- His name is Wally.
- He’s upstairs.
- Not in the car!
- No, Mommy! Wally’s not with us in the car!
- He’s upstairs!
- In the bathtub!
- He (Surprise, surprise) loves trucks.
- And lawnmowers!
- He is a fireman.
- He is Fireman Wally.
Larry’s gone from teaching high school English to teaching three different science classes this year—chemistry, biology and physical science. And frankly, I’m just not that happy about it. I mean, better him than me, since I wouldn’t know an amoeba if it swam up and asexually replicated in my face, but still. Science teachers are icky. Every science teacher I ever had wore ill-fitting pants with experiment stains, and a grubby rope connecting his belt loop to a mysterious bulge in his pocket. Even Mrs. Ballan.
And science teachers don’t smell good. They have calluses in funny places, and too many age spots. They hang around with beakers and microscopes all day, probing things.
So this year I find myself married to a science teacher. And he’s bringing his equipment home with him to practice. There’s a microscope (I keep accidentally referring to it as a telescope) in the middle of my kitchen table, and he’s been using it to study a hair. Beside our stove is a little jar of pond water. And last week he asked me if I had a piece of silk he could use for an experiment.
“I don’t wear anything silk,” I told him. “It’s an impractical fabric. And even if I did own a silk garment, I certainly wouldn’t cut it up so you could use it for a science experiment.”
“It could be anything. It doesn’t have to be a whole blouse or anything. I just need a little piece of silk to create some static electricity.”
“I don’t have any. Sorry.”
“Maybe I could find something silk at the dollar store.”
“Good luck with that. I hear they do a booming silk business there.”
“Well don’t you have a silk teddy or something?”
“You did not just say the words silk and teddy. What class did you say this was for?”
“Well, don't you?”
“I don’t have any teddies, silk or otherwise.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m pretty sure!”
“I thought you had a whole drawer of teddies.”
“Oh you mean like a secret teddy collection?”
“And even if my drawers were spilling over with silk teddies, do you think I would give you one to take to school? So you could teach a room full of teenage boys about electricity?”
“You make an interesting point.”
“You’re right. A teddy would be just the thing.”
Because Larry teaches special education, he gets his noble knickers in a twist when I refer to someone as stupid or retarded. So, I’ll just tell you about the “special needs” of the woman from cheaptickets.com who phoned to confirm our flight reservations.
Now that Gus is two, he no longer qualifies as a lap child, as far as the airlines are concerned. Actually, now that he’s two, he barely qualifies as a child. He’s more of a boy-monster hybrid, which I suppose is all the more reason to buy him his own seat. So, I booked him under his real name: Lawrence A. O’Brien. And I booked one for Larry under Lawrence T. O’Brien. Evidently the middle initials didn’t process on the Web form, so I got this phone call from the special needs woman:
Me: Hello, this is Amanda.
I answer the phone this way during the work week to save people the trouble of asking to speak to me. Not everyone finds it helpful.
Special Needs Woman: May I speak to Amanda O’Brien?
Me: This is she.
SNW: Yes, hello.
Me: Hi there.
SNW: Hi! I’m calling from Cheaptickets. I was trying to key in your reservation and the system won’t take two Lawrences with the same name.
Cerebral Cortex: Ding ding ding. Detecting special needs woman. Take two deep breaths and proceed to speak slowly, without irony.
Me: Well, one Lawrence is my husband. And the other one is my son.
SNW: Maybe if I key in their middle initials, the system will take it.
Me: Sure. My husband has the middle initial T, and my son has the middle initial A.
SNW: So, on the form, would it be the first Lawrence or the second one that has the T?
Me: The first one. The first one has the T.
SNW: And, so, the second one has the A then?
Me: Sounds good.
Long Awkward Pause as she searches her script for what to say next.
Me: So, are we all set?
SNW: Oh, yes.
Now watch and enjoy as I make one last critical mistake:
Me: Actually, while I have you on the line, we also have a six week old traveling as a lap child. Do you have a note for that on the reservation?
Cerebral Cortex: Alert! You have entered an illegal function. This may affect processing speeds. Do you want to restart?
Me: Yes please!
Cerebral Cortex: Ha! Too late.
SNW: Oh, well. Er. Um. I—don’t—Well, actually, you probably need to call customer service to see if you need to buy a ticket for that child.
Me: No, I shouldn’t need to buy a ticket for him. He’s six weeks old. He’s flying as a lap child. I just wondered if you needed to note it on the reservation.
SNW: Oh, well if he’s a lap child, you probably just have to pay taxes on him.
Cerebral Cortex: Temporal lobe has detected smell of utter bullshit. Time to disengage.
Me: Taxes? I don't think so, because I purchased him in the duty-free shop next to gate C-11. He looked so cute curled up between the chocolates and cigarettes, I couldn’t resist. But don’t worry. I’ll make sure to show my receipt when we check in. Thanks!
Amanda O'Brien is the author and sole proprietress of Blabbermouse, a blog she launched in February of 2005.