Monday, October 5, 2009

Conversation 411

I was reading Billy Coffey's guest post on Hey Look A Chicken today, and found myself remembering....

"The king is a big man, but he still can't eat his cookies with a shovel."

Some of you may recognize this as a Hungarian proverb. I suspect that if you recognize it, it is because I have dropped that little ditty in comments on various blogs over almost two years. I haven't exactly been spamming blogs with that saying, but when asked favorite quotations, BAM! That one is right up there. My daddy thought he taught it to me when I was a little girl. I could recite it when I was eight. I don't think I understood it until I say my daddy demonstrate it when I was twenty-two.

Mom was convinced that I'd have a better chance getting a job teaching in the neighborhood if we went to neighborhood meetings. That is NOT how it works in Chicago, but my general philosophy on life has always been, "when possible, humor mom." So the three of us, mom, dad, and I, started going to neighborhood improvement association meetings. It was about stuff like keeping people from littering in the park, to encouraging folks to plant flowers in front of their house. There were also mitten and coat drives, stuff like that. I am sure something like this exists where you live. Doesn't it exist everywhere?

Well, the meeting portion of the evening is over, and the cookies and juice part is about to begin. I was surprised to run into one of the professors from the University I just graduated from. (I went to a "Commuter School". No dorm for me. I lived at home and took the bus everyday to classes, just like when I was in High School.) Here mom, dad and I were sitting down with a professor and his wife, who for all I know may have been a professor, too.

Now, my daddy used to read a lot, but he had not been to college. When he came to America, he went to trade school. My daddy was able to fix electrical stuff, plumbing, do carpentry kind of stuff around the house. He was a machinist, and I was very proud of his abilities. But what on earth could he talk about with an anthropology professor?

HRM: Professor McIntosh, this is my daddy, Frank, and my mom, Helen.
Professor: Nice to meet you. I'm Andy, and this is my wife Mabel.
Daddy: Nice to meet you.
Mom: Lovely neighborhood.
Mabel: Oh yes!
Daddy: Have you lived here long?
Professor: No. We just moved in a couple of months ago.
Daddy: Really? Make sure you go for walks east of Keeler Avenue on Carmen. You can't get there by car, but it is really a beautiful area of the park, very much separated from the play area and field house, as it is across Foster Avenue.
Professor: Really? Are dogs allowed there? I have a ......

You can picture the rest, I'm sure. It is what communication experts refer to as a "conversation". It seems I underestimated both the professor, and my daddy. I seem to have somehow thought that just because up until now, I had never seen Professor McIntosh outside of his professional setting, that he couldn't talk about anything except anthropology, and that dad would not be able to hold his own talking with such a well educated man.

Silly Helen! Experience and empathy made Daddy ten times better at conversing with anyone than I was....

I was a very, very foolish young woman. Daddy and the professor had a nice long chat. The life experiences of anthropology professors is a lot like our own. Apparently they take walks in the neighborhood, and pick up dog poop, much the same way machinists and their families do (or would if they didn't have a daughter who was allergic to dog hair...)

Come on and join Wendy's life is funny blog carnival. She isn't fussy about whether you mean hilarious, strange, or just a good time.


Annie K said...

I'm a firm believer that college can't teach life. Or common sense.

Great story Helen!

Wendy said...

Okay, I have yet to receive that little ditty in my comment section. I feel strangely left out now. And I wonder what it would be like to eat cookies with a shovel... Nom nom nom!

jasonS said...

I don't remember that saying either, but I like it.

We're all just people when you strip everything away. Well, then we're naked people. :)

katdish said...

So much of what we worry about never happens. And I love the cookies with a shovel quote.

Joanne Sher said...

I just LOVE the proverb too. Will have to remember it! And a great story.

Billy Coffey said...

Ah Helen, that was so good! Said much better than I could ever manage.

Beth said...

Billy's right. You tell stories and tie them in with a theme just so very well!