Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mostly Bizarre With A Chance of Showers

This weekend I've been thinking about Japan quite a bit. I'm working on something new about my adventures in Japan, but first I wanted to post this again. It's funny how much I miss that place.


Originally posted on Observatons of a Misfit
March 11, 2005
Mostly Bizarre, With a Chance of Showers


When I volunteered to serve a mission for my church, it never occurred to me that I would end up in Japan. When I got the letter telling me where I’d be serving, I was stunned. I’d never really been out of Utah, other than a few weeks in California. I had no idea what to expect. Nevertheless, I was determined to succeed. Therefore, I prepared, as most people would, with
the time-honored study method of watching "The Karate Kid II." This was very helpful, as I learned two very important facts: first, many people in Japan have a tendency to converse in Japanese. And, secondly, that America and Japan are very different cultures in almost every conceivable way, especially where manners are concerned.

If I were to describe the 18 months I spent in Japan with a single word, I’d have to say it was “wet.” At the risk of over generalizing, I would estimate that it rains at least 360 days a year in Japan. But one word is not enough to describe a country with Japan’s culture, ancient history, art, and its staggering beauty and traditions. Therefore, I would also like to choose the word, and I say this with the deepest possible respect, “bizarre”.

From the moment I stepped off the plane, I was suddenly illiterate. I heard conversations that I didn’t understand. I saw billboards and neon signs (the Japanese are very fond of neon) that I couldn’t read. I felt like I had suddenly lost several IQ points. Fortunately, as I looked out the car window (trying not to notice the steering wheel was on the wrong side and the sensation that no one was driving the car) I finally saw, shining through the torrential downpour of the early April evening a shining beacon of familiarity: the Golden Arches. It wasn’t much, but it was beautiful to me.

Missionaries are not permitted to be alone, ever. We are assigned a “companion” missionary, and a new missionary is usually assigned to someone with more experience. So I wasn’t overly concerned by the fact that despite spending eight weeks studying Japanese for 10 hours a day at
a training center, the only words I could pronounce with confidence were hibachi and Sony. These words didn’t come up in conversation as much as you might think. My first companion was American, so I figured I’d be okay until I learned a few words. And during the brief time I was with her before she transferred, I’m happy to say that I learned to say a couple of complete sentences. True, I said them with a Tennessee accent, just like hers, but I learned them. I realized I didn’t know enough to carry on a conversation, but I wasn’t terribly worried. In fact, I was fine, right up until the moment I was introduced to my new companion. Her name was Hiromi Nakamatsu, a lovely girl, born and raised on Okinawa. With only rudimentary language skills between us (she could name the members of New Kids on the Block), we somehow managed to communicate.

Typical of the Japanese obsession with manners, my companion very politely refrained from pointing out that I was carrying a bag every day with the label from the airport still attached. I don’t know why I didn’t remove it. I was probably afraid I’d offend someone or break a law if I did take it off. One afternoon, we were waiting for a train and she offered to help me practice my reading. At her suggestion, I tried to read the sticker on my bag. Carefully sounding out each syllable I said, “oo ee su ki. Ooowiskee...whiskey?”
“Yes!” she said, apparently greatly relieved. She had been waiting for me to realize on my own that I was traipsing around Japan as a Mormon missionary with a label on my bag advertising the leading brand of whiskey.

I took advantage of a rare candid moment. “Have I been saying or doing other things wrong too?”
“You speak very well!” she answered.
This was Japanese for, “Yes, you idiot, you’ve been making a fool of yourself on a daily basis.”

Correcting people is considered very rude in Japan. The down side to this was that my companion was too embarrassed on my behalf to correct my errors, of which I’m certain there were many.

“No, really,” I insisted. “I want to know when I make a mistake. I can’t learn if I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”
After a lengthy discussion during which she assured me repeatedly that I spoke Japanese like a native (of America, presumably), my companion finally, and very reluctantly, admitted that, among other things, I had been referring to people as carrots, and that the word I was using daily for "spiritual" was just the tiniest bit incorrect.
“What is the right word?” I asked
“Reiteki.” she whispered, after apologizing profusely for correcting me.
“What have I been saying?”
“Seiteki” she told me, nearly in tears with shame.
I fumbled through my dictionary and discovered, to my horror, that although I had been trying to tell people that going to church was an enjoyable "spiritual experience," I was actually saying something slightly different. I had, in fact, been promising everyone I met "going to church can be an enjoyable sexual experience." In retrospect, it seems odd that, with promises like that, we didn’t have people beating down our door.

