Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sparing old ones and tearing new ones.

Don't let the fanny pack fool you.

"Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge, I'm tryin' not to lose my head!"  

~ Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

For those who read this blog often, you probably feel like you know my dad. My wonderful, awesome father. . . . just a couple of years shy of seventy and filled with energy that would rival any seventeen year-old. The guy who is the head counselor and founder of Camp Pa Pa and who spends his west coast afternoons doing Skype vocabulary words with his grandson some two thousand miles away. Full of easygoing wisdom and patience. . . . .yep. That's my dad.


Although I can say with certainty that my father, Mr. Tony Draper, has always been a good guy. . . .I can't exactly say that he's always been as . . . . how shall I say it. . .zen as he is nowadays.  Ha! Back in the day, my pop was known for not only being a firm disciplinarian of his own children--he also was the dude who could and would tear someone a brand new you-know-what if they tried him.

Oh. . . .that 1970's - 1980's version of Tony Draper.  . . . .sigh.  Man, he had a way with words. And talk about going to bat for you!  As long as you didn't mind hearing an f-bomb or two during the defense, he was a good person to have in your corner. Because my father?  Oh man. Nobody intimidated him.

Now. It's not that this part has changed. It's just that he has now crossed into the land of the "wise and white-haired." That place that makes the people around you bite their tongues a wee bit more which puts people like Tony Draper at less of a chance of dropping f-bombs and emmer-effer bombs in their direction. Yes. The land of the "wise and white-haired." It's this nirvana where people generally avoid saying or doing things to you that could potentially get them cussed out. They hold their smart-ass remarks a bit more and try to take the high road out of respect. I am convinced that THIS has far more to do with this Y2K upgraded zen-like version of my father than anything else.

Growing up, we called it "pulling a T-Tone."  (I'm not sure why we started calling it this--but I know my brother started it and it stuck.) We could always see it coming, too. Kind of like the day that my sister Deanna got a 'B' on her test because she didn't list "Oceania" as a continent.  Dad marched right up to that school with his briefcase and three-pieced suit to talk to the teacher after he'd insisted that Deanna had missed that question.


I know you are like, "Seriously?"  And to that I say, "Yes. Seriously."  See, it wasn't so much that the dude was dead wrong about this bootleg geography fact.  It was that it resulted in an alteration in my sister's grade and also a smug interaction in front of my sister's class where he tried to take her down a couple of notches.

Awww hell naw!

Mess with Tony Draper's kids? Fuggeddaboudit. He would be up at that school before you could say Rumplestiltskin.  So up he goes to Monroe Junior High School where this dude is sitting behind his desk with a half wet-half dried out Jheri curl correcting papers. Seventh grade Deanna is shuffling her feet behind him because she could already smell it in the air. One false word and her daddy was 100% guaranteed to pull a T-Tone up in that classroom.

Now. Let me explain a bit about seeing a full on "T-Tone" getting pulled. It first involves a few rhetorical questions. Next it moves to direct logical questions. And if something comes out wrong. . . . that's the point of no return. Basically, the voice goes up several decibels and somebody gets put directly in their place.  Oh, and did I mention? Rarely are those words censored.

So as you might guess, the whole 'B' for Oceania didn't go so well for that quasi-Jheri curl teacher of Deanna's and I think at some point he recorrected all of the tests in that bootleg geography course. All secondary to having had a T-Tone pulled on him.

This explains where a lot of my spunk comes from. I'm not really put off by confrontations, in fact, I'm pretty much a "bring it" kind of girl in most instances. This, I attribute to witnessing many a T-Tone getting pulled in my day. On baseball fields, in PTA meetings, in my front yard, and yes. . .sigh. . .even when he was president of the School Board.  My stealthy dad could always be counted upon to be not really a loose cannon per se. . .but a cannon in every sense of the word.

I do realize that my dad grew up in a different time than me. Being born in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1940's is a far cry from Los Angeles in the 70's that's for sure. Maybe that has something to do with his reactions over the years.  And maybe not. I'm not sure.


That brings me to the other day.  Last week, I was hustling after work to the YMCA for Zachary's basketball practice.  I had just left work and grabbed both boys and was pushing it on time. With Zachy's practice gear in a bag, we ran as fast as we could into the locker room so that he could get changed. They whined as usual about going into the Ladies bathroom with me, but expecting a five year old to change his on clothes in the boys bathroom wasn't going to happen--especially when time was of the essence.

