonderful Life at the Elks Theatre. You know how Clarence the angel shows George Bailey what it would be like if he’d never been born, and instead of Bedford Falls, it’s Pottersville? Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but think—between the bars, clubs, and dancing girls—that Pottersville looked like a pretty happenin’ place. One I wouldn’t mind residing in.

Ol’ Clarence never would have gotten his wings if he’d been showing me around.

Doesn’t look so bad to me!

After the movie, we killed a few hours at Paddy O’Neill’s, then hung out with CLK across the street for a bit. Came home, watched the last of our Christmas movies, went to bed.

In the end, we did end up having a white Christmas. Well, barely. We got maybe 1/2″ of snow overnight, so it was more of a white(ish) Christmas. But I’ll take it!

The day itself was pretty chill. We opened gifts, embarrassed the cat, ate good food. The usual.

Sunday, we undecorated the house. Talk about wasting no time, huh? It’s not that I was tired of the festive decorations; really, I just wanted my recliner back. We’d moved it into the office to make room for the tree, and I really missed it. Hey, scoff if you will, but the importance of personal comfort cannot be denied.

We left the outside lights up, and they’re still coming on every evening, so it’s not like we completely un-Christmased the joint. Might as well keep those up until the window guys come to remove ’em.

I’ll probably be back with an update before the end of the year. If not, I’ll see you in January.

Every day in January, you lucky bastards.

19 thoughts on “If You Need Me, I’ll Be Busy Rescuing Kids from a Burning Building

  1. My sympathies to your cat who does not look happy with the festivities. I hope you shared a little roast beef to lessen the sting of embarrassment. As for your arsonist twin, let’s hope Google never alerts him to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sydney actually didn’t mind the collar at all! We joke that she’s got Resting Bitch Face, because really, she’s always happy and content around us.

      It would be funny if Google Alert alerted me to my own blog post…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have never used google alerts, but what a fun thing to do for your name. I thought my maiden name was uncommon, but there are at least 5 others in the US with my birth name, one being a broadcast journalist and professor at Columbia, so at least I’m in better company than you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sort of thing that makes me proud to be British…Petruska is an unusual name over here. We officially had a white Christmas here in the UK too – there was snow in east Scotland and Shetland and that’s all it takes! As usual, I’m intrigued by your food pic – please can you identify the items? I’ve worked out the bread roll

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah…creamed corn, not something we have here. Not a “real” white Christmas, but snow 300 miles away in Scotland “counts” for those who have bet on a white Christmas!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Some horrible woman with a name similar to mine was arrested for pedophilia and assault on a very, very young child. Arson seems preferable.

    We took all the Christmas decor down on Monday. Early up, early down. Kind of like my sleeping habits. (Also I got tired of the dog’s tail sending ornaments flying across the living room.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Suddenly I feel better about my European arsonist, ha.

      Pets are another good reason to undecorate early. Sydney wasn’t too much of a pain with the tree this year; she just basically liked to curl up beneath it. But there were times over the years when she was much more destructive.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. If only your Google Alert and this post had happened sooner. I just spent a week, like, 50 miles from Sheffield! I totally could have gone there, taken pictures, perhaps visited the dude in jail, and we could have co-written a post about it. Ugh – missed opportunities!

    Liked by 1 person

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