Hello? Are you there? Are you mad at me about anything? Have I said something lately that makes you just want to plop your coffee cup right on my face? If so, I'd like to apologize now. In fact, while I have your attention, I may as well beg your pardon for the offensive and insensitive things I'm likely to blurt out in the future. It's kind of a habit.
I am not speaking of my memo to doctors calling them weenies for letting the insurance companies take over our health care system. (Doctors are caring people. They forgave me.)
I am not speaking of Hamilton County Recorder Eve ''parenting is not a job, it's a love thing'' Bolton or even her opponent, Rebecca ''I've misplaced my diploma'' Groppe. (They're too busy having their feet extracted from their mouths to pay attention to the likes of me.)
No, I am speaking of the people who got their overalls in a knot about vegetables. ''I don't know how much you know about gourds,'' I wrote a couple weeks ago, ''but they are not good for anything.''
Apparently, there is a powerful gourd lobby.
It just proves that nothing in the world is so humble that it doesn't have its fanatics. (And, of course, I mean no offense by that.)
''The stealth crop has often been, not gourds, but zucchini,'' according to Richard Sayre of Newtown. ''On day one, the squash is only as big as your thumb. By day two, they have grown very little. On day three, the squash are as big as a football. Within two weeks I was throwing squash under the bushes.''
Just say no to zucchini
Furthermore, he wonders ominously, ''How could a girl from Lima not love wax beans?'' Hey, how did he know where I grew up? Do you suppose he knows where I live now? Maybe he's going to start throwing zucchini under my bushes.
Elaine Mack of Indian Hill is another gardener tormented by her own success. She reports a four-year growing season for zucchini. The first year, ''friends seemed pleased.'' The second year, they still were accepting them ''but not so many.'' And, apparently, with little grace. Year three, Elaine's friends insisted that they were going to be out of town during zucchini harvest. The fourth year, they just said ''no.''
Bill Buresch of Finneytown wouldn't take no for an answer.
''I figured out how to make money from my dad's garden. At about age 8 or 9, I tossed the surplus into my red wagon and dragged it over to a newly-built housing area about a mile away. I sold produce door-to-door, including the gourds.''
He describes himself as ''a pitiful sight, a skinny ragamuffin with a runny nose'' and says that by the time he was 16, he had earned enough money to pay cash for a used 1950 Chevy coupe. He later fixed that car up and traded for a used 1953 Studebaker. ''It too was fixed up and sold at a profit before I went into the service at age 18.''
This is why I was sitting around opening up mail from people who think I should do unmentionable things with gourds and Mr. Buresch was vacationing on the Cape.
Gourds R Us
Money, of course, is not everything. Karen and John Martin of the Ohio Gourd Society take a more scholarly tone. ''Your column indicated that you lacked information about and appreciation for gourds,'' they wrote. ''As members of the Ohio Gourd Society (The Beta Chapter of the American Gourd Society), we want to describe some of the art, craft and potential use of the wonderful gourd.''
Well, I don't want to spoil the surprise for you, but I think it's fair to say that the Martins identified far more uses for the gourd than I would have dreamed possible.
''It is important to recognize the gourd as an art medium,'' they add. The Martins don't know me very well, but my friends know that I wouldn't recognize an art medium if it leaped up on my easel and turned itself into the Mona Lisa.
So, anyway, I'm sorry if I offended anybody. And I wouldn't want any of you to stay angry. I'm no fool. The last thing I want is to get on the bad side of people who have an unlimited supply of vegetables. And who know how to use them.
Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.