See You on the Radio


Favorite stories from the last 8 years of Charles Osgood's radio program. Funny, poignant, and even poetic. Read by the author.
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Favorite stories from the last 8 years of Charles Osgood's radio program. Funny, poignant, and even poetic. Read by the author.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Osgood is known as a winning, whimsical humorist of the airwaves, and if these 100-odd commentaries (often culminating in verse) recorded for CBS Radio over the past eight years are any indication, that reputation is well deserved. The mini-essays touch on such topics as the "Lightning Strike Convention," attended by people struck by lightning whose lives have been changed in ways undetectable by science, the Wash Your Hands effort by Massachusetts doctors to get people to save lives and stop the spread of diseases by lathering up on a regular basis, and a 7-Eleven manager who was fired for catching a thief in his store, a violation of company policy. Osgood generally works from a small wire story--usually one that exhibits what he calls HPF, or Human Perversity Factor--or a scientific/medical study that proves the glaringly obvious. Sometimes, though, he weighs in lightly but sensitively on current events, such as when he meditates on the difficulties involved in deciding what should be put into the history books, or when he laments the ways political correctness can distort the English language. Written as they are for the ear rather than the eye, some of these pieces are slight on the page, without Osgood's delivery to add flavor. But those that contain verse remain Osgood's best and most memorable work. Discussing angry drivers, for example, he posits: "There's a name unscientific for those who act this way./ I will not tell you what it is, but it starts with an A." You can almost see it on the radio. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
These 60 short nuggets from eight years of Osgood's radio broadcasts include true stories, like the man cornered by alligators and a beauty contest that became a slugfest. Amusing oddities crop up, like a snoring lawsuit, the Lightening Strike Victims' Convention, and several bungled robberies and prison escapes. Osgood explains out-of-favor words like Indian-giver, welsh, and niggardly. He even dispenses health advice on aging and warns against licking golf balls, which may have picked up weed killer. Some facts are sad statistics: U.S. prison costs exceed those of public schooling; the leading cause of death among our children age ten to 19 is auto accidents--the second is gunfire. A fine reader, Osgood (The Osgood Files) projects expressively, without monotony, even during occasional descents into doggerel. This set is fine audio, which can merit the author's praise of radio as "theater of the mind." It is a worthy addition to popular collections of humor and human interest.--Gordon Blackwell, Eastchester, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
— Sandra Knowles, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia, SC
— Sandra Knowles, University of South Carolina Library, Columbia, SC
American Way
For twenty-five years, Charles Osgood has been a steadying voice, wry and funny. His sage observations and offbeat stories are a sort of national storehouse of common sense. He is a miniaturist, specializing in the sometime absurdities of the law, examples of bureaucracy run amok. At times the quirky and absurd even inspire him to flights of doggerel poetry. Surely he is the only writer to ever find, or even search for, a rhyme for sysnyntenoctadecanoamide a sleeping-inducing chemical. No sysnyntenoctadecanoamide here.
Kirkus Reviews
A collection of the radio and television pundit's best work, from the past eight years. Charles Osgood, like Art Buchwald or Erma Bombeck, possesses the sort of wry wit that seems quintessentially American, the ability to gently mock this country and its citizens with plain old common sense. Most of the pieces in the book, which are taken from Osgood's CBS radio broadcasts, concern people and the very strange things they do or say, and the book is divided into suitable sections, such as "HPF (The Human Perversity Factor)," which includes an essay on a convention held by and for lightning strike victims, or "Money Draws Flies," in which Osgood discourses on, among other topics, the hazards of winning the lottery. The author runs the gamut of topics from political correctness to patriotism, and while reading too many in one sitting is somewhat cloying, there's something to chuckle at in almost every piece. Osgood is particularly good at pointing up the foibles of both people and institutions, and finds particular pleasure in taking inflated government agencies or their minions to task, as, for instance, in a piece on the modernization of the IRS. "Yesterday the IRS brass appeared before a House appropriations subcommittee. This is the subcommittee that oversees the people who are overseeing the people who are modernizing the modernization program." Several of the essays are accompanied by doggerel that ranges from groaningly bad to delightful (such as when he includes the name of the drug sysnyntenoctadecanoamide in verse). This is the sort of collection that Osgood's fans will adore—and it may even win him some new ones.
From the Publisher
Charles Osgood’s gentle, bemused style of brief human interest stories and doggerel poetry remains a favorite, not only of the public, but of his colleagues, who never tire of interviewing or spotlighting him on their own news shows. Those who haven’t heard Osgood’s show should pick this up to discover what they’ve been missing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786223121
  • Publisher: Gale Group
  • Publication date: 2/1/2000
  • Series: Americana Ser.
  • Pages: 269
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.83 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

In addition to anchoring CBS News Sunday Morning, CHARLES OSGOOD also anchors and writes The Osgood File, his daily news commentary broadcast on the CBS Radio Network. His commentaries have drawn one of the largest audiences of any network radio feature. Osgood was called “one of the last great broadcast writers” by his predecessor on Sunday Morning, Charles Kuralt. Osgood was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1990. He has won numerous awards and honors, including three Emmys and three Peabodys.
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Table of Contents

I Hazards of Modern Living
II HPF (The Human Perversity Factor)
III Law and Order
IV Lab Results
V Osgood's Health Tips
VI Crime and Punishment
VII Current Affairs
VIII Money Draws Flies
IX Inspiration
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It has been said of radio and television broadcasts that, like cheese or sausage, you will enjoy them more if you never actually see how they are made. This may also be true of books, I have come to believe, and doubly true of one such as this, which contains pieces and essays originally written for broadcast.

Even though I have more standing and experience as a broadcaster than as an author, I must admit that book standards are higher. It is a painful exercise to go over several years of daily effort and confront the awful truth that most of it, for one reason or another, won't measure up. I had imagined that a collection of my best work would be a much thicker book than this one is.

