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May 11, 2013

Using time off in the worst way possible

By Sam Pollak
The Daily Star

---- — “You don’t mean it,” I pleaded. “You simply can’t mean it!”

But The Daily Star’s stern, imperious human resources director is one tough cookie, and there was no arguing with what she had just ordered me to do.

I would have to take my week’s vacation.

“No, please don’t make me go,” I said, my lower lip quivering, my eyes tearing up. “I love it here so much.”

But she wouldn’t budge.

“We’ll see you in a week,” she said, and that was that.

Seven days away from this wonderful, stress-free job would — I was certain — be an eternity.

Mournfully, I set about making my departure. Too heartsick to join my colleagues at the caviar and truffles buffet provided for our employees each day by a thoughtful management, I had to tell a disappointed Inga that I wouldn’t be showing up for my company-paid-for massages on Tuesday and Thursday. I asked if she would be kind enough to tell Bjorn that I wouldn’t be there for my tennis lesson at The Daily Star indoor courts Wednesday.

Making my way to the newspaper’s stables, I fed a regretful carrot to my Daily Star polo pony, Ralph, who had absolutely dominated the third chukker last week until I broke my mallet.

“Hey, Ralph,” I said, “why the long face?” That almost always cracks Ralph up, but not this time. He gave me a look of pity as I patted his withers. At least I think it was his withers. If not, I owe the horse an apology. “Don’t worry, old fellow,” I said consolingly. “I’ll only be gone a week.”

Finally, it was time to have my newspaper-provided manservant — curiously enough, also named Ralph — take my things to the company limousine that would be transporting me home.

“I’m terribly sorry, sir,” he said. “Both of the Daily Star helicopters are in use at the moment in pursuit of the news.”

I put on a brave face, told him I understood and jauntily opined that the company’s champagne was always chilled better in the limo, anyway.

“Peel me another grape before I leave, Ralph,” I said, “and then let me begin my week of purgatory.”

My future biographers will no doubt ponder just what it was that led to my chaining myself to The Daily Star’s Corinthian columns the next time I was ordered to take a vacation.

Having spent Monday writing an opera and proving the existence of dark matter in the universe, I turned on the television Tuesday afternoon, expecting light entertainment or perhaps a mind-broadening documentary.

As it turned out, while channel surfing — that’s what we men of leisure call it — I came upon “The Jerry Springer Show.”

I had kind of been aware that Mr. Springer, a former mayor of Cincinnati, had been on the air for the last 20 years or so, and that he had zany guests, but I had never actually watched an episode.

Now that I have, I despair for the republic. The show’s participants — white people, black people, Hispanic people, Asian people — none of them apparently ever heard of birth control — or, for that matter, marriage or decorum.

I’m making the guests’ names up because I don’t remember them, but it really doesn’t matter. It was pretty much the same story over and over and over again.

Jerry begins by talking with Wanda, an enormous woman who has had three babies with her boyfriend Harold, who is quite skinny. (For some reason, most of the women on the show tend to be gigantic while the men look as if they haven’t had a decent meal in months.)

Wanda suspects that Harold is the father of her sister Ruby’s two children. Jerry brings out Ruby, and before she’s halfway across the stage, the sisters are throwing punches and grabbing each others’ hair.

Some brawny security folks keep it from getting too brutal, but after things calm down a bit, the sisters are right back to brawling while the studio audience — for some reason — chants Springer’s first name: “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!”

After things settle down again, Springer brings out Harold, and we find out that he is a pre-op transsexual and doesn’t want anything to do with either sister or their offspring, and the fighting resumes.

History teaches us that the ancient Roman Emperor Caligula planned to make his horse, Incitatus, a consul. Caligula had nothing on Jerry Springer, who once ran an episode called “I Married a Horse.’’

I’m not making that up.

The trouble was, I couldn’t stop bearing witness each day to the overwhelming evidence Mr. Springer and his guests were providing that our civilization is doomed. On the following Monday morning, the Daily Star limousine driver found me on my knees, unshaven and sobbing in front of the TV while chanting, “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!”

I’m back at work, and I’m better now. Really I am.

But I’m never going on vacation again.

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at 432-1000, ext. 208. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/sampollak.