While other women are watching the soaps on television, Phyllis goes for Tim Russert and Meet the Press.
I depend on her for news about Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Belize. She knows more about Kabul, Afghanistan, than she knows about Pierre.
She devours the sports pages, too. She can probably tell me more about the football teams of Slippery Rock College, Alcorn State and Bethune-Cookman of Dayton Beach, FL, than I really wanted to know.
Before Phyllis got a computer, she relied on television and the newspapers for her information. Now she can google with the best of them.
I like it that she's so abreast of things, but this is ridiculous. Now she tells me stuff I know nothing about.
She really knows how to hurt a guy.
But I know how to get even with her. I just got out the New York Times World Almanac and Book of Facts 2006, and I had ammunition enough to counter her news knowledge.
"Do you know how many people died when the dam collapsed on March 13, 1928, at Saugus, California?" I asked her.
And, of course, she didn't know.
I very smugly replied – using my new-found knowledge from the New York Times Almanac – "450 people lost their lives then, and 238 were killed at Rapid City on June 9, 1972, when Rapid Creek flooded."
I could have recited some more notable floods and earthquakes, too, but I didn't want to overdo it.
Then I changed the subject.
I said "Did you know that Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, was born in 372 BC, and that Oliver Cromwell, who was known as the Lord Protector, died at age 59 after reigning for five years?"
I had her there, and I was about to name all of the prime ministers of Great Britain since 1721, but then I recognized Tony Blair and I knew she would have known about him. He's in the news a lot these days, and that's her thing.
I flipped open another page of the almanac and asked: "What year did the U.S. railroads have the most tracks, less yard mileage, sidings and parallel lines?"
She didn't know that one either. So I answered confidently: "And that was in 1916 and there were 254,037 miles of track then."
Ha! All that time spent with Tim Russert, and she couldn't answer a few simple questions. What good is it to be a professional news junkie if I could stump her with those easy facts?
She bristled at that, saying that I didn't play fair by using facts from the almanac which even a Whiz Kid couldn't answer. I repsonded that all you'd have to do is memorize everything in the 1,008 pages of the almanac, and that should be easy for a news junkie.
Regardless, I should be happy with Phyllis' hobby. Other wives shop till they drop or play bridge and mah-jonng, and she's happy following the antics of Congress or the latest murder case.
I'm the journalist here, but she beats me hands down when it comes to the news of the day. She says: "Watch Lou Dobbs, and you might learn something."
Hmm? Maybe she's got something there!
© 2006 Robert F. Karolevitz