Alright. So in we go. Me in that rush-mama way and them dawdling just enough to make me want to punch a wall. Isaiah sits on the bench next to me as I pull open a locker and begin helping Zachary get his shirt over his head.  I'm digging into his gym bag looking for his fresh pair of socks when all of a sudden I see this older woman walk by us. She's dripping wet from the swimming pool and has a towel wrapped around her waist. I look up and offer her a quick smile of salutation.

Her response?  A steely blue-eyed scowl and these words through gritted teeth:

"What are they doing in here?"

I looked from side to side to make certain she was talking to me. Both boys looked up at her, Zachary with one arm in his shirt and one out, and Isaiah from that bench with my iPhone in his hand.

I assumed she was poking fun at the kids and me so I looked over at them and said, "Yeah, guys. What are you doing in here?"  I chuckled and went back to what I was doing.

"No. WHAT. ARE. THEY. DOING. IN. HERE?" she demanded.  This time I noticed how her hand with the intricate network of prominent blue veins was gripping the towel on her waist. She was serious. Dead serious.

"Umm, are you, like, serious?"


At this point, she had the full attention of me, my boys and a woman with long dreadlocks standing behind her near the fresh towels.  That dreadlocked sister froze and raised her eyebrows in my direction -- sensing a potential T-Tone in the making.


I looked down at my kids who were looking at me.  See, this was not 1978 and they don't have a track record of seeing their mama cuss people out in such situations. Furthermore, this woman was significantly older than my own father which was something I had to factor into my response -- along with the fact that my kids were watching.

"I think you need to lower you voice," I decided to say. My voice was controlled and firm. Deliberately low. This involved no f-bombs or permutations of the b-word. I was proud of myself and glad for her that this involved me and my kids and not Tony Draper and his.

"I think YOU need to get these boys out of here," she shot back while still ice-grilling me with those beady little eyes of hers.

I swallowed hard and looked back at her with my head cocked to the side. I licked my lips and sighed hard and prepared to open my mouth. Just then I caught that woman at the towel rack looking at me. She was giving me a tiny head shake . . . . telling me to chill. Her expression also affirmed what I was feeling.

I cleared my throat carefully. "I think you need to realize you are speaking to a grown-ass woman and take your tone down about twelve notches."  My kids quickly shot their eyes over to me after hearing that word "ass." This was serious. I leaned over and addressed the towel rack dreadlocked woman directly."Do you know if there is a family locker room in here?"

She smiled and replied, "I think there's one further down the hall and around the--"

Angry-lady interrupted, still dripping with water and her nasty attitude. "There's a BOYS LOCKER ROOM for BOYS and a --" 

I put up my hand and stopped her. "I'm done talking to you." I felt my voice rising and worked to control it. "Ma'am, you need to move away from me and stop talking to me like this. Especially in front of my children. It's unnecessary for you to be this rude." And then I added again for emphasis,  "Especially in front of children."

She didn't give a damn about me or my children. "If you had just READ THE SIGN on the door you would have not brought boys into the WOMEN'S LOCKER ROOM!"

Awww hell naw.

Immediately I imagined myself grabbing her up by her one piece swimsuit and saying, "YOU GOT ME EFFED UP, LADY! YOU BETTA BACK UP 'FORE YOU GET SMACKED UP!"

That certainly crossed my mind, although that's not what happened next.

Surely this steely-blue-eyed woman was banking on the fact that she was now old enough to have crossed into the land of "wise and white-haired." I also think she believed that this made her safe from having a forty-one year black woman go postal on her in that  YMCA locker room.

I won't even tell you about how I was at the YMCA that is right in the very neighborhood where they filmed "Driving Miss Daisy"--  and that this woman was the Doppleganger of Miss Daisy herself. Some part of me felt FOR SURE like that whole Miss Daisy thing made her feel like she could talk to me any old kind of way. And to hell with the fact that my kids were right there. That kind of pissed me off more.

You know? In that moment, I sort of understood my dad and his fire a little better. If I lived through things like this all the time, I might be close to the edge a lot, too.


I know. The other possibility is that she was just a cantankerous old lady with bad manners whose cataracts only allowed her to make out the silhouettes of my boys without so much as even a clue of anything else.


