As much as I appreciate good letters (and I apologize for not answering every one), I am more likely to quote the mean ones. Perhaps that is because it is only fair to give the dissenters some voice in this column.
That being my rationale, I will quote, in full, a postcard from Arthur J. Manger of Pacific Palisades:
“Jerk Smith, the name dropper: As you have always impressed me as an egocentric coot, I have judiciously avoided reading your idiotic columns. Today, however, your headline intrigued me. To shorten a long story/question, I should like to ask, who pays for the 911, paramedics, fire department and hospital service you indiscriminately use, on a continuing basis, because neither you nor your wife has the God-given common sense to manage your medical problems.”
In the first place, if the common sense to manage one’s medical problems is God-given, why don’t my wife and I have it? Is God mad at us?
As for who pays for those various services, I imagine the taxpayers pay for 911 and the fire department paramedics. My wife and I are billed by the hospital.
The incidents Manger refers to are my two trips to the hospital as a result of hypoglycemia.
As for Manger’s calling me a name-dropper, I don’t really know any celebrities except Jane Wyatt and Duke Russell.
Egocentric? The dictionary defines egocentric as “holding the view that the ego is the center, object and norm of all experience.” That I may be.
Col. W.H. Longenecker Jr. of Indio ends a handwritten letter with the question: “By the way, don’t you think your readers have heard enough about your medical problems?”
Yes, indeed, I’m sure they have. And I intend to quit writing about them as soon as the symptoms go away.
I am also pilloried for defying a rule of the Old Farts Club (of which I am a member), which excludes women from its meetings. I wrote that my wife wanted to accompany me to a meeting at which a woman was to be the speaker. She telephoned the president of the club and told him she was bringing me.
Longenecker wrote: “I believe one of the most definitive rules of civilized society is to play by the rules. In this instance you behaved badly in refusing to abide by the rules and your wife was equally guilty.
“And it would have been handled far better if your wife, when she telephoned the president, had told him that there were medical reasons for her to accompany you. Instead you have led me to believe that you and your wife decided that since you both don’t like the rule, to hell with it.
“Any private group has a right to define its membership. The Elks excludes women from its meetings. If one doesn’t like the rule one can stay home. No one brings his wife.”
Spoken like a colonel. I wonder what he thinks about a woman having been admitted to that male bastion, the Citadel. I’ll bet male chauvinists make her life miserable.
My wife and I have also been remonstrated with for our handling of our new dog, the Doberman puppy. As I said, she is a terror. She picks up socks, shoes and loose garments (brassieres, panties) and runs about with them, defying us to get them back. She is cute, but she drives my wife to distraction.
“Your new dog, Lili,” writes Marilyn C. Doram, “sounds like a delightful puppy that definitely is in charge of your household and its occupants.”
Doram cites her credentials as a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs of America, and then advises. “First, she says, “dogs definitely have thought processes. They are just different from ours. Second, Lili’s game of ‘grab and run’ is great fun for her and it will never go away unless you change your tactics.
“Hitting her with the sock or whatever she grabbed just prolongs the game. Ignore her and then corner her. Take the object out of her mouth with a sharp ‘leave it’ or ‘drop it’ or ‘give.’ Put the object on the floor and hit it (the object) repeatedly while saying ‘No! No! Leave it!’ You’ve got to make the object the negative. Not the dog.
“When she teases you with her toy, don’t play her game! Hold out your hand and say ‘Give!’ She’ll run. Take your hand away and ignore her. She’ll come back again and again. Don’t give in! Someday she’ll get so frustrated she’ll put it in your hand. Then she’ll run off again, wanting to play tug of war. Let go. You are now making the rules.”
We tried it. Doesn’t work. We never got past “Ignore her and then corner her.”
We could ignore her all right, but we couldn’t corner her.
* Jack Smith’s column is published Mondays.