Sunday, November 29, 2020

"Hot Stuff in the Kitchen"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media/Tribune News Service


I’m the very model of the modern modest man. That is why I am somewhat reluctant but still kind of excited to announce that there is a sex scandal going on in my house.


And it involves, of all things, Tupperware.


This is hot news for two reasons:


(a) Now that Thanksgiving is over, and I am more stuffed than the turkey, it is time to use the plastic containers for leftovers, which is what I will be eating until Christmas, after which I will be eating leftovers until Valentine’s Day, after which I will explode like the Hindenburg. Oh, the calamity!


(b) Tupperware profits are even more prodigious these days than leftovers.


According to a recent story by The Associated Press, “Restaurant pain has turned into Tupperware’s gain with millions of people in a pandemic opening cookbooks again and looking for solutions to leftovers. They’ve found it again in Tupperware, suddenly an ‘it brand’ five decades after what seemed to be its glory days.”


I hate to say this, but Tupperware is also having glory nights in my house. This explains why it seems to be reproducing at an alarming rate in one of the kitchen cabinets, where topless containers must be having midnight orgies. Then they give birth to baby containers that must be burped.


I can’t open the cabinet door without being pelted by a torrent of Tupperware. It’s a good thing we don’t keep crockery up there. Or bowling balls.


An inventory revealed these startling figures: 53 containers but only 49 tops. There are an additional seven containers and three tops in the garage, where the excess Tupperware is kept because the cabinet is jammed with the stuff.


Then there is the refrigerator census. There are five containers with leftovers: pork chops, eggplant, meatloaf, scallion patties and pork lo mein.


Tupperware total: 65 containers and 57 tops.


Not all of it is technically Tupperware, but it’s plastic nonetheless, some from the Chinese restaurant down the street, some from a discount store, some from the supermarket and some, presumably, from a midnight invasion by inanimate objects that heard of the nasty shenanigans and wanted to get in on the action.


I often feel like Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate,” where a slimy guy sidles up to him and says, “Plastics. … There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it.”


I’ve thought about it, especially at night, when I can’t get to sleep because I’m wondering what the hell is going on the kitchen cabinet.


If the population explosion continues, we’ll be able to store enough leftovers to feed New Zealand.


My wife, Sue, the Empress of Tupperware, did use a container recently for what I thought was a noble purpose: She kept leftover wine in it. This became necessary because we are the kind of sophisticated people who buy wine in boxes. When I poured a wee too much but couldn’t put it back in the box (never a problem when you buy bottles or simply down the rest of the wine and have to go to bed), Sue poured it in a Tupperware container.


I had the leftover wine the next night. It had a piquant plastic aftertaste that tickled the palate!


I needed fortification when contemplating the mathematical dilemma of having an unequal amount of containers and tops. Or, after an exhaustive search, finding the right container for whatever meal you couldn’t finish but not the corresponding top.


This is another mean trick that Tupperware plays during the night: The containers and tops purposely separate in the cabinet so you have to go through them all before finding the mates. Sometimes it takes so long that the food spoils before it can be refrigerated.


Now we are faced with Thanksgiving leftovers. At least we have enough Tupperware.


Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima


Sunday, November 22, 2020

"Clothes Encounters of the Worst Kind"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media/Tribune News Service


If it’s true that clothes make the man, which in my case is far more likely than the man making clothes, because I can’t sew and would have to go around in my birthday suit, risking either pneumonia or arrest, then I definitely have a fashion plate in my head.


Still, I have to wear something, even if, as a retiree, I don’t have to dress for success anymore. Not that I had much success when I was working, but at least now I can lounge around the house in sweatshirts and sweatpants (in fall and winter) or T-shirts and shorts (in spring and summer).


To steal a lyric from the Byrds, because I’m for the Byrds, there is a season (turn, turn, turn). No, I don’t know what the hell it means, either, but I do know that, according to my wife, Sue, who is very stylish, I should change my seasonal wardrobe twice a year, putting my summer clothes away and taking out my winter clothes when the weather gets cold and putting my winter clothes away and taking out my summer clothes when the weather gets hot.


And, of course, vice versa.


I never used to do this because I worked in an office where the temperature fluctuated wildly, leading to the terrible realization that there is no such thing as climate control. It got so bad that I once tried to have the National Weather Service declare my desk the coldest spot in the United States.


