(original post date: April 20, 2011)
Several years ago, I entered a small jewelry store in my neighborhood. The establishment harked back to another time and was probably passed on from one generation to the next. I had gone there to see if the proprietor might be able to repair an antique travel alarm clock that I had purchased at a flea market. The clock had worked quite well for a while, but then it decided to rebel.
While the store owner examined the timepiece, my eyes scanned her small shop, and one of the first things I noticed was a sign: Watch Batteries Repaired While You Wait.
I guess I’m verb-oriented, because my interpretation of that sign was this: If I wanted to, I could watch the proprietor repair batteries while I waited!
(Can you imagine a more entertaining afternoon?)
Interpretation is so subjective.
I have another story on this score, and this one comes from my years in New York. I had been browsing at the Coliseum bookstore, which used to be among the retail features of Columbus Circle. It was probably November or so, because I had stocking stuffers in mind. I quickly noticed a title that would have been appropriate for any member of my family. The title implied a deep devotion (if not outright addiction) to cats.
As I studied the cover illustration, however, I felt confused. There was an elderly person lying in what appeared to be a hospital bed, and surrounding that bed were several people. Those in plain clothes were undoubtedly family.
There also was a nurse and a priest.
But where was the cat?
I looked at how the bedsheets and blanket were arranged over the person lying there. I looked for a lump, figuring the cat must be under the covers.
Then, I returned to the title of the book, and I realized it was Catholics.
(Which explains the priest, of course.)
… There also was a time in between those two incidents – after New York and before I moved to my current neighborhood. I was married to a man whom I’ve previously mentioned in this blog, and since I called him Ben in an earlier essay, we’ll just stick with that…
Anyway, Ben loved to visit a part of California that is about four hours north of Los Angeles, just at the foot of Mount Whitney. There are rock formations there that are awesome, and the landscape is generally, well… what can I say, the dude’s a photographer, and there was no end to the possibilities. So we made the trip together a few times. He’d spend the weekend shooting pictures, and I’d sit by the pool, reading and taking in the remarkable air. Then, we’d meet for dinner and enjoy the quiet, rustic atmosphere of this extremely small town in the middle of nothing but almighty geography.
Once, while doing the drive (which would often begin at the end of a work-week and end close to midnight), we found ourselves behind a particular car, and because we were on a two-lane highway at that point, we remained behind that car for more than a few miles.
And this placement led to some improvisation.
For, you see, the license plate that we were trailing said this: OH BOB
I think Ben started the spontaneous game…
In the tone of a woman who is beyond impressed with a certain individual’s manhood, he exclaimed, “Ohhh Bob!”
I replied, using the clenched-teeth delivery of a wife who has once again found a non-dishwasher safe utensil in that very appliance. “Oh Bob.”
Ben took his turn, imitating a woman who was probably waving flirtatiously from across the room, “Oh, Bo-obb!”
My next entry was scolding, the type of admonition one might use when embarrassed by the inappropriateness of her partner: “Oh, BOB!”
Ben was still in another world. Possibly post-coital. His character sounded quite breathless and was undoubtedly reaching for a cigarette when she sighed, “Oh… Bob…”
When I responded, I sounded more like some 1950’s housewife who’s standing at the bottom of a suburban staircase, her arms folded at her chest. “Oh Bo-obb,” my character chanted, not at all pleased.
I don’t know how many more rounds we went, but it was good to get these feelings out of our systems.
It also was good to reach the changing lane so that we could move on to the next improvisation.