Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

People you should not marry

When the train left Charlotte, it was almost empty. By Kannapolis, the carriage had only five people in it, all of whom were ardently praying that it might remain so during the next nine hours to Washington.
In Salisbury, a crowd of men saddled with bags was marching across the platform, but they were all hidden away in another carriage. The stop at Highpoint was equally blissful and quiet.
And then came Greensboro.
In preparation for the unexampled, unrivaled characters that boarded the train in Greensboro, the conductors swept through and warned everyone to clear the space on the seat beside them. You would think that the incoming passengers would be grateful to the crew’s efforts on their behalf, but it was all lost on one particular lady. This lady was distinguished by her shapely figure and her buxom posture, which her clothes did their laudable best to expose, her straight, ruddy hair laced with flaxen streaks, her admirable facility for the deployment of the southern accent, her predatory nose, and her sharp-popping eyes. She sat beside her daughter, Madison, and granddaddy sat behind them, next to a black-haired woman with a very disgruntled look on her sleeping face. This did not deter Madison. For whatever reason, still undisclosed, she leaned close to the black-hair lady, and started whispered “ma’am! Ma’am!”
The black-haired lady continued to snooze away, both offended that to eleven-year-olds, she was ancient enough to call ‘ma’am’, and wondering why on earth Madison would whisper if she’s trying to wake someone up. Madison must not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, she concluded.
But Maddy’s mom was having none of it. “Madison, stop! You are not going to wake her up! Madison, it’s okay, I’ll sit here and you sit there ….”

Apparently, sharp-featured mommy does an admirable correcting her daughter’s behavior. The next second, as a train conductor walked past, sharp-featured mom took the opportunity to further demonstrate appropriate behavior by muttering, “that lady is the biggest bleep-bleep-bleep I ever saw on a train.” She indulged in repeating this a few more times, and returned to her refrain every time that particular unfortunate conductor walked past the aisle.
Now it was Madison’s turn to be irate.
“Mom! Stop saying that! Mom! Stop!”
Mom: “No!”
Madison: “It’s embarrassing!”
There’s a sound of someone getting shoved or thumped, and with a huff, both mother and daughter drop into their seats, and are quiet for the time-being.
But not for long.
The battalion that boarded in Greensboro was so large that even after the train, with much onerous shuddering and lunging, had started chugging away, passengers were still looking for seats. The carriage was almost full, and the situation only tightened as the train passed through Burlington and then Durham. Some of the few seats left were the two right behind granddaddy and the black-haired lady, whose name was Sertia, and these were appropriated in Durham by a lady in a green shirt and a little boy in a white shirt. The relationship between the two was not readily apparent. One would have thought the boy was supervised by his mother, but some things called this assumption into doubt.
The toddler knew how to talk very well, and started off by proclaiming loudly, in a voice that sailed through the entire carriage, that “I’m hungry.”
The seats were cramped, their luggage was blocking the aisle, it was an early morning, so in her most annoyed voice, the lady in the green shirt snapped back, “well! Why didn’t you eat breakfast at the hotel?” (As soon as she opened her mouth, it was evident from where the toddler was modeling his loud voice.)
Very naively, the toddler answered, “I don’t know.”
But he was an enterprising child. He offered solutions to his problems.
“Can we go to the food car?”
Sharp-featured mom, two rows up, has popped up in her seat, twisted herself about, and is giving the newcomers the death-stare. “Someone hasn’t learned how to use their indoor voices!” she snipes to Madison.
Madison’s only wish is to please her mom, so since mom is complaining, she starts complaining about the toddler herself, even starting to emit several loud and vicious, “shhhhhh’s!”
But this is going too far for sharp-featured mommy, who hisses back, “don’t do that!”
In the meantime, the toddler and the green-shirted lady are still arguing about the food car.
“Why can’t we go?” the toddler begs.
“I don’t know, Jacob! They just said they weren’t open yet!  We’re just going to have to wait.”
The toddler mumbles something, and the lady mumbles it right back, in a mocking, disparaging voice! And herein lay the heavy doubt that the green-shirted lady could possibly be Jacob’s mother. Surely she was just the baby-sitter, or the nanny?
Perhaps Jacob’s baby-sitter realized, too late, that everyone had heard her snapping at the innocent boy, and her aping caricature of his baby voice, so soon enough she was speaking to him very contritely.
“Why didn’t you eat breakfast at the hotel? They had so much food! Eggs, toast, sausage, cereal, biscuits …”
“Are you serious?” Madison’s mom is barking two rows ahead. “Are we going to have to hear them the whole ride? When do they get off?”
“What else did they have?” Jacob’s baby-sitter continues, oblivious that the entire train can hear her. “Oh, yes, yoghurt, milk ….”
But that’s all in the past, and Jacob is hungry now, so to mollify him, he gets to play on his little hand-held video games.
“Mommy” - ! – “can you pull up my favorite game?” Jacob asks.
“Sure,” Jacob’s confirmed mommy replies, “the punk-punk-punk?”
Pretty soon, a little jingle is blaring for everyone to enjoy, the source in Jacob’s happy hands. The voice singing resembles the guy who sang “Crazy Bus” for Arthur and DW, and he keeps repeating, “punk-punk-punk! Punk-punctuation!” Hey, at least Jacob’s mommy has educational implements for him.
But the lady two rows ahead is not having it. “Oh, no. That’s just obnoxious.” Everyone else, meanwhile, is laughing, because they know that soon enough, sharp-featured mom will take care of business. She flags down the train attendant coming down at that moment, who luckily is not the biggest “bleep-bleep-bleep I ever met on a train.” No, this attendant still has favor, and when sharp-featured mom points two rows back to where Jacob is jamming to “punk-punk-punk,” he immediately goes over and politely requests, “ma’am, could you please listen to that with headphones?”
“Alright,” Jacob’s mom replies genially. “Did you hear that, Jacob, you’re going to have to turn it down a little.”
The conductor moves right along, so he misses Jacob’s whine: “I don’t want to turn it down, I like it loud like this.”
This new fight now occupies the next quarter hour, as Jacob whines loudly, and his mom hisses at him, all while the sharp-featured lady two rows up is growling to her daughter, who, wanting to please her mother, growls back with even more intense amplitude. The back-and-forth carries us all the way to Raleigh and beyond. It’s been a long morning already. The conductor is announcing in a chirpy voice that “ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this train is now 25 minutes behind schedule!”
Madison is getting antsy.
She keeps hopping up to stand next to granddaddy, in the seat behind her. Or, she’ll swing herself onto his armrest. Then she’ll report back to her mom: “they’re still not using headphones! Oh my God!”
Even though, by now, Jacob’s video game is quieter than the hissing emanating from Madison and her mother. But they are also oblivious to all this.
Madison comes back to her granddaddy. She likes to please everyone, so she starts telling him a funny story.
“Granddaddy, at the last stop, hahahaha, a man said, he asked the conductor, there’s a MacDonald’s right over there, can I go get something to eat, hahahaha, and the conductor said, you don’t have time for that! Hahahahaha, and the man said, come on, I really want some MacDonald’s, and the conductor said, you’ll miss the train, hahahahaha, and the man said, as soon as I get to Washington, I’m going to buy myself as much MacDonald’s as I possibly can, hahahaha.”
Granddaddy laughs, too. In fact, this is the most sound he’s made so far on the journey, and the only mystery is how such a quiet, sweet-faced man managed to produce such obnoxious offspring. If he is troubled by his daughter and granddaughter’s behavior, he doesn’t show it. His face is in his iPhone. He is either texting friends, or looking up information. He keeps leaning towards Madison to tell her the name of the bridge the train is passing under.
“Cool!” Madison responds enthusiastically. She likes to please everyone, starting with her mother, because she has now taken to loudly and contemptuously blurting out, “so much for using headphones!”
It’s been a few hours past Raleigh. The conductor is back on air. “Folks, we are now 20 minutes behind, folks! We were 25 minutes behind when we left Raleigh, and now we’re leaving Selma 20 minutes behind. Wilson, North Carolina, next!”
The café car opens as the train leaves Selma. Madison’s mom is on the alert. She pinches her daughter.
