Category Archives: Jeopardy!

Hot Air: Melange, Olio, Medley, Miscellany…

And The Answer Is

In the wake* of the death of host Alex Trebek, I’ve learned the correct Jeopardy! answer is, “What is robbing the cradle?”

Jean Currivan (L) and Her Husband, Alex Trebek.

[ * You’ll pardon the pun.]

Customer Service

When I worked as a bartender for Club Lago, a delightful Italian family restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, one of the owners, Guido Nardini, said to me one night, “There’s a reward beyond money in serving people.”

Now, a cynic might respond that’s a boss’s way of saying “You should learn to be happy with the peanuts I’m paying you,” but, no, I earned a nice chunk of change pouring drinks at Lago. No complaints there; from the sheer volume of customers to the fact that a lot of people used to love to throw c-notes around as tips, I was able to stash big piles o’cash in my home safe.

Guido meant what he said because he and his co-owner bro., Giancarlo, loved to serve customers well. And, yes, it did please me to please my customers. I treated everybody with great respect and care regardless of what I thought their largesse capacities were.

At the Book Corner ( ✯ more on that later) I continue to take great pride in going out of my way to satisfy customers and nobody (except for one guy — I’m looking at you, J.D.) tips me. I like to call myself “the book detective,” often standing on my head to find something rare or out of print or unheard of for customers. When they tell me they appreciate my efforts and I see the looks on their faces, that’s a reward in and of itself.

So, I’m particularly attuned to people’s customer service skills. The following are some encounters I’ve had recently. I’m not complaining or indicting, simply observing.

“COME HERE OFTEN?”

I saw my oncologist last week. As an aside, I’m right at the time when I should be declared cancer-free. It’s been five years since my bout with squamous cell cancer leading to malignant lymph nodes. You may recall my long series herein called My Olive Pits™. For five years I’ve existed in a limbo the docs call remission. Once my latest PET scan results are in, it is to be dearly hoped, I’ll get my parole. Anyway, there’s an impromptu check-in desk positioned down the hall from the oncologist’s lair where a masked receptionist takes patients’ temperatures and grills them about possible COVID symptoms. I wheeled up (Aside #2: Yes, I use one of these⬇︎ now because my hip arthritis has reached crippling dimensions)…

…and presented myself to the woman at the desk. The first thing she said was, “Do you come here often?”

Well, jeez, that’s a straight line if I’ve ever heard one. Besides, I’m always nervous as hell when I visit either my oncologist or my ENT doctor so I look for any excuse to lighten the mood. I responded, “Ha! Is that a pickup line?”

The woman stared at me.

Being met with a stony face is the ultimate negative feedback when delivering a joke. And, sure, the joke was lame and predictable. I wasn’t looking for reassurance that I’m the liveliest wit in South Central Indiana, just an acknowledgement, a sign of bonhomie, I guess. So I doubled down.

“That was a joke,” I said.

The woman continued to stare at me.

Rather than retreat then and there, I pushed further into the realm of red-faced-ness.

“Which you didn’t get,” I said, nearly sotto voce but not quite.

Her stared bored a hole through me.

Somehow we got on to the business at hand. My temperature was normal and I swore I had no coronavirus symptoms, so she passed me through.

In her defense, I’ll admit it’s a little more difficult these days to tell if a person is smiling or grimacing under the mask. But a smile is as readable in the eyes as it is by bared teeth. The woman’s eyes were not smiling.

Someone might say, “Well, maybe she thought it inappropriate that you were coming on to her.” Which is utter nonsense. I’m a crippled old goat with hernias galore, a bald head, barnacles on my scalp, and an implanted defibrillator in my chest. Only the most neurotically sensitive 20-something could interpret the joke as a come-on from the likes of me. Here’s a bit from Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Larry tells an attractive receptionist he’s talking to her because human-to-human contact is the goal, not because he’s hitting on her. (Go to the 1:30 mark of the clip for the exchange.)

Have I ever mentioned I believe Larry David is a dybbuk that resides in me and that my growth as a human depends on expelling said dybbuk?

On to the next encounter.

GO WHEREVER YOU WANT

Last week was an orgy of doctors for me. I’ve finally been okayed to go into surgery for my right hip total replacement. I’d originally been scheduled for surgery on June 8th, only a cancer-related CT scan the week before revealed I was suffering from pulmonary emboli. These obstructions in lung arteries usually are caused by clot particles that travel up from the legs. They are life threatening and usually cause breathing distress and syncope. Sometimes the first symptom is the sufferer simply drops dead. Serious stuff. Mine apparently were caused by my inability to walk much anymore so clots formed in my legs. That’s all cleared up now, thanks to a daily regimen of an anticoagulant that has turned my blood into something more akin to a fine mist. At this point I begin to bleed simply by thinking about blowing my nose.

