Monday, January 13, 2014

The Day My Mom Swore At Work

I've been toying with the idea of getting back into some part time work.  Nothing that will take me away from home for too long, but something of value that will get me out into the world again,  something that will help me develop my talents and share what little skill I have. I dunno.

So as I've been considering my options, I keep remembering this incident from my childhood about the time my mom swore at work. This may not have happened at all. Or it may have happened differently than I remember it (which is usually the case for most things in my life--ah, my lovely overactive imagination!) But anyway, it is burned in my brain exactly in this way:

My mom came home from her job at the dentist's office one day. She was pale and completely wide-eyed.  "I swore at Gene today," she said before she had even closed the door. She was completely mortified and we were shocked. We rushed to her side, asking for every detail and telling her it would probably be okay, while we all secretly wondered if she would be fired the next day. The main question on all our minds was what word she used. It was the "d" word.

Maybe my mom didn't swear at Gene. Maybe she just lost her cool for a minute, said 'dammit' under her breath and Gene happened to be near her and heard? But I pictured it going down like this: finally cracking under the pressure of the high-stakes world of dentistry, my mother (wearing a white lab coat and smart-looking glasses pushed down on her nose) throws down a pile of paperwork and says "dammit, Gene!" It was a scene from a soap opera in my mind, and I loved it. I think it sparked a little feminism in my heart. How cool that my mom could swear at a man at work! (Now, of course I realize that feminism doesn't necessarily mean swearing at men, but when I was little it was a step in the right direction).

I remember Gene as a really nice, likable man who worked in the same office as my mom. He had dark brown hair peppered with a little silver. He was buoyant and funny and paid attention to us. Was he a hygienist? Another receptionist-type? An assistant? I don't know. But we all loved Gene and thought he was great and were excited to catch a glimpse of him when we visited our mom at work or went in for our 6 month checkups. I remember thinking it was probably a good thing that Gene heard her swear because he of all people would be nice and forgiving about it. He seemed like the kind of enlightened fellow who could dig it, you know?

My mom was not a person who swore, just so you know. She used impeccable language and proper grammar at all times and she taught us to do the same. She was ladylike and dignified. So the fact that she said a bad word was a pretty huge deal (if indeed this really happened).

I remember waiting on pins and needles the next day to hear the fall-out from the great "dammit, Gene!" incident. She came home and once again we rushed to her side for details. "Oh, that," she said. "I just apologized to Gene and everything is fine." Shooh. She didn't lose her job.

Maybe if I start working I'll have an opportunity to swear at somebody. Somehow it doesn't seem as dramatic and exciting if I were to do it. The high-stakes world of dentistry just doesn't compare to the fairly low-key world of adjunct teaching. Can you see me finally losing my cool, throwing down a pile of yet-to-be-graded papers, and saying "dammit, Sister Smith!" to some poor lady in a long floral denim jumper as she walks across campus to her job as a Book of Mormon teacher?

I can't picture that, either.

My mom remains to this day the coolest lady ever.


  1. I don't remember this at all, but I remember Gene. He worked in the lab and looked like he should consult the NYPD on Law and Order.

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