Growing up, my dad had all these token sayings that he pulled out on a regular basis.
“That’s just the way it worked out. (Usually said when something didn’t go my way.)
“Did you take the Juneflower?” (Used when I arrived late to … everything.)
“You never find anything looking up.” (He cashed this one in immediately following him finding a prize – like a heads-up penny – on the ground.)
“I don’t know why you make me be mean to you.” (Always stated after he’d yelled at me for something … note: this one is still used regularly in present day.)
That last one always confused me the most. I made him? Did he not hear me begging him to let me out of trouble? I never understood his thought process until tonight, as I find myself screaming profanities through the telephone at an automated customer service line that is proving itself to be zero help with my cable box dysfunctions.
The monotone voice is feeding me instructions, I’m cradling my phone between my chin and my shoulder, punching buttons on my remote control furiously and still faced with nothing but a blue box and an error message.
“Hold down the channel up key and the enter button and then menu key and the exit button and the … ”
I don’t have enough fingers for this!
By the time a living, breathing human being gets on the line, I’ve realized that my call is, in fact, not important to them and the crap-quality oldies music that serves as a constant taunting reminder that I’m still on hold has given me a headache. I’m fuming and yelling and cursing and completely unreasonable.
And I don’t know why they are making me be so mean to them …
Where did that come from?
I’m on hold again and thinking about my dad and wishing he was here, hanging out while listening to the static-filled music and the monotone voice promising they care about my call. He’d find something funny about this. Like the fact that I’ve made dinner and a pan of brownies in the time I’ve been on hold. He’d make a cheesy joke about how it takes a long time to call across the ocean to India – where he’s sure Comcast customer service is located – and I’d roll my eyes, but laugh anyway. I can’t ever not laugh.
I’m still patiently on hold when the phone starts singing an old Tommy Roe song and suddenly I am much younger, and I can see my dad spinning us around the kitchen – me perched on top of his feet, of course – while he sings to me.
“Oh Sweet Pea, come on and dance with me … Oh Sweet Pea won’t you be my girl … ”
He sang that song every morning when we were eating breakfast before school, twirling us around in circles while my brother took heaping bites of his cereal and sang along. My little brother honestly thought my name was Sweet Pea until he was starting kindergarten. My father still rarely calls me by my given name.
We’d dance in circles around the kitchen while my little brother giggled from his perch on top of the counter. My hand would be pushed into my dad’s much larger one.
“Will I catch up when I get big?” I asked him once, wondering if my hand would always be little, my fingers always so short and stubby.
“You’ll never catch up, Sweet Pea, my hands will always be bigger. Sweet Peas are tiny things, I have to be bigger so I can look out for you.”
I’m back in my apartment kitchen now – alone and listening to the end of our Sweet Pea song and staring at the blue error box on my television screen. I’m absentmindedly humming to myself, “Oh sweet pea, I love you can’t you see … ” when the line is abruptly picked up.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting, Miss … ” the man says.
“Oh,” I answer with a sigh, ” that’s just the way it worked out.”