Why I love David Sedaris

It was the year 2007. We were in Banff, Canada. I was reading this book called “Me talk pretty one day” that I had been wanting to read, and finally picked up. Cackling like a crazy old witch to myself. Which got my kids curious.

That was the beginning of my and my kids’ love affair with David Sedaris, one of the funniest people I have ever read. By the way, there is a running argument over who really got the book first. My daughter says she picked it up, but I bullied her into letting me read it first. I can see that happening, but I don’t think it did, in this case at least. I think I picked it up first.

Anyway, this week, David Sedaris was in Jacksonville, and Raj and I went to see him. The show ended around 9 pm. And we stood in line for about an hour and a half on a weeknight to get this book signed by him. It was amazing to watch this man eat his steak, chat with his fans, write something personal on each book, and sometimes even pull something out of a bag he had with him to gift – maybe a cookie? Not sure what he was giving away. All with a smile, and a niceness that was genuine.

When it was finally our turn, I turned to the chapter that made me laugh hardest: “Jesus Shaves.” And told him my version of the story of how we got hooked as a family to his writing. He listened, and said “that looks really soft. Can I feel it?” about my old, soft cashmere sweater.

What could I say? “Sure?”

He made some conversation, signed the page I opened, we said thanks, and I invited him to a home cooked Indian meal next time he was in town. And realized I hadn’t given him my name (other than Sri), my number or my address until the next day, when I was recounting it to my son. Neither had he asked.  Hmm.. wonder what to make of that.

But, the best thing, that special thing that makes this man a humble genius is what he wrote in my book:

“To Sri

I so enjoyed stroking your arm”.

I get a big old smile everytime I look at it! What a genius!

Raj Travels: The day I got locked out in the hotel balcony

Okay I am back, but with a post written by my husband, Raj. Boy Oh boy do I have to thank him for providing the best material!

His job takes him out of Jacksonville a lot (at least once a week) and Raj being Raj, always has interesting trips. Remind me to post the Jamba juice story sometime. Now on to the story!

Raj’s night on the balcony – in his own words:

10:30pm – Got done talking to H from H about H

10:45pm – Got back to the room on the fifth floor at the hotel on the beach. Started shedding stuff such as watch, cell phone, wallet etc.

10:50pm –Felt the need to clear my head after the conversation, sound of the waves very inviting and relaxing

10:51pm –Open the door and step out into the balcony. Insects on the balcony, so, close the screen door behind me. It was stuck to the glass door and closed that as well

10:52pm –Hear a click as I turn towards the sea

10:53pm – The click registers and I realize I should check the door. Sure enough, door has locked behind me when I closed it! How did this happen?

10:54pm –Panic hits! I am here in the hotel for the ASAP presentation the following day! On a scale of 1-10, I am at 8

10:55pm – I sit down, take some deep breaths, and bring down panic to 2

11:00pm –After trying for five desperate minutes to open the door, give it up. Ripped the insect screen in the process

11:01pm –Knock on the door to see how thick the glass is. Sounds pretty thick. Lift the chair and realize probably not sturdy enough to break glass

11:02pm –Look over the balcony – drop of 50 feet or more – no chance of survival there!

11:03pm –Scan the ground floor and beach – no entities in sight. Absolutely no one around!

11:05pm –Mentally, chalking up lessons learned from this event – (a) when you go into the balcony, don’t close glass door, just the screen door, (b) always carry cell phone with you

11:06pm – “What are you doing? Need to figure out a way to get out of this balcony!”

11:07pm –Panic goes up to 7. I am going to miss the ASAP meeting!

11:08pm –When is someone going to notice I am missing? Before the meeting starts? When it’s time for my presentation? Will they come to the room or just try to call me on my cell? No one will want to leave the meeting! Will the housekeeping service come before they do? Probably only upon departure?

11:09pm –Panic goes up to 8. How am I going to get out of here??

11:10pm – Sit down again and take some deep breaths. Panic down to 2.

11:11pm -What is the worst that could happen? Sleep on the balcony? Weather seems nice, bugs might be an issue.

11:12pm –Panic goes back up to 8. Reason? Just realized that I had a lot of water to drink during dinner. I could feel the pressure starting to build up in my pea-sized bladder! Look over the balcony – seems like my room is right above an arch – no rooms below. Worst case, a midnight shower should be ok!

11:13pm – Decide it’s time to figure out how to get out. Look over the balcony to the left –can’t see the room. Look over the balcony to the right – lights on, but door closed. Look down at my feet – forgot to wear my spider-man shoes.

11:14pm –Lean over and start waving my hands to attract attention. Start yelling “Hello, hello”. No movement on the balcony.

11:15pm –Look towards the beach and randomly start yelling hello to see if someone can hear me.

11:20pm – No luck so far. Panic is starting to inch up again. Decide to try telepathy with my wife. Concentrate! Deeply! Push the waves! Worked! Phone starts ringing inside the room!

11:21pm –Panic at 10! Just realized that my wife’s going to keep calling until I pick up and she’s now going to go into panic! Look over the balcony to see if jumping’s better than living with the guilt of causing her to panic, again! (Another story, another day, on what happens when she goes into panic!)

11:22pm –Phone stops ringing. Really motivated to figure out how to get out of here

11:23pm –Start waving and yelling at my neighbor again. No luck!

11:24pm –Back to yelling “Hello” at the world again. Reminds me of my first “Hello world” C program I wrote. “Why did Brian Kernighan choose hello world for his example? What a legacy it has created!” Not the time for philosophical thoughts. Need to get out of here. (Refer to this article for more info on“hello world” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hello_world_program)

11:30pm –Alternated between waving at my neighbor and yelling at the world

11:31pm –Heard a “hello” directed at me – I felt excited the way probably Alexander Graham Bell did when he tried his phone for the first time!

