Archive for the November 2010 Category

“THAT CERTAIN PLACE”

“THAT CERTAIN PLACE”

Jake Haberfeld, Jerusalem~ 1983

 

Most Americans, particularly of the male gender, like to think of themselves as stand-up guys without a need to revert to nuances and/or euphemisms.  There is nothing wrong with nuances and euphemisms, but there is also a virtue in calling things by their proper names.

For reasons unknown to me, and probably to anyone else, the nuances and euphemisms seem to abound in this country about the use of the word “toilet.”  In the rest of the world, there is no embarrassment about asking a stranger the directions to the toilet.  The toilet serves a very important function in our lives.  Nonetheless, we go out of our way to use nuances and euphemisms to talk about it rather than use the word “toilet.”  At the same time, other euphemisms have crept into American speech.  The purpose of this small essay is to review a few of those euphemisms.  I have no great objection to euphemisms or nuances.  But in some cases they strangle the intent of the language.

Let us take the issue of the toilet.  In Great Britain, which is the source of our language, polite society will often refer to the toilet as the “loo.”  Why the “loo” is appropriate and the use of the word “toilet” should be avoided is beyond my current comprehension.

In this country, it is common for us to refer to the toilet as “the john.”  This makes no sense whatsoever, since the use of the word “john” is widely understood and when one asks for directions, they are given immediately.  Somehow or other, particularly Americans are prone to avoid the use of the word “toilet.”  Maybe this essay will bring it back into fashionable use, but probably it will not.

My experience with euphemisms for the word “toilet” started early in life.  In 1928 I started to school at the Forsythe Public School in Clayton, Missouri.  The teacher was Miss Brantley, a prematurely gray-haired woman who was also motherly.  On my first day or two in school, long before I could read or write, I felt a need to take care of relieving myself.  I had picked a likely place with open doors and went into that room.  Before any harm was done, Miss Brantley pounced on me like a hawk, and escorted me out.  My instincts were appropriate in that this room contained a toilet, but the fact remains that it was the girls’ room.  Mind you, it was not the girls’ toilet.  The sign on the door said the “Girls’ Room.”  Miss Brantley took me to the room next door, and explained that boys such as myself were supposed to use the boys’ room.

She told me that in short order I would learn to read, but in the meantime I should look for the large capital letter “B” as in boys’ room which would take me to the proper place for what I had intended to do.  Curiously, some 84 years later in this house in Short Hills, New Jersey, I have almost always referred to the toilet as “the boys’ room.”  Good old Miss Brantley made her mark.

When I went to work as a youngster in the filling station business in the 1930s, we often had a room devoted to the toilet which was called “the restroom.”  My recollection is that in the large Mobil gas station run by Carl Shroth, there were two toilets.  One of course was designated “the ladies’ room” and the other was “the men’s room.”  I took another job in the filling station business with Eddie Williams which had only one room devoted to this purpose.  It was called “the restroom.”  Nobody went there to rest.  It was used mostly by delivery people bringing packages from the major stores in St. Louis to the suburbs.  They would interrupt their frenetic runs to use the toilet in the filling station.  I can assure you that they never rested in that location.  This was the Depression and the department stores could give their delivery people an almost impossible load of packages to deliver.  The fact that they were able to use our restroom or “john” made life more enjoyable for the delivery men.

There are two other euphemisms for the room that houses the toilet.  One is the “bathroom,” even though showers have largely displaced the bath tub.  The second euphemism is the “powder room.”  Men such as the author of Ezra’s essays are disinclined to use that term.  Perhaps those who use those two terms feel a bit more elegant rather than calling it the toilet.  I am neutral in this dispute.

Finally, we go for the last citation on toilets to Jerusalem.  On this occasion, I had invited Kim Armstrong, who was Director of Advertising for Long Lines of AT&T, as well as Tom Maxey, the Vice President from M. W. Ayer, to accompany Jim Hurley and myself on a visit to the Israeli Telecommunications Authority.  Jake Haberfeld was the most gentle man in the world, which covered a fierce determination to destroy the Nazis.  Jake was one of the first men to assist the Zionist Movement in Palestine.  At this point, Jake was the dominant figure in the Israeli Telecommunications Authority.  My essays have revealed a great affection on my part for Jake.

In any event, after Jim and I had taken Kim Armstrong and the Vice President of the advertising agency to a meeting with Jake, there came a time for a break in the proceedings.  Jake knew that Kim Armstrong was new to Jerusalem, and so as the meeting broke up, he approached Kim and said to her, “Would you like to go to that certain place?”  Obviously, what Jake had in mind was the ladies’ toilet.  Kim Armstrong gave Jake the appropriate response but later we had a good bit to laugh at because of Jake’s politeness.  And now we return from Mr. Haberfeld and Israel to domestic locations here in New York.

At fancy New York hotels, the word “toilet” never appears.  The proper word is “restroom.”  I am informed by Miss Chicka, my wife, that in those fancy hotels, the restroom consists of two rooms.  One is for the business of taking care of what needs to be done.  An adjoining room is usually equipped with a sofa.  My sinister mind tells me that is why the women take so long to attend to their duties in the restroom.  Being a proper gentleman, I have never seen this arrangement, so I will have to rely on Miss Chicka for her description of what goes on in the restroom.

