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AS NIAGARA FALLS
TALES OF THE STRANGE BUT TRUE

Can you hear me now?

If you thought you were having a bad, rainy day Wednesday, David Rosenwasser had you beat.

The head of the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. arrived at the office to find that none of the agency's employees could make long-distance phone calls.

Inquiries revealed that AT&T, the agency's long-distance carrier, had turned off service for nonpayment. This was remarkable, considering the canceled check on Rosenwasser's desk indicating that AT&T had cashed the agency's payment on March 22.

With AT&T's crack customer service staff, it only took the escalation to agency head Rosenwasser complaining. "Today I spent one hour and 40 minutes on hold trying to fix this," Rosenwasser said. Fortunately, his speakerphone allowed him to attend to other duties in the meantime, and the problem was solved -- without "the slightest apology" -- before the end of the day.

Was missing long distance that much of an inconvenience?

"We do tourism marketing," Rosenwasser sighed. "By definition, the clients and meeting planners that make up most of our business are coming from someplace else."

Off in the weeds

Edward McDonald, president of Niagara County's blue-collar union, did his best to rehearse his members in shouting down county legislators during a news conference earlier this month, but there's always somebody who doesn't get the word.

"We'll start with 'We want a contract.' Then we'll switch to 'Save Mount View,' " McDonald told the crowd of workers in the County Courthouse rotunda before the legislators walked in.

The chanting had its desired effect, as the legislators, who were planning to attack the unions for their taxpayer-funded cosmetic surgery benefits, couldn't be heard.

After a while, the unionists switched tactics, allowing the legislators to talk for a few seconds before heckling them on politically sensitive topics.

Things went awry when, as Legislator Richard E. Updegrove was trying to talk about his desire to save taxpayers money, somebody yelled from the back of the crowd, "Get rid of the golf course!"

That drew a lukewarm reaction from the crowd, and McDonald put his hand over his face. His union members work at the county golf course.

Legislator Glenn S. Aronow leaning forward and said, "Ed, did you hear what your member just said?"

"Couldn't train 'em all," McDonald grimaced.

Ties in the Legislature

Sartorially splendid County Legislator Dennis F. Virtuoso was seen Tuesday helping out the newest member of the Legislature, Jason J. Murgia.

Virtuoso took the pink tie off Murgia's neck in the Legislature committee room and demonstrated to him how to tie a double Windsor knot.

Virtuoso explained that Murgia had been wearing a single Windsor and had been looking for information on the Internet on how to tie the more complex knot.

"It was the fatherly thing to do," Virtuoso said. "I had to teach him some fashion etiquette."

But there was Murgia after the meeting, wearing no tie at all.

"It was a pretty big double Windsor. I think he wanted me to look funny," Murgia said.

With contributions from Nancy A. Fischer, Andrew Z. Galarneau and Thomas J. Prohaska of the News Niagara Bureau.