We were vacationing in Italy one glorious spring. We gazed in awe at the magnificent scenery of Tuscany and marveled at the art masterpieces in the Uffizi.
This was our first trip, and I took it very seriously I wanted to enjoy every bit of the Italian experience, including speaking Italian. To advance my goal I found a young Italian woman, an exchange student at our local college, Drew University. Francesca was delighted to earn a little extra spending money, and I was excited to study her language in the exact manner that she spoke it, so I hired her as my tutor. I pictured myself speaking to native Italians as if I were one of them, and with a perfect accent. I also imagined the fun I’d have being able to eavesdrop on their conversations, since they would assume an American tourist wouldn’t understand what they were saying.
I very much enjoyed the lessons with Francesca as much as I loved her stories of life in Italy.
When the time came for the trip I approached it with the air of a person setting out to speak Italian with Italians, despite my limited vocabulary. They would be so impressed with an American making the effort to communicate with them in their own language.
One of the first chores I had set for myself was sending post cards back home. Buying stamps would be a great way start speaking to an Italian!
Francesca had taught me counting, so I knew how to say the numbers.
The word for stamps is Francobolli. I was prepared for my first encounter.
Off I went to the first post office I saw. I stood in line and when my turn came, confidently walked up to the man behind the counter and said, “Due Francobolli, per favore.”
But he was not to be fooled by my bravado. He answered in perfect English, with a perfect accent, “Oh, so you would like two stamps, right?”
‘Talk about bursting someone’s balloon…
What does Walt Disney’s animated film, Cinderella, have in common with every frantic, rushing modern day person? Here’s a clue:
It starts with a scene in which a group showing the cute little mice working to sew a beautiful gown for Cinderella As they sew they sing they sing, “Hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry ‘got to help our Cinderelly.” Thanks to the group effort they finish their seamstress skills, completing the gown in time for our heroine to wear to the prince’s ball.
And we all have been hurrying ever since! Can it be that our rush started with a film about Cinderella? I believe it started way before that time.
My midwestern friend says I rush too much because I am an easterner and don’t know how to relax. I haven’t learned the technique of moving with moderation. Why can’t I proceed slowly? Is what I am hurrying to complete really a task that couldn’t wait until another time, like tomorrow? These are questions she throws at me.
Easterners who visit the south return with tales of the beautiful countryside, friendly people and great food but the complain about the incredibly slow way Southerners move. “Why, just going into a diner for breakfast could take a whole hour!” It’s hard to gobble down a hearty breakfast in that amount of time, especially if you’re accustomed to wolfing down a cup of coffee and piece of toast on your way out the door.
I am what I am used to; the way I think, the way I accomplish things and the way I move:
FAST. I can’t dawdle. It’s impossible to slow down. Concentrate on one thing at a time? No; I must multitask; I can’t understand how anyone could simply sit and do nothing but speak on the telephone. At least empty the dishwasher while you talk; check the mail while you’re chatting, confer with your calendar about the week’s appointments. How can you simply sit and speak on the phone without doing anything else? Single tasking is a concept that I cannot understand or abide by.
The medical field has interfered with how we move. Evidence shows that moving rapidly raises the heart rate. This is a good thing. Raised heart rates rush blood to the brain. It creates more Energy. Confers clear thinking. Improves memory. All of these wonderful attributes are brought to you by the rushing of blood to the brain, they tell us. I hope that in its rush to the brain no blood gets waylaid and gets diverted somewhere else. I don’t know where else it could go, but I am not a scientist and am not conversant in those issues.
I was recently informed by an unnamed person from a later generation that the act of speaking itself is a terrible waste of time. Emailing used to be a more sensible way to communicate. I felt very modern and sophisticated when I learned to email. Typing quick answers to a question, rather than wasting time calling, waiting for someone to answer the phone and speaking to the person. And then waiting for an answer.
But now it turns out that email is far too slow. The current way to communicate is by texting. Texting is faster. Pretty soon texting will be obsolete, and we’ll be able to read minds. Then we can communicate without bothering to speak, write or text. Hmm; I can hardly wait. How about you?
Looking far into the future, my vision is clear. It has to do with our last day on earth. The day St.Peter comes to call and collect his human followers, what do you suppose will happen?
Will there be chaos in the clouds? I can see it all now; a large unruly group will be standing in line, impatiently rushing and pushing. What is their rush? Each soul is frantically trying to be the first to get through those pearly gates.
