Sunday, April 28, 2013

Thelma Lou's Friends and Family

     Before The Big Bang Theory or whatever else the kids are laughing at on TV these days; before Seinfeld, MASH, All in the Family or The Brady Bunch, there was a show on television that made me laugh more consistently than any other.
     I am just slightly too young to have remembered the first run of The Andy Griffith Show, but I've been watching it reruns for dozens of glorious years.  The writing, specifically in the first few seasons of the show, is unparalleled. I find it hard to imagine a universe where there is no character called Ernest T. Bass.
    But my subject today is not Ernest T. I want to talk about Thelma Lou and her friends and family.  Whenever there was a need on the show to emphasize romantic comedy, Thelma Lou came through. Fans will remember the touching scene where Barney describes to Andy what he would say to Thelma Lou -- if he could actually work up the courage to speak to her. And, once they were a couple, Thelma Lou provided the means to introduce romantic complications.
     There was the time when her cousin, Mary Grace, was visiting and she wouldn't go out on a date unless Barney could find someone to escort Mary Grace. 
     "She's a dog!" Barney complained, but the situation set up a great episode in which Gomer is convinced that if Mary Grace is not pretty, she is, at least, "Ni-i-i-ice."
     Then there's Thelma Lou's cousin, Karen, who shows Andy (in 1962 yet) that women are more capable and more complicated than he might realize.
     My favorite moment, though, is a brief scene, brilliantly played by Josie Lloyd, in the episode, "Barney Mends A Broken Heart."  Andy has had a tiff with his girlfriend, so Barney and Thelma Lou show up with her friend, Lydia Crosswaithe.  Barney, trying desperately to make a love connection, says Lydia must like the outdoors, leading to the classic response:
     "I hate the outdoors. When I go out into the sun, I get the herpes."
      Okay, what about guitars? Andy plays the guitar.
      "I hate the guitar. I don't mind the clarinet or the saxophone, but I hate the guitar."
      And then one final comment about chit-chat.
     "I hate chit-chat. I don't mind ordinary conversation, but I hate chit-chat."
     That last line has resonated with me for years. I, too, absolutely hate chit-chat.  Unlike Lydia, I am able to engage in it, but it comes at a price. My personality changes from its natural state of a grouchy, old man to that of an overbearing redneck. You cannot, after all, be grumpy when discussing the tedious details of the lives of people you don't really care about.
     So, at least according to my wife, my accent changes along with my demeanor. I become a good ol' boy -- chewing the fat, shooting the breeze, passing the time of day. I reckon I just cain't deal with them thar chit-chatters 'lessin I relax a might. And the transformation is mostly unnoticed on my part. I don't intentionally change the way I speak, but because I despise social interaction so much, I've developed this  method to deal with it.
     I once said that blissful solitude is its own reward, and my wife well knows how difficult it is to get me to attend social functions. So, just as the Internet meme, describes the Multiverse theory as one in which there is at least one world where you ... are Batman, there must be universe somewhere (or a past life if you believe in reincarnation) in which I ... am Lydia Crosswaithe and Goober always says, "Hey."