Play Piped-In Ball!

I don’t know about you but I’m excited Major League Baseball is cranking up and it’s not only because of my love for the game. What’s got my juices flowing (and at my age they’re barely moving) is the artificial crowd noise they’re going to pipe into the stadiums since there won’t be any fans. 

The Dodgers went one better in a pre-season game with the Arizona Diamondbacks, putting up cardboard cutouts of fans to go with the piped-in din.

I got a taste of it during the telecast of a Detroit Tigers intrasquad game last week and I have to say, that as spooky as it was to see 40,000 empty seats but hear 40,000 disembodied voices sparked all sorts of inane thoughts. Those thoughts included suggesting to Stephen King he write a book called “The Stands” and registering for ventriloquism school to see if they could teach me to throw my voice…from third to first. 

But why stop at a simple din and occasional cheers? Why not create audio drop-ins that would include a cadre of unseen bots booing the crap out of an overpaid player who under-achieves or an ump who keeps missing calls? I’m sure the person running the audio could have at his or her disposal a number of disembodied bon mots that could include the traditional “you suck!” to the observant “balk!” to the erudite “you threw a fastball in a hitter’s count? Moron!”  It might be slightly hysterical, if not ridiculous to see the targeted player flip the bird in the direction of his ersatz harasser. Then get tossed. 

The Houston Astros are giving it a try through the use of a smartphone app that fans can access to express their sentiments. The info is monitored by the staff at the stadium who can them match the crowd noise to the percentage of fans rooting for each team.

Why stop with faux spectators? Every couple of minutes during an inevitable lull toss in the comforting sounds of a vendor hawking hot dogs, beer or an overpriced pennant, then quickly follow that with the sound of a fan hollering, “Hey! Two dogs, two beers!” To add a bit of texture, wait a few beats and toss in “where’s my effin’ change?” 

I see a situation late in the game when the tension building all night explodes into an unseen spat between “fans” on opposite sides. Bring in the sound of fists hitting flesh, then add “Pow!” graphics to the screen. Now you’ve got a multimedia experience! 

I know all this would really add authenticity to an otherwise inauthentic proposition and the players say they really feed off crowd noise so why not include as many elements as possible to make it seem as real as possible. 

Besides, if it works out, maybe they’ll start projecting images of imaginary fans doing the  Wave or even “catching” a foul ball or homer. I bet they can create holograms of fat guys with no shirt making their man boobs bounce in time with the music when they’re sure the camera is on them. 

It’s all gonna work out! I can’t wait to sing “Fake Me Out to the Ballgame!” 

Parsing the Avoidable Controversy Sung in the Key of Lady A

I’ll cut to the chase. The battle over the rights to use the name Lady A can be settled in one second. How? By the mega-selling country group admitting their original name was already stupid and hiding behind shortening one word to a single letter is even dumber.

By now you must know the players. The popular country trio that, until recently, went by the name Lady Antebellum, decided to officially shorten their name to Lady A, since the word “antebellum” harks back to the pre-Civil War days of slavery.

Contestant number two is a Seattle-based blues singer named Anita White who is royally pissed since she’s used Lady A professionally for more than 20 years—even before the country band existed.

She wants Lady A, the band, to change its name again since it’s pretty damned confusing to have two Lady A’s on Spotify. You see, the lady, Lady A, says her stuff can’t be found on streaming services like Spotify anymore because when you search for Lady A, the gazillion-selling group with two guys and a lady comes up, basically, as she puts it “erasing” her.

It’s not enough that the band, Lady A is rich and famous, they’re now suing the lady Lady A for the right to use the moniker after conversations between the parties failed to solve the issue. In the suit, the group insists they’ve been using the name as an alternative for years, but not as many as Anita White. They also complain she tried to get them to cough up $10 million to give up the name—money White, told Rolling Stone,would have been split between herself and donations to Black Lives Matter, a charity for seniors and youth in Seattle, and musicians in need of legal counsel.”
Indeed, the band wants to share the name with the singer. How silly is that? It’s like two companies that make Corn Flakes each calling themselves Kellogg.

