Friday, January 31, 2014

"Say It Ain't Snow"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Because I am a flake, and have been perpetrating snow jobs my whole life, I appreciate the wonders of winter.

The two things I wonder most about winter are: Why do some people throw away their snow shovels every year and have to buy new ones? And why do these same people go to the supermarket when a snowstorm is forecast to buy bread and milk when they never eat and drink those things when it doesn’t snow?

I got some insight before a recent snowstorm from Chris, who works at a nearby home improvement store.

“Do you have a snow blower?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied, “but it doesn’t work. It did work until we had a blizzard a few years ago, then it conked out. When I had it tuned up the following year, we didn’t have any snow. Last year it worked fine. Now it’s on the fritz again.”

“Do you have gas?” Chris asked.

“You’re getting a little personal, don’t you think?” I said.

“I mean, did you put fresh gas in your snow blower?” Chris clarified. “Stale gas left over from last year can cause it to stall. You have to mix the new gas with oil.”

“Do you have a snow blower?” I inquired.

“No,” Chris admitted. “I have a 2-year-old, and it was either buy a snow blower or pay for day care. So I bought a manual snow blower.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“A shovel,” Chris responded.

“How come, whenever it snows, people rush to a store like this to buy shovels?” I wondered. “Do they throw their snow shovels away at the end of winter and have to get new ones the following year?”

“I think they keep their shovels, but they put them in the shed and can’t find them the next time it snows,” Chris theorized. “The shovels move to the back of the shed and hide. Sometimes it happens in the garage. I think they have a union, and they have meetings where they decide how to outwit their owners and drive them crazy. The humans can’t find the snow shovels, so they come here to buy new ones. It is,” Chris added with a smile, “good for business.”

At this moment, my wife, Sue, came by.

“There you are,” she said to me. “I couldn’t find him,” Sue said to Chris. “He’s always getting lost.”

“I can’t help you there,” said Chris. “But husbands are often told to get lost, so we’re just following orders.”

“We should buy a snow shovel,” said Sue.

“We already have one,” I noted.

“Do you know where it is?” Chris asked me.

“Yes,” I said. “It’s in the garage. I wedged it against the door so it couldn’t hide.”

Sue said we should get a second shovel. Then she said we should hurry up because she had to go to the supermarket to pick up some groceries before the snow started to fall.

“I hope you don’t mean bread and milk,” I said.

“No,” Sue said. “We already have them.”

“Why,” I asked Chris, “do some people always rush out to buy bread and milk before it snows? If you go to their houses on a nice summer day, you’ll never find them sitting at the kitchen table, eating bread and drinking milk.”

“I don’t know,” said Chris. “I would think that before it snows, you’d want to buy beer. Or at least hot chocolate.”

“Thanks for your help,” I said to Chris before we headed for the checkout counter.

“You’re welcome,” he replied. “Make sure you put your new shovel in a place where it can’t get away. And don’t get lost yourself. After all, you’re the one who’ll have to get rid of the snow.”

Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, January 17, 2014

"The Big 6-Oh"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

According to an age-old maxim that has never appeared in Maxim, the racy men’s magazine whose target audience is not exactly geezers like me, age is relative, especially if you have old relatives.

I am one of the oldest relatives in my family, not counting those who are dead, and recently proved it by reaching the ripe old age of 60. In fact, I was so ripe that I had to take a shower.

Because I have passed this milestone, which is better than passing a kidney stone, I am offering some pearls of wisdom to all you people who are younger than I am, which these days is just about everybody. Those few who are actually older either don’t need my wisdom or do but will promptly forget it.

Here is the first pearl, which I got at a pawnshop: Wisdom comes too late in life to be useful to you and is best passed on to your children, who aren’t wise enough to realize that you finally know what you’re talking about.

As my children will swear, and not even under oath, I have never known what I was talking about, so what’s the point in starting now?

A lot of people my age say they don’t want to be a burden to their children. Not me. Being a burden is my goal.

Fortunately, my kids don’t have to worry just yet because 60 is the new 50. Or maybe even the new 40. At least that’s what baby boomers believe. As a boomer who is bad at math (and has the checkbook to prove it), I think this makes perfect sense.

I have had people tell me (because I have asked them to) that I don’t look 60. Each time, I have responded: “You mean I look even older? I must be having a bad face day.”

These people will invariably smile and say, “No, you look younger.” Then they will make some lame excuse about being late for a root canal and walk swiftly away.

Still, this is the best time of life because you can do everything you have always done, but if there is something you don’t want to do, you can pull the age card.

