Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Knock Knock

Parents, how do you tell your child that he or she is boring? What I mean is, how many knock-knock jokes can you endure before your head explodes?

I hate mornings, far more than a 41-year-old ought to. By now, you'd think I would have adjusted, much as my mother did, if I remember correctly. Once she entered the work world (with a flourish, I might add), she taught herself to be at least semi-functional in the important hours before 9 a.m. I have not been so savvy.

As you might remember, sleeping until my body clock tells me to wake up (usually around 9 - 9:30 a.m.) has its risks. This past weekend, I slept until 9 a.m. both mornings, then awoke to find that Sandra Bullock had dismantled my downstairs office and replaced it with a guest room.

That was Saturday, and to be fair, the guest room was only in Beta stage by 9. She'd taken an air mattress and placed it in the middle of my late office, to suggest the layout if it were to be a guest room. "We'll have room for a little night table," she said, overjoyed at finding a new, not obvious tweak for our house.

On Sunday, she stepped into more professional grade work. I awoke to find that she had patched two holes in the walls with sheetrock, then taped over the sheetrock. She was preparing to mud the finished walls, still wearing her pajamas and slippers. I squinted at her through barely awake eyes. Seriously, it was a chore to get down those stairs that early.

Do you understand what I'm saying? MY WIFE DOES DRYWALL AT 7 A.M. ON SUNDAY MORNING.

I went to go get the paper, only to find my effervescent neighbor Eric returning from playing tennis. At freaking 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. S. Bullock saw us out there and called down from the living room window. Her pajamas were full of drywall dust.

Knock knock!

Who's there?

Axe?

Axe who?

Uh... axe me what's going on!

(attempted laugh, but sounds more like RRR...aaaa...blbft.

You can understand the challenges I face. It's difficult enough to generate tolerance for knock-knock jokes, but to do it while still in a painful semi-conscious state is simply heroic. And I am no hero.

Today, on the advice of a contributor to this blog, I tried out the Westlake Center Starbucks. I was half-asleep and knew that I had a difficult day at the biotech ahead, so I bought a newspaper, got a hot chocolate (as "Ted." I was going to be "Boris," but I panicked at the last minute), and sat on a stylish, comfortable chair to read my paper.

It's not at all difficult, in a public space like Starbucks, to appear to be reading a newspaper while actually studying the people around you. Today, since the large group to my right was speaking Tagalog -- and greeting each other with a cool, casual fist bump instead of shaking hands -- I focused instead on the guy sitting across from me. It was easy, because he was obviously obsessed.

He had a stack of napkins in front of him. On the first, he drew two similar shapes, parallel to each other, and then connected them with a line. He did this slowly, methodically, with purpose. Then he relaxed and ate some of his muffin.

Soon he had another napkin out. On this one, he drew the first tableau, then added some other lines. Maybe, I thought, I'm witnessing the birth of a billion dollar idea. Or maybe he's like Richard Dreyfuss in "Close Encounters of the Third Kinds," held prisoner by these shapes, this image. It haunts him. He can't get it out of his head. Lacking the required mashed potatoes to create a model of the shapes, he instead draws them repeatedly on Starbucks napkins.

The last napkin was the most elaborate. This one had arrows pointing to angles and joints, several bomb-shaped ovals, connecting lines, and tiny explanations and descriptions written in the "margins." What was he drawing? I had no idea. A woman sat next to me and began writing in a notebook. The was no chance to see what she was doing without being obvious, and the napkin guy had packed up and left, so I finished reading my newspaper and moved on, without getting a cool fist bump from anyone speaking Tagalog or any other language.

As I left, I wondered how many of my fellow patrons had used fake names. Now that I know that even uber-sane people like The Hammer use the occasional pseudonym, I have to wonder if everyone isn't seduced by the possibility of being someone else for a few minutes.

Here's my best shot: "You know, by the time you get to be a grown-up, you've heard pretty much every knock-knock joke a thousand times."

From the back seat, very small, and only vaguely paying attention. "Oh," followed by the Jawa quietly asking himself, "knock-knock, who's there, will you remember me tomorrow? etc."

And then, to me, totally undaunted, "What about riddles?"

12 Comments:

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1:36 AM  
Blogger Bud and/or Marsi said...

that might be the funniest, most appropriate spam comment yet.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous flush puppy said...

Well, that would explain the 8:30 am call from SB. And I believe technically that will be a guest "nook" or "alcove". Heard often around our house lately (most amusing when Jawa 2 says it): "I'm banking on Jesus!". As Butter Goat says, I'll buy a beer for anyone who knows who said that (but you have to come to the Roanoke for the beer)...

8:55 AM  
Anonymous the hammer said...

SB is one of the few friends I can comfortably call before 9:00 a.m. There's so much that can be accomplished early in the morning but even I don't do drywall at that hour (or any hour, for that matter). Wine Guy gets furious at me when he awakens and starts his day with the newspaper and a Diet Coke and I'm bustling about, asking questions. After all, he believes that I've already had my quiet time (if Jawa isn't around for a sleepover) and he deserves his.

10:47 AM  
Blogger P.G. said...

Dare I say that S.B. was "practice decorating" on Saturday morning?

3:02 PM  
Anonymous zelda said...

again, showing my stripes as a single person with no children who not only has no TV (as i outed myself in a previous post's comments) but also a) cannot make large home improvements like drywall installation or "nook" creation at any hour of the day or night since i rent, and b) never has to deal with anyone overly cheery in the morning as i live alone and the morning doesn't start until i say it does, i am once again going to change the topic and comment on a completely different element of this post: are you sure it was Tagalog, or is that just a euphemism? next time i see you in the hall at school, i'll fist bump you--maybe that will help you feel better. it's all about kehillah echat, one community dude, so i'm sorry those brothas (or the man sketching his billion-dollar invention/total headcase obsession) passed up the chance to be part of the one starbucks community with YOU.

do you think any of them gave their real names?!

and, to go back to another comment thread that just might live forever:

similar to the commenter (the hammer? no...bud/marsi?) who mentioned that they always forget which fake name they gave and as a result steal other people's lattes half the time, i will say that this was a problem i ran into over the summer in jerusalem. every day i would go to the "aroma," a coffee shop just outside the hebrew u. campus, to order my cafe afuch before class and the "heebistah," an israeli version of the starbucks *bar*ista, would take my order and ask me "mi shem? (what is your name?)" it took me forever to figure out what they were asking and then the summer was almost over before i remembered to listen for them calling it anyway so my cafe afuch was almost always cold and i was constantly late to class. and, it wasn't even a fake name since my hebrew and english names are the same!!!

7:29 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

they were totally speaking Tagalog.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous zelda said...

excuse me for ever doubting you, oh linguist.

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