The bottom line is “Lady Antebellum” was always a curious name for a group with members named Charles, Hilary and Dave. Now…if Hilary—the lady—was the main lead singer, I could almost see it. But Charles sings lead in almost, maybe more, of their songs. Dave mostly plays guitar and kinda sings a bit of harmony. Were they imagining that two men and a woman together create one “lady?” Think of it as a recipe. Add two parts guy, one part girl and voila! You get a lady? Mon dieu!

Had they given this some real thought the whole situation could have been avoided long ago if they had just chosen a name that makes sense, like, I dunno, “Mixed Gender Antebellum,” or, if they just HAD to have “Lady” in the name, “Lady Reconstruction,” thereby avoiding the inappropriate reference to a period before slavery was abolished. Then they could have shortened it to MGA or Lady R. Not bad, huh? Yeah..bad. The A still stands for antebellum which is the objectionable word in the first one so why try to hide it behind an initial, and the second one is just awful.

In the case of Anita White, the use of the letter A makes perfect sense since it represents her first name, which is not objectionable to anyone.

So former Lady Antebellum, drop it. Here’re your chance to correct your first mistake and find a name that’s more appropriate. Let the artist who had it first keep it, because PR-wise, you get an F, and this whole thing is making you look like group of Lady A-holes.

A Long Ago Tale of Fireworks Revenge

As I lay in bed last night attempting slumber, the sound of incendiary sorties shook my walls and led me to take cover as I imagined an errant rocket fired from a moron neighbor’s yard would soon crash through my window. Ah…tradition! Celebrating our nation’s day of independence by igniting expensive explosives made by Chinese children. Let freedom boom! 

Organized fireworks display? Love ‘em. Drunk neighbors challenging my otherwise long fuse? Not so much. It all reminds me of sweet revenge on just such a jerk I encountered as a kid back in Queens, New York.

We lived in a huge garden apartment complex called Glen Oaks Village. It still exists, although it converted to condos many years ago. One of the distinctive features of Glen Oaks Village is the number what they call “courts,” where a grouping of apartments surround an open space. Some are small, but the one next to our apartment, just outside a court, was huge–the largest in the massive complex. Running along the rear of the court was a line of apartments in a long row. 

On that particular July 4 in 1966 or 67, a guy named Spencer, who lived in of one of those apartments decided he was going to blow up stuff all night, much to the annoyance of every other neighbor. We had a history with Spencer. He was a 30-ish guy who prematurely lost his hair and, apparently, his mind, as he would chase us with his car when we attempted to play football on the court’s wide lawn. We didn’t like him. It’s not good for a guy if teenager don’t like you. 

Our little gang of pimply 15-year olds marched up to Spencer as he was about to light another fuse and told him he was an asshole and was annoying everyone. He laughed and challenged us to call the cops. OK. So we left, didn’t do anything, but came back a few minutes later and told him we did call the friendly NYPD and they’d be along shortly.

Spencer wasn’t a bright man and bought our ruse. He quickly stashed what was left of his cache of fireworks under the shrubs in front of his door and ran inside his house, but not before shouting at us, “they’ll never find anything! You kids are gonna get in trouble for filing a false report!” 

Once we determined Spencer was holed up for the night, we snuck up and stole his stuff from under the shrubs and hid it. The next morning, when Spencer thought the coast was clear, he planned to reclaim his stash from the bushes but, whoa! It was gone! Damn cops must have found, and confiscated it. Spencer was sad. Since, as I mentioned, he was an idiot, he never suspected us. But we weren’t done with Spencer since we had a more demonstrative revenge in mind.

Late that night, we returned with all his fireworks and waited until we were sure Spencer had turned in. We lit ‘em all up, took off like the bandits we were and got about 50 yards when the whole damn motherlode blew up right in front of Spencer’s door. We laughed our asses off when he ran out in his little PJ’s looking very distraught and confused. While laughing our mischievous asses off we yelled from our hiding spot, “guess you found them, asshole!” 

Spencer never bothered us again, and in fact, it wasn’t long before he moved..and sadly, left us no forwarding address. We were looking forward to Halloween. 

