Columbo and a Few Idiots
Columbo and a Few Idiots
I used to watch Columbo with my mom, we really got a kick out of him. Ever watch it? Peter Faulke plays this stumbling detective walking around in a wrinkled trench coat that’s about three sizes too big.
Anyway, I don’t need to watch the entire show to know whodunit. It’s always the suspect that he befriends from the very start. He keeps coming around the murder victim’s wife and asking questions like, “Are you sure he didn’t have any enemies? I mean is there anyone you can think of that he might have had a beef with? And ma’am, just one more thing and then I’ll be out of your hair; do you know of anyone that may have happened to overhear a loud argument in a public place where they threatened your husband’s life?”
There’s always that one suspect, the “public-argument-threatener”. Doesn’t this guy ever learn? If you threaten someone’s life and people overhear it, you can bet the’ll turn up dead.
Imagine what’s going through that guy’s head. “I knew I shouldn’t have argued with Joe and threatened his life in Public Square, I should have known he’d get killed- by someone else, of course. It certainly wasn’t me.”
But that guy’s never the one who did it. They want you to think it’s that guy. But it’s not him.
Columbo already knows this. What he lacks in smart appearances, he makes up for in his persistence and determination of getting on the killer’s last nerve. He’ll just keep going back over to the widow’s house. He’ll pull that same piece of paper out of his coat pocket. He starts asking more her more questions, some are new questions but most of them are the same questions he’s asked her a dozen times before.
“Ma’am, are you sure he didn’t have any enemies? No one you can think of that might have wanted him dead?” At this point the truth starts to come out and not because she can’t lie anymore, she just plain loses it. “If I have to answer these questions one more time…” She ends up confessing to the whole thing while Colombo chews on his cigar. She goes to jail and he looks like a genius.
The best part about Columbo is that he’s still driving around that same old jalopy. Even on a reunion show filmed twenty years after they rapped up the series he was driving around in that thing. It’s true.
That car was on the verge of breaking down in every single episode. It was about two clunks and a sputter away from blowing up. But at its age, it might have just imploded. It was at it’s worst whenever things started getting interesting. Columbo would hop in all fired up because he was onto something when the engine wouldn’t start. He’d talk to the steering wheel, coaxing the car to start just this one last time. And miracles of miracles, it would.
The fact that he’s been driving around a car like that for thirty years makes me think he must be like my husband. We used to have this used Honda he’d bought ten years ago. It drove like a dream. Honda knows how to make a reliable car. But then little things started to go wrong towards the end. “I just wanna get a couple more years out of it and then I’ll trade it in,” my husband would say. What are they going to give you for a trade in on that car? Honestly. And it’s funny how he kept saying “a couple more years”. He started saying “a couple of years” four years before we finally led that car out to pasture.
How many did he think a couple was? A couple would imply two, right? But we got four more years out of that car, that’s two more than a couple; which would really be “a few”.
These generic types of numeral terms often confuse people. When I used to work in a coffee shop, people would come in asking for a couple of this and few of those. “Put in couple of Sweet n Lows, would ya?” I’d put two packets in. They’d sip their latte and make a face at me, “Nah, put in a couple more; that’s not sweet enough.” I’d usually point them over to the concession stand of sugars. I had other customers to deal with, if he didn’t mind. “Go over there and put in your idea of a couple sugars. In fact, why don’t you take a couple more with you in case the couple more you put in aren’t enough.”
A couple is two. When Noah was gathering animals for the ark, didn’t God tell him, “Get a pair of elks, two frogs, a couple giraffes, well you get the idea…” There wasn’t enough room for more than two of everything. Noah understood this, and that’s why God picked him in the first place. “You know, Noah, some people out there think that a ‘couple’ is three or four, but not you, boy. You get it. That’s why I’m letting rain. Maybe I can flood out some of these idiots that have it all wrong. Gotta cut the fat around here, you know how it is. Well, that’s all for now. I’ll give you further instructions in forty-one days.”
Now a “few” is much too general. I happen to think that a few is four. Maybe because they both start with “f”. When someone asked for a “few”, I could never be sure how much they really wanted. “I’ll take one cranberry-orange muffin, a blueberry scone….oh yeah, three chocolate croissants, aaaaannnnnnddddd…..hmmmm….throw in a few biscotti!” They had me up until “a few” got involved. I would then ask how many was “a few”. Inevitably they’d look at me and say, “Oh I don’t know, a couple.”
Worse than a “couple” or a “few” is “some”. What the hell is some? There’s no value in some. “Wanna come over and watch some Columbo?” “Well, I don’t know. Exactly how much Columbo are we going to watch? Because it sounds to me like I won’t get to see the whole thing. It doesn’t matter really, I don’t really need to watch the whole show to know whodunit.” Some. What is that? It’s nothing! Well, I guess it’s something.