Our friends Tracy and Ron live nearby, together with Tracy’s 90-year-old grandmother Betsy. As one might expect, nothing on Betsy works quite like it used to. She suffers from hearing loss and arthritis and sometimes gets confused. Nonetheless, she’s remarkably spry and mentally agile for a woman her age. She also happens to be a real firecracker: a feisty, highly-opinionated and surprisingly current character, whose love for expressing views to anyone and everyone is matched only by her disdain for listening to anyone and everyone (a trait explained only in part by her hearing difficulties).
Best of all, Betsy has a catchphrase. She typically employs it when advertising a negative opinion about persons or entities. Take Chick-fil-A for instance. Last month, Betsy read a blog piece criticizing the company’s stance against gay marriage. She told Ron about it and he asked what she thought of Chick-fil-A now, seeing as how she’d previously been a fan of the company’s chicken sandwiches. Without missing a beat, the notorious liberal replied with her patented catchphrase: “Fuck ’em!”
This morning, I stopped by Tracy and Ron’s house and Betsy answered the door. She was the only one home. When she invited me in for a cup of coffee, I accepted and joined her at the kitchen table. As we chatted (or more precisely, as she talked and I listened), she told me her hearing aid was acting up again. She asked if I’d mind her calling the ear doctor for an appointment. I didn’t.
So Betsy grabbed her address book, turned to the page containing her list of doctors, and dialed a number on speaker phone. After a couple of rings, a woman answered: “Dr. Johnson’s office; how may I help you?”
For the next several minutes, Betsy provided the receptionist with a nonstop, excruciatingly detailed account of the strange frequencies and noises her hearing aid had begun receiving, and the detrimental impact of such interference on her auditory abilities. The receptionist couldn’t get a word in edgewise. Betsy simply rode over the woman’s multiple attempts to short-circuit her recital.
When her impromptu filibuster finally ran down, Betsy concluded with: “So I’ll need an appointment to get this contraption fixed.”
The receptionist kept her response short and to the point: “Maam. This is the eye doctor.”