Gene Weingarten

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WASHINGTON -- One day late last month, right after the inauguration, I was driving with a friend. On the radio, an NPR correspondent was discussing some pending executive order by the new president -- I didn’t listen carefully, but I’m presuming it made it legal to give noogies to foreign-looking persons, or something.

Me: Whoa, he just actually said “President Trump.” Out loud! Twice!

Friend: I know. I heard. (Long pause, long sigh.) I suppose he has to. It’s his job.

For many progressives, the Trump presidency has been difficult to accept on a gut level. There are many reasons, among them that the man is an inveterate braggart more desperate for a stamp of validation than some guy with an $80 parking tab in a suburban mall. But mostly, it’s just that the man is actually (BEG ITAL)president(END ITAL). It happened. We liberals cope with our anxieties in different ways. No way is better or more creative than the solution presented by the subconscious mind of a friend of mine, whom I will call Cassandra.

Cassandra is a journalist in Washington. The other morning she sent me a frantic series of IMs describing a vivid dream she’d had the night before. I am repeating it here, just about verbatim. (Her dream references another journalist, a friend of hers and mine, whom I will call Benjy.)

Cassandra:

“So Benjy decided to organize a huge charity event to achieve complete global nuclear disarmament. It was to be in honor of members of the clergy, who have a history of anti-nuke activism. The benefit was going to be a race called ‘Nuns for None,’ and the deal was that everyone had to run 10 miles dressed as a nun. I worried about whether I could run that far in a full habit, so Benjy and I were out on a training run together, both in costume, when suddenly our phones went off with a huge breaking news alert:

“It seems that the Electoral College had just voted, and, in a stunning development, every single elector abandoned his or her assigned candidate, instead writing in the name of a top-secret, highly intelligent trained seal named Yonkers. Leading scientists had been studying and communicating with Yonkers for years! Everyone trusted his judgment.

“Then Benjy and I immediately got texts from our editors telling us to report to the White House ASAP because President Yonkers was going to conduct his first press conference. There was no time to change, so we literally sprinted to the White House in full nun costume.

“There we see President Yonkers awkwardly flopping his way down the hallway, the way that seals flop when on dry land. One of the president’s staffers assures us, ‘Don’t worry, he’s far more presidential when he gets in the pool,’ so we follow him to this ornate, beautiful indoor White House swimming pool, and Yonkers splooshes into the water.

“The press lines up along the perimeter of the pool. That’s when Al Gore appears out of nowhere.

“Al is in a wet suit and snorkel, because it turns out he is President Yonkers’ VP, and also his chief human translator, and has been leading the secret seal-communication work for years.

“So Al gets in the pool with Yonkers, and the press starts asking questions. After every question, Gore disappears under the water to converse with the president and then he surfaces and conveys, in the nasal manner of a guy with his nostrils pinched shut, whatever Yonkers just said. I don’t know why Al felt the need to talk like that, but he did.

“So Benjy keeps asking really intense, urgent, pointed questions about nuclear disarmament, just bulldogging that one issue.

“He’s so lost in it that he doesn’t seem to be noticing that there’s anything at all unusual about any of this, so I am elbowing him and hissing into his ear: WE ARE TALKING TO A FREAKIN’ SEAL.

“But then I calm down! It’s because I realize, hey, it’s Al Gore and a marine mammal, so of course they are for nuclear disarmament! They will be on the right side of everything important. The world will be a better place. I become filled with a profound sense of wonder and relief and all I can think of is a campaign slogan for 2020:

“YONKERS/GORE NO MORE WAR!

“Which is when I woke up.”

Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesday, February 28, at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

WASHINGTON -- Today, another episode in my Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of the plight of the beleaguered customer service representative.

Twin Tree Gardens rosemary

Me: I am concerned you will think I am a crank.

Donna: OK!

Me: So, I am looking at your bottle, and it identifies rosemary as a “premium spice.” That is blatantly wrong.

Donna: I know.

