Friday, March 28, 2008

Tune-up and an oil change

I was just looking at the notebook I used while I was in NZ, and discovered this little note to myself:

'Oil change.' Ha ha ha!

Funny how all it takes is a few words to bring a whole scene back to mind. Let me explain.

I had been visiting one of my brothers, a very religious one, and after a couple of difficult and awkward days (which felt a lot longer) it was finally time to leave. My sister-in-law, who is equally godly and sanctimonious, took me to the bus stop. With her was her 14-year-old son.

I said my goodbyes and climbed onto the bus. I went about halfway back, which is where I try to sit on buses (less swaying around = less likelihood of getting motion sickness). In the front on the opposite side was an elderly couple. The woman was very chatty; her husband less so, although he looked perfectly happy. He seemed a placid sort of fellow.

After a while it became clear the bus wasn't quite leaving yet, so my sister-in-law climbed laboriously onto the bus to talk with me a little more (probably to ask me yet again to translate some Bible scripture into Japanese and record it so her kids could learn Japanese, or something equally insane). However, she didn't get a chance to speak to me. She made the mistake of greeting the elderly couple, and got snagged.

"Nice day for traveling, isn't it?" she said, smiling at them patronizingly. "Are you going far?"

This provoked a detailed explanation of how far the couple had come and how far they were going.

"We're doing the grand tour of the country," said the woman. "We wanted to do it before we get too old. My husband is eighty-one, and I'm not far behind. We're having a lovely time!"

My sister-in-law looked at the husband.

"Eighty-one?" she said, loudly and slowly. "You don't look eighty-one at all!"

(When my sister-in-law talks to elderly people she talks the same way as she does to small children, and it is teeth-grindingly awful.)

The old man grinned.

"Oh, he's doing pretty well," said his wife. "I take good care of him. Every three months I give him a tune-up and an oil change, and he perks right up!"

She threw back her head and laughed and laughed and laughed. The old man nodded, still grinning.

"Works every time!" he said, proudly.

My sister-in-law stared uncomprehendingly for a few seconds. Her be-nice-to-old-people smile froze on her face. Awareness dawned slowly, and with it, horror. Her son was standing right behind her, and was almost doubled over with silent giggles when she remembered he was there and turned to check if he had heard. He rearranged his stance to 'innocent boredom' just in time.

I waited to see what she would say.

She turned back to the old couple again, aghast, and opened and closed her mouth a couple of times. Then she finally said, weakly,

"Oh. That's nice."

And it was. It totally made the whole trip worthwhile.


Anonymous said...

This makes me Laugh Out Loud. (Still laughing about Love You Lots). I think I have known people like your sis-in-law. I would have loved to see this exchange.

Badaunt said...

You would have loved it. That old lady is definitely going to heaven.

Hebron said...

Brilliant! XD
I'm always edgy around old people until they pull out lines like this. Makes me feel I can actually talk to them normally, without having blank stares pointed back at me.
"Tune up." Heh. Nice one, lady :P

kenju said...

I laughed out loud, too. That is priceless!