Category Archives: Amy Dickinson

Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!

So big news: Laura left her house yesterday.

Yes, it’s true: she actually left her house and left Newton last night to go into Boston to see the NPR show, “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” get taped. The show was at the Wang Theater, and the reason she got free tickets was because her friend, Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated advice column “Ask Amy” for The Chicago Tribune, was one of the panelists (as she often is). But as so frequently happens when Laura leaves her house and leaves Newton to actually go somewhere interesting:

[Wait wait…Don’t tell me!]

It was pouring.

Laura can’t tell you how many times this has happened: If it’s not raining, then there’s almost always some kind of rare biblical weather thing happening — record heat and humidity, severe storm and tornado warnings, sudden blizzards. You might think she’s making this up but here are only a few actual examples to prove her point:
  1. When Laura was four and a half she had a ruptured appendix. Of course, this medical emergency just happened to

    take place during the Blizzard of ’67 which means she was very lucky to get to the hospital with an hour to spare…

  2. When she drove to Buffalo last June to work with matchmaker extraordinnaire and co-author Patti Novak, she had to pull off the highway about 15 times to heed the “severe thunderstorm and tornado” warnings. Every time she pulled into a New York State Thruway rest stop, she would feel hugely grateful that she wasn’t flying to Buffalo and could thus control her stopping and starting — that is, until she realized she had no idea what to do if a tornado just

    happened to hit the rest-stop.

  3. On the Limoliner bus back from New York last December — she’d gone to meet with Michael J. Fox’s father in law, life/financial coach Stephen Pollan, who’d just written a book that she wanted to know more about because she was in desperate need of life and financial coaching — it started to snow. But because Laura was on the bus, it was practically a white-out. And when the bus pulled into Boston she was knee-deep in almost 7 inches of it (needless to say, she wasn’t dressed for the weather). The cab ride to Newton was not only long, but very very cold.
OK, Laura could go on and on and on — obviously there’s some connection between cataclysmic weather patterns and her infrequent travel schedule — but she’s going to get back to the big story: leaving the house. So, once Laura got in the car and headed downtown in the pouring rain, another typical thing happened:

[Wait wait…don’t tell me!]

Laura took a wrong turn.

Taking a wrong turn is a euphemism for getting fucking lost, and this is something that happens all the effing time, practically every day in fact, even if Laura is just going down the street to the grocery store and back. Laura has such a shitty sense of direction that she spends a good portion of any drive trying to second guess her choices: that is, if she “feels” or “senses” or “thinks” she should go left, she quickly self-corrects and decides she should go right. Except that then she’ll second guess her second-guessing and wonder if she should self-correct one more time just to be sure. If you think it sounds confusing here in this brant, imagine what it’s like in

Laura’s head, as she careens constantly into the unknown and, more importantly, into the incorrect direction. The sad irony is that Laura’s other car, the Volvo wagon, came equipped with a GPS system, but that’s the car her husband uses — her husband who has an unerring sense of direction. Her car didn’t come with one and she has been too cheap to put one in, preferring instead to waste hundreds of

dollars of gas driving around cluelessly, trying to figure out where she is and how to get home.

Since last night was no different, it didn’t take long for Laura to drop the directions to the Wang Theater on the floor of the car, too far out of reach to grasp, and then get all nervous about which exit off the Pike she was supposed to take. Amazingly enough, she actually took the right exit — only to screw it up several hundred feet later on the exit ramp, when she found herself on a dark deserted access road into the dark deserted above ground parking facility of South Station. After much profanity (Laura was really glad Ben wasn’t in the car, otherwise she would have owed him like $400 [they have a deal: $1 “owed” for every swear she says–Laura is going to have to take out a second mortgage in order to pay him off]), she was able to quickly correct her mistake and find her way back to the right road and, eventually, in the increasing downpour and decreasing visibility, to the actual theatre, where she quickly pulled into a parking lot. Which is when the THIRD thing that always happens to Laura happened to Laura:

[Wait wait….don’t tell me!]

She didn’t have enough cash.

Most of the time, just like last night, when Laura doesn’t have enough cash, there’s usually another one of the above factors in play: i.e. not only did she not have enough cash for the cash-only parking, but she had to get cash in the pouring rain. (Sidebar: It’s a good thing Laura’s husband wasn’t with her because Laura’s lack of cash in situations like this is kind of a pet peeve. And understandably so!) So there she was, fighting with her stupid umbrella, leaving her car with the attendant, then running down the street into kind of a scary convenience store where there was one of those no-name cash machines. Laura was afraid to look at how much the

“convenience-fee” was — it was probably almost as much as the cash she was taking out — and once she made her withdrawal she quickly ran back to the lot and paid the fee. Wet, frazzled, and full of self-loathing about having gotten lost AND not having enough cash AND getting soaking wet in the pouring rain almost made Laura want to turn around and go home. But that would have negated everything she’d worked so hard to achieve. And so she pressed on.

Laura got her ticket and sat alone and a few minutes later three women sat down in the three empty seats next to her. They were the kind of women you instantly want to talk to — they were funny and friendly and one of them, Paula from Concord, actually asked her if she wanted anything, drink-wise, from the lobby when she was making the trip — and suddenly, despite her shyness and her awkwardness and her stiffness — the effects of not leaving the house or Newton often enough — Laura had infiltrated their little group and was glomming on to their conversation! Laura couldn’t believe her luck — after battling the elements (rain, getting lost, no cash) things had turned around in such a positive way:
[Wait wait…Don’t tell me!]

Laura was pontificating about her love of the Boston Accent and how angry it makes her that the Boston Accent is always butchered in movies that are set in Boston.

Well, wouldn’t you know, the woman next to her (the wife of Paula from Concord), who actually is not an actual native Bostonian though she’s lived here for almost 20 years (and in New England, that’s still not enough to be considered anything other than an outsider), told Laura a joke — a Boston Accent joke that Laura had never heard! It was SO good that’s she’s going to repeat it here (with apologies for her clumsiness in the retelling):

“You know how homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things? Well, “lama” with one “L” is the religious figure, like the Dalai Lama. “Lama” with two “Ls” is a Llama, the animal. And “Lama” with three “Ls” is a “3 L lama” — or in Boston speak, a “three-alahhhhhhma” — meaning a wicked huge fire!!

Howling with laughter, Laura felt like she’d met her soulmates, which made her suddenly self-conscious: she didn’t want to appear so desperate for human social interaction that she would infringe on three complete strangers’ evening out. And so Laura collected herself and turned her attention to the show which was, thankfully, finally starting.

What was really funny — besides spending this entire brant talking NOT about the show itself which was hilarious and brilliant, so much so that she got exhausted from clapping, and talking instead about everything leading up to it — was that it was basically a dork convention — a huge theater full of a thousand NPR nerds who were ecstatic (and that’s an understatement) about seeing their erudite radio heroes in person. Laura uses the words dork and nerd with complete affection and compassion and empathy since, while not an NPR geek per se, she considers herself to be a dork and a nerd herself. In fact, Laura feels like she’s quickly joining the ranks of aforementioned NPR geeks since she now listens every morning and afternoon on her way to and from Ben’s new school — and during all the hours of being directionally-challenged immediately following those to-and-froms.

The best part of the evening was getting to visit with Amy, whose new amazing brilliant book, The Mighty Queens of Freeville, a memoir, coming out in February 2009 from Hyperion, Laura will plug in her next brant. Which:

[Wait wait…don’t tell me!]

Will come a really really really long time after this brant.