Tuesday, March 22, 2011

absit iniuria verbis

Communication.  It can be difficult.  Here is just one example of the many troubles I've had.

While waiting my turn holding a Chinet™ paper plate and plastic fork I stood in the hot sun and humidity in a long line at a summertime buffet along several tables of generous offerings for a potluck of picnic foods.  There was country ham, burgers, hot dogs, sausage & peppers, a variety of salads including garden, Jell-O™, and endless varieties of macaroni or marinated bean, and typically, there was the ubiquitous potato salad of every culinary variety known to North Americans.

I am usually wary at potlucks if I don't know the cooks or the cleanliness of their kitchens, and I was especially wary as these heaping vessels sat exposed in the sun and heat.  My mind's eye replayed my grade-eight science class movie about germs and bacteria, and I saw the teeming micro-organisms dividing and multiplying exponentially as Monsieur Pasteur narrated the growing potential for food poisoning the longer the uncovered dishes sat and the line slowly progressed.  I was making my selections very carefully with an uneasy feeling on an empty stomach.

I made step-by-step advances and noticed as several people bailed from the line and simply cut in with quick precision to grab a scoop of whatever caught their eye to plop it onto their plate and exit again without interrupting the flow.  I chose to follow suit.

Having spied a dish sitting in a small portion of shade, I made my choice and slid in line next to a woman whose plate was piled high with several large portions of a wide variety of dishes.  She reached for the serving spoon from the same bowl full of the shimmering molten mayonnaise and macaroni salad that I had cut in line next to her to serve myself. 

Now, let's pause for an expository passage:

We watch a LOT of movies.  We have favourites in every genre whether foreign, independent, a Hollywood blockbuster, or a clip from a little known gem.  We watch movies, rate them, discuss them, enjoy them, recommend them, love to hate them, seek out soundtracks from our top picks -- and we quote from them.
A lot.

For example:

Nell, starring Jodie Foster who plays a girl who was brought up in a cottage in the forest.  Her character had never met anyone and spoke a kind of language that she developed learning from her speech-impaired stroke-victim mother.  Moviegoers get to understand some of her mangled English during the movie.  We adopted one: "Ehbadee"; her word for 'every day'. I use it a lot.

Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman playing Raymond Babbitt, an autistic savant.  We use Raymond's line, "I'm an excellent driver" (it's very useful) and "UH-Oh, VERN, V-E-R-N!", when something goes slightly wrong such as a messy spill, or when we're unsure in a tense situation like when a scary dog advances; "82, 82, 82" (when Raymond immediately counts a box of spilled toothpicks) when we have to quickly add anything out loud -- a couple of us in the family seriously struggle with math.

Now, back to the picnic.

My line companion was a large woman.  Not just overweight, but one that a responsible doctor would accurately chart as morbidly obese.  She schlucked her selection of the mayonnaise and macaroni concoction off the spoon mounting it onto an already filled plate and was about to return the spoon to the bowl when she looked at me as I waited my turn.  She motioned the spoon, speechlessly saying, "want some?"   I nodded and held my empty plate forward, so she scooped and shook off approximately a half cup portion onto my plate and immediately scooped a second spoonful and motioned to drop a second helping on top of the first.  I shook my head and said.

"That'll do, pig."

Movie:  Babe; the story of a runt piglet on Hoggett's farm who trains as a shepherd dog -- Farmer Hoggett uses sheep-dog training commands to teach the pig using phrases such as "come-bye", "away-to-me" and "that'll do".  A famous line repeated throughout the movie especially in the final scene, "That'll do, Pig."

The woman snapped her head and looked at my face.  I immediately realized that in this situation, it was not an appropriate time to make that particular movie quote, and so I then blurted out:

"Oh, not that YOU'RE a pig."

She frowned and continued to look at me, remaining speechless.

So I continued, stumbling with words, stammering, becoming breathless (I can fix this!)

"It's from a movie, about a PIG! We quote from movies all the time......it's a quote from the movie, BABE; the pig's name.  I wasn't saying you're a pig.....or calling you a pig....." The word PIG ringing hard and jarring each time I repeated it.

She put the spoon back in the bowl, and walked away from me, mid-sentence.  She never said a word.  I felt helpless and humiliated.  I remember I had to physically close my still-open mouth and with tunnel vision, rejoined my family.  

Regrettably, I have quite a number of other incidents to tell about in this blog-entry category, but for now,

That'll do, pig.

1 comment:

  1. *snerk*
    Reminds me of the time I asked a woman I barely knew (wife of husband's co-worker) when she was due. She wasn't pregnant. We did not become friends.