“Go and tell granddaddy that the café car is open, in a loud enough voice so that Jacob will hear!”
Ah, you wily woman!
Madison hops up obediently, and giggling, sidles back towards granddaddy. She peeks behind him. She whispers in consultation with granddaddy regarding the grand scheme, who barely acknowledges it. Madison dances around a minute on her toes, then reports back to mom:
“They’re asleep! Jacob and his mom are asleep!”
“Oh my God!”
It is not quite certain what Madison’s mom was indignant about: was it the crime of sleeping (and thus being quiet) that Jacob and his mom were currently engaged in? If this was the crime, then it was soon rectified, because Jacob woke up, and started talking about the kinds of cheese that he likes.
“How about a shut-up cheese, Jacob?” Madison’s mom is suggesting from two rows ahead. “I really like shut-up, go-to-sleep cheeses, what about you, Jacob?”
Madison’s mom has many other fine suggestions. To her dad, she says, “if I was you, I’d push my chair back as far as it’ll go and give her a concussion!”
When Jacob whimpers, “mommy, can you take the game now?” Madison’s mom suggests, “I hope he hits her in the head with it!”
And on that note, Jacob and his mom finally head to the café car. Everyone, here is your chance: try to catch some sleep! Let’s hope the lines for food are long! Of course, Madison and her mom spend the whole Jacob-free time complaining anyways, so I’m not sure exactly how much they enjoyed it. But that was beside the point: they needed to keep themselves revved up for more insidious comments once the offending couple returned.
In about forty-five minutes, Jacob and his mom do return, hands full of food. Jacob makes loud motoring noises and runs down the aisle, completely forgetting where his seat is.
“Jacob!” his mom shouts. “Jacob, stop right there! Jacob! Not a step further!”
Madison’s mom is almost as loud: “are you serious!? Are you serious! No, this cannot be happening. Are you serious?” These are the only words she knows how to say for the next five minutes, so she practices them compulsively and emphatically, proud of her achievement in the verbal arts!
We’ve been on the train now for four to five hours, drifting into the afternoon. The conductor is back on the announcements. “Folks! We are now leaving Petersburg 30 minutes behind schedule! It’s a busy travel season, everyone’s on vacation. We left Raleigh 25 minutes late! We made up some of that time and left Selma-Smithfield 20 minutes late! At Petersburg we had to wait for the southbound train, so we are currently running at 30 minutes late! And you see we are going slow right now, waiting for another train, so folks, we’ll unfortunately be looking at some further delays. Folks, Richmond, Virginia, Staples Mill Road Station is next, and that will be a smoke-rest-stretch stop.”
“When is the next smoke break?” Jacob’s mom asks loudly and eagerly for clarification.
Long journeys on a train give one plenty of time to think, and the conversation starts getting reflective and philosophical. Madison and her mother are analyzing Jacob and his lack of parenting.
“It’s not Jacob’s fault,” Madison’s mom says charitably. “It’s all his mother’s doing.”
Madison mumbles her agreement, and asks something like, “was I ever like Jacob?”
“No,” her mom says confidently. “That’s cause I trained you. I trained you how to behave in public.”
The offending train conductor is taking the opportunity to walk down the aisle, so Madison’s mom takes that moment to loudly call her a bleep-bleep-bleep.
Jacob’s mom has been expressive in trying to keep him occupied with his activity book, his video games, and his coloring pencils, and she seems finally to have gotten the hint that some passengers are annoyed with her. She’s started to tell him, “shhhh!” and she has succeeded in getting Jacob to speak in a soft voice. He is so soft-voiced that when he asks for goldfish, no one hears of it until his mom announces it to the entire train.
“Goldfish! I’m going to have to take this whole bag down, just because you want goldfish!” She gets up and reaches into the overhead compartment. Jacob is not mindful of her pain, and is happily anticipating his goldfish. But when he gets them:
“I don’t want the goldfish!”
“Jacob! You said you wanted goldfish, now eat the goldfish! No, Jacob!”
There’s a thumping noise!!!
“Ow,” Jacob cries. “That hurted.”
“Shut up!”
But this command has the opposite effect that Jacob’s mother intended. Her baby is now moaning.
“Don’t say that! You never told me to shut up before! I guess you don’t like me anymore.”
Too late, Jacob’s mom realizes she is in public, and whatever she mumbles in return is inaudible.
Jacob is persistent.
“Mommy,” he says in his sweet, babyish, singsong, confused, helpless voice. “Mommy, I guess you don’t like me anymore.”
Jacob’s mom needs to do something, and do it quick, to save face, so she pulls out a bag of cookies. Soon, Jacob is happily babbling about cookies, and his mom does not dare do anything except for enthusiastically reciprocate all his verbal announcements of his cookie affections. In fact, mommy is so receptive, and so engaged, that Jacob is getting some uppity ideas.
“So, I guess I’m the king,” he concludes soon thereafter.
“Okay, you’re the king, but put your feet down from the seat.”
“Kings get to do whatever they want to do.”
In spite of his tender age, Jacob knows a thing or two about authority and royalty. His last comment sets his mom off again, and soon she is lost once more to hisses and rebuttals and commands.
The train finally steams in to Richmond. The conductor blares through: “all smokers, follow me!” as he marches to the opening doors.
Jacob’s mom bundles herself and Jacob up immediately, with no shame in the matter, but all the non-smokers are embarrassed. They look around at each other, perplexed, then start abashedly explaining, as they too rise from their seats, “Oh, I’m not a smoker! I just want to stretch my legs.” Everyone has to give the same clarification. The train is parked at Richmond’s Staple Mills Road Station for quite a while, for yet another unending influx of passengers is waiting to board. By the time everyone has been ferried to a seat, and the smokers and non-smokers alike have been hustled back in, the conductor is back on the air with another announcement.
“Folks! We are now leaving Richmond, Virginia, and this train is officially … 50 minutes behind schedule! Folks, it’s a busy travel season, Amtrak apologizes for the delay, folks. Fredericksburg, Virginia, is next!”
Perhaps even Jacob understood about the delay, for he said loudly and pitifully to his mother, “I wish we could get off this train!”
Two rows up, Madison and her mom turn to each other, and in unison, they come ringing out a very vocal, “mmmm-hmmmmm!” of agreement. Then they laugh, and make more smart comments, until out of the disorder, they realize that Jacob’s mom is addressing them, right over the heads of granddaddy and the black-haired lady!
“Did you say something?” Jacob’s mom asks.
“Excuse me?” Madison’s mom answers pertly.
“I thought your daughter said something.”
“Why are you in our conversation?” Madison’s mom snaps, with her most southern spitfire.
“I thought your daughter was talking to my son!”
“Uh-uh,” Madison’s mom lies. “She was talking to me.”
“Okay…” And Jacob’s mom returns to her business.
Since Madison’s mom can’t leave well enough alone, and always has to have the last word, she speaks up in about a minute, again shouting over the heads of granddaddy and the black-haired lady.
“I’m sorry,” she says in her most annoying voice, “now I’m thinking that maybe you said something to me!”
“What?” Jacob’s mom is exasperated.
“I said, it looked like you were saying something to me this time.”
“Why would I say anything to you? I’m talking to my son here.”
“Well, that’s what it looked like.”
“Why would I say anything to you? If I wanted to talk to you, I’d come over to you and say something.”
Oh, no, she didn’t!
Granddaddy has stood up by now and is trying to put a shield between to the two irate women. “Just turn around, and sit down,” he says in a very soft, reassuring voice.
After this confrontation – after it was made evident exactly who was annoyed by whom – which perhaps was all that everyone had wanted in the first place – it was quiet. It was even quiet when the train conductor came back on air to cheerfully announce, “folks, we are now arriving in Washington, DC, nation’s capitol, exactly one hour behind schedule! Folks, thank you for choosing Amtrak!” Granddaddy and his impertinent offspring were all disembarking here, while Jacob and his mom were further en route to Baltimore. As they swept off the train, right past Jacob’s seat, it must be owned that no one took a swing or threw a punch; no, the drama had ended. All had arrived. 

No comments:

Post a Comment