“I don’t think I should be shoveling snow anymore,” you might say to no one in particular, because no one in particular will listen to you.

Or, “I don’t think I should be lugging furniture anymore.”

Or, “I do think I should be lying in a hammock with a beer.”

This last one may not work, especially on a nice summer day when you really ought to be doing something that won’t give you a heart attack, like cutting the grass, but it’s worth trying anyway.

Here’s another pearl: Exercise and health food will kill you. Eat what you want because at some point in your life, someone will discover that the supposedly good things you have been eating for so long are now bad for you and that the bad things are really pretty good after all. And for God’s sake, don’t take up running because you will be hit by a car driven by either a young maniac who is texting or a little old man who can’t see over the steering wheel.

Speaking of driving, you can’t do it if you don’t know where you put your car keys. Check your right pocket. If they’re not there, look on the kitchen counter.

Here is the last pearl, which I plan to give to my wife before the cops find out it’s missing: Never grow up. I have lived so long because I am shockingly immature, which makes me feel young.

My wife, who is the same age and is as beautiful as ever, is the real reason for my longevity. If it weren’t for her, I would be either dead or in prison.

So enjoy life, fellow sexagenarians, don’t forget where you put your car keys and know that there are plenty of good times ahead.

Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, January 3, 2014

"They've Got My Number"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Not many people know this, because I just made it up, but when Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call, to his assistant, Thomas Watson, and said, “Watson, come here, I want you,” he heard a voice on the other end say, “This isn’t Watson. You have the wrong number.”

Thus began a long, irritating chapter in telephonic history involving millions of clueless people who wrongly call other people who often respond in such an unmannerly fashion that the caller has no choice but to unwittingly call back in a futile attempt to reach a third party who, by this time, could well be dead.

I recently received wrong-number calls from three people who were not only apologetic but so pleasant that our conversations could have been (if the callers hadn’t sensed that they were talking to an idiot) the beginning of beautiful friendships.

The first call was from a woman named Carol. After I said, “Hello,” she said, “How are you, Mitch?”

“I’m fine, thanks,” I replied. “There’s just one problem.”

“What’s that?” Carol said tentatively.

“This isn’t Mitch.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Carol exclaimed, adding that she was actually calling her friend Fran, who is married to Mitch. “I don’t have Fran’s cellphone number, so I called Mitch,” Carol said.

“I’m Jerry,” I said.

“Nice to meet you,” said Carol, a retired nurse who lives in New York. “Mitch and Fran live in Florida,” she told me.

“What’s their number?” I asked.

“I wish I knew,” said Carol, who noted that she sometimes gets calls from people who have the wrong number. “I try to be nice about it,” she said.

“Me, too,” I said, relating the story of how we used to get calls for a pizzeria. “This went on for months. Finally, I started taking orders. I don’t know if they’re still in business.”

Carol laughed. “Nice talking to you,” she said.

“You, too,” I replied. “Give my best to Mitch.”

A couple of days later, I got a call from a guy named Frank, who was trying to reach his son, also named Frank, who, like Mitch and Fran, lives in Florida.

“Maybe it’s a Florida thing,” I told Frank, who apologized when he realized he had misdialed.

“It happens,” I said, introducing myself.

“I should know my son’s phone number,” Frank said. “I guess I got the area code mixed up.”

“I’m frequently mixed up,” I said, “even when I’m not making phone calls.”

“I know how you feel,” said Frank. “Thanks for the chat.”

“You’re welcome,” I responded. “Good luck reaching your son.”

A few minutes later, the phone rang again.

“Frank?” said the familiar voice on the other end.

“Frank?” I replied.



“I did it again!” Frank cried. “I don’t know what to do, but I’m going to get to the bottom of this.”

He must have because he didn’t call back.

The next day I got a call from a woman named Anita, who asked if I wanted to be an altar boy at a nearby church.

“I’m a kid at heart, but I’m probably a little too old to be an altar boy,” I said.

“My goodness, I must have the wrong number,” said Anita, adding that she’s a secretary at the church and was calling families in the parish to recruit altar boys.

“I wouldn’t want the church to get hit by lightning,” I said.

“I don’t think that would happen,” Anita said.

“I wasn’t exactly an altar boy when I was young enough to be an altar boy,” I confessed.

“You sound like a good person,” said Anita. “And we’re always looking for new parishioners. We’d love to have you.”

“If I decide to become an altar boy,” I said, “I’ll call you.”

“OK,” said Anita. “Just make sure you don’t dial the wrong number.”
Copyright 2014 by Jerry Zezima