Naturally, the language mistakes are not one-sided. In America, it’s common to see Chinese or Japanese characters on t-shirts, jewelry designs, or even tattoos. We see them on signs and the little cartons from the Chinese take-out places. Most of us probably never even question just what these characters might mean. For all we know, someone is having a huge laugh at our expense with nonsensical phrases or obscene words on various items. I came up with this theory when I noticed a certain phenomenon in Japan. English is everywhere; it just never makes sense. Its purpose is purely decorative. The rice steamer in our apartment was inscribed with the thought-provoking phrase, “It is always so sweetly nice to drinking the happy tea with our family, naked.” On one street there was a bakery sign which proclaimed “Baked Flesh Dairy” and it was with more than a little concern that I read the words “White People Tissue” on a box of Japan’s version of Kleenex in the store one day. What did this mean? White tissue for people? Tissue for white people? Tissue of white people? What was in this box? One of my most cherished souvenirs is a bag from a store called “Sissy Boy” which sold, as you may have already guessed, stationery.

The Japanese adhere strictly to a precise behavioral code. The implicit rules of conduct are so complex and detailed, I could write an entire book about it and still barely scratch the surface. Suffice it to say, if an act seems familiar and socially acceptable to you as an American, it’s probably better that you resist the impulse to actually do it in Japan. Conversely, if any behavior seems crude or impolite in anyway, then it is very likely acceptable. For example, making certain digestive noises, which I am much too refined to describe, is perfectly acceptable in Japan.

I was carefully and repeatedly instructed about common American behavior that the Japanese find offensive. It would be easier to sum up what is not considered offensive about our culture: Disneyland. Other than that, we’re pretty much rude, uncouth boors who are unfit to socialize with other cultures. (It’s okay to buy their cars, however.) If the world were a formal dinner party, America would be the guest who shows up late, wearing a “Grateful Dead” t-shirt, and engages in loud, inappropriate conversation and unforgivable behavior such as leaving chopsticks standing upright in a bowl of rice.

By committing various seemingly harmless acts in Japan, I was able to bring shame on myself, my family, and my entire country. My first day there, I did something they consider truly outrageous. I didn’t even think about it. Prepare to be horrified. As I was walking, I put a piece of chewing gum in my mouth. Now, I know what you’re thinking: that walking and chewing gum at the same time is a display of great physical coordination of which we, as Americans, are particularly proud! This is precisely this kind of thinking that has made us the social sloths we are today. Only an extremely ill mannered cretin (or an American) would do something like walking and eating at the same time. Chewing gum in public, or anywhere else for that matter, is frowned upon. Walking while chewing gum is just asking to be deported. I know what you’re thinking now, and the answer to your question is: No, belching after eating while walking doesn’t compensate for the offense.

The inside of the mouth must never be seen, hence the images we’ve seen of demure Japanese women covering their mouths when they laugh. (Laughing loudly is taboo, as well; for women, anyway. Sedate giggling is the preferred, traditional method for expressing mirth.) There are also issues with the soles of the feet. You shouldn’t cross your legs, lest you subject some poor soul
to the shameless exhibition of the underside of your feet. If your hands are full, don’t even think about nudging a door open with your foot. Of course there’s an entire “manners code” devoted to shoes. It is important to remove your shoes when entering a home or an apartment. Once you remove your shoes, naturally, you put on a pair of slippers. However, if you enter a room with
straw mats on the floor, the slippers come off again. If you visit the “honorable hand-washing place” (the bathroom), you change into yet another pair of slippers. My husband, who also served a mission in Japan (although we didn’t meet each other there), told me he once forgot to make the slipper switch upon leaving the restroom while visiting someone’s home. When it was time to leave he noticed he was still wearing the bathroom slippers. The slippers sometimes have little stick figure drawings of people on them to remind you why you are in the bathroom in the first place, just in case you forget once you’re there. The Japanese are nothing if not helpful. Obviously, Mike and all of his descendants will carry the burden of the slipper fiasco for all time.

