The scariest phrase in the English language, according to the dog, is ‘baby gate.’ He’s on a diet so those words come up often in our conversations. All I have to do is say ‘baby gate’ and he goes off running with his tail between his legs, his little toenails clicking on the linoleum. Since I started working on the internet, the dog has gained three of his nineteen pounds. A lot of people can’t see the direct correlation between my website job and Cooper’s gain weight, but it’s actually quite easy to explain. The dog thinks my computer wardrobe is an ATM machine that dispenses Pup-Peroni treats. The more time I spend dripping assorted liquids on my keyboard and sneezing on the monitor, the more opportunities for our pudgy poodle to make Pup-Peroni withdrawals.
I thought about this the other day when a Helpful-Henry type guy approached me in the parking lot wanting to help me load my husband’s wheelchair into the back of our Blazer. Usually when this happens—and it happens frequently—I’ll just say, “I appreciate the offer but we have a lift” and the nice guy will fade off into the sunset. Sometimes a Helpful-Henry—we’ll call him the Model ‘A’—will stay around to watch because: 1) he’s never seen a Bruno wheelchair lift, or 2) he’s lonely and this is a senior citizen’s version of a pickup bar. This model of Helpful-Henrys will poke around the control box and tell me about his aunt Tillie’s wheelchair, maybe ask a few predictable questions. Well, if you knew me, you’d know I don’t give a tinker’s damn about a stranger’s Aunt Tillie’s chair but I got a B+ in small talk at college and I want to keep up the skill. So, I listen and smile and try to decide if he really does have an Aunt Tillie or does this Model ‘A’ just want to split a Metamucil malt with me over at the Senior Citizen Hall.
If the Helpful-Henry is too young to remember seeing “Rock Around the Clock.” the first time it made the rounds in the movie theaters, then my mind doesn’t blow smoke and fool itself into thinking that this guy is Sir Galahad and I’m the hot—although slightly wrinkled—babe in the parking lot that he’s come to save from a hernia. No, I don’t get the vapors over the Helpful-Henry Model ‘B’s and forget that I have husband patiently waiting inside the car. I don’t turn my face away and quickly pitch some color in my cheeks or wish I hadn’t left my support hose at home in the drawer. These young pups are sweet, and if I had an unmarried granddaughter I’d probably invite a few of them over for Sunday dinner. Assuming they liked Chinese and I could do take-out.
Then we have the overly eager, Helpful-Henrys. The Model ‘C’. They come in all sizes and ages, all colors and shapes. They are lurking every where and they exasperate me! They drive me crazy! I admit, the trip to Loonyville wouldn’t take long but I don’t need any help getting there. Thank you very much. The Model ‘C’ refuses to take “no” for an answer. He ignores the chair lift and flings the wheelchair into the back of the Blazer without waiting for me to make sure that its T-shaped docking arm is positioned right-side-up so that I can use the lift to get the chair back out of the car when I get home. How do I explain that I don’t keep another Helpful-Henry at home in the garage, standing at attention next to the recycling bins? I don’t explain. Model ‘C’ doesn’t give me the time! So, I just smile that grateful old lady smile and let him think he’s the best Boy Scout on the block. But at times like that I wish the phrase ‘baby gate’ was universally accepted as the scariest phrase on earth. Just once I’d like to hear the pitter-patter of a Model ‘C’s shoes running away as I scream “baby gate!” in the parking lot in front of Lowe’s. ©