It was one of those Dad- Son days. This time somehow Mom had convinced Dad to take me to the Museum of Natural History One of my all-time favorite spots in the city. It was winter (it always seemed to be winter), and we took the A Train uptown. As we walked, bundled up against the cold to the museum entrance, Dad asked if I wanted anything – something to eat before going in (the prices in the museum were inflated), something to drink? I thought some candy would be fun, so said yea –
“Could I get a Pez?”
Now some of you will remember this candy/toy combination, though they are still available and going strong in the world today. It is a plastic toy dispensing little blocks of sugary candy; the heads depicted everything from animals to Super Heros, to clowns, dinosaurs, even Santa Claus and Rudolph; basically, you name it, the Pez company made it a head on one of their tiny dispensers. Interesting to note the company started it all is Austrian and the original idea was to have a dispenser that produced mints that would take the place of lighting up a cigarette. I guess maybe that worked sometimes, but when it all went crazy and caught on in America, we ran with it and it became and still is, an iconic candy product.
Needless to say, the whole concept was lost on Dad, a solid milk chocolate kind of guy. He wasn’t so much into contraptions that dispensed candy; if he wanted a mint or a piece of chocolate, he would buy it wrapped, unwrap it and plop it in his mouth. Done. No cartoon characters opening their plastic mouths and spewing a piece of condensed sugar at you.
But he was Dad so he said sure, let’s stop at this store and get you a Pez.
Except he didn’t pronounce it that way, and the encounter went something like this:
“Gimme a Perez for the boy” Dad starts.
The Hispanic guy behind the counter has a baffled look on his face.
“A Perez, a Perez” Ah Dad, the patron saint of patience.
“Wha?” the counter guy repeats.
Dad I know is immediately regretting asking me if I wanted candy. I am sure at this point Dad thinks the guy cannot speak or understand English. Looking up at his increasingly annoyed face, I say faintly:
“Dad, its Pez”
“Shaaa” he responds totally expectedly. Shaa was his version of Shhhh. Not wanting to anger him anymore I don’t say another word. Dad tries valiantly again:
“The candy….ya know…the square candy with the Clown head…..Perez…Perez!!”
Now the poor guy behind the counter was even more confused, and probably beginning to think how he could get this lunatic out of his store.
“Wha?” he says again.
I see Dads jaw tighten; things are going from bad to worse.
“Ok..let’s try this again Amigo” He always called any Hispanic person Amigo, though at this point that was the last thing the clerk wanted to be.
“I am looking…” he continues speaking slowly now, sure that will help..” for the candy Perez- the kids all love it, the small square candy that comes out of the mouth”.
“Whose mouth?” the clerk responds and I am glad he didn’t at least say “Wha” again.
“The Clowns mouth! Or Supermans mouth!!…you know?!!”
“Yea, him or a Clown or a dog or anything – the candy comes out of their heads!”
“Whose head?” the clerk asks with genuine curiosity.
“Amigo…I’m telling ya – the Clown, or Superman, or whatever!!”
Now as a kid, I always loved (and still do) the classic comedy routines Abbot and Costello of, and it hits me that I am witnessing a real-life version of one of their bits. Priceless.
“Perez?” the clerk asks.
Softly I volunteer: “Pez”
The clerk’s face suddenly clears.
“Oh you want Pez!” he says triumphantly.
“That’s what I have been saying…..Perez….Perez!”
So after almost forty minutes, with Dad red in the face, muttering about foreigners, we finally exit the store with a brand new Pez dispenser and a couple of candy refills.
We continued to the museum, to look at Dinosaur skeletons, stuffed Animals, and huge bugs, all fascinating, all interesting, all entertaining.
But as Dad took my hand, as we mounted the huge span of stone steps to the entrance, I thought to myself I had already had my entertainment for the day.
Heck, that had been enough entertainment to last me ……..well, a lifetime.