Like most husbands, I have a long and sorry track record of leading my wife into the wrong place/situation, via the potentially lethal combination of overconfidence and not paying much attention, a trait that all husbands share.1
For example, in New York in 2002 we were looking for a cab and I noticed one that had US flags on it and many decorations inside, and concluded that it would be a good one to use because anyone who would go to the effort of decorating their cab must be very committed to the job, right?
What I did not notice, of course, were the confederate flags and gun-rights stickers that made up much of the decoration, nor the fact that anyone who would bother decorating a cab in New York is clearly insane.
At least, this guy was, which became apparent as soon as we got in, because he took off before the doors were fully closed and prior to us telling him where to go; it was much the same way you would expect Hannibal Lecter to take off, had he been a cab driver.
The fact that the streets were heavy with the usual level of New York traffic – about 15 cars for every 10 square feet – did not impact on our cabbie’s driving strategy, which was clearly centred on the assumption that everyone else was more concerned about being in an accident than he was (which, in his defence, was largely effective).
His state of mind was also apparent when he spoke, which came as a shock – a speaking cab driver in New York is a pretty rare thing (and based on our experience, a bad sign). In all our time in New York to that point, no cabbie had said a word to us, most preferring to indicate via unintelligible mumbling, stern looks and short sharp gestures that once we had vocalised the destination, the need for us to talk had been exhausted and we should shut up.
Our cabbie, in contrast, straight away launched in to a monologue which was largely an enthusiastic endorsement of every conspiracy theory ever, including future ones; there was very little he was not prepared to believe, unless it was backed up with scientific facts, which he regarded as Russian/Mexican/Democrat lies. In fact, I suspect there is some chance that he went on to become one of Donald Trump’s 873 attorneys-general.
At the time we met him (the cabbie, not Donald Trump), however, Trump’s presidency was only something the very wise (that is, the writers of The Simpsons) could foresee. He was at that point far more interested in the September 11 attacks, which had occurred less than a year previously and about which he had many strong opinions.
That wouldn’t have bothered me so much if he hadn’t felt the need to turn completely around in his seat to explain his points, staring straight into our eyes rather than at the road, all the while maintaining a velocity which threatened to break the sound barrier.
You might wonder why we didn’t simply jump out when he stopped at a traffic light, but I don’t recall that he ever did. In fact, he didn’t even slow down except to take better aim at pedestrians, whom he also regarded as Russians/Mexicans/Democrats.
I am actually not making that up; he happily told us that he had no time for people who stepped onto the road when he was working, and it was clear he considered red lights and ‘walk/don’t walk’ signs as more Democrat lies. He also felt the need to let us know that at that very moment his lawyer was in court handling the outcome of four separate accidents2 in which the cabbie had been involved.
The other thing against jumping out is that it seemed unwise to give the impression we were going to do a runner on a cab driver who had ‘guns are people too’ and ‘trespassers will be shot; survivors will be shot again’ stickers prominently displayed in his cab.
Anyway, eventually the ride was over and, after enduring a lecture about how the CIA was behind the destruction of the World Trade centre, we paid him and got out.
Of course, experiences like that never dent the confidence of an experienced husband, and so it was that I accepted an invitation to a celebration dinner at my son’s school. I had determined, from reading about every third word of the invitation at least as far as the second paragraph, that this was a celebration of all things school and a great way for us to meet other parents and engage with the school community.
Which in a way it was, except that it was an opportunity to engage with the school community from a few decades ago, being in fact a reunion of past students and teachers. This meant my wife and I were able to spend an hour or so reminiscing with people we had never met, about times we didn’t have, in a school we had never even visited prior to last year. Ah, the memories!
There was even a bit where you had to write down the most embarrassing memory of the school, so that it could be read out at a later time. I wrote ‘this one right now’ and determined that we needed to be gone before these things were read out.
Luckily, most of the people at our table were past teachers, and my wife (being a teacher) can speak teacher, and she explained the situation in words they could understand, using terms like ‘pedagogy’ and ‘curriculum’.
This was vital, as a non-teacher attempting to partake in an all-teacher discussion is dicing with death. You think you understand, and then make the mistake of attempting to contribute, and they know straight away you aren’t one of them. Suddenly one of them says “asynchronous inclusive teaching Piaget pedagogy”3 and you’d better run.
(NB: Lawyers should not feel smug, as we do a similar thing, although the big danger is killing an innocent non-lawyer via a tsunami of boredom. If you don’t believe me, ask your spouse what it is like when you get together with your lawyer friends.4)
Anyway, between main and dessert, we escaped via a technique my wife has developed which involves walking backwards through a crowd slowly and discretely enough that it looks like you are moving forwards – a bit like Michael Jackson, except my wife can sing.
So, it was all in all a great way to spend $300 on half a meal with people we didn’t know, a bit like turning up to the wrong wedding. Plus, I think I got COVID there. Still, I can’t wait for the next one, in 10 years or so; I’ll say, “Remember those two idiots who turned up to the wrong reunion last time? What doofuses! Ha ha! Pedagogy.” I hope they don’t have any wicker handy…
© Shane Budden 2022
1 I realise this is sexist, but it is still true.
2 …and I use the term loosely…
3 Literally, “Let’s burn the infidel in a wicker man”.
4 Even if your spouse is also a lawyer.