Friday, June 15, 2007

Do you like cheesies?

Dante by Dali


I used to teach adult evening courses at the local Community College when I was first dipping my toes into the field of adult education. I remember my first class. I was so nervous,wondering if I could pull it off and anxious that I wouldn't be able to pass on my knowledge to the students in any manner that they would understand or enjoy. I was only given a text book and a list of objectives and told to design a 10 week course. I had 3 days to plan it out.....on my own. Needless to say, I was a bit jittery that first night. It was all new.....the building, the classroom, the teacher, the students, the subject matter and the friendly security guard who greeted me at the elevator door which opened up to a hallway of classrooms on the fourth floor of an office building.

Her name was Barb. She was in her late 60's.


Actually, Barb was called a "commissionaire" which I think meant watcher of door, observer of possible lurkers and light turner offer. Given that this city is relatively safe, commissionaires are all retired folk who want to keep their hands in the world of employment and who are earning some extra cash on top of their pensions. Hence, Barb fit the bill. Friendly and overflowing with extroverted enthusiasm Barb greeted everyone with a loudish hale hello, howdy doo........which tended to make some cower away from her. But, on the night of my first class, she was exactly what I needed......not a grandma commissionaire security guard......no a friendly "you're gonna do just fine" kind of person.....and she was exactly that and more. I quickly learned that Barb, in her outgoing no holds barred, never gets embarrassed manner was one of those souls who walked to a different beat. A true eccentric..........offbeat, absurd manners as well as an askew hairdo and off kilter uniform that didn't seem to fit her properly.



She had no clue that she would be categorized as an eccentric. It was just the way she was.


I think that's key. Eccentrics don't describe themselves as eccentric. Others do. And sometimes others will point it out to the eccentric. It's just the way they tick. And thank God the world is full of them. How boring it would be if we didn't have wonderful eccentrics all around us.

We chatted as I prepared my classroom, laying out the handouts and opening my notes etc. She commented on the fact that I had brought a cup of tea with me, which was her favourite beverage, and told me she would have a fresh pot ready for breaktime. I thanked her and she left me to begin my new career. And so I began............and it went well............so well that I had the class engaged in a discussion which I didn't dare stop exactly at breaktime and had decided to let the conversation continue until a more logical place to call a timeout. Right at that moment, Barb knocked on the door quickly, and then walked in with a fresh cup of tea for me, completely disrupting the class.

Talking away to me like we were the only two in the classroom, the students stopped and watched this funny woman babble away about how she didnt want the tea to grow cold, but she didn't know what I wanted in it, so I better call a break so that I could add my milk.... blah,blah,blah she went on. I just laughed. She was a complete nut......and a wonderful icebreaker. She made me realize how one shouldn't take things like teaching your first course so damn seriously. Throughout the 10 week course, Barb always brought me a cup of tea. We all got used to her interuptions.


Sometimes, she'd sit in for a bit to listen to the topic at hand and then make comments about how wonderful my teaching was and how lucky they were to have me as their instructor. It was flattering for sure, but very very odd.......


One night, Barb knocked opened the classroom door about 15 minutes into the classtime and asked me if she could talk to me. She had the weirdest look on her face....I thought something was really wrong. So, I arranged for the class to work in small groups and rushed out into the hallway only to find her doubled over laughing hysterically. She was laughing so hard that she had tears in her eyes and she could hardly catch her breath. After many guffawing pauses, her story spilled out.

Turns out, Barb had gone down the elevator to buy a bag of Cheesies. On the way up, as she's eating them a young east Indian family, parents and a little 6 year old, joined her in the elevator. They were just learning English. Barb, being the overfriendly grandma eccentric that she was, leaned down to the little girl and asked her in her booming voice if she liked cheesies.....she wanted to share her bag with the little girl.

"Do you like cheesies.....?" she asked

The little girl looked at her with big saucer eyes and didn't respond. Barb tried again.....

"Do you like cheesies....?!"


The little girl looked at her parents to see how to answer this pushy lady. Barb figured the child was shy and perhaps wasn't supposed to talk to strangers.....even grey haired ones in security guard uniforms with a bag of cheesies in her hand. So, she asked the little girls parents.....


"Does she like cheesies?"


The parents, looked to their child and spoke to her in their language to answer the nice lady. In a little scared voice the 6 year old looked up at Barb and said....


"Yes, I like Jesus."


Barb was dumbfounded and embarrassed that this little girl thought she was being asked about Jesus instead of a bag of cheesies..........no wonder the kid was scared. How often do you get into an elevator with a crazy lady eating a bag of cheesies asking you if you like Jesus? So, Barb did what we all would've done.........she went along with it.


"Good for you! And because you do, have a bag of cheesies." And she passed her bag of cheesies to this little girl.


An Abbott and Costello "Who's on first" kind of moment......which completely cracked Barb up....me too.......



