My wife’s old high school in Queens is right next to a water treatment facility. Whenever we drive out there to visit her mother, we pass the high school and the water treatment facility and have to endure the cloying smell of sewage. According to my odometer, the smell hits about a tenth of a mile before, and lasts for about a third of a mile after, we pass these buildings.
Nearly every time we get to this part of the trip, I turn to my wife and say, “Gee, Honey... maybe you oughta go a little easy on the chili, next time, huh?” After eight years of visiting my mother-in-law, my wife no longer hears me.
She tells me it never smelled like this when she was going to school. They didn’t have the water treatment facility, then, she says. Maybe it’s not the water treatment facility, I say. I hear the educational system has deteriorated in the past couple of decades. Maybe it’s the high school that stinks.
I take a moment to swerve intentionally close to a high school student with a ‘tude who has decided to swagger onto the street and directly toward my car's on-coming path. I want to give him a little scare. A breath closer, and I would have nicked him. Naturally, he gives no outward indication whether I have actually scared him. Pride dictates otherwise. In any case, I have missed my wife’s response, if there is one, to my witty suggestion that perhaps it is the educational facility that smells rather than the sewage plant.
Of course, the school is closer to Far Rockaway than to where my mother-in-law lives. She’s over in a nice, generally pleasant-smelling little beach community in Belle Harbor. When the weather permits, my wife and I will park and walk up and down the boardwalk enjoying the sea air. We get a kick out of people-watching, as well. There are all kinds along the boardwalk. Old people, young people. In-between age people such as my wife and I.
Go back a few years. My wife’s grandmother, Irene, is still alive, living with my wife’s mother in the apartment, and all four of us are strolling along the oceanfront. An old man wearing a bowling shirt and porkpie hat approaches us and makes an overture to Irene.
He doffs his hat, he bows forward a little, he raises his furry white eyebrows, and he says, “Hiya Beautiful! Are you goin’ my way, or am I goin’ yours?”
Never in all the ages of chivalry has man been ignored by woman more brilliantly than this man is ignored by my wife’s grandmother. Now this, I think to myself, this is a woman who knows how to ignore a man!
A half hour or so later, Irene turns to my wife and takes her gently by the arm. The two women walk together in this way, for a while, arm in arm, sharing a slight, knowing smile. Irene says to my wife, “It never ends, Dear.”
“No, Grandma,” I hear my wife reply, “it never does.”