Ahead of the Corona Curve

While most of the Corona panic- buying here in the Shenandoah Valley has seemingly subsided for the moment, one item continues to be a semi-precious commodity: yep, toilet paper.

This continued depletion of supply has inspired some folks to come up with some, shall we say, novel solutions and some ideas not so odd. One of these is the slow introduction to the general American public of an appliance that has seemingly been in use in Europe for a long time: The bidet (that’s pronounced, Bee-day for folks raised in Duval County!). The other night a fellow blogger wrote a piece on just this topic and it brought back memories of my first encounter with this European marvel.

In March of 1973 I decided to take a trip to the place of my father’s birth, Ireland. This would be my first time on an airplane and my first time traveling to a foreign land – except for an accidental trip to New Jersey, which is another story!

I was well prepared for this adventure. Just before leaving I consulted with a cousin who had traveled frequently to The Old Country. He gave me a wealth of information: The Irish currency was called a Punt and was worth about $2.50 at the time. Cars drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheels are on the right and all cars have manual transmissions. I was told that upon leaving the Shannon Airport I was to drive kind of northward and sort of along the coast, but not too close! He also said when I arrived in the hometown to just ask for “Batty”, that was my uncle’s nickname, and for good reason, said my cousin. Loaded with this information (who would need more?), I set off.

I arrived in Limerick, rented a car and started out the parking lot. It must have been my unique driving style that caused the Garda (Irish police) to run to the exit gate, raise it and jump behind a row of concrete pillars. As I bucked passed them, one made the Sign of the Cross and the other uttered a phrase I would hear often during my “Journey Home”: Jaysus, Mary and Joseph! Off I went.

Like a homing pigeon, I did make my way to Charlestown, County Mayo and quickly found Uncle Batty, a gentleman through and through, but with an odd sense of humor, I was told. After visiting for a couple of days, seeing my family living in the same single room cottage as did their great- grandparents, I set off for Dublin, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. I felt like a regular world-class traveler by now. Little did I know that I was about to have an experience not ever to be forgotten!

No reservations, no problem. God surely protects fools, I’ve learned. So, down Dublin’s main thoroughfare I drove (getting better by the minute, I was) and decided to turn onto a quaint side street. Now, Dublin at this time was not much different than during the time of Joyce and Yeats. Cobbled streets, the scent of peat from stoves and fireplaces, painted doors and stately stone buildings everywhere. It was a movie set, I thought. Pulling up to a stone-fronted hotel, a crisply uniformed young man greeted me and helped carry my duffle bag to the check-in desk and then up to the room. Now, I had also been advised to bring with me an ample supply of Kennedy silver half-dollars to use as tips. Apparently this was good advice because the bell boy was actually excited to get one: American money and an Irish-American president. Nothing better in Ireland during that Spring of 1973! Now, my long-remembered experience was about to begin.

 The room was huge, with a sitting area that overlooked the cobbled, narrow street below. The bathroom was expansive. Everything was marble – floors, walls, double sinks – the whole thing. After looking around and seeing everything to be in order, I decided to refresh a bit after the long drive. Wait, what is that? A toilet for a midget? These Irish think of everything, they do. So, I decide to give the “midget seat” a try. Before “doing” anything, I decided to give a side lever a tug – just to see what’s what, so to speak. A gush of cold water blasted my back and head. What the heck!! This can’t be right. So, I stood up and gave another yank to the handle. Old Faithful then gushes out all over the floor, turning the bath into nearly a pool. Something’s wrong here, for sure. Hmmm, I’d better get some help.

So, I go out to the hall and there stands a young girl in a heavily starched black and white uniform, wearing a lace cap, carrying an armful of clean towels. The Sherlock Holmes in me figures she must work here. So, “Can I ask you something” I say. “Yes, sir”, she replies. “Come in, please”. She follows and I walk into the bathroom with her, somewhat reluctantly, following behind. Pointing to the midget seat I ask, “Do you know what that is”? She stiffens and says, “I do”. We’re onto something now. “Do you know how it works”? A bit more stiffening and a hint of wariness is now in her voice when she again replies, “I do”. “Well, could you show me how it works?”  “I WILL NOT!”, and like a bolt she runs from the room. By the time I can get to the door she has run to the end of the hallway and met with another uniformed girl. I can hear that other one saying, “He didn’t!!”  “He did”, says the first girl. They both turn to give me the Short Eye and then hustle down the stairs. Odd girls, I say to myself.

So, after foregoing trying to give the geyser another try, I go out and have a wonderful evening exploring Old Dublin. When I return, I decide to have a drink in the hotel’s small, wood-paneled pub. Three or four older men sitting at the bar and the bartender, dressed in the customary white shirt, black tie and pants were the only other people in the pub. I sat at a small table. The bartender looked at me and said, “What will it be”? “A Guinness, please”. He pours it and puts it on the bar; I get up, take it and say, “Thanks”. “Ah, you must be the Yank staying on the second floor”, says the barman. “I am”, I say. The barman smiles and bends to whisper something to the men sitting at the rail. A burst of laughter. “He didn’t!” says one, “was it Mary?” “No, the new girl, Bridie”, says the barman. “Ah, Jaysus”, says another of the men. “Mary would be bad enough, but Bridie! Is she still runnin’”? Now, another burst of laughter. Odd bunch, these Dubliners, I’m thinking. On the way out, the barman says, “Yank, did ye’ figure out that thing in your room”? “No”, and I continued out and up to my room, but not before I heard more laughter and, “Jaysus, ye’d think they would have them in America, as well”. They’re a very odd bunch in this place, I thought. But, still nice.

A week or so later, up in Sligo, I told my uncle Frank all about the midget seat/ foot washer (cleverly, I figured this out on my own!), the cleaning girl running out of the room and the people in the bar laughing. Uncle Frank, not a drinker, nearly choked on his tea. “Well, Billy”, he said, “I’d say you should not plan on going back there again”. He then started to laugh just as hard as the folks in Dublin as he explained just what that little seat was for.

So, if these Bidet things ever catch on here in the U.S., I’m way ahead of the curve! And it’s a good thing that we’ve installed waterproof flooring in the bathrooms!

As always, pray, don’t worry, be careful.

Bill

Da’ Fade

Sometimes, it’s the little, everyday things that just make you shake your head and say, “what the heck”!

This morning started out with promise. Early rising, good cup of coffee and plans to zip on over to downtown Staunton to enjoy a second cup and one of the special donuts at Paradise Donuts before exploring the outlying neighborhoods.

Before long the Redhead says that she’d really like me to order a new camera for Christmas using my long accumulated credit card points. Hmmm. That might be nice, especially since it won’t “cost” me anything and I’ve actually had my eye on a particular model. But, true to form, I feel the need to do more research on the camera I’ve read reviews about many times.

So, off I go into “Billy Land”, as the Redhead calls my moments of pondering, and I’m caught up in on-line comparison shopping for an hour. And, it wasn’t a waste of time either. It turns out a somewhat better camera went on sale. Nice! So, into the cart it went. Whoa! Wait a minute. No points available??? An hour later everything is back on track, the camera is ordered and I’m chomping on the bit to chomp on a donut!

But, noooo. The Redhead comes over with a letter from our former DMV stating that my license and registration will be cancelled… forthwith! What happened to the 30 day rule? Bye, bye, donuts, I’m figuring. Into the car we go, stuffed with all our documents (we thought) and over to the Virginia DMV to take care of business. An hour later I have a paper copy of a new Virginia drivers license. It will take a second trip to register the car, but, progress is made. So, what next?

A haircut! Gabby Hayes has nothing on me lately. The lovely Miss Nancy of Vintage Barber Shop in Jacksonville would faint if she saw my noggin’ now. As we drive around Staunton looking for a barber shop, a plain barber shop, it dawns on me. We’ve moved. The Redhead yanks out her smartphone. “Oh, here’s one…’The Man Cave'”. No, I don’t think so. “Oh, oh, how about, “The Golden Comb”. She is now howling laughing. No. And ditto to , Family Salon, Nuthin’ Fancy and Uni-sex Cut an’ Curl. I just want a plain barber. “How about, ‘Bob the Barber”? “O.k. sounds good”, I say. Several blocks later we discover Bob has sold out to a Vape shop. “The girls at the beauty school would welcome the chance to work on your hair”, Red suggests. Now, anyone who knows me knows I’m an open minded kind of guy. But, sitting in the store front window of the Staunton School of Beauty is , well, not my thing. Sorry girls, no purple hair streaks for Gibby!

Let’s go home, I wimper. No, donuts, no haircut. As we drive along Route 250 Red spots, “Who’s Next Barbershop.” Hmmm. Let’s give it a try. We pull into the parking lot facing a non-descript shop with a few cars parked outside. Red heads toward a vintage resale shop and I open the door to the shop. It’s crowded. But, one of the two barbers says, “Don’t worry, there’s only one person ahead of you”. Okey, dokey, I think. A young mother is waiting for her son to be finished and then one more kid is ahead of me. How long can this take? At least something is going right today. Mom’s kid is finally finished 30 minutes later. The next kid hops into the chair while barber # 2 is still working on another youngster. Hmmm. Barber # 1 looks my way and says, “I have to leave by 5, so Uncle Billy will have to do you, if you don’t mind waiting”. It’s 4:10. I’m thinking, How long do haircuts take here? Hmm. I reply, “Where’s Uncle Billy”? “Right there”, he says, pointing to barber #2.  “We specialize in High and Tights, Fades and Etching”. Before I can mutter, Whaa? barber # 2 says, “That’s right, we’re real artists”! What the heck! I’m thinking. Well, I wait another 20 minutes or so. Both #1 and #2 are seemingly working on the same section of each customers head for over 25 minutes now. I guess real artists they are.

