Sunday, March 31, 2019

"Mr. Poppie Goes to Washington"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
After returning from Washington, D.C., where I spent a lot of time coloring with crayons, playing with blocks and going down slides, making me more productive than anyone else there, I can say with great pride and total accuracy that my grandson, Xavier, who just turned 2, is the smartest and most mature person in the nation’s capital.

And it turned out that I was the most influential. That’s because my lobbying efforts to have fun paid dividends not only with Xavier, but with his friends Hayden and Walter, also 2.

My influence even extended to grown-ups such as the woman who carded me when I bought wine in a grocery store and the bartender who didn’t card me when I ordered a beer but did say that Washington is undergoing a booze renaissance.

I was happy to contribute to this encouraging development during the five days that my wife, Sue, and I, known to our grandchildren as Nini and Poppie, visited Xavier, who lives with his mommy, Katie, and daddy, Dave.

And I built up quite a thirst playing with Xavier, who has an impressive collection of coloring books and approximately a thousand crayons, as well as a boxful of blocks that we used to build planes, trains and automobiles. It gave me hope that he will grow up to be either a great artist or secretary of transportation.

But I really exerted myself at the playground, where Xavier met up with his buddy Hayden, who took an instant liking to me, probably because he sensed that I was on his intellectual level, and wanted me to take him down each of the park’s several slides several times each.

This presented a daunting challenge to a geezer whose pathetic inability to climb stairs, crawl through child-size tunnels and whoosh down twisting plastic surfaces with a squirming toddler on his lap nearly resulted in an ambulance ride to the emergency room.

Naturally, Xavier wanted me to do the same with him.

“Follow me,” I said to the two boys. “I’m the Pied Poppie.”

Later, it was my turn to follow our little family band when we went to a grocery store to buy ingredients for dinner (Dave is a marvelous cook) and purchase some wine: a bottle of red and a bottle of white, with no apologies to Billy Joel.

“May I please see your ID?” asked a very nice cashier named Laura, who appeared to be about 40 years younger than I am.

“Really?!” I squealed. “You’re actually carding me? Do I look that young?”

Laura smiled and said, “I have to do this to everyone.”

“Do you want to see my AARP card?” I asked disappointedly.

“Your driver’s license will do,” said Laura.

From there, we went to a market that had a bakery, a bar and a community library.

I bellied up to the libation portion of the establishment and ordered a beer from Vince, who said he also works at a distillery that makes whiskey, gin and vodka.

“Washington is having a booze renaissance,” he told me.

“That explains things,” I replied.

Before I could finish my beer, Xavier and his BFF, Walter, who was there with his parents, wanted me to sit down with them and read the children’s book “What Do People Do All Day?” by Richard Scarry.

“Poppie doesn’t do a heck of a lot,” I said before launching into the delightful text, which the boys loved.

All in all, I had a wonderful time in the nation’s capital, and my faith was restored in a city where a trio of 2-year-olds showed that people could actually get along with each other.

It’s what I would call a kid renaissance.

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 17, 2019

"Wrestling With Unmentionables at the Laundromat"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
It may be true that everything comes out in the wash, but it’s also true that if you’re in a laundromat, you shouldn’t take off your bra in front of other customers before doing the wash.

That’s the valuable lesson I learned recently after the dryer conked out and my wife, who has never, to my knowledge, removed her brassiere in public, dispatched me to the laundromat to finish a load of wet clothes.

“You see everything in this place,” said manager Angel Lopez. “One night, a lady started getting undressed so she could put her clothes in the washer. She was topless and was just wearing her underwear. I went over to her and said, ‘Really? You couldn’t do this before you got here?’ ”

“Maybe,” I suggested helpfully, “it was her only bra.”

“Listen,” Angel said, “men are just as bad. Like the guy last night who told me that if he didn’t do the laundry right, his wife said he was a dead man. He said, ‘Are you going to help me?’ I said, ‘No. I want to see if she’s going to kill you.’ ”

“My wife is too nice to resort to murder over socks and bath towels,” I said. “How about your wife?”

Angel smiled and replied, “I’m not married.”

Not that he wouldn’t be a good catch, even though he is widely considered a bad guy.

“In addition to working at the laundromat,” Angel said, “I’m a professional wrestler.”

He wrestles under the name of Cano Lopez, the Exorcist.

“Cano is my mother’s maiden name,” said Angel, who has “Cano” tattooed on his right forearm and “Lopez” on his left.

“In the ring, I’m a villain,” he said. “People boo me, but between matches, kids come up to me and say, ‘Can I have your autograph?’ ”

“Do you wrestle in the WWE?” I asked. “It’s headquartered in my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut.”

“I wish!” said Angel, who’s affiliated with East Coast Pro Wrestling.

At 53, he’s one of the oldest wrestlers on the circuit. But at 5-foot-8 and 227 pounds, he’s one tough geezer.

“You have to be,” said Angel. “We get hit with steel chairs, jump off buckles and land on wooden boards. We’re like actors who do our own stunts.” He winced and added, “I’m 53, but my body says 83.”

Angel’s brother, Marc Static, is a wrestler, too. They’re two of 24 siblings, 12 brothers and 12 sisters. “I’m No. 17,” Angel said.

“There must have been a lot of laundry in your family,” I noted.

“Mountains of it,” Angel said. “It prepared me for my job here.”

And he does it extremely well. In addition to being an amateur psychologist (“I listen to everybody’s problems,” he said), Angel is an appliance engineer, a lint expert and a folding consultant.

“Did you know that a buildup of lint could cause a fire in the dryer?” he said.

“No,” I answered. “Just to be safe, I’d better clean it out of my belly button, too.”

After using one of the dryers without starting a three-alarm blaze, I asked Angel for help in folding the towels, socks and underwear in my laundry basket.

“The towels go corner to corner, then fold them again, the long way, in a trifold,” he instructed. “The edges go in the closet.”

The opening of one sock in each pair is folded over the mate “so they won’t become separated,” Angel said. “And underwear is pretty easy. Now you try it.”

I passed the folding test with all the flying colors of my towels, socks and boxer shorts.

“Your wife will be impressed,” said Angel.

“Next time I come here, I’ll bring her,” I replied. “And I promise she won’t take off her bra.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, March 3, 2019

"The Rise and Fall of My New Desk"

By Jerry Zezima
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
If you were to call me at work, which means you’d be operating under the delusion that I was actually working, you would hear this recording:

“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. BEEP!”

Now I may have to change the recording because my office is getting new workstations (a fancy term for desks) that allow employees to work standing up.

The problem is that unless you’re a horse (or, in my case, the back end of one), it’s impossible to sleep standing up.

So I spoke with the director of engineering services, Steve Zimmerman, who is overseeing the transition.

“I won’t stand for this!” I told him.

“You’ll still have a chair, so maybe you could go on a sit-down strike,” suggested Steve, whose office features a wraparound desk so cluttered that it could well contain the remains of Jimmy Hoffa.

There’s also a sign that reads: “Occupancy by more than 229 persons is dangerous and unlawful.”

“I don’t think that many people could fit in here, so I won’t get arrested,” said Steve, adding that he’s the same way at home.

“I have a lot of clutter,” he said. “My wife is a neat freak. If you’re not moving, she’ll vacuum you.”

“It’s like that in my house, too,” I noted. “But my desk here is very neat. That’s because I don’t do anything.”

“I’ve noticed,” said Steve.

“What I’ve noticed,” I countered, “is that the workstations have two computer screens. Does that mean I would have to do twice as much work? And will the company double my salary?”

“It would be nice,” Steve said, “if you did any work at all. As for your salary, you’re lucky you get paid.”

“I guess you’re right,” I replied. “The extra money would only put me in a higher tax bracket. At the very least, it would weigh down my pants.”

“Still, I think you’ll like the sit-stand desks,” Steve said. “A lot of people work standing up these days because it’s healthier, although if you stand too long, your feet will get tired.”

“What if you sit too long?” I wondered.

“Don’t even go there,” Steve said.

“I do like the choice of chairs,” I acknowledged. “My favorite is like a rocking chair. I would use it to practice for my old age, which is rapidly approaching.”

“What about the desks?” Steve asked.

“My main complaint is that there isn’t room for a fully stocked bar,” I replied.

“I need one myself because you’re driving me to drink,” said Steve, adding that there would be room for a liquor cabinet under the desk. “You could even put a crock pot under there.”

“Most of what I say is a crock,” I told Steve, who did not disagree. Instead, he took me to see the desk of administrative assistant Sarah Gukelberger, who has already been working at a prototype workstation.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “I have a herniated disc, so it feels good when I stand up. And you can’t fall asleep, which would get you in trouble.”

Steve nodded and said to me, “These desks force you to be productive.”

“Why should I start now?” I said.

“Better late than never,” Steve responded.

Sarah pressed a button to show me how the desk can rise and go back down depending on whether you want to stand or sit.

“I suppose,” Steve said, “you could lower the desk and use that comfortable rocking chair if you wanted to take a nap.”

“I think I’m going to like these new workstations,” I said. “And I won’t even have to change my phone message.”

Copyright 2019 by Jerry Zezima