Nippies® - an online magazine
Issue #22 - February 2005

"Gidget" Kohner-Zuckerman - Hollywood Young Love

Kevin Trudeau Natural Cures - Sandra Dee Forever Young - C.O.D. Rip-Off

Melting Pot or Not? - Dolly's Creator - Poor Get Poorer

Senior Citizen Coffee Sale - The Extra Mile

Welcome to NIPPIES® On-line... since 1999! We take little "nippies" out of every subject.
Written from a working class viewpoint.

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February 28, 2005
"Gidget" Kohner-Zuckerman

We at NIPPIES were looking up information on Sandra Dee, whose real name was Alexandria Zuck. However, we initially thought Sandra Dee's real last name was "Zuckerman", and not "Zuck". So, we mistakedly put in "Sandra Dee AND Zuckerman" into a search engine. The result was that we stumbled across an interesting interview with the real "Gidget", as well as some interesting information on how the character of Gidget came to be created.

Zuckerman is the real last name of the real-life Gidget. Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman's father was inspired to write the story of Gidget after hearing daily stories of his daughter's experiences as a teen-aged surfer in 1950's California. Kathy Kohner later married Marvin Zuckerman, and became Kathy Kohner-Zuckerman, according to an article which appeared in www.jwmag.com, or Jewish Woman.

Gidget was reissued a few years ago as a paperback edition by Berkley Books - Penguin Putnam. At the time the article was written, the coming-of-age novel was going into its second printing.

The interview which we found during our internet search, is very interesting - even if you weren't a Gidget fan. You will find out how Kathy got the nickname of Gidget, as well as some background on author Frederick Kohner, who worked as a screenwriter for Columbia Pictures. (Both of Kathy's parents left Germany in the 1930s because of the Nazis.) Mrs. Zuckerman also tells the reader how she felt about being protrayed by Sandra Dee in the film, how she came to learn surfing ("There were a few women who surfed in those years, but I was the only girl teenager out there."), and whether or not she married "Moondoggie".

You can find the link to the article, which appeared in a Summer 2003 editon of Jewish Woman magazine, here: www.JWMAG.com

Please note that the information at the end of the article, which includes a bookstore phone number where "Gidget" the book was available, as well as an e-mail address for Mr. Kohner-Zuckerman, may or may not be outdated. The Jewish Woman article is now nearly two years old.

"Gidget" has been a favorite of teen-aged girls, and many of the rest of us, too, for many years. (I never missed an episode of "Gidget" when Sally Field played the part on prime-time television!)

Gidget "Frances Lawrence" has been portrayed in the movies and on television over the years by many:

  • Sandra Dee - Gidget - 1959 film
  • Deborah Walley - Gidget Goes Hawaiian - 1961 film
  • Cindy Carol - Gidget Goes to Rome 1963 film
  • Sally Field - Gidget - television series 1965
  • Karen Valentine (remember "Room 222"?)- Gidget Grows Up 1969 TV movie
  • Monie Ellis - Gidget Gets Married - 1972 TV movie
  • Kathy Gori - Gidget Makes the Wrong Connection - 1972 TV movie
  • Caryn Richman - Gidget's Summer Reunion - 1985 TV movie
  • Caryn Richman - The New Gidget - television series 1986-1988
    SOURCE: IMDB.com - Keyword under "Character" - "Gidget"

Oddly, portraying Francis "Gidget" Lawrence did not seem to bring longlasting luck to the actresses who portrayed her- at least from a career perspective. Except for Sally Field, most of the actresses, most of whom we've seen and who did fine jobs with the plum role, were seen little in later years in either film or television.


February 27, 2005
Hollywood & Young Love PHOTO REMOVED

Why is it that Hollywood, especially in the older films, nearly always rewrote history to make a happy ending- especially when the storyline was about young love which did not make it to everlasting love?

PHOTO REMOVED The other night we popped a film-disc into the DVD player that we'd borrowed from the public library. The movie was 1964's Unsinkable Molly Brown, starring Debbie Reynolds and Herve Presnell. It was a wonderful love story, one we'd seen as a very young child but hadn't seen in the ensuing years. We were very enchanted by the scenery (Colorado mountains, turn-of-the-century architecture and furnishings and costumes, etc.), as well as by the love story between the main characters, James Joseph Brown and Margaret Tobin Brown. We were so enchanted, in fact, that we at NIPPIES did a little research to learn more about the real "unsinkable Molly Brown" biography.

"I'll never say no to you" is what Herve Presnell (J.J. Brown) sang to Molly Brown in the movie version of Margaret Tobin Brown's life. (Some sources say that Margaret was never referred to as "Molly Brown" in real life.) But the reality of their love story is a bit sadder than the movie revealed. And the facts of her life are also a bit different than what is revealed in the film.

According to Women's History at the About.com library, Margaret was sometimes called "Maggie" in her earlier years, but not Molly. And, according to this biography, she grew up in Hannibal, Missouri. In the film, Molly decides to leave her one room home, and her loving but crude "Irish Catholic" adoptive father, to find herself a rich husband in Denver. The movie suggests that Molly reached Leadville, Colorado on foot after a journey of only a few days, where she encountered J.J. after refreshing herself with a river-bath on his vast mountain property. This seems unlikely. Hannibal MO is 922 miles from Leadville CO. It should also be noted that the about.com biography states that Margaret "Maggie" Tobin left home in Hannibal in the company of her brother, who is also not referred to in the 1964 movie.

The truth was not compromised entirely, however. Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Brown did live a lavish lifestyle in a beautiful mansion on Pennsylvania Street (some sources say Pennsylvania Avenue) in Denver, Colorado - a distance of about 100 miles from Leadville, CO, where they first made their home. J.J. did make his money from a gold mine in Colorado. But the movie version shows a happy ending: after separating, J.J. returns to Leadville and Molly goes off to Europe to reunite with the aristocracy with which she and J.J. Brown had hob-nobbed in previous years. After a time, Molly realized how much she misses and loves J.J., and returns home. After her passage over the North Atlantic via the ill-fated Titanic, a crowded lifeboat and the Carpathia, Margaret-Molly returns to her million dollar mansion to find her husband waiting for her in their opulent bedroom. But, according to another source, here is what really happened:

"On August 10, 1909, Molly signed a separation agreement. Living a lavish lifestyle, but unable to bear a broken heart, Molly accepted an invitation extended by John Jacob Astor to travel through Northern Africa and Egypt. Daughter Helen left her studies at the Sorbonne in Paris to join Molly and the Astors. Son Lawrence had presented Molly with her first grandson, Lawrence Jr., and while hobnobbing with the rich and famous in Cairo, Egypt, Molly received a telegram that her grandson was ill. She decided her place was with her son and grandson, so she booked passage to New York on the first luxury liner available: the Titanic. She boarded in Cherbourg, France, and the fated ship would multiply Molly’s fame through catastrophic disaster."
Source: www.MollyBrownSummerHouseHistory.org/margaret_brown.htm

Molly's triumphant return on the Titanic did seal her acceptance into the "Sacred Thirty-Six" of Denver's society. Her trips to Europe did polish off her rough edges, and she was an innately intelligent woman who learned to converse in five languages and wear a society ball gown with style. But the Brown's had two children (Helen and Lawrence, who were schooled abroad) which are never mentioned in the movie version. (In the James Cameron - 1997 version of Titanic, another romanticized treatment of an actual event, "Molly Brown" mentions her son, but not by name, when she offers to lend Leonardo DiCaprio's character (Jack Dawson) her son's tuxedo for dinner in the main dining room with Rose DeWitt Bukater, played by Kate Winslet).

Sadly, the Molly Brown - J.J. Brown love story did not have a happy ending, and young love did not prevail: J.J. returned to Leadville, where the love affair started. "Molly" did not.

PHOTO REMOVED Most of Hollywood's great movies have young love as the major theme- even if the screenwriters have to bend the facts a little, as is the case of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Most of us want to believe that young love always turns into everlasting love and happy endings.

The Unsinkable Molly Brown is well worth watching, despite the Hollywood treatment given to Margaret Tobin Brown's biography: it is one of the very last of Hollywood's full-scale musicals. As we at NIPPIES mentioned previously, the scenery and sets are gorgeous. And Herve Presnell and Debbie Reynolds are in their prime and something to see and hear. (Presnell, who played Daddy Warbucks for over 1000 performances in Broadway's Annie, has one of the most beautiful "legitimate voices" we've ever heard. He's also very easy on the eyes.)

If you would like to see photos of the real Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Brown, and learn more about the real story of Margaret Tobin Brown (The Unsinkable Molly Brown) and J.J. Brown, please visit this link:
Molly Brown Biography

Margaret "Molly" Tobin Brown died as the result of a brain tumor in 1932 at the age of sixty-five.


February 23, 2005
Kevin Trudeau - Natural Cures - FDA

PHOTO REMOVED This is for Rae Ann, who wrote to us asking why she can't access Kevin Trudeau's web site, www.NaturalCures.com (We had previously written about Mr. Trudeau's informertials and new book: Natural Cures They Don't Want You To Know About.)

Rae Ann wanted to know if www.naturalcures.com was off-line because of the "FDA lawsuit". We at NIPPIES were unaware of the lawsuit, so we did a little research. First of all, we accessed the web site with no problem. So Kevin Trudeau's site is still up and running, Rae Ann.

But we were still curious about the FDA lawsuit mentioned by our reader, so we kept digging. Turns out that in one of the chapters of Kevin Trudeau's new book there is a chapter where the purchaser of the book believes he or she will find natural cures. Instead, there is an apology of sorts from the author, Trudeau, explaining that he cannot put those cures in the book because he is being, and this is paraphrased, being stifled by the FDA's actions.

True or not true? Well, the FDA claims that Kevin Trudeau was not prevented from mentioning natural cures in the book for specific ailments. He is just not supposed to mention specific brand names with claims attached that the brand names will cure those ailments.

Was Kevin Trudeau leading readers down the merry path? Or was he just being very cautious?

Was the FDA concerned about consumers? Or were they just trying to protect their buddies, the pharmaceutical companies?

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of all these possibilities, in the humble opinion of NIPPIES. Prescription medications can be a real blessing and a true necessity. (Just yesterday we forked out $85.66 for twenty CEFZIL pills - an antibiotic - of 250 mg each). It would be ridiculous to write off every natural cure as a fraud, because there are some that work quite well and most of us know about a few of these. (We at NIPPIES won't mention any in case any of you out there are litigious). On the other hand, the pharmaceutical companies would have us popping pills for everything from toe-nail fungus (ever seen the commercial for Lamisil®?) to arthritis medications, such as Vioxx®, that ease the stiff joints but make us more likely to turn into stiffs.

Digre$$ion: after initially pulling (Merck & Co.) Vioxx® off the market, an FDA advisory panel voted by a narrow margin to allow the COX-2 inhibitor, and other prescription medications in its class such as (Pfizer's) Celebrex® and Bextraˊ, to resume sales.
Vioxx® carried the highest risk of cardiovascular disease.

All three medications must carry the highest warning label, called the FDA's "black box warning label", and be used under the highest supervision.)

According to a CBS news report, the official "welcome back" by the FDA panel sent "Merck $hares $kyrocketing."

Unfortunately, some opponents of natural cures seem very unrelenting in their condemnation of any remedies which have not been through the "scientific" method. Often, but not always, these opponents are physicians. Two which come to mind are Dr. Dean Edell, the well-known syndicated radio show physician, and Dr. Stephen Barrett, M.D., the creater of www.QuackWatch.com. Being "scientists", they appear to lean only toward remedies which have been tested in laboratory studies. From what we've gleaned, these two phycisians can be very, very critical of natural remedies. Certainly we've never heard or read where they recommended any.

By the way, Dr. Barrett frequently lectures on the subject of quackery, and has had thirteen books published. From their titles, it appears that many, if not most, of these books are aimed at debunking what he considers to be junk science...even when it comes to nutrition. "Vitamin Pushers and Food Quacks" is the title of one such book. But we haven't read the book, so we won't judge.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Stephen Barrett's www.QuackWatch.com mission statement:

"Unproven methods are not necessarily quackery. Those consistent with established scientific concepts may be considered experimental. Legitimate researchers and practitioners do not promote unproven procedures in the marketplace but engage in responsible, properly-designed studies. Methods not compatible with established scientific concepts should be classified as nonsensical or disproven rather than experimental."

In other words, if you promote a natural cure ("quack, quack") without the scientific study, you are a quack. At least that is what we got from it.

We aren't here to canonize Kevin Trudeau. He is getting paid for his book, isn't he? (But then, again, isn't Dr. Barrett?) So he isn't making informercials and writing books for strictly altruistic or humanitarian reasons. And he's been targeted by the FDA before: in June of 2003, the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration filed a lawsuit against the makers and marketers of Coral Calcium Supreme for making allegedly false claims about what effect it can have on serious diseases such as MS, heart disease and cancer.

But should we consider all natural remedies to be junk? Of course not. You have to be the judge, as long as you proceed with caution. After all, those drugs that do make it through the $800,000.00 maze of drug testing have to had their origin somewhere. And that was, at least occasionally, because someone somewhere noticed that a certain natural remedy worked.

Let's face it. Everyone out there is out there to make money somehow.


February 20, 2005
Sandra Dee
It's so hard to believe. Sandra Dee has passed away at age 62.

Even though we haven't seen her in such a long time, and we knew that she could no longer be the ingenue - debutante she played nearly 50 years ago, we still picture her with smooth skin, silky golden hair, and those enormous brown eyes. Forever young.

Sandra Dee, with her impossible small waist and lustrous golden hairdo, was THE girl in the late 1950s - early 60s. She was in one of our favorite old movies: "Imitation of Life" (1959), which also starred another legendary blonde, Lana Turner. "Lora Meredith", a struggling actress and the mother of "Susie" (Sandra Dee), meets and befriends "Annie Johnson" (Juanita Moore) and her daughter, "Sarah Jane" (Susan Kohner) during a day at Coney Island.. Lora and Susie are white, Annie and Sarah Jane are black - and temporarily homeless. Lora and Susie aren't wealthy, by any means, but they offer Annie and Sarah Jane a place to stay for the night. The foursome become a family, with Annie taking over the housekeeping and mothering job while Lora persues her career, and the plot of the movie focuses on the problems of discrimination blacks faced in those dark years before the civil rights movement, as well as on the romance between Lora and "Steve Archer", played by the very handsome John Gavin. It was a daring movie at the time, and a great one.

Sandra was married to Bobby Darin at the height of both of their careers. She was barely 18, he was several years older. Their son, Dodd Darin (imdb.com says the name of their son is Todd Mitchell), was born shortly after, and the marriage didn't last. But those closest to Sandra Dee say that Bobby was the love of her life. No doubt she was devastated when the marriage ended (his decision), and suffered another devastating loss years later when her mother passed away (1988). By her own admission, Sandra struggled with a drinking problem at this time, but eventually got her life turned around with the help of her son.

We are very sorry to hear that Sandra Dee (born Alexandra Zuck in Bayonne, New Jersey in 1942) has died. We were always rooting for a comeback for her.

Be sure to watch Turner Classic Movies and keep your eye on American Movie Classics. It is their custom to pre-empt their regularly scheduled movies upon the death of a star to show a series of their most famous movies. Sandra was a star, and we are sure that TCM and/or AMC are, as we type, rearranging their schedule. If you are fortunate enough to catch Imitation of Life, you will also see a young Troy Donahue, as well as Alan Alda's real-life father, Robert Alda, who plays a theatrical-agent/cad.


February 12, 2005

C.O.D. Rip-Off Warning
OK. You decide you want to sell flashing light, blinking light magnets. So you go on-line and do some research. You find out you can purchase these little beauties for only thirty-five cents from one importer! What a bargain. Don't these things usually sell for about $1.00 wholesale? Unless you buy them by the thousands? And this company will sell you any quantity of 100 that you want.

The company has page after page of the novelty items: religious flashing light magnets, ethnic blinking light magnets, music-themed flashing light magnets. You name it, they have it. Hey, this is great! I think I'll order a few hundred, or thousand, and we can sell them as a fundraiser for the school, church, etc.

So you call the phone number. No one answers, but you leave a message which contains some questions and your contact information. A man named "Bluto", or whatever, calls you back later that evening, and leaves a message answering your questions. You mull over what he has said for a few days, and call him again with another question. Bluto doesn't answer, but later that evening, when he calls, you speak with him. He's very nice on the telephone. He's very informative on the telephone. He's very efficient on the telephone. He's very clever on the telephone. He takes your order for, and tells you he'll call back with the order total, etc.

Later that day, you see the blinking light on your answering machine. "Your order comes to $215.00." he says. "You can pay by money order, made out to Company So-And-So International. The merchandise will arrive on Thursday."

Thursday comes. You get up and you wait for the Federal Express guy or gal. He arrives, and you hand him your hard-earned cash in the form of a money order. With great expectations, you carry the medium sized box into the house. The first thing you notice is that it's a little lighter than you expected. Well, you say, these things don't weigh much. Then, you open the box. That is where your problems begin.

First of all, the flashing light guitars you ordered are all wrong. You ordered electric-guitar types, and you get a mixture of acoustic and electric. The Valentine's Day hearts seem ok. But the Shamrocks you planned on selling for St. Patrick's Day, a hundred of them, are missing. The extra batteries you ordered, to give to customers as a courtesy, are not the size you ordered. They are smaller. And, worst of all, there is a bit of corrosion around the batteries in each and every blinking light, flashing light magnet.

You look through the box for a packing slip so that you can fax it to Bluto. There is NO packing slip.

Immediately you get on the telephone and call Bluto to complain. Surely, you reason, he will want to send the shamrocks out that he shorted me, and he will replace all the corroded flashing light magnets. Bluto isn't there, so you leave a message. And wait. And wait. And wait.

Now, by the middle of the next day, you are really upset. You call again. By that evening you get no response from Bluto. So you try calling "anonymously" only to find out that his phone number does not accept anonymous calls. You fax. No response.

In short, you've been had. You already paid by money order, and a few days have passed, so Bluto has your money and there is no way to get that money back. So you are stuck with several hundred flashing light blinking light magnets which have to be cleaned, one by one, before they will work. And you don't have the shamrocks. And the batteries are not the right ones. The only conclusion you can come to is that Bluto is a rip-off.

Lesson learned? The usual... if something seems too good to be true, it usually isn't. It's just, maybe, a scam. And, if you are paying by C.O.D., make sure that you got what you ordered and the quality you ordered BEFORE you hand over the C.O.D.


America - a "Melting Pot"- or not?

If you are of a certain age, you remember learning in school about the great influx of immigrants fromf Europe which occured in the late 19th and early 20th century. America was then called a "Melting Pot", because all cultures of these different European countries came to the United States and eventually formed one culture. The American culture.

Many of our ancestors came from Ireland, Germany, Poland, Russia, Italy, England, etc. Many also came from parts of Asia, and, to a lesser degree, from the other continents, as well. Different nationalities, different religions. There were nearly 20 million immigrants who came to the United States in the years between the late 1800s and the early part of the twentieth century.

Often these immigrants tended to move into neighborhoods, such as Little Italy in New York or Chinatown in San Francisco, where other immigrants from the same country had already paved the way. Yes, these immigrants retained much of their former culture. But they also learned, or insisted that their children learn, English. They wanted more than anything to become Americans. Yes, we were a true "melting pot".

So what happened?

We at NIPPIES were first inspired to write this story after hearing a radio news story yesterday. In the story, which was about President Bush's push to privatize the Social Security system, the commentator was addressing the fact that, while the majority of workers, and soon to be retirees, in America are "white", that a great many of the future workers, who will be supporting the Social Security system, will be "Hispanic". And that the Hispanics will resent supporting the "white" American retirees. That was the gist of it.

But won't they all be Americans? Gee, that was what I was taught growing up. That it didn't matter where your ancestors came from. When you were here, you were an American. Sure, you could celebrate St. Patrick's Day and be proud of your Irish ancestry. But you were an American of Irish descent, and that was as far as it went.

The trend today seems to be to live in America, but to identify yourself as something else. This, it seems, is a very dangerous trend.

After I wrote the first part of this article, I went to a search engine and put "melting pot" into it. A very interesting article, the first of a series of "occasional" articles, popped up high in the rankings.

The URL (copy and paste) below will take you to the first article in a series of articles, entitled "The Myth of the Melting Pot" (WashingtonPost.com) about the problems we are facing in America today in regard to how we view American culture- or the lack of it.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/meltingpot/melt0222.htm

The article, written by William Booth and first published on the internet on February 22, 1998, is, perhaps, more relevant today than ever.


February 8, 2005

Dolly Maker Gets Human Cloning Licensd

It has just come across the news wires:
LONDON (AP) The British government has given the creator of Dolly the Sheep a human cloning license for medical research.

That is the Associated Press leader we at NIPPIES received from our source. Shocking? No. We expected this, knowing human nature as we do. Once something starts, there is no turning back. And the cloning of embryos, which is what this license is for, is a thing of the future.

The medical license for cloning was granted to Ian Wilmut. This is the man who was at the helm of the Scottish research team which created Dolly in 1996. Of course you remember Dolly, the cloned sheep. She has since passed away, and had a host of medical problems, according to all reports.

This time Dr. Wilmut will be teaming up with Christopher Shaw of the Institute of Psychiatry in London. The latter is a motor neuron expert, and they will clone human embryos to study how the relationship of nerve cells in motor neuron disease. Reports claim that the research team will not be using their medical license to create human babies.

Now that is where many will differ in opinion. Some of us think that human embryos are already human babies.


February 7, 2005
Just as we at NIPPIES feared...

Bush will make the Poor Even Poorer

We at NIPPIES were so upset when President George W. Bush got re-elected that we could not even type or write. We were in a complete funk for days, and not quite ourselves for weeks. It is our humble opinion that George W. Bush is for the wealthy. George W. Bush is a wealthy man who has absolutely NO idea what it is like to try to dig yourself out of poverty in the twenty-first century United States of America.

Today, he confirmed our worst fears.

BUSH BUDGET CUTS

Read the article and weep. The first paragraph, written Martin Crutsinger, an Associated Press (AP) Economics writer, sums up the sad news of the $2.57 TRILLION Budget which George W. Bush has sent to Congress...

WASHINGTON - "President Bush (news - web sites) sent Congress a $2.57 trillion budget plan Monday that seeks deep spending cuts across a wide swath of government from reducing subsidies paid to the nation's farmers, cutting health care payments for poor people and veterans and trimming spending on the environment and education."

Now that George W. Bush has help his rich buddies get richer with tax cuts, proposed caps on medical malpractice for doctors, etc., he has not targeted the poor. Over 150 government programs, many for the poor and for children, will be CUT or eliminated if Dubya gets his way.

In the meantime, the self-employed of this country are sinking into deeper and deeper poverty as we try to make payments for health insurance of over $1000 per month to try and cover our families in case of catastrophic illness. After I finish typing this, I will be running down to the Blue Cross Blue Shield office to make my family's health insurance payment- 7 days late. The $1000 monthly does NOT include vision or dental. Nor does it include a $500 deductable per family member. Which means our health care could easily reach about $15,000 annually, or close to 50% of the average annual income in the particular area where we live. This particular health care insurance plan also give us about 10% of the hospitalization benefits that group members, or people who subscribe through companies, get in a comparable policy- at about three times the cost. Perhaps more.

Nice, huh? John Kerry was going to help the self-employed by offering them group insurance plans. Which is why we cried when he lost.

By the way, President Bush... you know how you are pushing for the caps on medical malpractice on a national level? And how the House usually passes it, but the Senate does not? Well, did you hear about the woman who had half of her lung removed at Sloan Kettering because there was a malignant tumor there, but it turned out NOT to be a malignant tumor but rather an inflammation? And how the doctors involved, both the surgeon and the doctor who gave the wrongful diagnosis, are trying to say it was a valid diagnosis anyway? Not even really giving the woman an apology? Do you think that woman is only entitled to $250,000.00 max? We at NIPPIES don't.

Did you also hear the report last week which came out of Harvard? That half of all personal bankruptsies in the U.S. are due to ONE catastrophic illness? Even though most of these people HAD health insurance? Did you hear the nurse on public radio say that she had to sell her house, which she'd owned for nearly half of her life, after being operated on for a bowel obstruction because her health insurance didn't cover her $58,000.00 medical bill for a few days in the intensive care unit? And that the hospital SUED her for the money? Yep. She's now living in an apartment and paying back $500.00 per month.

President George W. Bush, get in touch with the little people instead of cavorting with the doctors, CEOs, and pharmaceutical companies.
February 6, 2005

The Coffee SaleRarely do I have the house all to myself, as my husband is self-employed. He travels in spurts and can be gone for weeks at a time, but more often than not he is here. Our children, who are ten years apart, are on totally different schedules. So it seems as though someone is always in the house, someone is always awake.

But in the morning, I can be alone in the car. I take the little one to school, and then, two three or days a week, I venture into a coffee shop for coffee and to read the morning newspaper. Sometimes I just go through the drive-thru, leave the heater on, and read the newspaper while I sip in the parking lot. Most days I don't bother with make-up or getting gussied up, because everyone else who does this at this time of the morning (after 8:30 AM) seems to be as disheveled as I am. Most are housewives who don't work, or retirees who just want to get out of the house.

On Tuesday of this week, I decided to pick up a coffee at a drive-through, and read the newspaper in the car while I listen to National Public Radio news. I was pleasantly surprised when, after I'd ordered the coffee through one of those large black menu-screens > PHOTO REMOVED that many coffee shop drive-throughs have (you know, the ones with the sun-faded pictures of donuts on them), the voice which answered me told me my order was "73 cents...please drive around to the first window."

Hmmm, I thought. That's odd. A second glance at the menu confirmed that coffee was 89 cents for the smallest cup. They must be having a sale on coffee, I assumed. Perhaps it's customer appreciation day, I reasoned. I fished out two quarters, two dimes, and three pennies. (No tipping allowed). I gave the girl the money and forgot about the incident.

Then, two days later, I decided to go into the coffee shop instead of using the drive-thru because it was, to say the least, very frigid outside. The middle-aged woman at the register, a different one than the one who'd been at the drive-thru on the privious occasion, took my order. "Seventy-three cents," she told me. Another sale?

After I'd paid her and she handed me the styrofoam cup with the white lid on top, I decided to ask the obvious question.

"Is there a special sale on coffee this week or something," I said cheerfully.

She stopped what she was doing, took a look at me, and then said, "Oh, no. No sale. I just gave you the Senior Citizen discount. I always do when I figure someone is over fifty or around fifty. I'm nearly fifty myself, so don't think I'm telling you you're old."

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I was, to be quite honest, quite upset at her candor. This was the first time in my entire life that anyone has ever assumed I was even near the age of fifty. Or, should I say, the first time anyone has ever verbally remarked about such a judgement. I was, to be quite honest, upset and shocked. I took my coffee to the car, sat there with the motor running for fifteen minutes, and replayed her words again and again in my head. Then, as I do with most things, I accepted it and went on with my day.

I'm not fifty yet, dear readers. But I'm not far from it, either. True, I had no make-up on. True, I had had a rough month this past month. Lots of life's little disappointments had arrived on my humble doorstep. And the fact that I'd only slept an average of 5 hours per night for the past few weeks didn't help, either. But there is no getting past the truth. Two different women on two different days had given me, for the first time in my lift, a Senior Citizen discount. I must be looking my age- or beyond.

By the early evening, I'd turned my awakening to a funny little anecdote to share with my husband and sister, who is, herself, well past fifty. She told me one about how she'd been offered the devastating discount when she was only forty-five. We laughed. What else can you do.

I haven't decided yet if the assumption the coffee-shop women made were as bad as the time I congratulated a friend on her pregnancy. You guessed it. She wasn't pregnant, but had only put on a few extra pounds around the middle. That, dear readers, was the LAST time I ever assumed anything.


February 4, 2005

Special thanks to Laurie Harper: It's not "Hype"
We at NIPPIES want to thank Laurie Harper for pointing out one of our many mistakes. We called Michael Moore's documentary "Farenhype 911", instead of "Farenheit 911". "Farenhype 911" was written and produced to refute the veracity of Michael Moore's film. Thanks for the correction, Laurie.


The Extra Mile
Have we become a minimalist society? No, we at NIPPIES don't mean living with the least amount of luxury or money. Obviously, those of us who have the choice are not doing that.

What I am talking about here is doing that little bit extra not because you'll be fired, ostracized or chastized because you didn't do it. What we at NIPPIES are speaking of is doing that little extra because we should, and because we want to treat others the way we would like to be treated. You know, the Golden Rule thing. The following are two little stories from my personal life. Both instances occured on the same day- within hours of each other. The Golden Rule was most decidedly not followed.

THE MISPLACED STEAKS...

On the way home from dropping off the little one at school, which is now several towns away because her old school closed (and that is another sad story), I spied a sign at the locally owned and operated grocery store. I do most of my shopping at this store - let's call it Brownie's - because we at NIPPIES preach supporting the "little guy", and we practice, most of the time, what we preach. Anyway, the sign announced, "ONE DAY MEAT SALE."

Indeed, there were some price reductions on meat, althought Brownie wasn't exactly giving away the store. I perused the meat counter, found some nice sirloins at $6.99 a pound (normally 7.99), and selected two packages of two steaks each. 4 nice steaks in two packages. Total came to over $15.00. I also splurged on A-1 Steak Sauce®, which was NOT on sale and cost more than one steak, and a large bottle of Suave® conditioner, a bargain whether it's on sale or not.

Because I only had four items (two packages of steak, one bottle of conditioner, and one bottle of steak sauce), I chose the "Express Line". I was the only one in line, and I didn't have to hurry as I pulled out my "Nice Card", which offers discounts on items if you have one. The girl took my card and totaled up the very small order. She waited patiently as I wrote out the check, and used the "Nice Card" to verify the check.

"Paper or plastic?", she asked. "Plastic is fine," I answered. "Do you want the conditioner in a separate bag"? Thinking this over and picturing the conditioner spilling onto the expensive sirloins, I said, "Yes, please."

Naturally, in my mind, I pictured two bags: one for the conditioner. One for the steaks and the steak sauce. I grabbed the only two bags I saw, said "Thanks. Keep the receipt, there's nothing I'll be returning", and then I headed past the bubble gum and claw machines and out the automatic door.

When I got home, as is my custom, I put everything away. Two bags, I noted. One for the conditioner, and one for the steaks and steak sauce. I then proceeded with my everyday morning must-dos. Feed the dog and let him out if necessary. Feed the cats- both indoor and strays which sit outside the bathroom window waiting for a plate of food to be dropped. Clean the litter box. Change the dogs and cats' water. Start the laundry, straighten the downstairs, do whatever dishes are sitting there from the night before, etc.

After the chores, I settled down at the computer to update my various web sites, and something made me think of how pleased my family would be with the juicy, tender steaks I'd brought home. Suddenly, it occured to me that I didnt' remember putting the steaks in the refrigerator! I jumped up, ran to the refrigerator. No steaks. Looked in the television room, near the front door, on the porch, in the car and the car trunk. I'm ashamed to admit I even looked in the dryer and in the garbage bags I'd just taken out to the side of the house. No steaks. After nearly an hour of scouring the house, I called "Blackie's".

"I was down there at your store an hour ago and bought about $15.00 worth of steaks and can't find them. Are they there?", I asked, trying to hide the panic in my voice.

"Yes, ma'am," the girl on the other end said. "We just put them back in the meat case, but I'll have someone get them back."

"I'll be right down," I said.

And I did run right down. Or, I should say, drove right down. And they were there at the Express Check-Out/Customer Service dounter - and so was the girl who'd rung them up for me. She recognized me and told the other clerk, who was busy selling Pennsylvania lottery tickets, to hand me the steaks, which were under the counter in a bag. I walked out relieved to have my expensive dinner purchase back where it belonged- with me.

But it wasn't long before I got to thinking, I could not believe that no one at Blackie's had bothered to call me to tell me that my steaks were down there. That I'd left them behind. Steaks I'd PAID for! It would have been easy...the girl obviously remembered me. I'd used a "Nice Card", so she saw my name. I'd paid for the steaks by check, so the check had to still be in the drawer, because the same clerk was still on duty. AND I'd left my receipt there, with the "Nice Card" number on it, so they could have fished that out of the little trash can under the terminal and used that to trace back to their database for my phone number, which is not on the check.

Hey, hadn't someone from Blackie's called me at home only last month when I'd forgotten to sign a check? Yes, they had. But they didn't bother to make sure I knew where I'd left my steaks. Instead, they put them back to be resold.

Wow. Doesn't ANYONE go that little extra mile for others any more? I'm not perfect, but I can tell you with no uncertainty that I would have made it my business to trace back the owner of those steaks. Even if it took more effort than opening a cash register drawer and looking at a customer's name and address. (Our phone number is in the book).

THE PAGER STORY...

Now, as if the steak incident wasn't bad enough, there is more. After the steak schkeveel, I decided to take a short nap, as I hadn't slept much the night before. Taking a nap means getting the pager out and doing a test call, as the pager is the only way my daughter's school can get in touch with me in an emergency. (We get a lot of phone calls on our home line all day long, which necessitates shutting the ringer off if we want to sleep.)

So, pager in hand, I dialed the pager number, punched in my own home telephone number as a call-back, and then tapped the pound sign, and waited. Instead of the usual "Thank You", I heard a busy signal. Hmmmm. Odd, I thought. So I dialed again. And again, and punched in more numbers. The pager never went off. Ut-oh, I thought. This is my life-line to the school. I better call the pager company and find out what is going on.

Unfortunately, I could not remember the exact name of the pager company. I was pretty sure it was Penn-Tel or Penn-Tele or something like that. So, instead of rooting through old bills, I did an internet search to find the telephone number of a pager company in Pennsylvania named Penn-Tel. I came up with a phone number that turned out to be an Indian restaurant. Back to the drawing board.

Fifteen minutes later, I located not only the last two bills, but the check numbers, as well. And both checks were written out to a company that was not named Penn-Tel, but something entirely different. A takeover, I figured. But there was not a contact number on the bill. And so, once again, I did an internet search. This time I got a phone number. I dialed a Philadelphia phone number.

"Hello, may I help you?" the representative answered. "I hope you can," I said very patiently. "My pager isn't working, and I don't understand it. I am paid up until the last day in February."

"OK, ma'am. What's your pager number?"

"Is that the bar code number on the back of the pager?" I asked. Nope, she said. It's your pager phone number. I gave it to her.

"Oh, you must have been a Penn-Tel customer," she said. "Yes, I was," I replied. "But I've been paying your company for the last 5 months and there has never been a problem with service. What is going on?"

"Well, ma'am. Let me just do a check." I could hear her tapping away. "Oh, yes. We took that frequency down last week."

I didn't quite know what to say, I was so shocked. The new pager company took the frequency down on my pager and didn't bother to let me know. I took a breath and tried to be nice.

"Well, what am I supposed to do about a pager now? The only way my daughter's school can get in touch with me when I'm not near my home phone is through my pager."

"Well, ma'am. You can buy a new pager for $45. And there's a $12.00 per month charge for service."

"Wow. I only bought the other pager a little over a year ago and really hate to have to buy a new one. And your service charge is about 50% higher than what I was paying with Penn-Tel!"

"Well, ma'am... you are getting a much larger coverage for your pager now."

"But I don't need a larger coverage area," I replied evenly. "My daughter's school is only a few miles away."

"Well, I'm sorry, ma'am. That's our price. Furthermore, if you don't notify us in writing that you no longer want service, we will continue to bill you."

Now I was losing my patience. Was I really being told that not only had I paid for service I wasn't getting, not only had the service been removed without prior notice, but now I had the burden of informing this company in writing that I no longer wanter "service" or I would be billed into perpetuity?

"Wait. Are you saying that I have to write to you to discontinue service or you will keep on billing me?"

"Yes, ma'am. That's right. Here's our fax number. Ready?"

And so it went. She gave me the fax number. I was not happy about it, but I composed a letter and a cover sheet and fired off a fax informing the company that I did not appreciate not being notified of the discontinuation of service, that I did not appreciate being told I now had to purchase a new pager to have continued service, and that I had paid for service for a month which I was not receiving. Furthermore, in business-like language, that I intended to inform the proper agencies if I didn't receive a prompt refund of my last month's pre-paid service.

As of this writing (three days later), I haven't heard a word. So I think I can safely assume that the company will say they never received my fax. On Monday morning, I will have to go to the post office and mail the letter I already faxed, with proof of mailing, if I want to have any chance of receiving a refund.

This, dear readers, is what goes on in America now. The burden of proof is always laid at the feet of the consumer. Take it or leave it. How I miss the old days when the companies from which you purchased services were local, and you could march in and ask to speak to the owner face to face or you would take your business elsewhere. Too many times, in this age of takeovers, there is no where else to take your business.



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