When I had been in the States a couple of years, I more or less had them tapped, Americans that is to say, and their funny little ways. They have lots of funny little ways, a source of great hilarity to foreigners such as myself. I noticed that quite often, they would have a box of matches in the loo. [translation = rest room] Being the knowledgable person that I am, I knew that this was sound evidence of closet smoking. Sneaky little Americans shut themselves in the loo, together with the obligatory extractor fan for a quick fag. [translation = nicotine hit] Possibly they were also members of the mile high club, but on land, despite puritan evidence to the contrary. I deduced, that Americans locked themselves in the loo to have sex and then a post coital. What other conclusion would any sane member of the human race conclude?
Oh yes, what I didn't know about Americans wasn't worth knowing.
It was therefore with some surprise, that I learned later, much later, that matches in the loo, served an entirely different purpose. The purpose? You really want to know? They all have them you know, matches in the loo, that is to say. What do they have them for? Alright, I'll tell you, put you out of your misery, you've forced it out of me. But you'll have to suspend reality for a moment, as you'll never believe me. You’ll never guess in a month of Sundays. They light a match to eliminate unpleasant odours that are commonplace in the room of rest. Isn't that the most hilarious thing you've ever heard? I nearly died of laughter when my pal [American] translated this for me. As the Muse handed me a tissue, [translation = Klennex] I couldn't help but point to the extractor fan, mainly because I was incapable of coherent speech at the time. That one feature, has yet to be satisfactorily explained. Maybe it's something to do with a belt and braces approach? [translation = overkill]
Meanwhile, early in the morning, the radio tells tales of the 1960's, whilst I make oatmeal and other loathsome concoctions for the nutritional benefit of my children.
“What was so special then, back in the old days,” she asks innocently.
“Apart from the fact that that was the unmemorable year of my birth, it was also a time of political enlightenment.”
“Um…..breaking out of the social norms of the time.”
“How did they break out?”
“Well women did wild things like burn their bras in public.” I wonder if anyone did it in private?
“Why did they do that?”
“It was symbolic, escaping from male oppression, and so on.”
“What is male oppression?”
“Er….well, things were different in those days, women weren't allowed to do lots of things that they shouldn't have been prevented from doing.”
“More of less everything,” I say popping her cereal in front of her. I notice that one of my sons is frozen to the spot. “What is it dear?”
“You are dah burning?”
“Warm, busy, but not burning dear.”
“What it is dah 'bra?'”
“Underwear for women's chests dear.”
“I am having dah underwear for dah chest.”
“No. Remember, I said 'female,' you are male.”
Although his pyjama bottoms seem to be adrift somewhere, he lifts his top and peers beneath, searching. “I am not wearing dah bra?”
“Correct. Nor are you wearing the bottoms either!” I admonish.
“Why you are burning dah underwear?” I pause, wipe oatmeal from a reluctant mouth and seek guidance.
“What your mother means, is that burning your clothes or the flag or more or less anything else, is a way of telling everyone that you object, protest, break down rules that you don't like.”
We exchange adult glances. It was better than I could have managed, but still has a few fatal flaws. We both know that the trigger world 'rule' was in there somewhere. The clock strikes the hour of 7 a.m. Maybe now we will be more awake with more brain cells available to us. Maybe we can rewind and start again?
“We have dah matches?”
“No! We have no matches.”
“But I am needing dem!”
“You do not need matches my love, hear open wide, just another spoonful..”
“We have dah matches for dah burning food.”
“Oh, they're special matches, only for the barbeque.” [translation = Brits do not excel at the barbeque department, more of a wake or a cremation]
“But I am needing dem badly for my rules.”
“You may use matches when you are 18, er….21 the age of majority in California.”
“But I am only dah 6!”
“Indeed. Only 15 years to wait.”
“How many what dear?”
“How many are dah minutes in 15 years?”
Americans! What can you do with them?