Friday, February 19, 2010

Killing Me Softly With His Song

My husband is mostly deaf. I don’t mean in the way that most men are, where they can hear you but they just don’t listen to you. I mean in the way that both of us will have to learn sign-language at some point or just stop talking all together. It is frustrating, not because I have to repeat myself all the time, but because my husband is a liar. He will pretend he heard me and instead of saying, “What was that, I didn’t hear you?” He will say, “Oh, uh-huh.” Mostly he just smiles and nods. Which makes me think he is encouraging me to talk, when really he doesn’t have any idea what I am saying; it is all static to him and I think he is actually a little happy that he can’t hear me.

The deafness is most noticeable when he listens to the radio and starts singing along. It is like a new song every time he sings it. One time he sang these words, “Bingo jaaay eh lina . . .”
“What are you singing?”
“The song that is playing on the radio.”
“You mean ‘Big Old Jet Airliner’?”
“Is that what the words are?”
“Oh . . . I thought it was French.”

Luckily, when my husband starts to sing along to a song there aren’t many people around. Although I am not sure many folks could decipher what he was singing about anyway.

“Black berry souffle, the kind you find in a bakery store, black berry souffle, I think I loooooove fur!”
“What song are you singing now?”
“Blackberry souffle?”
“It is actually called ‘Rasberry Beret’”
“Is that what they are saying?”
“Yes, the kind you find in a second hand store.”
“I thought they were talking about pie. What is a Raspberry beret?”
“A hat.”
“A fruit hat?!”
“No, a purple hat.”
“Well that is a dumb thing to sing about, I liked my words better.”
“I’m sorry, but it is about falling in love with a girl who wears a purple hat.”
“Well I got news for you, men don’t fall in love with girls in purple hats, they fall in love with girls who make pies. I hope you know you have ruined this song for me forever.”

I once asked my husband what is the worst thing about not being able to hear and he said . . . “Huh?” My husband is actually 75% deaf in certain frequencies and 100% deaf in the frequency of my voice. When he doesn’t do things that I ask him to, he always has the same excuse, “Sorry, I didn’t hear you.” But if I say those magical words that every man longs to hear, “Who wants the last piece of cake?” He can always hear me with astounding clarity. It is a mystery.

He once got out of the car humming this little ditty . . .
“Welcome to our Jungle, we got grass and weeds. We got little dandelion puffs, way up past our knees. In our jungle, welcome to our jungle can you hand me the round-up p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-please?”
“What song is that?”
“Welcome to the Jungle, by Guns N’ Roses.”
“Uh, that is the name of the song. But those aren’t the words.”
“Now, I know you are wrong about this one.”
“You think ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ is about yard care?”
“Yes, it is manly.”
“That song is actually about living in the city, and it is a terrible, dirty song.”
“Well, when I sing it,it is about mowing. So you should thank me. Because I made it into a song about the joys of lawn maintenance. I bet everyone starts singing it my way. In the jungle, my little suburban jungle, where an edger would be sw-sw-sw-sw-sw-sweeeeeet.”
“Stop singing.”
“Kinda catchy isn’t it?”
“Just stop.”

My husband’s singing gives new meaning to the words ‘tone deaf.’ I can’t count the number of times I have told him to turn up his miracle ear—but alas, he has none. I have tried to convince him that he needs a hearing aid, but he does not agree. He hears ‘enough’ he says. Besides, if everything was louder how would he sleep in church—the sermon would be too distracting? If he did have a hearing aid he might be surprised at how much he has been missing.

