When we have children we all hope they will inherit our good traits, and tactfully sidestep the bad ones, right? We know they’ll probably inherit our eyes and toes, just as we did from our ancestors. But nobody hopes they will pass along the knack for saying the wrong thing, as if Lucy Ricardo chromosomes are actually in our family tree.
Nicole, of course, has a milder form of this than I do. She doesn’t say the wrong thing so much as she is heard incorrectly. Here is what happened to her in grade school, a story I included in my book, Funeral Potatoes—the Novel.
Several Buddhist monks had come over from Tibet to proselyte in the schools. How they got a grant to do this is anybody’s guess, but there they were, heads shaved, standing there in sandals and saffron-colored robes, telling the assembled fourth graders that if they came to Tibet they’d receive food, housing, and calm spirits.
They would also get to play a musical instrument that, according to Nicole, sounded like a vacuum cleaner.
Soon came question-and-answer time. Various students raised their hands to ask the monks about their studies, their clothing, their favorite foods.
Now Nicole, a HUGE animal lover, raised her hand and asked, “Are you allowed to have pets?”
Only the monk didn’t hear her exactly right. He got only the short vowel sound of the e, and thought she said something else. And, I might interject, it does make you wonder what’s really on these guys’ minds. So he said, “Oh, no, we’re not allowed to have sex,” and the entire assembly, teachers included, burst into laughter. Nicole, needless to say, was mortified.
One might think it couldn’t get any worse, but the monk then continued, wagging his finger and elaborating on why there would be “none of that,” until Nicole was forced to shout, “I said PETS!”
Everyone was still in stitches as the monk just calmly went on to say there were a few cows wandering about, and maybe a dog or two.
But it was too late to salvage the moment, and the entire school was red-faced and giggly.
Except for me. I was biting my lip and realizing that a string of embarrassing moments had just blossomed before my eyes, and would roll on in a series of events Nicole would have to endure and explain for the rest of her life. Maybe she’d put them in novels and plays, or blog about them someday. At any rate, I fear the die is cast and she will need tolerance and patience to cope with what lies ahead. She’ll also need a thick journal and a really good writing pen.
If you think being misunderstood is bad, wait until you read my next blog, about saying the wrong thing at most definitely the wrong time.