Just Remember: Eighty-Eight, Red-Ball Freight.


The Dude on the Right

Sometimes I feel like I am one of Pavlov’s dogs.  You might remember the
story of Pavlov and his dogs, where he did some experiments with dogs getting
them to salivate at only the sound they might be getting food, or at least
something like that.  The problem for me is it seems almost forever I’ve
been doing this, but now that it is summertime my infliction is worse.  You
see, and I know where it comes from, but every time I hear the phrase
"eighty-eight," I instantly respond either out loud, under my breath, or just in
my head, "Red-Ball Freight."  Sadly, it being the summer, a lot of our high
temperatures lately are 88 degrees, to which I simply say, "Red-Ball Freight."

The thing for me is that it doesn’t matter where it occurs:  It can be on
the TV where

Jerry Taft
Tom Skilling
(weather dudes here in Chicago) say, "The high will be 88," and I say "Red-Ball
Freight."  I might be checking our local weather on the radio and
might say "The high tomorrow, 88," and I say "Red-Ball Freight." 
And even worse, here in Chicagoland we actually have an Interstate 88, which has
thankfully been renamed "The Reagan Tollway," so now when I check traffic at
least most of the time they don’t call it "I-88" anymore, and I don’t have to
say "Red-Ball Freight" anymore.  "Eighty-eight" is in my head, and at every
instance, my response is "Red-Ball Freight."

The thing is that for the longest
time I couldn’t remember exactly where this affliction came from, although I
knew it had something to do with a poem, from somewhere around, my best guess,
fifth of sixth grade.  I would drive friends crazy as I instantly said
"Red-Ball Freight," my secretary thought I was completely a lunatic, especially
during the summer, and I even sent an e-mail to a school teacher who quoted
"eighty-eight, red ball freight" as an example of a rhyme on her internet page. 
She actually wrote me back and mentioned she remembered it was from a poem, but
sadly never got back to me as to its origin, my guess because she, too, thought
I was nuts.

Then the day came when I found it, of course, on the internet, and
it turns out the rhyme came from a poem called

"The Crossing,"
by Philip Booth, and along with the simple line of
"eighty-eight, red-ball freight" which has been the source of my eighty-eight
nuttiness for low these many years, the poem is also filled with many other
rhymes, all about watching a train go by at a crossing gate, with the many
different freight cars being pulled along.

I always thought when I finally
found out the origin of my nuttiness my Pavlov response to "eighty-eight" would
finally come to a stop, but sadly, I found the poem a couple of years ago, and
since it has been a slightly warmer summer than normal, "eighty-eight" comes
about in just about every weather forecast these days, and I just keep saying
"Red-Ball Freight."  I guess Pavlov was right.  The lucky thing,
though, is that after rediscovering "The Crossing," I just thank God there isn’t
much talk of "Hiawatha" here, because if "Eighty-eight, Red-Ball Freight"
weren’t bad enough, now when I hear "Hiawatha" I am now spouting "Lackawanna,
rolling fast and loose, ninety-seven, coal car, boxcar, caboose."

All I hope
for you is that after this blog, anytime you hear the phrase "eighty-eight," you
will now instantly think, say, mumble, "Red-Ball Freight." Happy nuttiness, and at least I won’t be alone in it!

That’s it for this one! 
I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!