Friday, July 30, 2010

Did You Get Enough Food, My Dear? Or Would You Like Another Ton?

Keeping with the Australian theme (unless you're absolutely traumatized by yesterday's post), today we tackle food & food etiquette.

Remember, I was a shy, nervous 10 year-old, travelling around a foreign country without my mother. Technically my father was there, but he was busy visiting old family and friends - like the Fosters and the Four X's (hint: XXXX in beer label) - and didn't really pay attention to the fact that it was his job to explain every little detail of what to expect to his anxiety ridden daughter. For instance, he should have forewarned me that the second I asked for ketchup I'd be asked to repeat it over and over and over again for no significant reason. (Around the 27th repetition I figured out they call it tomato sauce and ketchup is just a really silly word they liked to hear me say.) Then there's that whole biscuit is a cookie and french fries are chips but chips are crisps and well, it's utterly exhausting to be speaking the same exact words that have such different meanings to the people you are talking to.

I figured my best bet would be to stick with what I knew: Give me a cheeseburger! What would you like on it? Oh, let's make it easy - give me everything. But the cheeseburger I was expecting - with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, onion and pickle - showed up with all sorts of stuff on it, including a sliced beet, fried egg, slice of pineapple and bacon. Hey, Dad! A little warning here wouldn't hurt. Thankyouverymuch.

My mother taught me well, though. From an early age we were taught that you always eat what is on your plate. To do so is to waste food and wasting is not something you should be proud of. Our proudest accomplishment as children was when we visited our great-grandparents of Dutch descent, where we were treated to a deadly version of a pancake. It tasted like cardboard. And nylons. And like good little children we ate every last bit. (Ask my parents: they will both swear under oath how truly awful that food was.) And so I ate every bit of that very bizarre Australian burger. (Okay. Not really. I hid the beet in a napkin and tossed the sucker. I mean, really. A beet?)

And so, I proudly took my training with me over to the Australian Grandmother's house, where I was presented with a plate of food, overflowing with tasty morsels, a plate piled so high with food I thought I'd never see the bottom of it... but I did it. Spoonful by spoonful I ate. I ate and ate and ate until my stomach ached. But I finished it. I proudly put my flatware on the plate and smiled from ear to ear. They would be so proud! The little American finished her plate of food just like a good guest should.

Without a word my grandmother stood, walked around the table, picked up my plate and went into the kitchen. When she reappeared she had the plate in her hand. With more food piled on it. And she was walking in my direction. And dropped it on the table in front of me.

There was more food. To eat. But I couldn't eat it. I had already eaten more than was comfortable.

But I couldn't let my dad down. I didn't want to embarrass him in front of his family. And so I ate.

Each bite going slower. Each bite fighting down the urge to vomit. Each bite willing my stomach to not explode. Please, Lord, just let me be able to finish this food. I don't want to waste it.

My eyeballs were bulging. My arm getting heavy in its subconscious attempt to stop the gorging. Yet I fared on. I would not let my parents down! I would not waste this food! I was a warrior and I would prevail! And hopefully I would not vomit all over this table in my attempt to do so.

After what seemed to be a lifetime I finally managed to send the last bite of food down my esophagus. Granted, it didn't really go anywhere, just hung out at the back of my throat - but that damn plate was empty.

And with that my grandmother stood once again. Stalked to my chair. Picked up my plate. And stomped back into the kitchen muttering the entire way. I was confused. My 10-year old mind was telling me this is what mommy acted like when we destroyed her favorite antique buffet table and this was not what I thought happy, proud grown-ups acted like when well-trained little kids finished everything on their plate. Where was the clapping? The cheers of "good job!" and "what a good girl!"

And so I watched in horror as my grandmother stomped back towards me from the kitchen with another. plate. of. food. slamming it on the table in front of me.

Hey, Dad. You know what would've been great? If you had told me that it was considered an insult to finish everything on your plate because it was basically telling your hostess she sucked at providing you enough food the first go around. Yeah, that would've been helpful.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toilet Training: Australian Style

When I was 10, I went to Australia. We flew for a very long time and landed in a small airport in northern Queensland, where my Father, older sister and I were met by some strange man who spoke in a very strange accent. I was nervous and shy. We all got in this man's car and drove "home."

"Home" was half a day's car ride away. Except I had never driven in a car for that long. Ever. I didn't even know it was possible. In my world, everything was located ten minutes away. Going to the grocery store? Ten minutes. Going to the bank? Ten minutes. Going to church? Ten minutes. So it made sense in my 10-year old mind that I would get in this car and ten minutes later, upon reaching our destination, would get out of this car.

