Friday, December 04, 2009

Things my mother taught me

You put your right hand in,
You put your right hand out,
You put your right hand in
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey
And you turn yourself around,
That's what it's all about
From "The Hokey Pokey", anon

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going
Billy Ocean 1985

Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful
George Bernard Shaw

Our Mother
Every now and then as I go through life in the rat-race of Manhattan, I remember my mum. That is not to say I don't remember her at other times ... but when the tough gets going ...

The first lesson I remember is:

How to get a broken window replaced.

I don't remember who broke the window but I have my suspicions ... I must have been about thirteen. My mother sat me down with a ball of wool and a pair of scissors.

"Let's measure the window," she said. "But Mu-u-u-m!" I howled (as the window-breaker suspect went on his merry way) "the wool stretches." "Be quiet," she said. "Put on your pretty pink dress and go to the hardware store and tell the man we need the glass replaced. Show him the measurements. This long piece of wool is the height of the glass, and this is the width."

And I did. And it was.

There are many other lessons. But for now ...

On Confronting Authority.

"If confronted by authority," she told me, "always smile and act dumb. Never argue. Pretend you don't understand. And if you need to write a letter, use your wrong hand, and a crayon if it is the Taxation Office."

This worked surprisingly well. I remember when I worked at Deakin University. I am a nervous driver, always going so far UNDER the speed limit that I annoy any driver withing 200 meters from me. But on the way to Deakin University is a very steep hill. And every now and then, when the the local government coffers need refilling, a cop hides behind a tree at the lowest point. So eventually I got stopped. And remembered my mum's advice.

"I am so sorry sir," I supplicated. "I will serve my time. Where is the jail and can I phone home?" "Look lady," he started to say, where upon the next stopped motorist interrupted. "Excuse me but I have an appointment I am a busy man!" "Certainly," said the cop. "Excuse me," he said to me. "Please drive on, this man wants to be ticketed." And turned to fine Mr. Impatient as I drove off free.

"Where are your receipts?" the Australian Taxation Office writes to me. Out with the crayon and my right hand (I'm left-handed). "Dear Treasurer, what receipts would you like? The only receipts I know are in the Australian Women's Weekly Cookbook." Case closed.

Why did my mother's lesson come to me tonight? Well, this evening I was getting a lift home from a social function with a friend. At a seven-way intersection he turned a hard left. A New York traffic cop walked towards us and yelled, "Where the f**ing hell do YOU belong?"

"On a tropical island with beautiful girls and coconuts?" he offered.

She waved him on.

Which just goes to show ...


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