Sunday, February 28, 2021

"Under the Influence"

By Jerry Zezima

I have very little influence, even in my own home, which is the only place where I am a household name, but that won’t stop me from achieving my new and extremely dubious goal of being one of the most influential people in the world.

That’s right: I want to be an influencer.

Until recently, I didn’t know that influencers existed. Then I started reading about alleged celebrities who possess no discernible talent but are rich and, even more important, famous for being famous, despite the curious fact that they are not famous enough for me to have ever heard of them.

Still, they are making boatloads of money, which they presumably use to buy boats, by endorsing products that their zillions of social media followers will buy, thus giving them (the influencers) even more money.

I may not be rich, or have zillions of social media followers, or possess any discernible talent beyond the frightening ability to make stupid jokes at the drop of a hat, which I will pick up for you and put on my own head, but I do have one thing most influencers sorely lack: an excellent reputation.

I recently found this out when I saw that MyLife, an American information brokerage firm that gathers personal info on people through public records and other sources, has given me a score of 4.22 out of 5, which is 6 percent above the national average.

When I told my wife, Sue, about this impressive news, she said, “Do they have the right person?”

It was a good question because in order to get a full report, I will have to pay a fee that could be more than I will make as an influencer. Nonetheless, I know that my reputation is higher than that of most people, which makes you wonder who the hell they are and whether they are incarcerated.

Because I am a free man, and worth every penny, I have looked into products I could influence shamefully gullible people to purchase.

In my extensive research, which has so far covered approximately a minute and a half, I have discovered that influencers like to hawk jewelry. Aside from my wedding ring, which I got in 1978, I don’t wear jewelry.

Influencers, most of whom are decades younger than I am, also peddle skin-care products such as moisturizers. As a bona fide geezer, I don’t think even a tub of Turtle Wax would help remove my wrinkles.

So I came up with a product that not only is a boon to mankind, but one I use all the time: beer.

I once made my own beer, Jerry’s Nasty Ale, which went down smooth and came back up the same way. I don’t dare make another batch, so I decided to contact a company that produces a beer that has both excellent quality and a national reputation.

That’s why I called Samuel Adams (the brewery, not the dead patriot, who doesn’t answer his phone) to ask if I could be an influencer.

“We don’t have a formal influencer program,” said Brittany Zahoruiko, who oversees public relations for the company. “We’d have to take it on a case-by-case basis.”

“Did you say ‘case-by-case’?” I asked delightedly.

“I think I did,” Brittany replied, suddenly realizing she had made a beer pun. “I didn’t even mean to.”

In my case, being a Sam Adams influencer probably won’t work out.

But I know someone else who would be a good influencer for any product because her reputation is even better than mine: Sue.

On MyLife, she scored 4.76 out of 5, which is 12 percent above the national average.

“That’s twice as good as yours,” Sue said before asking me to take out the garbage.

“Yes, dear,” I replied. “In our house, at least, you have a lot of influence.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 21, 2021

"A Shot in the Dark"

By Jerry Zezima

After weeks of trying to get the coronavirus vaccine, during which my wife, Sue, and I spent almost all of our waking hours online, on the phone or on edge, I am happy and utterly flabbergasted to announce that our efforts were worth a shot, even though we haven’t gotten it yet.

That’s because we finally got appointments for our initial injections. And we owe it all to our daughters, Katie and Lauren, who had been needling us (sorry, but it’s true) to keep at it. Ultimately, after realizing their parents were either unlucky or incompetent, they signed us up themselves.

The real reason we were unable to get appointments for so long is because we live in New York, a state that had been a global hot spot for the virus and then became a model for how to deal with it, but which now, in arranging vaccine distribution, is a total shot show.

Sue and I began our interminable search for an appointment when we registered on the state’s COVID-19 website. Because we don’t have any underlying conditions (we soon developed overlying conditions that included raging headaches, jittery nerves and intestinal spasms that could be calmed only with over-the-counter medications such as wine), we were not in the first group of people eligible for the vaccine.

We were classified as 1b, which initially included people 75 and older but which was lowered for those 65 and up.

“1b or not 1b? That is the question,” I told Sue.

“Here’s the answer,” she said. “We’re both 67, so we qualify.”

We thus embarked on our long day’s journey into night, getting up with the chickens (the only ones we have are in the freezer) and staying up to the witching hour (or something that rhymes with it) just to see if we could get appointments on the state website.

We also called the “special” hotline number, which turned out to be a cold line because Sue once got a person who said, essentially, that it would be a cold day in hell before we got vaccinated.

“Good luck!” the woman said before hanging up.

The rest of the time, we were directed to the state website, where we had to reinsert our registration information only to find out that no appointments were available at any of the sites in our area.

The only two places in New York State where appointments were available were hundreds of miles away, both near the Canadian border.

“It might be easier to renew our passports and get vaccinated in Canada, eh!” I said with a horrible French-Canadian accent.

Sue shook her head. That was my reaction, too, when I cleverly figured out that even if we got appointments at one of those upstate sites, they might not be on the same day, which would involve two long round trips, and we’d have to go back for our second shots, which would involve two more.

So we registered with two national pharmacy chains where, of course, no appointments were available because they didn’t even have vaccines.

In the meantime, Katie and Lauren kept telling us to go back on the state and pharmacy websites every day, all day, stopping only to eat or go to the bathroom, and constantly click, even after seeing that no appointments were available, in case something opened up.

Two things became disturbingly clear: (a) we were in grave danger of getting carpal tunnel syndrome and (b) the pandemic would be over before we got vaccinated.

Then, miraculously, on the same day, Katie and Lauren, who had been searching, too, got appointments for us. They are right around the corner at Stony Brook University.

Sue and I are grateful to our daughters for helping us get our first shots, which will be given soon.

Until then, we are celebrating with shots of our own: blackberry brandy for me, cinnamon whisky for Sue.

And we don’t even need an appointment.

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 14, 2021

"Eggings Over Easy"

By Jerry Zezima

I have always been considered a good egg, even though most of my jokes are rotten. That’s why I squawked when I found out that chicken-hearted punks had recently egged a bunch of cars in my neighborhood.

One of those vehicles belongs to my son-in-law, who had parked it in my driveway. Feathers ruffled, I called the local police precinct and was connected to a cop whose puns are as criminal as mine.

Officer Vasilecozzo, who works in dispatch, took my complaint over the phone.

“Can you crack the case?” I asked.

“I think so,” he replied, presumably with a straight face, “but I wouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket.”

“These miscreants have obviously run a-fowl of the law,” I told him.

“I’ll have to scramble to catch them,” Officer V said.

“What if they’re poachers?” I wondered.

“Then they’re on the run,” he responded.

“You sound like a hard-boiled detective,” I said.

“You’re just egging me on,” said Officer V.

“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to henpeck you.”

“Let’s end this game of chicken,” he said.

“OK,” I said. “The beak stops here.”

“Good,” said Officer V, who began peppering me with questions. “Do you have a ring camera?” he asked.

“Why,” I wanted to know, “are we dealing with a crime ring?”

“If you don’t cut this out,” he said, “I’m coming over there to wring a confession out of you. Now what else can you tell me?”

Risking incarceration, I said, “There are spent shells in my driveway. And the back of my son-in-law’s car is covered in sticky residue. It looks like the work of hardened criminals.”

“Or,” Officer V said, “they could just be kids on bikes.”

I told him that my wife, a fan of TV cop shows, had done some investigating of her own and discovered on her daily walks that only red vehicles had been targeted.

“A red car up the street was egged,” I said. “And a red truck around the corner was also hit.”

“What color is your son-in-law’s car?” Officer V asked.

“Red,” I said.

“He must be seeing red,” the cop quipped.

“He’s blue in the face,” I remarked.

Officer V said he would file a report and asked me to get back to him if anything else happened.

That night, my son-in-law’s car was egged again. The next day, I called the precinct and spoke with Officer V.

“You must be shellshocked,” he said.

“I’m walking on eggshells,” I told him. “I’d like to see these guys fry.”

“That would never pan out,” he assured me.

“The eggs stink,” I said. “If this were a cop show, it would be ‘Law & Odor.’ ”

Officer V said his favorite cop show is “Lucifer.”

“I haven’t seen that one,” I said.

“It’s really good,” he told me. “But so far, none of the episodes have been about egg throwers.”

“What are you going to do about the ones in my neighborhood?” I asked.

“We’ll send out a patrol car,” Officer V promised. “Maybe the police presence will be enough to deter them from continuing their messy activities.”

“Will you let me know if you make any arrests?” I said.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “If we catch these guys, the yolk will be on them.”

Officer V’s plan seems to have worked because there haven’t been any further eggings.

When I called back to thank him, Officer V declined to take credit and said a coordinated effort between police and the community is what helps stem such quality-of-life crimes.

“Don’t be so modest,” I told him. “This is really a feather in your cap.”

“I appreciate it,” said Officer V. “But more than likely, these guys just chickened out.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, February 7, 2021

"They Do an Ice Job"

By Jerry Zezima

When it comes to shoveling snow, I am a wuss, which stands for “wait until spring starts.”

Unfortunately, I have never been able to convince my wife, Sue, of this brilliant philosophy in the two-plus decades we have lived in our house.

Sue knows I have been perpetrating snow jobs my whole life. In fact, I was born during a blizzard. So whenever we’ve had a winter storm, or a nor’easter, or a “snow event,” as meteorologists like to say, I have bundled up like I was going on an Arctic expedition and dug out the cars, cleared the front walk and shoveled the driveway without collapsing into a snowdrift and being found frozen stiff the next morning like Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”

I used to have a small snow blower that turned out to be the Little Engine That Couldn’t. My former neighbor Ron would often come over to help me with his large snow blower and kindly gave it to me when he moved, but it, too, has gone to the Great Snowy Beyond.

So I’ve had to rely on my trusty shovel, which is a glorified soup spoon. I used it to get rid of the eight inches of wet, heavy snow we got during a pre-Christmas storm. After having a shot of blackberry brandy to stave off coronary thrombosis, I finally decided to hire someone to plow the driveway so I could stay inside and get plowed myself.

That brave someone is Justin Felix, 19, the wunderkind operator of North Coram Snow Removal on Long Island, New York.

Justin proved to be a lifesaver (wintergreen, of course) because we recently got 15 inches of snow that could have stopped a polar bear in its tracks.

Assisting Justin were his father, Nick, 48, a banker who co-founded the side business with Justin several years ago, and Justin’s girlfriend, Kate Stevens, 18, who worked just as hard and efficiently as the guys.

In fact, Kate wielded a shovel with lightning speed, clearing the front walk in less time than it takes me to put my boots on.

“What’s your secret?” I asked.

“I just lift and go,” Kate responded.

“If I tried that,” I told her, “I’d have to be lifted into an ambulance so I could go to the hospital.”

Justin and Nick, meanwhile, each manned a three-stage snow blower that, said Nick, “can cut through ice.”

“The ice isn’t as thick as my skull, which would probably break the machine,” I noted.

Justin smiled and fired up his snow blower, which blew snow (hence, the name) directly into my face when I was stupid enough to stand in the way.

“I have brain freeze,” I explained.

Justin, an enterprising young man who also is an investor and works for an affiliate marketing company, started in snow removal when he was 15.

“I wanted to help neighbors and make a little bit of money, too,” Justin said.

“When I was that age,” I told him, “I didn’t even help around the house.”

That probably makes me the laziest of North Coram’s dozen or so customers, some of whom are fellow geezers who have thrown their backs out while trying to throw snow.

“I’ve also heard some cursing when snowplows leave huge piles at the end of their driveways,” Justin said.

I didn’t curse, which I have been known to do in such extreme situations, but I did help by moving the cars so the terrific trio could finish clearing my driveway.

“Fantastic job!” I gushed as I paid Justin a very reasonable amount of cold cash. “You just saved me from having a heart attack.”

“Next time there’s a storm,” he promised, “we’ll be back.”

“Take it from a real flake,” I said. “There’s no business like your snow business.”

Copyright 2021 by Jerry Zezima