It’s Sunday afternoon at my house, and things are gloomy as usual. The second game of the football doubleheader (the one between two teams none of us care about) is winding down, and there promises to be a four- or five-hour lull before the next game comes on.
And if the lack of sports was not devastating enough, the day-long hangovers that my roommates nurse seem to make the imminent beginning of the school week even more difficult to deal with.
Spirits, generally, are low.
One of my roommates has been sitting in the same chair for upwards of 8 hours with a terrible scowl on his face, and he hasn’t said more than two words to anybody.
But the Sunday blues haven’t gotten the best of me.
No sir, on Sunday nights at 6:00 I’m chipper as can be, because I know my favorite 10 minutes of the week are less than an hour away. Forget the feeling you get when you finish your last class and the weekend begins. Forget the moment you finally get into the bar after waiting for half an hour in line.
As soon as I turn the television to CBS and hear that watch start ticking and see the “60 Minutes” logo, I know that Andy Rooney is on his way.
And it makes me feel good like little else can.
Why, you might ask, am I so obsessed with this 70-plus-year-old man that has not made sense to anyone in 10 years?
It is a combination of things, really.
There are the eyebrows, of course — two shocks of gray and white hair that stick out from his forehead like two severed squirrel tails. The hair and make-up people at “60 Minutes” must cringe every time they see Andy on camera. I’m certain that they try time and time again to give those brows a little trim, but to no avail. Andy won’t have it. He has too much strength of character.
But physical characteristics aside, this love affair started four years ago. I had taken to watching 60 Minutes regularly for the news stories, and had often changed the channel after those segments were completed. But that Sunday I stayed the course, decided to finish what I had started and give a listen to what the ancient commentator had to say.
There was something about the way that Lesley Stahl introduced the piece — a smirk on her face that said, “I know what you’re about to see, and I know exactly how ridiculous it is,” — that drew me in.
And then he started.
The segment was about how big things had become in this modern era — food packaging, children’s toys, and automobiles . . . especially automobiles.
To prove his point, Andy rented a full-size conversion van and drove it around town, trying to park it places. The vast majority of the piece consisted of Andy hunched over the steering wheel saying things to the cameramen like, “This van is just too big,” and, “How am I supposed to park a van this size anywhere?” On several occasion he came frighteningly close to running into garages or other parked cars while trying to maneuver the van.
“Why would anyone need a van like this?” he asked.
The point of the commentary, I think, was that bigger was not always better. Not that it mattered what the point of the story was — I was hooked.
Airtime on a major television network goes for thousands of dollars a minute, and Andy Rooney had just eaten up 10 minutes talking about how big his van was.
Andy Rooney represents everything that was once good about aging in America. He is tired, grouchy, perhaps not completely informed, but as determined and stubborn as a man can be.
People listen to him because he has put in his dues, not because he is a voice of wisdom.
Furthermore, Andy picks on the smallest imperfections in people and society, and overlooks the large issues.
Sure, from time to time, he will do a segment on national policy, politics or any of the other fodder of typical journalists. But you’re much, much more likely to see him talking about how annoyed he is by the poor grammar America’s youth exhibit than about a nationalized health care system.
And I love him for it.
I think that the powers that be at CBS must have been talking about getting rid of Rooney for years. But someone, somewhere must realize what Andy means for those of us who enjoy him.
Not everyone in life must be concerned with taxes and education and budgets . . . because if they were, who would worry about where to park a full-sized conversion van?