When I was a little girl, we had to wear skirts or dresses to school, even in winter… which meant that tights were essential to keep one’s legs from freezing.
One day, my mom brought home a new pair for me to try on. As I did so, I caught sight of the packaging. It said, “New design won’t run.” Could that really be so, I wondered? Would the weave suddenly tighten? Would I fall to the ground?
I decided to put them to the test: I ran up and down our short hallway, waiting for whatever was supposed to kick in and prevent me. All the while, I yelled, “Look mom, I can, too, run in them. The package is wrong!”
Somehow I made it to college. I remember being very puzzled, one day in the dining hall when my roommate pointed out the jacket a friend was wearing. “She’s got a Ralph Lauren jacket,” my roommate said.
“It’s amazing they’re both the same size,” I marveled, “but won’t Ralph want it back when the weather gets cold?”
After college, I moved to Manhattan. I was walking through the garment district when I encountered a sign that proclaimed a few wedding necessities:
“Bridal Notions and Illusion,” it said.
Illusion, apparently, is the stuff they make wedding veils out of. Also the vows; also the entire concept of Happily Ever After. As for the bridal notions, you’re on your own… as are the brides.
For my own honeymoon, we went to England. My husband was driving us on the M4 — a high-speed highway much like I-95, but with better landscaping — and we kept passing signs for rest-stops that said: “No Football Coaches Allowed.” A few places were more forgiving, with signs that said: “Football Coaches by Reservation Only.”
“Why would they need reservations?” I asked my husband.
“Well, you know what they mean by ‘football’ over here,” he began, keeping most of his attention on staying on the right side, i.e. the wrong side of the road.
“Yes, everybody knows that — it means soccer,” I said, impatiently. “But why do they care about the coaches? I should think it’s the team they’d be worried about!”
“So you realize that a ‘football coach’ means a charter bus full of soccer fans? After a game that maybe they lost?”
“Oh. Well, why didn’t they say so?”
“They thought they had, Judy. They just hadn’t reckoned with you.”
A few years later, we found ourselves driving up and down New York State, taking our boys back and forth to camp. One time we left the Taconic and wandered the countryside in search of somewhere for dinner. I asked one local where there might be a good restaurant.
“Oh, you can go anywhere,” our informant answered. “Up here, everyone is CIA.”
“Really?!” I was surprised. “I don’t think much of their spycraft, if everybody knows that about them.” He gave me a funny look. “I meant all the chefs are graduates of the Culinary Institute of America, 14 miles from here in Hyde Park. Why, what were you talking about?”
“Never mind, it’s a secret,” I replied.
There’s a sign I see a lot around here, whether it’s about a boat, a car, or an entire residence: “For Sale by Owner.”
“Well, I certainly hope so! Who is selling all the other ones — thieves?”
And there’s a sign near my house with this warning: “Blind Drive, Reduce Speed.”
Every time I see it, I ask, “Reduce speed? Why are blind people driving at all?”
“Well, Judy,” says my husband, “How is a blind person supposed to see the sign, anyway?”
“Ohmigosh, you’re right!” It makes no sense at all — at least, not to me.
My all-time favorite sign is in front of the Town of North Hempstead’s Solid Waste Management facility.
There’s an entrance there, from West Shore Road, with a little bit of lawn and a sign that says “Resident Drop-Off.”
Every time I drive by, I imagine someone like Lt. Colonel Blake from M*A*S*H, sitting in a lawn chair, decked out in hat and fishing gear — waiting patiently for the return of whoever dropped him off.
You can say there is something wrong with me, that makes me interpret every one of these situations incorrectly. You can laugh at me. Go ahead — my husband does, all the time.
That’s why I’m thinking of taking him to the Drop-Off. “It’s OK, you’re a resident,” I’ll tell him.