Except we didn't get out. Ever.

Ok, not ever. We did stop at some dusty shack along the side of a dusty road where I was handed my first ever Cherry Cheer Soda (which I would drink 2,763 of during my six-week stay). Then we got back into the car and continued driving. And driving. And I happily gulped down my entire soda.

And while we were driving, my bladder grew larger and larger. And it hurt. And I was uncomfortable. And I started to sweat. And ohmydeargod I needed to pee so bad but I didn't want to say anything because I was shy and shy people don't ask questions. Even if they could ask questions (which they can't) they most certainly would not ever, under any circumstances, dare to ask anything as personal as using the bathroom.

And so as my Dad and the Aussie Stranger laughed it up in the front seat, I was busy rocking back and forth, cramming my hands between my legs and praying to God this nightmare would end.

"Here we are!" the Aussie Stranger announced after far too many hours had passed. THANK YOU, JESUS! And with that momentary mental relaxation, urine slipped from my bladder, soaking the entire crotch of my jeans, wicking its way down my thighs.

No! No! No! No! No!
Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod!

Well now, this isn't very good. Now I'm sitting in pee-pee jeans in the back of some man's car; some man whom I have never ever met before in my life and who I never, ever wanted to see again. I managed to stop the urine escape, but the damage  had been done. The front of my jeans were soaked. The only thing I had going for me was the car did not have fabric upholstery and all the windows of the car were down. There would be no stain and no smell. Especially if I moved all the way forward in my seat and balanced at the very edge on my tail bone.

A left, a right, then another left and we park. Except we're not at a house. We're in the center of town. In a business district. And my dad's announcing that we're all going to inside this bank so he can get money and I have to get out of this car and walk in public? With pee soaked pants?! What was wrong with this man who called himself my father? Did he not know his 10-year old daughter hadn't emptied her bladder in half a flipping day? My mom would've known. My mom would've made a point to stop at every available restroom and order our bladders drained. My mom would've said, "Just go try...." when we whined we didn't have to. My mom would not have allowed any of her children to drink a soda then drive for six hours without a potty break. It just would not have happened. And that is just one reason why my mom is so special. Because she would know when I needed to go. (Also, she would not have wanted to clean up after an accident.)

Thankfully I had my sweater next to me from the flight. (Thank you, Wisconsin Winter!) I tied that sucker so tight it looked like I had a pastel striped towel wrapped around my waist. Then I hobbled into the bank after my father. Because walking with a full bladder is bad enough; walking with a full bladder that has sweater sleeves cutting into it, squeezing it in half, borders on torture.

Now, looking back with my adult mind, I realize there probably were bathroom facilities located in that bank. Surely their employees had to go at some point throughout the work day. But then again, I was shy. And surrounded by all sorts of strange people and noises and smells and lights... barely hanging on to consciousness.

I don't remember the ride from the bank to the house we were staying at. I do remember knocking down my sister and trampling over her to get in the door. At this point I was convinced I was going to die if I didn't pee. It had been hours of struggling and the bladder was about to win.

"WHERE IS YOUR BATHROOM?" I shouted at the woman who had opened the door.

"...uh... down the hall, first door on your right..."

And that is where I took off running. Down the hall ... first door on the right ... and I slammed that door so hard and locked that door so fast ... and I was jumping around as I started untying that stupid sweater still hanging around my waist and I was dancing around unbuttoning those jeans and starting to unzip those pants and ... where the hell was the toilet?

I saw a sink. A very nice sink. With a counter. And a mirror and lights. And it looked just like our sinks in America. And I saw a bathtub. A very nice bathtub. With a shower curtain and a shower head and a faucet. And it looked just like our bathtubs in America. But that was it. There was no toilet. I was standing in a room that looked like a bathroom. Was decorated like a bathroom. Acted like a bathroom. But was missing one very vital piece of furniture of which is expected in something defined as a bathroom.

So I took a piss in the bathtub and wondered what the heck Australians had against toilets.

Editor's Note: I would quickly learn the toilet was next door in a room called, most appropriately, the Toilet.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why I Never Took My Friends Up On Their Offer To Set Me Up On A Date

"Hey! I got a guy for you!" Suh-weet! I could use a good look-see. Whadyagot?

"His name is Kenny." Okay. Decent name. Better than Horrace.