Lost in the Amazon

There’s trouble in Amazon-land and it’s not only holding my stuff hostage, but promising delivery of an item that’s already been delivered. Indeed, I know someone who works for the online sales behemoth and he confirms, “it sucks.” 

Now I’m quite aware all home delivery services are overworked thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic that’s kept so many people at home, for fear of encountering selfish and foolish cretins who refuse to wear a mask for fear of being identified as smart, considerate or a Democrat. 

Today’s Detroit Free Press, as well as a number of other news outlets, tells the story of an Amazon driver who was fed up with the workload and abandoned his delivery van full of packages.  The guy announced his, um, resignation on Twitter. He didn’t use nice language. 

Since I’m a semi-retired journalist, I won’t use that kind of language, but you can infer similar words when I relate my latest trip down the Amazon hellhole.

First, I order a CD. Go ahead, get it out your system, “Hello Boomer!” OK..don’t infer, accept my good natured, “fuck off.” Anyway, I keep getting notifications that it will arrive some time in July. That’s awesome. I actually received it two weeks ago. I wonder if I’ll receiver another one…just to share with another Boomer who may also still have an impressive collection of 8-tracks. 

OK..that one isn’t so bad. The one that’s hacking me off is my order for a new controller for my lawn sprinkler system. Yeah, yeah. First World problem. I ordered it on June 19th. Normally, even with Amazon’s slowest delivery option…aka “free” it doesn’t take more than a week. First I received an apologetic notice that it was “running late” and I could expect it this week…July 1. Then yesterday I receive another email giving me the bad news that “there is a delay in shipping some items from your order. We apologize for the inconvenience.” Aw…that’s sweet. The drone who wrote that must have been brought up with good manners. The bottom line, the “delay” amounts to basically an expected delivery a month from when I first ordered the thing. I’m glad I wasn’t ordering something more important…like a respirator…or Larry David edition of Mr. Potato Head. Maybe it’s on that guy’s abandoned deliver truck.

I know I’m not nearly alone in whining about my Amazonian experience. I know the U.S. Postal Service is under water as well and shipments are delayed due to huge volumes and understaffing. Honestly, a sprinkler system controller is not my idea of Chanukah in July, but you now how it is. Once you order something, you get anxious to receive whatever it is you wanted, even if it’s replacement vacuum cleaner bags. Hmmm…I need to order those too. Crap. …and those wet things you attach to a Swiffer…and a needle for my record player. No rush. 

A 40th CNN Reunion…in Boxes

I spent last night in a little box. I was in one of a thousand little boxes filled with faces of people with whom I once worked or who had worked in the same place as me at some point. It was billed as the CNN 40th Anniversary Virtual Reunion. Five years ago for the network’s 35th, we gathered in person and snacked on premium hors d’oeuvres in an Atlanta hotel ballroom while getting an up close look at how everyone’s aged, been preserved, thickened, thinned, dyed, dried, shrunk, grew, lost a step or lost their hair. 

On this night, through the miracle of Zoom and a Herculean effort by selfless CNN alumni who wouldn’t let a silly little pandemic spoil the party, we celebrated the network’s fourth decade.  

In the “gallery view” on Zoom it appeared as if this was the Brady Bunch open gone mad. I swiped through pages and pages of these little boxes trying to pick out familiar names with faces, in some cases, no longer familiar looking, but I was relieved to see my fellow relics still alive. 

I honestly don’t have much of a taste for reunions. I’ve never attended any for my high school or colleges, but I make an exception for CNN. You can say what you want about the network’s current programming, but as our former CNN president Tom Johnson implored us in one of the breakout chat room last night, “don’t bash the network in public.” But why would I? My 20 years there made everything possible after my employ there ended in 2001. The standards we held concerning accuracy, ethics, teamwork and unselfishness define who I am today. I’ve brought all those tenets to each of my subsequent jobs and to my life. 

We always say CNN is a family. Dysfunctional at times, chaotic at others, but always supportive, even after we’ve moved on. That’s because we know what we created. Before the media landscape changed with the advent of the internet, social media and the move by news networks to largely opinion and bullshit machines, we were all about telling stories…not just talking about them. I took great pride in my writing…still do. I wasn’t ever much of a TV personality and that was fine. But sending crews out to shoot, report and feed stories is expensive. Talking heads on a set to blab about stories is cheap and today cheap is good. The cost is the future of journalism–fairly and responsibly informing the public skillfully and effectively.

