WHY THIS BLOG?

I AM PARCA'S CHOSEN:
Parca is the Roman Goddess of Childbirth and Destiny and after you get to know me, you will see why I believe she has, without doubt, made me her Poster Child. I deal with the odd serious issue but for the most part, my posts are just some cheeky fun, reviews of favorite shows, and true stories that will make you laugh out loud (or run screaming...I don't know you well enough to predict your behavior). You'll find satire with the odd parody tossed in....and definitely a heaping helping of hyperbole.

I am Canadian so expect a bit of politeness too. Sorry.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A DEFINING MOMENT

A DEFINING MOMENT

I have invented a new word: EMFLABBERFIED {em-fla-ber-fahyd}; adjective

It is a mixture of the words embarrassed, flabbergasted and horrified and the people at Merriam Webster have my permission to put my picture next to it. What does it mean exactly? Let me tell you how it originated and its definition will become clear.

I was born and raised in the smallish sort of town typical of the Canadian prairies. The WELCOME sign on the road heading in boasted a population of 9,000 souls, and that was counting farm animals. Not much for a girl to do except pump gas at her daddy’s Esso Station and go for coffee with friends a dozen times a day. It’s not that the coffee was all that good, but it was a place to smoke. My mother didn’t approve of her fourteen year old smoking, but she compromised by making me promise that I’d never walk down the streets with a cigarette in my hand. That was a trampy thing to do. But apparently it was okay to puff my lungs out in any restaurant or the hockey arena. Even the Bingo Hall was fair game.

Therein began my seemingly perpetual coffee/cigarette/cafe ritual. For my best friend Marianne and I, the hangout of choice was the PP, the Pizza Place, and we often met other friends there as well. It was on one such occasion that the word 'emflabberfied' was born.

It was an excruciatingly painful birth despite the short labor.

Before I go on, you have to understand the time we were living in. It was 1974 and innocent bigotry was rampant. We used words and phrases like nigger-toes (Brazil nuts); nigger-babies (small licorice penny candy); Chinks (Chinese people) and bucks/squaws (Native Indian boys and girls). The latter two were the only visible minorities in town: we had two Chinese families and the Native kids were bussed in from the Reservations during the school year. I got along well with everyone. My girlfriend Janie dated one of the Reserve boys who looked like a cinnamon Donny Osmond and I was privileged to be invited yearly to my school-chum's birthday party which was held at his parents Chinese restaurant.

‘Innocent bigotry’ sounds like an oxymoron, but it was innocent back then because we weren’t malicious people, just apathetic kids, who tossed the words around like one would use the word 'idiot' today. Rude but not hateful; at least not in my circle of friends. It was just the way we grew up talking and I never once felt animosity or malice towards anyone just because of their skin color. They were only words and nobody thought about it twice, especially a caffeine/nicotine addicted Junior High School cheerleader whose only concern was whether she was holding her cigarette in the most sophisticated angle and if she was wearing enough blue eyeshadow.

Yes, that would be me.

We all had nicknames and although some were derogatory, they were always made and taken in the spirit of goodhearted fun; it bonded us. There was Iggie, Sticky (I won’t tell you how that was earned), Puddy, Greaser, Chester (yes, her name was appropriate)...you get the idea. One of our most popular pals was a boy who we called Black Ernie. He was dark (a swarthy, Italian complexion), a good-looking jokester and a shameless flirt. We also called Ernie ‘Spook’. We had a vague understanding, that we promptly dismissed, that this was an insulting term used for black people way off in the United States somewhere, but since it was a secondary nickname, its usage was random and rare.

One day at the PP while chatting through a smoky haze, waiting for someone to join our table in the crowded cafe, I heard the door open behind me and Marianne (who faced the door) leaned over and whispered the word ‘spook’. The door closed and a shadow fell across me and I knew Black Ernie was joining us, so I went for the easy laugh:

Denise: (in haughty, mock ridicule) I smell someone Black!

The sight of Marianne's jaw hitting the table caused me a moment of concern so I looked up to see why Ernie wasn’t trying to give me a head rub... and my heart went into defib.

There, to my complete and utter surprise, was the first black man I had ever seen.

He was dressed in a grey suit and he held an overcoat and a brown leather briefcase. He walked slowly past me and quietly sat down at a table across the room and picked up a menu. He never looked at me once.

I felt my face flush alternately Burn-In-Hell Red and KKK White. I must have looked like an ambulance stuck in a ditch, flashing in distress and going nowhere. Marianne finally found her voice.

Marianne: (looking aghast) Oh my God. Do you think he, ummm...are you okay?

Denise: (wide-eyed and whispering hoarsely) You said Spook! I thought you meant Ernie! Why did you say that? Shit! Did he hear me? Is he looking at me? Shit!

Marianne: Give me your smoke. You look like you’re going to puke.

I took a deep breath and started to get up to go over and apologize, but as I looked at him furtively from the corner of my eye, he signaled to the waitress and I hesitated. He looked completely at ease.

I sat back quietly and tried to calm myself down and decide what to do. I decided that I had three choices:
1) Walk over and explain the whole thing and apologize sincerely.
2) Pretend it never happened and leave very quickly.
3) Stab my eyes with my lit cigarette and gouge out my tongue with my coffee spoon.

I decided on #1, but only if he gave a sign that he had heard me. It would have been even more awkward if I went to apologize and then had to explain what the insult was if he didn’t know what I was talking about. It was loud in the cafe and there was a chance he hadn’t heard me. So I hoped.

Eyeballing him on the sly for thirty more minutes convinced me he hadn’t heard a thing, or if he had, he was above it all and I was not worth his anger, disdain or time. He read over some papers, ate his meal and never looked my way. I was determined to not run away from what I had done, so we sat there and waited until he had finished his dessert and left. I hoped that if he had heard me, he might say something on the way out and I could say sorry then, but nothing came of it. Nothing but a hard lesson about the power of words.

And I also learned something very important about myself. I had a deep and true empathy for others, and I could face my worst mistakes and not let them ruin me.

I also learned that smoking 25 cigarettes in half an hour makes suicide a suitable Choice #4.