"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, October 12, 2009

"Too Late Schmart"

(NOTE: I promise to return soon to the Russian Journals. I have fallen away from them because of unwanted company lately: my muse's evil twin, the Queen of Doggerel, the tongue-in-cheek purveyor of utter nonsense, as you will see below.)

Back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, I lived with my parents in the small log cabin they were building on the outskirts of Anchorage. On the wall of the living room, against the pine cone wallpaper, there were two plaques.

One of them had comical caricatures of an elderly man and woman. I remember lots of brown color, bits of red and white and yellow and blue, and molded words that read: “Ve get too soon ault, und too late schmart.”

The other, much more simple and less “ornate,” read: “SeVillie der dago atousin busses inaro. NoJo dems trux summit cousin summit dux.” This is the one we kids delighted in handing to visitors, so much so that eventually it never returned to its hanging nail, but lived on the end table within ready reach.

It was a joke, that second one, because it read, with proper spelling and punctuation: “See, Billie, there they go. A thousand busses in a row. No, Jo, them’s trucks. Some with cows in, some with ducks.”

Think what you might about my mother’s decorating sensibilities—and really, she was far less kitschy than this might indicate—when all the available money goes to feeding and housing and clothing the kids, and the leftovers (if any) were set aside to buy more building materials, well, one has to take one’s interior decorations where they’re found. It could also be that the "too late schmart" one was a gift from my aunt, the one who lived up the road from us, and had that kind of humor. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that's where it came from.

The one in pidgin English I’m sure was simply a joke, kept around because it so amused the kids to be able to read something an adult “didn’t get.”

The other, though, hung on the wall in all its plaster of Paris glory, never touched by children’s hands. It wasn’t funny, for one thing, other than the awful combination of “German” and English. And, for another, I think we sensed something brutally honest in those words, something children didn’t want to hear about or think about. We had enough truth to ponder, what with polio felling our friends, duck and cover drills in school, and watching out for the moose that blocked our walks to school.

I remember looking at “too late schmart” often, sometimes directly, and sometimes out of the corner of my eyes, as if its message was just for me. But, I was in the middle of my required public school education, and I certainly didn’t want to think all my efforts were to be for nothing, that even people as old as my parents could be cursed with “too late schmart.”

Now, almost six decades later, I realize the brutal honesty of that plaque every time I find myself in a predicament and say to myself, “You should have known better. You should have known.” Like today, for instance.

Whenever I substitute for my friend Erin on the US mail home delivery run on Saturdays, I wind up listening to the nation’s “most beloved digital goddess” on the radio. I don’t get radio reception at home because I’m blessed with mountains on all four sides, so it’s the car radio on Saturdays or nothing.

Anyway, the digital goddess reminds me often about one of her advertisers—the one that offers digital storage of all my files and photos and settings and drivers for only $54.95 a year. Every time I hear her, I think I should do that. Every time I think about the three hard drives stored away in a closet, the ones removed from deceased computers, I think I should subscribe.

Yesterday was Saturday, yesterday Erin wanted a month/daughter day because husband/son are off on an island deer hunting, yesterday I ran the mail route, and yesterday the digital goddess got my attention once again. So, when I got home mid-afternoon, I went to her site, clicked on the link, and the service offered me a fourteen-day free trial. Then it began backing up my files and photos.

More than twenty-four hours later, it has managed to back-up 2.4 Gb of my files and photos. There are 29.4 Gb remaining to be backed up. Now, I couldn’t give you a coherent explanation of what a Gb is, but I do know this: If it takes more than twenty-four hours to back up 2.4 of them, and there are 29.4 left to do, my fourteen day trial will be over before we’ve completed this phase. “Hang in there!” says their message. “It’s normal for your first back up to take several days.”

Several days? Listen. Before that online service finishes backing up my files over my pathetic DSL line, several lower species will have evolved into higher life forms.

That’s where the plaque comes in. I should have known. I should have known this was going to happen. Rats! I’m already old. When does the “schmart” part kick in?

1 comment: