It was back in those days when I could not go to the bathroom alone. Not because I was scared or injured, but because I had a toddler in tow 24x7. She followed me around like a shadow – but only if we were at home. Anywhere else, especially outdoors, she would do just the opposite. That is, not follow me around (which would be safe and reassuring) but run in every possible direction away from me. Towards oncoming traffic or water bodies, into shops and elevators, or in short, in any general direction of danger.
The said toddler had sharp ears and an even sharper capability to pick up words we didn’t want it to hear. But what it was sharpest at was to blurt those words out at the most inappropriate situations (like most toddlers do). After all, what was the purpose of spending nine months in the womb if it wasn’t utilised in studying the womb-owner in great detail and knowing exactly which nerves would be particularly fun to get on?
Anyway, that was the time when we started to spell out words at home, so that we could have conversations without the constant fear of “Watch-Out-The-Toddler-Understands”. It was as if we were both preparing for some Spelling Bee competition, which did not have particularly high standards (as we would occasionally spell out even the articles and prepositions, out of habit). We would say, “Let’s not give her M-I-L-K at bedtime today. It’s not good for her teeth”. Or, “Do not eat the C-H-I-P-S in front of her. She won’t have dinner then.”
The arrangement was working well for a while. Until we realised that it was affecting our peace of mind (and the general peace at home). For the toddler’s dad could not use the spell-checker while talking, which meant, I could not resist correcting him. You can imagine what would follow!
During this time, I planned to go out for dinner with a girlfriend one night. Just the two of us (after our respective toddlers were in bed). Months of planning, near-misses and actual misses later, we made it. It was a well-deserved and much-needed break, we told ourselves. So, we dressed up for the occasion….and even managed to brush our hair and leave the house without a food stain on our clothes.
We chose fine dining, of course (given, our usual dinners involved eating leftover baby food). Venting over glasses of wine, we were having a good time. You know what they say about “shared pain is half the pain”. And when the pain involves being regularly stabbed on our arms with “fairy wands” or tripping over scattered Lego blocks around the house, there is indeed a lot of solace in sharing. So, we chatted the night away, sipping our wines and sharing our war stories.
But when the waitress refilled our water and asked whether we needed anything else, every five minutes, we knew we had to leave. For everyone else had. When we asked for the check, it was brought to us in less than two seconds. (They really wanted us to leave by then.) I placed my credit card on the tray, picked up a mouth-freshener, and almost involuntarily asked my friend “Should we T-I-P?” My friend turned a shade of red. It nicely complimented her dress, I thought (slightly tipsy, by then). And then I turned to the waitress, who instantly got busy refilling our water jug (yet again).
Just in case you don’t get it (and I don’t mean to sound condescending), let me “spell” it out for you. I had spelled out T-I-P in the presence of the waitress, who, I’m pretty sure, knew how to spell too (unlike my toddler). So, without any further eye contact with the said waitress or my friend, I did T-I-P. And we ran out of the place….promising never to come back.
P.S. To this day, I have involuntary twitching when I hear the word “tip”.