With an Apology to Wee Willie

With an Apology to Wee Willie

I’m a ranter.  That’s right, a ranter.  I rant regularly about life’s minor, but ever-present and grating inequities. My rant motivation trigger might be traced to an incident that happened on a long ago Saturday morning.  I’m convinced this particular incident is what helped design the “rant machine blueprint” in me. The one that keeps me, well, ranting. On that day, at the age of 12, seeds were planted for what has eventually grown into a lifelong awareness about things that are eyebrow- raising and out of kilter. For me.

Let me be clear that it’s not the obvious things that are rant-worthy, such as the rising costs of gas, booze, tuition, property taxes, electricity, and soft pretzels. To me, it’s the things that fly under the radar. The slightly askew, off-center ones that aren’t life-threatening or altering in any way, but vexing and agitating, nonetheless. The ones you come across everyday and think you’re the only one noticing. The ones that make you talk to yourself and get caught (without the crutch of pretending to using a cell phone), but rant reasons are all around us. Before I list a few examples, let me explain the probable reason for my intolerance, and I’ll do so with an apology to… Wee Willie Weber!

It all started many years ago, with the legendary Philadelphia mainstay and local icon of TV and radio. Bill, er, Wee Willie, hosted a few popular kids’ shows in that era, adopting an unsophisticated format of kid-friendly smile-y banter, cartoons and tomfoolery… a standard formula of those times.

On one of those Saturday morning shows, for a period, Wee Willie would claim to give an actual bicycle away every week, in a drawing to a lucky winner. To enter, all you had to do was send in a postcard with your name, address, and phone number. Your entry was placed in a large, clear plexiglas raffle drum, from which Wee Willie would pick a “winner” with much fanfare.

Judging by the postcards in the drum, the TV station-sponsored bike giveaway gimmick was immensely popular with kids tuning in, and I’m assuming, for the station.

On this one particular Saturday, prior to Wee Willie putting his hand in the drum, the top postcards in the wide opening of the drum were briefly visible on camera. I saw something that day that I can still see to this day – a postcard with my name in big, bold letters. My name! Robin Spina!

Imagine my joy and excitement after actually seeing my postcard entry. Seconds later, Wee Willie began an unforgettable, indelible sequence for me. He reached into the drum, grabbed a postcard on the top of the pile (where I saw my name) and said, “… the winner of this week’s bicycle is… Robin Spin…”

Wait, before I continue, let me explain that back then, there weren’t too many Robins, male or female. I realized the uniqueness of my unoften-given first name whenever at some kid-oriented venue where vendors hawked first-name buttons. Almost needless to say, they always had a Robert button, a Raymond button, and even a Roy button. But no Robin button – not even under the girls’ names. I would stand there for what seemed forever, scanning the buttons in hope that I missed my name the first 73 times I looked. Of course I didn’t. The point I’m trying to make here is the name Robin was scarce. It’s not commonplace now, let alone back then.

Now back to Wee Willie.

“…Robin Spin…”  Okay, say it, Wee Willie… one more letter… say the letter ‘a’… come on, please let me hear it…why are you hesitating, Wee Willie… say the letter ‘a’ to finish saying my name… say Spina…Robin Spina

Then he said the name, but it wasn’t mine, as he said, “… Robin Spinelli.” Only, he said, “Robin Spin…elli.”  With a hesitation between Spin and elli.  Robin Spinelli!  I wasn’t listening to the rest of what he said about contacting the TV station to collect the bike. All I could hear was Robin Spinelli echoing in my brain. I was heartbroken, mortified, stunned. I don’t think my analysis of it back then was as blunt as today, but in a retrospect I’ve never wavered from… me thinks Wee Willie pulled a fast one!

Originally, I wrote what I thought happened that day and my comments weren’t pretty – but my opinion was mere speculation. Consequently, I no longer include my analysis in this article.

But I’ll say this: I have no doubt that I saw my name spelled out on a postcard in that drum. The name Robin, male or female, back then wasn’t commonplace. So, if there actually was another Robin, a Robin Spinelli, what are the odds that two postcards with two names so alike would wind up right near each other at the top of the raffle drum? Also, why did Wee Willie hesitate between Spin and elli? Spinelli isn’t that hard a name to pronounce, especially for someone who talked for a living.

In closing, I believe it was the “Wee Willie inequity” of that long ago day and incident that rewired my impressionable, still-evolving DNA. In a nutshell, it made me acutely aware of other inequities. Not the full-blown, can’t miss affronts, but the small, minor, vexing, thorn-in-the side issues we can’t do anything about.

Thanks to Wee Willie, the following are a few examples of annoyances that keep my rant-machine at full capacity:

Joke-buster Restaurant Wait Staff Something needs to be done about the wait staff in restaurants that stop by to check on you 47 times during the first course alone.  That being said, checking up as we try to negotiate the difference between Koa Pad Lin Gee and Shui Zhu Yu is one thing. But, I will not be held responsible the next time a waiter asks how we’re all doing, again, just as I’m about to deliver the punch line to the most hilarious joke ever. That soon-to-be explosive-with-laughter moment is interrupted, now gone and impossible to get back. Memo to the American Restaurant Association:  please make it mandatory for all wait staff in restaurants to take joke-interruption sensitivity training. Thank you.

The Fat Guy with the Earring At what point do fat, sloppy guys gaze into the mirror and say, “Geez, I’m fat and sloppy, and I need something to help my overall look. I know, I’ll get an earring.” Sorry, dude, it’s not working.

Do Some Damn Research I have a problem with those news story headlines that ask a question. You know the ones: Has Kirsty Alley been fired over her weight? Is there a link between cell phones and cancer? Is Bill doubting Hillary’s chances? Was there a Bigfoot sighting? You know what, Mr. and Mrs. Journalist, do some damn research, find out the answer first, and then write your column to let me know.

Note to Preston and Steve at Radio Station WMMR I love your “Love You – Hate You” segment, but please (bleep) the lunatics (bleep) in (bleep) to curse. When they (bleep), you (bleep) to bleep what they say, and when you bleep what (bleep) they say, it (bleep) their rant INDECIPHERABLE! Translation: I love your “Love You – Hate You” segment, but please instruct the lunatics calling in not to curse. When they curse, you have to bleep what they say, and when you bleep what they say, it makes their rant INDECIPHERABLE!  So bleep!

Men Wearing Jerseys with the Names of other Men on Them As George Carlin said, “after you’re past a certain age, baseball bubble gum cards become cards with pictures of other men on them.” It’s kind of the same concept here with grown men wearing Howard, Utley, and McNabb shirts. Really, guy?

I think you get the idea. See these and many additional rants, under FRICTION on this Blog.

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