December 2009, but not Christmas because we are no longer visiting Sly and Doris over the holidays. Doris is telling me about her next door neighbor, who no longer speaks to Doris. I have heard this story before. It all started two years ago when Doris wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper proclaiming that the people of the Polka Dot Party were absolute flaming idiots.*
The neighbor, Elsie, read the letter.
Elsie and Doris used to be casual friends. When Elsie's grandchildren would visit, Elsie would bring them to see Doris. Doris would get them small presents. Doris can be very sweet.
When Elsie saw the letter, she told Doris, "I'm a member of the Polka Dot Party!"
"Well Elsie I certainly didn't mean you!" Doris said.
Too late. Sometimes the words are out and you can't take them back, not that Doris necessarily wants to take them back. I don't know. Maybe she does. I do not know Doris' state of mind. I do know she just wants Elsie to understand that she means the other Polka Dot people. Those idiots. Not Elsie. Me, probably. But not Elsie.
Primo thinks Elsie is being unreasonable. I think Doris didn't think through what she was doing. If you stand in the middle of town and shout your opinion about a group of people, especially if you are name calling, there will probably be some repercussions.
If someone writes a letter saying, "I disagree with the stance the Polka Dots have taken on the Great Lakes Compact because I don't like the impact it will have on the sport fishermen," that's one thing. Disagreeing with someone on the issues is not the same as calling someone a poopyhead and probably won't lead to your neighbor never speaking to you again.
The grandchildren come to visit and Elsie shepherds them into the house. No visit to Miss Doris. That's what hurts Doris the most.
Last year, Thanksgiving. Doris is basting the turkey. The baster melts. I didn't even know that could happen. Well, OK, let's just borrow one from the neighbors. Oops. Can't do that. Doris isn't on speaking terms with Elsie and doesn't know anyone else to ask. After how many years? After I was in my house for eight months, my neighbors were shoveling my sidewalk. Just saying.
We have been at the house for a few hours. I am resolved not to argue with Sly or Doris. Keep this visit pleasant. No fighting. No tension. I will do my part and more to eliminate the stress. My response to everything will be, "Hmmm" or "Well." Neutral, non-agreeing responses.
Doris is telling me again about Elsie and how unreasonable it is that Elsie will no longer talk to her. Maybe Elsie did overreact, I think. Maybe she took that one sentence against months of knowing Doris. Maybe that wasn't fair.
"Hmm," I answer. "Indeed."
"I just want to ram a pole up her ass!" she almost shouts.
"Oh!" I say. "Well. Excuse me. I'm going to the bathroom."
I end up peeing a lot during that visit.
* These might not have been her exact words. Maybe she just said "stupid."