Sunday, January 17, 2021

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Tooth"

By Jerry Zezima

When it comes to mad scientists, there was no one madder than the Invisible Man, whose Hollywood smile couldn’t be seen because, of course, he was wearing invisible braces.

I have a Hollywood smile because I have been wearing invisible braces for several years. So when one of my two retainers recently cracked, which was probably the result of a wisecrack, I watched as Dr. Max Sanacore, who isn’t a mad scientist (otherwise, he’d be known as Mad Max) but does work in a laboratory, made me a new one.

Actually, Dr. Max is in his last year at the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine on Long Island, New York, where he is the latest in a string of student orthodontists who have made sure that my pearly whites stay on the straight and narrow.

The root (see: wisecrack, above) of the problem was that my right upper lateral incisor began to rotate like the tires on my car. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go to a mechanic. To compound matters, my left central lower incisor started to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the key difference being that tourists couldn’t see it because I always had my foot in my mouth.

I went to Stony Brook and got invisible braces, a pair of clear plastic devices that slowly but effectively straightened my two wayward teeth. It was a lot better than getting the metal kind, which look like miniature railroad tracks and put beer drinkers like me in danger of being hit by flying refrigerator magnets.

After the bottom retainer split, without so much as a goodbye note, I went back to Stony Brook and saw Dr. Max.

“First,” he said as I settled into the chair, “I have to make an impression.”

“I think you’re very impressive,” I told him.

“Thanks,” he said. “Now please open your mouth.”

Peering into the oral equivalent of the Grand Canyon, Dr. Max filled a metal tray with alginate, a gooey substance that contains seaweed, which made me want to cry for kelp, and pressed it over my bottom teeth.

“Can you breathe?” he asked.

“Ong, ong, ong,” I responded affirmatively.

For a full minute, I drooled with the force of Niagara Falls, which at my age happens with alarming frequency.

When the molar eclipse was over, Dr. Max took me into a back room that looked like a laboratory where a mad scientist might conduct a hideous experiment on an unsuspecting patient whose brain would be transplanted into the head of a gorilla.

Fortunately for apes everywhere, I don’t have the kind of gray matter that could possibly do them any good. In fact, the gray matter that would become my new bottom retainer was being molded and heated by Dr. Max.

“You could train a monkey to do this,” he said.

“Not with my brain,” I replied.

Dr. Max, who has more than a smattering of smarts, originally studied engineering.

“On my last day of college, I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to be an engineer. I want to be a dentist.’ So I came here,” said Dr. Max, who’s 30 and will graduate in June. “Then I’ll have to get a real job,” he added.

For now, he’s doing great work, the most important being the creation of my new bottom retainer. He showed me how to pour the alginate, put it in a vibrating machine to get the air bubbles out and heat it up in another machine so, he said, “it’s nice and malleable.” Then he trimmed it into shape.

Later that afternoon, the retainer was ready. I snapped it onto my bottom teeth.

“Perfect!” I exclaimed.

“Now you can keep your Hollywood smile,” said Dr. Max.

“Thanks,” I said. “The Invisible Man would be jealous.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 10, 2021

"To Have and Have Knocks"

By Jerry Zezima

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Jerry who?

Jerry Christmas and happy New Year!

OK, so I just made up this lame attempt at humor, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be included in the next edition of “Knock, Knock! The Biggest, Best Joke Book Ever,” which my wife, Sue, and I gave to our granddaughter Chloe for holiday ho, ho, hos.

Since then, Chloe, who’s 7 and a half and loves to laugh, which not only is true but also rhymes, has been calling me with knock, knock jokes.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said in her most recent call.

“Who’s there?” I answered.

“Weirdo,” said Chloe.

“Weirdo who?” I replied, convinced she was talking about me.

“Weirdo you think you’re going?”

“Ha ha!” we laughed in unison.

Chloe and her little sister, Lilly, who’s 4 and is a real pistol, with a sassy sense of humor and a mischievous grin, not only love to tell me jokes but routinely invite me to parties on FaceTime, which is the closest we get to seeing each other — without face masks and social distancing — in this age of viral quarantine.

“Poppie?” Lilly said on the screen while dressed like a fairy princess.

“Yes, honey?” I replied while attired in my pajamas.

“What’s Pinocchio’s name when he tells a joke?”



All three of us laughed at the witticism, which Lilly obviously made up all by herself. I was so proud of her!

People often ask me if I spoil my grandchildren.

“No,” I tell them. “That’s my wife’s job. My job is to corrupt them.”

I must admit, with all due modesty, that I have succeeded splendidly.

That was evident at our latest virtual party.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said.

“Who’s there?” I replied.


