I have a good friend that I love dearly, and he loves me just as much. But sometimes I get mad at him because my parents won’t let me hang out with him after school when we’ve got nothing better to do. We used to play outside all day together until they came home from work, but now? Now it’s time for dinner and homework before the weekend is over!
Lee Pitts is a columnist for the New York Times. He has written about politics, culture, and society. His columns are known to be insightful and thought-provoking.
Lee Pitts is a columnist for The and Paso Robles Press who can be reached at [email protected]
I remember a lot of things from our year in Australia, but the guy on the phone was not one of them.
Some people have trouble remembering names; I, on the other hand, have trouble remembering persons. The Australian on the other end of the line reminisced about our many happy days in Australia and informed me that he was planning a trip to the United States. In his Aussie accent, he added, “I’m going to take you up on your offer to tour me around.” I just had one problem: I had no clue who he was!
After all, what are friends for if not to show you around? I told him that I would be delighted to do so. I believed I’d find out who he was in the two weeks before he came. However, I only had one hint to work with. He stated he was with me the night I disgraced myself over the phone.
That cut things down considerably.
We’re going to get through this together, Atascadero
It may have been the night I was scheduled to speak at the local Rotary banquet and was asked to make a hilarious lecture. When I requested for a napkin, I got the loudest laugh of the night. The whole room burst out laughing. How was I expected to know that a napkin was a baby’s diaper in Australia?
Or it’s possible that my Australian buddy was there the night I drank too much booze. (How did I know their beer was two times as potent as ours?) I also mumbled God Save the Queen’s words and spilt my peas, which are required at every meal. I guess it was amusing to see me try to eat my peas in the usual two-handed eating method common to everyone who has traversed the Commonwealth while under the influence. Except in my mouth, the peas ended up everywhere. The following day, I discovered some in the pocket of my shirt.
As the time came for me to pick up my “partner,” his identity remained a mystery. Any of a number of “friends” may have done it. He might be the grazer who watched me fall from the slick horned Australian stock saddle, or the officer who issued me a ticket for driving on the wrong side of the road in my Holden vehicle.
I shouldn’t have spent my time worrying about it, as it turned out. I recognized him as my dear buddy the moment I saw him. What is his name? We met at a Hereford auction and became fast friends. (There are three syllables… Hair-a-ferd) After that, Dad took me on a tour of New South Wales, including a cricket match. During the game, I loudly questioned my buddy, Ian, “who he was rooting for?” The awkward incident that he had mentioned happened when I loudly asked him, “who he was pulling for?” Half of the audience stood up and walked out. The term “root” seems to be a very negative word in Australia.
I had a terrific time touring Ian about the nation, and he fell in love with it, yet his abiding memory of it was how obese most Americans are. That was, without a doubt, my first response upon coming home after living in Australia.
Ian and I went past a construction zone with enormous Caterpillar® tractors, scrapers, and dump trucks on our way home from the airport. Ian thought it was strange that every time a major piece of equipment backed up, it made the now-familiar “ding… ding… ding” sound.
“Can you tell me why they’re making that noise?” Ian was the one who inquired.
“It’s for your own safety,” I stated. “When a huge item backs up, it emits a warning sound to alert persons behind it that it is approaching them.”
Ian seems to get the notion.
We stopped at a convenience shop for a cool drink and a Twinkie® or two later in the journey. The biggest woman I’ve ever seen was in line in front of us at the check-out desk, confirming Ian’s view of Americans. The plump woman was wearing a phone beeper, the sort that beeps when the user receives a call. As we waited in line, the fat lady’s beeper went off…. “ding… ding…ding.”
“Watch out, buddy, she’s backing up,” my Australian pal remarked as she leaped out of the path.
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