The Best of Andy Rooney

(This classic Andy Rooney column was originally published May 19, 1989.)

Things don't come, we all know that. A check, in particular, never comes or, at least when it finally does come, you've waited so long for it that it already has been spent. The amount of the check, and more, is in bills or on your credit card. It's as if you never got the check. It's gone before it comes when it comes late.

A letter from someone you'd like to hear from doesn't come. There are all sorts of letters and bills and advertisements in the morning mail, but the letter you want is not there. A good letter comes by surprise. It never comes if you're waiting for it.

Our mailman is very good, but don't wait for him because he comes only when you don't care if he comes or not. Sometimes he even comes when you'd rather he didn't come.

One of the great mysteries of life is why things don't come. You hear people refer to "The Second Coming," but even that doesn't come.

I learned early in life that things don't come, and knowing this has saved me a lot of unhappiness. I protect myself from the disappointment that comes with things not coming by saying to myself in advance, "It probably won't come." And, of course, it doesn't, so at least I have the satisfaction of knowing I was right.

When my mother bought me a new suit, a coat, or a pair of pants at McManus and Riley's clothing store, the salesman always wanted to send it, but I wouldn't let him. I took it with me. The man would say things like, "The pants are a little long. We'll have our tailor shorten the pants and send them to you."

I wouldn't stand for it. I took the pants with me even if they were a little long. I knew that if I didn't, the pants probably would be too short by the time they came, because I would be older and taller.

Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, washing machine and television repairmen never come. It doesn't matter how many times you talk to them on the phone about when they're going to arrive, they don't show up. I don't know what it is about repairmen. They're often good, hardworking people, honest people, but it takes them longer to repair things than they ever anticipate. They have to stay longer on one job than they thought they would, so they're late for the next. One job runs into the next until, by the end of the week, they're a month behind.

You'd think that painters would know how long it take them to paint something, but they never do. I think they forget that it takes time to get ready to paint. The preparation can take longer than painting.

Each of us has lived all our lives with things that don't come. In college, I had a chance to go to New York City with a professor and a bunch of the guys one winter weekend. We were going to do all sorts of great things, like stay in a hotel, go to museums and go hear Eddie Condon at his jazz place on 52nd Street. All I needed was $20 by Thursday. My father sent me the $20, just as he'd promised he would, but it didn't come until Saturday, and the other guys had already gone to New York. That $20 was one of the worst things that didn't come in my life.

In the Army, things didn't come. Letters, cookies, the hometown newspaper -- nothing ever came. When we all rushed out for mail call, lots of names were called, but my name usually wasn't among them. I'd get tense when the names got near mine: near me:

"ROBERTS, ROCHE, ROCKHURST, ROMNEY... STRAVLAKAS." Skipped me. It didn't come again.

When the war ended, I looked for my discharge papers. Do you think my discharge papers came? Of course not. I waited week after lonesome week, and they didn't come. When they finally did arrive, they were supposed to be accompanied by a check for $230, but that didn't come.

No problem is more pressing than the matter of things that don't come. I have thought of writing the President to ask for an explanation of why nothing is being done about it...but even if he sent me one, it wouldn't come.

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