Play Time

gamesHeadmistress is sitting at her desk on the phone.

Elaine:

Yes, Millie, send him right in.

(She puts down the phone.)

John walks in. Elaine rises to shake his hand across the desk.

John:

Good morning. I’m John Blalock.

Elaine:

Hello, Mr. Blalock. I’m Elaine Kellerman, Headmistress at The Standish Academy.

(Motions to a chair.)

Please, won’t you sit down?

John sits across the desk from Elaine.

John:

Please, call me John. This is a beautiful building. It seems old compared to the rest of Palm Beach County.

Elaine:

It is, John. It was part of the Standish Estate, one of the first families to settle here.

John:

Standish was a coal baron in eastern Pennsylvania as I recall.

Elaine:

Yes, and if you can imagine, this sprawling estate was their winter getaway location. The Scranton property is now the University.

John:

I suppose that he was a great supporter of education.

Elaine:

Actually, it was Mrs. Standish. He quit school after the sixth grade to help support his family. He was a brilliant businessman, but his wife was an educator. It is speculated that she did all of his writing.

John:

Wow, I guess I should have done better research. Quite frankly, this is my first interview in nearly forty years.

Elaine:

Relax, John. I’d rather have a candidate who has been employed for decades than one who has been interviewing regularly over the same period. Why don’t you tell me a bit about yourself?

John:

Okay, Ms. Kellerman, here goes. As you can see from my resume, I was a police officer in Toms River, New Jersey for thirty years. I began as a patrolman and worked my way up through the ranks to Lieutenant. Eventually, I had the opportunity to become either a detective or stay in uniform. I chose to move into the public school resource area and became the head of that division.

Elaine:

Pardon the interruption, John, but can you tell me why you chose this path?

 John:

Sure. I always felt that it was important for the police to have a positive image for children. Not only was I able to be in uniform while being around the kids, I developed, with teachers and school administrators, programs to promote safety.

Elaine:

Very good. So how did you end up in South Florida?

John:

I retired after thirty years with a nice pension. My wife is a nurse and we bought a small winter home down here after Hurricane Sandy washed away our shore house in New Jersey. She found a great part-time teaching job down here so we decided to make it permanent.

Elaine:

And your interest in being a Recreation Director for an after-school program?

John:

Quite frankly, I miss being around kids. I’m young enough to still have something to contribute and it gets me out of the house for a few hours a day.

Elaine:

Fair enough. I must admit that I like your experience in the school environment. Tell me about what sort of activities you imagine for the children. They range from ages five to thirteen.

John:

Well, for starters, I certainly expect to take advantage of the spectacular Florida weather. I noticed some great outdoor facilities while driving in to the campus.

Elaine:

Oh…that might be a bit of a problem. You are familiar with the Zika virus?

John:

Um…yes, of course…you mean to say that the children are not permitted to go outside to play?

Elaine opens a folder on her desk and pulls out a document.

 Elaine:

John, this is a list of activities that our legal department has um…recommended that we avoid.

John:

Okay, that’s not a problem. Do you have a gymnasium?

Elaine:

Oh, yes. It’s completely state-of-the-art.

John:

How about kickball? You can balance the teams by age. It encourages the older kids to help the younger ones.

Elaine:

That sounds wonderful. I believe that you keep score in kickball?

John:

Sure.

Elaine:

Ooh, competition is considered a form of microaggression.

John:

I see. I assume that also rules out relay races or scavenger hunts?

Elaine:

Probably, just to err on the side of caution. Anything competitive can lead to a bullying situation. Also, the wooden gym floor is a real liability issue.

John:

Tag?

Elaine:

Unwanted touching.

 John:

Red Rover?

Elaine:

Segregates students based on appearance.

John:

Calisthenics.

Elaine:

Hmm, let me check.

(She looks at her list.)

It does not appear to be specifically prohibited. Wait…I believe it falls into the category of shaming threats. What about mental calisthenics…you know, visualization?

John:

I think that kind of defeats the purpose. Let’s try indoor activities. When I was a kid, I played games on rainy days.

Elaine:

Great idea, John. What to you propose?

John:

Jacks?

Elaine:

Too pointy.

John:

Pick-up sticks?

Elaine:

Way too pointy.

 John:

Marbles.

Elaine:

Choking hazard.

John:

Erector set?

Elaine:

Sexist name.

John:

Barrel of Monkeys?

Elaine:

Seriously? Too racist.

John:

Dolls.

Elaine:

Gender issues.