I gracefully glance at my watch and say, “Hey, I have to go, catch you in the morning”.  “No problem, sir. Come back, we’ll make you look real good”, says #1. “You bet”, I respond.

So, what do you think would look good on this noggin’? High and Tight? Maybe some fancy Etching?

dafade

Well, probably just a hat. Better luck tomorrow!

Hold Your Fire!

We’re three days in our new home here in the Shenandoah Valley Virginia town of Waynesboro. Moving cartons are everywhere – open, full and some empty. Our third bedroom has been turned into a storeroom with furniture piled on top of each other and boxes not yet to be opened crammed into whatever available space there is. But, as I write this, our bedroom, the guest bedroom, living room and kitchen have finally been put into order.

It has been an exhausting few months. The idea of selling our home, marketing it and having a wonderful buyer come forth immediately was emotional but not too stressful. It was the packing and tag sales that started to ebb our energy. As I’ve written before, no one wants to help you pack and fewer than none want to help unpack. You’re on your own, baby!

So, imagine if you can sleeping soundly in your bed after two days of heavy lifting and sorting. The cool mountain air, drifting in through the slightly open window, has given you some of the most restful sleep you’ve had in several years. And then it happens.

A female voice, young sounding, comes from just outside your window. At first it seems like only a jumble of words, loud words, but not quite making sense. It’s still dark. What the heck!

The word jumble takes form and the young woman seems to be speaking  shouting to someone on her cell phone. This can’t be happening. But it is!

The conversation gets louder. This gal must live upstairs and is having a conversation while walking outside, I’m thinking. Now her words are coming together.

“You know”, she says, “I’ve always been a sort of worrier; maybe even depressed. No, not depressed, just kinda’ into my feelings, you know”.

Lady, I’m thinking, if you knew what I’m feeling you’d tone it down a notch. And further away, too!

But, she continues. “So, like, my parents knew I couldn’t open up to many people so they bought me Snowball. And, I’d like talk to Snowball all the time, ya’ know. I’d tell him everything. And, I mean EVERYTHING!

Oh, please have mercy, I’m thinking. Please, please be quiet!

Now, The Redhead is awake. Her eyes are closed, but I know she’s awake.

“So, like sometimes I didn’t even have to talk to Snowball. He just knew what I was thinking. My parents sensed how much I loved him and could talk to him so they bought me Snowflake. She was a girl, ya’ know. So, I’d talk to them and then one day my aunt and uncle bought me a baby seal and I named her Snow Crystal. Yep, another girl. So, I had one boy and two girls that I could talk to about EVERYTHING!

This can not happening.  But, now I hear laughing. This woman is outside my window on speaker phone! In the dark!

So, one year my parents took me on winter break vacation to the Bahamas, she continues. It was fab, ya’ know. But, I wouldn’t go unless Snowball, Snowflake and Snow Crystal could go ,too. My parents thought it was cute so they bought an oversize suitcase to put them into.

Wait a minute! These snow things are dolls, stuffed animals!!?? Oh, Lady, you’ve got to be kidding me!

“And, so”, she continues, “as I got older I still talked to Snowball and Snowflake and Snow Crystal all the time. About EVERYTHING! About how I felt when the other girls started to develop and I didn’t, ya’ know.

More laughter from the other end of the phone.

And then, louder if possible, “So, my mom knew I was feeling bad and how I could talk to Snowball and Snowflake and Snow Crystal about EVERYTHING (more speaker phone laughter) so she said I should talk to them about wearing a training…

Wait a minute! This is altogether too much! I’m putting an end to this conversation right now. So, I throw off the covers and realize that since our bed is now on a padded carpet it’s a bit higher. My feet can’t reach the floor! So, I hop off, slightly twisting an ankle already sore from all the bending and lifting of the past few days. Dang it!

I hobble over to the window to tell The Conversationalist that her conversation is over and to pipe down and move on!

And then…wait a minute! She’s inside our room! What??

I turn to her voice. What the heck is happening? Son of a … It’s the clock radio tuned into a public radio station and broadcasting a “repeat performance” of Storyteller something or other. No one’s outside my window. Hold your fire, Gibby!

The still closed eye Redhead says, “What’s wrong with you”?

“Nothing, My Sweet”. I hop back up in bed and laugh The Redhead fully awake and  myself back into deep slumber.

Good Night!

P.S. Note the change of photo at the top of the blog. It was taken back in September not far from where we now are.