Sunday, January 19, 2020

"A Real Wake-up Call"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
I am not easily alarmed, except when I look in the mirror to shave, but my house is. That’s because the alarm keeps blaring. According to Judy, who works for the alarm company, the reason is simple:

The house is haunted.

“What other explanation can there be?” Judy asked after she called me at 1 a.m. on a stormy night. The call woke me out of a sound sleep in which I dreamed that the alarm was blaring.

Actually, it was, as Judy helpfully pointed out when I picked up the phone.

“I can’t hear you,” I told her. “The alarm is blaring.”

“Turn it off,” Judy politely instructed me.

“What?” I said.

“TURN IT OFF!” yelled Judy, whose ears must have been ringing even more than mine.

I went to the keypad in the kitchen and punched in the security code, which in my semiconscious state I temporarily forgot (when you have 147 different passwords for various things, it’s tough to keep track).

After the alarm stopped blaring and my hearing was restored, I told Judy about the storm.

“Do you have a lot of wind?” she asked.

“I did after dinner,” I responded, “but I’m feeling much better now.”

“The problem is coming from Zone 12,” Judy reported.

“I’m usually in the Twilight Zone,” I said.

“Is that where you are now?” Judy asked.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s the family room.”

“Check the slider,” she said.

“We have French doors,” I told her. “And I don’t even speak French.”

“Is the door ajar?” Judy inquired.

It was all I could do to keep from making another stupid joke, so I checked it and said, “Yes.”

“Do you want me to call the police?” Judy asked.

“No,” I said. “I don’t want to go back to prison.”

“You were in prison?” Judy spluttered.

“Yes,” I replied honestly. “Rikers Island.”

“For how long?” she wanted to know.

“About six hours,” I responded, explaining that I was there several years ago to talk about writing to young detainees who were in school at the maximum-security facility. “My columns are criminal,” I added, “but I was paroled anyway. I must have been a bad influence on the inmates.”

“If nobody forced the door open,” Judy theorized, “it was probably the wind.”

“This isn’t the first time it’s happened,” I said. “We’ve gotten calls from the alarm company about the motion sensor in the living room.”

“That’s Zone 10,” Judy said. “Did anybody break in?”

“No,” I said. “The person who called the last time said it could have been the plants on the windowsill. It was during the day and I was out, so I had to rush home to see what was going on.”

“What was going on?” Judy wondered.

“I guess the plants were having a party,” I said.

“Maybe they needed to be watered,” Judy guessed.

“They were probably headed for the liquor cabinet in the dining room,” I said.

“That’s Zone 8,” Judy told me.

“Why does this keep happening?” I asked.

“There’s only one logical explanation,” Judy said. “Your house is haunted.”

“That would explain the spirits in the liquor cabinet,” I noted.

“Or,” Judy said, “your sensor in very sensitive.”

“It must have heard the bad things I’ve called it after the alarm has gone off so many times,” I said.

“Make sure all your doors and windows are tightly closed,” Judy said.

“Thank you,” I said. “You’ve been very helpful. I’m sorry you have to work so late, but I’m glad you’re alert.”

“That’s my job,” said Judy. “Have a good rest of the night.”

“You, too,” I said.

“Now,” Judy said, “you can sleep easier.”

“I will,” I said with a yawn. “Unless the alarm starts blaring again.”

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 5, 2020

"Naps Are Not Fake Snooze"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
If there is one thing I have learned in my new career as a babysitter, aside from the lamentable fact that my grandchildren are more mature than I am, it’s that napping is very important to both kids and geezers.

I found this out recently during a weeklong stay in which I babysat infant twins Zoe and Quinn and beat them at their own game by sleeping on the job.

Of course, I didn’t sleep while they were awake, or even while one of them was awake and the other asleep, but I did doze off while both of them napped, which refreshed me so much that it was practically a full hour after they both woke up before I needed another nap.

The problem with naps is that infants need them but don’t always want them and oldsters either want them but don’t always have time or don’t want them but slowly come to the realization that they need them because they are, after all, old.

According to my daughter Katie, who also happens to be the twins’ mommy, Zoe is “a good napper” and Quinn is “a bad napper.”

They both seemed pretty good to me, even when they weren’t on the same napping schedule, because one or both of them would nap anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours.