John:

With the kids?

Elaine:

No, with the dolls. Many have gender neutral genitalia.

John:

Wow. This is getting tough. How about puppets.

Elaine:

Fighting…no wait, this says fisting. I wonder…

John:

Never mind. It’s probably a typo. Punch and Judy fought all the time. What about card games?

Elaine:

Promotes gambling.

John:

Okay, what about checkers?

Elaine:

Black vs. white? Are you even paying attention, John?

John:

(Blows out a breath.)

All right. I’ll start out the kids with some light Tai Chi…inside the gym. We’ll use mats on the floor. It’s noncompetitive and there is no scoring or sweating. We’ll then move on to meditative play. The kids will lie on the mats and imagine playing sports. If they fall asleep, so be it. Next, they’ll put on their mittens to prevent paper cuts and make origami figures. Am I on the right track now?

Elaine:

(She checks the list.)

John, that’s perfect! I think you might be the right man for the job. You’d be surprised to find out how difficult it is to get someone to work with children these days.

John:

I’m starting to get the idea.

Elaine:

I just have one more question for you.

John:

Anything, Ms. Kellerman.

 Elaine:

You’re well versed in the use of firearms, right?

 

Copyright

© Robert O’Connell and http://www.thesmartestguyiknow.wordpress.com, 2011-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert O’Connell and http://www.thesmartestguyiknow.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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The Day I Kissed Uncle Lenny on the Mouth

lenny-kiss

This essay is really more about my wife’s cousin Gary rather than her uncle Lenny even though the episode ended with the same unpleasantness for me. This event happened at least 35 years ago before we were married. We come from very different families and this was on her home turf.

My wife Theresa is full-blooded Italian. While in my family, the elders were more interested in a newcomer’s political bent, hers would be expected to ask, “What part of Italy are they from?” As a matter of fact my in-laws had a pretty bad marriage ending in divorce. I was told that was typically the result when a Napolitano marries a Sicilian.

We were attending some sort of event at Theresa’s Aunt Virginia’s house in Rochelle Park, NJ. I can’t remember what it was for as parties and funerals all looked pretty much the same in this family. My mother-in-law, Marie, had two sisters, Chic (actually Frances) and V (Virginia) as well as three older brothers, Matt, Lenny, and Gabe. All were married and most had children around Theresa’s age. It made for a good crowd.

One of Uncle Matt’s sons was named Gary. Gary was what was called in the day, a goombah. While all of the other cousins melded nicely into American melting pot of the 1980s, Gary was a bit of a throwback. His hair was always combed back. He wore a pinky ring. He always seemed to be wearing a suit made of some shiny material. I’m not sure I ever saw him in anything other than a white, button-down shirt.

Gary also communicated like an extra from The Godfather wedding scene. Beside the extreme use of hand gestures, conversations were peppered with a frequent assortment of “ay”, “watchyagonnado”, and “fuggetaboutit”. No one was ever quite sure what Gary did for a living and nobody seemed to be in a hurry to find out.

As a Jew, I was somewhat of a curiosity to Theresa’s family. This was noticed by Aunt Flo, who was the wife of Uncle Gabe. Aunt Flo was the only non-Italian in the older generation and knew what it was like to be an outsider. She suggested that keeping a low profile was the best approach. She explained that in this group, what was not said was far more important than anything that was said. This was the polar opposite of my opinionated lot.

When we arrived at the party, Theresa ran off to bring something to her Aunt V. I was left behind on a sort of receiving line to greet the uncles. I had no idea if this was an important protocol, so I stayed in line. It turns out that I was right behind Gary, who was wearing a metallic gray suit to a barbecue. Gary walks up to his uncle Lenny says something along the lines of, “Ay, Uncle Lenny, ah, gabagool, rigott, schcarole, how long has it been?” After this, he grabs Lenny on both sides of his head and kisses him on both cheeks as well as on the mouth.

I was standing there a bit shocked as Gary runs off to greet the next aunt or uncle. I begin to stammer a greeting to Uncle Lenny at which time he grabs my face and plants a wet one on my lips. I’m not completely sure that Uncle Lenny even had any idea who I was.

Later, when I got Theresa alone, I mentioned to her that her Uncle Lenny had kissed me on the mouth. I really only wanted to find out exactly what the custom was. Theresa assumed that I was mocking her family and gave me the silent treatment for the rest of the day. Aunt Flo was right. The important stuff apparently is not to be discussed. Uncle Lenny and I would have to go on sharing our tender moment in silence.