However, what you see before you does measure up, I think. Some of the pieces are humorous, some serious, all have to do with the things people are up to. That can be pretty dumbfounding sometimes, and other times positively inspiring.

One thing I should warn you about: most of us broadcast reporters are notoriously poor spellers. We have no experience with it, you see. We tend to sneer when our print media counterparts interrupt someone at a news conference to ask how a name is spelled. We broadcasters never have to do that. Not because we know the spelling, but because we don't care. Being a radio broadcaster in particular means never having to spell anything.

Since the pieces from which this book was created were typed from the audio tapes of actual radio broadcasts, the transcriber spelled all the proper nouns the way they sounded to him or her. Names of people and places are, of course, not always pronounced as they sound. Please accept my apology if I've mangled a name in the pages that follow.

Finally, people are always commenting to me about the phrase I use: "See you on the radio." That's impossible, they say, you can't see anything on the radio. And now, I fear, calling a book by that title is only going to add fuel to their fire. To them, I have only this to say in defense:

"See you on the radio"...I say that every week.

A peculiar phrase, some people think, for anyone to speak.

I've got a piece of mail or two, up on my office shelf,

Complaining that the sentence seems to contradict itself.

"Dear Mr. Osgood," someone wrote. "That sign-off is absurd.

Radio is for the ear...the song or spoken word.

The medium for seeing is, without a doubt, TV.

We therefore call it 'video.' That's Latin for 'I see.'

So please don't say that anymore. You really should know better."

That's a gentle paraphrase of what was in this viewer's letter.

``Dear Sir," I then wrote back to him, and this was my reply:

I do believe that you are wrong, and let me tell you why.

I've worked some years in radio, and television, too.

And though it's paradoxical, it nonetheless is true

That radio is visual, much more so than TV.

And there's plenty of good reason why that paradox should be.

You insist that on the radio, there are no pictures there.

You say it's only for the ear...but I say, "Au contraire."

There are fascinating pictures on the radio, you see,

That are far more picturesque than any pictures on TV.

No television set that's made, no screen that you can find,

Can compare with that of radio: the theater of the mind.

Where the pictures are so vivid, so spectacular and real,

That there isn't any contest, or at least that's how I feel.

The colors are more colorful, the red and greens and blues.

And more vivid, yet more subtle, than television's hues.

The dimensions of the radio are truly to be treasured:

Infinite the size of screen diagonally measured,

With resolution so acute TV cannot compare.

We can whisper in the listener's ear and take him anywhere.

And you tell me that I cannot see the audience I touch?

Let me tell you now a experience is such

That although the room I work in may be very plain and small...

In a way that's quite miraculous, it isn't small at all.

I am there inside the radio, the one beside the bed.

And it's me you hear when it goes off...come on now, sleepyhead.

I can see you in the morning... I can see you coast to coast

As you sip your glass of orange juice and bite into your toast.

I am with you as you brush your teeth and as you shave your face.

You may think you are alone, but I am with you everyplace.

As car radios tune in each morning to "The Osgood Files,"

I see the lines of traffic stretching endlessly for miles.

Not a hundred or a thousand miles...a million there must be.

And I'm riding along with them. This is radio, you see.

And I'm on the Jersey Turnpike, on the Thruway and the Hutch,

And the Eisenhower Expressway, helping people keep in touch,

And the California freeways and the Houston traffic funnel.

I may lose you for a little while as you go through the tunnel.

But suddenly I'm there again, some episode to tell,

To nobody's surprise, because they know me very well.

For my voice is with them every day and when it disappears,

They know it comes right back again, it's been that way for years.

I've been riding with them every day for such a long, long time

They are willing to put up with me when I resort to rhyme.

And that may be the ultimate and quintessential test

That proves beyond the slightest doubt that radio is best.

A friend will always stick with you ... though your poems may not scan.

I'll see you on the radio...I can, you see, I can.

I. Hazards of Modern Living

Sleepwalking with the Alligators

There's an old saying that when you're up to your armpits in alligators it's hard to remember sometimes that your original intention was to drain the swamp. Well, now from Palm Harbor, Florida, comes the story of a retiree whose original intention was to get a night's sleep and who found himself up to his armpits in alligators.

James Currans is seventy-seven years old. He's a retired maintenance supervisor living in Palm Harbor, Florida. The other night he must have been sleepwalking, he figures, and somehow tumbled down an embankment into the pond in back of his house. He woke up to find himself in a few feet of mud and water. He was carrying his cane, and tried to use it to lift himself from the muck. But try as he might, he couldn't. And as he thrashed around, he attracted some company. Alligators. Several of them ... some of them three feet long or bigger.

He poked at them with his cane, and they retreated but kept coming back, and there seemed to be more and more of them. After struggling for about an hour, Currans started yelling. But his wife, Barbara, was sound asleep and couldn't hear him. However, a little girl who lives across the pond heard him. Six-year-old Victoria Martin woke up her mother who called 911. And when firefighters and Pinellas County sheriff's deputies got there at five in the morning, they could hear Currans, too. They couldn't see him because it was still dark. And when they cast a light, all they could see was alligators. Eight or ten of them had Currans surrounded ... and were only a few feet away from him.

Sheriff's Corporal James Cooper ran, jumped a couple of fences, and spotted Currans up to his waist in water. And while firefighters and other deputies scared the alligators off with their lights, Cooper waded into the mud and rescued Currans. He's okay, except for some cuts on his legs and arms from the fall down the embankment. His wife Barbara tells him: "Jim, you're darn lucky those alligators didn't get ahold of you." This is true. This is very true.

