Airing thoughts, reasoned and logical, on a fellow columnist


July 30, 1992|By ALICE STEINBACH

When the phone rang earlier this morning, I was in a pretty good mood. And why not?

I was just back from a vacation and looking forward, finally, to getting some rest; my cats, still smarting over being left behind, were biting my ankles less often; and, according to a tabloid article, Elvis was recently spotted at a spa in New Jersey.

Not a great day but all in all a pretty good day.

Then the phone rang. The caller was a woman who lives near Seattle. She wasted no time in getting to the point.

"Did you know that there's a columnist out here who's dumping on housewives who live in suburban Baltimore?" she asked. "He's calling them 'air-headed housewives from suburban Baltimore.' I don't know why."

I didn't know why either, so I asked her to fax me the column.

Five minutes later the article by Seattle Times columnist Emmett Watson was on my desk.

I'll spare you the details of the column -- by and large, a boring piece about how pointless and bland political conventions have become -- and instead cut right to the chase. The issue of housewives in suburban Baltimore makes its appearance near the end of the column when Mr. Watson offers as proof of his thesis the example of the recent Democratic convention.

Scoffing at Ross Perot's evaluation of the Democratic party as one that "has reconstituted itself," he writes:

"The Democrats haven't done anything of the kind. The Demos put on a great show of unity, mainly by keeping Jesse Jackson quiet. In other words, they didn't let six words, or a solitary idea, escape that convention that might have offended some air-headed housewife in suburban Baltimore."

Although I do not claim to understand the philosophy of politics, I was nonetheless shocked by Mr. Watson's attack. What, I wondered, had the housewives of suburban Baltimore done to earn this "air-headed" image? Is there some national perception growing out there that supports his thesis?

"Maybe he meant to say fair-headed," said my blond friend Mary. "I'd forget about it if I were you."

Normally, I would forget it. In fact, people who know me well know that I am, generally speaking, a reasonable person. And that, generally speaking, I believe in rising above gratuitous insults and ad hominem attacks.

By the way, did I mention that judging from the photo accompanying his column, Mr. Emmett Watson appears to be a dead ringer for Wayne Newton during his Vegas period?

But getting back to my response to Mr. Emmett Watson's comment -- and for some reason it suddenly occurs to me that the word "emmet" means "ant" in Old English -- I don't believe in revenge fantasies. Neither am I inclined to offer up the smart but shallow retort that so often passes for a sharp wit.

Still, speaking of sharp, it does occur to me that perhaps the Emmettmeister ought to move out of Seattle, the city that calls itself "the coffee capital of the world." Judging from the dopey nature of the logic fueling his column, he seems to be suffering from a bad case of caffeine overload.

Or too much bungee-jumping from the old Space Needle in downtown Seattle.

And although it is tempting to use this space to rip apart old Needle Head's column -- and believe you me, many a lesser columnist would do just that -- it would be wrong.

Not only wrong but pointless. From what friends tell me, any sentence containing more than six words or a solitary idea is guaranteed to sail right over the heads of those airheaded men from suburban Seattle. Which, by the way, is not too far from Twin Peaks. A town that, if memory serves, spawned men who had all the intellectual vigor of mercury-poisoned fish from Puget Sound.

And before I forget: Did I say Wemmet Twatson -- or whatever his name is -- looks like Wayne Newton? I did? Well, what I meant to say is he looks like the Penguin character in "Batman." Only shorter. And less attractive.

It would be easy, of course -- and very human -- to fall into the trap of trying to get back at ferret-face Watson. But I pride myself on being bigger than that.

By the way, should you wish to register a complaint against Pee-Wee Watson, you may call 1-800-AIRHEAD. The phone rings right in his managing editor's office -- which, I'm sure, is the way the Emmettman would have wanted it.

Of course, there's always the tiniest possibility he made a dorky mistake in his column. Maybe what he meant to say was "some airheaded housewife in suburban Cleveland."

Or maybe not.

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