And this was in the summer. So why put away my winter clothes?


Another reason I have never made the seasonal switch is that my entire wardrobe is made of approximately eight yards of material.


This explains why it is contained to one small closet and three bureau drawers. On the other hand, which requires a glove, Sue has a wardrobe large enough to clothe Luxembourg.


I don’t mind because: (a) she looks beautiful in anything she wears, even sweatshirts and sweatpants, since she’s now retired, too, and (b) she buys my clothes, thus saving me the horror of having to get dressed up to go shopping.


This year, however, it has been suggested that because I am no longer working (not that I ever did any real work in the first place), I should put away my summer clothes.


I said to Sue, the person who suggested this bold move, “With global warming, why bother?”


But even I have to concede that it’s worth the trouble, if only to get a large plastic bin full of clothes out of my already cluttered office and into the attic, a large space as empty as my skull.


Sue pulled out another bin of clothes from the closet in my office.


“Whose are those?” I asked innocently.


“Yours!” she responded sharply. “You didn’t even know they were here.”


And there is a pile of unboxed and unfolded clothes on the shelf in my bedroom closet, stuff I have ignored for God knows how long, including ties, which I have seldom worn because they cut off the air supply to my brain (see: empty skull, above); swim trunks, which I should keep in the trunk of my car for when I go swimming; and a pair of paper pants I had to wear several years ago when I got an X-ray for a kidney stone.


So I am now in the process of finally making the seasonal wardrobe switch. I might even find that some of my duds are so old and unstylish, like the guy who owns them, that they can be given away, thrown out or, if I break out the fire pit, burned.


Still, sadly, no matter what the season, clothes make this man look like a dweeb.


Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima


Sunday, November 15, 2020

"They Don't Have Me Covered"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group

When it comes to being stuck, there are two kinds of tape: red and Scotch. The first is what you are wrapped up in when applying for Medicare Part B. The second is what you drink when you can’t unravel yourself from the first.


I needed copious amounts of the latter — for medicinal purposes, of course — after my maddeningly unsuccessful efforts to get a Part B card had me seeing red.


And Part B doesn’t cover vision, which is a whole other problem.


According to Social Security, through which I had to apply, causing me insecurity, Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and certain other medical and health services not covered by Medicare Part A.


Naturally, there is a hefty cover charge even though you still need supplemental insurance for things not covered by Part B (see: Scotch, above).


I applied in September after the retirement of my wife, Sue, whose insurance at work covered me until she didn’t work anymore and left me uncovered, something you don’t want to happen if the weather is chilly or there are cops around.


Sue got her Part B card right away. My card, which I figured was the 7 of clubs, never came.


So I called Social Security and spoke with a friendly guy named Todd.


“Part B or not Part B — that is the question,” I said when, after being on hold for a period longer than the Super Bowl halftime show, I was finally connected to Todd.


“I hate to say this,” he said, and proceeded to say it anyway, “but it’s the government.”


“My tax dollars at work,” I said. “Or maybe my tax dollars don’t work and are retired, like me.”


“It sounds stupid,” Todd acknowledged, “but that’s red tape for you.”


“Don’t you have any green or blue tape?” I wondered.


“No, it’s always red,” said Todd, adding: “You were about to get a denial letter.”


“Then I would have been in denial,” I responded, resisting the old joke about denial being a river in Africa.


“It’s a good thing you called,” Todd said.


“When was I supposed to find this out?” I asked.


“When you called,” replied Todd, noting that I would need another 564 form, which would require a 561 form and two 40B forms, all of which would form in the empty atmosphere of my skull to give me a gargantuan headache.


“This is a pain in the neck,” I said, though I actually referred to a lower anatomical region. “Would it be covered?”


“I don’t know if chiropractors are on the list,” replied Todd, who said he’d be happy to help me get the whole mess straightened out.


“I already have Medicare Part A,” I said.


“I handle A and B,” said Todd, “but there’s also C, which is supplemental, and D, for drugs.”


“Can I use the drugs to get rid of my headache?” I asked.


“Yes,” Todd answered, adding that there also are Parts E, F and G.


“Do I have to buy a vowel like on ‘Wheel of Fortune’?” I wanted to know.


“You might,” said Todd, who’s 37 and nowhere near retirement. “If I didn’t work here,” he admitted, saying he had trained for months, “I’d be totally lost, too.”