The Great Suburban Oil Spill

Oil tankers are to oil what armored cars are to money. They deliver it from one place to another, unless of course they spill it en route. From time to time, I've taken note of the fact that both conveyances seem to have an unfortunate tendency to leak. There are repeated news stories about both. The rear doors of armored trucks keep springing open, spilling money out all over the road, creating both chaos and delight out there on the highways and byways of America.

But nobody is delighted when the oil tankers run aground, or for some other reason spill oil into the waterways. Surely, we keep saying, there must be some way to keep the money in the trucks and the oil in the tankers. State and federal laws do try to encourage this, but Murphy's Law keeps working against it. Murphy recently visited Cranston, Rhode Island.

That's where John Cienzo lives. The last thing he ever thought would happen is that he would be the victim of an oil spill. For one thing, his house isn't on the water, where an oil tanker spill might foul the beach. For another, the Cienzos don't use oil. They converted to natural gas many years ago. When they converted the boiler, they had the old oil tank cut up and taken out of the basement, so there was no tank that could possibly leak.

John Cienzo's chances of having an oil spill seem remote indeed. The Cienzos never even thought about oil, but they're thinking about it now. This past Saturday, they did have an oil spill. The basement floor was flooded with oil to a depth of three inches. The house had to be evacuated because of the danger posed by the oil fumes.

How could this be? Well, the Cienzos' neighbor across the street still uses oil for heat, and the truck driver who came to deliver oil on Saturday got confused. Maybe Victoria Street looked different in the snow. Anyway, for whatever reason, the oil man made a mistake, went to the wrong house, and hooked his hose up to a spigot that used to lead to the Cienzos' old oil tank and now leads to nothing.

The oil was pumped directly from the tank truck right into the basement, 125 gallons of it. At least there were no fish or birds down there that might be killed, but everything stored there is well lubricated, I can tell you. Officials from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and Clean Harbors were called to the scene to supervise the cleanup. They say the oil spigot should have been removed at the same time the oil tank was.

It's icy right now in Rhode Island. The Cienzos' driveway might be a little slippery, but not as slippery as their basement.

The Truth Fairy

A large man with the build of a football player got into a van parked outside a grocery store in Rosemont, Minnesota, started up the motor and drove off, just as the couple whose car it was came out of the store.

Well, they called the police. Squad cars set off after the stolen vehicle, a Plymouth Grand Voyager, and caught up with it and pulled it over, and the driver apologized profusely and said something about needing some money for the tooth fairy. Would you believe that, if you were the police officer? Well, this one did believe it, and he was right to do so, because it was true.

The man built like a football player explained that he actually was a football player, a member of the Minnesota Vikings, center Mike Morris, and he produced identification to prove it.

What had happened was that his son, Steven, had lost one of his first teeth, and Morris wanted to play tooth fairy and had gone out to find a silver dollar or two to put under Steven's pillow. And he had driven his mother's Grand Voyager to several stores, trying to find silver dollars, and finally did find a couple, and leaving the place, he got into a Plymouth Grand Voyager, thinking it was his mother's. It looked just like hers, except that it had Iowa plates, which Morris didn't notice.

The key fit the ignition, so he started it up and off he went, and it wasn't until later, when he saw the squad car with flashing red lights coming up behind him, and heard the siren, that he knew anything was wrong.

And it was only when they made him step out of vehicle and showed him the out-of-state license plate that Morris realized that this was not his mother's car after all. Once he was able to establish who he was, and they checked, and sure enough, there was another Grand Voyager much like his mother's parked not far from the other one, they drove him back there, where the owners got their van back and a Mike Morris autograph, and next morning, when little Steven Morris woke up, he found two silver dollars under his pillow.

So you see, there is a tooth fairy, although he may not look exactly as you would picture him.

The Beauty

Contest Fight

It is good to be competitive. In a world of winners and losers, winning is seen as success and losing as failure. It's thrilling to win and agonizing to lose. The Buffalo Bills, after a winning season, get no credit for what they achieved, only scorn for what they failed to achieve. That is not fair or just, but it seems to be the way people think now. "A good loser," they say, "is a loser." Whatever happened to sportsmanship? If all these violent sports such as pro football, wrestling and figure skating are getting you down, perhaps it's time to turn to a gentle, old-fashioned competition that's really more of a beauty contest than it is a sport. It takes place every year in Chatswater, England. And, in fact, it is a beauty contest. Select the young woman who, by virtue of her beauty, charm and grace, will bear the title of Miss Cornish Tin.

Chatswater is in Cornwall, in the southwest part of England, where they did mine tin once upon a time, although the tin mines there are closed now. The contestants in this event are young beauty queens from villages and towns all over Cornwall.

It was a lovely evening, for the most part. The winner was fourteen-year-old Emma Miller. The first runner-up was Heidi Dark, also fourteen, and the second runner-up was twenty-two-year-old Samantha Lowe. Everything went quite smoothly until the winners were announced, at which point the second runner-up, Ms. Lowe, ran up to the first runner-up, Ms. Dark, and punched her in the face, giving her a black eye, and pushed her and kicked her in the shin and knocked her down to the ground.

The mother of the first runner-up came running up to try to put a stop to this, and she got pushed and whacked on the head - not very ladylike to say the least. The contest winner, wearing the Miss Cornish Tin sash, somehow managed to make herself scarce and escaped involvement in any of this.

Ms. Lowe later explained to the court that it was Heidi Dark's father who had provoked her by walking into the changing room earlier in the evening while she was in her underwear and accusing Ms. Lowe of calling his daughter a slut.

Fiercely competitive, that Miss Cornish Tin contest. Nice change of pace, though, from the figure skating.

