Sunday, July 1, 2007

Please stuff a beach towel in your son's mouth

We went to the pool today, all four of us, and spent five and a half hours. It was the most fun I've had yet this summer and even with SPF30 sunscreen, I am turning a really nice biscuity brown color. By the end of the summer, I'll be able to completely camouflage myself by standing in front of the china cabinet with my eyes and mouth closed; I love to stand there and wait until someone walks by and all of a sudden, open my eyes and smile really big and shout, "Surprise!!!!!"

Of course, that kind of big fun is slightly mitigated by the fact that we have a yellowish stain on the carpet in front of the china cabinet, but it just serves as a reminder that life isn't perfect.

Before I start this story about the pool today, I have to mention a little piece of news I heard last week on Fox & Friends. It seems that there is a family somewhere here in the United States that has a backyard pool. The family also has two daughters, who appeared to be somewhere around 8 and 12 years old. The family's home is in one of those neighborhoods where the big houses are densely packed together onto small lots, so you can hear everybody's business going on all around you: you know who is fighting over the bills and who hates what Mom is cooking for dinner and who lets their kids rot in front of Nickelodeon when they should be outside playing.

But most of all, what you can notice is two kids in the backyard pool screaming bloody murder for hours on end, right up until midnight.

The immediate neighbors of the pool family are suing them for who knows how much money for some reason that goes like this: "They won't make their stupid freaking kids SHUT UP."

At first, I thought this was an awful story. That poor pool family, living there in that neighborhood with Mr. and Mrs. Crankypants on one side and Mr. and Mrs. McKidhater on the other with the widowed Mrs. Stayoffmygrass at the rear of their property. Poor kids! I mean, my gosh. It's summer! The sun is out and so is school! And at least those two girls are outside playing instead of inside rotting in front of Nickelodeon.

But then I started thinking. How bad would it be if there were kids outside, screaming, all day? All day? One of the neighbors was interviewed and she said, rather tersely, "They scream. They scream and they scream these high-pitched, panicked, hysterical screams and you don't know if it's an emergency or not."

So, okay. I have one of those kids who screams. She knows who she is. I can be sitting quietly on the couch, enjoying my latest library book and maybe enjoying a few Pringles potato chips with my Diet Coke and all of a sudden, I'll hear a scream tearing a ragged hole in the air from upstairs to down and I'll jump up, spilling my Pringles and knocking over my Diet Coke and losing my place in my book, to run to the bottom of the stairs and cry out, "What's wrong? What's wrong? Do I need to dial 9-1-1? Are you bleeding? Are you electrocuted? Did you drop a bottle of my perfume and break it and then step on a shard of glass? What? What?"

"Oh, it's nothing," she'll say. "I just had a hair in my mouth."


I began to feel a small bit of sympathy for the neighbors. It's bad enough to hear that steam-whistle shrieking during the day, but if I heard it at eleven o'clock in the evening, I think I might consider calling Kayte's husband, Mark, who is a fancy lawyer.

That takes us back to the pool today.

My husband and I had both spent about an hour in the water and we were sitting on our benches, engrossed in our books. Or at least, I was engrossed until there was this niggling at my consciousness that kept repeating the same word over and over: Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad!

Over and over again. And over. Over. Over and over and over and. Over.

Until I thought I'd go mad.

It was a little boy of about nine, playing in the pool with his father (natch), his two sisters and his brother. They were playing keep-away with one of those squooshy pool balls and the boy felt that he was the only one that his dad should ever throw the ball to. Which, I guess, isn't unusual for nine years old. But that voice. That voice! That high-pitched, incessant, make-your-ears-bleed voice!

That voice could be used as an instrument of torture. Or maybe I should say it was being used. Because, my book? I could no longer concentrate on it. All I could do was sit there, painfully mesmerized by this child's chihuahua-style yapping. I was ready to tell his father my debit card PIN number, the real year of my birth, the true color of my hair...anything he wanted to know, just so long as he made Junior shut up.

My husband looked up from his book. "Do you hear that kid?" he said incredulously. "I've never heard anything like it. Does he run on batteries? And if he does, can we shut him down? Because I'd rather be sitting here with an Alabama auctioneer yelling in one ear and Dick Vitale in the other than listen to that little [insert uncomplimentary nominative] for another second."

I kind of kept an eye on the clock and that kid continued for just over forty-five minutes, yelling "Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad!" in two second intervals. In his future, if no one holds a pillow over his head, that kid should train to sing at the Met, because his volume and the piercing quality of his yelping were completely undiminished in that span of time. By then, however, I was feverishly rooting for the Pillow Option.

Maybe Junior has a job working here someday as the World's
Most Annoying Tenor. Image credit: Copyright (c) 2007
New York Sites

Finally, the dad pulled away from the keep-away game and went to the edge of the pool to talk to a man who had just come in, but Junior wasn't ready to quit. He followed his father, quacking, "Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad! Dad!" in an urgent fashion, trying to regain his father's attention. I had begun to think I was going to have to hold my hands over my ears and writhe around moaning, "The voice! The voice!" the way Quasimodo did in The Hunchback of Notre Dame when the bells were getting to him and my husband was snorting in exasperation, when all of a sudden, something happened.

"What? What? What? What? What?" shouted an elderly, patrician-looking gentleman who was playing ping-pong with his teenaged grandson. "Hell, after listening to that voice for two hours, any dad ought to do if you're not going to make him be quiet, DAD," he said to the father, who looked understandably chagrined.

It wasn't a huge scene and it was over very quickly. But the dad finally managed to take the hint and tell the kid to hush. I was grateful to know that I wasn't the only one being driven mad by the Child with Leather Lungs. Here I was, kind of thinking that I was a bitter old bat ad it turned out that I was, it's just that other people were bitter and old and batty along with me. What a relief.


Andrea said...

Your post cracked me up. I would have gone completely mad listening to that.
Andrea W :)

Sharon said...

I am turning a really nice biscuity brown color. By the end of the summer, I'll be able to completely camouflage myself by standing in front of the china cabinet with my eyes and mouth closed; I love to stand there and wait until someone walks by and all of a sudden, open my eyes and smile really big and shout, "Surprise!!!!!"

You crack me up! I love your writing! This post made my morning. And please, if you ever try that "surprise", get a picture! lol.

I think I would've flipped on that kid long before any of you. I get irritated after 5 mins of my son asking "why?" or saying my name just a few times in a row. Sheesh!

Kbg said...

You are so funny...and patient...two hours is a long time with a screaming child. What is it with girl children and screaming? My boys never screamed, so I am always just amazed when I am around little girl children who squeal and scream...what is that????? Dick Vitale??? You don't like Dick Vitale??? Dick is a classic...someday Dick will be gone and we will all say, "Boy, we sure miss Dick calling the games and all his inane comments..." I have to say, I am a that Alabama auctioneer...LOL!