had met her before but wasn't sure of her name.
She's a medical assistant in a major Texas city. When she typed her
name into the computer to access the machine that blows air into your
eyes, I saw she had entered "Julia" and I asked if she had once told
me of a restaurant mishap she had experienced. "Aren't you the one
that once mistook wasabi for guacamole?" I asked. Instead of confirming
it with a simple yes, she placed a hand on her hip and said in mock
annoyance: "Well, they do look alike!"
The word wasabi (Japanese for tear-jerking - is an amalgam of two
words - wa and sabi . Combined together, these words loosely translate
as "to wash one's eyes with onion juice"). The word should not be
spoken during eye exams, but it had been spoken and I was crying like
Jackie Coogan when they told him his dog had died.
As we waited for my eyes to dry, Julia told me that wasn't her worst
sensory experience. Taking the bait, I asked what was. Again, she
answered me with a question. "Ever see that movie called A Christmas
Story? My tongue started tingling with belated sympathy.
A delay in the next room allowed for the whole story to be told. "Well,
when growing up, I was something of a tomboy" she said. Since she
is Vietnamese, it was easy for me to imagine her climbing tropical
vegetation, teasing monkeys or throwing rocks into abandoned minefields.
I was a bit surprised to find out that her formative years were not
spent in Vietnam, but (of all places) Buffalo, New York.
She continued: "Some of my Buffalo playmates had seen the movie and
had "double-dog dared" me to put my tongue on the roof of a car. Not
having seen the movie, I was game." It was not just any winter but
the record-breaking winter of 1976-77 to boot. Flagpoles being scare,
the group had first had to find a car under the blanket of snow. When
the metal surface was found and swept, little Julie didn't hesitate
as Slick had done in the movie, but jumped right in, adhering herself
to what is remembered as a '72 Pinto - or a Gremlin.
There was no panic, but after confirming that tongues do indeed stick
to frozen objects, Julie wanted to get back to whatever tomboys do
in wintry Buffalo, New York. The inconvenience of doing this with
a small car on her face, was unthinkable to the 8 year-old, so she
quickly yanked her head backward, leaving her DNA along with several
hundred taste buds on her neighbors car.
After recounting the pain and inconvenience of convalescence, Julie
allowed that she was well-known to the local fire station. When calls
went out from the dispatcher for the rescue of a child from a tree
on ________ Street, the fireman taking the call was said to have predicted
the house number.
Julie said that her tree climbing experiences have led to a better
understanding of what goes through the mind of a cat when it looks
down from what had been "a good idea at the time." She added that
the budget-minded city services of Buffalo now charge $800 per call.
Evidently she's still in touch with some of her rescuers.
Alas, the next room was ready and we didn't get all the details of
her adventures of growing up with a chimpanzee - only that a life-threatening
illness in the "old country" prompted her grandmother to order the
© John Troesser
August 8, 2016 Column
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