“Owl who?”

“Owl be seeing you!”

More giggling.

“We’re having a picnic,” Lilly announced.

“What can I bring?” I asked.

“You can bring the telephone,” Lilly instructed.

Chloe, who like me was still in her pajamas, except hers were adorned with a castle while mine sported coffee stains, was eating a small bag of pita chips. So was Lilly. I had a bag of Bambas.

“Here, Lilly,” I said, pretending to feed her one of the peanut snacks through the screen.

“It’s in my head!” Lilly squealed.

Chloe and I chortled.

Lilly was on a roll, which didn’t surprise me because I had heard from my younger daughter, Lauren, who happens to be the girls’ mother, that when Lauren scolded Lilly for making a mess in the house, Lilly retorted: “You’re fired!”

“Lilly,” I said. “Did you fire Mommy?”

“Yes,” she responded, very seriously, without explanation.

I burst out laughing. Chloe laughed, too. Lilly kept a straight face for a few seconds. Then came that mischievous grin. She looked into the camera and said, “Poppie?”

“Yes, Lilly?”

“You’re a knucklehead!”

We all roared. At least I wasn’t fired.

While all this frivolity was going on, I was sipping coffee out of the mug the girls gave me for Christmas. It says: “Dad Jokes: Served fresh daily.”

But the jokes were on me.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said.

“Who’s there?”


“Boo who?”

“Don’t cry, it’s just a joke.”

I laughed.

“Knock, knock,” Chloe said again.

“Who’s there?”


“Olive who?”

Chloe smiled and said, “Olive you.”

I smiled back and said, “Olive you, too.”

Olive both girls, who have inherited Poppie’s propensity for jokes, silliness and just plain fun.

Someday, when this pandemic is over, we’ll get together and have a real party. Then we’ll open the book and tell each other jokes.

Take it from a goofy grandfather who graduated, magna cum laughter, from the School of Funny Knocks.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, January 3, 2021

"Supermarket Driving Test"

By Jerry Zezima

When you are my age (old enough to know better), your driving skills have probably diminished so much that you can barely operate the simplest of vehicles.

I refer, of course, to shopping carts.

Since I am the designated cart driver when I go grocery shopping with my wife, Sue, I have devised a test to help you safely navigate your local supermarket.

I came up with the idea when Sue and I went shopping recently and encountered so many rude, reckless and maddeningly clueless cart operators that they all should have been pulled over, given a hefty ticket and had their driver’s licenses suspended.

Good luck!


If you are in the produce aisle and are cut off by another cart driver who then goes at a snail’s pace, what should you do?

(a) Hit him with a cantaloupe.

(b) Pull out your cellphone and call 911.

(c) Leave your cart in the middle of the aisle and go home.

ANSWER: None of the above. Just stand there and fume. Or, better yet, forget the fruits and veggies and go to the next aisle. Who needs broccoli anyway?


Speaking of cellphones, should you text and drive in the supermarket?

ANSWER: Not unless your spouse isn’t with you and you need to call home every three minutes to ask where everything on your shopping list is.


Who drives worse, men or women?

ANSWER: Both can be pretty bad, but at least women know where they are going. That is why they are more likely to speed, weave in and out of traffic and create chaos in the frozen food section, where they often stop to get ice cream.

Men, for the most part, have absolutely no idea where they are going, what they are doing or why they are even in the supermarket, although most of them know instinctively where the beer is.


If you are the designated cart driver and you can’t keep up with your spouse on the way to the deli counter, or you have just been involved in a fender bender with a little old lady who is looking for prune juice, what should you do?

(a) Stand in the aisle and block traffic.

(b) Pull over to the side and block other shoppers from getting items you are standing in front of.

(c) Go immediately to the beer section.



What safety features are standard equipment in shopping carts?

ANSWER: None. Carts don’t have power steering, which makes them difficult to operate since they all have four wheels that go in different directions. Also, they don’t have backup cameras, which makes it difficult to see the cart that is parked right behind you.


Why aren’t there traffic cops in supermarkets?

ANSWER: Good question.


Why aren’t cart drivers required to have insurance?

ANSWER: Another good question.


Is parallel parking even possible in a supermarket?



What should you do if you are involved in an aisle rage incident?

ANSWER: See answer to Question 4.


When you are at the checkout counter, what should you do?

(a) Get in the express lane with more than the allotted 12 items.

(b) Realize you don’t have your debit card and struggle to find a pen so you can write a check.

(c) Take half an hour to bag your groceries.

(d) All of the above.



What should you do the next time you have to go to the supermarket?

ANSWER: Stay home and drink the beer you bought the last time you went shopping.


Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima