That’s the punchline of a Romanian joke. God is handing out various qualities to people getting ready to be born, and finally there are only two left: Beauty and Stupidity. The last one in line is Bula, the hapless hero of many Romanian jokes (a sort of wise fool, or idiot savant, whose name bears a near-miss resemblance to the word for “penis”). God gives him a choice, and to His surprise, Bula chooses stupidity. “May I ask why?” says God. And Bula says, “Beauty is fleeting, but stupidity is eternal!”
Lots of paperwork has arrived, and it has perversely cheered me (if also made more work for me) by being all wrong.
Social Security, taking my statement over the phone, misheard and misrecorded J’s date of death as November 16, which will necessitate at least one more phone call to set it straight. Screen Actors Guild has been sending his pension to his legal name, Jack Herman, for years, but is now addressing correspondence to his professional name — another potential source of rich confusion. (Partly our stupidity, in this case, for maintaining multiple names.) But it is American Express that takes the cake. When I called them to have J’s senior gold card account, on which I was an additional cardholder, transferred to my name, they gave me their condolences and said no problem, but they would be sending me a new primary card with a new number, which they did on November 23. On the same day, they sent me the following notice:
To the Estate of
C/O Annie Gottlieb
Re: Account Ending [NEW card number!]
To Whom It May Concern:
We are sorry to learn ot the death of Annie Gottlieb and want to thank you for taking the time to notify us. We value our relationships with our customers and are pleased that you want to continue with Cardmembership. . . .
Please complete, sign, and return the enclosed Primary Cardmember Change Request Application so that we may process your request to transfer this account. . . .
We need to receive the completed and signed application within 30 days, or we will have to close Annie Gottlieb’s [NEW!] account, as well as any Additional Cards.
Delicious. I’m bracing myself for J’s death certificate. What can they get wrong there? Maybe they’ll send me a birth certificate instead?
One of my ex-brothers-in-law, who was Mexican and unsure of his English and also hung over at his wedding to my sister over 30 years ago, screwed up the vows and actually married himself.