Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Parents are so cute...when they mess up!

Okay, so it's been months since I've posted something. Some of you know that I've been working like a dog lately. Is it an excuse? Nawww, just the sich-ee-ation. However, I did have a short episode to relate from when the 'rents were in town staying with me at my condo. My dad is going to kill me for writing this...well, he's going to try, but I walk faster than he can run, so...just kidding Pops. You know I love ya.
Anyway, my building has a couple of ways to let you in. You can use a key that will get you onto the 2nd floor from the outdoor parking lot, or onto the first floor from the underground parking garage. Or, you can enter through the main door by placing a key card on a reader. For whatever reason, my dad is deathly afraid of going anywhere on his own unless you berate him, question his manhood, hold your breath till you're blue in the face...you get the idea. So my parents had been staying with me for 10 whole days before a situation arose that my dad had to leave the building on his own. I swear to all that his holy, the conversation I had with him before he left the building was priceless...Imagine a father's first conversation with a 2 year-old on how to lock and, most importantly, unlock the bathroom door from the inside just by pressing the little button on the doorknob...If you're a fan of Tiny Toons, then the play-by-play was eerily similar to Baby Plucky learning how to push the button for the elevator..."I push de button. Elelator go down de hooooole." Not very different, at least in my head.
"Here's the key card, Dad," I hold it up for him to see. "All you have to do is place this card flat on the key card reader surface," I gesture holding the card between my thumb and index finger on a horizontal plane, with a downward motion.
My dad has his arms akimbo, his right hand rubbing his chin as he's murmuring, "mmm hmm, mmm hmm". If you've read the comic strip "Get Fuzzy", you've seen Satchel doing exactly that. Of course my first mistake was to interpret this as understanding.
"When you have good contact, you'll hear a buzzing sound, which is your cue to pull the door open."
"Just place it flat," he says, "I think I can follow that complicated...procedure," as he grins in a "I know my way around a mortgage, a home equity loan and the tax code, boy" kind of way (I am soooo not making this up, this is the way my dad talks).
I make one more downward gesture with the card (of course holding it the correct way, cluelessly assuming my dad is paying attention to all the details of HOW I'm holding the card, not just the downward gesture of placing a flat card on a flat card reader...seriously, is it any wonder that David Blaine can fool people with simple card tricks?), then I give it to him, and I send him off on his errand, which is actually just walking around the neighborhood for 30 minutes. My mom will say he needed the exercise, but...let's just say that when dad is getting a little fussy, that "exercise" guilt routine does a great job of getting him out of everybody's hair for a brief spell. Even if the suggestion isn't purely altruistic, getting my dad to exercise actually is good for him.
My brother Joe will, of course, point out at this juncture, that I should have walked down to the key card reader with him and watched my dad do it correctly a few times before being satisfied that he could get into the building on his own. I would say that I'm an optimist...but Joe would say I'm a Masochist. Meh, he lives with these folks, he must be a Masochist, too, so nyah.
45 minutes later, I get a call on my cell phone. Guess who it is..."James, it's your dad," Grrr...like I can't recognize his voice..."the card must be broken. I keep placing it flat like you said, but the buzzer doesn't seem to be working." Grrr..."Can you come down?"
I close my eyes, and sigh very deeply, gnash my teeth, and then say, "I'll be right down." Notice I didn't try to walk him through it? I may be an optimist, but I also know when my dad is licked. Remember the image of the 2 year-old learning how to lock a door for the first time? Imagine the panic of a 2 year-old when the door won't open when he tries to get out, and you're yelling through the door, "Don't pull on the knob, turn it, turn it first." Yes, 2 year-olds suddenly forget that doorknobs are supposed to be turned when they learn something new about what else a doorknob does, like locking. They don't listen when the panic hits, "It won't open, it won't open!". All you can do at that point is to push a pen or a wire through the tiny hole in the doorknob on your side of the door to unlock it and turn the knob yourself. Then you hear the little "oh" as the door swings open. Similar situation.
I get down the elevator, and my dad is still in the antechamber. I walk through the door and close it behind me so that both of us are in the little glass room. I silently swipe the card from him, hold it up to his face, and then very deliberately place it on the card reader. The door buzzes, and I look right back at him and arch my right eyebrow. He looks completely and utterly surprised that it worked, then he looks a little guilty, then he looks at the card still on the reader surface, and says, as if it's my fault (Joe, don't you say it!), "Well, you didn't say that the blue arrow on the card had to be face up! I've been placing it face down on the reader for five minutes."
Grrr....I shouldn't have asked it, because all it would do is make me go crazy, but I did anyway. "And how many different ways did you try to place the card on the reader?" There are only four configurations a 2-sided card can be placed on a flat surface, so I expected my dad to say 2 or 3. But no, and should I have been surprised?
"Just the one way. With the arrow on the bottom, just like all key cards are supposed to." He takes the card and, unbelievably to me, places it on the card reader, right side down, with the arrow facing away from him, and he looks at the door expecting it to buzz.
I stare at him with my mouth wide open. He flinches, like I'm going to hit him. I take the card back, maneuver it right side up, place it back in his hand and point my chin with a swift head bob back at the card. He places it on the card reader, and lo and behold the door buzzes. My dad has the audacity to be surprised. And that's when I start laughing...hard...
As we're riding up the elevator, he tries to tell me about his vast experience with key cards and hotel room doors, and how they always have the arrow this way or that. I'm still laughing, and I ask just once, "Have you ever placed the card the wrong way into the door?"
"Yes," he says.
"And did you flip the card over to see if that would work?"
Again, "Yes."
"Okay, then."
After we get back to my condo, and I've explained, in detail, the way the card was supposed to be placed onto the reader, all as comedic theater for my mom's benefit, I gave one last chuckle. "This is soooo going on my blog."
I'm still shaking my head...my dad, the 2 year-old. Just wait until I tell you about how the key to the garage also mysteriously wouldn't work...ah, parents.