I was booed off stage this morning, at a nursing home of all places! And it doesn’t look like I’ll be invited back anytime soon.
I’d volunteered to participate in a program for the residents who can no longer peruse the written word. Under the program, each volunteer spends two hours a week reading aloud any book of his or her choosing, within reason. I selected Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, because I wanted to commit myself to this worthy project for the long haul, and a thousand something page book at two hours a week would mean a very long haul. My inaugural reading took place today.
Before toting my well-worn paperback to the nursing home, I visited the eye doctor for an annual exam. I wasn’t surprised to learn the old orbs have weakened a bit. As a result, I left the office wearing a pair of lenses with a new, stronger prescription.
The heckling at the home began even before I cracked open the novel. After the program director introduced me, I told the audience what I planned to read. No sooner did I name the title than one crotchety geezer cut me off: “Isn’t that book a thousand pages? We’ll all be long dead before you finish!”
Luckily, other audience members told him to quit grousing. One sweet cotton-top apologized for the man’s rude behavior, and she invited me to begin. I thanked her and opened to page one.
That’s when I discovered an unfortunate byproduct of stronger contact lenses. Apparently, my enhanced vision for objects far removed came with a price: namely, I needed reading glasses! I stared at the tiny print and couldn’t make heads or tails of it. Even when I held the book as far away as my arms could stretch, the words remained a blur.
My non-performance caused “Mr. Crotchety” to pipe up once more: “Boy, are you makin’ fun of us? Maybe we can’t read, but we can still see good enough to spot a wise-ass!”
Admittedly, I got flustered. I wasn’t used to heckling, and that combined with my sudden inability to read the fine print, so to speak, greatly unsettled me. Consequently, I fell back on my usual response to awkward situations: I told jokes.
Alas, the only jokes my frazzled brain could muster were the ones I’d heard from a friend the night before, when I told him about the nursing home program. None of the seniors laughed at any of them, but the ditty that got me booed offstage, by sweet “Ms. Cotton-top” no less, was:
A doctor tells 85-year-old Mildred: “I’m afraid the news is bad. You have pancreatic cancer, and you’ll probably be dead in two months.”
Mildred replies: “Oh my; that is bad news!”
The doctor goes on: “Unfortunately, that’s not the only bad news. You also have Alzheimer’s.”
Mildred responds: “Oh my! Well, at least I don’t have cancer!”