Sunday, August 28, 2022

"New Phone Is a Good Call"

By Jerry Zezima

Three days after receiving a patent for the telephone in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell placed a call to his assistant, Thomas Watson. Here is a transcript of the conversation.

Bell: “Watson, come here. I want you.”

Watson: “What?”

Bell: “Come here.”

Watson: “Who is this?”

Bell: “Bell.”

Watson: (Inaudible)

Bell (yelling): “Can you hear me now?”

Watson (just before hanging up): “Text me.”

Ever since that day, telephone technology has been going downhill.

Such was the case with my old iPhone, which I recently exchanged for a new one, although I am now convinced that the technology wasn’t as outdated as I am.

I knew something was amiss when all 361 contacts on my phone mysteriously disappeared. I hoped they were in the cloud, along with my head, but I couldn’t find them, even though I had the cloud type narrowed down to three: cumulus, nimbus and stratus. Which just goes to prove that two’s company but three’s a cloud.

So I went to the phone store with my wife, Sue, and was helped by a certified genius named Rich.

“What seems to be the problem?” he asked.

“My smartphone has a dumb owner,” I replied.

After I told him that my contacts had disappeared, Rich went into “settings” or “sittings” or maybe even “standings” and fixed the problem in approximately seven seconds.

“There,” he said. “You’re good to go.”

But I didn’t go because I needed an upgrade that would allow me to continue inflicting myself on the outside world, despite the lamentable fact that the vast majority of people with phones, not including scammers and telemarketers, don’t want to talk with me.

“Your phone is old,” stated Rich.

“So am I,” said I.

My iPhone 8 had outlived its usefulness (the same thing happened to me years ago), so Sue recommended that I get a phone like hers, which is a 12.

“You helped me when I got mine last year,” she told Rich. “Now you can help my husband.”

“Nobody can help me,” I said. “The doctors have given up hope. It’s too bad because I always liked her.”

“Who?” Rich asked.

“Hope,” I replied.

“Ignore the jokes,” Sue said to Rich, who shook his head and, faintly, smiled.

“I used to have a flip phone,” I said.

“They’re coming back,” Rich noted. “People are getting them more often.”

“They must be flipping over them,” I pointed out.

Rich sighed and suggested I get an iPhone 13.

“It has 256 megabytes,” he said.

“How many megabytes does my phone have?” I inquired.

“Sixty-four,” Rich replied. “The new phone is much better. And it has two dummy lines.”

“For people like me?” I asked.

Rich resisted the urge to respond affirmatively and said, “They bring the price down. There’s a family plan for a new account. It’s grandfathered in.”

“I’m a grandfather,” I said.

Sue looked at Rich and said, “He can’t help it.”

“If I get a 13, wouldn’t it be unlucky?” I asked Rich.

“Not at all,” he replied. “I was born on Friday the 13th. And it was Good Friday. April 13, 1990.”

“I’ll take it,” I said.

“The iPhone 13 has four times the memory of your old phone,” he informed me.

“I wish I did,” I said. “I can’t remember what I had for lunch.”

“He’s always out to lunch,” Sue said helpfully.

After I picked out a nifty blue case, Sue and I thanked Rich for his help and extreme patience and drove home, where I made my first call to her.

“Hello?” Sue said when she answered.

“Hi!” I said from another room.

“Are you calling me on your new phone?” she asked.

“Yes!” I said. “I love it!”

“That’s wonderful, dear,” Sue said. “Goodbye.”

Then she hung up. Alexander Graham Bell would have been impressed.

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, August 21, 2022

"The Dish on Dishwashers"

By Jerry Zezima

Take it from a man with dishpan hands, one of the great mysteries of the universe doesn’t involve flying saucers, although they are frequently spotted with coffee stains and break into tiny pieces if they fly off the kitchen counter.

No, the question that has baffled husbands for decades is this: If you have to wash the dishes before you put them in the dishwasher, why do you need a dishwasher?

The brilliant response, usually from the man’s wife, is: “Because.”

I may not be the chief cook in our house (my wife, Sue, stands over a hot stove and prepares delicious meals daily, otherwise I would have starved to death long ago), but I am the chief bottle washer.

That’s why I accepted the sad fact that we needed a new dishwasher.

Our old dishwasher was without doubt the worst appliance ever made. It leaked so much that we had to put a towel in front of it to soak up all the water. I suggested that we could increase the value of our house by having an indoor swimming pool, but Sue nixed the idea because she would have to make dinner in scuba gear.

So we went shopping.

Our first stop was a home improvement store where we had bought not one but two refrigerators because both of our old units — one in the kitchen, the other in a storage area of the garage — conked out at the same time, probably from double pneumonia.

“Why,” I asked Anita, the appliance specialist who sold us the two fridges, “am I supposed to wash the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher?”

“You don’t have to,” Anita replied, “but you should rinse them off or wipe them off if they still have food on them. Some people don’t do that and let them sit in the sink for a couple of days. Then they have to wash them before putting them in the dishwasher.”

“I wash the dishes in our house,” I said. “And I have dishpan hands.”

“Poor baby,” Anita said sympathetically. “Maybe you should wear gloves.”

“Is it true that men don’t know how to load the dishwasher properly?” I wanted to know.

“That’s what their wives say,” Anita said.

“After Jerry puts the dishes in the dishwasher, I have to rearrange them,” Sue said.

We thanked Anita and went to an appliance store that was having a sale.

“I’m looking for a white dishwasher,” Sue told a salesman named Cirilo.

“We don’t have any,” he said, explaining that white dishwashers aren’t in demand anymore. “You’ll have to order one. And it costs a lot more than a stainless steel dishwasher, which is now in style.”

“But stainless steel won’t match the sink and the oven,” Sue said.

“We’re going to need a new sink,” I chimed in, noting that ours is old, white and chipped. 

“They don’t make sinks in white nowadays, either,” Cirilo said.

“And we’ll have to replace the faucet, which is old and gold,” I went on. “So after this, we might as well get a stainless steel sink and faucet to match the dishwasher.”

Sue raised her eyebrows in astonishment and declared, “For once in your life, you make sense.”

So we bought a stainless steel dishwasher and called the A-Team — Anthony (our contractor) and Andy (plumber and handyman extraordinaire) — to install it.

“Do you guys do the dishes?” I asked.

“I’m single, so I have to,” Andy said.

“My wife does the dishes, but sometimes I load the dishwasher,” said Anthony. “And my wife will always say, ‘You’re not doing it right.’ ”

After he and Andy removed the old dishwasher, they put in the new one. As he was checking the hose under the sink, Anthony yelled, “Jerry! Quick! Turn off the water!”

I clutched my chest.

“Gotcha!” Anthony chortled.

There was no flood. And, after a test run, no leakage.

“I love my new dishwasher!” Sue exclaimed.

“Make sure Jerry loads it the right way,” Anthony told her. “And buy some gloves for his dishpan hands.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, August 14, 2022

"Gill We Meet Again"

By Jerry Zezima

Something fishy is going on in my house. And it’s a matter of life and death.

That’s because Camilla, the latest in our endless series of pet fish, tragically went belly-up, something these little creatures tend to do with dismaying frequency. Mayflies are like Methuselah compared to some of the fish we have had.

The demise of Camilla meant I had to get a replacement in time for a visit by my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly, who fully expected to greet their fine finny friend and sprinkle food flakes in its bowl, which they couldn’t very well do if the fish, after a solemn toilet-side service, had already been flushed to kingdom come.

There are two things you should know about Camilla:

(a) She wasn’t the first Camilla.

(b) She was a he.

Chloe and Lilly have their own fish, Igor, who, unbeknownst to the girls, isn’t the first Igor. In fact, he’s Igor III. And he’s a blue betta fish. We are relatively sure he’s a he.

The first Camilla, officially numbered Camilla I, was a pink betta fish purchased in accordance with the fondest wishes of Chloe and Lilly, who accompanied my wife, Sue, and me to the pet store. We know she was a girl because it said so on the little plastic container that served as her pet-store home.

Regrettably, and also unbeknownst to the girls, Camilla I lasted only 48 hours.

In advance of their next visit, we got Camilla II, a pink betta fish that turned out to be a boy because, of course, he told us. No, seriously, it said so on the little plastic container that served as his pet-store home.

Chloe and Lilly, who fed the fish whenever they came over, never noticed the difference.

Camilla II, who in a heartwarming display of male bonding became my tiny pal, lived to the ripe old age of 2. Devastated, I got rid of him before he became any riper.

Fast-forward to the girls’ impending recent visit. Their mommy, Lauren, who also happens to be our younger daughter, said in a phone conversation that Chloe, 9, and Lilly, 5, were looking forward to seeing Camilla.

“You’d better go to the pet store to get another fish,” Sue told me.

So I did.

“I’m looking for Camilla III,” I said to a nice but slightly bewildered employee named Jackie.

“There’s no one here by that name,” she said.

“Oh, yes, there is,” I replied confidently.

After I explained the circumstances, making a long story even longer, Jackie directed me to the fish department, where I immediately beheld a betta that bore an uncanny (because these fish don’t come in cans) resemblance to the first two Camillas, although this one was a deeper pink.

“I’ll take her,” I said.

“Him,” Jackie corrected, pointing to the label on the little plastic container indicating the sex of my new BFF (best fish friend).

I also bought a bag of pink pebbles and some fish food. Total cost: $29.

I carried the whole kit and caboodle to the car but realized I left my sunglasses in the store, so I took Camilla back inside with me because I didn’t want to leave him in the broiling sun and have an inadvertent fish fry.

“What’s the matter?” Jackie asked.

“The fish died,” I said with a straight face.

“Already?!” she shrieked.

“No,” I said with a smile. “I just forgot my sunglasses.”

“Don’t scare me like that!” Jackie said.

I drove Camilla home and set him up in his new digs, a one-gallon bowl formerly occupied by his predecessor.

When Chloe and Lilly came over, they greeted Camilla with skepticism.

“She looks kind of red,” said Lilly, who is very observant but still couldn’t tell the gender difference.

“Uh,” I stammered, trying to think quickly, “that’s because some fish get darker as they get older.”

“Not like you, Poppie,” Chloe pointed out, referring to my hair.

After the girls sprinkled some food in Camilla’s bowl, Lilly said, “Now she can take a nap.”

I looked at Sue and whispered, “It’s only a matter of time before Camilla sleeps with all our other fishes.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, August 7, 2022

"The Bucks Flow Here"

By Jerry Zezima

I have driven enough lemons to know that they can sour your bank account, but I recently discovered that lemonade, if sold in front of your house by a pair of irresistibly cute kids, can be a liquid asset.

It’s why I am convinced that my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly, who ran the aforementioned enterprise and earned a huge profit, could be CEOs (child economic officers) for a major corporation.

Such was not the case last year, when the girls set up a lemonade stand in front of their house. It did not go well. In six hours, Chloe and Lilly made a grand total of $6.25.

I blamed the disappointing earnings on three factors: (a) light traffic, (b) a swarm of bees and (c) me.

I tried to help, but my stupid jokes (“It’s a wasp neighborhood,” “Don’t worry, this isn’t a sting operation” and, worst of all, “Buzz off, bees!”) no doubt scared away potential customers.

This time, I knew, things would be better.

Fortunately, there were no bees. Also, we set up the stand in front of my house. It’s on a busier street, so the foot and vehicular traffic would be greater. Finally, I promised to curtail the dumb remarks, at least until lemonade purchases had been made.

Chloe and Lilly sat on folding chairs behind a small, colorfully decorated table on which were cups, straws and two pitchers of lemonade — one classic, the other pink. Price: a buck a cup.

“You girls are going to make a lot of money today,” I predicted.

“Maybe we’ll be rich!” Lilly said.

Chloe, who held the change purse, nodded in agreement. So did Guillaume, their daddy, who lent a helping hand.

Almost immediately, a car slowed down. The driver rolled down his window, out of which a dog stuck its head, and said, “All I have is a card.”

“Does your dog have any money?” I asked.

“No, sorry,” the guy said weakly before driving off.

“He doesn’t even have a dollar?” Chloe said incredulously.

“How could he afford a car?” Lilly wondered.

But business picked up a couple of minutes later when a nice woman named Nancy stopped and said, “I just have a 20-dollar bill. How much is the lemonade?”

“Usually it’s 20 dollars a cup, but there’s a sale today,” I said. “It’s only a dollar.”

Chloe (with Guillaume’s assistance) poured their first customer a cup of classic lemonade and Lilly gave her a straw. Nancy handed over the 20, took a 10 and said to the girls, “Keep the change.”

“Thank you!” Chloe and Lilly exclaimed.

My next-door neighbor Bob came out and bought a cup of pink lemonade.

“This is great!” he said after paying the girls and taking a sip. “You’re doing a terrific job. In fact, you could teach your grandfather a thing or two.”

A moment later, a woman stopped her car, got out and handed the girls two dollars.

“Would you like any lemonade?” Chloe asked.

“No, thank you. The money is for you,” the woman said before driving off.

Not long afterward, Jocelyn and Kay, two young women who just moved in down the street, drove past, went to the store to break a large bill and came back.

“I’ll have pink, please,” said Jocelyn, the driver.

“And I’ll have classic,” said Kay, who sat in the front passenger seat.

“You’re doing a good business,” Jocelyn told the girls.

“And your lemonade is delicious,” Kay added.

Jocelyn handed over a five and said, “Keep the change.”

“Thank you!” Chloe and Lilly chirped.

The coffers filled up even more when Ashley and Josh, a friendly couple who live in the neighborhood, stopped their car.

“I haven’t seen a lemonade stand in ages,” said Ashley, who ordered a classic.

“What a treat!” said Josh, who had pink.

When Lilly started sipping a cup of pink, too, I said, “She’s sampling the product.”

“It’s quality control,” said Ashley, who paid for the lemonade and left a nice tip.

Shortly after she and Josh drove off, the girls lost interest and went back inside.

They had been out for only 45 minutes but made $45.

“That’s a dollar a minute,” I said.

“We’re in the wrong business,” Guillaume noted.

“Chloe and Lilly aren’t,” I said. “Now all they have to do is set up their lemonade stand on Wall Street.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima