Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Jesus Lizard, Part One

When I, a thoughtful and unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious matters. When a thoughtful and unblessed Mohammedan examines the Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because you never can prove anything to a lunatic--for that is a part of his insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane, for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his. All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the Republicans and Mugwumps know it. All the Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats and Mugwumps can perceive it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane. — Mark Twain, Christian Science, 1907

The letter read something like this, the original resides in my permanent record in the nuclear storm proof archives that all our permanent records are stored in, and therefore, I cannot gain access to it . . . unless I were to fill out a request in triplicate form and have it signed by various and sundry individuals of power from my past, so this dramatization will have to suffice:

Dear Chief–in–Charge–of–Trips:

I recently returned from Belize and Guatemala. I traveled there by way of your fine organization’s International Eco Trips program with a group of fifteen senior citizens. We were hosted by an in-country guide, an Englishman named Nigel and his bus driver, a Belizean fellow named London. We were also to be assisted by one of your American employees, a young woman, all of 29 I believe, named Miss Wolfy. It was my understanding that Miss Wolfy would attend to all of our needs. She was to carry our luggage, check us in to all hotels, solve various itinerary issues, provide First Aid services, field our complaints, answer all questions regarding your organization’s activities within the country, be knowledgeable of all plants and wildlife in our country of destination, and above all, I believe it was her duty to be concerned with our welfare at every moment of the day.


Miss Wolfy failed on all accounts. I don’t see how your fine organization could employ such an incompetent boob of a child. She was far too young for any of us to relate to. She seemed to show no concern for my needs throughout the trip. She stayed up until all hours carousing with local people—drinking and playing backgammon of all things. Her knowledge of plants was elementary at best. She was callous toward my physical ailments. She all but disappeared in the last two days of the trip.

And finally, while snorkeling at Blue Hole, she swam off and left me to drown.

I demand some sort of retribution, perhaps in the form of letting this young woman go. She is obviously not fit to work for your fine organization and will only cause you further embarrassment in the future.

Sincerely,

Miss Eloise Rockbottom
Boston, MA

Sixteen years ago I went to Belize and Guatemala as an employee of the great big International Conservation Organization that I have mentioned to you previously. I had been working for them for close to five years at that point. I had been a data manager for the fundraisers and then jumped over to the science side of things where I managed more data and made maps by way of Geographical Information Systems. I was self trained in all these endeavors. I was an English major turned techie by necessity. One of the perks of working for ICO was the chance to participate in their international trips they offered to members. It was an honor to be chosen and one had to go through quite a bit of rigamarole to get on the roster of trip leaders. You had to fill out piles of forms, get recommendations within and outside of the organization, and you had to show yourself capable of being charming with the membership. I was noted for being particularly adept in dealing with our members, most of whom were over 55.

Our fundraisers spotted my talent for getting along with the older set early on in my career with ICO. They were astonished to find that I could attend these utterly boring fundraising events and carry on long and interesting conversations with people who were three and four times my age. One member practically adopted me as her grandchild after one such event, a weekend in the mountains. There was a snafu with a nature preserve gate being left locked and I had to sit patiently as the sun set and darkness fell with this wonderful old woman, a botanist, while we waited for staff to go find a key in a cabin that was a three or four mile hike away. The old lady and I passed the time by jabbering away and ignoring the cold mountain air that was enveloping us. By the end of it, she was my new grandmother. She mailed me Christmas cards every year after that, its twenty years ago now—I received my last Christmas card from her two years ago, right before she passed away.

So you see, it was well known within our Chapter of ICO that I had a way with the old folks, especially the ones with money. Something to do with my being raised by old folks I suppose. And therefore I was seen as an ideal candidate to fly off to Central America with a whole gaggle of senior citizens and represent ICO with no trouble at all. But Eloise Rockbottom, an overweight diabetic Christian Scientist with a heart condition who was also a retired New England school teacher of the worst kind loaded the dice against me.

Stay tuned and meet Eloise and all my trip participants in the Miami Airport in my next exciting installment of The Jesus Lizard . . .

3 comments:

T.S. Dogfish said...

The Rockbottom sorts were the breed who made Life in New England a pill to swallow. We all dealt with these: in fact, Burr Farms Elementary was almost exclusively taught by them. I went from California where all my teachers were young and lovely and energetic, to the bleak humanscape of New England Schoolmarms.

Caitlyn Hentenaar said...

I'm hooked.

Anonymous said...

Oh Shannon this is funny i to think i am hooked
Dear Chief–in–Charge–of–Trips:this gave me a real hearty laugh, i'm still laughing as i write this i will go back and read this section~~~i'm on to part two soon :) thank you shannon~~~joelbergquist@yahoo.com