Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Newspaper Vignettes

  • While I was working at my first post-Army job as a payroll clerk at a Boston newspaper, the Assistant Cashier had heart surgery and the hospital was looking for blood donors. Four of us from the various accounting departments went to the hospital together to give blood.

    Two at a time, we were led into a room by a no-nonsense, middle-aged nurse. I was paired with Jimmy, a big Irishman whose sense of humor was not about to be blunted by someone else's no-nonsense attitude. We were situated side by side, and Jimmy was making jokes about whatever he could think of.

    The nurse, with her back to us, studiously ignored him and was busy doing something on a counter. Jimmy began professing embarrassment that I was "bleeding faster" than he was, cracking himself (and me) up.

    At one point he cried, "Nurse! Nurse! My feet are getting numb!"

    She didn't even turn around. "Your shorts are too tight."

  • My boss was in his early forties. He was a personable guy and often joined whatever brief social discussions occurred during the work day. One year I pounded him with college football bets. I don't remember whether it was 1968 or 1969, but every week we bet a milkshake (actually, a frappe in Boston - milkshakes don't have ice cream in them) and I gave him Ohio State's opponent and forty points. Week after week he would shake his head on Monday morning as he shelled out the frappe money.

  • But my best frappe victory had to do with poetry. I heard him say, "Theirs not to reason why. Theirs but to do or die." I looked over and said, "You know it's 'do and die', right?" Well, he was dug in and insisted it was "do or die."

    I decided to have some fun and said, "You better study your Kipling." He responded, "I know my Kipling and it's 'do or die.'" He was little amused when I pointed out that Tennyson, not Kipling, had written The Charge of the Light Brigade. We made another bet, this time on whether it was "do or die" or "do and die." It was Friday and I promised to bring in a poetry book on Monday.

    I did, and Monday was another head shaker for him.

  • My favorite two bets I made while at the newspaper were with die-hard Red Sox fans. Each year I would bet them five dollars apiece that the Red Sox would finish more than six games out of first and each year they would gloat for the first half of the season and then the gloom would descend. Thus they were ripe for the plucking and I got one victim each for these propositions:

    • In 1969 I offered odds of $50 to $20 that Dick Williams, the Red Sox manager, would be fired during the season. He lasted long enough to make the bet interesting, but fired he was.

    • In 1971 I offered to bet $5 even money that the Baltimore Orioles would have four twenty game winners if my opponent would bet $5 that the Red Sox would have two twenty game winners. Truthfully, I didn't expect to come out ahead. I thought it would be a wash. I figured it was a long shot that the Orioles would have four twenty game winners, but I was confident that the Red Sox would not have two. In the event, the Red Sox had none, and on the last day of the season Mike Cuellar became the fourth Oriole pitcher to win twenty games.

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