This gave me time, when their naps coincided, to catch a few Z’s myself.

And I needed the rest because most of the time, one would be up and the other down, or one would want to eat and the other wouldn’t, or I’d start to feed one and then, five minutes later, the other would want to eat, too, or one would need to be changed and the other would fuss until I had the first one cleaned up, then I’d have to change the other one’s diaper as well.

No wonder I was fatigued.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t always get to sleep while both kids were napping because I was too wired to be tired. I solved the dilemma by watching daytime TV, which had such a soporific effect that I was soon snoozing contentedly and dreaming about bottles and diapers.

My reverie was often interrupted by crying. This was a signal that one of the twins was awake and needed to be fed, changed or both. Sometimes, however, I merely dreamed that one of them was awake. So I went back to sleep. Two minutes later, one of them was awake for real and my nap was cut short.

Then I had to put the kids in clean outfits. These diabolical articles of baby clothing feature either snaps or zippers. The ones with snaps were obviously designed by sadists whose job is to stymie exhausted grandfathers who can’t line up the snaps properly. Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, they are not a snap.

The ones with zippers are easier but still troublesome when the baby kicks so furiously that the aforementioned grandfathers get their fingers caught or otherwise can’t get the outfit fastened. This often prompted me to say to either Zoe or Quinn, “Go out there and win one for the zipper.”

They had no idea what I was saying, but it made me feel better.

It also made me tired again. But I couldn’t take another nap until both children were taking one, too.

Still, naps are not a sign of old age. They are a pleasantly restorative experience that puts you in touch with your younger self and gives you the energy necessary to be a good babysitter.

Now that I’m retired, I like to nap even when I’m not watching the kids. As most geezers would agree, it works like a dream.

Copyright 2020 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 22, 2019

"The Zezimas' 2019 Christmas Letter"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Since I am in the holiday spirit (and, having just consumed a mug of hot toddy, a glass of eggnog and a nip of cheer, the holiday spirits are in me), I have decided to follow in that great tradition of boring everyone silly by writing a Christmas letter.

That is why I am pleased as punch (which I also drank) to present the following chronicle of the Zezima family, which includes Jerry, the patriarch; Sue, the matriarch; Katie and Lauren, the daughtersiarch; Dave and Guillaume, the sons-in-lawiarch; and Chloe, Lilly, Xavier, Zoe and Quinn, the grandchildreniarch.

Dear friends:

It sure has been an exciting 2019 for the Zezimas!

The first big event of the year was when Jerry turned 65. He celebrated by applying for Medicare at the Social Security office, where he encountered so many fellow geezers that he figured he’d still be there when he turns 66, at which time he can get full benefits.

He also took the AARP online safe driving course and passed with flying colors, mainly because he didn’t actually have to take the test in a car, where he is considered a menace to society.

In sports news, Jerry was a volunteer for Field Day at Chloe’s elementary school, where he helped referee the water relay, a rigorous event that would have given Jerry a heart attack if he competed and proved, as if anyone needed verification, that he is all wet.

On the domestic front, both of Jerry and Sue’s refrigerators died at the same time, probably in a suicide pact. It was a major calamity because: (a) Jerry’s beer got warm and (b) he and Sue had to clean 21 years’ worth of junk out of the garage to make room for the auxiliary fridge. Jerry made so many trips to the dump that he should have his own parking space. At least his beer is cold again.

Speaking of appliances, Jerry and Sue got a new water heater and oil burner. Now their house won’t either be flooded or blow up.

Jerry, who suffers from acrophobia, which is an irrational fear of being any higher off the ground than the top of his head, had to climb to the peak of his two-story house to accompany a guy who came over to give him an estimate for a new roof. Jerry survived, but the experience was, as his widow-in-waiting agreed, the height of folly.

Speaking of houses, Lauren and Guillaume bought their first home, a cozy ranch that Lauren has decorated beautifully. Chloe, 6, and Lilly, 3, love it because they have bunk beds and their own playroom, where Jerry, when he visits, is the biggest toy.

He has plenty of time to play because he retired from his day job as an editor (he continues to write his column, proving that not all the news is good) and is now free to be a full-time babysitter for his grandchildren.

