Thursday, August 27, 2015

"The Appliance Whisperer"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
Inanimate objects are out to get me. I can deal with human beings, either by ignoring them or by telling them such dumb jokes that they ignore me. But machines have me baffled.

That goes especially for the appliances in my house, which have conspired to drive me even crazier than I already am.

Fortunately, a fellow human, Leo Kasden, aka the Appliance Whisperer, has come to the rescue.

Leo, 83, ace salesman at the P.C. Richard & Son store in Stony Brook, New York, sold both an air conditioner and a washing machine to me and my wife, Sue, last year. Earlier this year, he sold us a dryer.

This was necessitated by the sad and expensive fact that all three of the old appliances conked out within months of each other. And recently, Sue and I have been the victims of more appliance mayhem.

In the span of about two weeks, we had trouble with the microwave, the toaster and the coffee maker, none of which Leo sold us, though he did have some words of wisdom about these and all other appliances: “You have to talk to them,” he said. “Maybe they’re misbehaving because they think you don’t like them.”

Leo loves appliances. He has been selling them for 60 years, the past 40 at P.C. Richard, an East Coast chain founded in 1909.

“I can’t wait to come to work every day,” Leo told me.

“Aren’t you going to retire?” I asked.

“I’ll retire when the Jets win the Super Bowl,” Leo said of his favorite football team.

“You may be working forever,” I remarked.

Leo nodded and said, “That’s OK. I love my job. It’s challenging because you have to be like a doctor and keep up with the latest technology. When I started, there were ice boxes and black-and-white TVs. Now you have washers and dryers that look like they came out of ‘Star Trek.’ The ones you and your wife bought are like that.”

“They even play a little tune when the wash is done,” I said. “It was catchy at first, but now I can’t get that stupid song out of my head. I’m sure it’s part of the appliance conspiracy against me.”

“It’s like in the James Patterson book ‘Zoo,’ with the rebellion of the animals,” Leo said. “This could be the rebellion of the appliances.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” I said, telling Leo about the mind games the microwave played on me. “I was making popcorn when the fan went on and wouldn’t go off. We had to call in a technician, who was totally baffled. The day after he left, the fan went off and the microwave started working again.”

Then there was the toaster.

“We had a brand-new one and it just stopped working,” I recalled. “Maybe it’s because I put in a slice of bread and pressed the ‘bagel’ button, just to be cute. I mean, how would it know?”

“They know when you try to fool them,” said Leo.

“And the coffee maker was so bad that the coffee was lukewarm,” I said. “We had to heat it up in the microwave. When the fan was on, we couldn’t have coffee at all.”

“Not a good way to start the day,” said Leo, adding that his wife, Harriet, to whom he has been married for as long as he has been in sales, operates all the appliances at home. “She cooks and does the laundry. I leave the machines alone.”

“Maybe I should do the same thing,” I said. “I used to do the laundry, but my wife won’t let me now that we have a new washer and dryer. She’s afraid I’ll break them.”

“If you check out your appliances every morning and say hello to them, that might help,” Leo suggested. “Maybe they’ll like you better.”

Copyright 2015 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Just What the Doctor Ordered"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
By the time you read this, I could be dead. If so, I am going to get a second opinion.

Fortunately, that shouldn’t be necessary because I recently got a first opinion from my doctor, who not only said I probably won’t die in the next five years but predicted I will live to be 151.

I began to wonder about my longevity when I read that researchers in the United Kingdom had created a survey that can calculate a person’s chances of dying in the next five years.

I took the 14-question survey, which inquired about my age (61), my gender (male), if I am married (yes), how many cars I drive (one at a time), practically everything except my underwear size (34, in case you can’t afford to buy me another car), and the results were encouraging: My chances of dying in the next five years are only 2.7 percent and my relative age is 53, which means I seem eight years younger, physically, than I really am. Mentally, I belong in kindergarten.

Soon after I took the survey, I went for a physical to Dr. Antoun Mitromaras, who has a practice in Port Jefferson Station, New York.

“You are in excellent condition,” Dr. Mitromaras said after examining me, perusing my blood test (good thing it wasn’t an algebra test or I’d be on life support) and looking at my EKG. “Are you active?”

“If I were any less active,” I responded, “I’d be in hibernation. Why?”

“Because,” Dr. Mitromaras informed me, “you have the heart of an athlete.”

“I hope it’s not Babe Ruth,” I said. “He’s dead.”

“You are very much alive,” the good doctor declared.

“Speaking of which,” I noted, “will I die in the next five years?”

“I don’t want to say anything because you might get hit by an airplane,” Dr. Mitromaras said. “But otherwise, you should be around for a long time. I predict you will live another 90 years.”

“I’m 61 now,” I said.

“That means,” Dr. Mitromaras said, “you will live to be 151.”

“Will you still be my doctor?” I asked.

“Of course,” said Dr. Mitromaras, who is 73. “Do you think I am going to die? Never!”

This was very reassuring because Dr. Mitromaras has impeccable credentials.

“In addition to being a physician,” he said, “I am a head and neck surgeon.”

“I’m a pain in the neck,” I told him.

“I can fix that,” he said.

“And my head is empty,” I noted.

“Then I guess there is nothing to operate on,” Dr. Mitromaras said.

“My heart is in good shape, but what I really need is a brain,” I said, echoing the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz.”

“Maybe you can get a transplant,” the doctor suggested.

“Here’s what I really want to know,” I said. “Have you ever seen those medicine commercials on TV in which the announcer says how good the product is, then spends the rest of the time warning how it can kill you?”

“Yes,” Dr. Mitromaras said. “They’re very entertaining.”

“And the announcer always says, ‘Ask your doctor.’ Has anyone ever asked you about these medicines?” I wondered.

“Yes,” Dr. Mitromaras said.

“What do you say?” I inquired.

“I say that if they can kill you, don’t take them,” he replied.

“Sound advice,” I said. “The only thing I take is cholesterol medicine.”

“It’s working because your cholesterol levels are good,” Dr. Mitromaras said.

“As they say in those commercials, after I take it, I shouldn’t operate heavy machinery,” I said. “You know, like a steamroller.”

“I wouldn’t drive one, especially in traffic, because you’d get high blood pressure,” Dr. Mitromaras said. “Then you’d need more medicine.”

“Thank you, doctor,” I said as I shook his hand. “You are a credit to your profession.”

“See you next year,” Dr. Mitromaras said.

“And for the next 90 years?” I asked.

“Yes,” he promised. “I’ll be here.”
Copyright 2015 by Jerry Zezima