So, now that we understand that we don’t ever reveal the crude sight of the soles of our feet or the inside of our mouths, I would like to address the traditional ensemble of the Sumo wrestler. Seriously, these little outfits are grossly inadequate as far as coverage is concerned. In fact, I’m reasonably certain that parading about that way in America would lead to an arrest and
possibly a visit to a padded cell. Well, maybe not everywhere in America. My point is, how on earth is it acceptable for grown men to cavort about, attired in something which would not even pass as a bathing suit, yet the inadvertent display of the soles of one’s feet can be so excruciatingly offensive? There is, of course, an answer to this question. Probably. I just have no idea what it is.

I also couldn’t help noticing that many people in Japan seemed to be, what I call, for lack of a better term, clothing impaired. This was only in certain places like bathhouses and, evidently, apartment balconies. Still, I admit I was more than a little startled by how many people in Japan thought nothing of wandering about like Lady Godiva. (Without the horse, obviously. They ride bicycles, instead.) These are people who routinely bathe together. Not at home, of course, that would be scandalous. They go out in public for group bathing.

You will be very relieved to learn, however, that modesty still has a place in Japan. While traveling about we saw many of the ancient, traditional carved stone statues of Buddha and other deities that are common throughout Japan. There were often little offerings of potato chips and juice boxes left in front of them. The thing that really completed the scene, for me anyway, was the fact that the statues were frequently dressed, as you might expect, in Snoopy t-shirts.

Knowing what to keep covered, and how, is among the mysteries of the Orient. Sunglasses, for example, are not a good idea, unless you really want to be mistaken for a member of the Mafia. One day, during a brief moment when the rain had stopped, I pulled out a pair of sunglasses.
“What are you doing?” my companion gasped. (It was surprising how quickly she adapted to correcting me.) I looked around, making sure my feet were covered and my mouth was closed.
“What?” I finally asked. I lived in a state of paralyzed paranoia for at least the first month I was in Japan.
“The sunglasses. We don’t wear sunglasses.”
“We don’t?”
“No,” she said firmly.
“Never?”
“No.” She was adamant. “You mustn’t ever wear sunglasses here.”
“Is there a reason for this?” I asked.
“People will think you’re with the Mafia,” she warned.
“You can’t be serious.”
“Oh, I am. Only the Mafia wears sunglasses.”
“So you’re saying people are going to look at me and say, ‘Look, there’s a member of the Mafia
posing as an American missionary’?”
“Just put the glasses away.”
The Japanese Mafia can also be identified by the fact that they are the only ones driving American cars (Cadillacs, mostly), and are noticeably lacking a pinkie finger.
All in all, living in Japan was not exactly what I thought it would be when I watched "The Karate Kid." I saw, said, did and ate things I never thought possible. I'm pleased to say that I did learn to speak passable Japanese, though nowadays I only use it when I need to speak privately to Mike and our son is eavesdropping. I would never have believed how much I would come to love a country, a culture, and a people that seemed so, well, foreign. I hope to return one day, and when I do, I will don my sunglasses with impunity and swim at the beach in my modest, Catalina one-piece.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Seeing Through Closed Eyes

I was teaching a lesson the other day when I had one of those great moments that make teaching really fun. I teach a nine-year old boy named Sam. Sam cracks me up. He's the biggest Star Wars fan I have ever met in my life and he makes absolutely NO secret of the fact that he just hates piano lessons. Sam's been taking lessons for a year now, and he's actually doing really well. It amuses me no end to see him sitting at the piano in his baseball uniform, looking totally dejected about being inside the house, heaving a heavy sigh with every note he plays.

This week, Sam was having trouble with his rhythm plus he's also developing a bad habit of looking at his hands when he plays. I mean, it's not bad to look at your hands sometimes but if you're not careful it becomes something of a crutch. It's much like typing--looking at your hands just slows you down. I had a teacher who would often make me play blindfolded in order to learn to trust my hands. Plus, I'm pretty sure it gave him a chance to take a nap during the lesson.

The problem during Sam's lesson was that the boy would stop between every note, sigh heavily, look at his hands, find the note, then look back up at the music by which point he had completely lost his place. It's a fairly common problem. Most people instinctively trust only what their eyes can see, not realizing that the other senses can be trusted as well. So I decided to do a little extra work to teach Sam to trust his hands.

