Wednesday, October 25, 2000

The Americanization of Emily

(or Peggy or Maureen or whatever the heck her name is)

Once upon a time there was a little girl (ok, so she was pushing “senior citizen.” Let’s not quibble) who lived in the land of Oz and who decided to take a big trip over the rainbow and halfway around the world. She packed her bags and her credit cards and her dreams and set off to find out about how people in another land, far, far away lived.

She came to a house in a quiet town and she moved in with a nice family. The first night she sat down to dinner and pushed her plate away. “I’m not eating this,” she said, of her risotto. “I don't like it.” And the family wondered if this was going to be a long six weeks.

That night she went to bed and in the morning she got up to have some breakfast. She had some toast. The people in the house had toast. When the mother in the house went to put the dishes in the dishwasher, she was aghast. “Dishwasher?” she exclaimed. “It’s only a couple of dishes. You don’t need a dishwasher for a couple of dishes. I’ll wash them by hand.” And she did. She washed them and dried them and put them away. And the dishwasher stood empty.

After a few days, she decided to wash some clothes. “Where is your clothesline?” she asked the mother.

“Clothesline?” the mother asked. "We use a dryer."

“But the clothes smell better and it doesn’t take long for them to dry,” she protested. She went to the store and she bought a rope and she ran a clothes line. She even bought “pins” (as she called them) and soon her unmentionables were flapping away in the breeze.

She asked for an iron. “An iron?” the mother said. “I haven’t used my iron in months. All our clothes are wash and wear.”

“I love freshly ironed clothes,” Peggy said, as she dragged the iron out from behind all the junk in the closet. She even set it up on the patio so she could iron in plain sight of the clothesline.

She studied her money and she tried to make sense (or cents) out of it. “What is all this rubbish?” she would exclaim as she tossed a stack of coins on the table. The mother’s coin jar got very full because she would gather all the “rubbish” and put it away, while Peggy continued to use her dollar bills. They weren’t as pretty or as recognizable as Peggy’s money, but she didn’t have to worry about making change.

Time passed and Peggy began to settle into the lifestyle of the new country she was visiting. Soon she could make change like an American. $5.49? No problem. She no longer held out a mountain of coins to a merchant and invited him to take the proper amount. She counted it out like a pro. The mother’s coin jar didn’t fill up quite so quickly.

She went on a trip to visit the mountains. She was gone five days. And when she returned, all of her clothes needed to be washed. She asked the mother if she could toss a few things into the wash and when they came out, they went into the dryer.

“These clothes look all right,” Peggy said. “They don’t even need ironing.” The ironing board stayed in the closet.

Then the mother and Peggy walked to the supermarket. They bought two ready-made salads for dinner, each in its own little disposable plastic container. They came home and ate the salads with forks from the silverware drawer. When dinner was finished, Peggy said, “I’ll do the dishes.” She put the plastic containers in the garbage and the two forks into the dishwasher.

And the mother saw that Peggy had assimilated into American culture.

The assimilation complete, it is now time for Peggy to return to the land of Oz to see if she could go back to being the same person that she was six weeks before.

And the people in the family wept.

* * *

There will be no journal entry tomorrow. My laptop is still being flaky and Peggy and I are going for one last trip to Lake Tahoe.

Today was a slow day. We went to another outlet mall, but Peggy’s heart wasn’t really in shopping. All she bought in two hours’ time was: a pair of shoes, 7 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of long pants, two pair of shorts, a couple of shirts, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting. But, as I said, it was a slow day.

No comments:

Post a Comment