Hey, Bob, I read somewhere that you're an amateur inventor.

True. I hold several patents.

Like what?
There's my Snail Mail Shredder 4000™. It fits inside your mailbox and shreds everything the postman drops in.

Brilliant! I mean, when is the last time anybody got anything in the mail worth reading?
Well, a couple of weeks ago we got a gem of a letter addressed to my wife. I knew instantly that I'd get a column out of it. Thank God I was testing the Shredder 4000™ on my neighbor's mailbox at the time, instead of my own!

Huzzah! Do tell!
"Dear Barbara," it began. "We are writing to you today since you have been referred to us as having a daughter ages 7-19 within your family who may enjoy modeling in front of an audience and learning modeling routines that enable her to accomplish her goals onstage."

That sentence does seem to be very crudely translated from the original Latvian, but am I missing something else?
Yes. This alleged daughter is news to me. My wife and I don't keep secrets, and if we did have a daughter 7-19 years ago, I'm pretty sure she would have shared the blessed event with me.

Sometimes dads are the last to know. What did they want with your daughter?
They want her to participate in the 2014 Miss Teen Albuquerque Pageant.

Wow, those things are so competitive! Your daughter must be a budding tap dancer or accordionist or ventriloquist…
Stop right there. The letter assured us that there's NO talent competition in this pageant. I'm serious. I guess they think our daughter is pathetically inept, and they wanted us to know that's okay.

She doesn't even exist!
But if she did, she'd have talent. She's my daughter!

Calm down. What else did it say?
It said she should bring "a small photograph of herself"

Was it really necessary to add the phrase "of herself?" Like if they didn't make that clear, the girls would show up clutching small photos of Justin Bieber?

If this is a talent-free pageant, what will the judges consider?
According to the pageant website, "personality, confidence, poise and atmosphere."

Atmosphere? WTF does that even mean?
I guess the girls are supposed to conjure up the ambiance of a smoky cabaret in Weimar Germany or something like that.

Anything else?
The site said this year's winners "will exude beauty and brains." It's going to get pretty slippery on that stage, what with all those brains being exuded. I hope they have sponge mops handy.

Very impressive! What a shame your daughter won't be there!
I went ahead and registered her. If the pageant's homework was as shoddy with other parents as it was with us, our little precious still has a shot…

Robert Basler worked for Reuters in the U.S. and Asia. He now lives in Santa Fe with his wife and way too many rescued dogs and cats. Email the author: bluecorn@sfreporter.com