Column: Old Albert shines a common-sense light on our problems

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 1, 2002

&uot;That’s a good question. Let me try to evade you.&uot; &045;Paul Tsongas, presidential candidate, 1992

That’s right, there are some people on this planet who would much rather evade a question than give an honest answer. Luckily for all of us, Albert L. Tribune is not one of them.

You all surely remember Albert, the Tribune’s oldest and wisest employee. He spends his days huddled over his desk in our mold-spore-filled basement &045; doing what, we aren’t sure &045; but sometimes people send him mail, practically begging for answers to the questions that hound them. And Albert always has their answer. Here’s the latest Q&A session with Al:

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Dear Albert: I’m spitting mad over the Albert Lea Medical Center’s decision (although not finalized yet) to close its Alden Clinic &045; especially because they didn’t consult with the residents or give them any kind of inkling of the news before word got out. And they won’t respond to questions about it now. What’s your take on this situation?

Albert says: Well, there must be some kind of misunderstanding. I have a &uot;radio&uot; down here (apparently it’s a new-fangled device that pulls sounds right out of the sky; it’s actually pretty nifty). Anyway, I have heard a radio advertisement for Albert Lea Medical Center that proudly lists the Alden, Northwood, New Richland, Wells and other area clinics and refers to them as &uot;your community health-care partners.&uot; Now, from what I know, it ain’t a partnership unless both sides have some control. So, based on that, I’d say the reports about the Alden clinic closing must just be rumors. Why would the clinic folks put on a commercial like that, all warm and fuzzy, if they were going to unceremoniously yank the carpet out from under their &uot;partners&uot; in Alden? Advertising never lies, right?

Dear Albert: I heard the state legislature balanced its budget mostly by spending its reserves, shifting money around on paper, delaying payments and speeding up tax collections. It sounds like they have used up all their tricks and will be in trouble next year, when there will be another deficit. So what are they going to do?

Albert says: I’ll let the cat out of the bag on this: The elite members of both major parties like to get together down here in the basement and plot strategy. They chose this location because they know nobody except me would ever come down here, and they are under the impression I’m deaf. But I overheard them planning for next year.

They have found a new way to fix budget deficits without cutting spending or raising taxes. The plot hinges on securing large shipments of Monopoly money from the east coast. They will then pass a law making it legal tender in Minnesota. That should take care of any future deficits, and then they don’t have to make any hard decisions! I have to say, they’ve outdone even themselves.

Dear Albert: Some people want the county to tear down the old 1954 courthouse building &045; the ugly one to the north of the old courthouse. I think it’s a fine, sturdy building. Isn’t there a chance it can be used for something?

Albert says: Well, I’m way ahead of you there. I have a plan that could save the ’54 building, bring hundreds of tourists to Albert Lea and solve another problem for those state legislators. They could turn that building into the new governor’s mansion. We’ve heard so much about how Ventura’s house is being shut down, and apparently we’re supposed to see this as some kind of problem. So, why not move the governor down here? He’d probably enjoy being out of the Twin Cities spotlight. Plus, the building is perfect &045; it’s big, solid, inflexible and none-too-attractive. It fits Ventura’s personality like a glove.

I should really stop embarassing others by coming up with such easy solutions to hard questions. But it’s my calling in life. You can’t silence me!

Dear Albert: Why does the high school have so many people supervising the cafeteria?

Albert says: Last I checked, two manager-types for 11 employees is not out of line. Think about restaurants: They’ve got general managers, assistant managers, kitchen managers and service managers, all to handle a smaller operation than that crazy school cafeteria with hundreds of kids.

As for you, if you’ve got time to sit around and nitpick about the school lunch ladies, why don’t you come on down here sometime. I’ve got some chores that should keep you busy.

Dylan Belden is the Tribune’s managing editor. His column appears Sundays.