What would Andy say?


I miss Andy Rooney.

Younger readers may not know who Rooney was. He died in 2011 at age 92 after a long career as a writer and journalist, including as a young reporter for the U.S. Army during World War II. To most people, he’s remembered for his weekly broadcast, “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney”, that was part of the CBS News program “60 Minutes” for many years.

Rooney’s essays were often funny, sometimes thought-provoking, and even aggravating. He was like a cranky, eccentric friend you may not agree with, but who has a unique outlook on life.

His “60 Minutes” commentaries, as well as other writings, produced many memorable quotes, including:

“A great many people do not have the right to their own opinion because they don’t know what they are talking about.”

“I’m always on the lookout for something good about people. Often months go by.”

“I had one typewriter for 50 years, but I have bought seven computers in six years. I suppose that’s why Bill Gates is rich, and Underwood is out of business.”

Those are just a few examples. You can find many others by searching for Rooney quotes on the internet.

As an internet entry explains, “Rooney typically offered satire on a trivial issue, such as the cost of groceries, annoying relatives, or faulty Christmas presents.”

When he delved into more controversial issues, however, he sometimes got into trouble with his bosses at CBS. He was suspended a couple of times, but CBS ended the suspensions early after viewership at “60 Minutes” dropped significantly. It seemed viewers might not agree with everything Rooney said, but they loved to hear him say it.

Of course, Rooney died before the advent of the current political climate fueled by election-denying, conspiracy-promoting buffoons who are making money off their ridiculous claims.

“What would Jesus do?” was a popular slogan awhile back. How about applying “What would Andy say?” when discussing any number of political and social issues today.

Rooney came to mind recently when I went to the fitness center at a condo complex where I was staying. The fitness center is divided among three small rooms, with weight machines in one room, free weights (dumbbells) in another, and treadmills, stationary bikes and the like, in another.

When I got there, I could see through the window that a couple of people were using the weight machines, so I went to the dumbbell room. Through a window that separates the rooms, I occasionally checked to see if the “exercisers” were still “exercising.” I put those words in quotes because the only “exercising” the young man and woman were doing was scrolling through their cell phones. Apparently, they found the padded benches of the weight machines comfortable and convenient places to sit as they searched through their phones. I don’t know about the rest of their muscles, but I suspect the couple had strong thumbs.

I can’t blame cell phones. Last year, I was at the same facility and saw three people – two sitting on separate benches and one standing. They weren’t using their phones, but they chatted for a long time about this, that and the other thing. At no time did they lift a weight or do anything approximating exercise. The only thing they moved were their mouths.

Back to the more recent incident, I glanced through the window now and then and never did see the couple actually lift weights. Maybe they did it quickly when I wasn’t looking.

The couple eventually started to leave, so I slipped into the room. They moved into the room where I had been. I didn’t pay any attention to the couple as I and another fellow took turns using the weight machines. But as I finished, I looked through the window and saw the young couple had found the benches in the free-weight room quite to their liking, too. They were sitting on them as they scrolled through their phones. Maybe it’s appropriate that the weights in that room are called “dumbbells”.

There’s a sign on the wall of one of the rooms that says the owners of the condo complex “know that neither loud screaming nor dropping heavy weights will increase strength or muscularity. As a courtesy to others, please set weights down softly.”

Perhaps another sign is needed stating that “neither scanning through phones nor conducting long conversations while not exercising will increase strength or muscularity. As a courtesy to others, please use the equipment or move on.”

The situation was so absurd that only a writer with Andy Rooney’s talents could have done it justice. But Rooney’s gone, so I had to carry on in his spirit.

I was thinking about Rooney a couple of days later when I returned to the fitness center. I imagined Rooney peering over my shoulder as I looked through the window. A different young man was sitting on a weight bench. He wasn’t working out, but he was busy – scrolling through his phone.

What would Andy say?

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