Friday, October 15, 2010

Truth or Consequences

Most people under 40 years old do not remember the game show Truth or Consequences.  The show made it hard to know what was true, and the fact that you didn't know earned you consequences, which were funny pranks played on the contestants.

In today's world, truth is about as far away from us as the planet Pluto, if you still believe that its a planet.  My grandmother Mary Ponzurick used to say that certain people "talk out of both sides of their mouth".  She was referring to those who stretched the truth.  Grandma, I call those people liars.

Oh, we all do it.  Sometimes to stay out of trouble and sometimes to make ourselves look good.  But we do.  "I'll get back to you" is one of the biggest lies told in our society today.  And it's also a test.  If the person calls back, they're pretty trustworthy.  But don't hold your breath.  And then there's the really huge lies like when we answer the question "Honey, does this make my back side look big?"  And that's usually a double lie because the one asking usually has a rear end so big that you can rent advertising space on it and is lying to both the petitioner and the respondent.  (Lawyer talk.)

What do you do when you say "I'll get back to you?"  Regardless of what you do, most of the people that you say this to don't care.  Unless you're "old school" and then you bust your tail to insure that you get back to that person.  Most everyone that works in an office has that Microsoft Outlook thing that will remind you of an obligation before you do it and even when you forgot.  But do we care or do we hit the "dismiss" button?

If cable networks and banks weren't reliable, then all of that planning to watch a certain program at a certain time would be for naught.  Or your paycheck wouldn't show up on time.  Now do you care?  We surely want others to tell the truth, don't we?

Bottom line is that if we held ourselves as accountable as we do our employers, banks and our expensive cable networks, I think the world would be a more honest place.

And one of the first problems we'd encounter is to have to elect about a hundred new senators in Washington.

Yes, the truth may very well set you free, but a lie will sometimes save you from being clobbered by your significant other.  You decide.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Forgotten

I'm sick today.  I have the mother of all colds.  My head feels like it's going to explode and I can't breathe through my upper airway.  Send me something.  Money would be nice.  I'll feel better fast.

It seems like many of my friends are much older than I.  Much older means at least 20 years or more.  Not to say that I don't have younger friends.  I have friends that are young enough to be my kids.  But it's the more senior people that I wish to focus on here.

When I go to my old home town of Smock, PA, I always stop at the cemetery and look for fresh dirt.  And every now and again, I find places where grass hasn't grown yet and find out who's "hit the general cancel" in organist parlance.  But never do I find anyone else there that's alive.  So, it's very peaceful.  I remember taking my friend Brian there one time and saying "Listen, do you hear that?"  He said "Hear what?"  And I said "Precisely.  Nothing."  If you don't think that's special, stop what you're doing right this second.  What do you hear?  You'll hear the computer cooling fan.  Maybe the fridge or dishwasher.  Maybe traffic outside.  But it is absolutely rare to hear nothing.

That's what our older friends and relatives hear a lot.  Nothing.  No phone calls, no doorbells.  Just the droning of a few electric appliances or the television, which I find is useful for background noise.  And we wonder why old Uncle Henry or Aunt Mary are so grumpy all of the time.  It's not hemorrhoids.  Well, maybe not.  It's because they allowed one of the terrors of getting old establish living quarters in their homes.  It's loneliness.  We sing about it in songs and write about it in books.  Lonely Street.  I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry.  Lonely Teardrops.  Only the Lonely.  Oh Lonesome Me.  (I could go on...)

And when you go and visit those people, do not under any circumstances, give them an I-Pod or computer or television set or radio.  These are things that are meant to shut everyone out.  And don't go telling me about social networking and that other crap.  There are nice people on facebook, but I have to endure the jerky ones too, which are YOUR friends.  And it may quickly cause suicidal ideations in these people because NOTHING says DROP DEAD or LEAVE ME ALONE like an I-Pod.  Take them out to dinner.  Or a movie.  Or just for a ride.  Do you remember just going for a ride?

But even if you just stop by to visit and then endure 45 minutes of complaining about how things were so much better when I was younger, just grin and bear it.  After all, they did it for you when you were a messy, sticky kid and whined about not getting the right toy or why nobody wants to play with you.  Other shoe, other foot.

As for me, I like being alone.  But that doesn't mean you shouldn't stop by and take me somewhere.  Or buy me a motorcycle or a new Corvette or a Cessna 182 Turbo.

Then I'll be the one taking YOU for the ride.  The ride of your life.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Please, Thank You & The Master Card Smile

I'm going to tell you about a Pittsburgh gem today.  IF you are old enough, you may remember lunch counters or fountains in drug stores.  In fact, Coca Cola owes its very being to a soda fountain in a drug store.  In the days of alcohol rich cold remedies (oh, Vicks Nyquil is 40 proof!!!). people would swig on these elixirs to control their coughs ("due to colds"...remember?).  Anyway, they'd get hangovers.  An enterprising pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia came up with a compound containing real cocaine to help with the headaches caused by these cough syrups.  It was called Mr. Pemberton's Pick-Me-Up and later changed to Dr. Pemberton's Pick-Me-Up because it sounded more credible.  The soda fountain kid (often known as a "soda jerk") would give customers a tablespoon for whatever ailed them.  Water was used as a chaser.  Then, they started mixing the syrup IN the water.  The soda jerk one day accidentally mixed the syrup with soda water and....VOILA.  This is true.  Just ask Paul Harvey.

Enter Adzema's Pharmacy at 8105 Perry Highway, just outside of the Perrysville section of Pittsburgh.  As you go inside, you'll swear someone put you into a "Wayback Machine".  There is the serpentine breakfast/lunch counter dotted with bar stools just as in the picture above.  And try to have breakfast there for more than 6 bucks.  I dare you.

The people there practice the long forgotten art of conversation.  And most of the men remove their hats before sitting down.  And some of the "career" waitresses have been working there since Eisenhower was president.  No kidding.

What I wanted to point out is the amount of "pleases" and "thank you's" I hear when I go there.  It's an inordinate amount.  People actually being polite.  But it's no surprise for this collection of dinosaurs that eat there.  We simply have forgotten how to be nice.  I remember the Addam's Family movie when Wednesday says "Pass the salt" and Morticia asks "What do you say?"  Wednesday replies, "NOW".  Ya see what I mean?

You know the group of people that are really polite?  The very rich.  Yet, they are the ones who we expect to be ill mannered.  But most of them remember when they had little or even nothing, unless your name was Frick or Carnegie or Heinz.  But they were taught to appreciate what they had and what people did for them.  And in that regard, they are no different than us.

One of the neurosurgeons I used to assist in the operating room was Pierre L. LeRoy, M.D.  He was tall, ruggedly handsome, and had blue eyes that could convince you that the moon WAS made of green cheese.  He would take me aside like an adopted father would do for his son, and impart words of wisdom.  And one of his famous quotes was "Remember when dealing with the public Bob, it's please, thank you and the Master Card smile.  I learned much about that as I "grew up" out there at the Wilmington Medical Center.  And Pierre is still around, imparting wisdom and his "PLLisims".

Like me, Pierre has had his detractors and adversities, but know this;  I'm still "paddling that canoe" like he used to advise.

It takes no real effort to be kind unless the other person is unlovable, but even then, if we call ourselves Christians or even kind folk, what do we have to lose?

I love you, PLL.  We stand on the shoulders of giants.