'Handy Andy' Hits Home

Andy Gets A Book In The Mail

A weekly commentary by CBS News Correspondent Andy Rooney:

This is sort of hard, what I want to say tonight.

I don't know, but after 23 years on 60 Minutes, I'm still uneasy about being watched by millions of people. It's a spooky feeling. If I thought about it much, I wouldn't be able to talk, at all.

Last week, I got a letter from Irene Murphy of Andover, Mass. She says "I'm an 80-year-young grandma who is being encouraged to start cleaning out the attic and get rid of all the junk."

"While digging out my Christmas decorations I decided to make a start and took out a box of books..."

"When I flipped open the first page of the enclosed - well, I just had to send it to you."

The name of the book she sent me is "Handy Andy." It was published in London in 1842. Think of that; that's 159 years ago.

Here's the first sentence: "Andy Rooney was a fellow who had the most singularly ingenious knack of doing everything the wrong way." That's the beginning of the novel.

Can you imagine how that makes me feel? To have had an author write that 159 years ago and hit the nail on the head without even knowing me?

Even more unlikely is that someone found that book in the attic, read the name Andy Rooney, and sent it to me.

Anyway, I wrote to thank her:

"Dear Irene:

The Irene Murphys of the world are a disappearing breed but so, of course, are the Andy Rooneys. There are more of almost everyone than there are of we Irish these days.

Thank you for the copy of "Handy Andy" but I want to tell you something that I hope will not diminish the pleasure you got from giving it to me.

Yours was the fourth copy of "Handy Andy" that has been sent to me. I'm going to keep it though and remember that you sent it."

Here are the other three copies. Am I wrong in being amazed that four people in the 60 Minutes audience would find a book published that long ago with my name in it, and bother to send it to me?

I'm not a gracious well-known person. I dislike being recognized on the street. I know it's wrong to try to attract a lot of people to watch what I do then say I want to be alone when I'm not on television. But that's the fact. Lots of times, I'm grumpy and want to be alone.

Then someone like Irene Murphy comes along with a letter like hers and makes me feel warm towards the whole world, and particularly towards the people who watch me on television.