“There are all these classic songs that you have been “singing” for years and I bet you don’t even know what they are really about.”
“Oh sure I do. Go ahead, quiz me.”
“Ok, how about Michael Jackson’s Thriller?”
“Easy, electric shock.”
“What? Where did you come up with that?”
“The video. Everyone in the video looks like they have been shocked with some type of high voltage equipment. They dance like they have been electrocuted. See I don’t need to hear every little thing to know what is going on.”
“Help me Jesus.”
“Nothing. Ok, what about Karma Chameleon by Boy George?”
“That little gecko that does the Geico commercials.”
“The Longest Time by Billy Joel?”
“A day at the DMV.”
“Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on me?”
“Cat’s in the Cradle by Harry Chapin?”
“Pet Ownership.”
“Hot blooded by Foreigner?”
“Swine Flu. Just admit it, I hear well enough to get by.”

That is when it hit me. He hasn’t been missing a thing. All those thoughts (and I use the term ‘thoughts’ loosely) rattling around in his head are better than what is really on the radio. So go ahead and sing it babe! Sing out loud, sing out strong, sing out proud and . . . sing it wrong.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Total Recall

Boy this Toyota recall thing is getting a lot of press. I haven’t figured out why. Maybe because the recall is so widespread, or maybe because it is such a surprise that something could be manufactured in this day and age that doesn’t work the way it should, and can actually kill people. Thank goodness this is an isolated incident . . . that has never happened in the car world before . . . because this is nothing like the Pinto gas bomb or the recent GM recall of 1.5 million cars for possible engine fires . . .

When I was kid, every car that my family owned had at least one serious thing wrong with it. I still have nightmares thinking of all the warnings I received as a child about each and every one of our vehicles. “Don’t roll the window down or we won’t be able to roll it up. Don’t forget to keep a coat hanger under the seat in case the lock gets stuck or you will have to climb out the window. And no matter what--never, ever lean against the handle in the back seat, or it might come open.”

Of course, I never took these warnings seriously, I was a kid I wasn’t in charge of safety standards. Then, one day, my sister leaned against the door handle of our Chevy Impala and fell out while we were driving across a busy intersection. Luckily, I know how to remain calm under pressure, so without a second to spare I coolly alerted the driver as I watched my sister roll helplessly into on-coming Traffic. It went something like this “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! TERESA!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Of course I did pause momentarily thinking this might not be totally bad, I could finagle my own room out of it, but I took the high road, I had to do the right thing. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! TUCK AND ROLL TERESA! TUCK AND ROLL! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Let me tell you, a poignant moment like that sticks with a person, and I have never leaned on a car door since.

But really, what is all the recall ruckus about; it isn’t like this is the first in the history of automobiles? Over the years I have owned at least 10 cars that tried to kill me and most of them have, or should have, been on a recall list. I have a personal vendetta against the dodge K car—it doesn’t run right—K? What about Fiat, and any Datsun ever made, or the Delorean—otherwise known as the tin can with wings? What’s that? Not enough evidence you say? Well how about the Fiesta, the Festiva, the Rabbit, the Escort, the Jetta. Puhleez, I can think of 50 cars that had worse problems then this hybrid debacle and I have survived every one of them—I have the scars to prove it!

Cars today have so many features, it is no wonder the important parts don’t work. They have DVD players, satellite radio, air-conditioning, heated seats, air bags and windshield wipers for crying out loud. I never even had anything but AM radio in a car until 1999. This is particularly traumatizing since I was a social pariah for nothing more than knowing all the words to show tunes and being the only 10 year-old in my neighborhood who thought “The Shadow” was quality programming, but I digress. A few more cars from my past –the Vega, the Pinto, the El Camino, need I say more? Ok one more, the Brat. Hello?! How come no one complained about that car? Otherwise known as the mullet of the car world; business in the front, party in the back, all garbage.

I also happened to be an unsuspecting victim of the Yugo. Now there is a car that should have been recalled. I am almost positive that somewhere in the owner’s manual of that car it said the following “going over a speed bump will crack the engine block” and “reaching speeds of more than 10 miles an hour will cause this car to spontaneously burst into flames” and “good luck explaining this car to a date.”

