Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Snowman

If I have given the impression in the past that I like to laugh at people when they either: (a) fall down, (b) are dressed funny, or (c) are dressed funny and then fall down, all I can say is yes. Yes, I do laugh at those people. And occasionally my kids also laugh at those people. I do not, however, ever allow them to laugh out loud within earshot of the man wearing Zubaz or point and laugh at the person that just wiped out on the sidewalk (unless that person happens to be me). And I absolutely never allow them to verbally acknowledge anyone with a physical or mental disability except, of course, to treat them like they would anyone else, be polite and say "hi." But as Zoe has demonstrated in the past, even allowing this one-word conversation has proven dangerous.

Walk the Plank! Not long ago, Zoe went through an "I love pirates" phase. She read pirate books (thank you, David Shannon and Tom Lichtenheld), ran around the house wearing an eyepatch, coveted the idea of having a hook for a hand and was rarely seen without a plastic sword. She knew that pirates were vicious, had pet birds and coolest of all -- they had a stick for a leg.

It was during this pirate phase that, shortly after arriving at the club for tennis one evening, I saw a very fit 20ish-year-old man that also happened to have a prosthetic leg. I hardly noticed this guy as he walked toward us but Zoe, upon seeing the artificial leg, must have assumed he was a pirate with an upgrade to the standard issue wooden leg, because as she walked past him she looked him in the eye, wrinkled her nose and let out an "AAARGH," which I assume is "Hi" in pirate speak. This man didn't immediately notice her because, I assume, he wasn't accustomed to hearing people talk to him as if he should be wearing an eyepatch, so she said it again, even louder: "AAAARGH! AAAAAAARGGGH!" As soon as I realized what was happening, I desperately looked for the "holy shit I need to disappear right now" button, but this guy crouched down, looked right at my daughter, let out an "AAARGH!" of his own and then kept on walking. Her eyes got big as she watched with amazement as he walked away, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Whether he associated her pirate dialect with his prosthetic leg I'll never know, but I do know that Zoe is 100% sure that she saw, and said hi to, a real live pirate who happens to work out at Lifetime Fitness.

He's going to melt! A couple of winters ago, Zoe built her first snowman. It wasn't the most attractive snowman on the block, but it was about four feet tall, had a giant bald head and was lucky enough to be wearing a scarf. A red scarf, actually.

One evening while she and I were sitting at the club waiting for the boys to finish their tennis lesson (Holy shit does the club provide a lot of material for this blog!), I was talking with another parent while Zoe was perfecting her hopscotch technique on the square floor tiles. No sooner had she hopped her way to the end of the room when she started yelling "Oh my gosh. A snowman! Hi Mr. Snowman! Hi snowman! Mom! Mom, look! It's a snowman!" Thinking that my daughter was obviously hallucinating again and making a mental note to cut back on the number of drugs I was giving her, I said yes, wow a snowman, that's really neat, and continued having my Very Important Conversation, which I'm pretty sure was about happy hours. Not eight seconds went by before she continued yelling "HI SNOWMAN!" in an even louder and more high pitched voice than before and that's when I finally looked over and saw that she was now enthusiastically pointing and waving at...a human man. With a bald head. Wearing a big puffy coat and a red scarf. And this human man was about four feet tall.

Yes, yes your thoughts are going in the right direction.

My daughter was pointing and waving at a dwarf standing less than 20 feet away, and calling him a snowman. This guy continued talking with another normal sized human standing next to him and, judging by his unresponsive behavior, I'd like to believe that he never noticed that the chant of "Hi snowman" was being directed toward him. Who knows, maybe in addition to being a dwarf, he was also deaf. And didn't have any peripheral vision.

I finally managed to get Zoe to stop yelling at this guy and out of desperation I maybe even said something like "He didn't reply the first ten times you said 'hi' so please leave him alone. I don't think he can hear you." She eventually just shrugged her shoulders, accepted this explanation and resorted to waving goodbye to the man because after all, she couldn't remember ever seeing a snowman with ears.

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