On the men’s side, in some hotels in the 1950s or thereabouts, there was an occupation having to do with the passing of hand towels to gentlemen who used the toilet facilities.  There was an occasion when The New York Times celebrated the retirement of such a person handing out towels on his fiftieth anniversary.  The procedure was that one accepted a towel after washing one’s hands and a tip would be given to the gentleman passing out the towels.  I can only say that the occupation of passing out towels in the men’s room was a unique one.  I never aspired to do that job but it is pleasant to know that men can find many ways to make a living in the great city of New York.

I am also told by Miss Chicka that there were places such as night clubs where there were females who handed out the towels to users of the toilet.  In one case, she observed that a woman had brought a small dog to the toilet with her and had asked the attendant handing out the towels to watch her dog while she concluded her business.  There is a correction to this story in that club.  Miss Chicka now informs me that she wanted the ladies’ room attendant to watch her dog while she went to have her dinner.  Boys, I think that this is going beyond the call of duty.

Well, so much for euphemisms as they apply to the toilet.  Euphemisms don’t end there.  There is a certain coarseness to the phrase, “I am eating.”  The proper euphemistic response would be, “I am now dining.”  This may not make the food taste any better but it is always better to use the proper phrase for dining.

Finally it seems to me that there are more euphemisms for the dying process than I ever imagined. Dying is a natural part of life but I can understand the grievers who would refer to it in a euphemistic manner.  One of the best obituaries I have read says, “Asleep in the arms of Jesus.”  The fact is that the man died.  Then there is the famous quotation from Frances Kaplan Licht.  When my great and good friend Irving Licht died, there were those who told Frances that she had “lost” her husband.  Frances’s response was eloquent.  She said, “I didn’t lose him; he died.”  I believe that more such eloquence should be a part of our language as spoken by Americans.

Well, those are my thoughts on euphemisms as they apply to the restroom and to dying or “passing on.”  I am certain that euphemisms make the speaker feel a little bit better.  If that is what it takes to make people a bit more happy, I am all in favor of it.  But I will always remember my great and good friend Jake Haberfeld who asked Kim Armstrong whether she wanted to “go to that certain place.”  That may be the euphemism to end all euphemisms.

My great regret is that Jake Haberfeld and my first grade teacher Miss Brantley never got together.  It would give me supreme pleasure to hear Jake Haberfeld sing Miss Brantley’s favorite song, which was,

Good morning to you,
Good morning to you.
We’re all in our places with sunshiney faces.
Good morning Miss Brantley.

It was my pleasure to know both Miss Brantley and Jake Haberfeld, the squire of Jerusalem.  And if Jake wants to call the toilet “That certain place”, I will accept that as a good usage of the English language.

 

E. E. CARR

November 2, 2010

Essay 509

 

Postscript:  There are two euphemisms for the toilet that must be registered.  My friends who served in the American Navy would never forgive me without my mentioning the fact that in the Navy, the toilet was called “the head.”  I am at a loss as to what that term really means, but I am also at a loss when so many of us refer to the toilet as “the John.”  Now to my Navy friends, I am forced to point out that in the American Army during the Second World War era, the toilet was always referred to in official documents, as “the latrine.”  Latrine is a French sounding word which is much more elegant than the Naval term, “the head.”  So take that, you Navy guys.