11:32pm –Leaned over the balcony and looked to the right – my neighbor got taken aback and stepped back a couple of steps. I told him “It’s ok” and told him I got stuck in the balcony and asked him to call the front desk and tell them that the guy in 521 is stuck in the balcony. He said he would do it right away.  I said thanks and we parted

11:33pm – Help should be here in 5 minutes. Life was coming back to me. I will make it to the ASAP meeting after all. No one will know the difference. I’ll call and let my wife know I am ok and that she shouldn’t panic

11:40pm –Help should have been here already. What’s taking them so long? I should have told my neighbor to check on me in twenty minutes or so, just in case. Did he sleep already? What if no one comes? Panic up to 4

11:41pm – I take some deep breaths. Panic down to 1. I start mentally walking through the steps. Security comes with the room key and opens the door. Wait, wait, I put the chain on the door! S*&t! Are they going to have to break down the door?

11:50pm – I definitely don’t want to sleep on the balcony. I wonder why my wife hasn’t called again. Has she quit worrying about me? Is this what happens when you become empty-nesters?

Midnight –Anger is replacing panic. This hotel has no regard for its customers! Half hour has passed and no help yet!

12:01am – My anger waves probably reached them – Yoohoo! I hear the door opening and then it’s stuck because of the chain

12:10am –Security comes back and they have a special tool with which they lift the chain and open the door. They open the balcony door and let me in to MY room! Come to find out that there’s an issue with the lock – it seems backwards to me and looks like I would not have been the first one with this issue. They fix the door and leave

12:15am – I decide to venture into the outside world and step out of my room (after making sure I have the room key with me first). A young couple walks past me and they giggle as they go past. The guy looks familiar and then I realize he was the neighbor!

12:16am –Decide to call my wife. She picks up and in a sleepy voice says “What?” Is this the welcome for a guy who’s survived a balcony lockout? I describe what happened to her. She says “Are you ok now?” I say yes and she yawns and says“Ok, I am tired. I am going back to sleep”

12:17am – I am wide-awake now from all the excitement. I try to lay down wondering if I am going to be able to sleep and if I am going to be fresh for the ASAP meeting…

Closing thoughts from “the wife”:

Flash back about 21 years. I am pregnant with my first child, and we have just come back from some event to our apartment.

Decide to step onto the balcony.

Enjoying the nice weather, when Raj decides he’s had enough and needs to go the restroom. I tell him to go ahead, I’m going to stay and enjoy the fresh air. He goes in.

A few more minutes, I decide to go in and try to open the balcony door. “Try” being the operative word. HE HAD LOCKED IT ON HIS WAY IN! This is a pattern of behavior that has taken me about 20 years to modify! Locking me out, turning off lights when  leaving a room (with me still in the room).!! Anyway, I shout, bang (no cell phones back in 1991) to no avail. He takes his time (about 45 minutes) before realizing what he’s done.

And then I hear this story. Ah, Karma, my sweet angel! My faith in you grows every day.

Trippingly on the tongue

The other day,  my children and I were having lunch at Al’s Pizza, a local pizza joint, when Sandhya entertained us by reading out loud an article listing the 50 most annoying, over-used, abused, misused words/phrases in the English language.  That got me reignited on my own list of words/phrases that should, in my opinion,  only be used in the privacy of one’s own head and never in company.

So here it is.

1.  The good, “my bad” and the ugly: ’nuff said.  Come on, people.  Grow up.

2. Adieu, to you, and you and you “and I” – as in “At John and I’s wedding, we served beer and peanuts”.  The phrase  “and I” is appropriate in certain sentences such as “John and I will not abuse the English language from today”.  I believe this unsavory trend began when well meaning language enthusiasts decided to correct the abuse of the phrase “and me” and overcorrected.

A good way to test the usage of this is to remove the proper noun in the sentence and see if it makes sense.  For example, would you ever say “I’s wedding”? Ever? So, the correct use there is “At John and my wedding”.

3. Indecent prepositions: While it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition, sometimes I feel it is not cool to pile them on.  Examples:

  • “Get off of me!”
  • “Where you at?” This always conjures up the image of a gum-chewing, vacant-eyed teen for me.   Sorry teens!  I know several adults who say this.

4.  U R not cool when you use chat/text format abreviations in formal emails/articles.

5.  Saying “your” when you mean “you are”.  As in “your in my way”.

6. “Other line” – I know several well-educated teens (sorry again!)  who say this when they’re on the phone, and they get another call.  Kids, you don’t have “two lines”.  You have call-waiting, and you have one telephone line.  Just say “I am getting another call”.  If that’s too long in this age where status updates more than 140 characters is an essay, just say “another call”.

7. Who versus that:  This drives me nuts.  I was taught to always use “who” when I am talking about people, and “that” when I am talking about inanimate things.  For example:

“The man who saw the cat that chased the cat” is the more conventionally correct form, but an insanely large amount of people I know would say “The man that saw the cat that chased the rat”.  So much so that I catch myself doing the unthinkable sometimes!

8. Saying “I could care less” when you mean that you really don’t care.  The correct usage is: “I couldn’t care less”.

These are a few of my favorite peeves.  I am certainly no grammar girl, and the irony of me, whose first language is Tamil, writing this did cross my mind – but didn’t stop me.

I welcome alert readers to contribute to this list.   Don’t hold back.  Have fun!