Jeffry P. Lindsay
"Don’t Let The Teamsters Onto The Off-White Carpet"
I have this really great famous saying in my head that I want to start with today. The problem is that everything in my head this morning is under a very thick layer of sludge, because I was awake all night. But the famous saying goes something like this: "Anybody who wants to be president should automatically be disqualified from holding the office." Another problem is that I forgot who said this. I think it was either Mark Twain or Groucho Marx, and because my head is filled with sludge right now I am having a hard time telling them apart. I remember they both had big bushy mustaches and smoked cigars, and they both said very funny things. I am pretty sure that Mark Twain never tried to kiss Margaret Dumont, but that’s the only difference I can think of right now and I might be wrong.
But this column is not about presidential politics. Although after this last election I think the same saying should apply: Anyone who actually wants to write about that stuff should be automatically forced to kiss Margaret Dumont, or whatever it was. I forget; like I said, my head is filled with sludge right now. The real point is that this great saying by Mark Twain or Groucho Marx – or maybe it was Frank Zappa, he had a mustache – this wonderful wise saying really and truly ought to apply to kids, too. Anybody who wants them obviously either doesn’t know what they’re in for or if they do and they want ‘em anyway, they’re mentally incompetent to raise anything more complicated than maybe a few one-celled bacteria in the grout around the bath tub.
No, when you think about having kids you must always remember that great Latin motto; "In loco parentis." Which means, you have to be crazy to be a parent. And it’s in Latin, which really ought to count for something, because the Latins were very smart people. After all, they could speak Latin.
Just one small example of loco parentis is seen in our house. The people we bought it from had kids, and yet they installed off-white wall-to-wall carpet all over the house. Is this the act of a sane and rational parent? I don’t think so. There is no way kids and white carpet can live together in harmony. And to really get down to the point, the most recent example of this obvious truth came last night at around 11:30 when Pookie, my four year-old, came to the door of our bedroom, announced that she didn’t feel very well, and then almost immediately did something that can only be described as volcanic.
My first thought was that standing behind her there had to be a group of very large Teamsters coming in from a long night of eating donuts with meat sauce, because what Pookie spewed onto the carpet was about eight times bigger than she is.
This was not the first time something like this has happened. Of course, if you have kids you don’t need to be told this, since I already mentioned that we have off-white carpet and disaster is almost automatic with off-white carpet. It is now a good deal more off than white, mostly from every day stuff like feet dipped in chocolate, and spilled orange soda, and spaghetti fights and the incontinent dog. But strangely enough, no more than three feet from where Pookie threw up, her sister Bear threw up a few years ago, and now we have two huge matching stains. Even more amazing is that these two huge stains are almost the same shape and color. And although I think I know most of what my kids eat, nothing I have ever fed them is that exact color of radioactive orange. I can only assume that we have a toxic waste dump somewhere on the property and they both drop by there for snacks from time to time.
But this isn’t the crazy part, of course. Kids getting sick is normal, and if you have off-white carpet, it is normal for them to stand on it when they throw up. No, the crazy part is what I did next. Now, a sane and normal person, a rational person without kids, would simply wake up his wife so the mess would get cleaned up before it ate through the floor and entered the aquifer.
Instead, I immediately assumed that Pookie had swallowed some botulism toxin, and I rushed her into the bathroom to give her all the home remedies I could think of – Tums, kid’s aspirin, ginger ale and a banana – until finally my wife heard Pookie shouting to leave her alone, she didn’t want anything, and so my wife came in and led me away by the hand.
I spent the rest of the night sneaking into Pookie’s bedroom to make sure she was still alive. Every six or seven minutes I would tip-toe in and check her pulse, respiration and temperature, making extra sure that her head hadn’t exploded, and that she was still free of leprosy.
I finally fell asleep around 6, and at 6:30 I heard a huge racket and went staggering out into the hall, the sludge slowly trickling up into my brain. And I stood between the two giant orange stains, Bear’s on the left and Pookie’s on the right, and looked into the living room, where Pookie was jumping up and down on the couch, completely recovered. "Dad," she said happily. "I might still be sick."
"Aim for the blank spot," I said. I pointed to the place on the very-far- off-white carpet. It really did look blank. And just to show you how loco I am as a parentis, I started to think that maybe we should have one more kid. Because with just one more big orange stain, the carpet would start to look like it had an intentional pattern on it. And then we would have a much more valuable house, with, as Mark Twain once said, "all the modern inconveniences. "
Or was it Margaret Dumont?