Do You Know What I Did Last Summer?
You know you’ve made it when there are people waiting in their cars outside your house. Not ordinary fans I mean, and not quite a stalker, but the kind of people in-between who don’t want to go through your garbage so much as they want to see you carry it out.
These are the people who know you’ve got some special skill or talent, and want to see how you apply it to the most ordinary every day task. By this definition then, at least, Andrew A. Rooney is a success.
You probably know him better by the name Andy, the guy with bushy eyebrows whose segment has been the nightcap on the granddaddy of network news magazines for longer than anyone can remember. But his surname or eyebrows aren’t really important, and neither is my definition. Either, way he’s made it. Fighting boredom like Andy might grapple with a quandary, I made the half an hour trip from my home in I-won’t-say-where to what I had been told was his in None-of-Your-Business. (I could leak it I suppose, but discretion is the greatest form of prowling, and I would hate to encourage this type of behavior.)
I knew how to get to Andy’s, but had no real business being there — let alone a plan for when I arrived. I parked my car along his rural road, halfway in a ditch and 300 yards down a sloping driveway from the summer place. It was a Thursday afternoon in mid-July, and the sun was oppressive, stifling activity everywhere in the area. That’s one clichéd way of saying it was hot out. Andy’s house faced the road, which meant I had to keep my head turned 90 degrees to get a look at it. I started to fear a crick in my neck and wedged my right hand between the head rest to massage in the sweat. Then I decided that the pain was just the price of being a fan; no physical peril is too great an obstacle to spotting this sage of sarcastic scribery. Andy had given me countless small chunks of his “60 Minutes” over the years, and a little patience here was the least I could do to repay him.
I thought for a while of getting out and climbing the small hill to Andy’s front door.
Fear did a little to dissuade me, but not quite as much as speechlessness or disinterest. And the heat; it was hot out there — and a long way up that driveway.
I really didn’t have much to say to Andy anyway, next to “Hello” and “Nice column you turn out.” By the time the both of us got to the door and shared only that pleasantry, I’m sure we would both have wished only that we hadn’t bothered.
There was probably a lot Andy could tell me — and not just because he is so many times published, renowned and had met the likes of Hemingway. Andy is one of those people — old some might call it — who have been smelling the fresh newsprint of history for the better part of a century. They carried fish home in the headlines I can only read about and study. I thought of some things I might be able to tell him, how the Mets were faring recently or about the bad door handles on my Volkswagen, but I decided he probably wouldn’t be interested. I’ve never been present at a World War, but I bet it gives you a more profound perspective on things than you can get watching ESPN with three friends and a couple of beers.
I stayed about an hour at Andy’s place with no sign of anyone, much less the successful and well-traveled author. If he did come outside, say, to water the flowers, maybe Andy would walk down the driveway and greet me himself. Probably not though; more likely he would see for himself how hot it was and return inside for some lemonade. I would if I were him.
I thought about Andy as I sat there; his unique style and the volumes of his work. He had been asking, “Did you ever wonder this?” or “What’s up with that?” long before anyone had heard of Seinfeld or Dennis Miller.
Some might say Andy’s success stemmed purely from the type of pungent cynicism that was usually reserved for grizzled old men. He’s getting on in years, that’s true, but I can’t speak for his grizzledness having never spotted him that Thursday.
Andy Rooney has made it though, there’s no question about that. Yet I insisted on remaining parked outside his summer home, halfway in a ditch, just to reconfirm what everyone already knows.
Did you ever wonder what that makes me?
Paul Camarata is a sophomore majoring in English and American studies.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Thursday, August 4, 1999