Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Deaf and Mental but Tutoring Anyway!

Though it was several millennia ago that my esteemed shrink Dr. Mars suggested I break through my solipsistic shell just long enough to, you know, volunteer--I didn't do it until last December.

Let me just point out that I’d made several attempts to do so before that but it was either too late to get into the program I wanted (helping grammar school kids who have trouble reading) or I was still too mental to think I could do it. But after a few months of working out at Gym Nosferatu three times a week (after which my triceps still pool on the floor, thanks) I figured I could do anything.

I don’t know what I pictured exactly, but I don’t think it was Me being Paired with a Boy. Most of the other tutors got paired with Girls, sweet pliable girls who actually hug them (since they too are girls, albeit old ones) to show their gratitude and affection. I, on the other hand, got paired with Otis.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Otis—indeed, he’s completely adorable. And if he didn’t spend our 45 minutes together vrooming his  eraser back and forth on our desk, he’d be even more so. Whenever I ask him to stop with the vroom, he collapses like Greta Garbo’s Camille and complains of fatigue. When I ask him to straighten up and please focus, he insists he has to go to the bathroom. Needless to say, none of the other tutees do any of this, be they the pink-cupcake girls or his own fellow boys. In fact, if  Otis (who's in the first grade) hadn’t told me the first day we met just how much he loved Dr. Seuss, I’m not even sure I could have continued.

But he did, so I could.

Here are just three examples of how I've advised Young Otis so far:

1.  It’s only fair to read all the books that weren’t so lucky as to have Dr. Seuss be their author exactly as if they had been so lucky, i.e., with the same fervent zeal and zesty expression. And, yes, this includes the incredibly boring Yip and Yap Take a Nap.

2.  You can sound out a word as a Buh and an Og but only if you go back immediately to smash them together into a bog. No matter how much you think you don’t want to, you must smash it, smash it, and smash it again! As for what a bog is, all I can say is one finds them outdoors, or indoors while reading a Sherlock Holmes novel.

3.  No one but U wants to hang out with Q and U will never leave Q alone. Except in Iraq but that is for later.

Today our lesson (which, lest you think tutors make it all up, are provided for us in clear plastic packets) was to be about words that have double consonants. Which is how I found out he didn’t know what a consonant was, which is how I found out he did not know his vowels.

A, E, I, O, U and, yes, sometimes Y!---I made him say it a million times. After which I said, “Hello there, Otis, my name is Miss B, so what the heck am I--some kind of vowel?” I did this 26 times, five and sometimes six of which I very naturally did turn out to be some kind of vowel.

When I asked him how many vowels his own actual name had, and he told me two, my craven heart sang. When I asked how many consonants (and reminded him that everyone who wasn’t a vowel had no choice but to be one) and he said two again, it performed a whole opera. But will he remember all this next week?  That, for now, is the question.

“He just might remember you later,” says Dr. Mars to keep me encouraged. “I remember who taught me to read.”

“So do I,” I say. “But I didn’t teach him. I’m just reinforcing.”

“Don’t underestimate your impact,” he says.

Isn't he great?  I mean, isn't he really? Such fabulous doctors, both Mars and Seuss.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day to My Four Pretend Husbands and Especially to My Two Pretend Adjuncts

For me, a Pretend Husband is all about being able to listen to Gershwin without becoming completely undone. Not all Gershwin, certainly, just the heart-stabbing Someone to Watch Over Me. Which, as far as I’m concerned, could just as easily be called Someone to Drive Me Home From My Colonoscopy, except for the problem of scanning. Someone to Drop to His Naked Pulverized Knees Just to Unclog My Horrible Shower Drain would work for me too, so please let me take this fine opportunity to thank the Cowboy for doing so. Even though I’ve already thanked him profusely and even though he was yelling at me the whole time and hurling Ajax cans at my head.

But even if the Cowboy had not fixed my drain (It’s a cesspool, Jeannie! D’ya hear me? A cesspool!); even if he and his three P.H. brothers had written me off and moved to Des Moines, I would not feel nearly as ruined as I might have before because now I know there are adjuncts. Really! I’d had no idea   I was being watched over by peripheral others, but I was, and you might be too.

My first adjunct presented himself when I once again ordered the swordfish kebabs from my favorite kebab place in Boringame. But this time the guy at the register stopped before he put in my order, looked at me with something like pity and quietly said: “Do you not like salmon?”

“I love salmon,” I said.

“Then why do you not ever order it?”

I had ordered their salmon in fact, and had only stopped because, very frankly, they cooked it to death. 
Which I'd of course never mentioned, but since he had asked:
“Because,” I said, “you cook it to death. No offense.”

No offense taken. Au contraire! He swore to me I had only to ask them to not overcook it (“Translucent,” I warned him. “I like it translucent!”) and it would be cooked to my absolute order. Which, frankly, I doubted, because this is a tiny fast busy place that would seem to have neither time nor a motive to bother to do any crazy such thing. “Please,” he said. “Please, for today, have the salmon.”

“But why?” I asked. “Why do you care?”

“You eat too much swordfish!” he bleated. “They are filled up with mercury! Don’t you know how bad it is for your body?”

Well, of course I did, as who doesn't?  In fact, when Hank Fitz and I go there together, we refer to them as Mercury Kebabs and never order anything else except maybe some baba ganoush.

But never mind--his was a rhetorical question and now he was saying: “You should eat them no more than three times a month!” You’d think I’d been eating them three times a minute. And maybe I had—I’m just that obsessive, about what I eat, and everything else.

“All right!” I said. “I’ll get the damn salmon.”

But why why why did he look so relieved? Did he think I would sue him as soon as I got whatever you get from a mercury surplus? Or did I already look so old and atrocious he feared I might croak right there in his restaurant? Or was he just some wacky altruist? I still haven’t figured it out, but let me just say that they did keep the salmon’s middle translucent and still do every time. It makes me feel not just watched over but famous.

My second Adjunct Pretend Husband appeared less dramatically in the form of my auto mechanic. After giving my car one of those major overhauls that cost twice the rent no matter what happens, he told me he was still waiting for my new wipers and that I should come in the next morning so he could install them.

I said I would be there but of course I was not, because I’m a moron who thinks she is busy but is merely a moron, and after a few days he called me and said: “Jean! Come get your wipers! Please! It is raining!” 

Which surely it was--Cats and Dogs and Swordfish Kebabs--so I put on some speed and followed his lead before you could say Ira Gershwin.