 

~~~

Kevin’s commentary:  I am starting to feel like there should be a whole separate “bathroom” category on Ezra’s Essays. Certainly if my mother had a series of essays, that one would feature prominently.

Thanksgiving 2010

The title to this essay has underlining under the date of 2010.  This is to distinguish it from an essay that was written here four years ago called “Thanksgiving 2006.”  Since that essay of four years ago was written, there have been some encouraging developments.

The players in this essay are Jenny M and her husband Ronald H.  Those two Costa Rican immigrants are married.  In accordance with Costa Rican customs, Jenny has kept her maiden name.  That is not unusual.  When Miss Chicka and I decided to get the Mayor of Millburn, New Jersey to perform the marriage ceremony, she kept her maiden name and I did the same.

So Ronald and Jenny have been married for several years and at this point have two sons and a four-year-old daughter.  About 15 years ago, the conditions in their native Costa Rica were such that they could see no hope of prospering in that country.  And so it was that they came to the United States.  They settled in Summit, New Jersey which is home to a few other Costa Ricans as well.

In the essay of four years ago, I recounted the fact that it was a happy occasion in that we were able to help two struggling immigrants.  The facts are these.  Ronald and Jenny supported their family with his wages as a truck driver and her earnings as a housekeeper.  But at the end of 2005, disaster struck.  The Republican Congress of that year passed an act called the Patriot Act.  The main purpose of the Patriot Act was to cause great problems for those who were not full citizens.  The various states in this country were left to interpret some sections of the Patriot Act in differing manners.  For example, in this great and glorious and sweet-smelling state of New Jersey, it was decided that no one could have a driver’s license unless he or she was permanent, effectively, a citizen.  This meant that ipso facto Ronald’s career as a truck driver was denied to him.  It did not matter to the state that Ronald had been driving trucks in Costa Rica and then in this country for 20 years or more.  In our names, the state of New Jersey decreed that henceforth drivers’ licenses would be granted only to those who enjoyed permanent residency here.  There was much more to the Patriot Act.  For example, those without papers as citizens could not open a savings account, as Miss Chicka and I found out.

At the time, Ronald was working for a Cuban woman, driving his truck for a fairly decent wage.  Unknown to Ronald, the Cuban woman declared him a partner in the business, which he found out about only after his career as a truck driver was over.  At this point, Ronald’s mastery over the English language was less than adequate.  He had no effective means of protest.  At the end of that year, the Internal Revenue Service billed him for something more than $5,000.  Here was a man who had lost his job through no fault of his own and was being billed by the tax authorities in this country for an exorbitant amount.  Because he was not a citizen, Ronald went about attempting to pay the taxes of $5,000 or more.

In the meantime, Jenny, his wife, was pursuing her career as a housekeeper.  She made the beds, she ran the vacuum cleaner, she cleaned the toilets, she did all of the other services that cleaning the house requires.  Without Ronald’s earnings, they were soon in debt and they elected to use credit cards for food and other necessities.  By the time we found out what was happening, the credit card companies were charging interest in the vicinity of 20%.  Two banks had turned down Ronald and Jenny when they asked for a loan. Obviously they had no collateral.  So it was that shortly before Thanksgiving, Jenny came to Judy, my wife, and told her that she had something to say which was the hardest thing that she had ever done in her whole life.  In effect Jenny the housekeeper asked for our help in trying to set their finances aright.

Jenny is a wonderful person who is struggling to make a better life for her children.  When Jenny spoke to Judy and later when Judy spoke to me, I agreed that we would help them in any way we could.  And so the meeting with Ronald and Jenny was scheduled for the afternoon of Thanksgiving 2006.

Without going into details, their financial situation was indeed precarious.  We are far from wealthy people but I was determined, as was Judy, to help Ronald and Jenny.  We had some money available in our checking accounts and on that Thanksgiving Day, a substantial amount was given to two Costa Rican immigrants.  I did not regard it as a loan so much as I regarded it as an investment in the United States.  Here are two hardworking immigrants who are playing by the rules and yet life has dealt them serious financial difficulties.  If there is anything to the philosophy of “I am my brother’s keeper,” I was determined to do what we could to help Ronald and Jenny.  Granting that loan to those two made it a joy to celebrate the Thanksgiving of 2006.  We managed to keep them in this country, which I am convinced will be a great benefit to all Americans.

Now we fast forward to the year of 2010.  Ronald and Jenny filed their papers to become American citizens more than nine years ago.  In point of fact, the Republicans who controlled our destiny under the Bush administration had decimated the ranks of the Immigration Bureau.  This was done on the belief that immigrants tended to vote for the Democratic ticket.  Whether this is true or not, no one can tell.  During the long wait, Ronald, deprived of his career as a truck driver, began to help his brother-in-law, who had found construction work.  As you know, during the last few years the construction of homes and offices has ground to a halt.  Near the end of the work in construction, Ronald had an industrial accident which required rehabilitation on his knee and surgeries on his wrist.  In the meantime, Jenny was keeping the family afloat with her earnings as a housekeeper and the rental of two rooms in their apartment.

There was a time during this interval when all five of Ronald and Jenny’s family slept in the same bedroom.  On top of that, they have two boys, now aged 12 and 9, who are extremely fearful that their parents would be deported.  Why anyone would want to deport these two hardworking people simply boggles my mind.

Now the Immigration Bureau is regaining some of the impetus that was lost in earlier years.  As always, it takes a lawyer to figure out how the Immigration Bureau works.  Judy and I told Jenny to go hire that lawyer and put her to work.

The end result was that after nine years of waiting both Ronald and Jenny were finally granted an interview with the Immigration Service early in November of this year.  They were told that having waited nine years and done everything else correctly, in short order they would be issued green cards.  A green card designates the recipient as a legal resident and permanent resident.  And so it was that shortly before Thanksgiving of this year, a letter arrived in the apartment rented by Ronald and Jenny.  The opening words were, “Welcome to the United States of America.”  For Judy and me, nothing could have pleased us more.

After Ronald and Jenny had their interview and were told that their green cards would be delivered shortly, they came by this house.  They said that a telephone call was unacceptable.  They had to come here and meet with us and celebrate.  Shaking hands was only the beginning.  In the Spanish language there is a word, “abrazo.”  It means a vigorous hug.  There were many abrazos.  Before long Jenny hugged me.  Tears came to her eyes and she put her head down on my shoulder, all out of happiness.  Ronald, who is a pretty good-sized fellow, hugged me as well.  Both of them delivered abrazos to Judy.  While the abrazos were taking place, I think it is fair to say that many tears came to the eyes of Judy and myself.  But they were happy tears.

There will be another five-year wait before full citizenship is granted to Ronald and Jenny.  Now they have their green cards.  This enables Ronald to start looking for work as a truck driver, which has been his occupation for 25 years or so.

As I said earlier, giving Ronald and Jenny financial support during this time of crisis is regarded by Judy and me as simply an investment in this country.  I told Ronald and Jenny that first I wanted them to take care of their family and secondly to prepare for the day when another immigrant, new to these shores, might ask them for help.  I know that they will be generous.

And so it is that Thanksgiving Day, which is not quite here yet, will be a joy to celebrate.  I am not much given to eating a turkey on that day.  As a matter of fact, I don’t eat turkeys on any occasion.  But on this occasion, there is a special reason to celebrate without ravishing a turkey.  Judy and I have made an investment in the United States and we have helped two immigrants who are doing their best to be great citizens.  We feel good about ourselves and we rejoice with Ronald and Jenny and their children.

And to top it all off, there is a troop of Brownies, who are junior Girl Scouts, who brought me some chocolates and a hand-written card and a flag, thanking me for being a soldier.  I never asked to be thanked for my service so long ago, but it is a great pleasure that youngsters are appreciative of what has gone on before them.

And so it is that I have at least two reasons to be thankful as Thanksgiving Day approaches.  I must say that I consider myself a very lucky guy.

 

E. E. CARR

November 20, 2010

Essay 514

