Monday, January 14, 2008

A funny thing happened when they tried to call the FBI

I was shocked to read that the FBI had their telephones disconnected. They can’t listen to criminals plot crimes anymore because they have not been paying their telephone bills. To top that off, a bank robber robbed the bank right across the street from the FBI building in Washington, D.C. and it was hours before anyone got wise. That despite the fact the robbery took place during normal business hours, in broad daylight. Nobody at the white house is talking, but I am sure what happened is something like this:

The president was sitting in his office when his secretary buzzed him on the intercom. “The director of the FBI is here, sir,” she said.

“FBI? Why didn’t he call?”

“Don’t know, sir. Anyway, he’s-”

Here!” The director of the FBI broke in before she could finish her sentence.

“Why didn’t you call, Bob?” asked George.

“Can’t sir.” They disconnected our phones.”

“Disconnected your. … Who disconnected your phones? Was it Al Qaeda? The Mafia? Osama bin Laden? Or, worse, the Democratic National Committee?”

“Hillary had nothing to do with it, sir. It was worse than that. It was the telephone company.”

“Oh, my God,” said the president.

“It seems we haven’t been paying our phone bill,” the director said.

“People are going to blame that on my tax breaks for the rich,” the president said. “Well, I’ll have them know tax breaks for the rich make things better, not worse.”

“Yes, sir. But can’t you jack up taxes on the poor? We’re short on cash.”

“How can I do that? Everything the poor use, the rich use. What am I going to tax? Hominy grits?”

“You could tax potatoes and beans. The poor eat a lot of potatoes and beans.”

“That they do,” said the president. “That they do. I’ll just put the word out that the rich are to eat only caviar and steak from now on. If that doesn’t stimulate the economy, nothing will. So what’s the word on crime, Bob?”

“Can’t say, sir. Criminals, terrorists, and scumbags of every other sort are having a field day.”

“They were doing that before, weren’t they?”

“Well, yes they were, sir. But we were listening in on their phone conversations then. We can’t do that now, with all the phone lines disconnected.”

“Shocking,” said the president. “If criminals, terrorists, and scumbags of every sort are going to plan crimes, the least we can do is eavesdrop while they do it. See to it, Bob.”

“I’ll take care of it right away, sir,” said the director.

At that moment one of the director’s aides burst into the Oval Office.

“Sir,” she said, “someone just robbed the bank across the street from the FBI building.”

“How long ago?” asked the director.

“Oh, it was hours ago. We would have called you, but the phones are down.”

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Electronic Viagra

Bill Clinton is a nostalgic soul. The reason we know that is that according to Dave Letterman he keeps a cell phone with him while stumping for Hillary and he has it set to vibrate instead of ring. That way not only does it not annoy people when Hillary calls, but when he feels it buzzing in his pants, it reminds him of when he was president.

Thank goodness Dave Letterman reached an agreement with his writers and returned to the air despite the writer’s strike which has shut down the Golden Globes awards and much of the rest of the entertainment industry. He won’t see this, but I’ll say it anyway: You’re the best, buddy! Keep on making us laugh.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

An Interview With Professor Higgins

Most people think Professor Higgins is a mere character in George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion, better known by the movie title My Fair Lady. But he’s not. He’s real. I tracked him down at his garden, where he was pulling flowers and cultivating weeds. He looked up when he saw me coming. “Professor Higgins?” I asked.

“How now brown cow,” he said.

I did not know how to respond to that, so I asked again. “You are Professor Higgins?”

“I am a professor and my name is Higgins, so what does that make me, sir?”

I felt sheepish, but I answered anyway. “It makes you Professor Higgins.”

“You’re damn right it does,” he answered. “If my name were Butler I would be Professor Butler.”

“That’s right,” I said. This was getting embarrassing.

“If I were a professor, that is. If I were not a professor I would be just plain old Butler,” he said.

I was speechless. I was trampling the crab grass of the most estimable professor of the English language. It almost seemed disrespectful. My wellies were stomping on sacred ground.

“But it’s Higgins!” he continued. Then he turned to his garden. “Damn roses. They keep trying to grow here and crowd out the crabgrass.”

“Everybody’s having that problem,” I said. I was trying to sound sympathetic, but don’t know how it came off. “Everybody’s having problems with roses coming up in their crabgrass,” I said. The truth was, I did not know anyone who was having that problem except him.

“And gladiolus, too,” Higgins said. “Just look at this.” He pointed at a luxuriant spray of glads with obvious contempt.

I had to admit, the flowers did contrast with the weeds he was growing. They seemed to contradict each other, to tell the truth. But I wanted to segue into the subject for which he was famous: the English language.

“Oh, I am through with all that English grammar and diction stuff,” he said. “Because of it I have no social life. No social life at all.”

I was shocked. “But I thought anyone who speaks as well as you would be invited everywhere,” I protested.

He acted as if he did not hear me. “Just the other day I said to a woman: ‘The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain’ and do you know what she said?”

I admitted that I hadn’t a clue.

“She said to cut the weather report is what she said,” he said.

“Did you tell her that ‘In Hartford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen?’” I asked.

“I did,” he said. “And she gave me a lot of rot about global warming. We didn’t care a fig about that in Victorian days.”

I was shocked. “There is no respect anymore,” I said.

“An attitude in which I gleefully participate,” he said. “I gave her The Look and I told her to ‘A E I O You,’ with special emphasis on the ‘You.’”

“A quintessentially Higginsonian response,” I said. I meant it. I did not have any idea what that comment meant, but whatever I said, I did mean it, whatever I meant.

“It worked. She buggered off and another woman walked up,” he said. “I said:
‘How kind of you to let me come.’”

:”One of your most famous phrases,” I said.

“Indeed,” he responded.

“And?” I asked.

“She accused me of sexual harassment,” he said.

I explained to him that she must have misinterpreted the word “come.” Some people do that sort of thing nowadays. Everyone is so sensitive. It’s hard to say much of anything without someone getting her back up. “It does not sound as if your evening was going well,” I said.

“All the phrases in my repertoire. Nobody ever uses any of them,” he said.

“Indeed,” I agreed.

“How often does ‘The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick’ come up in conversation?” he asked.

I had to agree. I had not heard that comment from anyone in quite a long time. Especially since sheikhs tend not to raise sheep.

“I just don’t know how to make small talk,” he said. “I am only comfortable here in my garden digging the roses out of my crabgrass.”

I left him at that point. I was going to ask him to sing the way Rex Harrison did in the movie. But I decided to let him be. Besides, I had an appointment with the great, great grandson of the man who invented the typewriter. I simply had to know how often he had been able to work QWERTYUIOP into everyday conversation and what the devil it meant.