Anything With Four Arms Must Be Avoided At All Costs

Last spring America’s Intuitive Surgical Inc. received approval to begin selling their $2 million da Vinci Xi System to hospitals. It’s a four-armed robot which will perform “minimally invasive procedures like prostate surgery.” Seriously squeamish about the intrusion of a colonoscopy camera in those parts, the thought of a little metal guy with four arms thrashing around in there… sorry, I just blacked out and hit my head on the edge of my desk.
Regaining consciousness, my first question is: what software program will they use in order for da Vinci Xi to overbill OHIP? Also, could there ever be such a thing as a ‘four-armed man’? Categorically ‘no’!
In 1989 JAG Communications in Hamilton, Ontario published my very first book, The Tabloid Zone – Dancing With The Four-Armed Man.
Gordon Green, my publisher loved the title which he lifted from the first chapter “Tabloid Hell” in which I claimed people who read and believed those tabloid headlines were destined for purgatory. Headlines like: “Baby Born Talking, Tells Dad You’re Not My Real Father.” And “Identical Twin Makes Mistake, Kills Brother In Suicide Attempt.” And “Tired Mom Sterilizes Sleeping Hubby — After 33 Kids Says Enough Is Enough.” And of course: “Four-Armed Man Makes Fortune Testing Deodorant.”
We shot the cover at the checkout counter of Pupo’s grocery store in Welland with me wearing a spiffy black tuxedo with four arms and four white gloves. All the women in line behind me — my secretary Pat Gagno, my good friend Linda Bramble, my mother Margaret, my editor Carolyn Wilson and my sister Gail Burns — all were wearing bathrobes and curlers and reading the tabloids weeklies. All those women, except my mother, hated me for years.
The book’s dedication reads: “To my mother, the loving and lovable Margaret McLean. To you I owe my life and my sense of humour… and one day God will get you for that.”
Gordon’s marketing plan? “The Dainer! You’re a Dain City boy. They love you there. I’ve set up a book signing at the Dain City Hotel on a Saturday afternoon.”
I must admit, a pretty good crowd showed up and many were happy to see me. By the end of the hour-long book signing which involved Gordon and me sitting at the front of the bar, talking to each other — nobody bought a book. Mysteriously one went missing before we packed up and left. Why, you might wonder was the crowd so large? Because it was The Dainer and those people were always there on a Saturday afternoon.
Although I had hoped to return home to Wainfleet where I would try and back over myself in the driveway with my Mazda 323… It was on to Marketing Plan B. “The Belmont! You write about the Belmont all the time. They love you there.”
I had to admit the place was packed and from recent experience I knew this to be the curse of death. By the time Gordon set up the book signing table near the stage at the front, the place was rocking and Bob The DJ was in good form which is to say pissed to the gills.
Sitting at a table with Gordon’s girlfriend I could see him on stage trying to get Bob to read a brief introduction and then hold up the book. That seemed to go well.
As Gordon returns to our table, the music stops and Bob goes to the microphone. Bob mumbles and stumbles his way through a welcome to Karaoke Night with a “spleshal guest” who is… Bob could not remember my name.
Now he’s holding my book at arm’s length but he still can’t manage to read the cover so he reaches into his pocket for his reading glasses and… he drops the book. He seems to make a remarkable recovery by scooping up the book without falling and as he shouts into the microphone, “Here’s that guy from Wainfleet who needs no….”
About to stand, my bum had barely lifted off my seat of the chair when a woman in the back with a booming, gravelly voice yelled “Shut the &#%K up and play something by Reba McIntyre!” She got a louder ovation than I ever would have. Amidst the chaos Gordon was good enough to send Janet and me to the street exit to wait, while he packed up the books.
As we escaped the building I noticed two odd things. The sign board on the King Street sidewalk contained so many spelling mistakes, it looked like the Belmont Hotel was presenting “Carrot Cake” every Saturday night at 7:00.
And before the door closed behind us, I heard the unmistakable lyrics of that country and western hit Working Man. Yup, after such an enthusiastic request, Bob The DJ had complied by playing something by Rita MacNeil.
I’m going to go out on a limb here but just maybe all this explains why after its debut 32 years ago, there are still copies of The Tabloid Zone available!?!
The moral of this story is two-fold. Perhaps licensed establishments where drinks come twenty on a tray and the menu consists of pickled eggs and Polish sausage are not necessarily great venues for the sale of books. Also, if my doctor ever recommends I undergo prostate surgery by a robot with four arms I swear… I will go home and do it myself.

Any of the ten books written by William Thomas are available at

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