The number increased to five, enough for a (very short) basketball team, when Katie gave birth to twins, Zoe and Quinn. Jerry and Sue met the dynamic duo on a trip to see Katie, Dave and big brother Xavier, who is 2.

Jerry, no stranger to bottles, learned how to feed the twins simultaneously with the help of a nursing pillow called My Brest Friend. He did double duty several times and even did quadruple duty (two twin feedings in one night) twice.

On a subsequent visit, Jerry learned how to bathe a baby (and then take a shower) after having double doody done on him.

But it all came out in the end, making for a wonderful year. Here’s hoping your 2019 was great, too.

Merry Christmas with love and laughter from the Zezimas.

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, December 8, 2019

"Too Cuticle for Words"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Sometimes, a boy just likes to feel pretty. In my case, that would involve plastic surgery.

You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have put the “man” in manicure. And I have put my worst foot forward even less frequently to get a pedicure.

But I recently discovered that I like to make others feel pretty, which is why I opened Poppie’s Beauty Salon and Nail Spa. The first customers were my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly.

The girls, who are 6 and 3, respectively, are into fashion and love to get the spa treatment. I have a fashion plate in my head, which means I am more likely to go to a saloon than a salon.

Still, when they asked me to paint their toenails, I resolved to be a beaut of a beautician and make their piggies as pretty as a picture.

The first thing I needed, of course, was nail polish. Since my wife, Sue, wasn’t home, I went through her drawers and stole a few bottles.

“I want pink, Poppie!” said Chloe, who sported rainbow fingernails painted a couple of days earlier by her mommy.

“Me, too!” agreed Lilly, whose fingernails were bright red.

Initially the girls couldn’t decide between red and purple for their tootsies but settled on pink because it matched their unicorn pajamas.

Since it was the morning after a sleepover, I also wore pajamas. They were blue with egg and sausage stains from breakfast, which is part of the service at Poppie’s Beauty Salon and Nail Spa.

In addition to polish, my equipment consisted of a nail file, which I used to file the girls’ nails (file this under “duh”); a hair dryer, which I used on the wet polish (it was easier than a ceiling fan); and paper towels, strips of which I stuck between the girls’ toes so the polish wouldn’t get smudged (when you can’t find cotton balls, you have to improvise).

But first, I gave each of the girls a foot massage.

“That tickles, Poppie!” shrieked Chloe, breaking out in giggles.

Then I started to apply the polish.

“Hold perfectly still,” I instructed as Chloe sat in a chair and I carefully painted the big toenail on her right foot.

Some of the polish got on the toe itself, but I immediately wiped it off.

“Poppie needs more coffee,” I said as I continued down the other four toenails, after which I started on her left foot.

The hardest part was not applying either too much or too little polish. By the time I got to Chloe’s last toe, I had it all figured out.

Next it was Lilly’s turn.

I grabbed her right foot and, pinching each toe, chirped: “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none. And this little piggy went wee, wee, wee all the way home.”

“I don’t have to go wee-wee,” said Lilly, who was eager to get it over with.

It didn’t help that she sneezed a couple of times as I applied polish that had to be wiped off her pinky toes.

When the pedicures were done, the girls sat in the family room, their toenails pretty in pink.

“Nice job, Poppie!” Chloe exclaimed.

“Yeah!” Lilly chimed in.

“Should I paint my toenails, too?” I asked.

“No!” the girls responded in unison.

“Don’t you want me to look pretty?” I said.

“Boys don’t look pretty,” Chloe declared. “They look handsome.”

“You’re handsome, Poppie,” said Lilly.

Chloe agreed.

“Thank you, girls,” I said. “You just saved me a fortune in plastic surgery.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, November 24, 2019

"It All Comes Out in the Wash"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Because I don’t do laundry, even though I often air it in public, I am frequently in hot water. But I didn’t want my house to be in it, too, so I recently contracted to replace the water heater, which threatened to blow like Old Faithful and spray steaming hot water all over me, which at least would have allowed me to do laundry without having to take off my dirty socks and underwear.

The two guys who came over to do the job were the father-and-son team of Keith and Keith Scanlon.

Keith Sr., 63, and Keith Jr., 25, are hot stuff themselves.

“I hope he’s a good cop,” father said of son, who has applied for the NYPD, “because he’s a terrible plumber.”

Replied son, “Not all of us have been doing this since dinosaurs roamed the earth.”

Even though Keith Sr. has been in the business for 40 years, he’s not exactly prehistoric, which is more than I could say for the oil burner, a rusty contraption that was in worse shape than the water heater and had turned the laundry room into the appliance version of Jurassic Park.

“It did its time,” Keith Sr. declared.

“Are you going to put it out of its misery?” I asked.

“Yes,” Keith Sr. answered, adding: “Now it’s going to cause us some misery.”

That’s because the metal hulk weighed 860 pounds.

“Being a cop has to be easier than this,” Keith Jr. said as he and his father loaded the burner onto a dolly, wheeled it through the garage and put it on a device that lifted it into the back of their truck. “The heaviest lifting I’ll have to do on the NYPD is bringing guys to jail.”

“At least this keeps me in shape,” said Keith Sr., who has no plans to retire because he has three adult children — Keith Jr. is the “baby” — and has to pay for weddings and help with college tuition bills.

“I was father of the bride recently,” said Keith Sr., whose younger daughter, Arianna, had a destination wedding in Mexico.

“It was unbelievable,” Keith Sr. said, adding that the groom, Aleck, had his bachelor party in Iceland. “I didn’t go,” Keith Sr. noted, “but my son-in-law’s family is from Macedonia, so we’re going to have a second event in the U.S. so they can attend.”

I told Keith Sr. that I have been father of the bride to both of my daughters and that the younger one was married in France.

“We also had a second event in the U.S. for the people from here who couldn’t make it there,” I said.

“We have a lot in common,” Keith Sr. said when I told him that my daughters took a trip to Iceland.

“I didn’t go, either,” I noted.

“My older daughter is named Lauren,” he said.

“That’s my younger daughter’s name,” I replied.

“My wife, Antoinette, and I have been married for 39 years,” Keith Sr. said.

“My wife, Sue, and I have been married for 41,” I said, “but I’m two years older than you are, so it evens out.”

Then I found out that Keith Sr. and Antoinette were married two days after my older daughter, Katie, was born.

“Do you do laundry?” I asked.

“No,” Keith Sr. answered.

“Neither do I,” I told him.

“We’re so much alike, it’s incredible,” he said.

The one thing we don’t have in common is that I’m retired.

“If you get in your wife’s hair, you could work for me,” Keith Sr. said. “Now that she has a new water heater, she won’t mind washing your dirty socks and underwear.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, November 10, 2019

"How to Bathe a Baby"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Even though I haven’t taken a bath since I was a baby, which dates all the way back to the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose bathing habits are classified information, I am now an expert on the subject. That’s because I recently gave a bath to a baby who needed it so badly, after her diaper exploded all over me, that I would have taken one, too, except I couldn’t fit in the sink.

All of this happened at 3 a.m., a time when babies (and their grandfathers) should be sleeping like babies. I would have been except that Zoe and her twin brother, Quinn, woke up hungry, which meant they had to be changed, then fed, then changed again, and again, and again.

In the end, which is where the worst of it came out, a bath was in order.

Before you get to that point, however, you will notice that babies are trained to follow a very strict routine that requires them to go through several diapers, onesies, burp cloths, towels, baby wipes, table pads, bassinet covers and, if they haven’t already been kicked off, socks.

The No. 1 concern is, of course, No. 1, which can soak a diaper so thoroughly that it weighs more than the baby.

This is followed by the No. 2 concern, which is followed by No. 3 (a combination of the first two) and No. 4 (a regurgitation of the entire contents of the bottle, which can burst like lava from the front end of the child and land all over your shirt, pants and, if they haven’t already been kicked off, socks).

If you are in charge of twins, as I was, you have eight concerns. But on this particular night, Zoe outdid her little (by two pounds) brother by emitting approximately two pounds of the aforementioned substances.

Lacking a power washer, which is great for getting baby effluent off the side of the house, I decided to give Zoe a bath.

The first thing I had to do was take off all her clothes. Or I would have if I could fit into them. I’m glad I couldn’t because they didn’t need to be laundered so much as incinerated, but I didn’t want to call the fire department in the middle of the night because: (a) it would have awakened Quinn, who had finally gone back to sleep, and (b) my own clothes were almost as filthy as Zoe’s and would have repulsed even the bravest smoke eater.

I filled the sink with warm water that covered most of the baby tub, which features a mesh seat on which I placed Zoe, who looked up at me with teary eyes as if to say, “Here’s another fine mesh you’ve gotten me into.”

Then she started to squirm. Wet babies and greased pigs are extremely difficult to grasp, although why anybody would want to grease a pig — or change its diaper — is even harder to grasp.

I took a small washcloth, wet it and squirted on some baby wash, which was “pediatrician recommended” and “lightly scented.” Even a pediatrician knows that a light scent can’t mask a heavy one, so I used more soap and worked Zoe into a lather. Her continued squirming worked me into one.

I scrubbed and rinsed her, shampooed her hair and engaged her in baby talk, which I was glad nobody else could hear because Zoe didn’t sound nearly as infantile as I did.

Afterward, I dried her off, dressed her and put her in her bassinet, where she fell fast asleep.

Then it was my turn to come clean. I took off all my clothes and got in the shower. I would have taken a bath, but I ran out of baby wash.

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, October 27, 2019

"With Beer, the Sky's the Limit"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
Every time I hear that somebody is on cloud nine, I wonder what happened to the first eight clouds. But the ninth altocumulus, not to be confused with the second alto sax, was where I found myself after the airplane on which I was a passenger had to turn back, possibly after hitting the fourth altostratus, causing so much inconvenience that I got a free beer out of the deal.

My anxious airplane adventure began en route to Washington, D.C., where I was winging it to visit my older daughter, her husband and their three children.

About 10 minutes into the 10 a.m. flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport, where it takes longer to find a parking space than it does to fly to Washington, something felt wrong. It was as if the engine was wired on caffeine and couldn’t stop humming a really bad song that plays over and over in your head.

My head, which had been empty, filled with dread as I saw Shaqwanna, one of the two flight attendants, on the phone. As soon as she hung up, I heard this announcement:

“Due to a mechanical issue, we are returning to LaGuardia. Please fasten your seatbelts.”

There was, we were informed, a problem with the bleed line.

“Sounds like the plane needs a transfusion,” I told Toni, the very nice woman sitting next to me.

“Are you a doctor?” she asked.

“No,” I replied, my heart racing, “but I could use one.”

The bleed line, we were further informed, provides air that pressurizes the cabin. It would take about 15 minutes to fix once we were back at LaGuardia. If that didn’t work, we’d have to change planes.

“To make up for this,” I asked Paige, the other flight attendant, “will you be serving beer?”

“It’s always an option,” replied Paige, who had been on the job for only two months. “I’ve had some delays,” she told me, “but this is the first time we’ve had to turn around.”

After we landed, I spoke with the pilot, a pleasant young man named Joe, who looked barely old enough to drive a car, let alone fly a plane.

“Do I qualify for infrequent flier miles?” I inquired.

“Considering we didn’t go too far, you should,” said Joe, who has been flying for six years.

“Paige told me I could get a free beer,” I said.

“She’s the boss,” Joe stated.

It turned out that the problem had no quick fix, so we had to change planes. We got off and were directed to a terminal gate where our new plane would be.

On a table, there were snacks, which served as the lunch we would not be served once we were again airborne.

I walked up to the desk and spoke with a friendly “customer experience representative” named Yvette.

“I was told by the crew that I could get a free beer,” I said.

“You deserve one,” Yvette said with a smile. Then she handed me a voucher for a complimentary cocktail.

About half an hour later, we boarded the new plane. I took my seat and, after taking off, waited for Paige to come by with the refreshment cart.

“Hello!” she chirped. “Welcome back!”

“I have a voucher for that free beer,” I said.

“Here you go,” said Paige, handing me a cold one.

Later, I handed her my drained can.

“This really hit the spot,” I said.

“I’m glad,” said Paige.

I was glad the new plane didn’t have to turn around.

After we landed in D.C., I congratulated Joe on a good flight.

“The second time’s the charm,” he noted.

“I was on cloud nine,” I said. “And I got here on a wing and a beer.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima