Just for once I had a tale to dispel derision

With the dinner table temporarily sagging beneath the intellectual weight of two tiny but highly verbal American children, the nature of our conversation has changed so dramatically, I often wonder if I have stumbled into the wrong house. We are at present operating on a level which is quite simply beyond anything I can muster.

"Okay," roars the one at the table who gives all the commands, doubtless thinking she is still at school, and that's fair enough, "it's time to say three things we did today."

Phwooaaarrr! Children love this. They do, after all, three things a second. Six year-olds, and we have one of these, start their school day by giving news, where jewelled casket family secrets are sprayed around the classroom's walls like paint. I'll warrant primary school teachers' Three Things I Heard From The Kids At School Today is a dinner table topic that freezes food at the first swallow.

What I have been finding with this talking about the day thing is that, first, I have to somehow justify my day being worthy enough to have actually consisted of three worthwhile things. And, secondly, to somehow describe these things in such a way that one of the grandchildren doesn't ask if granddad is still going.

My days, of course, are highly evolved adventures, redolent with careful and significant thought patterns. It has become baffling to me that the information I have both proferred and absorbed whilst hunched over an inner city coffee table, the only position to sit when dealing with wisdom, is as much use to a family dinner as a bicycle. Is this the way society is going? In some cultures, the oldest family members are given the greatest respect, the young hang from their opinions like stalactites. And yet for me, only derision. Or, worse, sorry granddad, we haven't got time for this story, the kids are getting scratchy.

Inevitably, I have a fine example of that of which I speak.

Last week at hospital, suffering pain in an upper tooth that made childbirth, in comparison, merely the raising of an eyebrow, I was sent to the dental school across the road. Normal humans can wait days for urgent extractions, but not kidney transplantees.

There was a suggestion I might not even live long enough to make it across the road.

Those who have been at the dental school know there is a bit of waiting to be done, a bit of sending texts that read, still here.

I could not afford to leave the waiting room for a second. But even kidney transplantees have to take a whazz, so regretfully I set off for the little boys' room.

I always choose the huge wheelchair enclosure with a lock, regardless of what I have in mind. If there is one thing I want in the little boys' room, it's privacy and colossal space. So I get in there and begin my stately trouserial disrobe.

Imagine then my shock-horror-swear-word reaction when I turned to my right and saw another man in a similar stage of undress by the bowl.

"(SWEAR WORD!)," I burst out.

"I am SO sorry, I never knew they had two toilets in here."

I quickly hauled my badly repaired black Levis back up the thigh. I noticed he, too, was at a similar level of red-faced recovery.

"It's okay mate," I said, "you were here first, I'll go."

Yes, yes, you've worked it out.

But I don't work things out. I am an idiot. But why the swear-word would the dental school put a wall-sized mirror in a wheelchair toilet? This was a truly stellar tale to bring to the family dinner table that night, granddad jabbering at himself like a demented old fool in a room made of glass. A story like this comes around once every 10 years. But I only got as far as, today at the dental school, and I was swept from the table like a crumb. Just where exactly
DO you tell stories like this?

• Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.





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