Thank goodness for the dread-locked sister at the towel rack. This time she put up one hand and waved it at me. She mouthed, "Not worth it." And she was right. It really wasn't.

I scooped up the kids and headed out of the bathroom.

I sat there seething and tapping my foot on the bleacher for the entire basketball practice. I replayed the scene over and over but inserted escalating versions of my responses to that angry-crazy lady--from me jumping in her face scaring her to death all the way to me catching a case.


I guess the only good thing about that situation was that it was blogworthy. And it gave me a context in which to explain the art of pulling a T-Tone.  Okay. And yes, I should have been in the boys or family or whatever locker room and not the women's one, I know. But seriously, was it really that serious? I mean really? Jeeze.

Man. So here's my question--what's the rule on these types of situations? Is there a statute of limitations or age limit on getting cussed out? (And yes, I mean to keep saying "cussed out" and not "cursed out" because there is a difference.) What would y'all have done? Should I have pulled an old school T-Tone--complete with expletives--just for old times' sake?

Sigh. Part of me wishes that I had just done it for the story. . . . . and blamed it on my upbringing afterward.

"You talking to my mama?"

Happy Sunday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . .


  1. Good manners does not have an age limit. For as much as we should be thoughtful of our elders, they need to be mindful of children.

    I would have T-Boned, but my patience level is at about 10% these days!
    Merry Christmas!

  2. i think you handled yourself admirably. never mind the boys being in the locker room with you, we've all done that when they were too young to be by themselves, this woman's tone was uncalled for. And maybe she was just a cranky old Daisy, but you will never know for sure if race was part of her deal, and that's what makes it so galling. My cousin calls that "not knowing for sure" factor the Black tax. Except sometimes you DO know. Clearly you were just a caring protective mother trying to get her kids to practice, but she did not appear to see that. And that she would disrespect you like that in front of your kids was unforgivable. But you handled it. You really did. Now, breathe, because I know this kind of thing can have you replaying the scene for days after, coming up with just the right I-should-have-said. As the lady by the towel rack said, not worth it. This woman has no role at all in your life, except as a teachable moment for your boys. Did you talk to your boys about the whole thing after? How did they process it, or how did you process it with them? That's really all that matters.

    I adore you grady lady,

  3. Let's face it- that woman, for whatever reason, was NOT A HAPPY WOMAN! See- if I saw a mama with her two boys in the locker room, I'd just smile at them and say howdy. But that's me. There's nothing freaky at all to me about a woman having her young sons in a "woman's" space like that because yeah- who tells their baby boys to go in the men's and take care of their own changing? For one thing, it would take approximately an hour and for another thing, THERE'S GROWN MEN IN THERE!
    So the old woman was not happy and she was a mean old thing with no respect and no manners and as such, you did the exact right thing because it was NOT A TEACHABLE MOMENT FOR HER!
    Okay. Now on to the important part- every day and in every way I grow to love your daddy more.
    I'm not even going to apologize any more.

  4. I am cracking the hell up right now. I know you were HOT in that locker room!!! I can't believe that woman kept going in on you like that!

    One of my favorite "pulling a T-Tone" memories was once YEARS ago (I was probably still in high school) ...I was in some home improvement store with Daddy. We were at the register checking out & the lady didn't give him the correct change. Well, she gave what she thought was the correct change, but she was wrong. They kinda went back and forth... in my mind I was saying to the lady, "Please stop... Please? You don't know what you're getting yourself into..." Maaaan, Daddy went in so hard on her. It was sad... and funny all at the same time. Managers were called over and everything. Something was wrong with the computer system at the store, but this woman couldn't tell that she was no where near close to giving him correct change. And you KNOW that pissed him off even more that she couldn't do that basic math in her head. LOL!!!

  5. You handled the situation with more grace and control than I ever could have managed. I never , ever play the race card...but I'm with commenter Angella Lister...sometimes you do know. I would have been the female T-Bone for sure.

    Your fellow Meharrian, Maria

  6. Dr. Manning, my ex husband wasn't present in the lives of my children for a decade and a half before he actually left. I essentially raised them on my own, with him only contributing financially. I can not tell you how many times my boys went into the ladies bathroom. It wasn't until they were 8 or 9 that I let them venture alone into the men's room and that was with me hovering at the door. It is so totally acceptable and expected that a mother with young boys will take them into the women's room with her. The woman could easily have grabbed her things and headed into the showers to change. She was so far out of line that you could have her arrested for trespassing.

