Voices Carry

As usual, Daria directs the toddlers, nurses the baby and writes a grocery list while she talks on the phone.

Tata: So I call up Miss Sasha and she answers the phone sounding kind of…disoriented and breathless. I ask her, “Darling, Mommy needs your social security number.” So she starts to tell me and about halfway through she sort of trails off, and then she remembers and then we hang up. I’m like, “Why did she pick up?” So she calls me back about an hour later.
Daria: I could’ve gone all day without that mental picture.
Tata: She goes, “Mommy, we were eating waffles and fell asleep.”
Daria: She’s a terrible liar.
Tata: She’s a terrible liar! I stood up in my cubicle and shouted, “IS THAT THE BEST YOU CAN DO?” Scared the hell out of my brand new student worker.
Daria: Unaccustomed to your outbursts, is she?
Tata: She’s new to New Jersey. I’m breaking her in by shouting profusely, mostly about manicures. So Miss Sasha calls back again.
Daria: She does? Why?
Tata: She says, “Mommy! I figured out why you were so confused I was in bed before.” I say, “You did? Why’s that?” She says, “Did you know we’re on Central Time?” I say I didn’t know Pensacola was on Central Time. She goes, “See? Now it makes sense.” I say, “Sweetheart, I called you after one in the afternoon.”
Daria: I’m dying! What’d she say?
Tata: “Well, yeah…”
Daria: I can’t breathe!
Tata: Not to give her marital advice or anything – because we all know I don’t know jackshit about staying married – but I say a Twister game and a bottle of olive oil will keep her out of divorce court.

Thank Your Favorite Deity, Miss and Mr. Sasha were unharmed by Hurricane Dennis and Tropical Depression Cindy, though I did tell them if they were killed by a sub-par thunderstorm with a stupid nickname I’d spend the rest of my life alternately weeping and smirking. The newlyweds spent the evacuation weekend in Montgomery, Alabama, where they discovered in a convenience store that complete strangers held exciting opinions about interracial couples, but talk is often cheap. In Milwaukee last week, Paulie Gonzalez discovered celebrity gossip is relative.

Guy In Wisconsin: You’re from New Jersey? My favorite musician, Barbecue Bob, is from New Jersey.
Paulie: Yeah yeah, I know Barbecue Bob from the bar.
Guy In Wisconsin: Barbecue Bob plays at bars and clubs?
Paulie: Barbecue Bob drinks in the bar.

The aforementioned student worker is a brilliant, lovely woman from Beijing with a mile-long resume and a perfect command of English. Her name sounds like the ringing bell on a beloved daughter’s two-wheeler. She could do my job with her left brain tied behind her back. Fortunately for our dignity and my retirement plans, it is my function in life to teach her filing and business letter writing. She helps me create order where now there is chaos and despair; I create blackness and cynicism in her soul. Yahtzee!

Student: Why do you have snacks?
Tata: Since I was a tiny school nerd with luxurious long hair, I’ve been fascinated with the Watts Towers. One crazy man with spare time, garbage and an unhealthy fixation built these unbelievably beautiful, amazing things. I’ve never seen them. Then lunchbox applesauces were on sale at A&P, so I built these things on my desk to confuse my co-workers. You wouldn’t believe how towers of applesauce upset people.
Student: They’re absolutely symmetrical, in the shape of an M. What are they for?
Tata: I eat them. They’re applesauce. They’re all different flavors, which is to say colors, so I can’t eat just one. I have to eat two.
Student: When I saw them I thought you were exceptionally…healthy

When she says “healthy” I hear “certifiable” and I lie down on my cubicle floor to laugh hard enough. My co-worker calls from a desk forty feet from mine. My standards are low. I reach up for the phone.

Tata: Ta speaking.
Co-Worker: What’s so funny? I must know!
Tata: Are you calling from your desk?
Co-Worker: I heard you laughing. University Libraries heard you laughing. Why are you laughing?
Tata: Well, our student worker has determined my applesauce towers are an alarming Rorschach test. I’m going home to watch a few minutes of one-dimensional people speaking sestina-like buzzword dialogue on General Hospital. And I called Systems, left a message in Pirate Speak without leaving my name and they called me, out of the libraries’ hundreds of employees. Apparently, if you say “Arrrrrrrr” and “Avast!” and threaten to mail them parrots people will give you what you want.
Co-Worker: Aha…!

Don’t kid yourself. He’s taking notes.

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