by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
October 13, 2004
SEATTLE, Wash. -- Did Yogi Berra say that you can hear a lot by listening? No? Well, he will say it once he reads it here. Anyway, here are some things I've heard by listening.
In the stretching room at the health club the other day I saw a man in a strange position, kneeling on his left leg, the other leg stretched out behind him, head well back, one arm straight ahead, fingers pointing.
I mistakenly thought he was a friend of mine (there are more mirrors in the stretching room than light), so I said, "What are you, Steve, a hood ornament?"
"No," said the man. "What are you, the tail pipe?"
I apologized for my mistake. "That's okay," said he. "But you're still a tail pipe."
Earlier that same day I'd gone down to Golden Garden Park on the shore of the Puget Sound to feed the pigeons. I have written here of these birds.
They know me on sight and they know my habits: when I am likely to arrive and what I will have in the flat cookie tin: wild bird seed.
As usual they mobbed me the moment I got out of the van and before I'd even taken the seed out.
But one part of our routine failed. There was an old couple seated at "our" table. This did not, however, stop the birds from flocking to that table as usual - much to the discomfort of the elderly man and woman, who had just begun to have a snack.
He: "Did you order the pigeons, dear?
She: "No, I think they're on the house."
He: "They're on my plate is what they're on."
She: "Well, we'll know more when the bill comes."
The locker room at the gym to which I go daily is prime hunting ground for overhearing one thing and another.
An old man of about my age (who shall be nameless here) announced to no one in particular that he'd just come from the hospital.
"What for?" someone asked.
"Another test," said he.
"Don't tell me you're pregnant!?"
"At my age?" said he. "Don't be silly. Though God knows I've tried!" [General laughter]
On the bus the other day I was sitting behind a young couple who seemed to be college students. She was holding a crossword puzzle book in her hand as they both worked at it.
She: "Who said 'We'll always have Paris'?"
He: "Wait! I know this. Oh, yeah, Helen of Troy said it to Agamemnon!" I tried to disguise my paroxysm of laughter as an attack of coughing while I whipped out my notebook.
She: "Only four letters, Bill."
There are two regulars at the gym who have the same name, Pat, the oddity being that they are mother and son. Both are friends of mine. The other week, Pat the mother came up to me as I was on the stationary bike and asked what I was reading, "A book of prayers?" I showed her that it was Emerson's "Concord Hymn." "Well, isn't that sweet? Poetry!"
The next day, I was reading Earl Emerson's Vertical Burn, a paperback mystery. Pat the son came by, looked at the title, and said, "Still on Emerson!?" Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.