Todd also admitted that his 9-year-old son is more tech-savvy than he is.


“He has his own iPad,” Todd said.


“I don’t have an iPad or an iPod,” I said, “but I do have iTeeth. Would they be covered under the dental plan?”


“I hope so,” said Todd, who got me processed and promised that my Part B card would soon be delivered.


“Until then, I’ll go with Part S,” I said. “It stands for Scotch.”


Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima


Sunday, November 8, 2020

"Wackos Create an Identity Crisis"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group


To be or not to be — that’s not even a question for all the people in the world who don’t want to be me. That’s why my identity has never been stolen.


I can’t say the same for my wife, Sue, who recently noticed suspicious activity on one of her credit cards, received a mysterious box containing junk she’d never ordered, and had to go to the bank to straighten the whole mess out.


I accompanied her to see what it was like to be wanted by somebody other than the police.


The drama, sponsored by a company named for a river in South America (sorry, you’re wrong, it’s not the Orinoco), began when Sue saw a charge for $54.28.


“Did you buy something?” she asked me.


I professed my innocence and said, “I wouldn’t know how.”


A few days later, a prompt parcel person plopped a package on our doorstep, made a beeline back to his truck and sped away.


Sue took the box inside and saw that her name had been misspelled.


“How could anyone misspell ‘Sue’?” I wondered.


“No,” she said with a sigh. “I mean the last name.”


It was spelled “Zezmimia.”


“Sounds like either a small country or some kind of unpleasant ointment,” I said. “Either way, I couldn’t spell the name until I was in high school.”


Sue tore open the box and discovered the contents: a fake spider’s web, five wishing lights and an insulated lunch bag.


“If someone’s going to send stuff,” Sue huffed, “they could have ordered something good.”


That prompted a call to the aforementioned company and a conversation with a very nice customer service specialist named Chanel.


“This is what they do,” she said, referring to the fraudsters who attempt to steal the identities of law-abiding citizens and, it should be noted, online shoppers like Sue. “They’ll send a package to your house using your credit card information and then take the package back before you have a chance to bring it in.”


“You were too fast for them,” I told Sue.


“Speaking of fast,” said Chanel, who cleared the charge at her company, “you should go to the bank and get a new card.”


Before you could say “Chapter 11,” Sue and I were sitting with a helpful financial solutions adviser named Daniel.


“I’m going to freeze the card,” he said after taking it from Sue.


“It’s safer than incinerating it,” I said. “You might burn the bank down.”


Daniel politely ignored the remark and said, “It’s disconcerting, to say the least.”


“If not less,” I added.


Daniel called the fraud department and spoke with a claims specialist named Max, who then spoke with Sue.


“He canceled the card,” she said after hanging up.


“I guess it was Maxed out,” I commented.


“I hate when this happens,” Daniel said, presumably referring to identity theft, though he could have been talking about my stupid jokes.


“Nobody wants my identity,” I told him.


“I can relate,” Daniel said. “I have yet to find a person who wants mine. I’m working on it.”


He looked at the computer screen and noted that Sue and I have joint banking.


“It’s so we can afford to stay in our joint,” I explained. “But after this, if I tried to get into Sue’s account, would I be arrested?”


“Yes,” said Daniel. “The cops would take both of us out in handcuffs.”


After telling Sue that she’d soon be getting a new card, Daniel warned us about credit thievery.


“It’s happened to me,” he said. “There are a bunch of wacko ding dongs out there.”


“That means I’m safe,” I said.


“How so?” Daniel asked.


“I’m a wacko ding dong,” I answered. “That’s why nobody wants my identity.”


Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima


Sunday, November 1, 2020

"Sole Searching at the Shoe Store"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group

As a man who likes to put one foot in front of the other, which works pretty well until I walk headlong into a wall, I have always valued comfort over style when it comes to what I wear on my tremendously ticklish tootsies.


That’s why it was a big (size 11) deal when I went shopping for slippers.


Slippers are the preferred footwear for retirees like myself who don’t have to don dress shoes for work or sneakers for playing sports at which I was always terrible and that would induce cardiac arrest if I played them now. These items cost an arm and a leg, which isn’t too practical since I’d need the former to pay for them and the latter to wear them.


But slippers are cheap and cozy for lying around the house or padding to the refrigerator for beer. They can even be worn to throw out the garbage or pick up take-out pizza.


