Snapshots of a whirlwind family trip, Day One
Scene: Tour of the U.S. Capital
Characters: Mom, Dad, Brother (henceforth referred to as Tom), Me, Most Uptight Tour Guide of All Time (henceforth referred to as MUTGOAT)
We're standing in a statuary hall. MUTGOAT is guiding our tour group along. "Let's go, people. Let's go!" He flicks his hand impatiently. I moo softly to myself as we are herded to the appropriate standing point.
"This is the hall of statues," MUTGOAT barks. "People complain that there are only men in here but there are three women on this statue right here." He dismissively gestures at a marble bust. "These women helped bring the vote to women. Who are they? Anybody? Anybody! C'mon now? Anybody!"
He is a peculiar mix of the Drill Sargent from Full Metal Jacket and Mr. Hand from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I'm not sure if he's going to say "Aloha," or ask me about my major malfunction.
I strongly suspect he is a former high school history teacher, lean and impatient from years of cracking adolescent skulls. He is angry--very angry---about the pathetic knowledge base of this, his schulmpy, panty-waisted tour group.
Forever a teacher's pet, I squeak, "Stanton?"
"What DID YOU SAY?" he yells, as the crowd parts. I believe somebody even points my direction, perhaps to deflect his wrath.
"Stanton?" I repeat, searching for a rogue asteroid to rescue me from this interregation.
MUTGOAT sighs, "Yes, Stanton. Everybody knows that one," The you assholes is implied, but present nevertheless. "Who are the other two? Anybody? C'mon."
Somebody mumbles, "Cady," and receives an eye roll as a reward. After a terrifying silence he finally says, "Lucretia Mott's the third one. It's kinda like the Three Tenors. People only name one, and it's usually the wrong one. Moving on. Let's GO, people!"
With that fuckyouverymuch, we head off to the Old Senate Chamber. He has us walk in by ourselves. A woman guarding the ancient antiquities says, alarmed, "Where's your guide?"
Tom replies, "He told us to go in ourselves."
The woman clenches her jaw and says, "You are supposed to be with a guide. You must have MUTGOAT." She relaxes her tightened fists and says, "He doesn't like to go into this room because there are too many ghosts in here." Warming to the idea, she adds, "When you see him, ask him why he's afraid of ghosts."
A man standing next to us shudders and states, "I'M not asking him."
My brother just smiles.
As MUTGOAT herds us into yet another hall of statuary he says, "You can ask questions when I'm done talking, but not before." After shaming us for not knowing the year of Marbury vs. Madison, he says, "Any questions?"
Tom says, "Sir, are you afraid of ghosts?"
The crowd gasps. MUTGOAT sneers. The silence feels like an ice pick to the eardrum. He says nothing, contempt oozing over the group like lava.
Tom, undaunted, presses, "The woman in there said you were afraid of ghosts?"
Now it's MUTGOAT's turn to clench his jaw. He tries to think of something clever to say, but finally, all he can do is mumble, "Baaaaaaaaaaah." He swallows a bit, clears his throat and says, "Moving on, people!"
As we continue our tour, I mumble to Tom, "You just had to poke the bear, didn't you."
Tom smiles and says, "Always."