Me: Rosemary is not a spice at all! It’s a ... wait, you know?

Donna: Yes, I just now realized that. It’s an herb. Herbs are from leaves. Spices are from roots and seeds. Someone made an error. I will alert the packers.

Me: I am getting excited. No one ever admits being wrong. Can I press my luck?

Donna: Sure.

Me: Why did you just pronounce it “erb”? Why don’t you pronounce the h?

Donna: Never really thought about that. It’s probably because otherwise it would sound like “Herb,” which is someone’s name.

Me: “Rosemary” is someone’s name!

Donna: Omigosh.

Me: We are having a momentous conversation here! You need to know that I and my snotty literary friends spent 10 minutes at this and could only come up with two other words that start with a silent h: “hour” and “honor.” Whereas there are literally thousands of words where you do pronounce the h. I’m thinking your industry drops the h in “herb” out of pretentiousness, to sound French.

Donna: I wouldn’t know.

Me: Now you sound a little annoyed. Do you think I am a crank?

Donna: I can’t really go there, sir.

--0-- --0-- --0--

Dr Pepper

Me: I know that Dr Pepper keeps its recipe secret, which always seemed odd to me, but I now think I know why. I have had an insight. Dr Pepper fears that sales will plummet if it reveals it is prune soda.

Jessica: There is no prune juice in our soda.

Me: I contend it is prune soda. It tastes like prune soda.

Jessica: No, sir.

Me: Well, then it is fig soda. My point is, the secret ingredient must be something really lame. Are you denying fig?

Jessica: We can’t disclose this information.

Me: It’s cicada soda, isn’t it?

--0-- --0-- --0--

Glad ClingWrap

Me: I was reading an old article about romantic relationships, and it says that a good way to put spice back in a marriage is to have the lady greet the gentleman at the door wearing only Saran wrap. My question is, would Glad ClingWrap work just as well?

Alex: I would imagine so. It would cling even better, more than likely.

Me: Do you recommend that application?

Alex: I can’t officially recommend it because it is not a recommended use. But Glad ClingWrap doesn’t have any negative effect on the body.

Me: Can I ask you a favor, Alex? Man to man?

Alex: Sure.

Me: My wife gets all feministy about this and says if she has to do it, I should have to do it, too. Would you mind telling me, officially, that that is not recommended?

Alex: I would definitely not recommend it for men!

Me: High five.

Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesday, Feb. 28, at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

WASHINGTON -- Just questions today. No answers.

When they sell you eyeglasses, why do manufacturers still give away soft, hypoallergenic cloths and anti-static, sterile, non-silicone lens-cleaning solution when they know that after religiously using these products for as long as an entire week, 95 percent of us will revert to our shirttails and spit?

If we can build a car that can drive itself and a computer that can beat a chess grandmaster, why can we not have a “Comments” tab on online articles that is programmed so that when there is only one comment it reads “1 Comment” instead of “1 Comments”?

Is there no tipping point at which the legal requirements to include possible complications at the end of pharmaceutical TV commercials will result in something so awful-sounding that the company will decide, “Oh, hell, let’s just not run this”? I ask because I just heard a commercial for an anti-cancer product that voice-overs a harrowing disclaimer for a full 32 seconds of horror as faces of solicitous doctors and grateful, smiling patients fill the screen: “Opdivo can cause your immune system to attack normal organs and tissues. ... This may happen anytime during or after treatment has ended and may become serious and lead to death ... “ and so forth. How bad do the warnings have to be in order to trigger a “the hell with it” decision? Would this do the trick: “See your doctor immediately if you experience spontaneous hermaphroditism”? No? Then how about “Side effects include the possible expulsion of a fanged alien fetus from your chest cavity”?

Why can’t all cars have the gas tank on the same side so we don’t end up in this spaghetti western faceoff thing at the pumps?

