"Ben Zancudo from the French Quarter" addresses the compulsion to gamble:

"Before video poker and casinos, the most popular gambling game was the football pool. At the end of football season everyone would go into gambling withdrawal.

"So I found something else to bet on. My supervisor, a lovely lady, was retiring in six months. Every payday Friday she would tell everyone she had a headache, was coming down with a cold, etc. As soon as she received her paycheck she was out the door.

"I started a pool on the exact time she would leave on Friday — between 9 a.m. and noon, when the payroll department delivered checks.

"I printed up a time sheet; you could bet 25 cents per minute. The total pool usually only amounted to $5 or $6. The payout was not the point; it was the thrill of the bet.

"After a few weeks I conspired with the payroll guy to fix the game by giving out her check at exactly 11 a.m.

"Everyone in the office immediately caught on to what we had done. You would think they would be turned off and drop out of the pool; but no, they wanted to continue.

"However, thereafter they watched us like a hawk to be sure the game was played fairly."

Common experience?

Just after I wrote about thinking cream of wheat was grits in a Minneapolis cafeteria, but before I ran the item in the Monday column, I heard from Linda H. Whitman, of Denham Springs, who made the same mistake:

"One summer, on a trip out west, we were in line at Yellowstone National Park for breakfast.

"I spotted what I thought was grits. Momma tried to tell me it wasn’t grits, but it looked so good.

"Turns out it was cream of wheat. Took one bite and was so disappointed!"

Mistaken identity

"I've enjoyed reading about how 'foreigners' react to Louisiana foods," says Brot Capers:

"While living in Houston in the late ’70s, I read this story in Addison Sanders' Houston Chronicle column:

"Someone reported overhearing a conversation in a buffet line. One of the ladies, looking a bowl of fried okra, asked her friend, 'What is that?'

"The friend replied that she wasn't sure, 'But I think it is what these people call grits.’ ”

Safety pops

Richard Sherlock, of Baton Rouge, comments on our mention of Jiffy Pop, popcorn in an aluminum foil package put on a stove burner and expanding as the corn pops:

"We all enjoyed Jiffy Pop back in the ’60s, but in one instance it was not used for eating.

"My dad, brother, and I had a fishing camp at Leeville on La. 1 for about 25 years. It contained such memorabilia as a 'Cajun roach killer' — a rubber flip-flop with a handle.

"My brother hung an unopened Jiffy Pop container above the door inside the camp, and said it was a fire detector."

Special People Dept.

  • Arnold Patterson, of Metairie, celebrates his 98th birthday Tuesday, March 16. He is originally from the New Orleans Irish Channel. He is a World War II Air Force veteran, a corporal in the 84th Bomb Squadron.
  • Sister Kathleen Babin, of Baton Rouge, celebrates her 95th birthday Tuesday, March 16. She is retired from the Sisters of St Joseph.

Asian Dining Dept.

  • Jimmie Papia, of Metairie, says, "I don't know if this qualifies as a warning label, but here's my story:

"I was eating Chinese food and, as I always do, added a little soy sauce. While looking at the back of the bottle, I read the following: 'Contains Soy.' Ya think?"

  • Frank A. Fasone, of Lafayette, says, "Recently we went to visit our granddaughter, son, and daughter-in-law in Lebanon, Tennessee.

"Our son took us to 'Smiley Thai and Sushi' in Mt. Juliet, between Lebanon and Nashville. He is a big fan of sushi and ordered quite an assortment of it. I tried a few bites. Not appealing at all."

So the moral here is, "With a name like Smiley, it doesn't have to be good."

Write Smiley at Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. Follow Smiley Anders on Twitter, @SmileyAndersAdv.