I have to begin by confessing: I kind of like Andy Rooney. I know a little about his long and sometimes distinguished history as a journalist (going back to his reportage for the “Stars and Stripes” during WWII), author (I have read and reviewed several of his books) and, currently best known for his brief – sometimes witty, sometimes profound, and indeed sometimes trite commentaries in the final moments of CBS’s phenomenally successful and long-lived TV news magazine, “60 Minutes.” His senior statesman face and history, punctuated with his over-the-eyes brows and somehow well-dressed yet still obviously (and, I expect, deliberately cultivated) rumpled overall appearance, come together with the evident joy he experiences in getting our attention while he talks about whatever is on his mind for a few minutes each week. It is for this last point, his ability to earn a living – a VERY GOOD living – talking about everything and anything he wants to that has earned him my nomination in this important category of awards and acknowledgments. I suppose it could be argued that I have the same ‘freedom’ here – but I don’t and can’t make a living at it! Andy, clearly, has the easiest job in the world.
I must also admit that my nomination is motivated, in part, by my incredible envy of his situation. If I could have put the preceding sentence in green, I certainly would have done so.
Anything. Anything at all. If I were Andy and had a little tad of indigestion before the taping of my weekly piece, it might come out something like this:
“I’ve got a tad of indigestion today. I know I am not alone. Everyone has had it one time or another. In fact, there is an entire industry of both over-the-counter and prescription chemical formulations to help us deal with it when it happens. (I gesture to my desk which is covered with hundreds of products from drugstore shelves and a bunch of obvious prescription bottles.) The folks who make and want us to buy all of these things (I pick up and name a few of them as examples) actually WANT our stomachs to get upset from time to time. They don’t really wish us seriously ill – that might require hospitalization or surgery and you can’t buy either of those off the shelf at your local Rite-Aide or Long’s drug store. They want us to suffer with indigestion only to a degree that their preparation will successfully resolve. For indigestion a bit more serious than that, they market these (I pick up and show one of the prescription bottles and perhaps name one or two – by generic name of course – of one or two of the more commonly prescribed drugs that are said to help with stomach discomfort.) both to our doctors and to us so that we will ask our doctor to prescribe them when none of the over-the-counter products do the job for us. In many instances, the same companies manufacture both varieties of medicines. This is America and I love my country. But, as is the case with most other things in this life, business is business.”
Or, if I were in Andy’s position and had a momentary flashback about my experiences in Europe over the years, I might have my desk dressed/prepped with two table settings. One set up in the American style, and the other in the European fashion – fork on the right hand side.
(I begin by picking up the fork with my left hand from the American setting.)
“Have you ever been to Europe? I have. I’ve been there a lot of times and to a lot of different countries. I have heard some people say that Europe is becoming more and more like us – more and more “Americanized.” In some ways, I suppose that is true, but in others – Europe will always maintain it’s own way of doing things – even if they persist in being different than we are. Their cars will always be smaller – they are just smarter and more practical about transportation than we Americans are. They also set their tables differently, and I can’t help but wonder if that means something important that we ought to be thinking about.
(I hold up the fork, still in my left hand.)
Here in America, when we set the table, we place our fork – the primary tool for most people used to pick food up from our plates and transport it to our moths – on the left hand side. We do this despite the facts that most of us a right handed and will wind up transferring the fork into our right hand (I demonstrate by placing it into my right hand) before we use it. Sometimes, if what we are eating requires cutting (pick up the knife), we keep the fork in our left hand, cut with our right, put the knife down, then transfer the fork with the morsel on it to our other hand, then eat it. (Demonstrate each phase of this transaction as I speak.)
Now you may or may not know that in Europe (I put the fork and knife down and shift my attention to the other setting, picking up the fork from the right hand side where it has been placed in the European tradition) the fork is placed on the right side of the place setting. So, unless the knife is needed, no transfer is needed. The fork can be picked up and immediately used to spear, shovel, transport or manipulate what ever is on your plate. Look at all the energy that saves. And if, like many of us, you use a fork several times a day – 21 times a week – 1,092 times a year – 10,920 times every ten years of your life: Well, all that energy starts to add up. Its energy we might have had available to do something else. But, we’re Americans and proud of it. We do things OUR way, whether they make the most sense or not. Thanks for listening. See ya’ next week.”
Free associations for a fee.
The voting for this nomination will remain open unless and until Andy chooses to ask that the nomination be withdrawn.