So, I visited my orthopedic surgeon last week to get the ball rolling again. He turned me into a pretzel to see where things hurt the most (answer: everywhere) and then brought out a model of the hip joint as well as the prosthetic ball and socket joint he’d be hammering into me. His nurse then came in and gave me a new date for surgery (December 21st) and told me about all the things I’d have to do before and after. Included is a month or two of intensive physical therapy with my new hip in place.

“You can do your physical therapy here,” she said. The IU Health Orthopedics and Sports Medicine complex just off Sare Rd. on the south side has a big gym/PT center. The she added that if this particularly facility was too far away from my home I could do my PT elsewhere.

“Well,” I asked, “what are my alternatives.”

“You can go anywhere,” she said.

I resisted the urge to quip, “So, can I do it at the library?” I’d already struck out once with mild humor in a medical setting. Still, I pressed on.

“Where are other facilities?”

“They’re everywhere.”

“Okay, I live off SR 446. Which one would be closest to that?”

“Oh, they’re all around. Go wherever you want”

We were getting no place fast. “Fine, I’ll do it here,” I said, and she duly marked that down in her notes.

All the way home, I fixated on the exchange. Why wouldn’t she tell me where another gym/PT center was?

I chewed over this for a few days until it occurred to me that all these different IU Health facilities are run as discreet little revenue centers. Individual doctors, or groups of them, have ownership stakes in their facilities. In the interest of fairness and convenience for the patient, the nurse felt compelled to tell me I could get my physical therapy anywhere but she really, really, really wanted me to do it at her place because that’s where the insurance payments would be sent.

Okay, fair enough. But it wouldn’t have hurt for her to say, “Y’know, we like to keep everything in-house. It’s easier for insurance and for record-keeping.” She might even have admitted her facility had an interest in getting the insurance payments. I’m an adult; I know how business works, even if that business calls itself nonprofit.

Instead, I was left wondering why she couldn’t tell me where other gym/PT centers are. Like Larry David, I obsessed over that question for far too long. I told you he’s a dybbuk inside me.

✯ Farewell, Book Corner–For Now

I’m taking a leave of absence from the Book Corner because 1) the pain in my hip has become unbearable and 2) I don’t want to catch COVID and have to reschedule surgery again — or die.

Both The Loved One  and Patty, the manager, have told me time and again I’m deranged for going in to work three times a week with this hip. TLO has shared horror stories about people suffering from the coronavirus with me in an effort to scare me off going in. At last I’m listening to them.

You won’t see me at the store until February at the earliest. I’ll miss the hell out of the books and the people. I’ll also miss the rush and madness of Christmas there. A big family comes in every Christmas Eve. Each member, from grandma and grandpa to the littlest arrival, gets to pick out a number of books as their Christmas present for the year. It’s become a tradition. And grandma always brings in a huge stash of holiday sweets and treats that I do my best to take an unfair share of home with me. I’ll miss the hell out of them, too.

But, truth is, I won’t cry too many tears over it all because by the 24th, I’ll be sitting on a brand new hip and I won’t be a crippled old goat anymore.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” — Carl Sagan

THE INAUGURAL ELECTRON COOL TEST

Brainstorm, babies!

Welcome to the first ever Electron Pencil online blog game show puzzle contest…, thing. I haven’t even come up with a name for it yet.

Hmm, how about the Big Brain Stakes?

Meh.

Or Pencil Jeopardy?

Nah, that won’t do. What if this blogsite becomes the biggest thing on the interwebs and then the late Merv Griffin’s legal goons come after me with subpoenas and cease-and-desists for stealing their game show name?

I’ve got it — The Electron Cool Test! (h/t to Tom Wolfe).

Perfect!

The Electron Cool Test will become a regular feature of this column. Its rules, prizes, eligibility, and honesty will be whatever I want them to be on the particular day that I run it. Today, for instance, we at the Electron Pencil are calling for all Pencillistas to guess what outrageousness the Republican Party will be capable of in the year 2016.

Who knows? If this thing takes off, I might even devise a neat high-tech way for you all to participate. As it stands right now, we’ll go with the old reliable Comments section.

Read on for today’s First Ever Super-Supercilious, Bombastic, No Trans-fat, Electron Cool Test!

IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD PARTY

So, here’s the background for our first Electron Cool Test.

Who among the great mass of broad-minded, attractive, and intelligent readers of The Electron Pencil could ever have foreseen what the Republican Party has become in this year of our lord, 2012?

Honestly, the POG is warning the trusting ovines of this holy land that a second term for President Obama will enable him and his blackshirts to seize all our guns, hand the US Capitol over to radical imams, stifle the voices of the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, and redistribute all our hard earned money to black men, slutty women, and homosexual abortionists.