"He's crazy! Absolutely crazy! A NUT!"  As in certifiable? Or like streak through the Summerfest grounds after spending 2 hours in the Leine's tent crazy?

"He's divorced - has two kids..." Well, I'd be the pot calling the kettle black on that one...

"His wife WHACKED him!" Whacked him? What the hell does that mean?

"Took him for everything he's got." Ah, so he's poor.

"He's a musician - never around - especially during the summer. Always playing gigs." Nonexistant. Super. Perhaps I could meet him when he rolls out of bed around 2pm.

"And boy does he like his vodka! Starts drinking at 7 in the morning!" Well, I guess that means he doesn't sleep in as late as I thought.

"In his 50's.... but he likes the young broads." Why are you my friend?

Seriously, people. A crazy 50-year old musician who has no money but starts drinking vodka upon waking. Those are the qualities that make you think of me?

Editor's Note: Eventually I would realize that dating should not be allowed for me. I went on a year-long self imposed dating sabbatical (that strecthed into almost two years) and it made all the difference in the world! Then I met Big V at midget wrestling...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Not What Martha Would Do

We have a rule in our house that before a friend comes over or before you go to a friend's house, your room must be clean. The problem with this rule is that 9 times out of 10 I'm sitting at my desk in another town when the Bean calls up to excitedly ask if she can go to so-and-so's house, assuring me her room is most definitely clean. Then, when I get home and open the door, I realize I've been snowed. Again. She comes home, I yell, she giggles and says something like, "well, I didn't know you were going to actually check."

I know. The gall, right? Except she's snowed me over at least 27 times already so you think I'd be smart enough pick up on it. Hello! She's 15! She has no intention whatsoever of actually cleaning her room. I swear I'm as clueless now as I was in high school. (I swear I had no idea people were drinking vodka out of their McDonald's cups during those football games.)

Well, I'm not letting this little 15-year old punk get the best of me! No-siree! (The devil dog has that job.) So after the most recent snow job I informed her that not only would she be cleaning that room of hers, she'd be doing the laundry, too! (See how I did that? I turned it around - turned it into something that would benefit ME! Oh, yeah! Who's in charge now, kiddos?!)

I imagined coming home from work with piles of neatly folded towels, coordinated by size and color, just like Martha Stewart would do. I imagined crisply folded t-shirts, a spotless laundry room floor and angels singing in the background.

In all actuality, when I arrived home there were no angels singing. There weren't any piles of completed laundry either.

"Um, so, Bean. How's the laundry coming along?"


"Good. Good. Yeah, that's good. But, uh, where is it?"

"Where's what?"

"The laundry."

"Oh. It's in the dryer."

"Is it, uh, dry?"

"No, but I think there's something wrong with the dryer because I've had to turn it on like four times and it's still not dry." [In her defense, the dryer has been acting a little wonky.]

"Is it set to delicate?"

"No, mom. Gawd, I know how to do laundry. Duh."

"Where's the load that was already in the dryer?"


"There was a load already in the dryer. In fact, it had been sitting in there for the past three days. Every morning I'd reach in and grab something to wear. So, where is that load?"

* crickets chirping *

"Bean. Where is the load of dry clothes that were sitting in the dryer before you did laundry?"

* more crickets chirping *


"I already told you - they're not dry yet. Gawd!"

"Did you just restart the dry clothes already in there?"

"No! Gawd!"

"Good, because those were dry three days ago. Now, where did those clothes go?"

* damn crickets *

"Did you do ANY laundry today?"


(Remember when we were kids and it was more like, "please don't beat me with that yardstick again!" oh, how times have changed.)

"Ok. Let's start from the beginning. ... Did you put any clothes inside the washing machine and turn it on?"


"After those clothes that you put inside the washing machine were done being washed, what did you do with them?"

"I put them in the dryer."

"Ok. Now, before you put the clothes from the washing machine into the dryer, what did you do with the clothes that were already sitting in the dryer?"

* here come those crickets again *

"Bean... what. did. you. do. with. the. clothes. that. were. already. sitting. in. the. dryer?"

"I left them in there."

"You left them in there? As in, you actually stuffed a full load of wet clothes in the dryer on top of a load of already dry clothes because you were too lazy to take them out and deal with them?!"

"NO! I didn't 'stuff a full load' in with the dry clothes ... gawd!... they wouldn't all fit, so I only put half the load in."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

When is Too Much, Too Much?

Who on earth agreed to tattoo your nose?