A “Nothingburger” And Other Oddities

In reviewing my Posts, I discovered that one I had written weeks ago never did get Posted but was lodged in my Draft file.   But why waste Copy?  And besides, it is practically Trump free, something that until we are rid of our Presidential man-child you may never find on this website again!!!

From out of the past, read on:

In talking to a young friend today about the Trump-Kim summit I said it is my view that the meeting produced little more than a spectacular theatrical bust.

“You mean it was a “nothingburger,” he replied. He said the word “bust” has lost its impact in describing failure or something less than advertised. The word is “nothingburger.”

Which got me to thinking about all the other ways English usage has  changed since I was a lad.

At the breakfast counter the server asks “Did you want another cup of coffee” and I feel like answering the question asked, as in “Yes, I did want another cup and I still do” or “Yes, I did want another cup but you didn’t come by quick enough and now I don’t have time for one. The check please.” Once I did try “no, but I do now” which only confused my server and I never got it.

Why ask about my past desires? Why not make it what it is, the present, as in “do you want…” or “would you like…”  I  suppose the answer is that for some people it sounds more polite to be less direct.

Well, usage changes, like it or not. And so does other ways and customs.

I hate it when a sale clerk, restaurant server, other people I go to for services greets my wife and me with a cherry “how you guys doing today” or “just a minute, you guys, I’ll find you a table,” etc.

I’m a guy but my wife isn’t. And besides, there is no need to address us with any salutation. A simple “good evening, may I help you” will do.

But I suppose the person thinks calling us “guys” sounds friendly. But at a restaurant I’m not looking for a friend, I’m looking for a meal.

Which brings me to the awful use of over cordiality in what is at heart a business transaction.

When I approach the check-in desk at a hotel and the  clerk greets me with “Hey, good to see you, how you doing today, did you have a great trip coming in, where are you from, are you here for the Buck’s game (?)” I grit my teeth to keep from snarling “None of that is any of your business, here’s my credit card (and driver’s license) just give me my room key.

The point is,  we, the clerk and I, are not “friends” although each of us should be courteous in handling our business transaction.

But cut the small talk, the “touchy feely” talk. They must teach clerks, servers, and others who wait on the public to make it personal, to make me feel special, to make me feel, well, befriended.

What I feel is often tired and out of sorts. But I try to hide it, particularly when a stranger approaches me at, say, an airport because I look familiar to them  having spent fifty two years in the television news business. They were once my customers and you want to always treat the customers with respect.

Often they think they know who I am and address me as “Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Ted Koppel…” to which I reply “No, I’m not him” and move on quickly. When they try “Peter Jennings” I reply, “No, he’s dead” and move on quickly.

Sometimes they actually know my name and use it immediately which surprises me since for years now I have been a “nothingburger” when it comes to TV exposure.

But more often than not they aren’t sure who I am and employ various techniques in an effort to find out.

For instance:

-“Are you somebody I should know” and “Are you a celebrity?”  To these I answer a polite “no.”

-“I know I used to see you on TV news, but can’t think of your name – what is it?” To this I reply “Sam Donaldson.” Usually that does it although once when I gave that answer, the person said sharply “No, that’s not it” and demanded that I try again.

A few timid souls who  know my name are so afraid they might have it wrong that they try the following:

“Excuse me, but has anyone every told you, you look like Sam Donaldson?” For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how to answer that – “Yes, No, I can’t remember?”

Finally I decided to respond with “Yes, my mother did. When I was born she told me ‘you look like Sam Donaldson, so that’s your name. Remember it’.”

But no matter what a stranger says, if he or she wants  a “selfie” I throw my arm around them and put on a big smile.

As we squint into the camera I hope when the “stranger” is convicted of being the biggest drug dealer on the East Coast or an ax murderer in the style of “lizzie” Borden, the newspaper picture will read “Here  (the convict) is seen with his/her good friend Tom Brokaw!”

Time to go – See you guys later.


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