In order to help with the rhythm problems, I got out the metronome again. For those who have been spared this experience, a metronome is a torture device used to help ensure even rhythm by making a loud ticking sound at regular intervals. Sam is NOT a fan of the metronome. He tries to watch the pendulum swing back and forth while he sort of lunges toward the keyboard in a desperate attempt to anticipate the ticking. Now, I feel his pain here. I do. I have absolutely no sense of rhythm myself. It's something I have to work really hard for since it does not come naturally to me. In fact my teacher once observed, "You know, you don't even WALK rhythmically." This was a very creepy observation, I thought. I have lots of hatred of and a grudging appreciation for the metronome. Like Sam, I always wanted to watch it, trying to anticipate the clicks. It's really a frustrating thing to learn, if you're not naturally inclined. I once threw a metronome across the room and broke it into many tiny pieces. It was about that time that I learned that some metronomes are extremely expensive. Oops.

I could see that Sam was getting frustrated and upset, so I backed off for a few minutes. After all, the feelings of a young boy are fragile and so is my metronome. A few minutes later I came back to it. I said, "Okay Sam, here's what I want you to do. I want you to just relax. This is no big deal. It's not a competition, it's not a performance. If you make a mistake no one's going to hear it and no one's going to care. This is just an experiment. Okay? Now, I want you to close your eyes and just put your hands on the keys. Keep your eyes closed and then just touch the keys. Feel the sets of two black keys and the sets of three. Take your time. Just get used to how the keys feel under your fingers. Feel how far apart they are. Notice how far you have to move your fingers to reach from one key to the next. Can you feel the difference between the way the black keys and the white keys feel? Very good. Now, keeping your eyes closed I want you to find all the D's on the keyboard." (That's really easy because D is the note between every set of two black keys.) "Good, now find all the G's. Excellent work, Sam. You're doing great. Now find the A's." (Again, easy because those are the notes inside the sets of three black keys.) "Great job Sam, now I want you to keep your eyes closed and go back to C. Good. Now I want you to play the C major scale." He did it perfectly. "Sam, I'm so proud of you, you're doing so well. Now I'm going to set the metronome. Don't play anything, just listen to it. Can you hear it? Can you tap your foot along with it? Great. Okay, when your ready, play the scale again, one note with each click, but keep your eyes closed. You know where the notes are. You can feel them. You don't need to see them. Trust your fingers to find them. And you can hear the clicks of the metronome. You don't need to watch it move back and forth. Just listen. Take your time, just listen to the clicks. When you're ready, play."

He did it PERFECTLY.

I said, "Sam! You did it! I knew you could! Do you understand now?"

And then he smiled this little crooked half-smile and said, "Well, yeah. You mean you just want me to use the Force when I play, right?"

You realize what this means. Someday when he gets nominated for a Grammy, he's totally going to thank George Lucas.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Breaking the Rules

Son recently became the first child in our family in generations to serve detention at school. We're very proud. He was understandably anxious about telling us, but he finally broke down and announced, "All the teachers are out to get me." For those who don't have children, permit me to translate. This means, "I got totally busted at school and I'm hoping to play on your sympathies." In my very best patient-and-concerned-mom voice I asked,

"Okay, tell me what happened."

"Well, you know how at school we're not allowed to throw snowballs?"

"Yes."

"Well, um, a bunch of fourth-graders have totally taken over the good slide on the playground and they had piled up all these snowballs where the teachers couldn't see them." Oh what an affront to Son's fifth-grade dignity: being attacked by fourth-graders.

"Go on."

"Well so they were throwing them and I was just trying to ignore them when I accidentally caught one."

"Wait, you caught a snowball?"

"Yes."

"I see. Go on." Yes, I know very well what the odds are of actually catching a snowball, but I was interested to see where he was going with this. He did not disappoint when he said, and I'd like to stress that this is an actual quote,

"Well, you see, I was leaning over to set it oh, so gently on the ground when the teacher came outside and totally got the wrong idea." I'm afraid Son didn't get quite the reaction for which he'd hoped.

"I see. Well that's terribly frustrating, but the fact is, you had a snowball in your possession, is that correct?"

"Well, yeah."

"And having a snowball in your possession is against the rules?"

"NO! Just throwing them."

"Okay, but the problem here is that just having it in your possession is enough to get you in trouble, do you understand that?" He hung his head.

"Yeah."

"Especially, if you were setting it down oh, so gently with your arm in pitching position, as I suspect you may have been. Am I close here?"

"Um, well...yeah. Maybe, " he admitted sheepishly.

"So, the facts are that, for whatever reason, you were seen with something in your possession that you weren’t supposed to have, and the consequence for that is that you've got detention, is that right?"

"Well, yeah."

"So?"

"So I shouldn't catch snowballs anymore."

"Good idea."

Someday someone may approach Son with drugs or something else that, if found in his possession, could land in him in a lot more trouble than detention during recess. Better that he learn now, while the stakes are small. When the time comes, I hope he doesn't let me down. Because I don't think he could do it oh, so gently.

Monday, February 13, 2006

My Valentine

With the approach of Valentine’s Day it seems that magazines, newspapers and Internet sites are rushing to publish all kinds of quizzes and articles about things like how to tell “DOES HE REALLY LOVE YOU?” or “IS HE THE ONE?” or “TEN WAYS TO TELL IF HE’S INTERESTED” or "THE ROMANCE SCALE--HOW DO YOU WEIGH IN?"

When my husband and I started dating he would have would have ACED these tests. The first Valentine’s Day we spent together, which incidentally was when we started dating, Michael showed up with my favorite flowers. This was no easy task, apparently, because he had to go to five different florists just to find the ones I love most. I would have been pleased with anything, really, but I admit I was impressed by the effort. That first Valentine’s Day he also gave me a teddy bear and jewelry, but the thing that touched me most was the poem he wrote himself.

I’ve never received a card from Michael in the entire time I’ve known him; at least, not a card he purchased. It’s not that he doesn’t care. It’s just that he doesn’t think it’s fair to buy someone else’s words and pass them off as his own. Fortunately, he has no problem writing down his own sentiments. Stashed away in my jewelry box among the other tokens of his affection are all the love notes that he’s given me over the years. He doesn’t make a big deal out of it. The notes are things I just stumble across at some point during the day. Sometimes I find them in the car, sometimes in my pocket. They are small and simple things, sometimes written on Post-it notes, but they are more valuable to me than the gemstones with which they are kept.

In the day-to-day world of being married and having a child, is the romance gone? No, of course not. Dinner out is much more likely to be an event that includes kids' menus and sippy cups, flowers don’t show up with the same frequency, and when we go dancing it usually involves pushing the kitchen table to the side of the room first. But he does still dance with me. No, I have never lacked for romance.

My husband is a very romantic man. He’s got all the gestures down--flowers, surprises, notes etc. And I may have mentioned once or twice that I personally believe him to be the most flawless combination of genetics ever assembled in human form. I mean the boy cleans up nicely. Very nicely. After 12 years of marriage I still find myself a little weak in the knees sometimes just looking at him. Oh yes, there is romance there.

However.

Never in my life have I loved him more than when I've seen him sitting slumped in the rocking chair with his hair rumpled, his face covered in stubble and looking completely wiped out after spending the night with a sick child. That’s right. When our son is sick and I’m exhausted, Michael will send me to bed and sit up with Son himself.

When I am sick he takes care of me, too. He’ll bring me soup and keep Son occupied, then he’ll come in and listen to me whine and complain and when I’m finished he makes me laugh.

Flowers and moonlight are great. Make no mistake; I love that stuff. I so appreciate the fact that he continues to make romantic gestures. But when he borrows my car it comes home freshly washed with a full tank of gas. He’s not above throwing in a load of laundry and for a long time I couldn’t have told you what color our vacuum cleaner is. (Though that’s partly because I ceded the job to him once I learned about his bizarre obsession with the scientific patterns of vacuum lines in the carpet.)

When our automatic garage doors broke at the same time he fixed mine first. He still holds doors open for me. He actually finds my flaws endearing. When I trip and fall or do something remarkably stupid, I know before I look at him that he’ll be sitting there with that smile he gets when he’s trying really hard not to laugh, his shoulders shaking with the suppressed laughter. Then he helps me up and says, "Thanks for marrying me. I've never been so well entertained in my life." Sometimes (and I know there may be some who will accuse me of making this up but I swear it’s true) he lets me hold the remote. Perhaps the most telling sign of his love for me is the fact that as much as loves them, he wouldn’t dream of eating the last Oreo without seeing if I want half.

Not only does he love me, he extends the feeling to my entire family. He and my dad frequently go to lunch together, just the two of them. When I’ve been unable to attend a family function, Michael will go anyway. At family gatherings Michael will sit and happily chat with Dad. When they’re out Michael will slow his pace and walk next to Dad since my father isn’t as quick or steady as he once was.

Michael adores my mother and the feeling is mutual. I have suspected on more than one occasion that my parents might love him more than they do me. They’ve actually told me that in the event that Hubs and I ever divorce they’ll keep HIM. There is only one drawback to their relationship: I haven’t won an argument in YEARS.

And when I thank him for being so good to my parents my husband is genuinely baffled.
“What do you mean?” he asks. “I love your parents. They’re great.” I love that they have a relationship that exists independently. Plus, when I want something from my parents, having Michael ask is a sure-fire way to make it happen!

Unlike my parents, I do realize Michael isn’t perfect. There’s his unfortunate taste for disco music and his need to snooze the alarm clock for an hour before he can actually wake up. But this weekend I didn’t feel well. And when I finally emerged from the bedroom and made it downstairs I found a clean kitchen, a child who was fed and content, and a husband whose only concern was wanting me to feel better.

He is thoughtful, sweet, and makes taking care of our family his top priority. And did I mention he dances with me in the kitchen?

I have romance, yes. But I’ve got something else that is much more valuable. My husband loves me. I don’t need to take a quiz to know that. He shows me every day in ways I couldn’t possibly mistake.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Michael. I love you.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Children's Market

Every week children come to my house for the purpose of learning to play the piano. At least that's the agreement I have with the parents. Some parents, though, seem to be under the impression that I'm actually running a glorified day care center.

A couple of weeks ago I was teaching the last students of the day. You may remember these kids. It's a brother-sister team referred to affectionately as "The Piano Lickers." I still haven't quite figured out why they do this but I HAVE determined that the taste of Lysol on the keys doesn't seem to be particularly unpleasant to them.

So it probably comes as no surprise that after an hour of trying to keep one occupied and out of trouble while teaching the other I was more than ready to return them to the wild from whence they came. I was escorting them to the door when one turned back and headed toward the living room. When I reminded him that it was time to leave he demolished my dream of closing the door behind them and screaming, "WHY? WHY do they DO that?" before disinfecting the piano again. It all came crashing down with the airy announcement, "Oh, Mom said she'd be an hour or so late because she needed to go grocery shopping and stuff."

Blink.

"An hour? She said she'd be AN HOUR?"
"Yeah, she said if it's a problem we can just wait outside."

Wait outside? In January? In Utah? After dark? Seriously? She hadn't even sent them with coats. There was no way I was going to send them outside for an hour, and I'm sure she knew she could count on that. (Being a doormat is not always as fun as you may think.) Odd habits aside, it's not their fault their mother does what she does and I wasn't going to make them freeze just because their mother is less than considerate. Fortunately Son came home about then. He's the same age as my students and he's happy to play with them. Just as long as they don't actually lick him, that is.

I asked the children to please remind their mother of my policy that all children left longer than ten minutes will be sold as slaves. Then I went to the kitchen to get dinner started. I remained within earshot of course; I'm not THAT crazy.

The boy was the first to pipe up. "Dude, does your mom really sell kids? She can't do that can she?"

Without missing a beat Son assured him, "Sure. You didn't really think I was an only child did you? She sold the others."

Of course I will reassure the children that I was kidding. Everyone knows how hard it is to get a good price for kids who lick pianos.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Television, How I've Missed You.

About a year ago, we eliminated TV from our lives. There is still quite a bit of debate over whose idea this was. I can’t imagine I would ever suggest something like this. I’d be much more likely to suggest that we go outside and set ourselves on fire or something. I love TV. Not ALL television shows interest me, of course. But frankly, a world without “Frasier” is sad and bleak my friends. Oh yes, "Friends." I like “Friends” too. (And yes, I’m aware that these shows are no longer actually in production, but we still have syndication, right? RIGHT??) In fact, I distinctly remember Hubs telling Son that we were disconnecting the TV because we were tired of his attitude and constant aping of every kid on TV with the ubiquitously stupid parents. Have you noticed this, by the way? Parents on TV are portrayed as being too stupid to be walking upright or breathing. TV kids can leave the state, have adventures involving law enforcement, the mafia and llamas and parents won’t ever be any the wiser. Our son seemed to have determined that we would be just this stupid.

Still, I clearly remember looking at Hubs in shock thinking, “Hold on right there, Pal. We can take TV away from our child. In fact, I’ll go so far as to admit that it’s a great idea. But let’s not get crazy here. Why should I be punished, too?” In an effort to maintain the critical united front, I didn’t voice my objection at the moment, thinking I’d simply discuss it with Hubs later. But I never really got around to it and it’s probably just as well. I’m not saying that I had no choice in the matter. I’m fully capable of having TV reinstated and Hubs wouldn’t dream of telling me I couldn’t do it. I’m not sure why I haven’t yet. Maybe I recognized on some level that a break might just be good for me too.

Nah.

But I’m thinking the fact that I didn’t ever argue my side has contributed to his current belief that it was actually my idea. Who knows?

What I DO know is it hasn’t been all that bad. Son’s attitude has shown remarkable improvement. His belief that everything he says should be followed by high-fives due to his spectacular putting of the incredibly blind, na├»ve and unspeakably stupid parents in their respective places seems to have been curbed somewhat.

Additionally, we’ve been spending a lot more time together doing things that are much more important. You know, things like watching videos and DVDs.

Still, I can’t find words to express my profound joy in being reunited with television. Even if it did occur while I was in the hospital, it was totally worth it.

Oh beautiful Technicolor mind drain! How I’ve missed you! Monica, Phoebe, Rachel! I’ve missed you so! And Chandler and Joey! There you are in all your syndicated glory! Heck, I’m even glad to see Ross.

We were kept waiting for quite awhile. And I found I didn’t mind the wait that much.
“Honey look! It’s ER! I can actually watch a show about the hospital, while IN THE HOSPITAL! I’m in a hospital gown, with an IV going and everything, what are the odds of that happening? This isn’t a chance you get every day you know.”

A while later, “Ellen” came on and my excitement knew no bounds. It was like I’d been out of the country and cut off from civilization for years. “Oh look! She still has Tony! I love Tony. And she still dances! Imagine that. She looks good doesn’t she? How old do you think she is now?”

The only bad thing was that during every segment of the show the nurse, in what I can only believe was a well-timed, deliberate plot to make sure I didn’t forget I was supposed to be suffering, came in to talk to me, give me papers to sign etc. leaving only during the commercial breaks. This can mean only one thing. She was watching something on another station with TV breaks timed opposite the ones on the show I was watching.

That’s proof enough for me. TV is an important health aid. I would be neglecting my health if I didn’t have the cable reconnected. That would be wrong. We all have a role of responsibility in our own health care. I suppose if Hubs objects I can just continue watching at the hospital. I just need to determine what he can have removed so I can spend the entire time waiting in his room.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hospital: Paper Work

I've been out of touch here the past few days but for what it's worth, I do have a note from my doctor (and by note, I mean bill) explaining my absence.

Yesterday I had surgery. The good news is, I have a lot of new stories to tell. Oh, and I’m also going to be feeling a lot better. The bad news is, I’m pretty groggy so it could be a couple days before I’m up to writing them. So in the meantime, I’ll just share the following conversation I had with Hubs while filling out forms prior to surgery.

In addition to all the other seemingly endless papers I had to fill out prior to surgery there was a questionnaire about my sleep habits. I was able to answer the first question by myself, since the question was, “Do you snore?” Well, if I wake myself up now and then doing it, I’d say there’s a good chance that the answer to that one is "yes". But for the others I had to ask Hubs.

“Honey, how often do I snore, would you say?”

“How often do you sleep?”

“Right.”

“Okay, when I snore is it a) louder than breathing b) louder than speaking or c) louder than shouting?”

“Keep going.”

“Right.”

“Okay, one more, when I sleep do I ever seem to stop breathing?”

“Only when I hold the pillow over your face. It’s usually not for long.”

“Right.”