“Huh? What? Homosexual Abortionists? Save Us, Party Of God!”

Much of this nightmare was brilliantly recapped by Jon Stewart Wednesday night.

Stewart, of course, was making jokes. Haha. The really funny thing is, the candidates for the presidential nomination of The Party Blessed By The Creator Of The Universe are actually saying these things.

Well, three of the four of them. Ron Paul, bless his weird heart, isn’t engaging in such verbal hijinks — but, then again, he’s not really a Republican. No, Paul is a Libertarian, which frightens even Republicans, believe it or not. That’s like Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodin shuddering in their Manolo Blahniks at the site of some bizarre new beast from the planet Zpltfik.

Godzilla: “Didja See That!?”

Rodan: “Oh, My Heavens!”

Mothra: “BZZZZZT!”

Anyway, the three real Republicans scream about the monster black man under the bed until their voices are raw, then other, minor POG-ers take over, as Stewart so capably points out.

The Republicans at this point in time are certifiably insane.

And, honestly, when Rep. Bob Morris (R-Indiana) started calling the goddamned Girl Scouts a “radicalized” organization, did you need any more evidence that the party of Lincoln and Taft had now become the cast from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”?

Rick Santorum’s Cabinet

Okay, now that we’ve got that settled, let’s have a little fun with it. Let’s try to imagine what Republicans will be saying in 2016 when they are choosing their standard bearer to battle Chelsea Clinton for the presidency.

Hail To The Chief

First off, who will the rising young Republican be? Marco Rubio? Todd Young? Ivanka Trump?

And who will be the wily old veterans still hoping the claw their way into the White House? Definitely Newt Gingrich. And Mitt Romney. And, hell, Rick Santorum as well. Come on, it’s a lock all three will still want to win the big one.

Oh, and Chuck Norris. Can’t forget him.

Early Frontrunners: Chuck, Marco & Ivanka

Now, the secret to playing this first Electron Cool Test is to let your imagination run wild. If I were to suggest to you four years ago that a major party candidate for president would accuse the incumbent of plotting to wage war on the Catholic Church, you’d have said, Aw, you’re delirious.

See? Let yourself be delirious. How can you go wrong?

I’ll start. Um, uh, let’s see…, oh! I’ve got it! Back in high school, Chelsea appeared in a production of “The Nutcracker.”

That’s it! Chuck Norris will say that proves she was sympathetic to the Russian commies from her earliest days. “If this country elects Chelsea Clinton president in November,” he’ll warn, “the next day, a new, resurrected Soviet Union will rise in Washington!”

Later, he’ll call for the banning of all Christmastime productions of “The Nutcracker” because, after all, it was written by that stinkin’ red, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

“The Nutcracker” — Subversive

Norris will mispronounce all three names, endearing him to millions of voters.

Wait, wait, here’s another.

Marco Rubio will react to news that researchers have developed a new, super-strong anti-viral drug that virtually cures genital herpes. Rubio will call for the drug to be outlawed saying, “Anyone who has genital herpes obviously has engaged in sex at some time in their lives. They should be made to suffer for it. It is clear that these drug researchers are dangerous radicals.”

Do you get the game now? It’s easy!

The Scarlet Canker

One more. The New York Times will unearth the news that Ivanka Trump keeps a stable of young children on a remote work farm in South Central New Jersey. Other media outlets will report that she harvests the tykes’ hormones and has it injected into her in an effort to maintain her youthful looks.

The revelations will cause an uproar among Democrats and those few Republicans who retain vestigial traces of human emotion. They call for her to withdraw from the race. She refuses.

“I am a job-creator,” Ivanka protests. “This is trickle-down economics at its finest. If it weren’t for my special farm for these precious children, they’d be homeless. They might even starve. My opponents would like them to receive welfare, which would be the real tragedy.”

Ivanka will go on to market the childrens’ hormones. By the time of the Republican National Convention in August, women across the country will be purchasing Trump’s Essence of Tot at $24.99 for six milliliters, available at all CVS and Rite-Aid stores.

“Hooray For Our Owner, Dear Ivanka!”

The eventual Republican candidate, Chuck Norris, will pledge to name Ivanka his Secretary of Commerce and Child Labor.

Okay? Now it’s your turn.

HOW TO PLAY

Let yourself go, players. Submit your ideas about what the Republicans will be saying in four years.

The winning entry will be selected by me as soon as I get around to it. I’ll treat the winner to a specialty drink at Soma Coffee on a Saturday morning of my choosing.

Simply go up to the top left hand corner of this page, click the Leave a Comment link…

… and then type in your entry. It can be a simple slogan, a paranoid accusation, or a drawn-out dystopian scenario. In any case, don’t let logic, reason, or restraint hamper you — after all, the Republicans never do!

Play.

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