Posted by: laughs4dads | February 1, 2010

The Guide to Babysitters, Part I

Society has this truly endearing way to make parents feel really old.  It is called “teenaged baby sitters.”

We had two favorites, Karen, a local kid from the local high school, and Peggy, who attended a local college.  There was also a large roster of backups.  But it took a long time to get to that point.  And Barbara staunchly protected our favorites from the desperate and prying queries of other mothers.

There are unwritten rules of baby sitter etiquette, you know.  For instance, if you learn about a good sitter from someone else, you must ask that person’s permission before you tie up (via a long-term contract) that sitter on a regular basis, like, say, every Saturday night.  And if you find someone on your own, you only divulge her name to your best friends, who will not stay your best friends for long if they use the sitter too often.

Anyway, we tried out about a dozen girls.  The first trial of a new sitter is a harrowing experience, since you never know if you’ve got one of the baby sitters you read about in The New York Post: “BABY SITTER BAKES BABY.”

While we didn’t get any gourmet cooks, we did have a few clunkers.  One, whose name I forget, met us nervously at the door when we returned from the movies and maneuvered us into the kitchen.  She did this, we later discovered, to allow her boyfriend (who was most definitely not part of the deal as far as we were concerned) to emerge from the bathroom (where, we presumed, he was putting his clothes back on) and skip out the door.  At least he had brought his own beer–a half dozen empties were stacked neatly on the counter.

There was another girl whom we liked–her name was Diana–who, nevertheless, had several unusual traits.  Her hair color, for instance, was not one that naturally appears on human beings anywhere in the world.  Diana seemed to be constantly testing us by using terms or mentioning rock groups she didn’t expect us to know.  She did this most often while being driven back to her dorm and, since it was usually me that was doing the driving, I was most often the victim of these little pop quizzes.

Once she described her boyfriend as a “head banger.”  I impressed her immediately with my up-to-date knowledge of modern, with-it lingo.  “That’s somebody who enjoys heavy metal music,” I said proudly, and then blew it completely by adding, “Like Grand Funk Railroad.”

Another time, as a sort of public service, she warned me that tickets for a U2 concert were going fast and that I had better act fast if I didn’t want to miss it.  This was early on in the band’s rise to stardom, and  I really surprised her on this one.  “They’re okay,” I said, “but I don’t much care for Bono’s voice.”  She looked at me incredulously, not believing I could possibly know the name of U2’s lead singer.  But then I said, “He just hasn’t been the same since Cher left,” and she turned away with a flash of puce-colored hair.

Diana’s quizzes finally ended when I impressed her forever with the news that I actually knew somebody who had been at Woodstock.  It didn’t matter, though.  She never returned after a summer vacation, and we assume that she is living somewhere with the head banger.

Peggy, on the other hand, was the nicest, most clean-cut college co-ed you’ll ever want to meet.  She majored in business, but her real love was riding horses competitively.  Not racing, but steeplechase.  You know, jumping over things.

The first time I saw Peggy, she was wearing jeans that were ripped to shreds.  So naturally, I gave her a larger tip.  How was I supposed to know she had bought the jeans that way?

And, while I didn’t have to study pop culture in order to drive Peggy back to the dorm, we did manage to have some pretty disturbing conversations.  Once it came out that Peggy had been something like three years old when bell-bottoms were popular.  That sure made me feel like a kid again.

By now you’ve probably got the idea that I didn’t particularly enjoy driving these teenagers around.  Well, it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, it’s just that I didn’t handle the pressure well.  I tried to put on music I thought they would like, that would make me look cool.  I also tried to fake my way through conversations.   I remember once saying, “Oh, yes, I love Depeche Mode,” even though I wasn’t sure at the time whether Depeche Mode was a rock group or a dessert.
to be continued…

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