~~~

Kevin’s commentary: Well, that officially makes two more people who I’d like to reach out to as the administrator of Ezra’s Essays. I wonder if they’d be willing to write something for the site. I even have a good translator in mind if they feel like replying in Spanish.

On another note, I feel like it’s entirely too difficult to become a US citizen.

NOVEMBER 8, 2010

When my wife and I went to the basement this morning to begin our exercise routine for the week, Miss Chicka turned over the calendar and announced that it was November 8th.  I wrestled with that thought about why this date seemed significant.  Quite soon I came to realize that on November 8, 1945, I was discharged from the American Army.  It is hard to imagine that 65 years have passed since that event.  When you do the mathematics and subtract 1945 from 2010, the answer is still 65 years.  When that discharge took place, I believe that the average life span of an American man was no more than 65 years.  Now follows a twice told tale, which are often the best ones.

On the day that I was to be discharged, I arose from my bed in my in-laws’ home and caught the 5:00 AM streetcar on Manchester Road in Maplewood, Missouri.  After a transfer or two, the streetcar took me to the bus station where there was a Scott Field bus to take me to that location in Illinois where the discharge was to take place.  I arrived sometime before 7:00 AM, with the thought in mind that if things went well, I would get my discharge and get back to St. Louis in time to have lunch with my new wife.  That was not in accordance with the plans of the Army of the United States.

In previous essays, I have commented extensively on the events of that day.  Simply put, the Army was being as bastardly as they could be in an attempt to make me re-enlist.   Short of that, they wanted me to join the Ready Reserve and/or the National Guard, which I of course refused to do.  For nearly 12 hours the Army harangued me about re-enlisting.  I had no intention of ever doing such a foolish thing.  When the soggy day turned into evening, I intended to take things into my own hands and demanded my discharge.  It was an officious Sergeant who was the chief haranguer, and finally I told him, “Sargeant, f… you! I want my discharge, and I want to get the hell out of here.”  That seemed to do the trick.  But a Corporal who was typing up my discharge made one mistake after another.  He was copying from another discharge paper and he ballooned my medals and citations by a great amount.  I figured that the idea was to get the hell out of that place and straighten out the problem with the discharge papers later.  Around 7:00 PM or a little later, the seamstress appeared and finally sewed what we called “the ruptured duck” onto my jacket.  The ruptured duck signifies that the soldier has been honorably discharged.

The 65 years that have passed since that event were of great significance.  During that time, the United States assumed the leadership of the world and was opposed by the Russians in a cold war.  There was the resignation of Richard Nixon and I was fairly glad to see him gone.

 

When John Kennedy was assassinated, my daughters were small; perhaps one was eight and the other ten or eleven.  I found out about the assassination while standing on a street corner on lower Broadway in New York City.  People were dumbstruck.  When I arrived at my house in New Providence, New Jersey I took my usual seat near the fireplace.  I held one daughter on my left knee and the other daughter on my right knee and I told them that a terrible thing had happened to the world on that day.  But life goes on.  Now I have two married daughters and five grandchildren.  My hope is that they are never involved in a war situation or with the United States Army.  My war, the Second World War, is now ancient history to youngsters.  Since that war, which was described as a just war, took place, we have had the Korean War, Reagan’s adventures in Nicaragua, the Vietnam War, the Afghan War, and George Bush’s ill-advised invasion of Iraq.  Wars come and go, I suppose.  Every man who has been involved in such a war remembers.

In the 65 years since I was discharged, I have only written one essay  describing my involvement in that war.  It was called, I believe, “They Never Betrayed Us.”  Far from bragging about my involvement, the Italian people who hid us and nurtured us were the heroes of that essay called “They Never Betrayed Us.”

 

Here we are 65 years later.  We hope that the Iraq War will soon be finished.  At the same time, there is a war in Afghanistan in which we are involved.  It has now gone on for about ten years.  And lurking around the corner, there are war hawks in this country who want us to engage in Iran.  That would be a stupid thing for us to do.  And in recent days, the Korean conflict seems to have been reignited.  I am aware that there are things in international relations of which I am uninformed, but it seems to me that the Middle Easterners such as the Pakistanis and the Afghanis are playing us for complete suckers.  The war hawks, particularly on the right wing of our political system, want us to keep at it.

Today in New Jersey it is cold and rainy just as it was on this date in 1945.  Peace always seems to escape our grasp.  On many occasions I have thought to myself that we should withdraw from the Middle East and devote what we are spending there to our infrastructure, which is sadly in need of repair.  But nobody asked me for my opinion.  So we will do what my mother suggested the day I left to join the Army.  When I told her that we would be helped by the British, she said, “You mean the English?”  Her final words were, “In that case, son, you will have to do the very best you can.”

And so it is that while this country is doing the best it can, the divided electorate is troubled.  During World War II, once the objections of Senator Robert Taft of Ohio were overcome, we fought that war, we paid our debts, and we sponsored such things as the Marshall Plan.  I am an old man and an old solder too.  When I was discharged on November 8, 1945, the United States was ascendant in this world.  It may not happen in my lifetime but I hope that that ascendancy will come back to the American people.  But in the meantime, we must do, as my mother suggested, “the very best we can.”

 

E. E. CARR

November 8, 2010

Essay 511

Postscript:  In the years since November 8, 1945, I have been happy to be out of military service and have expected no thanks from my fellow Americans.  However, two years ago and again this year, as Veteran’s Day approached, a troop of Brownies (Girl Scouts) brought me a gift of chocolates and a flag plus a card that they had made.  In both cases, the cards expressed appreciation for my service.  I am greatly heartened to know that the youngsters around here are being brought up with thanks in their hearts for those of us who have gone before.  I was both flattered and humbled to receive those gifts from the local troop of the Brownie organization.  The Hershey chocolate kisses in my present were delicious.

~~~

Kevin’s commentary: Good on those girl scouts. It’s a little crazy to think that he’s been out of the war for so so long; it kind of emphasizes how young most of our fighters really are.  For those curious, you can see the ruptured duck pin here.  I actually have in my possession a good number of Pop’s medals and pins, but I don’t recall ever seeing that one in particular.

 

THE ONE-HOLER JUBILEE

In the summer of 1969, I was working as a lobbyist for the AT&T Corporation in Washington.  Ordinarily such work is limited to three years and I had been there on the order of three and a half years.  So I was not surprised when the instructions from New York were that I should return to that city.  I was more than happy in Washington but there was an inducement to coming back to work for the Long Lines Department in New York City.  That inducement was the widespread belief that I would be promoted to the top labor job at the general headquarters.  But those dreams were unrealized, as the top labor job went to a fellow from Nebraska.

When I returned to New York, I first became the General Sales Manager for the Long Lines Department at AT&T and then I moved to a much more pleasant job having to do with the provision of overseas telephone service.

When I first returned to New York, I of course needed a house to live in.  There were my wife and two daughters, who were doing quite well in school.  I looked first in the town of New Providence, New Jersey, which was my home when the call came to go to Washington.  In the late summer of 1969, there were no houses available in that town.  A realtor suggested that I should look at a property in Millburn, New Jersey because Millburn offered two essential advantages.  One was the excellence of the school system and the second was that Millburn was on the main line of the Lackawanna Railroad which took me to Hoboken and thence to a ferry, and finally after a one-mile walk, to my office in lower Manhattan.  And so it was that I bought this house, where I have lived for 41 years.

Almost directly across the street was a small house on a large lot at the corner.  The house was owned by a widow who had eccentric habits.  There were about two occasions when this widow, late in the evening, would cross the street and put her garbage into my garbage can.  I figured that she was alone and maybe it made her feel good that her garbage was in good hands.

About seven years ago, the widow sold the corner property to a builder named Hank Santangelo.  Hank set about tearing the small house down to be replaced by a much bigger structure.  In the process, Hank discovered that, hidden in the walls of the house, was a small fortune.  It consisted of approximately $5,000.  I don’t know exactly where the $5,000 was hidden, but because Hank had clear ownership of the house at that time, he was entitled to keep the money.  The widow’s eccentricities apparently had caught up with her.

But Hank was a very personable fellow.  If I ever needed to have this house torn down, I would engage him to build its replacement.  Hank constructed a magnificent building on the corner lot.  In it he constructed five separate full bathrooms.  I had expected that when the house was offered for sale, it would be sold to a large family.  But that was not the case.  It was bought by a couple from Summit, New Jersey who had only one child.  Apparently the husband spent a good bit of time traveling.  Now it appears that the child may be in a boarding school, so that the woman, named Vicky, is in this large house with five complete bathrooms.  It may be that Vicky would have a bit of a problem trying to determine which of her complete bathrooms she was going to use.  Now that Vicky and her brood have settled into the large house with the five bathrooms, he seems consumed with altering the interior of the house.  Vicky is a pleasant woman but I have never questioned her as to why there was so much need for work on a house that was new.

The latest incident took place during the summer.  Apparently Vicky and her husband had made the decision to go to radiant heating.  And so it was that the radiant heater people showed up in two different trucks with a large contingent of workers to install the heating in the house with five bathrooms.  They spent quite a while installing the radiant heating; and thoughtfully they had ordered an outdoor toilet while their work was in progress.

Curiously, while the work on radiant heating seems to be nearing completion, the outdoor toilet remains upon the front lawn of their residence.  Apparently the radiant heating installation people did not feel welcome in any of the five bathrooms in that home.  So they brought in an outdoor toilet.  At this point I believe that it has been in place now for the better part of four or five months.

The rental of outdoor toilets must be a prosperous business.  In a quick scan of the advertising on the internet, we find the following organizations offering outdoor toilets.  One is offered by “Gotta Go.”  A second organization offers said toilets under the heading of “Roll-a- Throne Corporation.”  Then there is an offering by an organization called “Pointers and Setters.”  You see that on the subject of outdoor toilets I am offering you some information that you never knew really existed.

Then there is the “Rent-a-Throne” and its companion, called the “Royal Flush Outdoor Toilets.”  Also there is the “Call a Head Company” which is a play on the use of the naval term, calling toilets “the head.”  And finally there is the king of outdoor toilets known as “Johnny on the Spot.”  Outdoor toilets may be rented from a variety of concerns but I think at this point I have given you enough so that when you have a need, you will know where to look.

Now while the outdoor toilet has been in place on the lawn of the fancy house across the street, its use seems to be confined to those who are not involved in the radiant heating process.  I am told that the postmen always stop by to use it.  I have heard the people who cut grass say that they are going to use the outdoor toilet.  Delivery men, such as the United Parcel Service, always seem to use the outdoor toilet when making their rounds.  I suspect that if there were a fire, our firemen would use it as well before returning to the firehouse.

And so at this point I believe that I have told you about all there is to know about outdoor toilets.  If the need ever strikes you that you need to use one, you can look up my address and come by to use the facilities on the lawn of the big house on the corner.  It is only a one-holer toilet, which is a term derived from that era in our lives when we used outhouses.  Whether it is a one-holer or a two-holer toilet is of small moment.  When the need is great, a one-holer such as the one across the street will be a welcome sight.  All of this supposes that you get to it before the postman, the grass cutters, and the delivery guys free it up so that it can be used by ordinary civilians.

E. E. CARR

November 20, 2010

Essay 513

~~~

Kevin’s commentary:  Who knew that the portapotty space was so competitive? And how cleverly-named they are? I suppose that because there are so many different ways to refer to a toilet, the array of toilet-related puns is rather broad. I would deem “Johnny on the spot” particularly inspired.

You may find an update on this toilet from 2011 here. It seems that it stuck around for quite a while.

ON LANGUAGE: DON’T TOUCH MY JUNK

I hope that it is apparent to all that language is an important part of the human condition.  We use it to reason with one another and we use it to praise each other.  We use language to denounce each other as evidenced by the recent political campaigns.  We use language to persuade each other.  And in some cases we use language as a means of seduction.  So I think it is fair to say that language is an important part of the human condition. 

To an essayist, language is thoroughly vital.  Without language, the essayist has nothing to offer.  And so it is that this essayist tries to keep track of changes in the language spoken by the English-speaking people.

I came across a change in the language spoken by the English-speaking people recently quite by accident.  You may recall that there is a raging controversy going on at this time with respect to security in the airline industry.  The government and the airlines have invested heavily in body scanners that will reveal the naked form to the scanner so that he can detect bombs or hidden materials being brought aboard the airplane.

One of the drawbacks of the body scanners is the matter of radiation.  A number of airline pilots who daily will pass through the scanners as many as four or five times have expressed great concern about the effects of radiation on their bodies.  The authorities have dismissed this complaint as what the lawyers call “de minimis.”  As one who has flown the airlines on many occasions, I would not be so quick to dismiss the effects of radiation as “de minimis.”  In a more recent development, the authorities have now recognized that the pilots and their crews should be exempt from passing through the scanners.

Surely the airlines and the government wish to encourage the use of body scanners because the alternative is much more time consuming.  If, for example, an airline passenger refuses to go through the body scanners which will reveal the naked form to the viewer, the authorities will insist that that passenger submit to a “pat down.”  At this moment, the “pat downs” are a bit vigorous.  The government authority in charge of the pat downs now calls them “enhanced pat downs.”  Curiously, the word “enhanced” is the same word as is used by interrogators in the Iraq War to cover cases of torture.  No one believes that the enhanced pat downs are necessarily torture but vigorous opposition has risen to them.  One female passenger, for example, claimed that the person doing the pat downs actually put her hand on the upper leg of the proposed passenger.  There have been other complaints about the enhanced pat down as it relates to the female breast.  And then there are all of the concerns about body scanners showing the pictures of naked people where they may be examined by the curious.

So it appears that these days if you are going to fly in an airplane, you must not only remove your shoes and belts, but either submit to the body scan, which reveals the naked form to the viewer, or submit to the enhanced pat down.  Now mind you, I have no prurient interest in these gory details.  My interest has to do solely with the effect of the enhanced pat downs on the language that we use.

You see, recently a person described as some kind of minor television performer has told the person conducting the enhanced pat down, “If you touch my junk, I will sue.”  I have no choice as a student of the language but to conclude that the word “junk’” refers to the genitals.  For hundreds of years, the genitals have had proper names.  Over the years, slang and vulgarisms have crept in with respect to the genitals but this old solder thought he knew all of the vulgar words having to do with euphemisms for the genitals.  But I must confess that calling the genitals my “junk” is a new one on me.  I have no idea where that word came from and I hope that it does not enter the mainstream of the English language.  As a custodian of the proper use of the language, I am reporting this to you so that you may be aware the next time you fly of what “my junk” means.