FROM WHAT I READ IN THE SOCIAL PAGES OF NEWSPAPERS WE MUST LIVE IN A WORLD FULL OF GOOD SPIRITED, EVER SMILING, GENEROUS PEOPLE. THEY HAVE WONDERFUL DISPOSITIONS, AMAZING SENSES OF HUMOR, AND ARE PATIENT AND KIND.
IT MUST BE SO, BECAUSE EVERY WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENT SAYS THE SAMEGLOWING THING ABOUT EACH INTENDED SPOUSE-TO-BE. THOSE WONDERFULATTRIBUTES IN A PERSON ARE WHAT THE WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENTS WOULDHAVE US BELIEVE. BUT THEY SPEAK OF PEOPLE WHO, AFTER THE WEDDING,WILL JOIN THE GENERAL POPULATION AND BE ORDINARY PEOPLE LIKE THE ONES AROUND US THAT WE SEE, SPEAK TO AND WORK WITH EVERY DAY.
I LEARNED IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, “DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READBECAUSE THERE’S A ‘LIE’ IN BELIEVE,” SO I MUST QUESTION THE ARTICLES.
WOULD YOU EVER KNOW ABOUT A CHARACTER FLAW OR TRUE PERSONALITY TRAIT FROM THE STORIES IN NEWSPAPERS’ WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENTS EVERY SUNDAY?
IN THE NEW YORK TIMES’ SECTION CALLED, “VOWS” THE WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENTS SEEM TO BE WRITTEN IN A FLUTTERY, EXCITED AND ENTHUSIASTIC VOICE. A TYPICAL TALE OF INTRODUCTION TO A COUPLE’S FIRST MEETING MAY TYPICALLY READ:
“WE SPOKE FOR HOURS ON OUR FIRST DATE AND DISCOVERED THAT WE HADSO MANY INTERESTS IN COMMON. IT WAS AMAZING; I NEVER MET SOMEBODY FUNNY AND CHARMING; HE KEPT ME ENTHRALLED. I FELT AN INSTANT CONNECTION BETWEEN US.”
I LONG TO READ AN ANNOUNCEMENT THAT PROCLAIMS THE FUTURE SPOUSE INA TRUE AND PERHAPS MORE REALISTIC WAY. WHEN WOULD THESE IMPRESSIONS CHANGE?
IS LOVE TRULY BLIND, OR IS THE FUTURE COUPLE DESPERATE ENOUGH NOT TOSEE THE REAL CHARACTER DEFICITS IN THEIR RESPECTIVE BELOVEDS?
I REMEMBER AN EXPERIENCE I HAD AT MY OWN WEDDING. I OVERHEARD TWO EMBITTERED PHOTOGRAPHERS SPEAKING TO EACH OTHER, UNAWARE THAT ICOULD HEAR THEM, OR THAT I EVEN EXISTED.
“THESE WEDDINGS ARE PIE INTHE SKY EVENTS,” SAID THE FIRST MAN.
“DON’T YOU KNOW IT? IT’S ALL STARS IN YOUR EYES FAIRY TALE TIME FOR A WHILE, AND THEN REALITY STRIKES ANDIT’S “DON’T FORGET TO TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE,” COMPLAINED THE SECOND.
A NEW COLUMN IS BEING PLANNED BY THE NEW YORK TIMES THAT WILL APPEAR AFTER THE “VOWS” SECTION. IT ASKS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN BEING INTERVIEWED BY THE NEWSPAPER FOR A COLUMN WHICH WILL BE CALLED “UNHITCHED.”
PERHAPS REALITY IS OVER-RATED, OR PERHAPS SOME OF US HAVE STARS INOUR EYES. BUT TRUTH IN LIFE’S IMPORTANT MOMENTS IS NOT ALWAYS WHAT WE’RE TOLD, WHAT WE EXPECT OR WHAT WE WISH THEY WOULD BE.
“But Mom, we can’t stop at the Ladies’ Room now; we’ll be late for the train.”
“No, Jasper. We have twenty minutes before we have to get to the platform. There’s enough time for grandma, your sister and I to make a short stop first.”
“But Mom, I can’t go into the Ladies Room!”
“Of course you can. You’re with us,” she said impatiently.
“Mom, this is so embarrassing. I’m not a little kid; I’m eight years old. I can’t go into a Ladies’ room.”
“Jasper, you’re trying my patience. If your dad were here you’d go into the Men’s room with him. But he’s not here so you’ll have to come with us.”
Now the boy was crying. “You don’t understand. I would die if one of my friends saw me going into the Ladies’ room. It’s not fair.”
“Jasper, if I hear another word from you I’ll smack you. I didn’t have to drag myself into New York to take you kids to a Broadway show. You’d better stop complaining.”
“I don’t even want to go to the stupid show.”
The line to the Ladies’ room moved quickly and it was time for the party of mother, grandmother, son and daughter to claim a stall.
“I’m not going in there with you!”
“Then stand right there, where I could see your feet from under the door,” said mother. “Right there!”she screeched.
So I wondered. The mother had a point. She could not in good conscience, allow an eight year old boy go unaccompanied into the huge men’s room of New York City’s Pennsylvania Station’s restroom. But was there a better way of handling the situation to avoid the ugly scene her family was creating in the equally huge Ladies’ room of same train station?
On one hand she didn’t want to frighten the child by telling him about the perverts that can hang around large, anonymous venues, or how a young child could easily fall prey to sick minds. On the other hand the child had to obey his mother’s guidance in certain situations.
I welcome you, my smart blogging friends, to intervene in this situation. What would be a better way to handle this problem?
MY THREE HOUR BEST FRIEND
We were sitting in an opthalmologist’s office. We didn’t know each other; had never
seen each other before. She didn’t remind me of anyone I knew and didn’t even look
familiar. She probably didn’t shop at the same stores I shopped in, and didn’t send
her children to the same schools I did. This woman was a stranger.
She caught my eye and smiled. When I smiled back she said,
“An appointment at this office always means the sacrifice of half a day.”
“What’s the point of going through the pretense of making an appointment if they
never honor time?” I commiserated.
I wasn’t expecting to be chatting with a stranger in the waiting room. I preferred
discussing “real” issues that I cared about rather than having mindless, small talk. I
was happy to be left alone, look at my cell phone and catch up with the day’s
But my neighbor-in-waiting had other ideas about how to spend time while she
waited for her eyesight to be checked, examined and improved. Her idea was to tell
me her secrets. It must have been a cathartic experience for her, because she
launched right into some forbidden topics that can be told only to a total stranger.
One who doesn’t know you, who your friends are or who your family is. And
Someone you will never see again.
I fit that description perfectly.
Within a very short time she was describing her illicit affairs, the stresses therein
and the naughty, guilty escapes she seeks wherever she can. And what was my
reaction to these confessions?
Were they interesting? Did I care? Did I want her to continue? Was I drawn into her
story? Oh, yes I was!
She had the story teller’s natural gift of keeping her listeners spellbound and
fascinated. Nothing stopped her from talking, describing intimate details and
intriguing me in her compelling tone. I had no desire to tune out or interrupt her
Then, too soon, it was time to be seen. The nurse came into the waiting room, called
her name, and into the doctor’s office she followed. She abandoned me just at the
good part, leaving me to fill in the blanks. Soon thereafter my name was called and I
was led into a different examining room. And so, my exciting soap opera story teller
disappeared from my life as quickly as she had appeared.
I have heard that people sometimes feel safer and more comfortable telling their
most intimate secrets to total strangers than to a trusted friend. Perhaps you’ve
never had the experience of expressing your soul, your “authentic self” or revealed
your secrets to someone you didn’t know.
But I did.
It happened on a flight to Florida. I was traveling alone. At that time my life seemed
to be unfurling around me, and I felt unsettled and isolated. Assumptions I always
held to be true proved not to be true after all. People I once trusted turned out to be
untrustworthy. My foundations were crumbling, all was lost, and I was in a state of
The gentleman seated to my right must have picked up some of my agitated “vibes,”
because he gently started a conversation. Before I knew what I was saying I told him
my whole sad, troubled story. We spoke for the three hours it took to arrive at our
destination, from take-off to landing. He listened and responded by offering me
advice based on his own experience in a similar situation.
Although we exchanged secrets, there is one thing we never did exchange: our
names. I have no idea who he was and he doesn’t know me. But Mr. Anonymous
Traveler helped me that day more than anyone else in my real world could have.
I think of that time once in a while, and that kind, sensitive man. I hope that his life
came together as successfully as mine did.