Michael Jackson’s popularity: Talent or hysteria?

Michael Jackson and I are about the same age. That is, we were until his death in 2009.

Just after the release of “Thriller”, in the early 80s, I was a young corporate exec. My secretary, Robin–a tall, blond, college grad–was infatuated with MJ. She not only spoke of his talent, energy thrillerand immense popularity, but seemingly fantasized about him as her lover. At least, it seemed that way to me.

One day, as I passed Robin’s desk, I heard her gush about Jackson to whomever was chatting with her on the phone. Muttering under my breath, I said something to the effect that Jackson had no redeeming qualities. Robin was incensed at my casual dismissal of her idol. With dander raised, she went into a defensive posture and slapped a video tape onto the desk. She insisted that I watch it that very evening and report back to her in the morning. I repeated that, for me, Michael Jackson was not an artist, but an anomaly. I believed that his pop status was based on media hysteria, manipulation by middle-age white guys, and the confusion of puberty. Again, she insisted that I watch the video, and she gave me an ultimatum: Watch it and report back to her—or accept her resignation in the morning!

Robin was darn good at her job. She ran the office and our schedules with aplomb. She was rising, executive material; a shining star. I was taken aback by her chutzpah and tone. But given the choice (and seeing how much it meant to her), I reluctantly consented to her terms. That evening, I watched a music video by Jackson. I don’t recall which one. It may have been a documentary about his career.

Robin in the 80s

Robin in the 80s

The next morning, I meekly placed the video back onto Robin’s desk. Sensing contrition, her demeanor was warmer and yet somewhat smug. A 600 ton elephant stood over us. “Well? What did you think?” She glared at me…

I admitted to Robin that the video was a learning experience —one that opened my eyes and changed my mind. While I still didn’t appreciate Jackson’s choice of material, voice or performance style,* I was forced to acknowledge that his raw talent merited recognition and appreciation. Prior to this compulsory exercise, I attributed MJ’s popularity to hysteria and a general lack of discrimination or sophistication. But afterward, I recognized that, while individual preferences vary, a reasonable person could not deny Jackson’s innate talent and abundant energy as artist and performer. It oozed from his every pore.

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* At the time of this epiphany—recognizing Jackson’s talent and that fans were attracted to substance—I didn’t suddenly embrace his music and moves over genres that I preferred. Ironically, during the next few decades (I am now the ‘middle-age white guy’), I have grown to appreciate his music and style. The anthology of his performances defines a genre that I look back upon with pleasure and awe.

Ellery Davies is a privacy pundit and political analyst.
He is also editor of AWildDuck.

What do Donald Trump & Marco Rubio have in common?

Did you ever wonder if interesting and newsworthy events around the world are winding down? I mean, let’s face it. The world is pretty boring. Not much is happening anymore.

Of course, that’s a bald faced lie. There is no dearth of newsworthy events. Not with more wars than ever before, breakthroughs in science at a blinding pace, global warming, a murderous shooting spree every other week, and political brinksmanship in Asia, the mid-east and even in our own Congress. Even the market battle between iPhone and Android is news.

So what passes for news today? How about this: Business mogul, Donald Trump is suing comedian and talk show host Bill Maher, because — according to Mr. Trump — he is not the product of his mother having sex with an orangutan, and he can prove it.

Just how newsworthy is proving that your father is not an orangutan? According to the Washington Times, it is the Fight of the Century. That’s pretty important, right? After all, the century is only 12% complete. It must be more important than a nation’s ballooning debt, a near earth collision with an asteroid, or a crazed ex-cop who has published a hit list and killed 4 people before he was burned in a cabin east of Los Angeles

Of course, we understand that Mr. Trump is incensed by Bill Maher’s joke on late night TV. Perhaps his frustration and anger constitutes a brief statement on the news (just a parenthetical one at that). But wait…The Don is really, really, Really incensed. After all, Maher has slandered his parents! Well, not really. Bill Maher is a comedian. Even a child recognizes the difference between character defamation and parody (very good parody, in my opinion). So, if Donald Trump truly believes that the courts are the proper place to assuage his frustration, then – at best – he has a weak case for slander. Not quite the five million to which he claims a contractual entitlement.

Donald trump: Not the offspring of an orangutan...But he certainly acts like one.

Donald Trump: Not the offspring of an
orangutan…But frequently acts like one

Why don’t we just set the record straight on Donald Trump once and for all. Donald Trump is a Buffoon with a capital “B”. By comparison, he makes Lindsay Lohan and the Kardashians look like Ivy League scholars.

WildDucks may never know how or why Donald Trump is seen as a noteworthy scion of business. It can’t just be his wealth or eccentricities. There are many wealthy and weird business owners who covet publicity. Yet they fly under the radar. Perhaps Trump attracts media coverage, because networks see him as a source of entertainment. But even this theory falls short. As a consumer of news and entertainment, I can categorically state that his TV shows and news clips leave viewers ill at ease and not very pleased with the network. And if the entertainment angle is viable, why fill the world news segment?

Trump has no common sense, a gruff and insulting attitude, is self-centered and has garish grooming (e.g. that ridiculous hair piece!). To the Don, I say: “You’re Fired!”

But wait. The trump-orangutan is so “last week”! What’s on the telly this week? Oh, my! Florida Senator, Marco Rubio, reached for a sip of water while delivering a Republican response to the president’s State of the Union address. I find it terribly depressing that this is considered news. He seemed a bit awkward as he ducked below the camera during a close up. Newsworthy? No. Briefly awkward? Sure. Funny? Only to a 2 year old who might also laugh at potty humor.

I can understand that this minor event rippled through Twitter. These are just regular Joe’s sharing an unusual moment with their friends and followers—Perfectly normal.

But, I am really disappointed with CNN for replaying that moment—and making it into a news segment. (I give the anchor a bit of credit. Assuming that he was not responsible for choosing the story, at least he cut off the follow-up discussion and suggested that it is not newsworthy). Just how does grabbing a sip of water during a speech spark a national scandal? The only slightly unusual thing is that the water was out of reach and required that Rubio almost stoop below the camera during a close up. O.K. We saw the result of poor planning. A dry throat should have been anticipated by Mr. Rubio and certainly by the television producer or set coordinator. In my opinion, it not only lacks merit as a news event, it is not funny or entertaining either. I think less of the media for abandoning real news in favor of this quip. My problem is not that it is “fluff”—That would be O.K. But it is invasive and unfriendly fluff without any point at all.

To be completely fair, I rather liked David Letterman’s send up of the event.* But that doesn’t mean that the original event was news or even funny. It means that David Letterman and his writers have the talent to turn it into something funny.

Returning to the title question: “What do Donald Trump & Marco Rubio have in common?” They are both the absurd subjects of low-brow humor posing as news–or at least as legitimate filler for news broadcasts. They are neither of these things. Although they are newsworthy in other ways (Well, at least Rubio is newsworthy), they are just ordinary people going about their business.

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* The David Letterman clip has been removed, perhaps due to action by the studio. That’s a pity. It was Letterman at his very best. This parody of the the water-drinking Florida senator by actor Andy Pita is pretty darn funny too. I bet that you cannot stifle a chuckle (or a hearty guffaw) at timestamp 1:57.

Cold War: If Not For Me, We’d All Be Communist

From time to time, at AWildDuck, we offer an observation or op-ed on a topic of human interest. This one is not about current events, the price of gold, law or politics. Nah. It’s just Ellery’s spin with a nod toward levity. This one is fluff…

For most Americans, the cold war ended when the Berlin Wall came down. In just a few months, the USSR dissolved as former republics reasserted independence and the politburo acquiesced peaceably. But for Americans raised in the 1960s, the cold war had effectively ended when an American landed on the moon in 1969. By then, America not only felt that the space race had replaced the arms race, but more importantly, a cold war mentality was no longer baked into their weekly routine.

I attended kindergarten and 1st grade in the early 60s. Schools held air raid drills and homes with cellars rotated canned food from the pantry and discussed radiation safety protocol. Nearly every child in North America practiced weekly safety drills orchestrated by the US Army or the Department of War.

My most vivid memory of a cold war mentality was the annual screening of the army film, Duck and Cover (LINK) and weekly air raid drills at school. Very high poles next to our baseball diamond were topped with 4-way, square-flared horns. Each Tuesday at 10:30, they blared a slowly rising siren. It was distinct from fire and police sirens, because it was a 2 tone, a full octave lower, and it took a full 30 seconds to rise and fall. That siren was a staple of my early childhood. For me, the sound had a very clear meaning: An air raid drill was about to begin. We were to seek cover. And because of its military precision, you could adjust your clocks. At the tone, the time will be 10:30 am, exactly!

Air Raid Drill (hiding under desks)In the army film, pupils ducked under wooden school desks. Presumably, this would protect them from nuclear annihilation, a force that sends mushroom clouds into the stratosphere, turns skyscrapers into smoldering ash and levels cities. Somehow, a wooden desk seems like a weak defense, but no one ever addressed the contradiction. But desks aren’t as strong as cinder block walls, and so we would file into the hallway and crouch down by our boots and winter coats. I sure felt a lot more secure about that bomb, knowing that I was protected by a wall — at least if the bomb fell behind me.

All this safety protocol begs the question…Who are we hiding from? Who is flying those planes and why do they want to kill us? For an elementary school pupil of the 1960s, this would be a profoundly naïve question. It’s the Russians and the Chinese, of course! They are communist. They hate our freedoms. They want to put us all into work camps and then steal the gold bricks that line our streets.

Air Raid Drill (lying against the wall)I sensed that information was missing from this simple explanation, but with a first grade perspective of geopolitical tension, it sufficed. Note to self: Ask older brother if he was told something more believable. After all, he was in Junior High and he knew about everything that could be known.

But even a first grader has a concept of military strategy. After practicing the drill each Tuesday one year after another, I began to become very frightened about something. Yet, I couldn’t tell anyone. Not the teacher and not even another student. After all, my secret could help the Russians to win a real war and enslave all of us.

It seemed to me that air raid drills were practiced everywhere. And at least in the communities around me, those drills were always on Tuesday at 10:30 am. The more I thought about this regular practice, the more I feared the communists. Eventually, I had trouble focusing on school work or the red-haired girl with pig tails who sat in front of me.

Air Raid Siren-squeezedI realized that if the Commies want to bomb the United States, it would be pretty easy to catch the entire country off guard. All they have to do is send their planes on a Tuesday at 10:30 am. Like lambs to the slaughter, the children would practice their drill while the regional Air Force base was at low alert. Of course, the air raid sirens would blare, but no one would take it as a warning. At least, not at Devonshire school in District 68.* We would be blithely practicing our weekly drill. The enemy would face no defenses and all of the children would be sitting ducks. Literally. We would all be in the hallways waiting to be led off to work camps — every one of us.

For all these years, I wondered if the Russians or Chinese ever realized this weak spot in our national defense. Now, 50 years later, I am married to a Chinese American who was raised during the Cultural Revolution. While I was ducking and covering, she was filing into bomb shelters a world apart. (quite a bit safer than a wooden desk or cinder block hallway). She was told that westerners wanted to destroy her way of life.

In the end, history books claim that the west won the cold war (at least our history books see it that way). The Soviet Union has been dismantled and China is better at capitalism than USA, at least at the national level. The years are numbered for the last few communist governments and their leaders know it. China and Venezuela are trade partners, while North Korea and Cuba are isolated. Gradually, the citizens will force a changing of the guard. But what many readers never knew until today, is that I kept my mouth closed about the danger in practicing precisely timed drills. I never told the enemy, nor even my classmates. I saved America from enslavement at work camps. I am the unsung hero.

* In a classic twist of irony, battery of Nike missiles was situated alongside a skating pond at the Devonshire school district administration building. If Skokie IL had been attacked on a Tuesday morning, those missiles would have remained idle!

In addition to saving the world, Ellery Davies is editor of AWildDuck.com
He pontificates about politics, economics, privacy and social phenomena.
He is especially interested in the intersection of technology and law.

Simple Law – Unintended consequence!

James MadisonJames Madison was U.S. president from March 1809 until early 1817. But in 1789—twenty years before he became president—he proposed an amendment to a republic that was barely 13 years old.

He never saw his proposal pass. In fact, it was 203 years before it was ratified by the 38th state of a larger 50-state union. That was 1992. The proposal might have languished in obscurity for even more centuries, had a college student not realized that it could still be ratified. In 1982, he started a grass roots movement and the consti-tution was amended 10 years later. Today, twenty-one years after it became a law, it is still the most recent amendment to the constitution. So, what does it say?

It says “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened,” In other words, a sitting Congress can’t change its pay while it is in session. It can only change the salary of the next Congress or Senate.

us_constitutionNow, here’s the unintended consequence: Last week, GOP leaders crafted a new law that links congressional pay to the budget debate. If Congress can-not agree on a 2014 budget by April 15 (in the next 3 months), then their pay shall be withheld.

Sounds reasonable, right? Well not really, because it also says that in exchange, congress shall suspend the debt ceiling. Here at AWildDuck, we believe that this is would be terribly irresponsible. Seriously, guys & gals: The buck has to stop somewhere…We can’t kick this can forever!

But, speak of kicking the can, here is the real kicker: The new law is probably illegal, because of the 27th amendment. Remember that one? Congress cannot change its pay. That includes, it would seem, deferral, escrow, withholding, what have you!

I wonder if James Madison had just a glimmer of his influence on lawmakers 224 years hence. D’ya think? Nah! But it sure would be fun to go back and show him.

Read more about it at our source, the National Constitution Center.

Hertz acquires Dollar: What about the liability?

I avoid using this soap box for personal vendettas. A Wild Duck has a broad venue but spats over shady business practices aren’t covered. Tonight, I am outvoted. My co-editor wants me to run this story. Hey, this wound is fresh! Who am I to disagree?

Every once in a while, one encounters a vendor with business practices so out-of-whack, that it just begs to be exposed. Here’s one that hasn’t fully played out. If it is resolved before next week, I will update this Op Ed. But after experiencing this scam, I have doubts that a culture of deception can be corrected by a Blog posting…

Does Hertz care what lies under the covers? Does Dollar know about ‘Rent a Terstappen’?

Let’s start with statements of fact: I travel. And I hate renting cars.

Until recently, the cost of renting a car was rarely what was agreed in advance. Online reservations are especially problematic because franchisees fail to report local fees or policies to the franchiser, agency or internet marketing affiliates.

Ultimately, it is no secret that the intricacies of franchise law can be challenging for franchisees. Franchisers and franchisees alike therefore often require legal advice and guidance from a franchise law firm such as LegalVision.

But years ago, I developed a method to overcome my anxieties surrounding renting cars from a rental franchise, and it has worked splendidly. I first applied ‘Ellery’s Rule’ planning a trip to Florida. I called the rental agency directly and presented my discount codes. I was quoted an excellent weekly rate. (I think that it was Avis, but I am not certain).

Just in case, a desk clerk were to add up the numbers differently than the friendly telephone agent, I asked the agent to add a statement to the Memo section of the contract. She added these words:

The customer has been promised the rate as calculated in this estimate. He is not to be charged a different amount if the car is returned in good condition and with a full tank of gas.

To ensure that the statement exuded authority, I asked her to cite the name of a regional or department manager.

When I got to Florida, the reservation contract was already printed and waiting at the airline terminal rental desk. I pointed out the statement in the Memo section and the local clerk brushed it off with a chuckle. “Don’t you worry”, he said. “The rate is correct. You won’t be cheated.”

But when I returned the car, there was an extra $11 tacked onto the contract. “What’s this?!” I asked to a new face at the desk. “Oh, that’s the Florida drug tax” a friendly woman exclaimed, as if reading from a script. “Every customer must pay it. It’s the law. We have no control over state taxes.”

Guess what? I snapped back. I don’t want any drugs. I don’t think that she got the wit or charm of my dry sarcasm, but after a few phone calls, I certainly didn’t pay the Florida drug tax. Of course, she was right. It is a state law and payment is ascribed to the renter. But Avis paid it from the proceeds that I had agreed to pay. That’s because I had a written contract that specified the cost after all taxes, fees and even drugs. It is inclusive, en toto, complete! You get the picture.

For years, my little system worked like a charm. If at first, a rental agent refuses to add the memo (effectively stating that their estimate is truthful), I threaten to cancel the reservation. They always get authority to add the Memo. It never fails. And so for these past years, I have been quietly smug when overhearing another traveler talk about unexpected fees added at the car rental desk.

I was smug, that is, until this past week. With Rent a Terstappen, I got hoodwinked!

Tactics of deception: Germany’s Dollar car rental franchise

I traveled to Frankfurt Germany last week and rented a car from the local Dollar franchise. I got a good rate from HotWire.com, a popular web travel site. For a simple booking, it’s difficult to get a live agent on the phone, and so I booked my rental online, realizing that I might get stuck with a Frankfurt “drug tax”–or perhaps in this case, a wiener-schnitzel tax. But I was woefully unprepared for what happened. I was socked with an enormous fee and an even more absurd justification. It doubled the amount quoted in Hotwire’s good faith disclosure!

Dollar franchisee Rent a Terstappen
Desk clerk Beatrice Lindholm-Dagci
HotWire itinerary 4523744713
Contract offer $151.87 *
Customer charge $315.38 (?!)

* Revised from original offer of $182.24 for 6 days

Dear readers: You won’t believe the pretense on which Rent a Terstappen doubled my rental contract cost. Even with the separation of 6,000 kilometers and 6 days since my return, I still can’t believe the loony reason that Ms. Lnidholm-Dagci told me (at first, with a straight face). More shocking, I sensed that she didn’t believe it either. She whispered for me to visit Dollar competitors at nearby rental counters. Clearly, she gets push-back from more than a few outraged customers.

Well, this customer won’t stand for it. I landed during the busiest travel week in Germany. Even with staggered school vacations, everyone is on holiday during the 3rd week of August. Five other rental companies offered to match the rate that I was promised (without a farcical add-on), but none had vehicles anywhere near the airport. They were fully booked no matter what I paid. The folks at Hertz and Sixt (a European car rental outfit) sympathized with my plight. One even offered me a personal ride into the city. She has dealt with other disgruntled Dollar-booked clients.

  • Does Dollar Rental know of the massive deception foisted on their clients by Rent a Terstappen? (the local Dollar franchisee at the Frankfurt airport).
  • Does Rent a Terstappen force desk agents to pretend they don’t see what agents at every other rental counter already see? Beatrice Lindholm-Dagci recognizes the deception she is forced to perpetrate. She must hoodwink customers and then blame the fiasco on HotWire or other referring agents.
  • Does Hertz know that the reporting chain at Dollar is either deceptive or egregiously deficient? (My travel department will talk with Hertz if this is not settled by the end of this week.)

Oh yes! I forgot to tell you the reason for the doubling of my rental charge: Ms. Linholm-Dagci explained to me that I must use a Gold branded MasterCard to complete the transaction, because she had no way of verifying insurance coverage for any other form of payment. I had with me a Platinum American Express, a Platinum Visa Card and a Business Premium MasterCard. All of them carried rental insurance. I offered her a $1500 deposit, which she processed! I also offered proof of my insurance coverage through Liberty Mutual with a very clear stipulation of full vehicle replacement value, even when driving in a foreign country.

She didn’t care. It had to be a Gold MasterCard. Not Premium, Not American Express Platinum, Not Chrome, Not Visa, Not the 7 other cards whose logos that they display at the counter. Only a Gold MasterCard.

Next week, I will add Hubert Terstappen’s phone numbers to this story. Perhaps Wild Ducks can persuade him to rethink his business model.

Late Thursday Update:

A representative at HotMail has seen my rant and has launched an investigation. I understand that HotWire may compensate me for the difference between what I was promised and what was stated in their good faith estimate.

HotWire is a good company. They want to do the right thing. But I don’t really consider their payoff to be a proper solution. What about future visitors to Frankfurt who don’t know about the policy/scam? (Take your pick. It’s a toss up!) I have asked HotWire to reassess Dollar representation or at least get the corporate franchiser involved. Craft an ethical solution to the Rent a Terstappen practices. I am fortunate to be working with individuals at HotWire and Dollar who are both understanding and empowered.

Michele Bachmann: Trouble responding to 8yr old boy

Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin are like the Bobbsey Twins. Two peas in a pod. You already know my feelings about Palin. But lately, Wild Ducks have asked me to comment on Bachmann.

Today’s post is not an opinion, but this short video is priceless. Pure fluff, but priceless!

An 8 year old boy accompanies his mom to a Michele Bachmann book signing. The child approaches Bachmann to ask a question, but is too shy and too soft to be heard. Bachmann is interested in hearing what the youngster has to say. She pulls the boy close so that he can whisper into her ear. Click below to see the video  [continued]…

Implored by a child…How can a family-values zealot respond?

The camera and microphone are close and they pick up everything! He whispers “My mommy is gay, but she doesn’t need any fixing.”

It’s not difficult to predict the outcome. How can she possibly respond? Certainly not coherently! Bachmann backs away, flushes and stumbles on the words “Bye-bye”, as handlers escort boy and Mom away from the unblinking eye of the camera…Priceless!

For those who don’t follow the GOP parade, Bachmann hubby Marcus runs a clinic that offers to “cure” gays. Of course, we mustn’t claim looniness by association. But wait! Michele appeared to advocate this approach prior to her candidacy.

Was the child set up by his mother to make a blatant pro-diversity stand? Of course! But still – this brief clip will go down as a priceless moment in campaigning history!

Merriam-Webster dictionary banned in California

I was about to begin this post with the words “Every once in a while, politicians and school boards come up with some truly bizarre edicts.” Then, I would have gone on to report one really whacked out policy…

But in truth, it’s not just ‘once in a while’. In this age of space exploration, cultural pluralism and enlightenment, common sense and fair play have gone out the window like a bat out of — well, you get the idea!

Dispensing with the usual introduction, gaze at an incredulous article:

Dictionaries Banned From Schools – “Not Age Appropriate”

The original story is shorter than this Wild Duck retort. But in case the link no longer works, here’s a thumbnail edition: Based of the complaint of one parent, a Southern California school board pulled Merriam-Webster’s 10th Edition from fourth and fifth grade classrooms because “it is not age appropriate”. The parent was upset that the dictionary did not censor itself. It defined a sexual term.

Oh my gawd! An uncensored dictionary!

Note to whacked out parent: It’s a dictionary, not a Bible! (speaking of Bibles, a dictionary is certainly less obsessed with sex.)

It is a religious zealot or a narrow-minded fanatic who values ignorance and “innocence” over a comprehensive scholastic dictionary. Dictionaries are a repository of language and culture. Not just your language, but the words and phrases that are a product of the world around you. Dictionaries obviously define terms for many activities and things that you might not wish to visit upon your children. Good Gawd, lady! That’s no excuse to keep them under a rock.

Why not ban the definition of “murder”, “diarrhea” and “warts”. We certainly don’t want our kids to be visited by these plagues. Yet, few parents would attempt to shelter them from these definitions.

Don’t want your child to experience this? Simply ban it from the dictionary!

Who taught you that information is poisonous? For how long do you want your 5th grader to be ignorant of sex or even its basic terminology? From whom should he or she learn – If not from a dictionary, a school and from family?

Actually, I am more concerned with the response of the school board than with one ignorant parent. To be fair, the board is complaining, but not about the parent! Believe it or not, they are upset at the difficult task ahead. They plan to read the entire dictionary to see if other terms might offend another whacked out parent! Quoting the immortal Homer Simpson, “D’OH!”

Some people fear learning. They believe in the ostrich axiom “ignorance is bliss”. But school boards stand for education – that is, if brains aren’t checked at the door. Why would a school board kowtow to ignorance or fanaticism? Perhaps, the fanatic has a louder voice than the silent majority. Hopefully, parents who want educated offspring are still in the majority.

Not a Horse: An oat-powered quadrapedal transport device

From time to time, at AWildDuck, I offer an observation or op-ed on a topic of human interest. This one is not about current events, the price of gold, law or politics. Nah. It’s just Ellery’s spin with a nod toward levity. This one is fluff…

Columnist, Eric Felten, writes The Wall Street Journal’s biweekly column, Postmodern Times. In December 2010, he penned this review of Ralph Keys book, Euphemania.

To Put It Another Way — The Wall Street Journal, Dec 14, 2010

The book is filled with euphemisms—both clever and odd. A few nuggets generate guffaws because they are linguistic substitutions crafted to soften the impact of harsh truths. Without lying, they manage to twist simple facts to suit the utterer.

Take, for example, this euphemism for an aerial bombing. It has not been credibly attributed to a US defense department spokesman, but one could certainly imagine some Spin Meister warning generals and press attachés to get with the lingo:

Battlefield soldiers called for a vertically deployed antipersonnel device

Replacing “bomb” with “vertically deployed antipersonnel device” brings to mind a humorous euphemism from my childhood.

In the late 70s, I was in the showroom of a Fiat dealer as my father completed the purchase a car in a corner sales office. My brothers and I occupied ourselves by watching a video on what Fiat claimed was the first fully automated robotic assembly line. In a perfect ballet, rows of machines worked in unison. The factory was completely devoid of humans.

Hello boys. What can I do for you?

Spotting an unattended group of young boys, a sales person approached and asked if he could help us. I replied that we were waiting for our father as he completes the purchase of a new car. The salesman surprised us with his response: “You must be mistaken…We don’t sell cars.

I had no idea if he was joking – or if perhaps, I had wandered into the waiting area of another retailer. (Yet, I was watching a showroom presentation of an automobile assembly line!). As my jaw dropped, I asked the salesman to tell me exactly what products are sold in this establishment. His reply still echoes in the Euphemism Hall of Fame:

“We don’t sell cars. We sell Italian driving machines!”

It’s not a car—It’s an Italian driving machine!

The correction had the desired effect.I thought “Wow! These must be very classy cars”. Minutes later, my father emerged from the sales office with a big smile. The sales manager gave him a pair of brown, leather, race car driving gloves. They had open fingers and were covered with raised dots of rubber. That’s just what Dad needed as the new owner of an Italian driving machine.

~ Ellery