In this respect, I believe that I am doing all of my readers a public service.  While I have all kinds of sympathy for the air crews who must pass through the body scanners several times each day, I must also say that in my case if I were ever to fly again, I believe that I would tell the body scanner to get to work and to make it quick to reduce the effect of radiation.  And I would tell the enhanced pat down artist that “junk” was not a proper usage for the grand and glorious language of the Anglo-Saxons.

 

E. E. CARR

November 20, 2010

Essay 512

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Kevin’s commentary: I wish we still lived in the day where TSA agents looking at our junk was one of the top concerns when it came to privacy infringement. I suppose by this time the PATRIOT act had already been going for a while.  But instead of fix that or keep the NSA from harvesting everyone’s data all the time, the government actually did take some action when it came to the scanners. There’s a screen on them now which shows what the TSA agents can see, and it’s basically just an outline of your body in green with anything out-of-place showing up in black. Seriously though they can see all they want of said junk so long as they can’t see into all of my data and I’d be happier.  Ugh.

HE/SHE/THEY SAID THAT?! Volume IV

Volume IV

 

There are four exclamations that will wrap up the story on He, She, They Said That?!  They come from widely varied sources.  The first one is about a preacher in New Providence, New Jersey and the owner of a filling station/garage across the street.

 

My recollection is that in 1956, there was an uprising in Hungary which caused many refugees.  Apparently the Presbyterian Church had volunteered to sponsor some of the refugees and brought them to this country.  The pastor at the Presbyterian Church was not the sharpest knife in the drawer.  He went to Carl Fisher who owned the garage/filling station to see if he could find work for this Hungarian refugee who said that he was an auto mechanic.  Remember that Carl Fisher shared my views on life and religion.  Carl listened politely to the preacher as he made his pitch to find work for the Hungarian refugee.  At the end, Carl said, “That is very interesting.  But we don’t get many Hungarian cars in here.”  In spite of the dearth of Hungarian cars in New Providence, New Jersey, Carl Fisher hired the refugee.

 

Whether he was a qualified automobile mechanic is one thing.  But it is clear that the Hungarian was a lover.  On two or three occasions, he attempted to declare his love for customers at Fisher’s garage.  Carl thought that was funny and in the end told him that he should spend more time working on cars than on females.  The refugee/auto mechanic told Carl Fisher that while he was talking to the women who came into his garage, the refugee was, in polite terms, making love.  I guess in retrospect, there is nothing wrong with a mechanic who also is a maker of love.  Carl Fisher grew to like the Hungarian, as I did as well.

 

There is one more incident that I would be remiss in not repeating.  In the last half of the 1960s, I spent nearly four years in Washington as a lobbyist for AT&T.  During three of those years, I made arrangements to purchase season tickets to the home games of the Washington Redskins football team.  As many of you know, in Washington during the fall, Redskin fever is at a high pitch.  I am not much of a football fan but I used my expense account as a lobbyist to invite government officials to attend the games with me on Sunday afternoons.  The games were played in Griffith Stadium, which was a baseball park dating back to the 1940s.  The football team had a gridiron laid out on the baseball surface, which was not ideal but got the job done.

My tickets were close to one of the side lines near the end zone.  There was also a buxom female who probably weighed at least 175 pounds who had seats near mine.  This buxom female also had lungs made of leather.  When she shouted, the players and the spectators could hear her with no loss of fidelity.

On this one occasion, there was a dispute about whether a Redskin runner had achieved the necessary ten yards for a first down.  It was a crucial time in the game.  When the referee told the side judges that he wished to measure whether the player had really reached the ten yard mark, the so-called chain gang came onto the field.  They carried a chain that is exactly ten yards in length.  It is anchored by two posts, one at each end.  When the referee signaled to the side judge that he wanted to have a measurement, the buxom female had a fit.  In a loud stentorian voice, the leather-lunged black female shouted, “Don’t f… around with that measurin’ s..t!  He made it!”  The players and the referees heard her voice and were laughing as they measured for the first down.  As it turned out, the Redskin runner had indeed made a first down so the buxom female must have known something that the rest of us were just plainly guessing at.

 

There are also two other incidents that will complete the fourth volume of HE, SHE, THEY SAID THAT?  Both of these quotations came from the workers in the produce department at Whole Foods Market.  I apologize because they are self laudatory to old Ezra.

The first came from Sammy, a younger man in the produce department.  This incident happened long before anyone ever knew about Barack Obama.  Sammy said to me that “If you ever go into politics and get elected to be our president, you will be the second black president that we have had.”  He was referring, of course, to Bill Clinton whom black people called their first black president.  I was flattered by Sammy’s belief in my political future and his belief in my friendship for black people.  But I elected to stay with my day job.

The second laudatory quotation came from Paul Byfield.  He came from Kingston, Jamaica and has always identified himself as a black man.

Another worker at Whole Foods had had a major traffic accident that required a jaws of life to get him out of his car.  Whole Foods and Tariq, the man who had the accident, wanted as little publicity as possible.  Paul Byfield said that he was telling me about the accident because, “You are family.”  Again, I was flattered to be considered as a member of this black family.

