From 1978 until a month before his death on 04 November 2011, Andy Rooney did an end-of-show segment on the CBS program, 60 Minutes. He certainly wasn’t the first to say, Did you ever wonder . . . ?, but he made the phrase peculiarly his own.
In the segment, Rooney typically offered satire on a trivial everyday issue, such as the cost of groceries, annoying relatives, or faulty Christmas presents. Wikipedia
‘Trivial’ is a matter of opinion: the ‘everyday’, after all, is where we spend, well, every day. I know that as I go through my day and hit things that make me wonder, I often hear Andy’s voice in my head.
Usually, the wondering is just a passing puzzlement.
Did you ever wonder why bananas can travel thousands of miles, blemish free, but can’t get from the store to your kitchen counter without bruising?
Did you ever wonder why you can take a photo with any phone, but can’t make a phone call from any camera?
Did you ever wonder why ‘ref’, ‘reg’, ‘rep’, and ‘veep’ and ‘dino’ are all legitimate words in Scrabble™, but ‘wifi’ isn’t?
Did you ever wonder why sci-fi became syfy, or why ‘junta’ changed from ‘hoonta’ to ‘djunta’ in CBC’s official pronunciation guide?
Did you ever wonder why the Boston Celtics are the Seltics, and not the Keltics? Is ‘Keltic’ really so hard to say?
Did you ever wonder why those blankety-blank squirrels will eat absolutely everything from your garden except the ornamental crabapples?
But sometimes, the wondering is a mental rant worthy of Andy . . .
Did you ever wonder why hotels decorate with books?
On our trip to Kingston last week—to launch a history book, meet a princess, and reminisce with people I don’t know—these books graced the shelf above the desk in our hotel room:
The Spider King – A biographical novel of King Louis XI of France; Schoonover, 1954
Problems of an Urban Society – Volume 2: the Social Content of Planning; Cullingworth, 1973
Report of the Fifty-Second Conference of the International Law Association, 1966
Living Embryos: An Introduction to the Study of Animal Development; Cohen, 1967
To the One I Love the Best; Bemelmans, 1955
Strategies for Elementary Social Science Education; Joyce, 1965
Reminiscences; Smith, 1910
The Us or Them War; Garner, 1969
Bulldog Drummond Returns; McNeile, 1931
The Justicer; Fall, 1959
Hegemony and Survival; Chomsky, 2003
The Unforgotten; Conway, 1967
The Best Forgotten; Gibson, 2013
No, I made up that last one. But not the first dozen.
Judging by the pencilled-in prices inside their front covers, these books were bought in bulk at a used bookstore, whose owners must have thought they hit the lottery when this order came in. If every one of the 74 hotel rooms has 12 books, then that would be (let me see, carry the 1), 888 books (and what could be luckier than that for any feng shui devotee)? Even at $1.50 to $4.50 a book, that’s a nice day’s work.
Better yet, since these books are there only as decor, the bookstore owner could, entirely without guilt, offload some dogs acquired in their own bulk purchases. Something like, oh, I don’t know,the 1966 report of the 52nd International Law Association meeting.
While I’ve seen book assemblages like this in public spaces in hotels (‘collection’ being too intentional a word altogether), I’d never seen a set placed where one might be forgiven for thinking the books were for, you know, reading.
Now, I ask you, would you like to leaf through a teaching strategies book that, even assuming it was ever on point, is now out of date by forty years or more? Would you like to dip into an opus by Noam Chomsky, not exactly renowned for his light, bite-sized writing style? Have you been searching, hitherto fruitlessly, for the seventh novel in the Bulldog Drummond series which started in the 1920s?
No, no, and no? I didn’t think so.
Maybe, in a hotel room in Kingston (as anywhere), you’d be interested in reading a short story by a local author, living or dead. Or a nugget of local history. Or a guide to local attractions. Or anything that might persuade you to spend another day exploring the area, and another night in that very hotel.
Seeing books used as props, anywhere other than on a theatre stage, baffles and annoys me simultaneously. Books, dagnab it, are not meant to to complement the wallpaper, but to inform, teach, divert, or elevate.
Did you ever wonder?
Yes, Andy, frequently.