So it was fun to see old friends, even in little boxes, reminisce and trade some old war stories. For me, it wasn’t so much, though, to remember and embrace the “good old days,” but for us also trade the knowledge gained through our years at CNN and beyond, at some point you celebrate what we’ve accomplished together, knowing all that thinking outside the box brought us together inside them on this glorious night.

My Father’s Day Tribute to My Punning, Pranking Dad

My dad…Richard M. Garsten 1922-2007

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. This is my 36th year as a dad and the 13th year since I lost mine. Oh no, we’re not gonna get maudlin. We’re gonna have some fun, because that’s what my dad was. 

Actually, he was sort of sneaky fun. Generally quiet by nature and not nearly as outgoing as my mom who aspired to sing and act on Broadway, but gave it up to raise me and my brother. Some trade, huh? She would have had a shelf full of Tonys. 

No, my father was sneaky fun in a few ways. He was a chemical engineer by trade–not a profession generally associated with yukking it up. “Hey Al, hear the one about the constricted pipe nipple?” But he was a master punster who both loved to hear them and let one loose. Whether he was delivering or receiving, at the punchline, he’d grab his throat and make a choking sound. That was sometimes misunderstood by folks out of earshot and at least one time a concerned citizen ran over about to administer the Heimlich Maneuver on my dad thinking he’d swallowed an olive whole. Poor guy. Not only didn’t he save my dad’s life, he ruined his punchline. 

What was the pun? Oh, my father’s absolute favorite mocking of country music. The set up was, “Oh, I hate country music!” His victim would always ask, “how come?” The reply/punchline was always, “They have stupid titles like (and he’d sing it like Hank Williams) ‘He fell down the sewer and they called it sewer-cide.” Hand to the throat. Choking sound made. Victim suddenly remembers he’s late for root canal…and looking forward to it. 

One think my dad absolutely hated was cigars. Hated how they looked in a guy’s mouth and despise their smell. Back in the 60’s it was OK for folks to smoke in other people’s homes and we had an impressive ashtray collection to facilitate their early grave. Cigarettes? OK. Pipes? OK. Cigars? No OK. One night when the weekly poker game was at our house one of the players decided to fire up a stogie. My dad had laid down the ground rules many times, so he felt no need to repeat them. Instead, he simply whipped out a fat rubberband, made it tight around his fingers, and shot the cheroot right out of the guy’s mouth. The shocked guy knew he done wrong. All he could say was, “shit, I forgot the rule, but you could have just asked me to put it out.” Nope. My dad knew how to make a memorable moment…and his point, without uttering a word. 

Speaking of making his point wordlessly, that same guy who broke the no-cigar rule turned out, after awhile, to be quite the asshole and the guys wanted to kick him out of the game. They didn’t relish the confrontation so my father, ever the brilliant one, again came up with a way to send the message without getting into what would likely be an unpleasant verbal exchange. 

He shared his plan with the boys, whom he had arrive a little earlier than usual. When the jerk arrived at the usual time, he was greeted just outside the door to our apartment with 7 guys armed with seltzer bottles who drenched him in bubbly water. We never saw him again…and not a word was spoken. Told you. My dad was quiet.

I miss him every day and memorialize him by taking out my gee-tar and singing his “favorite” country song, afterwards reaching for my throat and making that choking sound. Oh, I’d never perform it in public. Would be professional sewer-cide. 

The Face Mask as Rebel Flag

It’s heartening to see display of the Confederate flag being given the improper burial it deserves along with other symbols of the former Confederate States of America—a group of states with people who believed in enslaving other human beings who were ripped from their native land, shipped across the ocean like cargo and put to work against their will. Just a simple exercise of “states rights.”

Yeah, yeah..I lived in Georgia for eight years. Attended the Stone Mountain laser show where disciples of Lee, Jackson (the Stonewall variety) and Davis yahoo in reverence to the men who led the CSA to utter defeat, but remain in high regard to many as symbols of southern culture. You can yank down monuments to these losers but you can’t really level Stone Mountain, which, by the way, is an excellent park.

In 1987 I covered for CNN a civil rights march in Cumming, Ga., about 30 miles north of Atlanta. On the day before the march I spent the day with Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels who came over from New York City to help, er, contain things because trouble was expected from a group of militant white racists. The Guardian Angels were not welcome by the local PO-lice and some obviously racist residents. When I asked Sliwa about that he said, “We were treated like hemorrhoids!” Such a charming New Yawk thing to say. (see video)

On the day of the march while waiting to do a live shot, I was also treated with the respect of a bulging butt growth as some fine gentleman wearing the Stars and Bars decided to welcome me to the proceedings by launching a soda bottle filled with sand directly at me. Now that’s a hearty Jaw-Jaw howdy! I narrowly avoided the projectile and those that followed. Then I had to shake my head. That’s one reason you idiots lost the war. Couldn’t hit a standing reporter from 30 feet.

Over the years, including this one, I’ve heard repeatedly that shhheeeeeeet…the Confederate Flay-ag represents Southern culture, and our rights as Amuricans. No it doesn’t. It represents bigotry, hatred and the losing side in a horrible war. By the way…that’s not Southern culture. I love Southern culture—the culture of courtesy, warmth and foods that’ll kill ya but are second to none in taste and satisfaction. When I was transferred up to Detroit in 1989, by my request—it was a promotion—I missed Atlanta and Georgia very much. Well, except for the 24/7 gridlock. But everything else. In fact, before the transfer, we were looking to move to a larger house as our family grew.

Still, there’s a stubbornness among those who cling to the Confederacy and that same mule-headedness has now manifested itself among those who refuse to wear a face mask. We’re not wearing them because someone is throwing a global masquerade party. We’re wearing them to keep ourselves and others from dying. Yet when you ask someone to put one on the reply is rarely, if ever, “oh, sorry. I forgot.” OR “Ooops..left it home. My mistake.” No. The retort is “It’s my right not to wear the damn thing…and it’s uncomfortable and hot.” OR “Mind your own effin’ business. It’s my decision.” What is wrong with you? Have not enough people become ill or died because of COVID-19? Got news for you.. only characters in Marvel comics have superpowers. But we all have the power to contain this viral bastard, saving ourselves and others.

Wearing a face mask isn’t foolproof, but it’s an honest effort to do the right thing—an easily accomplished act of decency and unselfishness.

Oh by the way…your “rights” don’t mean shit…if you’re dead. Just like the Confederacy… and just as useless.

The Face Mask as Rebel Flag

It’s heartening to see display of the Confederate flag being given the improper burial it deserves along with other symbols of the former Confederate States of America—a group of states with people who believed in enslaving other human beings who were ripped from their native land, shipped across the ocean like cargo and put to work against their will. Just a simple exercise of “states rights.”

Yeah, yeah..I lived in Georgia for eight years. Attended the Stone Mountain laser show where disciples of Lee, Jackson (the Stonewall variety) and Davis yahoo in reverence to the men who led the CSA to utter defeat, but remain in high regard to many as symbols of southern culture. You can yank down monuments to these losers but you can’t really level Stone Mountain, which, by the way, is an excellent park.

In 1987 I covered for CNN a civil rights march in Cumming, Ga., about 30 miles north of Atlanta. On the day before the march I spent the day with Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels who came over from New York City to help, er, contain things because trouble was expected from a group of militant white racists. The Guardian Angels were not welcome by the local PO-lice and some obviously racist residents. When I asked Sliwa about that he said, “We were treated like hemorrhoids!” Such a charming New Yawk thing to say. (see video)

On the day of the march while waiting to do a live shot, I was also treated with the respect of a bulging butt growth as some fine gentleman wearing the Stars and Bars decided to welcome me to the proceedings by launching a soda bottle filled with sand directly at me. Now that’s a hearty Jaw-Jaw howdy! I narrowly avoided the projectile and those that followed. Then I had to shake my head. That’s one reason you idiots lost the war. Couldn’t hit a standing reporter from 30 feet.