 

So this finally completes my thoughts about “He She They Said That?”, all four volumes.  As it turns out, my life has been enlivened by the remarks that I have overheard, including those directed directly at me, such as “You don’t get paid to think.”  In retrospect, I think about those remarks and have a soft giggle to myself.  That makes it all worthwhile.

 

E. E. CARR

November 10, 2010

Essay 503(?) I think something is off with my numbering for this one, but this fits best with the other 3

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Kevin’s commentary:  There’s not much to say on this one that haven’t been said on the other three; I just really liked this series. Cheers!

BAMBI AND THE SEASON OF THE RUT

In the 13 years that Ezra’s Essays have appeared in print, the editor has manfully and cheerfully tackled such third-rail subjects as politics and religion.  But in that long period of time, there have been a dearth of essays on the subject of sex.  We are going to try to make up for that dearth in the essay that follows.  It has to do with nothing but sex, sex, sex in all of its prolific forms. 

The major players in today’s essay on sex are Bambi, a female deer, and Dondo, her companion, who is a full-fledged buck.  My research has disclosed that for ten or ten and a half months per year the deer here in New Jersey behave themselves.  They enjoy eating my shrubs and plants and I am told that they are frequent church goers.  So much for behaving themselves.  When the frost is on the pumpkin – namely right now – the deer enjoy themselves to the fullest.  It would make the mayor of Las Vegas or Reno, Nevada blush.

For about six or seven weeks at this time of the year the deer have a fling called “the rut.”  The online dictionary says that the definition of rut is as follows: “an annual recurrent state of sexual excitement in the male deer.”  It appears that the definition of rut as produced by the computer deals with sexual excitement in the male deer without any sense of delicacy.  There is no reference to excitement among the does or female deer.  My research has disclosed that at this time of year, sexual excitement happens to both the male and the female deer.  For example, if a male deer or a buck sees a doe like Bambi wiggle her hips a bit, it will set off a passion that is unquenchable, but only at this time of year.  That passion can only be cooled by engaging in the ritual that has been called “the rut” immediately.  I suppose that it does not take a Rhodes Scholar to figure out what the rut consists of.  Putting it pruriently, it is a matter of sexual relations between the male and the female deer.

As I have said, the rut lasts for several weeks at this time of the year.  My research has also shown that deer may perform the rut on four or five occasions during the day and evening.  This occurs when they are not eating my shrubs and flowers.  It must be observed that deer are not monogamous and feel free to change sexual partners at will.  In this case, however, I find that Bambi, the doe, has taken a special liking to Dondo, an amorous buck deer.

It must also be observed that when the mood to perform the rut strikes the deer, they do it openly and without hiding from anyone.  Obviously there are no hotels or tourist cabins that cater to deer who are involved in the rutting season.  And of course, very few deer carry credit cards that the hotels would honor.

There is an immediacy to performing the rut.  That is the major reason why the New Jersey director of traffic and the American Automobile Association warn drivers at this time of year that deer may be performing the rut in the middle of our road.

Now there is one more factor that we must consider in our exploration of the performance of the rut.  My extensive research has shown that when performing the rut, both partners keep their eyes tightly closed from beginning to end.  So at this time of year we have a situation in which deer are performing the rut, often in the middle of a highway, and are doing so with their eyes tightly closed.

Now let us consider a busy highway or a busy road near our property.  The road is called White Oak Ridge and it carries a good bit of automobile and truck traffic.  Let us suppose that the rut overtakes Dondo and Bambi and that they are performing the rut in the middle of the road with their eyes tightly closed.  A driver for the United Parcel Service may very well come down our street and turn on White Oak Ridge and, while the driver is looking to avoid traffic, he may strike Dondo and Bambi.

Unfortunately, this happens much too often.  But it is good for the people who repair automobiles and trucks.  Now, because, as you know, Dondo and Bambi have their eyes tightly closed, they will undoubtedly assume that the collision came about as the result of their love-making.  That seems like a logical conclusion to the deer.  If it pumps up the ego of the love-makers, so much the better.  Recalling the accident with the UPS truck, it might lead Dondo to brag to his shrub-eating male pals that having a rut with Bambi leads to a leg-breaking climax.  In the history of love-making, human or mammal, such an event must be saluted.

So much for the adventures of Dondo and Bambi in this season of the rut.  I have told you that this essay was going to be all about sex and I hope that it has met your expectations.

And so now that I have dictated an essay on love-making among the deer population, I feel satisfied knowing that one more third-rail essay has been put to rest.  Religion and politics are far behind us and I am indebted to Bambi and Dondo for making this essay about sex available during the sacred season of rut.  My hope is that Dondo’s legs will soon heal, those two lovers will survive this winter, and will live to enjoy another rutting season in the year 2011.

 

E. E. CARR

November 7, 2010

Essay 510

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Kevin’s commentary: I’m glad to know that Pop has the egos of the deer-sex-participants in mind. Someone has to. Probably.

I’m curious as to the depths of Pop’s research. I wonder if he does this online, or perhaps finds a library that has books or audiobooks on the subject, or maybe it’s all just field work. Of course, being unable to see the deer, Pop would have to just listen for the rutting dear but it seems like he the requisite knowledge base to do so.