You know those pop culture images of the absent-minded and pre-occupied professor that you come across once in a while? Well, that’s me. Some, including my beloved M., might just say with a diplomatic air that I am not “the best at details of life.”
And this, dear readers is what led me to stand for almost 2 hours in our local Registry of Motor Vehicles in order to pay a late fine for a ticket I paid late. But no, this is not going to be a raging against the red tape machine kind of post – it is just a post acknowledging that I must be better at minding the details so I don’t subject the Karagöz puppets to the shock and awe campaign that was our experience today.
After obtaining various forms, permissions and stamps from floors 1, then 4, then 1 and finally 2 (the puppets swaying along on my shoulders, purse and hair the whole time, unphased), I set in to wait. Checking my trusty-dusty iphone, thanks to some pirated Internet as the dratted thing has stopped locating telephone signals altogether, I noted that the Registry of Motor Vehicle’s website indicated an average wait of 1 hour and 7 minutes. Realizing that I was in for the long haul, with no place to sit, I ambled up to a wall-leaning spot and commenced to chat with whomever seemed most willing to chat back.
Kenne, the Queen of Manners and Maintenance of Ladylike Behavior, while approving of gentle small talk, was simultaneously unsure about whether it was OK to speak with some relatively *confused* and *unseemly* people. She’s a bit snobby, you know, in case you haven’t noticed. Esma, the hippie puppet, decided that she had had just about enough of Kenne’s racism and classism – and kicked her out of the open window where she landed on a geranium plant perched on the ledge. This was, mind you, a relatively rare expression of violence from the otherwise pacifist-oriented little vegan puppet.
Striking an unusually friendly allegiance with Karagöz himself, the base, crass and generally just plain rude puppet, Esma and Karagöz proceeded to feed me lines for all of the interesting conversations I began to have as I ended up helping people fill out forms, gave a distraught woman a kleenex, engaged in collective bitching and moaning with the other middle-aged ladies standing about on sore feet for too long, and the like. The puppet troupe, meanwhile, was so used to waiting around in lines, that they pulled out their books, newspapers, lace-making and the like, and got down to business. Karagöz raised the question of a bribe for getting to the front of the line – and the entire troupe reminded him we were in the U.S. where this was not so common out in the open as compared to Turkey. He settled down to observe the crowd, cackling madly at the gangy-gang boys with their low-slung pants and high-minded attitudes.
Yehuda Rebbe and Hacivad Bey nodded approvingly, in a somewhat pedantic and well-meaning white dude kind of way, saying things like “it’s good that you are communing with the masses, m’lady, you need to feed your mind outside of that Ivory Tower you usually reside in.”
Snorting his discontent, Karagöz guffawed “that building you work in – the one with all of the mold? That is HARDLY an ivory tower – oh look – another interesting person is approaching you!”
“Hey there,” a fellow waiting woman said, “you have the number before me – how long you been waiting?” Sensing a lady who really liked to chat – I extended the small talk and eventually also helped her to fill out her forms. We commiserated about the challenges of changing one’s name post-divorce and our resolve never to take another partner’s name (in my case, that will be null and void on the Turkish citizenship front – no choice!). We tried out different leaning positions with attention to the variance on how sore our feet were.
And after about fifteen minutes of this back and forth (punctuated by the puppets’ confusion about how to interpret her southern U.S. accent, most of which I ignored), things got interesting. Not only was Kenne limping across the floor from where she had climbed UP the geranium and over the window sill where she could jump back inside – fuming all the way. Kenne shot me a warning look as she trudged back towards me, ignoring Esma the whole way, “don’t be to sure too much chatting is a good thing – and I have heard a few too many curses from you today, m’lady, in this plebeian conversation of yours. Who do you think you are, a longshoreman?”
Just as I was processing Kenne’s concern, and whether I was going to give a damn – I noticed that the white ladies in the room (that is to say, the other middle aged white ladies like me) were moving away from me – and the woman I was talking too. Tuning back in to my new friend, I realized she had started to pontificate – some might just say rant – about the “organ donor” poster on the wall.
“I’m tellin’ you, honey,” she said not even in a sotto voce tone, “I wish I could do that organ givin’ thing – you know people needs it – but I’ll be mother-f*d if what I see happening to other people happens to me – I needs mine!”
Intrigued and remembering the infamous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, I pressed her for more, saying “what do you see happening to other people?”
“They have they organ donor box checked on they ID card – and they not too sick – but then they go into the hospital for some little some such and BAM – they dead! I think them hospitals goin’ after them organs! I knew a lady done sold her ankle bone for $10,000 – you know them organs go for lotsa money!”
“I’ve heard about that, yes. I think there is a big market for organs – like black market -”
“Girl, I ain’t talkin’ about no black market – I am talking about Boston Medical Center! You know all they Black ladies – they went in to get them some hysterectomies – and they gave those lady bits-” she paused, as if to catch herself
“to White ladies?” I ventured – sensing she didn’t want to say it to me given our skin color difference and the fact that we didn’t know one another from Eve.
“yes, them White ladies got the Black lady bits when they couldn’t have no kids!”
Before I could think, I just said “that’s f*d up!” to which she guffawed, slapped me on the back and said “that’s right, girl, it’s f*d up aight,” further shocking the shrinking White lady gaggle around me.
It was only at this point, that I noticed the kicking of my shins, and looking down, of course, I saw that it was Kenne kicking away in furious anger at my crass and rude behavior – with some semi-half-hearted kicking going on by her handmaiden, Zenne…:you-must-stop-immediately! Your grandmother and granny would ROLL in their graves!”
Before I could send a mental telegram to my manners puppet, my new real-world friend and waiting companion, Kenne was in for the biggest shock of all. The animated southern lady downed her Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and announced – “You know why I got this small coffee, right? It helps you do the poo – and I gotta go – y’all know where the bathroom is?”
Giggling inside, I pointed the way to the bathroom just as Kenne fainted from shock at the notion that a lady (or not much of a lady but still) would announce her bowel movement in public. Karagöz just pointed out that she’d do a lot better with a Turkish coffee.
I’m not sure how it all turned out, as they called my number about then, and I was off to resolve my fee and move on with life.
Just another day of observing life with my puppets.
- On my writing about cross-cultural marriage (with the Karagöz puppets) (elizcameron.com)
- Love letter #2: To Andrew Lang of fairytale anthology fame (elizcameron.com)