“You need a new pair,” said my wife, Sue, pointing out that my slippers not only had gaping holes in the toes but smelled bad enough to asphyxiate a camel.


So we drove to a store that specializes in biped impedimenta.


“I’m looking for slippers,” I told a sales associate named Doris.


“They’re right next to you,” she said pleasantly, indicating a shelf full of them.


I pulled out a box of slippers in my size and asked if I could try them on.


“Of course,” Doris said.


“On my bare feet?” I wondered.


“We have little stockings you can wear,” said Doris.


“Maybe they’ll bring out my feminine side,” I said.


“We also have high heels,” Doris informed me.


“They’d be dangerous after a couple of beers,” I noted.


I sat on a bench, took off my socks and yanked on the little stockings, but I couldn’t cram my right foot into the corresponding slipper.


“The size must be wrong,” I grumbled.


Sue sighed and said, “Take the paper ball out of the front.”


“Sorry,” I said sheepishly. “I don’t go shopping too often.”


“Now you know why I go by myself,” said Sue, who noticed that the slippers, which fit fine, were different colors.


“One’s light and one’s dark,” Doris agreed. “Try another pair and see if they match.”


I grabbed a box containing only one slipper.


“It’s for my left foot,” I said. “I have two left feet, which is why I’m not on ‘Dancing With the Stars.’ ”


Doris handed me another box, which contained two slippers, and said, “Try these.”


I slipped them on and said, “They fit like gloves.”


“Please,” Sue begged, anticipating my next comment, “don’t say anything else.”


Instead, I extolled the virtue of slippers for the geezer set and said I sometimes run errands in them.


“Why not?” Doris said. “Nobody looks at your feet anyway.”


“Even my wife doesn’t like to look at my feet,” I said.


Sue politely did not disagree.


When I told Doris I’m retired, she said, “I retired from my job in social services eight years ago. This,” she added, referring to her part-time gig at the store, “is my casino money.”


Doris said she’s 69 and has “three children, five grandchildren and, I think, four great-grandchildren.”


“Is your husband retired?” I asked.


“No, I got myself a young dude,” said Doris, who is 20 years older.


“When he gets to be my age,” I said, noting that I’m 66, “he’ll come to appreciate slippers.”


I chose the last pair I tried on and thanked Doris for her help.


“Now I can throw out my smelly old ones,” I told her. “And when I get take-out pizza, I’ll go in style.”


Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima


Sunday, October 25, 2020

"These Candidates Left Voters Speechless"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group


Fourscore and seven beers ago, our fathers brought forth, with incontinence, a new notion, conceived in lethargy and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created clueless.


It has been 20 years since these immortal and perhaps even immoral words were uttered in a stump speech, which left listeners stumped, for one of the great presidential campaigns in U.S. history.


I refer, of course, to the Porky and Zez campaigns of 1992, 1996 and 2000. They are remembered here today as proof that politics not only makes strange bedfellows, but can be practiced by jolly good fellows who don’t have to resort to vituperation and vindictiveness, attorneys at law, to gain a loyal following and, incredibly, get votes.


In 1992, for the sound patriotic reason that I had nothing better to do, I declared my candidacy for vice president of the United States. I wanted to be VP because I wouldn’t have to do any actual work. This made me extremely qualified for the job.


My next move was to find a running mate. So I wrote letters to President George H.W. Bush, the Republican incumbent; Bill Clinton, the Democratic nominee and eventual winner; and Ross Perot, the vertically challenged billionaire who was running as an independent.


Bush stuck with Dan Quayle, who was no Jack Kennedy.


Clinton responded three times, thanking me for my support. I wrote in a column that I wouldn’t support him unless he picked me for vice president, so he picked Al Gore.


Perot never replied, probably because he couldn’t reach the mailbox.


Eventually, I found Alan Abel, the famed media prankster who once hoodwinked The New York Times into running his obituary, a major journalistic coup since he was not, at the time, dead.


Alan ran for president under the name of Porky. I was Zez. Together, we were the Gershwin-inspired ticket of Porky and Zez, proudly carrying the banner of the Cocktail Party.


Since our campaign got a late start, we were upset on Election Day.


We learned our lesson and got an earlier start (10 o’clock in the morning) in 1996.


