Petri Dishes: Banana For Scale

Sep 22, 2020

Humor columnist Alexandra Petri will be online every Tuesday at 11 a.m. Eastern for Petri Dishes, where she'll offer a lighter take on the news of the day. Chat now about on her columns and any other questions you might have. Catch up on the transcript of his latest chat below.

Read Alexandra Petri's columns or catch up on past chats here.

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter here.

Hello, all! It’s Tuesday! Thanks for being here! 

This company has a TV commercial about how airlines are desperate and are offering super low prices because of the pandemic. And to make sure you act now it warns you that “like every crisis, this one will end too.” They’re not saying that to reassure us this horrible moment in time will end, they’re actually warning us that our luck (at least regarding low airfare) is about to run out. Also, they say the prices are so low they’re not allowed to publish them on TV. I’m no lawyer, but maybe one of your chatters is and can explain which law prohibits publishing low airfare prices on TV?

I don’t know about the prohibition, but I love the idea that “this crisis will end!” being used as an urgency-boosting selling point. It is nice to see that confidence! ACT NOW WHILE CRISIS SUPPLIES LAST! (Then again, those commercial supplies seem to last a long time.) Wait. I’m having deja vu; did we have this question last week? 

Quantas offered a seven hour flight to nowhere, for those who relish the idea of flying for seven hours and ending up at their original departure gate. It sold out in ten minutes. That's just crazy. Royal Brunei and All Nippon have also offered similar flighst. No word if you get peanuts or pretzels. Or extra legroom. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/19/travel/airlines-pandemic-flights-to-nowhere.html

That is WILD. I love air travel and I still can’t imagine signing up for one of those. 

Alexandra: I'm starting to be OK with perpetual, pandemic lockdown: as long as I can practice conspicuous consumption at home, and compete with the other Joneses on Zoom, I'm very happy. The shopping list has changed, but the objective is the same: to acquire cooler, more expensive stuff than my neighbors. Handmade, leather, Italian shoes and briefcases have been replaced by handmade, titanium, Swiss vacuum cleaners and air purifiers. Balinese vacations have been replaced by curated, first edition, Zoom backdrop libararies. None of my friends or business associates have been able to compete with my new, Swedish, Turbo-7000 pulse oximeter - it's the cloud and Twitter-enabled model, with 128 Gb of memory. I've thrown down the gauntlet - can any of your readers compete with this kind of cool, lockdown stuff??? Signed: Coughing While Consuming

Be careful that you don’t get back to the wrong sort of conspicuous consumption, where you cough splendidly on a divan over the whole course of an opera and then leave us in the fourth act. It sounds like you might be veering into that territory. 

Hi Alexandra, I’ve been reading your columns for a couple of years now. So far, none of them have seemed funny to me. My question is, are you stockpiling your funny thoughts so that you can have some hugely funny columns in the near future? Thank you.

Er, yes, that is what I have been doing. Good eye! 

Hello from Earth. Can confirm there is a gene preventing the smelling of asparagus pee. I have the gene. I enlisted the help of my husband to do The Science.

Thank you for your sacrifices! 

I recently learned there's a meme on reddit and other places where all pictures use bananas for scale instead of rulers. Now all I can think about is whether they separate the bunches or just buy one banana per picture?

I think it’s usually just the one banana, but how the banana was purchased may vary from banana to banana.

Seven hours guaranteed that my kid can't interrupt me when I go to the bathroom and my husband can't micromanage because he's in work mode all day (God bless him he was telling me how to wrap a leftover yesterday, he just can't help it)? Where do I sign up????

Hmm, it is sounding more appealing now for sure. 

If you get to fly business class or first class I would do this. I once flew business class on the upper deck of a 747 for a 10-hour flight from London to Johannesburg. It was so pleasant that I was hoping we could circle the airport for a few more hours before landing. But if this promotion is for economy class you might as well ride an elevator for 7 hours.

At least you can sit down on a flight! At least, I’ve never sat down on an elevator. 

This is not your fault, Alexandra, but the new webpage redesign makes it much more difficult to find the chat. I am a trouper so I made the extra effort, but you may be losing those readers who are less determined than me. Also, the aspect ratio of the photos on the WaPo homepage is messed up (also not your fault, unless it somehow is).

Thank you for making the trek! 

As you probably heard, the National Hurricane Center went though all 21 names on this year's Atlantic storm list and are now using as a "back-up" the letters of the Greek alphabet ( https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2020/ ). Subtropical Storm Alpha was over the far Eastern Atlantic last week and moved into Portugal, while Tropical Storm Beta is now moving along the Texas and Louisiana coasts ( https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ ). It's only the second time the Greek alphabet has been used since they started naming Atlantic tropical cyclones in the 1950s. The other time was in 2005. Since the names of particularly destructive storms are "retired" and never used again (a la Isabel, Sandy, Katrina), I hate to think what might happen if, let's say, later this year Hurricane Eta wreaks havoc across the Caribbean islands and they decide to retire "Eta." What does that mean for the Greek alphabet? Will they have to come up with a replacement letter? And what about all the fraternities and sororities that include Eta in their name?

They’ll have to switch to the Cyrillic alphabet! 

Friday’s loss leaves me incapable of humor. So I’ll use a story within a story, both true to the detail (but for the names) that I wrote a few years ago because it needed to be written. You probably won’t print it. It was late ’98, not yet time to party like it’s 1999. I was having lunch with my wife’s sister and her three children. The eldest, Rob, was in his second year at Indiana University. In the midst of our sandwiches, Paula breaks out in a tirade against Rob for not using protection during sexual activity. It’s amazing what a mother learns. Her 6 foot 5 inch son cringed, for she’d nailed him. But I could see that yelling at him was not going to work. By the time he returned to I.U., my nephew would continue taking risks. When lunch ended, I said to Rob, let’s take a walk. He said, okay uncle Jake, and we walked quietly for a few minutes. Then I said, during my twenties I didn’t use protection, Rob; I was that stupid. The 1970s were a time when women were pressured to use the pill and a few ridiculous devices – none of which protected them from disease, I added. One day, Rob, I ran into a woman I’d dated a few times a few years previously. She said she had tickets for a play and invited me to go with her that evening. It was a fine performance of The Rainmaker. You should see it sometime. Afterwards we went back to her apartment. Remember what I told you, Rob. Guys assumed that women took care of birth control. But I paused and asked her, you’re using birth control, aren’t you? Oh, don’t worry, she said. I can’t get pregnant. The moon is in Taurus. And that, Rob, is why the Zodiac is b—s— and you should always, always wear a condom. Okay? Okay, uncle Jake, said Rob.

I disagree: I would like to print this! Somehow, you knew that this was what the chat needed at this time. I am going to be thinking about this story for weeks. 

Why, oh why, did the Post change the layout of the homepage? It's become quite a task to find the live chats now. Please ask the powers-that-be to return the chats to a more visible spot! [I ended up googling Washington Post Live Chats and bookmarking the page.]

Is there a gene so I can stop smelling it?

Ah, that’s called “nose-blindness” and it will only benefit you, not anyone else who visits your abode, so I advise against it! 

Not referring to a law. The contract that allows them to be the consolidator for the really low prices means they can't say it in the ad, because the company doesn't want people who are inclined to go directly to the airline to look for good prices to stop doing that.

I was tired and pregnant, okay? And the midwives' office was on the eighth floor. That's a long time to stand!

You deserved it! 

Trader Joe's sells individual banana, rather than pricing them per pound. When asked why, CEO Dan Bane explained that years ago, he was at a store. An elderly woman walked up to the bananas, looked at all of the packages, and walked away without putting one in her cart..."[he] asked her, I said, 'Ma'am, if you don't mind me asking, I saw you looking at the bananas but you didn't, you didn't put anything in your cart.' And she says to me, 'Sonny … I may not live to that fourth banana.'"

This is great! How did this anecdote not rear its head during the weeks of prior banana discussions?

Or, as Guy Fieri might say, it's a "flight to COVID-town."

Oh, how I miss going through TSA checks! I'll sign up for all those flights!

Questions for the Petri critic. Why did they continue to read a column for years that they didn’t find funny but knew was intended to be? How many years are we talking? And what brought them to choose this day to finally confront you after years of joyless reading? Is it the autumnal equinox?

I don’t know, I have read many things for years that weren’t funny and then one day they’ve surprised me, and it was a great feeling! Like rooting for a losing team! I don’t think I would have asked the creative team about the decisions that had led them to this point, but there’s something to be said for the direct approach! 

Tickets for that flight ranged in price from 787 to 3,787 Australian dollars, or about $575 to $2,765. It will take travelers around Australia, flying over the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales

Some people are missing the gene that helps them taste bitter things. My husband has had his DNA testing done and it turns out he is one of them--it explains so much! Baking soda tastes salty to him.

Whoa! I always wonder how these modifications helped our ancestors. Maybe natural selection favored progenitors who didn’t complain about anyone’s cooking. 

Heyo! Just wanted to brag that I found a pacific-centered world map for my wall. I tried to find a good one that has the southern hemisphere on the top, but none of them had the countries properly labeled and my kids need that for school. I look forward to blowing their little minds when they see it.

I knew Barbara Lagoa in law school. Not just saw that we were on campus at the same time. Actually knew her. You went to Harvard, so I imagine that this has happened to you too. Actually, it has probably happened to you the other way around - you are the person that other people knew - but not in the situation where you were being considered for a lifetime appointment to the United States Supreme Court. At the time I remember her as gently feminist, not very worldly due to a very sheltered upbringing and determined to prosecute bad guys. Mostly rapists. I liked her. Hearing in detail about what she has done since we graduated and the huge interpretations that people put on those actions is really, really weird.

I can imagine! Have you stayed in touch at all subsequently? 

Why the delay and controversy over selection of a new team name for the D.C. NFL franchise? My choice (and I think it's a perfectly logical one): the Washington Hey, We Beat The Eagles Didn't We? Please don't respond to this by pointing out that my favorite team, despite the name, wouldn't know which end of the cow the lasso goes around.

I won’t! I am still not 100% on that myself. 

Now I've got a new phrase to whisper enigmatically when I die: "I lived... to the fourth banana."

I don't get it- you can still price bananas by the pound even if you sell them individually as long as you weigh them all together. I try to buy around 3 at a time not because I might not live to the 4th banana but because they get too ripe in 3 days. And yes, I've tried putting them in the refridgerator as I've seen recommended but that only somewhat works.

I went to Walmart grocery pickup and the delivery guy told two other delivery guys I didn’t get the bananas I ordered. The guys went in the store (it was a rare slow time at the pickup area) and both brought me a bunch. When I unloaded I found the original bunch. Now I have three bunches to feed two of us: banana bread, pnut butter and banana sandwiches, banana smoothies... ... ?? Help!

Bananas... foster? 

It goes around both ends. You can rope a calf around its back legs, front legs, or neck.

Hey, Eagles fan here! I object. Ok, I can't really, but I had to at least make a brief showing. Man, my team is awful this year.

Heard this on Car Talk last week, a piece titled "How I Met My Wife." It's long, so here's the first sentence, and a link: "It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate." https://www.ling.upenn.edu/~beatrice/humor/how-i-met-my-wife.html

Oh, that’s great. I love it when people are gruntled. And when you surround yourself with savory types! 

We should call the team the Washinton Ians. They'd be the Washingtonians! Also, I have a brother named Ian.

Sorry not to be fun, but you could donate them to a food bank.

Good thought! Check first to make sure they accept perishables! 

I met Tara Westover, author of 'Educated' before she wrote her book and know several of the people she talks about (not the ones in Idaho). I had no idea what her background was. Reading her book was incredible, and guilt-inducing that I did not reach out to her more.

Probably not for me, but maybe if they flew over the "Bridge to Nowhere". I didn't realize this until just now, but in addition to the one in Alaska that was in the news several years ago, there is also one in the mountains near Azusa CA. ( https://www.hikespeak.com/trails/bridge-to-nowhere-hike-los-angeles/ )

Other unfortunates have genes that help them taste or smell all of those things. Supertasters, they're called. Apparently you can buy test strips that you put on your tongue, and if you're a supertaster you won't be able to endure it for a microsecond.

P.G.Wodehouse: "He was not exactly disgruntled, but there was a distinct lack of gruntlement." And poet David McCord's famous "I know a man who's ept and ert."

is not so impressive now as it was a few years ago. I used to babysit Dermot Mulroney and his four siblings.

There's a city near where I grow up which is changing its name because its current name is a reminder of a toxic product (who knew it would look bad for tourism now?). They chose four possible names for the city and among the names, they have picked the name of a turtle that was discovered close to the city. Now people are angry that they might be named after a turtle. That is really 2020, having to pick between a toxic product and a turtle and being angry at the turtle...

Wow, sorry to the dwellers in Asbestos Valley. 

Google food donations and "fresh produce." There's one in Columbia Md to which I bring my leftover CSA veg.

Why switch from names to a different alphabet? When “A” comes around again, name the storm “Albert Alan,” then “Bonnie Belle,” and so on.

I like it. “All you people with two first names who thought you were safe from the scourge of sharing your moniker with a hurricane. Well, no one is safe!”

I would just like to congratulate myself on successfully bringing bananas back to this illustrious chat. Alexandra, you're the best of the bunch.

Aw! Give yourself a hand. 

I'm Chiquita banana and I've come to say Bananas have to ripen in a certain way When they are fleck'd with brown and have a golden hue Bananas Taste the best and are best for you You can put them in a salad You can put them in a pie-aye Any way you want to eat them It's impossible to beat them But, bananas like the climate of the very, very tropical equator So you should never put bananas in the refrigerator

I’ve learned so much from this rhyme that I almost feel that we ought to end the chat here! I think next week we will he more visible, I hope! In the interim, I will be on the blog and on the twitter

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences." She joined The Post as an intern in 2010, after graduating from Harvard College.
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