THOSE F**KS!

One evening, my wife and I sat on the love seat at the foot of our bed, halfway through another hour of William Shatner’s marvelously self-effacing antics on “Boston Legal” – that is until the station’s news team broke in with a bulletin. “Three prison escapees lead police on high speed car chase and flee into local neighborhood. Details at eleven.”

“What prison? Which neighborhood? I said. Once, years ago, the LAPD had chased a guy with an Uzi into our little Sherman Oaks enclave and had gone pounding door to door after two a.m. with the cop copter hovering directly overhead.

“Hope we find out before the front door crashes in,” my wife added.

For a moment we looked at each other silently. Then, in unison, we did what we always seem to do: sigh wearily, shake our heads from side to side, grit our teeth and say, “Those F**ks!”

The second word is no gratuitously tossed-in explicative. It’s not meant to offend as much as to show that we’re offended. Next to “I love you,” and “I love you, too,” “Those F**ks!” is probably the most oft-spoken phrase around our house. Think of F**ks! as the surname of a large family known for being chronically selfish, unthinking, and insensitive. If either my wife or I could draw more than stick figures, we’d do a one-panel cartoon in the style of Tom Tomorrow or Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell” depicting our characters, Those F**ks!, engaging in the many maddening situations where idiocy and blithe thickheadedness reign.

I think the family would all look like Zippy the Pinhead, but they probably look like the family next door.

Of course, by “Those F**ks!” we meant the news team and the station, not the prisoners, although I suppose the case could be made for either. This wasn’t the first time we’d been abused by the ratings-grubbing local news. I’m sure we can all recall being told that a “widely used” medication could be killing us, that a “local” reservoir had burst, that wildfires were out of control in a “local” neighborhood, that a “serial rapist” was terrorizing a “local” neighborhood. And in every case one has to wait until the late-night news to discover if they’re directly affected. Sometimes they make you wait through a couple commercial breaks, as well, but that’s usually only for the “Oscar-winning actor arrested for drunk driving (and, oh, he dissed the Jews) ” stories. Or anything with Lindsay Lohan. (Sorry Paris.)

No doubt one day we’ll hear, “A huge fireball that will destroy all life in a local neighborhood is headed for Earth. Film at eleven. Maybe.”

Of course, Those F**ks! aren’t only found on television. They’re everywhere, and it’s all part of the general decline in common sense, civility, and concern for one’s fellow man. These days your brother is less your keeper than someone who delights in torturing you with a game of “keep-away.”

Herewith some true tales of “Those F**ks!” in action:

The driver in the slow lane who saw my wife trying to merge onto the freeway. He sped up, pointed at her, and waggled his finger, sending a clear message of “no, you don’t.”

Just last night my wife and I sat near a boisterous table-of-six whooping it up with high-decibel guffaws, clattering wine glasses, and loud tales about how you can tell you’re pregnant because you’ll toss your cookies if you drink too much alcohol. Try having a quiet, romantic anniversary dinner in the little restaurant they’ve just “discovered.” Try keeping your appetite with all that talk about vomit.

Me? I start to itch uncontrollably every time I see a mom in a monstrous SUV, with one grade-school-aged child passenger, making a left turn with one hand on the wheel and blabbing into the cell phone in her other – all while doing her makeup in the rear-view mirror. I’d be just as peeved if the driver was a dad, though I’d give him a break on the makeup. A man needs a little privacy when applying mascara.

The company that owes you money. "The check is in the mail." Yeah, the mail to Afghanistan.

The contractor who promised to start work on time; a day later he still hasn't called.

Anyone who thoughtlessly inconveniences you. Or takes you for a chucklehead. Or ignores your feelings. Or throws the fear of God into you for no good reason, except maybe to sell their product -- especially if it's a war, or something that guarantees to dissolve your civil liberties, or your money back.

Our cat, Poot, who, after years of acting normally, suddenly started caterwauling twice a day when he was ready to eat. This wouldn't be so bad if he didn't go off like a rooster at 4:30 in the morning. Today it was 3:30 am. We're not getting any sleep ... though I've finally gotten through Proust.

A few days ago I vented about “Those F**ks!” to my friend Nancy, who immediately launched into a complaint about drug company advertising on TV.

“Have you seen that ad in which Mandy Patinkin, dressed like a regular guy, rides down an escalator and talks to you about high cholesterol?" she asked? "He’s just one example of the pharmaceutical companies trying to terrify you. So, what: if your cholesterol isn’t lower, you’re probably going to stroke out in an hour? It’s one more way for the drug companies to snake the garrote around our necks. Now there’s a pill for everything that might happen, and if it causes anal leakage and cotton mouth and uncontrollable crying jags, hey, what are those compared with a cholesterol level of minus-168?"

I swear I once saw an ad for a drug and in the list of possible side effects was death. I think they called it "fatal event."

“Those Sick F**ks!”

Nancy is right. Patinkin scared my mother. Yes, she’s 83, lives alone – by choice – and is sometimes a bit, uh . . . creative, but I knew something was up when she called and was uncharacteristically agitated.

“What’s the matter, Mom?”

“That, that actor, what’s his name, from that show . . . you know...”

“Which show?”

“Rockford.”

“Rockford? Garner?

“No.

“Well, what’s the matter.”

“He keeps telling me I have to see my doctor."

"So?"

"So it's none of his business.”

“That’s not Garner. Is this a commercial?”

“He says I have to check my cholesterol.”

“Oh, you mean Mandy Patinkin.”

“He’s on an escalator. He keeps telling me I have to check my cholesterol.”

“It’s only a commercial. Don’t worry. He’s not actually talking to you.”

“Well, I still wish he’d mind his own business. I’ll see my doctor when I want to.

“Right.”

“My cholesterol is fine.”

“I know. I saw the test results.”

“Okay. I have to go.”

“What’s the rush?”

“I’ve got some people from the Weather Channel over.”

“Really.”

“They've been here all night. They offered me a job.”

“What kind of job?”

“What do you mean what kind of job?” She had me there. “Reporting the weather, of course. They said I’d have to do a lot of traveling, though.”

“Oh?”

“Don’t worry. I told them that my age I really don’t want to go that far from home.”

"That's good."

Those F**ks!


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