That was our best year. Porky and I were the opening act for Debate ’96 in Hartford, Connecticut. We also were involved in the New Hampshire primary and had headquarters at the Road Kill Cafe in Bartlett, New Hampshire, where campaign manager Tim Lovelette suggested that we run “in an off-year because you would have a better chance.”


We even had a televised convention at a hotel in my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut. And we actually got votes. Unfortunately, they weren’t enough to propel us to victory.


We hoped the third time would be the charm, so we tossed our hats, not to mention our dirty socks and underwear, into the ring in 2000. That was the year of the “hanging chad” in Florida. It must have been our campaign that threw everything into disarray. After George W. Bush was declared the winner, Porky and I figured we couldn’t do any more damage, so we retired from politics and took up needlepoint.


Alas, Porky really did die in 2018, but our legacy is secure in the important issues for which we fought.


There was, for example, Big Apple health care coverage, so named because it was conceived in a taxi in New York City and operated on the principle that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.


We also proposed eliminating Wednesday from the calendar to establish a four-day workweek. And we wanted to put truth serum in the Senate drinking fountain.


There may be no more Porky and Zez campaigns, but this year you can do your part, not only by voting, but by toning down the rhetoric.


And remember the great Cocktail Party rallying cry: Four more beers!


Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima


Sunday, October 18, 2020

"This Customer Is Always Right"

By Jerry Zezima

Hearst Connecticut Media Group


As a “valued customer,” which is better than being a “customer nobody cares about,” I can’t go to the store to buy a toothbrush without being asked to fill out a survey.


The survey is usually at the end of a receipt that is long enough to encircle my car, in which I drive home so I can go online and answer questions about the store, the service and, of course, my new toothbrush.


Sometimes I receive an email from the store, asking: “How did we do?”


Then I am expected to take the survey again.


Stores aren’t the only places that want to know how I feel about them. I also am asked to fill out surveys from the bank, the post office, the pharmacy, the supermarket and other places that want my opinion, which in my own home is regarded as worthless.


One of these days, I’ll get a survey from the lunatic asylum, which is where I will end up if I keep getting requests to fill out surveys.


It made me wonder: If all these places want to know what I think of them, what do they think of me as a “valued customer”?


So I recently conducted my own surveys.


I started at the post office, where Kenny asked how he could help me. I told him I wanted to mail an envelope containing a book.


“Are the contents potentially hazardous?” he asked.


“It’s a book I wrote,” I replied, “so the contents are potentially hazardous if you read it.”


Kenny smiled, gave me a “media rate” and handed me a receipt with a tracking number and — you guessed it — a survey.


“You’re an exemplary employee,” I told Kenny. “But how am I as a customer?”


“I really can’t complain,” he answered. “So far, so good. You did well. I’ll give you a good review.”


I thanked Kenny and went to the bank, where I was helped by Ranisha.


“I have two checks totaling $44.47,” I said. “I’d like to deposit them. I’m sorry they aren’t for a million dollars, but every little bit helps.”


Ranisha chuckled and said, “With interest, you might become a millionaire after all.”


When the transaction was completed, I said I was taking a survey.


“Am I a good customer?” I asked.


“You’re very good and very nice,” she said. “I give you high marks.”


Later, I asked Maria, my barber, to rate me as a customer.


“You’re great,” she said as she snipped my wiry locks. “You’re polite, punctual and considerate. What more could I ask for? You’re doing very well. In fact, you’re a dream.”


“Some dreams are nightmares,” I noted.


“You’re not one of them,” said Maria, whom I have known for 20 years.


“How would I rank on a survey?” I inquired.


“You’d get top marks,” Maria said.


For my last survey, I headed to the store to buy a toothbrush and spoke with Christina, whom I also have known for 20 years.


“When you started coming in, I was in the photo department. Now I’m a shift supervisor,” Christina said. “I owe it all to you.”


When I asked her to rate me as a customer, Christina said, “You’re the hostess with the mostest! I’d absolutely give you high marks.”


I got a toothbrush and brought it to the counter.


“Are you ready to check out?” Christina asked.


“Not for many more years,” I responded.


“You are too much!” said Christina, who handed me a long receipt. “You can wear it as a scarf,” she suggested.


“Thanks for taking my survey,” I said.


“I wish we had surveys to rank customers,” said Christina. “A lot of them would get bad marks.”


“How about me?” I asked.


“Believe me,” Christina said, “nobody could top you.”


Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima