Elaine was the first to call. "Is Thomas Friedman beating you?"
She'd read his last three columns. I offered my sympathies. But no, he's not beating me. He is talking tough these days or, as like to think of it, Mr. Meek Gets More Mouthy.
Here's what happened.
About four times a month, sometimes less, Thomas Friedman actually goes into the office. He'd just finished the enforced vacation Gail Collins put him on. He was "back, baby!"
So he wanted to go in the next day and work on his column there.
No problem with me.
But then he starts "ordering" lunch for tomorrow. Now he's done that before and it always ticks me off. He comes home for lunch on the few days I actually don't have him underfoot.
So this time, I was thinking, "Now wait just a minute. You should take me out to lunch."
Only I said it.
Thomas Friedman hit the roof.
"We have Ritz crackers and canned cheese here!"
Yes, we do. And Thomas Friedman is kind enough to allow me to fix them for him and watch him eat them.
"Thomas Friedman," I said, "you are the one always talking about outsourcing! Why are you so cheap! Why do you want to hurt the econmy!"
Oh that made him mad. He may think the world is flat but his ego is oversize and lumpy.
I didn't like his attitude.
So the next day, I staged my own little protest.
I showed up at the Times carrying my sign that read "THOMAS FRIEDMAN DOESN'T SUPPORT PRIVATIZATION!"
He hit the roof.
"Betinna," he screeched, "you will get me fired! I am the world's disciple when it comes to privatization! How dare you smear my good reputation!"
I wasn't budging.
"Privatize! Privatize! Stop Thomas Friedman lies!" I chanted mainly to mess with him because it was funny watching him sneak glances around the office trying to see who was watching.
He caved. The way he always does when you humiliate him.
So he was going into his office when my New Year's was ruined.
Gail Collins comes rushing up all giddy and flushed while eating a muffin.
"Betinna," she panted between bites, "Davy has spilled Diet Coke on his shirt. He's headed to his office to take it off!"
Someone had just tipped her off, she explained but I got the feeling she'd paid someone to spill Diet Coke on Davy Brook's shirt.
"Well that's great, Gail."
"Great! Oh, I'm so heady with excitement! I hope I don't say something stupid! I hope I don't pass out! I hope I don't get pregnant!"
From a shirt being taken off? Gail's spent a lot of time on the prarie but apparently she's missed the animals mating. I was about to bring that up when I noticed the blue berry stain on her front tooth.
"Wait, Gail, your teeth," I said pointing.
I moved in close.
"You've got a stain from your blue berry muffin."
"It's a bran muffin," Gail informed me.
Of course it is. She's so regular.
I took my fingernail to her tooth and scraped.
"Oh, never mind. It's apparently a natural stain."
"What?" Gail asked looking cross as though her teeth were my fault and, at that minute, Thomas Friedman came charging out of his office cussing under his breath.
Not watching where he was going, he pushed into me and I pushed into Gail. Somehow the stained tooth ended up out of her mouth and lying on the carpet.
"My tooth!" Gail howled.
I tried to reassure her that they could put it back in if she hurried to a dentist, though I did wonder why anyone would want to put a discolored tooth back in their mouth, but she was too busy trying to stop the bleeding.
In the long drawn out thing that followed, she missed Brooks changing shirts. And she can be a vengful thing. Since she couldn't do much to me, I believe I'm her only friend, she went after Thomas Friedman and tore him a new one. Shouting, screaming and spitting blood, she told him it was all his fault and that he was back on a one week suspension.
"Collins! You can't do this to me!" Thomas Friedman snapped.
"Gail, if he goes back on vacation, he'll drive me insane," I insisted.
Gail looked at me for a few moments and then smiled thinly.
"I'm sure you'll manage," she smirked.
Suddenly, I wasn't feeling so bad that she'd lost a tooth.
"My fans! My many, many fans! How will they make it through without me!" Thomas Friedman howled.
"I'm sure they'll both be fine," Gail said sauntering off.
Score one for Miss Mouse.
So another week of hell. And on New Year's Eve.
I can't imagine that even in my village I ever had such a dreary New Year's Eve. Thomas Friedman wanted snacks. Ritz crackers and canned cheese, of course. He wanted to watch Dick Clark but then screamed there was something wrong with the TV because he couldn't find Dick Clark. I tried to point out that it was barely six o'clock and I doubted the countdown would start for a few hours. But Thomas Friedman was convinced that the TV was screwed up and that it was all due to that "pushy woman" Gail Collins.
After pretending to listen to him whine for a half hour, I figured I cut my losses and turn in.
I say all that not just to get it out in my computer journal but also because it explains Thomas Friedman's new attitude which is far, far from Patti LaBelle's.
He's furious still with Gail Collins. I really don't understand why he's furious. He got to wear his shorty robe a few more days and eat grape jelly out of the jar in front of the TV the way he likes.
But he's been obsessing over the "wimp factor." It's like living with Poppy Bush only I'm younger and far nicer than Big Babs. Also, unlike Big Babs, no one's ever confused me with the family pet Millie.
He had two resolutions for the New Year: sit ups and "No more Mr. Nice Guy."
He's managed to keep the latter one. Probably helps that he wasn't all that nice to begin with.
His return to the op-ed pages Januaray 4th found him uwing a new tool to bash Arabs with, oil.
Face it, if Thomas Friedman couldn't bash Arabs, half the time, he'd have nothing to say. Which is another argument for Arab-Americans to complain to the paper in large numbers. But I thought Gail managed to work in a little trick to welcome Thomas Friedman back to the paper. She offers non-denials when I ask if she called in a favor, but judge for yourself, I say.
The day he returned, the lower left-hand corner of the front page declared "Cheese and More Cheese." Seemed like an appropriate warning to the unsuspecting who picked up the paper.
Having started the new year bashing Arabs, Thomas Friedman followed up by calling Bully Boy and Dick Cheney wimps. He still managed to bash Arabs. He's convinced that he's found a new topic that will allow him to bash them all year round: oil. It also allowed him to bash Hugo Chavez. Today he ridiculed the right of return for Palestinians and praised Ariel Sharon who will be remembered for many things but "peaceful" won't be one of them.
I actually support the concept of the wall. Not for Israel, but around our home. I was thinking how much nicer each day would be if I could build a wall to keep Thomas Friedman outside the living room. Then I thought, "I'll keep him out of the kitchen as well!" And of course the bedroom. Then I remembered how he refuses to flush the toilet so I pictured walling him off from that as well. But then I realized that no matter what I think of Thomas Friedman, it's not fair to grab terroritory and enforce misery.
Thomas Friedman obviously doens't agree or he would have surrended his op-ed space long ago.
But when I wonder how someone can have so much hate towards an entire people, I just remind myself that Thomas Friedman is convinced he's correct and that God sends him messages.
Like when I was listening to the 10,000 Maniacs the other day while scrubbing the kitchen floor. He came in and asked me to play "that pretty song again." Which one?
"The pro-Israel song."
"Thomas Friedman," I said, "I do not think there's a song like that on Our Time In Eden."
He insisted there was.
"It's the song about the peaceful Israeli."
I told him there was no such song.
"Yes, there is!" he said stomping his feet. "The song about the peaceful Israeli. The Arab breaks into the home and destroys everything."
I sing this to him:
You lie there an innocent baby
I feel like the thief who is raiding your home
Entering and breaking and taking in every room
I know your feelings are tender
And that inside you the embers still glow.
But I'm a shadow,
I'm only a bed of blackened coal.
Call myself Jezebel for wanting to leave.
"That's it!" he cries. "But you got the words wrong. It's not 'innocent baby,' it's 'peaceful Israeli.'"
I played the song for him. He was nodding his head excitedly until Natalie Merchant sang "an innocent baby."
He insisted that I'd pulled a fast one on him, switched cassette tapes, and pointed out that he "surfs now!" so he knows "a few things" like how Alan Cowell breathlessly wrote of someone calling for Tony Blair's impeachment Tuesday when, in fact, they'd called it for it days earlier.
I'm glad Thomas Friedman knows how to do more than look at online porn, he still swears he doesn't know how that fake nude of Screech from Saved By The Bell ended up as our screensaver, but Natalie Merchant sings "innocent baby."
Still it explains why he can continue to write the most hateful things about Arabs. He really thinks that everyone thinks like he does. He imagines he hears that sort of talk everywhere.
Some nights, when he's on my last nerves, I toy with pretending I'm Arab just to set him off.
I think if he ever thought he was face to face with one, he'd have a stroke.
Which would leave me with the apartment. Something any New Yorker has to keep in mind at all times.
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