Sunday, September 25, 2022

"Rub-a-Dub-Dub, One Kid in the Tub"

By Jerry Zezima

Of all the memorable things that happened during our granddaughters’ first sleepover in two years — getting vanilla frosting all over the kitchen table after making cupcakes, almost freezing to death in an inflatable pool that promptly deflated, and eating charred popcorn while watching “Encanto” for the 87th time — the one that will go down in family history occurred when my wife, Sue, had to sit on the bathroom floor with a glass of wine because one of the girls wouldn’t get out of the tub.

Grandchildren can make you deliriously happy, as ours always do, but they can also drive you to drink. And not from a sippy cup.

“Lilly,” Sue pleaded, “it’s time to get out of the bathtub.”

“I want to stay in, Nini,” replied Lilly, who at nearly 6 years old is a pistol (in this case, a water pistol).

So Sue did the only thing a grandmother with melting patience could do: She went downstairs, poured herself a glass of wine, came back up and sat on the bathroom floor with her much-needed sustenance while Lilly splashed, soaked and sang until she was finally ready to emerge from the soapy tub and dry off.

Water dripped onto the tile. Fortunately, wine didn’t.

Lilly and her big sister, Chloe, who’s 9, had been looking forward to the sleepover. So had Sue and I.

The girls arrived (with their daddy, Guillaume) a little past noon. After scarfing down pizza for lunch, the first of our weekend activities commenced when Sue let Chloe do a load of laundry.

“Nini never lets me wash clothes,” I said.

“Maybe you don’t do it right, Poppie,” Chloe suggested.

With Sue’s guidance, Chloe did it perfectly.

She also did a great job of helping Sue make cupcakes (opening and closing the oven door was the extent of my assistance), after which they had to be frosted.

Here is where things got a tad messy. The frosting may have been the icing on the cupcakes, but it also managed (again, with my assistance) to get onto the tablecloth, which went directly into — that’s right — another load of laundry.

Much of the creamy confection ended up on Lilly, who had it all over her hands, on her arm (she licked it off) and even in her hair.

“You need a bath,” Sue declared.

Before that happened, however, the girls put on Sue’s makeup, including lipstick and nail polish they applied themselves. It went beautifully with the frosting.

Then I joined them outside in the pool, which was filled with water so cold it could have caused coronary arrest in a walrus. Luckily for me, the pool had a leak, so we had to get out.

The swim was a lot faster than Lilly’s bath, which turned out to be a marathon in which Sue washed the remainder of the frosting off the giggly girl but needed a cocktail to tide her over while Lilly created tides of her own.

After watching an animated show called “Veggie Tales in the City” (my fumbling with the remote prompted Lilly to ask, “You don’t know how to work your own TV?”) and eating hot dogs and hamburgers for dinner, we sat down for a viewing of the girls’ favorite film, “Encanto,” which I have probably seen more than any adult in America. Putting a damper on the proceedings was the popcorn I burned to a crisp by leaving it in the microwave too long.

Halfway through the movie, the girls dozed off. Upon being roused, they went up to bed, putting the sleep in sleepover.

The next morning, they helped Sue make pancakes — with rainbow sprinkles! I must have eaten half a dozen of the heavy flapjacks. They are still in my digestive system.

After playing hopscotch, swinging in the hammock and having a lunch consisting of chicken nuggets and leftover burgers, which now had the consistency of hockey pucks, it was time for the girls to go home.

“Lilly and I had been looking forward to this for years!” Chloe exclaimed.

“My friends’ play dates aren’t exciting at all, but this sleepover was the best!” Lilly chimed in.

After the girls and Guillaume left, Sue and I sat down to catch our breath and savor the memories of a wonderful weekend.

“Care for a glass of wine?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Sue. “And I’m not drinking it in the bathroom.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, September 18, 2022

"Warranty Calls Are an Auto Motive"

By Jerry Zezima

The main difference between me and my car — aside from the alarming fact that my fluids need to be changed twice a night — is that I don’t come with an extended warranty.

But I am expecting to get a phone call about the coverage on my brand-new vehicle any minute now.

That’s because the last time I bought a car, a couple of years ago on a trade-in, I got a call from a warranty salesperson — this is absolutely true — the DAY AFTER I drove the vehicle home.

Here is roughly how the conversation went.

Me: “Hello?”

Salesperson: “We’ve been trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty.”

Me: “Why? I just got the car!”

Salesperson: “What is the make and model of your vehicle?”

Me: “I’ll answer that if you can tell me my name.”

Salesperson: “We are not allowed to give out that information, sir.”