Why have car manufacturers not figured out that it doesn’t really convince us of anything when the actors in their commercials stare in awe at the astonishingly sleek, sexy lines of the new Accord or Camry that is passing by, and which looks exactly like the old Accord or Camry, which looks like something that an 8-year-old child would draw if you asked him to draw a “car,” only less interesting?

Why is produce the first thing you encounter in every supermarket, placing it at risk of getting pancaked by everything you put in the cart after it? And what’s so magical about “the key”? You know, the one the cashier needs to wait for from a supervisor in order to complete the checkout of the person three ahead of you who has decided she doesn’t want the frozen peas after all?

Why is it that 70 years after ENIAC, and 35 years after their use had anything whatsoever to do with arithmetic calculation, we still call them “computers”?

To pass our driver’s license exams, why not just require us to know that “objects are closer than they appear” and quit printing it on all those mirrors? Or “bridges freeze before roadways.” This would save a fortune on all that signage. I mean, we don’t have street signs saying “Alert: Other cars are moving, too.”

Why do writers keep trying to sneak lame “pet peeves” columns past us by tarting them up as something new and different, as though no one will ever notice?

--0-- --0-- --0--

Thanks for help: Hildy Zampella, Tom Logan, Mike Creveling and Mary Monaco Hanlon.

Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. Follow him on Twitter, @geneweingarten. Chat with him online Tuesday, Feb. 28, at noon Eastern at www.washingtonpost.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

About
I am old and cranky. I write "Below the Beltway," a smart-ass weekly humor column that is nationally syndicated. With my son Dan and David Clarke, I write the daily newspaper comic strip Barney & Clyde, about a friendship between a billionaire and a bum. I am working on a book about the events of Sunday, December 28, 1986, a date chosen at random by picking numbers out of a hat. Yes, it's an insane idea, and yes, I can use all the tips I can get.

Best of Gene

Chatological Humor chat

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything.

Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

12.28.86: One day

I chose the date at random, by drawing numbers out of a hat. I'm going to spend the next two years researching that date, and only that date, in America, and then present it in a wide-angle, panoramic fashion. I'd like your help.

Many events leave a trail in the media or the public record, and I'm already following up on many of those. I know, for example, that hardboiled mystery writer John D. MacDonald died on that day, and the Jets beat the Chiefs. "Walk Like an Egyptian" topped the pop charts. And so forth. The public record is voluminous.

But fame tends to be transient and shallow, casting what seems to be an arbitrary spotlight; there is also power in things that never get into the public eye -- stories of drama and consequence can be found in the lives of ordinary people. Sometimes, small things happen that will go unnoticed or unrecorded, but will prove pivotal to monumental events that follow. I want to find these things by tapping your memories, and/or testing your research skills.

The book will be highly selective, but my Facebook page won't be; we hope it develops an engaging narrative of its own. If you think you have a story to tell, we?ll look at it here. Or you can email me in complete privacy at oneday12.28.86@gmail.com. These could be anecdotes from your life, or the lives of others you know. Nothing is too trivial, though it will be edited for quality and appropriateness; are you a good enough storyteller to make yours interesting?

Or, are you a researcher at heart? Talk to me. I'd be grateful for all sorts of promising leads. No money will change hands, I'm afraid, but I'll introduce you to all my swanky, bon vivant friends, as soon as I get some.

What's in it for you? People who proved helpful will be acknowledged in the book. If you're really helpful, you and I could be working together in person. And, of course, if your own life finds its way into the book, hey, you'll be a superstar.
Books
- I’m With Stupid (Simon & Schuster, 2004),
- The Hypochondriac’s Guide to Life. And Death (Simon & Schuster, 1998)
- Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs (Simon & Schuster, 2008),
- The Fiddler in the Subway (Simon & Schuster, 2010), which is an anthology of his feature stories.
Awards
2008 & 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing – the only two-time winner in that category
Reviews
"Gene Weingarten is outrageously funny. I mean that literally: He is guaranteed to outrage some readers. But the smart ones will absolutely love him." – Dave Barry
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