Now there is some guy who is making the Yugo for the new millennium. It is called the Tata Nano and it costs less than the Yugo did 30 years ago. That means, adjusted for inflation, the Tata Nano is worth about twenty five cents or .0000000001 Euros (ten cents Canadian.) The premise of this Tata Nano is that it is inexpensive and everyone will be able to own one—kind of like Happy Meal toys—we all get one whether we have room in the landfill or not. But don’t worry; if you are a lover of the original Yugo it is still available in gumball machines in the greater Los Angeles area, if I am not mistaken.

The part that I find hardest to believe is that no one saw this recall trouble coming from a hybrid? Doesn’t hybrid mean--part car, part rickshaw? I can imagine the conversation when purchasing a vehicle like that—“Do the bicycle tires come standard and what about the hand pump? So the windshield is 100% poly coated Plexiglas? Awesome! The engine is made from recycled green bean cans and a motor from a Conair hair dryer? Sweet! So are the training wheels included in the floor model? Oh, only on the deluxe models—bummer.”

Seriously, the hybrid gets 8000 miles to the gallon and is constructed mostly out of biodegradable plastic bubble wrap and Elmer’s glue and no one suspected it might have mechanical problems? I have seen this type of mystification before. In the 80’s it seemed like auto makers had some sort of axe to grind with the public, but it was actually just the Aqua Net and White Rain fumes making everyone light headed and those 4 inch shoulder pads gave folks inflated self-confidence. It became the decade of bad decisions. Today I think we can blame the same types of purchasing/manufacturing problems on global warming and those skinny jeans cutting off oxygen to the brain.

People are just wimpy these days, they recall everything. Strollers that fold up spontaneously with the child still in it, parts that come off of toys and become a choking hazard, lead paint causing brain damage, appliances that try and take over cities, etc. These were not considered problems in 1985 it was called ‘thinning the herd.’ Now we are all so used to surviving until middle age that we have become soft. We all just need to toughen up and get with the program. I mean, I don’t think I am the only one who rolled around unfettered in the back seat of a Caprice Classic because the seatbelts were scrunched up somewhere in the joint of the seat. And, even if we could find them, the only thing we ever used them for was to secure a TV we were hauling. That was life. We went to the emergency room, we got our CAT scan and our plaster casts and we moved on. We got back in our 4-horse death machine and we let it ride. Cuz if you are going to go out in a blaze of glory, you might as well do it in style, behind the wheel of a 2 cylinder, 2 door hatchback, with oxidized paint, miss-matched interior, a glove box that doesn’t open or close and a gear-shift that won’t go into reverse . . . thank you car maker’s for bringing back the good ol’ days.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Seen and Heard?

I have read a glut of parenting books and articles and one thing they all have in common is that they encourage parents to talk to their kids. What I want to know is: why?

If you are a grown person and you try to talk to a child only one thing will happen, you will have an overwhelming desire to impale yourself on a sharp object. Trust me, a 20-minute conversation with a 5-year-old will get you thinking about your own demise and praying it will be soon. I have actually been in the throes of a deep conversation with my son about bazooka's and spit and found myself fantisizing about dropping a toaster in my own bath water. I don't want to be gruesome, but there is only so much time one can spend conversing about poop that resembles a brown golf ball before you want to take your own life. I speak the truth.

Even the most innocent conversation with a child can turn ugly in a second.

Them: "Ellie lost a tooth at school today."

Me: "Well good for her! That is great!"

Them: "It is not good, it is sad. because I didn't lose a tooth."

Me: "Oh honey, your teeth will come out when they are ready."

Them: "I gave it time. Everyone in my class has lost a tooth except me. I am the only one who has not lost a tooth!"

Me: "Don't worry sweetheart, it will happen soon, I promise."

Them: "Well it better, cuz I really need the money!"

Even when I try to talk to my children about serious issues, like avoiding kidnappers and staying off of drugs, my admonitions are met with some resistance.

Me: "So boys, what would you do if someone you didn't know told you to get in their car?"

Them: "Here we go again . . . *sigh*"

Me: "Because I don't want you to go near anyone's car, especially someone you don't know. What should you do?"

Them: "Mom, did you watch some news story about somebody getting kidnapped in Topeka or something? Have you been watching 'America's Most Wanted' again?"

Me: "That is not relevant. And besides it was about someone getting taken in Akron. Regardless, this is serious. This could save your life! Now think, what would you do?"

Them: "Uh, is the answer the same as the last 50 times you asked me?"

Me: "Ok, let's try this a different way. What would you do if someone came up to you in a park and asked you to help them look for a lost dog?"

Them: "Well, if it was in the park, then I would say no. But, if it was in our neighborhood I would go ahead and go with them and asked to be paid in Kool-Aid, because you never let us have Kool-Aid and it is delicious. And then, I would punch them in the stomach."

Me: "What?! No! That is not what you are supposed to do!"

Them: "Ok, then I would grab a missile launcher and shoot them in the eye and then I would turn into a Transformer and fly into space and I would get my Autobot friends and we would destroy the evil people! And then I would find the lost dog and take him home and name him Turtle."

Me: "What . . . ?! No, no, no! That is not what I have told you to do! But before we continue, just for my own peace of mind, why 'Turtle'?"

Them: "I just think it would be a good name for a dog."

One of the articles I read recently on the web at by Meline Kevorkian (yes, that is her real name) said that there is "power in choice" and "When you are talking to your children, give them a choice whenever possible. Allow them to feel you are talking with them and asking them rather than at them and telling them." The article made it sound so easy. So I decided to give it a try, and you know what, I don't think my kids read that article because there seems to be a slight disconnect somewhere.

Me: "What do you want to get your cousin for her birthday?"

Them: "I don't know."

Me: "Do you want to get her this?"

Them: "I don't care."

Me: "Well you can browse and select something you want to give her. Would you like to pick something?"

Them: "Not really."

Me: "Would you like me to pick out a few things and you can narrow it down?"

Them: "Whatever."

Me: "Ok, what about these three things, which do you think she would like best?"

Them: "It doesn't matter."

Me: "This one is pink and that is her favorite color, but this one is metallic and kind of funky and this one has sparkles which is also a plus. What do you think?"

Them: "Either way."

Me: "So pink, funky, or sparkles?"

Them: "Mom, who cares?! Let's just get the one you are holding, go pay for it and go home."

Me: "Good idea, thanks for helping me. I sure appreciated your input. So . . . what do you want to have for dinner?"

I don't like to beat around the bush so I am just going to say it, those parenting experts are wrong. Mostly because of how they define talking. When they put things in print like "talk to your children, but mostly listen" they are implying there is something to listen to that sounds more like actual words and less like evolutionary gutteral mumbling. I once had a child therapist tell the group of us in a parenting class to "ask questions and be open to hearing what your child has to say." I am open, but last time I checked the dictionary "hmmmpf" accompanied by a shoulder shrug is not real speech.

Me: "So how was school today?"

Them: "Fine."

Me: "Did anything interesting happen?"

Them: "No."

Me: "How are your friends doing?"

Them: "Good."

Me: "Did you have a math test today?"

Them: "Yes."

Me: "How did it go?"

Them: "Ok."

Me: "Anything you want to tell me or talk to me about?"

Them: "Nope."

Me: "Are you doing drugs?"

Them: "No."

Me: "Have you been abducted by aliens?"

Them: "No."

Me: "Did you change your underwear this morning?"

Them: "Yes."

Me: "Do you know that I love you?"

Them: "Yes mom. (eye roll) And I love you too."

Me: "Good, I am glad we had this talk."

Regardless of how discouraging it can be though, I say keep on trying. Maybe the 'talking to your kids' thing isn't such a bad idea after all. Eventually someday you might see a glimmer of hope like I did. Of course it could just be the sun glinting off your bumper as they drive away in your car. . . Either way, if it turns out they really don't want to talk, you can always text them.