Me: “You called me, so you have to know who I am. You can’t tell me my own name?”

Salesperson: “No, sir.”

Me: “Is this some kind of scam?”

Salesperson: (Click)

I have been expecting a similar call, scores of which I have received since I got my previous car, now that I have a new set of wheels.

But I am relieved to know I am not the only person whose car warranty is of great concern to the nice, if persistent, folks who care deeply about my car’s longevity.

My wife, Sue, whose vehicle is still under warranty, gets these calls, too.

So do the employees of the car dealership, Hyundai 112 in Medford, New York.

“Isn’t it amazing?” said sales representative James Boyd, a great guy who has helped me and Sue through several automotive transactions. “They call me, too.”

They also call sales manager Austin Malkasian, who said, “I’m surprised there aren’t notes in candy bars about car warranties. I saw a meme showing a guy picking up a bottle that had washed up on a beach. The bottle had a scroll inside saying, ‘We’ve been trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty.’ ”

Sales producer Jim Maxent said, “One time I got a warranty call. The person asked, ‘What’s the make and model of your car?’ I replied, ‘I have a 1972 Plymouth Fury with 750,000 miles on it.’ They hung up.”

Said business manager Allison Rollero, “I tell them I don’t even have a car.”

General manager Greg Galardi said, “I’m surprised you didn’t get a call 10 minutes before you actually bought the car. That’s probably what it will come to one of these days.”

But that didn’t deter me from trading in my “old” car, which had only 17,000 miles on it, for a vehicle so new that its official release date is next year.

“The car I had before the car I am trading in now had 26,000 miles on it,” I told James. “The mileage gets less every time. Does this mean I’ll get another trade-in deal next month?”

“No,” said James. “But that doesn’t mean you won’t get calls about the new car’s warranty.”

James added that he once got a call from the daughter of an elderly customer who had fallen for the warranty scheme.

“This guy didn’t want to pay a penny extra for anything, but he fell for the scam,” James said. “So now he was paying an extra hundred dollars a month. When his daughter called, I told her that he already had a warranty.”

“Do I have a warranty?” I asked.

“Yes,” said James. “It’s five years, 60,000 miles. And you get a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.”

“Powertrain?” I asked. “I’m not buying a locomotive, am I?’

“No,” James assured me. “But the warranty is for longer than you’ll have the car.”

I thanked James and fellow sales rep Manny Gomez for hooking up the Apple CarPlay, because men are prohibited by federal law from asking for directions, and said I was very happy with my new car.

“I’m glad,” said James. “But don’t be surprised if you get a warranty call while you’re driving home.”

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, September 11, 2022

"The Fab Five"

By Jerry Zezima

What happens to an immature geezer whose five grandchildren meet for the very first time and spend the better part of a week splashing at the beach, romping at a family reunion, gawking at sea creatures in the aquarium, riding the carousel, going out to lunch and otherwise having the time of their lives?

Answer: The grandfather has even more fun than the kids do.

The aforementioned geezer, it should be noted, is yours truly. And I am proud, happy and slightly delirious to say that the child’s play did me and my wife, Sue, a world of good, even though Sue, the kiddies’ grandmother, has long known that I’m the biggest and most playful child of them all.

The Fab Five — three girls and two boys — are cousins, although the oldest two (9 and 5 years old) are sisters, and the youngest three are siblings, the oldest a boy, 5, and the others twins, a girl and a boy both (of course) 3 years old.

I may be terrible at math — not the case with the grandkids, who are CPAs (child public accountants) compared to me — but I somehow have it figured out.

The adventure began with a visit by the youngest three, who arrived (with their parents) after midnight and awoke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6 a.m., which is more than the grown-ups could say, at least not without large doses of caffeine.

The much-anticipated moment occurred after lunch, when we all drove to the home of the oldest two girls, who had met the oldest of the youngest three when he was a toddler but who had never met the twins. They all hit it off immediately, which was wonderful to see, even through heavy-lidded eyes because the caffeine was starting to wear off.

It was replaced by adrenaline when four of the five cousins went to the beach, where I was the flotation device for kiddies who kicked, bounced and splashed in the sand, sun and surf while I attempted to keep my head above water and hoped not to be eaten by a shark.

After a day of drying out (from water, not beer, which was consumed after the kiddies went to bed), we had a family reunion with 18 people: all five grandchildren, their parents, my mother, my two sisters, the three grown children of one of my sisters, the wife of one of her sons and, of course, Sue and yours truly.

It was the first time my mother, who is 97 and is sharper than I am (so are house plants, but Mom is still impressive), had been together with all of her children, all of her grandchildren and all of her great-grandchildren. She had more fun than anybody.

The fun continued the following day, when Sue and I went to the aquarium with the five children and their parents. I found out why I wasn’t food for sharks at the beach: They were swimming in a huge tank, where they eat fish that are, I am relieved to admit, more appetizing than I am.

Then we went out to lunch at a seafood joint.

“Are sharks on the menu?” I asked the waitress, who looked at me as if the theme from “Jaws” was running through her head: Dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb, dumb-dumb.

I had an appetizing fish sandwich instead.

The final full day of fun and frolic was spent at the carousel, where the Fab Five rode the horses and tried unsuccessfully to grab the brass ring. On one ride, I leaned over and nearly fell off but managed to get one, which in the wide eyes of the children made me — you guessed it — the lord of the rings.

We again went out to lunch — nothing new for me because that’s where I always am — before heading back to the house of the oldest two grandchildren, where the kiddie quintet and I, together and separately, jumped on the trampoline.

My legs were rubbery for the next 24 hours, by which time the youngest three and their parents had departed for home.

It was a magical week. And the only one to have more fun than the grandkids was a certain immature geezer who proved to be the biggest kid of all.

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima

Sunday, September 4, 2022

"The Carousel Stakes"

By Jerry Zezima

When it comes to horsing around, I am a champion with my granddaughters. And I recently proved it on a carousel in a photo finish with Chloe and Lilly, who accompanied me to the winner’s circle in our very own version of the Kentucky Derby.

I may never make it to Churchill Downs, at least not as a rider, but I was once involved in a fateful race at Belmont Park.

Shortly after Sue and I were married, we went to the New York racetrack, where two memorable things happened: Sue got sunstroke and I bet on a horse that dropped dead.

In one of the races, I placed a two-dollar bet on a horse named Life’s Hope. Sue bet the same amount on a horse with no name. (Actually, he did have a name, but I forget what it was.)

The equine sprinters broke from the starting gate with Sue’s horse in the lead. He led from start to finish.

“I won!” squealed Sue, whose payoff was a whopping five bucks.

“Hey,” I said, “what happened to Life’s Hope? I didn’t see him cross the finish line.”

Just then, an ambulance raced across the track. My suspicions were confirmed: My horse never made it out of the starting gate. Life’s Hope had neither life nor hope.

Sue ended up in slightly better shape with sunstroke.

After that, we stopped going to the track.

But years later, I took a riding lesson at a stable where I proved to be unstable in the saddle of a gelding named Bob, who was appropriately named because he bobbed along as I held the reins tightly and worried that he was still smarting from his surgery.

“You have to learn how to steer him,” said Julie, the instructor, who assured me that Bob had fully recovered from his operation and was perfectly comfortable giving me a ride.

“He’s the mane man,” I remarked. “And if he stopped short, I’d be saved by the driver’s-side hair bag.”

That didn’t happen because Bob was very gentle. In fact, we had a male (of sorts) bonding.

The lesson proved valuable when I rode in the Carousel Stakes with Chloe and Lilly.

It was a crowded field, with about two dozen jockeys on the backs of the wooden Thoroughbreds. Among the spectators was Sue, who didn’t wager two dollars on a horse but did give the attendant five bucks — her winnings at Belmont — for tickets.

The girls and I each climbed onto a horse. Chloe, riding a filly she dubbed Checkers, got up by herself. Lilly needed a boost from me to get onto Sparkle. I struggled to get mounted on Mustard.

Most of the riders were, like the girls, of elementary-school age. Others were young parents. I was clearly the oldest. From the looks I got, I’m surprised I wasn’t put out to pasture.

“This will be fun, Poppie!” Chloe told me.

“Hold on tight!” Lilly chimed in.

“My horse is going to win,” I predicted.

“No, he’s not!” Lilly shot back. “Mine is.”

“No, mine is,” Chloe said.

All three horses were lined up perfectly with each other. Suddenly, the music started. It wasn’t the bugle call of the Kentucky Derby. And no track announcer exclaimed, “They’re off!” But the horses started moving anyway.

“Go, Checkers!” Chloe said, urging her horse on.

“Come on,” Sparkle!” cried Lilly.

“What’s my horse’s name?” I asked.

“Mustard,” the girls replied in unison.

“Go, Mustard!” I yelled.

Round and round we went, up and down, heading toward the finish line with the horses neck and neck. The crowd roared. Finally, in the closest race in history, it was over — a three-way tie.

“We all won!” Lilly proclaimed.

I dedicated my victory to Life’s Hope. Sue was just happy she didn’t get sunstroke.

Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima