Saturday, December 31, 2016

Did You Know That Uber Drivers Rate the Customers? -- The Colonel Carries On #64

By Taffy Danoff and the Starland Vocal Band

Epigraph: “I’m Pro-Everything And I Vote.” --bumper sticker

⟴⟴ Not only auld acquaintance but every auld thing should be forgot and never brought to mind.

⟴⟴ My Santa gig is over and not a moment too soon. All those kids and their germs have made me sick as a dog. I’ve gone from fearing I might live to hoping I do.

I had to work train cars in ten minutes each, allotting about 50 seconds per family, so any interactions had to be brief. I did the whole thing in brogue, telling one lad in green pajamas that he reminded me of the Irish part of the North Pole.

I was supposed to give each child a “jingle bell” from my Santa bag. Late in the season I hit on the idea, when there were two or more children, of pulling out just one bell and asking, “Which of you is the good one?”

At one seat, four little hands went up in unison and four little voices cried as one, “All of us!” I think their parents must be Rockettes.

At other seats, all but one pointed to one, whom they apparently all considered “the good one.”

I was most surprised by parents who would point out “the good one,” or even point to one and say, “Not that one.”

I gave each child a bell anyway, wondering whether it was wise to open the lid on family dynamics. I also had a pang when a child reached out gimme-style, and I asked, “Have you been good?” whereupon the little hand drew back guiltily. Who knew that kids have consciences?

The people who run the show take it seriously, but some are cooler cookies than others. The honcha who okayed my brogue responded less positively to my ideas for a Biker Santa with a big Harley Davidson belt buckle and for an eye-patched Pirate Santa giving out tiny bottles of low-proof kiddy rum and crying “Yo Ho Ho, me hearties!” She said, firmly but calmly, “We have to offer the traditional view of Santa.”

Less calm was the honcho whom I asked whether it would be all right to tell kids that they might not want their pictures taken because cameras suck out their souls to be fed as snacks to Satan.

He came unglued.Never say that! Never say that to a child!” I didn’t have the heart to plunge on and say that such warnings might help the company make an an informed consent defense to uninsured “lost soul” claims.

The day after my last night on the train, I went to my barber and got the Santa beard reduced to a Robert E. Lee beard. Afterwards, I looked like my old self instead of like my extremely old self.

From the haircut I went immediately to AAA for passport pictures. My passport is about to expire, and I like to have one in effect at each change of presidential administrations, just in case.

Current passport photo rules disallow eyeglasses and smiles (no teeth, please). We must make life easy for facial recognition software, so I went for a close-mouthed grin and an avuncular (okay, grandfatherly) eye twinkle.

Between illness and exhaustion, I apparently overestimated my power of facial control. In the pictures, I look as grim as someone who just told the captain of the firing squad, “Never mind the blindfold; let’s get this over with.”


⟴⟴ The French say “NaboKOFF,” the English “NAbokov,” the Italians and Russians “NaBOkov.” This is approximate, for not every language uses emphasis in the same way as English speakers. But they all read Lolita.

⟴⟴ “The worst thing in the world varies from individual to individual.” --George Orwell, 1984, anent Room 101

⟴⟴ Wilbert Harrison’s 1959 hit, “Kansas City,” was the last No. 1 single in the U.S. to be released on a 78 rpm record.

⟴⟴ “You are what you is.” --Frank Zappa

⟴⟴ Moderns are mystified by Isaac’s horror at the news that his son Jacob has just cheated Esau out of the paternal blessing.

In Isaac’s place, we would say, “Oh, that’s not fair. Come here, my firstborn, so I can say it again and this time do it right.”

But the ancients were not like us: to them, a word, a curse, a blessing once spoken was a potent thing of its own, beyond recall.

Isaac trembles, understanding that the deed has been done. He says to Esau, “Your brother came deceitfully and got your blessing.” No talk of reversal or rectification. It’s over.


⟴⟴ I once complimented a young man on the courage it must have taken him to move alone to Europe after college to play professional American football there for several years. He replied that once the worst thing in the world had happened to him, life held no further terrors. His mother had died when he was eight.

⟴⟴ In the Western Church, the majority tradition makes Christmas “day one” of the Twelve Days and Epiphany “day thirteen,” i.e., not part of Christmastide. A minority tradition makes Christmas Day day zero and Epiphany day twelve.

⟴⟴ Clickbait needn’t be attractive to be effective. Exhibit A, with the link extracted to prove I’m not a shill:

Finally, at year’s end, with apologies to Chesterton and eyes fixed firmly forward, a poem that exudes the kind of hope that arises from facing facts:

We all feel the riddle of the earth;
The mystery of life is its plainest part.
Confounding vapours are the world’s daily weather;
We have grown accustomed to the unaccountable.

Every stone and flower is a holy glyph
To which we have lost the key.
Our every step enters the middle
Of a tale we will surely get wrong.

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