My beloved dad passed away when my daughter, Bridget, was a sophomore at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula. We live in San Diego. My parents lived in Redwood City. Santa Paula is in between those two places, so we made arrangements to pick Bridget up en route.
Now, Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) is sort of a sophisticated place. Kind of formal. I am neither sophisticated, nor formal, as you may well have surmised if you have previously read this blog. My daughter is more sophisticated and formal than I, however, which is probably one of the reasons she chose TAC. Every time I went to visit her, though, I kind of blundered around. I always felt like an elephant in the room, so to speak. Though it is a lovely place, it is not my kind of place. And this particular visit went -- typically -- awry for me, but in a more extreme fashion than usual.
Thankfully, the staff and students at TAC -- though tending to conservative formality and impeccable propriety -- are also very polite and forbearing of their visitors. And some of them, I suspect, are my kindred spirits. They just hide it well.
Anyway, the day of our arrival happened to coincide to a school-wide event known as the Schubertiade. It's this fancy type of classical music performance -- basically the polar opposite of a Van Halen concert -- where many of the students perform lovely classical pieces for their teachers and confreres. It is held in the library -- which, at TAC, is a VERY formal building -- and most all of the students attend. If you are a student at TAC, you had better attend the Schubertiade. And if you don't, you had better either be studying or doing your work-study job preparing dinner in the kitchen.
As we pulled up to the school in our minivan, Bridget happily greeted us and led us proudly into the library for this wondrous event. Those of you who know me are laughing very hard right now, thinking of me at such a thing. I have avoided classical music, at basically all costs, throughout my whole life. And my kid -- MY KID, for heaven's sake -- is excitedly pulling me into a Schubertiade. I mean, isn't this supposed to work the other way around?!?! I really don't know what happened. All three of my kids -- ALL THREE OF THEM -- are classical music afficionados, happily PAYING MONEY to go to the symphony.
I have to admit, though, that it was lovely. The performers were all dressed up, playing melodious things on pianos and stringed instruments (no synthesizers or electric guitars here). The student body sat all about the main floor of the library and on all the walkways that rise up from and surround the main floor of the library. Everybody was quite serious and respectful and quiet, as you would expect from properly raised young people. And -- okay -- the music was pretty good, I admit.
Bridget took us upstairs, since the main floor of the library was full. We were sitting on the third floor walkway, which overlooked the musicians below. And then...
My elephant in the room moment.
In my purse was a zhu-zhu pet. Remember those? They were all the rage for a while. They were these little battery-powered hamsters that ran around and made a variety of cute noises. I had brought this zhu-zhu pet with me in order to cheer Bridget up because her grandpa had passed away, and she was sad. I didn't realize that it could turn itself on. Well... Maybe it didn't turn itself on, but something in my purse must have bumped up against it. And turned it on. On the third-floor walkway of the library, overlooking the main performance area of the Schubertiade, it started making all of its cute little squeaky, squealy noises inside of my purse. You could hear the little wheels going 'round and 'round. I reached into my purse to turn it off, but I couldn't figure out how. Zhu-zhu pets had something like 15 buttons, most of which were covered with "fur", and I couldn't find the one that would turn the thing off.
Down below me, a handsome young man in a tux sang away beautifully in a foreign language (I'm not sure which one), while a lovely young lady in a pretty dress elegantly accompanied him on a shiny black grand piano. I'm sure they could hear the squeals. I'm quite sure of it. But, they did not flinch. Neither did anybody else. Not really, anyway. Although, I did detect a few sly smiles from my kindred spirits in the audience. I was starting to get a bit desperate, though, so I pushed the elevator button. My goal was to toss it in there when the doors opened. Bridget, seeing what her mother was about to do, and realizing that the situation would only be made worse if the squealing, squeaking zhu-zhu pet were to ride up and down and up and down in the elevator during the amazing vocal performance that was concurrently taking place, grabbed the thing out of my hands and proceeded to hurry it down three flights of stairs and past all of her friends and teachers (to whom she had been so much looking forward to "showing off" her family). She looked so cute, cupping the little toy in her hands, quietly but quickly fleeing the scene. She kind of looked like Cinderella as she ran out of the ball. Now, more of the nice young people were overtly smiling and trying to stifle giggles. None of the faculty or staff looked amused, though. But, they were polite and pretended not to notice anything -- in the true Catholic tradition of charity towards tuition-paying parents.
I did not see anymore of what happened. But, Bridget tells me that when she finally got downstairs, the first door she got to was a fire exit, so she couldn't go out that one without setting off an alarm. She did find an alternate door and took the toy -- still making noise -- outside. I guess one kind faculty member saw her distress and -- thinking that she was holding a real live rodent -- went over to offer his assistance. That was very nice of him. Don't you think?
Anyhow, the Schubertiade continued on and was concluded without any further disruption. Everybody clapped politely and exited. Nobody said anything rude to me, or even acted as though anything unusual had taken place.
Was I embarrassed? Of course. But, over the years, I have learned that I am prone to causing embarrassing situations -- even when striving to the utmost to avoid them. I have found that it is really better for all involved if I just keep my cool. So, I just laughed. And sent in a donation.
(Hop over here to read Bridget's side of the story)