Friday, August 20, 2010

"The Wedding Planner"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

Because I am going to be father of the bride for the second time -- which puts me ahead of both Spencer Tracy and Steve Martin, just in case any Hollywood producers are reading this -- I was extremely interested to read about Chelsea Clinton’s wedding.

My wife, Sue, and I weren’t invited, probably because, in 1992 and 1996, I was a candidate for vice president of the United States on the Cocktail Party ticket. Both times, my running mate, Alan Abel, and I lost to Bill Clinton and Al Gore in what can only be considered great upsets because Alan and I were greatly upset that we lost.

Still, I am willing to let bygones be bygones, which is why I want to invite Bill and Hillary, as well as Chelsea and her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, to my younger daughter’s wedding next year.

Of course, Sue and I can’t afford to spend $3 million on the big day, which is what Bill and Hillary reportedly spent on Chelsea’s wedding. That’s because we have already spent at least that much over the years on things like Girl Scout cookies, school fundraisers, clothes, shoes, college tuition and, when our two daughters were living at home, phone bills.

Then there was our older daughter’s wedding, in 2006. The cost included not only the big day but a kitchen renovation, which Sue commissioned because, in a brilliant plan to “save money,” we had the bridal shower at our house.

Now, Sue and I are planning our younger daughter’s wedding and have decided to invite a lot of the people who reportedly were on Bill and Hillary’s guest list.

That includes, of course, Bill and Hillary.

As a former president, Bill will add prestige to the event. He also has proven to be an effective fundraiser for worthy causes, and I can think of no worthier cause than the Jerry’s Kids Wedding Fund.

The goal is $3 million. If any money is left over, Sue and I will blow it on frivolous luxuries like food and shelter. After all, you only live once.

Hillary will be a great guest, too. As secretary of state, she can help with diplomacy when it comes to the seating arrangements. And since our future son-in-law is from France, Hillary can use her expertise in international relations to make already warm relations even better.

We’ll also invite Barbra Streisand, who I am sure will not mind providing the entertainment. She was interviewed recently on “CBS News Sunday Morning” and she still has a terrific voice. People who need people at their daughter’s wedding are the luckiest people in the world.

Then there is Barbara Walters, who can announce the happy couple at the reception and perhaps conduct a short interview. She can ask about the rings, the bride’s dress and the honeymoon plans. She should avoid asking, “If you two were trees, what kind would you be?” Think about it, Barbara. We’re in touch, so you be in touch.

Ted Danson can be the bartender. During the cocktail hour, Ted, everyone will know your name. Cheers!

Finally, there is Oprah Winfrey, who can host a video of the big day. She can also give away cars or even cash to lucky attendees, most notably yours truly.

What do you say, folks? As far as Sue and I are concerned, your presence is more important than your presents. It will be a wonderful time. Bill and I can even put aside our political differences and swap funny stories about being father of the bride.

The wedding is set for June 5, 2011. Save the date.

Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, August 6, 2010

"New Phone Hang-ups"

By Jerry Zezima

The Stamford Advocate

If Alexander Graham Bell were still alive -- in which case I would demand reimbursement for all of the phone bills my daughters racked up when they were living at home -- he would call his assistant, Thomas Watson, to say, “Watson, come here, I need you to show me how to operate this stupid new telephone system.”

But instead of talking with Watson, Bell would hear this recording: “I’m sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed. Please check the number and try again.”

So Bell would actually have to take a class to learn how to use his own invention.

That’s what I had to do recently when we got new phones at work.

It used to be that all you had to know about the telephone was that you said “hello” when you picked it up and “goodbye” when you put it down.

Now, you practically have to be a Ph.D (phone doctor) to operate one.

A few years ago, when I became the last man in America to get a cell phone, one of my daughters had to program it for me and the other had to show me how to operate it because I couldn’t comprehend the 134-page user guide.

But that was nothing compared to the new phone system in the office.

“I haven’t heard this much swearing in the seven years I’ve been here,” said Tommy, a contractor who was taking away the old phones, which were practically tin cans connected by strings compared to the new ones.

I wanted to say some bad words myself -- directly into the phone, if possible -- when I went to my training class and had to wait 20 minutes because the previous class, which was supposed to be 45 minutes, lasted more than an hour.

The people who walked out seemed dazed and confused. Nigel, the instructor, who had been giving classes all day, seemed tired. “Sorry,” he said as half a dozen of us sat down in front of the new phones, “but my voice is a little scratchy.”

“Sounds like a bad connection,” I noted.

Nigel, a very nice guy, smiled wearily. Then he explained that we would be working on a system called Cisco Unified IP Phone 7942G, as opposed to another system called Cisco Unified IP Phone 7962G.

“If the two systems got together,” I asked, “would they have a Cisco kid?” Then I sang a line from my own version of the War song: “Cisco kid’s not a friend of mine.”

As punishment, the phone in front of me refused to work.

“Press the help button,” Nigel said.

It was one of 16 buttons on the phone, which also had a screen on which I could not, regrettably, watch something intellectual, like baseball or the Three Stooges.

Other buttons included the footstand button (what, no handstand button?) and the mute button (for mimes, I guess). As if to reciprocate, the phone was pressing my buttons.

“The soft keys are where the action is,” Nigel said.

I pressed a soft key, the only thing about the phone that wasn’t hard, and heard a woman’s disembodied voice say, “Invalid entry.” I pressed another key. She said it again.

“Shut up!” I shouted.

“You have to speak into the phone,” said Nigel, who then had us practice calling each other. Daria, who sat next to me, called my number. I picked up the receiver and said, “I’m sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed. Please check the number and try again.”

The rest of the class went pretty smoothly, thanks to Nigel’s patience and good humor. I wish I could say the same for the phones, which have been giving everybody trouble.

Fortunately, I didn’t have any trouble recording my voice mail greeting: “Hi, this is Jerry Zezima. I’m either away from my desk or at my desk but fast asleep. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”

Don’t bet on it. I am now in Alexander Graham Hell. Watson, come here, I need you.

Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima