A Lack of Social Graces
Sherri and Roger are good people; in their seventies, a kind and caring couple for the most part. But we all have quirks. They have theirs, and I have mine. You know it’s true. I have never been accused of being a patient man; I can tolerate a ton of shit up to a point, but when it reaches my knees, and I cannot take any more, I become The Hulk. But, I try to do it quietly, and without turning green. I usually don’t embarrass the person I am broiled about, and in so doing, I do not embarrass myself. Most of the time. There are occasions when the shit has gotten up to my eyeballs, and then all hell breaks loose. Well, Sherri is a dear person, and a friend, I like to think. But man, she frosts my nuts sometimes. On several occasions, we have spent two nights at their home in Georgia, and they have spent two nights or more with us in Connecticut, one time a week-and-a-half. Two nights at their place is all I can tolerate, and then I'm ready to bolt. Her husband, Roger, is a good guy too, a Mensch. He still owns his own successful CPA business, and dotes on his wife. She needs him. She has ailments, major ones like you wouldn’t believe, and he is very attentive. But man, she can be annoying.
Here’s a brief explanation of the things she does that annoy me. Patience, patience! She’s as deaf as a fucking potato and refuses to wear her $10,000 hearing aids. “I don’t like them,” she whines. Every conversation with her is interspersed with “What?” after every sentence. You have to say everything at least twice. We have learned to direct our queries to Roger, who has a way of interpreting the stuff to Sherri. We have learned not to ask many questions, though. When we sit down to watch a little TV, maybe the news or a movie, on Carole’s large screen TV, Sherri somehow always rules the remote. A disaster. She’s got the sound up so loud, you can hear the fucking thing two blocks away. I’m afraid it’s damaging my hearing, which is slightly limited as it is. Jesus. Roger usually intercedes, and Sherri sits there like a sulking lump of clay while the three of us watch TV with the sound subdued enough that she can't hear it. "PUT YOUR HEARING AIDS IN FOR GOD'S SAKE," I want to scream.
Breakfast each of the mornings: they like bagels and donuts for breakfast. Who doesn’t? I go out and buy a dozen of each before anyone else is even out of bed. I mix them up pretty good, getting at least six varieties of each. I know how fussy Sherri is. I get back to the house, and I hear our guests are up already. I can hear them talking in their bedroom behind the closed door. I put the coffee on. I know it will be a long wait. He is moving about, helping her with her meds and morning ablutions. Good guy, like I said. In maybe forty-five minutes, they make their way to the kitchen for breakfast. As I said, she’s fussy. Beyond fussy, in my book. “You got any cream for my coffee?” “No, just half-and-half.” “Oh. I hate that stuff. How can you drink it?” “Well, we like it.” Oh. You don’t have any cream? Any real stuff, I mean?” The inane conversation is sprinkled throughout with “What?” And it isn’t only today this happens. If they are here for four days, it happens each and every morning; the same conversation. Yeh!
After looking the bagels over carefully, you can bet your tuckus I didn’t get the right ones, the kind that she likes. “Oh. You didn’t get an onion bagel. That’s the only kind I like.” “No, I didn’t know that’s the only kind you like. Do you want me to go out and get one for you?” Patience! She thinks about it, and I’m like, you gotta be fucking kidding. If she thinks I’m going back out for that, she’s got another think coming. “No. I’ll just eat one of these. I don’t want to put you out.” Arrrghhh! She actually has three bagels that morning, well, two and a half bagels, anyway. The ones she didn’t like. But what does she do? She takes each bagel, and with two fingers, pulls out all and discards the entire insides, leaving only the crusts of the bagels, the outer shells. I gotta turn my head every time she does this. Don’t say it. Don’t say it. The third bagel she takes, she reaches over to the stack of them sitting on the large plate where I have placed them, and breaks it in half, leaving half on the serving plate. Help me, Lord!
Done with the bagels, she starts on the donuts. Now, you would think I am describing an obese person, but the truth is, she is a skinny little thing. We go through a similar scenario with the donuts as we did with the bagels. I didn’t get the one kind of donut she likes. What? I didn’t get the one kind she likes. What? Yadda, yadda, yadda. She eats one donut. After all, she doesn’t like them. But then, she proceeds to break another donut in the box in half. Who the fuck is going to pick up the remaining half if they feel like having a donut? Adding to her misfire on this one, she polishes off that half donut and breaks another different half donut from the box. Now there are two half donuts in there. Take me now, Lord. But breakfast is only a prelude of what’s to come. At lunch, another social faux pas emanates. Each of us has three or four items on our plates. Sherri has her own selections, and it is very limited what she can have, so it is sparse because of her allergies and foods she has to stay away from. No one else at the table has food issues. So, Sherri, weak-will-powered-Sherri, simply reaches over to my plate as I am eating, and takes a forkful of something she is not supposed to be eating. I nearly shit. She does it again and again, using my plate, Carole’s plate, and Roger's plate. I just cannot believe it, but I say nothing. Worse, she dips her fork or spoon into the serving bowls of veggies and potatoes. We serve dessert, a chocolate trifle with berries, and whipped cream. Yum! She cannot eat it because the berries have seeds, so only the three of us take a glom of the stuff. But, you guessed it. Sherri takes the spoon that she has been eating with and dips it into my dessert, pushing the berries aside because they have seeds. She repeats the process with the others at the table and then hits the serving bowl. I am beside myself. I still can’t believe it. Mortified, I must think of a solution to prevent this from reoccurring, and I decide that as long as they are here, we will go out for meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That should do it, right?
Wrong. After that awful lunch that day, I get everyone to agree that it’s easier to go out for dinner, so we hop in my car to leave. She whines that she has to ride up front with me because the back seat gives her vertigo. What the hell? Will this shit never end? Okay, I think, stay calm. This too, shall pass. I drive to the center of town and park in front of a wonderful Italian restaurant, one that Carole and I go to often. Sherri asks, "Where are we going?" "Right here," I say. "This is Joey Garlic's, a wonderful restaurant." “What kind of food do they serve?" "Huh? Oh, it's mostly American style, steaks, chops, burgers, you name it." "No. I don't want to go here. Let's go somewhere else. I prefer ethnic.” Roger’s not saying a word, probably thinking, aha! Now it’s your turn; I get it all the time. I suggest three other places. None of them are ethnic enough for Sherri. Mexican? Nope. Italian? Nope. Chinese? Nope. I’m at wit’s end now, and Carole comes to the rescue. “Why don’t we try that new Thai place down on Hopmeadow Street?” Sherri jumps at the suggestion. “Yeah, we’ll go there,” not can we go there? We settle upon that, and I'm relieved. When we finally get our meals, Sherri winds up sampling all four of them once again, and digging into the serving platters too, this time with her own fork. Actually, she started the forage into our food using her chopsticks, but was dropping shit all over the place. I gently said, "Gee, Sherri. Why don't you use a fork?" I was worried the fork wasn't ethnic enough for her. Thank God she took my advice.
I rationalize the situation, and think, it’s only a little while longer, and they’ll be gone. They’ve been Carole’s friends for more than forty years. I’m not going to bust up that friendship, nor will I even try. I shut up and smile.