Mr. Quinones, I feel really bad about what happened last Saturday. I really do. And I want to apologize for the way things went during the filming of your hidden camera segment last week.
You see, I am a retiree living in NYC on a fixed income and I haven’t owned a television in years. Every Saturday I treat myself to a nipper at the sipper, and last weekend, that is where I encountered what I believed to be a 13-year-old girl at the bar, attempting to order a shot of Goldschlager.
What would you do indeed, Mr. Quinones?
Being the concerned citizen that I am (I once had a letter to the editor in the Times complaining about their slavish excess of high school prom coverage), I made the decision to act. Just as I was about to approach the barkeep and alert him to his underage patron, a woman dressed in a nun’s habit stepped in front of me and beat me to the very punch! Only this nun acted in a most un-nun-like manner, berating the youngster for underage drinking. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for discipline (Old Pop used to threaten to drop us off at the pound and have us put to sleep and we turned out quite fine, though every time I undergo general anesthesia I am told I bark), but this child was on the verge of breaking down. I felt it was extreme, and I was about to intercede on the girl’s behalf…
But just as I was about to jump into the fray, an angry, rough-looking man strode towards the nun and began shaking her violently, bleating at her to cease her criticism as it was bringing him flashbacks of the abuse he suffered in Catholic school. He dissolved into tears. John, it was the saddest thing. The man was overtaken by memory and feeling. From what I could make out, and I consider myself to be fairly educated about psychology (I was a member of an Imago theater troupe in the 1960s — my portrayal of “Displacement” was well-received by critics), this man was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
After about an hour of this, I was ready to step in to comfort him. I confess, I have a highly empathetic nature (I once volunteered to cradle baby Malayan tapirs—not the South American ones, John, believe me when I tell you they are rapacious beasts) who had lost their mothers during childbirth at the New York Zoo — unfortunately, it turns out this almost never happens), but just as I was about to leap from my barstool to go to the man and wrap my cardigan (Gadzooks, 1981, 100% cotton) around his shoulders, the bartender tried to card him. The poor man was clearly in his 40s! And he had just gone from denial to grief to envy (a waitress had just walked by with a plate of duck wontons) to, finally, acceptance, and now this bartender was trivializing everything he had been through by carding him.
Meanwhile, the 13-year old-strumpet was sitting there pounding Goldschlager shots with a group of off-duty Comcast employees. I was about to approach the bartender and chastise him for his lack of regard, and point out the underage drinker at his bar, and complain to the nun about her intolerance, and wrap the man in my cardigan sweater — I was this close to doing these things John; I am nothing if not quick to act in situations such as this (I admit readily that I was Joseph Hazelwood’s second in command on the Exxon Valdez, and am proud to tell you I was the first person to hand him a roll of paper towels after the accident occurred) — when I hear the bartender ask me if I want a refill of my rum and diet. And that is when I notice the microphone on his lapel, and the camera behind the potted plant, and that the nun is wearing a push-up bra, and the 13-year-old is Kristin Chenoweth, and the PTSD guy is suddenly all chipper, and everyone’s looking at me as you appear out from the kitchen, all smiles, ready to let me in on the joke.
You come at me with an outstretched hand, and ask, “Do you know who I am?” And all I can think is “Johnny Mathis, with an extra 50 pounds on him?” And I stammer and spit like an idiot that maybe you were my server at Applebee’s once and everyone’s just standing there with these big grins on their faces and you say, “I’m John Quinones, I host a show on ABC called What Would You Do?” and I realize I’ve been had and I didn’t do what I was supposed to do and worst of all, I don’t know who you are, Mr. Quinones, so I suppose I am playing the fool only not like you had hoped.
And now you have to scrap the footage. I’m really sorry about all that. But really, what would you have done?