The Morning After

Work rules vary from place to place and job to job, but most employers certainly let you take a day off when you're sick, and they don't dock your pay for it. However, Emerson Phillips' boss didn't want to give him sick pay for a day that he took off, because Phillips had announced in advance that this would be the day after his daughter's wedding and he probably would have too much to drink and he would be too sick to come in to work at the Metropolitan Toronto Housing Authority the next day. Therein lies the controversy.

Phillips announced in advance that he believed there was an excellent chance that he wouldn't be working on one certain Monday, since his daughter would be getting married on Sunday. Phillips had good reason, therefore, to think that he just might have one wee bit too much to drink. And so then it wasn't too much of a trick to figure the next day he might call in sick - which he did, just the way he correctly predicted. But the boss said that sickness had been self-inflicted and therefore, for not coming in the next day, he could not expect to collect any sick pay.

Now, is a man sick who is slightly hungover?

It's a question that does come up over and over.

If your tongue is in misery, swollen and dry,

If your head seems to tell you you're going to die,

If you're bleary-eyed, nauseous, and in a bad mood,

And you have a hard time holding down any food,

And you feel like a horse gave you quite a big kick,

Then it would seem to me you are probably sick.

At the Housing Authority, Em Phillips' boss,

Didn't see why the agency should take the loss.

Since this was what Phillips had anticipated,

His boss said the sickness was premeditated.

He said knowing that he would be drinking too much

Disqualified Em from the sick pay as such.

That was the crux of the whole situation,

Which was finally settled by arbitration.

It seemed quite clear to the arbitrator

That if a man drinks he might pay for it later.

The fact that he warned that he might not come in,

Was irrelevant. Emerson Phillips would win.

And ordered to pay him his sick day pay pronto

Was the Housing Authority of Toronto.

For the arbitrator has now decreed

That a hungover man is a sick man indeed.

Bad Stuff in the Workplace

Nicholas Vierwell of Denver is a good person whose job is to promote safety. What he does at the plant where he works is to load a charge into a small explosive device called an initiator. It inflates car airbags to prevent injury in the event of a collision. One day, however, there was an explosion in the loading machine and the initiator, this tiny little explosive device, got stuck up one of Mr. Vierwell's nostrils and he was afraid if he tried to dig it out, it might go off.

This initiator packs the equivalent of five big M-80 firecrackers, not the kind of thing you want to explode in your nose. It would have killed him if it had gone off, so he didn't want to sneeze or even sniffle with that thing in there. He was escorted to the hospital by the county sheriff's officers and the bomb squad. Then, with the bomb squad and surgical team dressed in lead-lined gowns, Dr. Michael Gordon operated partly under water, since the initiator is activated by air, and very slowly and carefully removed the loaded thing from Mr. Vierwell's nose. Imagine how good it must feel not to have a live explosive device up your nose anymore.

A bad thing happened to Linda Jeffrey, a forty-six-year-old school secretary, of Palmdale, California, when she went to the dentist to have her teeth cleaned. Another Dr. Gordon, Russian-trained dentist Leonid Gordon, told her teeth were so rotten that they would all fall out in a few months anyway, so she let him pull them all and replace them with dentures. A few years later, something bad happened to Dr. Gordon. In the biggest dental malpractice judgment in California history, Ms. Jeffrey was awarded $1.2 million. She says she's very pleased with the verdict. Now that she's won she's going to look into the possibility of getting dental implants.

Finally, several bad things happened to Frank Curtis when he tried to burglarize the Dog House Deli in Pensacola, Florida. Trying to squeeze his way in through an air vent, he fell through the ceiling and got trapped inside. When he tried to climb out by standing on a sink, the sink collapsed. The pipes broke, water started shooting all over the place, soaking him to the skin. Somewhere along the line, he triggered a silent alarm that called the cops, who say they caught him wet-handed, still carrying the cash from the cash register. Bad night all around for Frank Curtis.

A Slap in the Face

Police officers are human, too. They have feelings and they react to things the same way anybody else would. People sometimes forget that.

In Stillwater, Oklahoma, police Sergeant John Jerkins, a married man with four children, got up at one o'clock in the morning to guide his visiting young nephew to the bathroom. He flipped on a light in the living room, and there were his seventeen-year-old daughter and her boyfriend, also seventeen, having sex on the couch in the living room.

Seeing them there was the last thing he expected. Seeing him there was the last thing they expected, I'll bet. Jerkins yelled at the young man and slapped him across the face, as a lot of fathers might have done under the circumstances. But as a consequence of that slap, he was demoted by the Stillwater Police, lost his sergeant's rank, along with $705 a month in pay and $350 a month in pension benefits. Jerkins has appealed and an arbitrator is weighing that appeal.

Meanwhile, the city of Stillwater, Oklahoma, has upheld Jerkins' demotion and pay cut. A police officer isn't supposed to slap anybody, even if it's a teenage boy he caught having sex with his teenage daughter on the living room couch in the middle of the night in the officer's own house. This does not seem fair to Jerkins. He wants his old rank back and he wants his old pay restored.

He has been on the Stillwater police force for nineteen years and he has a reputation for keeping his cool. But Stillwater city attorney Mary Ann Kearns says if for some reason this officer can no longer maintain the control he is famous for, he is at risk on the street, and it can be a risk for the public.

This was not the street, of course. It happened in his house, in his living room, on his couch, and it was his daughter with whom the teenager he slapped had been having sex.

There has been a great outcry on Jerkins' behalf. Oklahoma's governor, Frank Keating, says he would have hit the boy harder. Jude Metcalf, the son of another Stillwater policeman, says, "They say you're a cop twenty-four hours, but you're a father before that."

District Attorney Robert Hudson says, "We know the climate in Oklahoma. People think that that is conduct you might expect from a parent." Jerkins says, "This isn't just about me. It's about parents and what their duties and responsibilities are and what they can legally do in their own home."

We'll see what happens.

Guns Don't Rob People. Rocks Rob People.

The National Rifle Association has often made the point that even if guns were outlawed, outlaws would still manage to get guns somehow and would not be deterred by the fact that guns were illegal. The gun lobby argues that if robbers were concerned about violating the law, they wouldn't be robbers in the first place. Also, the NRA reasons, if a holdup man wants to hold somebody up and can't get a gun, he would simply carry out the holdup with some other weapon. I'll admit that this argument seemed a little bit farfetched to me, but maybe the NRA is right. I saw a story on the news wires about a man in Charlotte, North Carolina, who held up a convenience store armed with a rock.

The rock-wielding bandit walked into a QuikShoppe convenience store early in the morning. The only customer in the store at the time was a woman who worked as a topless dancer at a nearby club. The gunless stickup man grabbed the customer and pointed the rock at the one clerk who was on duty and demanded all the money from the cash register. When he got that, he took all the money the clerk and the customer had on them and then ran off.

So it is demonstrably true, then, that you can hold up a convenience store with a rock, and rocks of all shapes and sizes are freely available in this country. You don't need to get a rock license. You don't have to fill out any forms or divulge any previous criminal record in order to get a rock. You don't have to register a rock. Rocks are cheap and they are so plentiful, in fact, that there are signs here and there across the country warning people to beware of falling rocks. I have never seen a falling gun sign anywhere, have you? Although a flying bullets warning might be appropriate in some places.

Following up on this rock-wielding bandit, however, I can tell you that when he ran out of the QuikShoppe the other day, he was chased by a bunch of teenagers who were apparently not intimidated by the rock. They tackled him, knocked him down, made him spill the money he was carrying, scooped it up, ran off with it and made a clean getaway, leaving the robber and his rock behind in the street. So no need yet for rock control.

II. HPF (The Human Perversity Factor)

Don't Rush Me!

Does it seem to you that when someone gets into a car to pull out of a parking space, and you're waiting to park in that space and the person in the car sees you and knows that you're waiting to park, that it takes that person forever to start up the car and get out of there? Does it really take people longer to pull out of a parking space if someone's waiting to use that space, or is it just you being paranoid? You'll be pleased to hear that you are not being paranoid. Drivers really do slow down and take their sweet time when they know that someone's waiting. And if you honk the horn, it only makes things worse; they'll slow down even more. And I'm not just making this up. There was a study done by Penn State University. Many tests confirm how nasty many people are when they get behind a steering wheel and start to drive a car.

He might be Mr. Nice Guy who takes the world in stride,

But behind the wheel, Mr. Nice Guy turns into Mr. Hyde.

When he sees that you are waiting for the space that he is in,

A slow and lengthy ritual he's likely to begin.

Before he turns the key, he must adjust the rearview,

Find another dozen things that need adjusting, too.

He checks the mileage and the station his radio is set to

And reaches for something apparently quite hard to get to.

He searches through the glove compartment and the space beneath,

Then combs his hair and picks at something caught between his teeth.

A Penn State study says all this occurs at slower pace

When someone else is clearly waiting for the parking space.

It may not be done on purpose, says the study's editorial,

But rather as expression of an instinct territorial.

This instinct everybody has becomes a little stronger

And causes us to make those waiting wait a little longer.

They checked cars pulling in and out of an Atlanta mall

And clocked how long it took, about four hundred cars in all,

And when someone else was waiting, those who pulled out took a notion

To do a dozen things or two and do them in slow motion.

So while you wait and drum your fingers, more and more annoyed,

It is not just your impatience, you're not being paranoid.

But when it is your turn to leave, says this report didactic,

The odds are then that you yourself may well employ this tactic.

There's a name unscientific for those who act this way.

I will not tell you what it is, but it starts with an A.

Pleasing the Pollsters

Do people lie to pollsters? Well, it depends on what you mean by lying. At a big meeting of pollsters and academics in Norfolk recently, they discussed something the polling specialists call self-presentation bias, which is the term for telling a pollster not what you really think, but what you want people to think you think.

Social desirability sounds like something that is socially desirable, wouldn't you say? But it is the bane of people who make a living in the survey business. People have set ideas about what is socially desirable and undesirable, and they don't want anybody to think they aren't doing what they're supposed to be doing, or thinking what they're supposed to be thinking.

Politicians often cite survey results to support some position or another, when, in fact, the findings in the surveys might be the result of too many of the people surveyed trying to give socially desirable answers. A person being polled is not just expressing him- or herself on the thing he or she is being asked about. He or she is also expressing something about him- or herself. You know the joke, ``Well, enough about me, let's talk about you. What do you think of me?"

Polling is like that. The respondents, as pollsters call their subjects, are not just expressing their opinion about some issue out there in the world, they're also trying to help the outside world form an opinion about them. We wouldn't want the world to think that we're going around thinking things that the world wouldn't approve of if they thought we were thinking them, would we?

So much for the margin of error! For pollsters, the problem arises when surveys ask about sensitive topics, such as sex, drug use, income, church attendance, how much interest you really had in following the O. J. Simpson trial. A series of surveys over the past eight years by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press found the public expressing little interest in stories about celebrity marriages and scandals, but more often able to answer factual questions about those stories than about more substantive issues of the day.

Ask New Yorkers what paper they read and most will tell you the Times. Look around the subway car though and what are they reading? The Daily News!

Employee Morale

There are things that everybody knows, and some of them are even true. But you have to watch out for things that everybody knows because some of them are not true. We all know, for example, that happy, cheerful workers make for a happy, cheerful workplace. They're bound to be more productive than someplace where the workers are sad and blue and down in the mouth all the time. But a new study done in Oslo has found exactly the opposite. According to Geir Kaufmann, a professor of psychology at the Norwegian College of Business, a lot of people do their very best work when they are depressed.

It is so much an article of faith with so many people that happy, cheerful workers do better work that many employers have taken to using certain colors, certain lighting or piped-in music to put their employees in a good mood. But if Professor Kaufmann is correct, the boss might be better off if the workers weren't quite so happy. Kaufmann says that cheerful test subjects tend to overestimate their own ability and to underestimate the complexity of the tasks and problems presented to them. And they tend to arrive at solutions that are the easiest and most obvious but not necessarily the best.

The glum people, on the other hand, were less confident and looked deeper and found far more creative solutions to the problems. So heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work we go, but in the case of the Seven Dwarfs, according to the Kaufmann theory, Grumpy might have put in a more productive workday than Happy. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence of people doing their best work while depressed, says Kaufmann. Einstein once said he was in a sad mood the day he came up with the theory of relativity.

This doesn't mean that employers should run out and buy black paint and recordings of dirges to play on the music system. But it's important that workers not be so entertained on the job that they forget why they're there. Meanwhile, as one of the office signs you can buy puts it: "The beatings will continue until the morale improves."

Politicians and Psychopaths

We hear all too often that people do not like or trust politicians. Not surprising, really, if they believe half the things political candidates say about each other. But perhaps our distrust of politicians is more than just an aversion to negative campaigning. In reporting the results of a three-year study at Caledonian University in Glasgow, Scotland, psychologist David Cooke says that he and his colleagues found that politicians and criminal psychopaths share some important behavioral characteristics, no offense intended.

Far be it from me to suggest that your candidate is a psychopathic liar. I'm sure he or she is a perfectly lovely person who speaks only the truth. But do you trust his or her opponent? See, that's what I thought.

There was once a politician who said, "I am not a crook."

But an eminent psychologist whose name is David Cooke,

Says that there are certain patterns of behavior at times,

Shared by people who do politics and people who do crimes.

``Both appear to be quite prone to certain forms of impropriety,"

Cooke reported to the British Psychological Society.

Psychopaths tend to be grandiose. They do not feel remorse,

And that is often true of politicians, too, of course.

Psychopaths and politicians and stockbrokers, too, says Cooke,

Often have a lot in common when you take a closer look.

Politicians often had a childhood in some way disturbed,

As did many of the psychopaths, Cooke's research team observed.

Troubled childhood seems to be, in fact, a rather common thread,

David Cooke and his research assistant, Lisa Marshall, said.

Psychopaths lie easily and won't say what's really meant.

Politicians do that also, with no criminal intent,

But they do it for a reason, when departing from the truth,

And that is to sway the voters when they're in the voting booth.

It may not hurt a politician, facing what they face;

It may even help a bit to be a psychopathic case.

So you have to listen closely to what politicians tell you

And before you buy the stock that some stockbroker wants to sell you.

Not all brokers or politicos are psychopaths, of course.

Not all crooks go into politics; that's true with equal force.

But the politicians, criminals and brokers that you see,

Have a lot in common with each other and with you and me.

Communicating Through the Press

Paula Poppy, the evening and weekend receptionist at the Dale Wood Walk-in Clinic in Woodbridge, Virginia, was glancing through the want ads in the local paper, the Potomac News. She does that sometimes just for the heck of it, to see what opportunities might be out there. You know what they say, the best time to get a job is when you've already got one.

And one particular ad caught her eye. It was for a receptionist. She looked to see if they mentioned the shift. Maybe she thought she could handle both jobs, I don't know. But they did mention the shift, and it happened to be exactly the same as hers, evenings and weekends. So she looked to see what outfit this was that wanted a new receptionist for the evenings and weekends, and it was the Dale Wood Walk-in Clinic. This was her job that was being offered in the newspaper. What a way to find out they want to get rid of you.

She asked somebody at work if they were looking for somebody to replace her, and she was told, ``Well, yes, now that you ask, that is true." So Paula Poppy put on her coat and went over to the newspaper office and wrote out a check for $61.80 to the Potomac News, and she took out the following one-inch ad in the classifieds.

"As of this date, I quit," she wrote. ``If I had to find out through the newspaper," says Paula, ``I decided they could find out through the newspaper, too." The owner of the clinic, Jatenda Wallia, says, ``I just don't understand. Doesn't she have the courtesy to tell me she's quitting?" She told them, Paula says. She told them in the newspaper in writing.

Communication, harsh or sweet,

Has to be a two-way street.

Sometimes you talk for what you earn

Sometimes you listen and you learn.

In Paula's case they would replace her

Before they had to go and face her.

She did communicate with candor.

What's good for goose is good for gander.

The Human Perversity Factor

Anybody who has a dog is probably familiar with what I call the DPF, or Dog Perversity Factor. When my dogs are inside, they always want to go out. When they're outside, they decide pretty soon that they want to come back in.

We humans can certainly relate to that. The grass is always greener for us on the other side of the fence. The HPF, or Human Perversity Factor, is nowhere more in evidence than when our finger is on the thermostat.

It is colder in the winter than it is in the summer. I realize this is not exactly an original observation. You have probably noticed it yourself. But with the HPF, or Human Perversity Factor, there is evidence that we want to feel warmer in the winter than we do in the summer and colder in the summer than we do in the winter.

We consume huge amounts of gas and oil in the wintertime trying to bring the indoor temperature up to levels which, in the summertime, we would regard as too hot. When the summer comes, we consume prodigious amounts of electricity on air-conditioning trying to cool down the indoor temperatures to levels which, in the season when the wind is blowing and the snow is snowing, we would regard as too cold.

In other words, we want the indoors to be the exact opposite of whatever it is outdoors. We can't control the outdoor temperature, but we can and do control the indoor temperatures to a ridiculous extent.

I have friends who, when it is so hot outside you could fry an egg on the sidewalk, keep their apartment so well air-conditioned you could store meat in there. But when it's so cold that winter festivals and ice-fishing tournaments are being canceled left and right because of the deep freeze, they turn the thermostat to the point where you could melt marshmallows over the living room radiator. When the windchill is 225 outside, they like it to be 80 degrees inside. When it's pushing 100 outside, they want it 65 inside. That is a 15\-degree HPF differential. We're bad.

The Brain in Spain

We like to think that we - at least we here in the Western world - are so sophisticated and aware that we can always tell the difference between what's real and what's phony on television. We would never mix up fact with fiction, news with docudrama. We know when it's information we're getting, or entertainment, or somebody's simply selling us something. You would never today be able to fool people and frighten them the way Orson Welles did years ago with his famous Halloween radio broadcast, "The War of the Worlds." Maybe in some primitive Third World backwater you can get people going, ah, but not us Westerners. We're much too smart for that nowadays. Modern Spain is a forward-looking, progressive country. The Spanish people are romantic, it's true, but the land of Cervantes and Picasso is full of sophisticated, well-educated people. They've got TV. They watch CNN. They weren't born yesterday. So it came as something of a surprise when hundreds of panicked Spaniards flooded TV and radio switchboards with calls asking about the space aliens hovering over New York.

What they had seen on the Telecinco network were, in fact, commercials for the American movie Independence Day, which was about to open in Spain. The advertising agency, Publi-Espana, figured that viewers would not be fooled by a spoof of "The War of the Worlds."

"We wanted to do something different, cause some excitement, but certainly not fear," said agency executive Jose Luis Andarias. But when the same box gives you both fact and fiction, the lines get blurred sometimes. And when people from Madrid to Barcelona, from Seville to Valencia, saw scenes of a White House press conference about the invasion, and an announcer breaking away to shots of New Yorkers fleeing the streets, they didn't find it any stranger than the real news these days. A text warning on the bottom of the screen said, "Advertisement." "But," says ad man Andarias, "apparently people can't watch footage, listen and read at the same time."

And it's not just the Spanish who have that problem. We all do. Have you ever tried to read that small print that fills the screen in certain commercials, the legal mumbo jumbo that defies all understanding? "Anything heretofore to the contrary notwithstanding."

Too many inputs overload, short-circuiting the brain,

And that's a problem everywhere. It isn't just in Spain.

The Lightning Strike Victims Convention

At any given time in this country, there are hundreds of conventions going on. Soda jerks convene, Trekkies convene, doctors and lawyers convene. And in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, I found out about a convention of people who have been hit by lightning. I swear.

Comparing notes, many of those people at the Lightning Strike Victims Convention have been telling each other they haven't been the same since it happened. Most of them look perfectly all right. Tests seem to show they're all right. Doctors who have examined them say they are all right.

``That's easy for them to say!" says Harold Deal of Green-wood, South Carolina. He's heard doctors telling him that for twenty-six years, but he says he knows better. He says he knows darn well that he has not been the same since a bolt of lightning knocked him clear out of his boots and sent him flying fifty feet back in 1969. Deal says he hasn't been cold since then. He's been hot. It gets hot there in South Carolina in the summertime. Deal claims he likes to fill a bathtub with cold water and put eight bags of ice in there and then get into the tub and sit in the ice water. He has a collage of photographs showing himself romping through snow in nothing but a pair of shorts, each picture labeled with a temperature: 5 degrees, -10 degrees, -44 degrees.

Another conventioneer, Wilhelm Jonacht, says he used to speak eleven languages when he was head chef at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Not only that, but he says he was a kung fu grand master who used to run ten miles a day and do three hundred push-ups a day. Now he can only stammer through the simplest conversation. He says he touched something electrical back in 1992 and took 3,900 volts.

There's a doctor who specializes in treating for shocks and lightning strikes. Dr. Hooshang Hooshmand says with lightning and electric shock victims, the body's hardware is usually not damaged, but the software is often scrambled. It should be pointed out that Dr. Hooshmand is only allowed to practice under supervision ever since his conviction on charges of Medicare fraud. Another doctor, Robert Daroff, of the University Hospitals of Cleveland, says many of these people are like other fringe groups. They are people without organic diseases, he says, who are depressed, angry and litigious. Especially when they come into contact with a lawyer.

The Game of Golf Ball

Ben Seymour of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is seventy years old and a great golf ball enthusiast. Note I didn't say "golf enthusiast"; I said "golf ball enthusiast." He may not be the greatest golfer in the world, but he certainly does have a lot of balls.

Ben Seymour:I have a collection of 6,430 golf balls, all with the logos on them, and there's no two alike.

The only thing Ben Seymour ever did with golf balls was to play golf until one day eleven years ago when Arnold Palmer came to his Tennessee town.

Seymour:He has a business here, and he brought each employee a dozen golf balls, all with different logos on them. And one sweet lady that worked there didn't play golf, so she gave me her dozen. And I looked at them, and I thought, "Oh, these are just too pretty to hit." And that's where my troubles began.

Ben mounted the balls on the walls of his den, and they looked so pretty he thought that he would get a few more. And pretty soon, the room was filled with thousands of golf balls, each with a different insignia or picture.

Seymour:Well, I've got many, many from colleges. And I've got many, many businesses. I've got some with just little sayings on them. I've got one golf ball with the Lord's Prayer on it. Don't ask me why. I guess that golfer thought he would have a better prayer of a chance.

Ben finds balls, buys balls and gets lots of them from friends.

Seymour:I have one golf ball that has an eye on it. And it may be homemade, but it's a good job. And I could imagine some guy beginning to play golf, and someone saying, "Fella, you've got to keep your eye on the ball." So he painted his eye on the ball and still lost it.

Ben's favorite has the words ``First golf ball on the moon" printed on one side.

Seymour:One of my buddies said, "Well, Ben, if that golf ball was on the moon, how did you get it?" And I said, "Well, the only way I can figure, the crescent turned up a little too far one night, and it rolled out and fell in my backyard."

Ben has no idea what his collection may be worth, but how sweet it is just to look at them all.

Seymour:Yes, I do have a sweet spot for golf balls in my den.


One of the worst things you can say about a political candidate is that he or she is boring. It's difficult to generate a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for a candidate who is boring. But in some places there's no getting away from it. In Boring, Oregon, for example, they have a Boring mayor, a Boring council; you could say the same thing about the whole Boring government. They have a Boring Police Department, even a Boring Fire Department. They have a Boring School System, a Boring Library. Sounds as if a terrible case of ennui has settled over the whole town. But, in fact, the people in Boring are not a bit boring. Well, some of them are, I suppose, but most Boringers are anything but, I'm told.

I figure Boring, Oregon, was named after somebody named Boring. There was a Jeremiah Boring back there somewhere. And he can't have been too boring or they wouldn't have named the whole town after him. Today, since nobody wants to be thought of as boring, my guess is that a lot of people whose names were Boring have had the name changed. I find only one Boring listed in the Manhattan residential phone book, an A. Boring, and one in the business listings, a Z. Boring. That's all the Borings from A to Z.

I'm sure there must be more than that. I've attended hundreds of boring meetings in Manhattan and dozens of boring cocktail parties.

In the Yellow Pages under Boring, I find ``Boring Contractors" and ``Boring Equipment." In London, if you look up the word ``Boring" in the Yellow Pages, it says, "See civil engineers." Civil engineers don't like this one bit. For years now, the Institution of Civil Engineers has lobbied for a new directory listing. Their friends would make jokes about it. The same joke, actually: ``Looked in the phone book today, Nigel. Found you listed under 'Boring."'

The trade publication Tunnels and Tunneling is widely known as ``Bores and Boring." Editor Mike Page, who is responsible for all the advertising pages in the magazine as well, says, ``All tunnels involve boring, but the people in the industry are not boring, I assure you."

The Yellow Pages publishers have agreed to change the listing, so that under Boring it says, ``See site exploration."


The Random House Webster's College Dictionary people are out with another revised edition, containing some six hundred words that weren't included in the last edition. One of the new words is sheesh - S-H-E-E-S-H - an interjection, the new revision says, used to express exasperation. I mention sheesh first because some of the other new words and definitions seem to me to be eminently sheeshable, if you accept that definition of sheesh, which I'm not sure I do.

There are more words in the language than there are in the dictionary. That is always true, and that is why it's necessary from time to time to publish revised editions to incorporate some of the gazillion words out there - or should I say the word gazillion that's now in there. Gazillion, defined as an extremely large, indeterminate number.

Of course, there are other words that you could define in exactly the same way. What is a jillion, if not that? And for that matter, what is a zillion? And what's the difference between a zillion and a gazillion? Is a jillion larger or smaller than a zillion or a gazillion?

"Indeterminate" sure covers a multitude of meanings, doesn't it? I mean, sheesh, let's get more precise here - as in, a zillion is a jillion to the umpteenth power or something like that.

According to this new dictionary, netiquette and rocumentary are both words. Netiquette being etiquette on a computer network, especially the Internet, and a rocumentary being a documentary about rock musicians.

And here is one that I have to say I totally disagree with. Slacker is in there as a noun, defined as an educated young person who is anti-materialistic, purposeless, apathetic and who usually works in a dead-end job. Well, excuse me - or maybe I should say, well, sheesh. In my humble, non-lexicographic opinion, that fails to meet all the tests of a definition. Can you be a slacker without being well educated? Yes. Can you be anti-materialistic without being a slacker? Of course you can. Are there slackers who do not have dead-end jobs or people who have dead-end jobs who aren't slackers? You bet.

A lexicographer I'm not, nor could I ever be one,

But even I can recognize a slacker when I see one.

The Dave Factor

As a Dave Barry fan, I was fascinated recently to hear that the Daves of the world are uniting. Dave Moore of Greeley, Colorado, says the more Daves there are in this world, the better.

Dave Moore:They're easygoing. They have good senses of humor. They're, of course, very brave and intelligent.

Dave recently opened up the Dave Hall of Fame in - wouldn't you know it? - David City, Nebraska. Not too much to it. At the moment it's little more than a post office box number, 54.

Moore:We just have newspaper articles and photographs at this time. We're hoping that as word gets out, we'll have more memorabilia of things Dave to include in it. And also we hope to expand it into a larger structure, perhaps P.O. Box 175.

The Hall of Fame inductees include some big-name Daves.

Moore:We have Dave Letterman, who was also named Dave of the Year. We have Dave Winfield, who got his three thousandth hit.

Osgood:By the way, Dave, who's your favorite Dave?

Moore:King David, because if it weren't for King David, many of us would be named Goliath.

Dave Moore also heads Daves International, a club open to anyone named Dave or David, although female Davidas or surnamed Davidsons are welcome too. Besides giving Daves the respect they deserve, the group also engages in an outreach program.

Moore:We've heard from Consolidated Larrys, based in Lawrence, Kansas, and then we're also trying to get together with Global Georges.

Daves International also welcomes new converts.

Moore:We believe that there will be a lot of Dave wannabes out there, and we are going to set up a program whereby people can have their names legally changed to Dave.

Dave Moore is more or less willing to name honorary Daves, although it's clear his standards for that are not too high.

Moore:Well, yeah, Charlie, we'd be happy to make you an honorary Dave. Consider yourself a Dave. I think ``Dave Os-good" has a good ring.

From "See you on the Radio" by Charles Osgood. Copyright (c) October 1999, Charles Osgood used by permission.

All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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