Over the years, including this one, I’ve heard repeatedly that shhheeeeeeet…the Confederate Flay-ag represents Southern culture, and our rights as Amuricans. No it doesn’t. It represents bigotry, hatred and the losing side in a horrible war. By the way…that’s not Southern culture. I love Southern culture—the culture of courtesy, warmth and foods that’ll kill ya but are second to none in taste and satisfaction. When I was transferred up to Detroit in 1989, by my request—it was a promotion—I missed Atlanta and Georgia very much. Well, except for the 24/7 gridlock. But everything else. In fact, before the transfer, we were looking to move to a larger house as our family grew.

Still, there’s a stubbornness among those who cling to the Confederacy and that same mule-headedness has now manifested itself among those who refuse to wear a face mask. We’re not wearing them because someone is throwing a global masquerade party. We’re wearing them to keep ourselves and others from dying. Yet when you ask someone to put one on the reply is rarely, if ever, “oh, sorry. I forgot.” OR “Ooops..left it home. My mistake.” No. The retort is “It’s my right not to wear the damn thing…and it’s uncomfortable and hot.” OR “Mind your own effin’ business. It’s my decision.” What is wrong with you? Have not enough people become ill or died because of COVID-19? Got news for you.. only characters in Marvel comics have superpowers. But we all have the power to contain this viral bastard, saving ourselves and others.

Wearing a face mask isn’t foolproof, but it’s an honest effort to do the right thing—an easily accomplished act of decency and unselfishness.

Oh by the way…your “rights” don’t mean shit…if you’re dead. Just like the Confederacy… and just as useless.

Haircuts Are Back-My Follicle Follies

You would have thought our governor announced free six-packs of Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale for all on Friday. I, personally, would have appreciated that very much, since I’m down to my last few and they’re going fast. 

No, the collective jubilation heard ‘round the Mitten was her declaration that we could all…after everything we’ve gone through over the past few months…after suffering through a terrible pandemic, mindless searches for toilet paper, avoiding human contact and appreciating the wonders of curbside pickup and Grubhub…..can finally get our hair cut! 

For the stylists, barbers and salon owners who have endured months of financial disaster, I’m thrilled. For those who have simply suffered blows to their vanity, get over it. It’s just hair. If someone only appreciated you, lusted after you, respected you only because you were stylishly coiffed, snip them out of your life! Give ‘em the brush off! I’d chase ‘em with a blow dryer and muss up their locks while shouting, “your hair sucks! We’re through!” 

Personally, I just don’t care. I own an impressive collection of ball caps that match the colors and styles of just about anything I choose to wear. Bad hair day? No problem. Pop on a top with the logo of my favorite team or car brand or place I’ve visited. I have an especially tacky one I acquired years ago while covering a story at the Ontario Tobacco Growers warehouse. It’s not only ugly, it offends anti-smoking types. I’m not a smoker, but I do like lighting up prissy puritans once in awhile. 

When I worked as a TV reporter I was forced to pay close attention to my hair. It wasn’t always bad. The TV station where I worked in Tucson, Arizona paid for our haircuts. They had a deal with a salon located in beautiful old house and my assigned stylist was gorgeous. It was a nice change from our previous salon run by a crazy woman who often ran out to her car in the middle of a styling, apparently to huff a white powder. She wielded her Conair blower like a Glock when she returned and when we informed the station we would no longer sit in her chair like sitting ducks they thankfully moved us to the much nicer place where none of the stylists potentially faced arrest. 

By the time I worked my way up to CNN, the network merely reimbursed us for our haircuts since the on-air folks were strewn around the world. At first I was lucky enough to find a young lady who was quite talented and that lasted for a year or two until she got married and quit. I looked around for someone new and was referred to a stylist who was quite experienced and received positive reviews. Things went well for a bit until she experienced “man problems.” For the entirety of my styling she’d go into a rage about men, her man, how men suck, how she’d like to kill all men. Given she was holding very sharp scissors and I happened to be a man I was not, in the least, relaxed. I finally just stopped using her and moved on. 

That was better until the new stylist said she only wanted to work one or two hours a week and none of those hours coincided with any of the hours I could come in. 

At that point I honestly didn’t care anymore. I visited my nearest Fantastic Sams. Didn’t care who I got. Waiting like everyone else. Got someone different almost every time. Got a fine haircut almost every time. No rage, no threats, no problem. Then the shop owner decided Fantastic Sams franchise fees or whatever were too expensive so she went out on her own. Best yet. Independent owner, talented stylists, 12 bucks plus tip for an excellent shearing. Sometimes they speak English, sometimes they don’t. Don’t care. They speak the common language of “follicle.” Been going there for a decade. I’ll be happy to return. 

But meanwhile, my hair has been silently growing, thankfully covering the thinning bald spot on the back of my head. I’ll miss my mop when it’s cut. I may even grow it back. I just hope the same stylists return to my favorite place. I have nightmares I’ll get in the chair and looming down over me with sharpened scissors hovering over my ears is the man hater raging about how I walked out on her all those years ago. Snip Snip. Oh shit. No tip. 

The Pandemic Ice Cream Index

maskedconesHas it happened to you or a family member yet? So far we’ve escaped, but others are not so lucky–and it’s causing longer, slower lines at neighborhood ice cream and custard stands as well as testing the patience of hardworking scoopers and shake makers.

It happens to all of us at one time or another, but since things have gradually reopened during this pandemic, I’ve been an eyewitness to a new degree of the inability to accurately convey a preference. It’s a malady I can only blame on months of being holed up at home, separated from society without the need to make any big decisions–most notably, regarding frozen desserts.

I present to you a few recent actual events as evidence.

zipdipI’m in a properly socially-distanced line at a neighborhood ice cream stand…much like those in the photo above.  At the front of the line is a guy who, let’s just say, looks like he comes here often. I can’t hear him order but the efficient worker quickly brings him two shakes. NEXT! Right? Nope. The guy kinda gives the two cups a confused look and asks, “are these mediums?” The attendant replies there are, in fact, smalls. “Aw, sorry…I wanted mediums.” The attendant apologizes and goes back to whip up two larger shakes. Meanwhile the line is getting longer and you figure when the attendant returns with the two medium shakes our guy will be satisfied. Heh. All this quarantining has his mind completely addled. “Uh…jeez…sorry again.” The attendant appears to be feeling around in his pocket for something–perhaps the cyanide capsule he’s hidden in his apron for such an occasion. “Yes sir?”  “Uh, didn’t I also order two medium twist cones?” “No sir, you didn’t.” “Aw shit, sorry. Could ya do those too?” The cyanide is looking better all the time. He dutifully makes the two cones but that’s NOT GOOD ENOUGH. “Aw, man. Could ya turn ‘em upside down and put ‘em in cups?”  Nah..cyanide is fast, but not fast enough. The attendant gathers himself and returns with the two, now, upside down cones duly placed in cups. Mercifully, the customer accepts them and leaves.

By now, with those waiting standing six-feet apart, the line is roughly 50 feet long and up to the counter steps a skinny codger with a scraggly white goatee. I tell my son, “this guy’s trouble.” Father knows best. Customer places his order. “I’d like two small chocolate cones.” Easy. Not easy. Attendant still recovering from the last customer quickly comes back with two chocolate cones.  “Aw, crap. Jeez.” Attendant starting to take on that 1000 yard stare. “ I really wanted TWIST and not just chocolate.” Attendant disgustedly dumps the two chocolate cones in the trash, and remakes the guy’s two cones. Hands them to him without a word. Customer endures hard stares from those in line and submits to the walk of shame back to his car. We all hope the cones melt before he gets there.

My turn at last. The attendant is wary. He’s thinking, “oh shit, another old guy who looks like a Rocky Road short of his 31 flavors.” I pick up on this. I order. “Two small cups of vanilla and one SMALL twist cone.” I see the doubt on his face. I smile, and add, “and that’s my final answer.” He laughed. I laughed. I paid and left. The crowd applauded.

One day this will all be over. Our minds will recover, and it will be safe to once again order frozen desserts correctly.