Who's going to ask all those questions that nobody else asked now that Andy Rooney is gone?
He did it on CBS TV's 60 Minutes and in his nationally syndicated column that appeared right here in this paper.
He asked thousands of questions over the years, right up to his death last November at age 92.
There were so many it's hard to remember a particular one. His delivery on TV was like a one-liner comedian. You couldn't linger on one question because the next one came right along and displaced it in your brain.
A few of his questions do come to mind: Why are hotel toilet paper rolls folded on the end into a point? And when did they start doing this? And why? Had there been complaints about difficulties finding the end of the roll?
About 10 years ago I wrote an Andy Rooney style column for the Bismarck Tribune. I know I didn't toss it, but I can't locate it. I do remember one thing I got going on. Why do some people cut their lawns diagonally?
For awhile it was really the rage, almost like a city inspector might come by and fine you if you didn't have proper diagonals. Some people spend more time with their mowers over sidewalks and driveways than over grass. Why do they do this?
Instead of a few long length-wise swaths to mow the area between sidewalk and curb, some people cut many short width-wise diagonals: from the curb across the narrow strip, across the sidewalk, across the lawn, across the driveway, then a little more lawn, before returning back across lawn, driveway, lawn, sidewalk, lawn, back to the curb. Why? Who started this practice anyway?
I slipped into the Rooney questioning mode the other day when I saw a magazine with "Titanic" on the cover, referring to an article inside on the 100th anniversary of its sinking.
My first thought was: when did they drop the The? It used to always be The Titanic. It seemed to start with the big hit movie "Titanic." Not "The Titanic," as the earlier movie was called.
And what about The Ukraine? Now it's just Ukraine. Who's next? The Philippines? And if the "The" is ever dropped, would it then be Philippine, like Japan, which used to be The Japans many years ago?
And what about the spelling changes in cities like Peking? It became Beijing. Who did that? And why? Then Bombay became Mumbai. Was someone on a roll renaming cities?
I know we and other countries often call foreign cities by names natives don't use. So I suppose it makes sense to make some corrections. Why then do we still say or write Cologne for the German city Koln? Probably because there are still enough keyboarders like me who don't know how to type the umlaut, or two dots, over the 'o' in Koln.
But now I'm answering my questions. I have strayed from the Rooney approach: just ask the questions others don't ask; keep it simple and straightforward; don't get wordy.
How did he manage this? And how did he keep it light, thought-provoking and entertaining?
Because he was the master? Yes.
May he rest in peace. Of course, in his case this might involve a few questions every now and then just to keep Saint Peter and God on their toes.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily?News)