Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Friday, March 14, 2008

Being Lucy

"Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly."

In our small town in California I used the public transport system to its fullest extent. When I did not walk I caught a small bus to my college or to the next city, to bookstores and museums; or sometimes I took visiting friends from Maine on a tour of our place.
I remember once doing just that; Spouse was busy at work but I was with our friend and her husband; they were visiting from afar and I wanted to show them around the area. We had a marvellous time just riding around on the bus all the day long. Toward the excursion's end we were sitting quietly, heading for home. Two young girls- teenagers- climbed aboard the bus. We had been the only passengers.
The girls were very drunk. One of them turned to us and began to chat happily but in a slurred manner. I was nervous about getting involved in any debate with her and kept my conversation to a minimum. She asked us, in a moment of interest, for our names. Our friend's husband declared, on a whim, that he was 'George'.
I announced that I was 'Lucy'.
He is not George and I am not Lucy.
My friend is an honest soul and saw no harm in giving her true name. The girl then wanted to know our connection to each other.
Then my friend told a lovely untruth:
"She's my sister."
The girl nodded, and turned back to face the front of the bus.
A moment later she swivelled around to look at us again. She was struggling to focus but one way or another, we understood that she intended to talk to us.
"Wait a minute. You can't be sisters...Lucy has a different accent!" She stabbed an uncoordinated finger in my general direction.
Frozen in my seat, I realised I had absolutely forgotten that, unlike my friend, I was devoid of an American accent.
I did not know what to do; if I answered she would hear me and know that I had lied and frankly I was growing more fearful of the girl by the minute. I worried that she might turn aggressive. It was too late to concoct a story about being separated at birth or about accent being genetic.
I shook my head.
"She's my sister," insisted my friend desperately.
'George,' who had begun our descent into trouble, remained quiet and looked out the window.
"But you sound like you're from England or something," said the youngster unsteadily and now with narrowed eyes.
I shook my head again.
I had to give her credit at that point: I had grossly underestimated her powers of linguistic deduction and perception.
My head wobbled a third time. I kept my mouth closed and vowed to maintain a stern silence for the remainder of the journey. We three tried so very hard not to make any more eye contact with the pair, who were growing increasingly suspicious, for fear of upsetting the apple cart and causing untold trouble for ourselves.
After an uncomfortably long bus ride, the driver, sensing the tension and tiring of the unruly girls, ordered them to get off the bus. Our new friend stepped off the vehicle and fell to the ground in a drunken slumber. The bus pulled away, the driver apologised to us- which was immensely noble of him- and we could be ourselves once more.
Do not underestimate anybody. One just never knows.


Pappy said...

Not to worry. She probably didn't remember how astute she was the next day. I walked into a diner in Manhattan many years ago with a buddy from Muskogee, OK. The sign out front said Real Texas Chili. When our waiter arrived, I asked, "Is that real Texas Chili?" He smiled and said, "I think I'm about to find out." Our accents do tell on us occasionally.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

That's a good one! It's so easy to forget you have an accent because of course to you, you don't at all.

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