Patsy Porco

Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

Shoes Off A Dead Man

In Humor on January 25, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Luke's ShoesMy 19-year-old son now owns a pair of $450 handmade leather dress shoes. This irks me for a number of reasons. First of all, my son, Luke, (who has forbidden me to blog about him, so I’ll be referring to him as Mike), doesn’t care a whit about shoes. When Mike goes out, he wears whatever sneakers are closest to the front door, even if they belong to my husband, or a visitor. When Mike has to dress up, he doesn’t waste time deciding what to put on his feet; he owned exactly one pair of black dress shoes and they suited him fine. Now, he also owns an extremely well-made pair of brown leather shoes. And, he seemed really happy to get them. That surprised me, but not as much as the manner in which he obtained them.

The shoes came from the closet of a deceased middle-aged man. The man had expensive tastes and closets full of garments and footwear, all with their sales tags attached. His sister inherited his home and its contents. She generously offered her coworkers and their family members the opportunity to check out the merchandise and take whatever they wanted. My husband, some of his colleagues, and Mike decided to take her up on her offer.

I have never been offered a dead woman’s expensive belongings, so it’s not really fair of me to judge my husband or Mike–especially since I have been guilty of attending estate sales and buying things that I have to assume were previously owned by a now-dead person. But, in my defense, I never asked if the owner had passed on (on one occasion, my friend and I were pretty sure that the “dead” person, whose possessions were being sold, was actually alive and hiding in a room because the estate-sale coordinators kept handing food and beverages into a room marked “Keep Out”), so I could honestly tell myself that I wasn’t certain that I was stealing the shoes off a dead man, or woman.

My husband and Mike, however, couldn’t make the same case for their actions. But they didn’t even want to excuse their behavior. “What’s the big deal?” my husband asked me. “All of the stuff was brand new, and we were told to take whatever we wanted. Otherwise, it was going to charity.” I asked him if it wouldn’t have been better if it had gone to charity and he looked at me and said, “No.”

Their haul consisted of two duffel bags filled with beautifully made shirts, a leather jacket, and those shoes. Both my husband and Mike were thrilled with their “purchases.” For two men who hate shopping, I was surprised. Maybe they don’t actually hate shopping–just the paying part.

My husband’s coworker was glad that her brother’s belongings had found good homes and she told the beneficiaries of her generosity that they could go back a second time and see if they overlooked anything during their first visit. I had come to terms with my family’s first trip, but it’s going to take some time to accept that they’re going again. I’d better accompany them this time, just to make sure that they don’t mistake greed for need.

And, besides, I heard that there were brand-new sheet sets up for grabs.


Idiot Lesson

In Humor on January 18, 2013 at 3:35 pm

My mother uses the term “idiot lesson,” when she’s referring to something ridiculous that happened to her or to someone she knows. The “idiot” in question could be anyone involved. Today, I was involved in my own idiot lesson, and the idiot was me.

My mother’s birthday is January 20th, two days from now. I realized this last night. Of course I hadn’t mailed a gift or card. This morning, at work, I made a homemade card on my computer. Then, on my lunch hour, I ran over to the Gap and found the perfect gift for her. That only took 20 minutes, so I headed over to the post office. When I got there, it was gone; the building which had housed it was gapingly empty. That was weird, because I had recently been to that branch, a mere seven or eight years ago.

As I returned to my car, a fur-coated woman walked toward me. My job is in an affluent town–not the town I live in–so I assumed that the well-groomed, be-furred woman lived there and knew where I could find a different post office branch. I asked her if there was another post office in town and she informed me, in a cultured English accent, that no, there was not. And, she added, it was a sad loss to the community when the branch I was standing in front of was closed.

(As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a sucker for an English accent. If you were to tell me, in an upper-class English accent, that I was really a man and had been living a lie for 52 years, I would believe you. I don’t know why this is–why I admire English accents so much, not why I’ve been living as a woman when I’m actually a man. I know my awe is a genetic trait, though. Back when I discovered that I was pregnant, I enlisted my sister’s help in finding me an obstetrician. She made a few calls and told me who to choose. She said she picked this particular doctor because his nurse-receptionist had an English accent. I made an appointment.)

So, I headed over to a convenience store in my town, ten minutes away, that had a post office in the back. I sent the package via two-day mail and sighed in relief as the clerk affixed the postage to my package. My sigh was sucked back in when she told me that the package would definitely arrive by Tuesday. Tuesday, holy crap! But, it made sense, once I clicked on my brain. Two days from now was Sunday, a day the post office doesn’t deliver, and the next day was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday. If I had previously known these two facts, I wouldn’t have run all over two different towns during my allotted 60-minute break—a break that was rapidly becoming a no-minutes-left break. I could have just ordered flowers over the Internet and had them delivered on time, with no hassle for me. But, it was too late for remorse. I decided to cut my losses and get back to work on time.

I hopped onto the highway connector–which I never drive on–and almost missed the exit to the highway. Almost. I quickly checked the lane next to me, forgetting to also check my blind spot, and moved into the exit lane, almost causing an accident, judging by the angry horn blast from the car behind me. My heart jumped through my chest and landed in my lap. I gave an “I’m-sorry-I-cut-you-off-but-I’m-glad-you-didn’t-crash-into-me” wave to the driver behind me, reinserted my heart, and got off the highway onto a local road. As I approached my workplace, I passed a post office branch in a strip mall–exactly one block from the closed post office I had visited earlier. I could not believe that that English woman had led me astray, and into an almost-accident.

What an idiot lesson, to quote my mother, who will not be receiving her gift on her birthday. I guess I’d better order those flowers, after all. Bloody hell.

English as my Second Accent

In Humor on January 5, 2013 at 10:22 pm

When I had to choose a foreign language to take in high school in 1974, my mother suggested French, because French, at that time, was the international language—i.e., the language spoken by diplomats. She also said that it sounded elegant. I never considered being a diplomat; speaking French diplomatically to other diplomats held no appeal for me (plus, I couldn’t fathom what diplomats did exactly). Speaking an elegant foreign language to impress others and make me feel superior did, however, hold an attraction for me. So, I took French classes all through high school for four years and got an A every year. Then, I took my college French entrance exam and wound up back at the beginning, in French 101. I blamed my test-taking abilities on my failure to test out of a few levels—or even one—of French.

In college, I took five quarters (my university dealt in quarters instead of semesters) of French. Again, I received A’s every quarter. Soon after completing my studies, I went to a French restaurant in Manhattan, placed my order in French, and was looked at by the waiter as if I were speaking Pig Latin. I was beginning to wonder if my dream of impressing people with my French-speaking ability was to remain a dream. Then I decided that I spoke French quite elegantly; the problem was the snooty French waiter who was trained to sneer at Americans. Everyone knows that the French don’t like Americans.

My mother immediately disproved my theory when she went to Paris and was graciously received by everyone she encountered when she broke out her high-school French. Every French person she met there showed nothing but appreciation for, and patience with, her attempts to speak their language. One restaurant owner spent an entire evening conversing with her in French. After hearing this, I was forced to rethink my opinion about the French, and my inability to be understood by them. I concluded that my teachers were incompetent.

I didn’t give up my dream of speaking in a way that would make others feel inferior to me. I just changed my focus. I decided to learn an accent that I deemed superior to the one I had. I determined to speak my native language in an upper-class English accent. I listened endlessly to English actors, royals, and politicians, and mimicked their speech patterns. I imagined that I eventually would be mistaken for a native Londoner.

Just as I was on the point of taking my accent to the streets, I read an article about how pretentious and idiotic Americans sound when they attempt an English accent. That gave me pause—but only for a moment. This was only one person’s opinion, and who knew what his agenda was? He was probably laughed at when he tried to pass himself off as a native in England.

Then I met an Englishman who said that, while English actors can perfectly mimic an American accent, Gwyneth Paltrow was the only American who could faultlessly speak in an English accent. My first thought was: how does he know if English actors aren’t making pronunciation mistakes? My second thought was: Well, of course Gwyneth can do it. Her husband is English. She hears him speak all of the time. My husband is from the Bronx. I’m not going to get any help there.

I guess my next step is to get a best friend from England. My husband would probably put his foot down on my pursuing an English substitute for him. At least, I hope he would.

Chuck Smith, Virginia Author

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