  7. If it wasn't for the impressionable young children, I totally would've been more assertive and might've ended up cussing her out. But girl, I think you handled it really well though, standing your ground and all that. Rude is rude regardless of your age. Whether you're my age or elderly, you still need to treat people reasonably, and with respect and courteousness. And it sounds like she was being completely discourteous. Any reasonable person would've seen a mother being caring by helping her child get changed. What was the worst that would've come of it? They're young boys, not teenagers or grown men.

  8. Hold up--it's called a T-TONE with a 'T' not T-BONE with a 'B.' This is an important clarification!

    Glad to have y'all on my side!

  9. Dr. M, as someone who has had something pretty awful happen to her in a public bathroom when young, I would sooner have my teeth knocked out of my mouth than allow my small children alone in ANY public restroom or locker room. Was that insane woman going to guarantee the safety of your children in the men's locker room? I don't think so! In which case, she needed to shut up and take her NASTY elsewhere. You were well within your right to respond and react as you did. As a "white-haired and wise" woman, she could have gently pointed out to you that there is a family locker room which may be more appropriate (to shield your sweet kids from nasty old women with boobs down at their knees and blue veins all over ;).

  10. You handled that situation about as well as a person could. Fortunately, the locker room was an option for you no matter how rudely you were received. However, fathers of daughters are faced with a much more complicated situation when looking for an appropriate place to take our daughters to change or to "potty" while on the road.

    There is no way a man will be accepted into a ladies locker room with his daughters and for obvious reasons he would not venture to take them into the mens room.

    I've tried the. "you better use the bathroom before we get on the road" approach, but that only works on t.v.. I've tried the "let's just stop on the side of the road" or "we can use a bottle". Those only work with my son for the same aforementioned "obvious reason".

    So I like most fathers have had to develop the discerning eye to spot the perfect female entering the restroom to save a dutiful father from himself and to oversee my daughters while they disappear befind those closed doors

    Even though I am probably going to be incontinent at an early age for having to guard the ladies room door while my daughters "powdered there noses" I will always cherish those moments and will always be indebted to all those women that didn't act rudely as the lady you encountered in the locker room with your boys.

    Merry Cristmas.

  11. Shoulda gone T-Tone. Just sayin'.

  12. Great patience Kim...
    I've matured tremendously in my years, but I probably would have relapsed and T-Toned just a tad :-)

  13. You did an exceptional job in holding your cool, however I would went back in there without my kid and rip her a new one.....

  14. But I wanted SO BAD like with everything in my being for you to have cussed her out from here to Sunday!!!! WHYYYYYYYY??? People who like to break bad with me always shock me at first. Like what makes you think you should behave like that toward me??? Is it the young face? Don't let the smooth face fool you! Aye!!!

  15. From the OG T-Tone!!!!! As a minimum, Miss Daisy would have had to answer this question.. "Let me ask your old baggy A-- if I'd be hearing the same S--- out of you if I were Blondie and was looking after two little freckle faced Blondies?" Hand up in a full blown T-Tone manner " Before you open your mouth to tell a MFking lie, you'd better get the F___ out of my face before something bad happens to you.. LOL The look that she would have seen on my face would have spoken volumes and she would have gone away with haste.. Dr. KD you remember the look... Smile

    From the Deck of the Poop

  16. Poopdeck, I am hollering right now. OMG, Dad!! Here I am thinking you are all ZEN now and you are still totally crazy, man. LOL!

    My dear blogreaders. . . yes, this is exactly what my born-and-raised-in-Jim-Crow-era-Birmingham-Alabama father would have actually said to Miss Daisy. See? This is what I grew up with, y'all.

    And this, my friends, is what you call pulling a "T-TONE."

  17. Good for you. You handled that as you should have.I never go to the Y with the kids, that's usually my husbands time, but on the rare occasion I have taken my 6 year son in the ladies locker room with me (not knowing there was a family locker room). Does that lady know in this day and age no sane parent would send their young boys into the mens locker room on their own. Please. She was probably one of those old ladies who also walks around the locker room without her shirt on for way too long, grossing the whole locker room out!!:)


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