Andy & Me: Ranting like Rooney 

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I once had a telephone conversation with Andy Rooney. It was before he had a permanent slot on 60 Minutes, but I knew who he was because of some documentaries he had done for CBS. He was seeking information about the organization that employed me. I don’t remember whether I was helpful or not. I hope I was. I’ve always liked Rooney’s style. I relate to his worldview, and in the same way he questions the mundane details of our lives, I am often perplexed.

For instance, I wonder why so many upright Utah motorists ignore the tenets of freeway driving. They favor the left lane for cruising, eating, blabbing on cell phones, tripping on Rush Limbaugh—anything but passing slower cars. The result is logjams of frustrated drivers like me.

When I attend LDS sacrament meeting, I am distracted by young couples pawing each other. I wonder why the bishop doesn’t instruct them to keep their wandering hands folded during the service. And I wonder if Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby will read this and write a funny column about it.

Perhaps movies are the root cause of these public displays of affection. According to the A.C. Nielsen Company, the folks who have a corner on the television-ratings market, people in Salt Lake City watch more movies than residents of any other place in the country. Doesn’t that make you wonder if those LDS couples are renting steamy movies on Saturday night? They certainly watch The Three Stooges. It is no surprise that two-thirds of Americans know Larry, Curly and Moe, but it’s downright worrisome that just 17 percent are able to name three Supreme Court justices.

I don’t wonder why Palestinian fighters cover their faces with black balaclavas. But I do wonder why our police SWAT teams do. Why do these policemen wear forest camouflage and bloused boots? I can’t think of any good reason, but it may be related to the curious fact that airline pilots wear epaulettes with Navy rank insignia.

Politics is a veritable wonderland, especially when the Legislature is in session. I wonder how many Utahns were put off by Mitt Romney’s swan song. Was it only me who found his “nation at war” justification disingenuous?

But the Geico cavemen don’t make sense to me, either. Their existential crises don’t resonate, as they say, any more than did Romney’s speech. What does resonate, however, is the lilt of the Geico gecko. I enjoy listening to other dialects, and I relish a good conversation, one in which people trade opinion. But a satisfying conversation is as rare as an X-rated film in Provo. I wonder why there are so many talkers and so few listeners these days. Perhaps it is a manifestation of the narcissism of MySpace and such. What would Rooney say? I’m sure he would agree with me that, along with conversation, the state of public discourse has declined dramatically. The public airwaves give vent to what Keith Olbermann calls “a nation of screechers.” Why can’t Bill O’Reilly and his ilk be civil?

I’ve observed that many people are focused on the present, not the future. In that regard, Rooney and I have an advantage. We can read the handwriting on the wall. Frankly, I often wonder why others can’t. Consider, for example, the three-car garage and the condo in Key West. As petroleum becomes increasingly dear, doesn’t it seem foolish to pay for a big garage? No? Then ignore the prospect of anthropogenic climate change. Buy the beachfront condo while the tide is right.

Speaking of foolishness, I still wonder how a smart guy like Salt Lake City Councilman J.T. Martin got himself tangled up in the Blue Boutique brouhaha just before Christmas. I presume he is a sadder-but-wiser man because of it. I walk the neighborhoods of Martin’s district and wonder why some of his constituents don’t shovel snow off the sidewalk, thereby imperiling passersby like me. Icy walkways are more threatening to the public than any rubber penis. If I fall on the ice, my insurance company will outfox the doctor. I know that from experience. I recently had an injection. The doctor billed the insurance company $56. The company paid 96 cents. And that’s the bottom line. The doctor sucked up the $55 difference. Doesn’t it make you wonder?

Life is downright bewildering. Why do people pay for tap water in plastic bottles? Why is plastic packaging so damned hard to open? What became of in-line skating? Why do people watch reality TV? Why don’t lawmakers put a stop to drivers yakking on cell phones? So many questions; so few answers. Asking the questions has made Rooney famous. It has done little for me but irritate my wife.

Questions about immortality have been put to rest, however. Life everlasting awaits us all in databases and mailing lists. My father received a postcard recently from a realtor. It offered him the chance to buy a $2.5 million estate in Holladay where “behind the massive walls and gates, you are nestled and cozy in your own world. …” My father has been nestled in a grave for 25 years.

Holly Mullen’s column will return next week.


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