Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Information, How can I Help You?

      Remember her?  Back in the day, we were buds. Even in Brooklyn, I could - rotary -dial "0", and there she'd be,  - And lest you readers think I had it 'bad' growing up in Brooklyn, re: telephone calls I was several "up" on one of my high school classmates.  Mary, one of 6 or so sibs, needed dimes.  Her Dad, a ruddy, frugal chap, SOME how got a Public phone booth installed in the house.  Kids had unlimited use - a REAL person, who REALLY wanted to help me.  Even if I wanted the phone number of someone and only had the LAST name, which was Slavic, contained 19 consonants and I wasn't "REAL sure if that ended in an "i" or a "y".  In fact, often this 'dilemma' morphed into a chatty exchange about how if it ended in "i", it was probably Polish whereas Russian people usually used the "y".
      (You'd REALLY get a kick out of the mess - conundrum being but a 'tip-toe' performance - our family found itself in because of some name-spelling changes -- if I had the time/space here this eve.  Must be some hereditary quirk.  I mean do you REALLY think my name is 'Lorane'?  It started innocently enough - Grampa, for business purposes - he owned a few furniture stores for a while - changed 'Grodzki' to 'Grocki' thinking, for some reason, the 'dz' business didn't sound American, whereas the 'ck' was shorter, cleaner, whatever.)
      On a slow day, with a REALLY chatty operator, you could even go with a few 'asides', comments like, "Boy, those Russian cooks can do stuff with beets that makes you think 'borscht' means 'heaven', countered with, "Yeah, but Gramma makes potatoes SING in her platzkis."  The point here, (c'mon. wake up for the'point') is that you hung up with 'information'  because Olszefski was not yet a common name and when she said "Is it 'Jusef'?", you remembered Celie's father was called 'Joe', PLUS a talk about customs and food - stuff you shared with this 'REAL' person operator.
      (Back in Warsaw our name was spelled 'Grodzki'.  Although it IS true about Gram pa's reason for the spelling change, as I watched the emerging of new, grownup 'aunts' and 'uncles' fresh 'off-the-boat' as it was said, I noticed that Gram pa's 2 brothers and two sisters kept the 'dz' version.  I was MOST interested in Uncle Mike.  First off, Mom REALLY liked him - so his recommendation was from above.  But the guy, like Grampa, was a charmer.  Good-looking, impeccable English, NOT a welcome visitor by Gramma (positive endorsement for me) & kinda mysterious.  He also had this fun, pretty wife - Regina - who was a concert pianist.  I never got the scoop - then - but they split.  Bummer.)
      Well times change.  As do modes of procuring information.  I GUESS the suppliers are REAL people but I KNOW the very notion of a friendly - nay - civil exchange is an anachronism.  This affliction seems MOST prevalent in the need-help-from-customer-service-re:-computer-maladies arena. 
      I either cannot understand the speaker because the English language is being mauled by rapid-fire-Mideastern-British-clipped overlays - accompanied by consistently inappropriate attempts at humorous one-liners that would have demonstrated a modicum of wisdom had they remained unspoken, accompanied by equally inappropriate SOLO chuckles of appreciation or, as with my attempt to inoculate myself from ANY oral 60-cycle-interference by using the fun "chat" option, I STILL hit the wall just this morning as soon as I saw that my "helper", 'information-provider' was one "GEORGIE BANGO" - you can't make this stuff up - who typed WITH A RUSSIAN ACCENT & wouldn't know/care about the difference between borscht & creme freche infused with red food dye.
      (Speaking of 'red', I finally came to realize that Uncle Frank had been infused with a few 'isms' before emigrating and, not wanting to taint the (already miss-spelled) family name with data NOT ABO-TYPING-related, maintained the 'dz'-issue' spelling AND split with Regina after their son, Bobbie, was born for the same reason.  But he was still a 'Big Tent' performer in this family circus.  I heard - by eavesdrop - that he gave rather eloquent, soap box speeches on his personalized, REAL soap box down on 14th street in Manhattan - the forum for this genre of performance.
      Over time, being a cogent, observant and lucid man, his ardor for the 'organization' and what it represented waned to the point that - when I was probably in 5th or 6th grade - he'd made the decision to sever all ties, turn in his card, cancel his subscription to the Daily Worker - in short (I know, too late) he went to his penultimate meeting on St. Mark's place and formally announced his official intentions.  The announcement caused not one choppy ripple in the East River.  Indeed, he was soon-thereafter invited to a bon voyage fete at the very same St. Mark's meeting Hall.
      Honored AND relieved, he gussied up that evening, having shared the news of the event only with his brother, Grampa.  I recon' pillow talk, generated by Pop's pride in his brother's decision, got the info to Stella (Gramma), then everybody.  The following morning, The New York Daily News (a true fount of worthy journalism) dedicated its front page to a  photo of a corpse on a stretcher under which the bleak copy announced that one Frank Grodzki, whilst in attendance at a party in his honor, was the victim of the friendly fire of a masked burglar during an attempted surprise robbery.
      Gram pa's only son-in-law, employed, I was always told, as a 'space-man', leaving me with the impression that he had something to do with aeronautics when, in fact, his job was to find/create office space for new exec-level types in a company in New Jersey, jumped right on it and, lest the (already miss-spelled) family name (which he, of course did not carry to space land - or anywhere else) be compromised in any fashion re: national security, called my dad and his three brothers, and, in hushed, self-important tones that usually go with disinterested/unaffected party-wannabes, instructed ALL to check out the 'front page' & tell the kids that if there are any questions from the nuns at school re: relatedness, recite: "MY name is spelled with 'ck', not 'dz'.  So, I dunno the poor guy.")
      Oh, for the days of "Information, may I help you?".  New York actually had REAL journalism at the time.  One such entity was The Herald Tribune.  I loved that paper.  Knew THEIR info number by heart.  This, because they had a 'general information' service from which you could elicit all manner of accurate, quickly-retrieved arcane material.  Wish I had a nickel for every time they 'provided' my homework in high school.  Now that's REAL help. 'Coourse it would cost Mary a dime, but it'd be worth it. Knowledge is like that.  Worth every penny you pay for it. 
      (Too much knowledge, it is said, can be a dangerous thing.  On autopsy, eavesdropping revealed, a 'dead-center-close-range-bullet-entry-wound' was described as being on Frank's forehead. But I know HE knew the price tag.  And with typical, classy, selfless courage, took THE one for the fam. Cheers, Frank. Here's to a REAL 'can-I-help-you-?' kind of guy.)
      Later, Lorane
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