Months later, after I had been teaching both day and night, I was finally offered a term contract to teach full time. Even though I had been teaching full time for almost a year, this contract offered benefits and a little more job security. It also meant for some reason that my pay cheque was process through a different payroll and consequently I was going to be 3 weeks without a pay. Well, the 3 weeks turned into 6.......and no one seemed to be able to help this situation. I just had to wait it out. Given that I was the sole breadwinner while my husband was enrolled at the University......this was dire. It was a frustrating and stressful time......and I was more than angry about the situation. Here I was working full time during the day and teaching two nights a week and not a pay to show for it.


One night, there was a knock on the door of our apartment. Quel surprise! It was Barb, who lived around the corner from us. She was carrying a big box......filled with goodies and leftovers. She was worried that we didn't have anything to eat, so she packed up what was left of her roast beef dinner and threw in a bunch of vegies and canned soup. I was completely blown away by her generosity.

A guardian angel, she was..................


Barb began pulling everything out of the box to explain the offerings.........at the bottom of the box was a twist tied baggie. She pulled out the baggie from the box, undid the twist ties and pulled out the contents..........to my shock and surprise she was holding up a couple of pairs of underwear........big old lady underwear...................a couple of pairs of her own. At the last minute, she said, she thought she should throw in some undies just in case we couldn't afford to do laundry. She didn't want me caught without clean undies!!


What do you say to that?


Eccentrics come in all packages......some are complete out there.........some are completely in their own heads......some offer you cheesies, some make sure you're never caught without clean gotch. Misfits one and all...............always a breath of fresh air.


For more eccentricities..............check out sunday scribblings.......




13 comments:

gautami tripathy said...

I really like such humane stories. At one time or other we too hear what was not said.

Bohemian Mom said...

This is such a great story!!
Thanks for sharing.
What a fabulous eccentric lady!

Abzdragon said...

Everyone needs a Barb in their life!! This story was so cute, thanks :)

Pip said...

As I was reading this I was thinking "mmmm, cheesies"! One of my little eccentricities is the ability to eat disgusting processed cheese snacks at any time of the day or night - not that I indulge in that one too often!

You really made your characters come to life. This was a great read!

Kamsin said...

I totally love the cheesies/ Jesus story! I've often thought Jesus sounds a lot like cheeses if said with the right accent, I've actually had to stop myself laughing in the past when someone's shouted "Do you love cheeses (Jesus)?" in an over enthusiastic manner during worship time!
Anyway, nothing like an eccentric character to liven up your day!

Regina Clare Jane said...

Kind of reminds me of that movie, "Life of Brian" and the sermon on the mount- "blessed are the cheesemakers"... hee hee.
Barb sounds wonderful- I love when these kind of people make an impact on our lives and then on everyone else's with the wonderful stories they leave behind. Thanks for sharing your eccentric friend!
xo

Janie Hickok Siess, Esq. said...

That's a GREAT story. Whatever happened to Barb? Any clue? Wonderful writing and what a blessing she was to you.

Awareness said...

Blessed are the cheesemakers (or cheesie makers) is right! Thanks everyone for your comments..They're great! I didn't know if I could translate the story from my head into a piece of writing. And, though it was a relatively long piece for bloggieworld, I could've written more about Barb. We had many varied conversations over the couple of years which we shared at the college. She came from a long line of eccentrics and she loved to tell their stories. A crazy bunch one and all. What's also funny is that she was married to her second husband who was a dour old grumpy retired doctor with well known serious reputation in the city......he was much older than her so I think she took the commissionaire job to get out of the house. Her first husband dropped out of corporate life, left the family and moved to Costa Rico to grow macadamia nuts.

her cheesie story has always stayed with me and continues to be an ongoing laugh between my husband and I. Honestly? More times than not when I hear someone state "do you love Jesus?" or some such question, I think of cheesies!!

After I had kids and my career path veered somewhere else, I lost touch with Barb. She passed away a couple of years ago, and I wasn't told until months later.

I think her star in the heavenly sky would actually be a part of the crazy northern lights we have the pleasure of experiencing on late summer nights.......

Jane Poe (aka Deborah) said...

What a truly wonderful story Dana!! I love dear Barb!! Thank you for this bit of upliftment. Hugs and love, deb

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

just about to comment with exactly what you said.....so i can't (blessed are he cheesemakers)

alternatively, we could say, give us this day our daily cheese...i know my daughter hannah would give her blessing to that...

she soundsa a riot, great story

Shaz said...

Barb just sounds absoloutly gorgeous.
What a lovely spirit.
I think thats hilarious that she came into your class to tell you, then the undies, to cute.

Patois said...

What a beautiful character described so lovingly. Yeah, I'll take that eccentricity anytime.

Awareness said...

Deb...you're very welcome! I love the sunday scribbling prompts because they seem to offer a road to a memory or a thought that perhaps wouldn't be mined without it. Though I live and work in a world of eccentrics (knowing there is a fine line between eccentricity and mental health issues :)......Barb was the first person who came to mind. Glad you enjoyed the story.

Paul....does Hannah like Wensleydale cheese? :)

I love Life of Brian.....and one should always have the ending song tucked away to pull out on the roughest of days!! How can one sing that song without feeling better?

Shaz....Barb definately had her own tuneful spirit.

Patois....welcome! Yes, me too. Bring it on.....