Friday, July 20, 2012

"A Timeless Tale"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

I was born more than three weeks past my due date and haven’t been on time for anything since. I don’t even wear a watch because I don’t care what time it is.

So I was delighted recently to meet a woman who feels the same way. She works in a watch store.

“Before I got a job here about two years ago, I hadn’t worn a watch since 1989,” said Brenda, a sales professional at a Tourneau shop where I had gone with my wife, Sue, who needed a slight adjustment on her otherwise steady and stylish timepiece.

“I’ve had only one watch in my life,” I told Brenda. “It was one of those digital things. You needed two hands to tell the time.”

“And the hands weren’t on the watch,” she said helpfully.

“Right,” I replied. “Anyway, our place was burglarized many years ago. The crooks made off with my wife’s watch, but they left mine behind. It wasn’t even good enough for thieves. I was so insulted that I haven’t worn a watch since.”

“How do you know what time it is?” Brenda asked.

“I ask my wife,” I answered.

“I found myself having to ask people what time it was,” Brenda said. “More often than not, they were wearing watches that didn’t have the right time.”

“So you were always late?” I inquired.

“Yes,” said Brenda. “I was notorious for it. At family gatherings, my relatives would place bets to see what time I would arrive.”

“My family says I’ll be late to my own funeral,” I said.

“What do you tell them?” Brenda wondered.

“I’m in no big hurry to get there,” I said.

“Is this true?” Brenda asked Sue.

“Yes,” Sue said. “He’s always late.”

“From the day I was born,” I said, “I’ve been the late Jerry Zezima.”

“I’m more punctual now,” said Brenda. “It makes good sense to be on time when you work in a watch store.”

Brenda’s watch, which said 2:47 p.m., because that was the time, was like Sue’s, a nice but not extravagant timepiece that looked good on her wrist. It was similar to the watch in the large photo on the wall. That one said 10:10.

“It’s always 10 after 10 in a watch store,” Brenda explained. “It’s the same time in newspaper and magazine ads. It’s where you are supposed to put your hands on the steering wheel when you drive.”

“What happens in the spring and fall when the time changes?” I asked.

“You make a wrong turn,” said Brenda.

“You know the old saying: Even a broken watch is right twice a day,” I told Brenda, who gave me a candy watch.

“I give these to little kids when they come in with their parents,” she said.

“It says 5 minutes to 8,” I noted.

“It’s not good at keeping time,” Brenda said. “But at least it’s edible. And it’s free.”

That’s more than she could say for the other watches in the store, the most expensive of which were Rolexes.

“They start at $5,000,” Brenda said. “It depends on how much bling you want. They’re made of precious metals. You can get a platinum watch for just shy of $60,000.”

“That’s the cost of two cars,” Sue said.

“True,” said Brenda. “But you’d never keep a Rolex in the garage.”

A good, reliable, more reasonably priced watch costs about $300, Brenda said, adding: “A watch is good for your self-esteem. You have the ease of knowing what time it is instead of having to ask.”

I didn’t buy a watch, but I told Brenda I’d think about it and come back.

“If you get one,” she said, “you’ll never be late again.”

Sue looked at me and said, “It’s about time.”

Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, July 6, 2012

"Batter Up!"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I don’t like to brag about my athletic prowess, mainly because I don’t have any, but I must say that I was a pretty good baseball player in my day. Unfortunately, that day was June 4, 1965, when I got a double in a Little League game. It was the highlight of an otherwise unremarkable career.

I never did realize my dream of making it to the big leagues and becoming the all-time home run champion. And now I know why: I didn’t wear jasmine-scented wristbands.

They’re better than steroids because they’re safe, they’re legal and they don’t have to be injected into your butt. And they were developed by my favorite mad scientist, Dr. Alan Hirsch, the founder and neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.

In his latest study, “The Effects of Aroma of Jasmine on Major League Baseball Players,” Hirsch worked with the Chicago White Sox before a game last August. Six players in a batting cage alternated sniffing regular cotton wristbands and those that smelled of jasmine.

“They were independently assessed regarding the mechanics of their swings, including trajectory, ball flight, bat speed and bat swing zone,” Hirsch said in the study. “Compared to the no-odor trials, jasmine significantly improved all batting parameters.”

Seeing this as a chance to restart my baseball career, I called Hirsch to discuss strategy. But first I wanted to know why this Cubs fan chose to study his team’s cross-town rivals.

“I’m not sure anything would work with the Cubs,” said Hirsch, noting that they haven’t won the World Series since 1908. “At least the White Sox have potential.”

He’s right: The Sox are enjoying the sweet smell of success; the Cubs stink.

As for the study, Hirsch found that the scent of jasmine is relaxing, which helps calm players and improve hand-eye coordination.

“I didn’t think they should come to bat wearing scented masks, so we used the wristbands,” said Hirsch, adding that he doesn’t believe the bands have been used in games. “I suppose a team could have jasmine air fresheners in the dugout. And I can see a player with the sniffles being put on the disabled list.”

“I’ve been on the disabled list since Little League,” I said. “Do you think a jasmine wristband could help me make it to the majors?”

“Maybe with the Cubs,” said Hirsch, who mailed me a scented wristband.

Immediately after receiving it, I called Winner’s Edge Sports Training, an indoor facility in Huntington Station, N.Y., and scheduled a session in the batting cage with instructor Chad Ross.

“Most of our students are 8 or 9 years old, so you definitely are the oldest one we’ve ever had,” said Ross, 27, who has been playing baseball since he was 4. He was a hitting scout at Farmingdale State College and plays in an adult recreational league.

At first, Ross had me hit baseballs off a tee. Some of them went as far as three feet. Then he worked on my stance and the mechanics of my swing. After that, he pitched beach balls to me. I actually hit some.

Finally, the real test: Batting practice with baseballs tossed by Ross.

I put on a regular cotton wristband and sniffed it. Then I got in my stance and waited for the first pitch. I missed it. I missed two more, fouled one off and hit one past Ross.

“You were one for five,” he said.

Next, I put on my jasmine-scented wristband and sniffed it before each of Ross’ five pitches. I clobbered all of them.

“That’s incredible!” Ross exclaimed. “Those things really work.”

“They helped me feel more comfortable at the plate,” I explained.

“I could see that because you had a more natural swing than you did before,” said Ross, adding that the jasmine scent is very relaxing. “I might use one of those wristbands myself. Then we could both make it to the majors.”

“If,” I said, “you don’t mind playing for the Cubs.”

Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima