I just filled my quota, and then some, in the “learn something new every day” field. This morning, I finally took the plunge and signed up for Facebook. An amazing tool! Within minutes, I managed to track down one of my high school buddies, Seth Harris. Seth and I played Dungeons & Dragons, in a group of (on the whole) likeminded purveyors of curses and off-color humor – the raunchier and more perverse, the better. He accepted my “friend” request, and I dashed off a suitable greeting to him early this afternoon.
A half hour ago, I received a reply from Seth, which brings me to today’s first lesson learned: the career path you expect a high school kid to take can vary significantly from the one he ultimately selects. Who would’ve thought? Of all the unlikely professions, Seth chose teaching.
The manner through which Seth conveyed his professional background leads me to the second of today’s lessons. Did you know there’s a difference between posting on someone’s “wall,” and sending them a private message? I do … now.
That brings me to the final lesson learned today: apparently, not every third grade teacher appreciates a good pedophile joke.
I can still hear the shower running. Sophia’s been in there almost an hour now, and I fear all that scrubbing will leave a nasty rash if she doesn’t get out soon. If there’s a moral to this story, it must be: some people aren’t meant to swim.
We’ve lived in a pool and tennis association for the past five years. Though I’ve used both facilities on numerous occasions (in an effort to get my money’s worth from the absurd annual recreation dues), my wife hasn’t deigned to dip even a single toe into our aquatic paradise, until today. I’m not quite sure why she hadn’t previously partaken of the watery pleasures; she knows how to swim (more or less); and she claims to enjoy the activity. Yet before finally getting cornered this afternoon, she’d always managed to disappear, every time I grabbed a beach towel.
I happened to be kicking the vending machine – trying to extricate the half-dropped Snicker’s Bar I’d already paid for – when the screaming began. Thus, I didn’t personally witness the unfortunate occurrence. Yet despite the difficulties of interpreting frantic and nearly incoherent ramblings, I believe I can paint a fairly accurate picture of the events.
Sophia had waded into the pool at last. To her surprise, she enjoyed the sensation of the warm, soothing waters. She even began questioning why she’d waited so long to take her inaugural dip. After a short while, her pleasure and confidence grew, to the extent she submerged herself completely, and commenced a brief underwater exploration of the surrounding area.
In the midst of her wandering in the deeps (eyes tightly shut), Sophia felt a soft, unfamiliar object brush across her forehead. Reflexively, her eyes popped open, and she peered about, attempting to identify the obstacle with which she’d collided, and to ascertain whether any other similar (or more dangerous) items lined her path. It took her several seconds, but she succeeded in putting a name to the thing she’d already bumped into, and confirmed the presence of a good deal more of the same in her immediate vicinity. That’s when she shot out of the water, like one of those dolphins you see on the National Geographic Channel, screaming for all she was worth.
Our Association suffers a few incidents every summer. No matter the warnings; no matter the inconvenience to our entire community; and no matter the cost involved. At some point during each pool season, as yet unidentified parents let their toddlers swim without rubber diapers, and one of the potty-challenged tykes poops in the middle of the pool, where the offending substance sits, and often spreads, until either a lifeguard or some unsuspecting swimmer happens to discover it, or worse, bump into it … like today, for instance.
I’m pretty sure the apocalypse is near. How do I know? Because, yesterday, my in-laws moved into their new home – down the street from ours – contravening my well-publicized vow that “I’ll live in the same neighborhood with my wife’s parents the day hell freezes over!” No good can come of this close proximity either. Ever since the disastrous initial meeting with the Gambino clan, my relationship with most of Sophia’s family has been a mite tenuous.
Nonetheless, being a guy who likes to put his best foot forward whenever possible (even while tripping over it), I’ve decided to try my darnedest to make the situation work. That’s why I walked to the new abode this morning, with our puppy Prometheus in tow. The little bugger may be nothing more than a jumped-up rodent, but he’s a mighty cute rodent. Logically, I figured the in-laws would find the dog so adorable, their good cheer might spill over to me. It sounded like a fine plan, in theory.
Much to my chagrin, the Virgin Mary was the first to greet us on our arrival. Dashing my fervent hope she’d remained in New Jersey, the three-foot statue of the Savior’s mother, ensconced in her own stone apse, stood in the middle of the front porch. I should’ve known Sophia’s mom wouldn’t leave Mary behind. Maria Gambino had to be the most zealous Catholic I’d ever met, and the Virgin’s statute, as well as several other reliquaries, comprised her most treasured possessions. Holy Mary had occupied a similar position at the Gambinos’ prior abode, where – I’d been convinced – she always greeted me with deep suspicion. As I glanced at her, while waiting for someone to get the door, I didn’t think she looked any happier to see me in Georgia than she did in Jersey.
Just my luck, Sophia’s mom opened the door. I immediately pasted on my warmest smile. I also launched into the brief, yet over-the-top, “Welcome to Georgia” speech I’d prepared for the occasion, concluding it with “Prometheus and I both hope you’ll be very happy here!”
Seeming puzzled, Maria asked – in her thick, Sicilian accent – “Who’s Prometheus?” I guessed she hadn’t bothered to gaze down while I’d spoken (although she would’ve had to look at my ankles to spot the tiny fur-ball), so she hadn’t yet noticed the puppy.
Like some sort of hack magician, I flourished my hand in the dog’s general direction, while proudly announcing “Maria, meet your new grandson, Prometheus!”
Maria and I both peered downward at the same time … only to observe Prometheus, hind leg lifted skyward, peeing all over the Virgin Mary. So much for fresh starts.
If I didn’t know better, I’d swear my new part Yorkie, part Shih Tzu puppy, Prometheus, must be a blood relative. At the least – if this morning’s abbreviated session at obedience school is any indication – he certainly displays a Stern-like knack for brewing trouble.
I’d enrolled the mutt this morning, at a doggie boot-camp run by a woman out of her home. By the time we arrived, several other “students” and their owners had already gathered at a staging area. In the twenty or so minutes afforded me to evaluate the facility, before getting run off the premises, I thought the operation impressive.
Prometheus immediately took a shine to a Hairless Chihuahua, named “Jill.” I couldn’t take my eyes off her either, but for different reasons. After one glance, I opined to myself: this has to be the ugliest friggin dog I’ve ever seen, especially with that ginormous mole on its forehead! Then I registered a sudden hush falling within earshot. A moment later, Jill’s owner commenced berating me for my insensitive and rude statements about her beloved pet. Once again, my faithless tongue had betrayed me.
After Jill’s owner finished her oration (focused largely on my place at the bottom of the evolutionary scale), she and I both noticed a plaintive whining emanating from below. We gazed down, only to spy Prometheus making an extremely forward, and highly inappropriate, attempt to introduce himself to Jill. As I pried him off Jill’s posterior, I made a mental note to self (and this time, I kept it to myself): if this is an example of Prometheus’ taste in women, I better get him neutered ASAP; cause there’s no way I’m bringing home the mole-headed, butt-ugly puppies this idiot’s likely to father!
Meanwhile, as I ruminated over veterinary appointments, Prometheus managed to extricate himself from his harness, and he began racing around the compound like a rabid squirrel. Every other dog, but one, started barking madly in response. The exception was the school operator’s dog – an enormous, ancient German Shepherd, named “Fenric” (who continued to lay motionless on a nearby mat, imitating road-kill). On our arrival, his owner had informed all present to simply ignore the untethered beast, claiming solely an act of God could get the old dog to lift his head off the mat, much less spend the energy to bother any other animal.
God must have an odd sense of humor. After a few circuits around the enclosure, Prometheus suddenly made a beeline toward Fenric. Upon reaching the supine codger, my little rodent, in what I can only describe as a canine version of a drive-by-shooting, bit Fenric squarely on the "jewels," and then paused briefly to admire his handiwork. I heard Fenric’s owner telling one of her customers (while the owner’s husband “escorted” Prometheus and me from the premises) that she hadn’t seen her dog move so much, or so fast, in years.
I’ve been known to unintentionally voice some obnoxious thoughts at extremely unfortunate times. Until this morning, I thought I’d kicked that particular habit. But apparently not.
I had a court appearance scheduled in an unfamiliar rural county, a long ways from metro Atlanta. By the time I arrived at the far flung county seat, my car was low on gas. On the drive home, by the time I spotted a gas station, the fuel gauge read empty.
I pulled in at a pump, next to a much-abused pickup truck, from which a Confederate Flag proudly flew. Though I didn’t see the vehicle’s owner, as I stepped from the car, my mind nonetheless jumped to an uncharitable, and admittedly stereotyped, conclusion about him: Who’s the inbred hillbilly flying the Confederate Flag? And doesn’t he know the Civil War’s over, and the South lost?
One moment later, before my hand could reach the gas pump, two large, heavily-muscled men stood up from behind the pickup (where I hadn’t previously noticed them). Neither gentleman particularly resembled a hillbilly (as I imagined one); nor could I spot any obvious sign of a too-close relationship amongst their parents.
I was about to silently offer thanks for not insulting them aloud, when one of the men spoke. “Mr., do you always go around offending strangers, or is this just our lucky day?” The guy’s voice may’ve carried a southern accent, but he certainly didn’t sound like an illiterate yokel. What he did sound like, however, was one supremely pissed individual.
Meanwhile, the other man didn’t say a word. He simply stared at me. Frankly, I found his silent menace more unnerving than his friend’s expressed anger.
I felt bad, since I’d never meant to voice my anthropological observations. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve offered to buy the men a conciliatory fruit basket. But a single glance at the brooding pair convinced me that circumstances were anything but normal. So, not wishing to overstay my welcome, I tossed off a quick “sorry,” hopped into my car, and peeled out of the parking lot. As I drove off, the second guy finally spoke, yelling at my retreating vehicle “Down here, we call it the ‘War of Northern Aggression.’”
Needless to say, I had no chance to get gas before my hasty exodus. Instead, I filled the tank at a station one town over … a couple of hours later, after the tow truck finally arrived.
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