Last weekend, I attended a Silent Retreat at St. Margaret's Convent in Roxbury, MA which is a suburb of Boston. It's a beautiful place! The sisters are so welcoming and smiling all the time. The chapel is beautiful, with so much natural light shining in from the clear and stained glass windows. I went to chapel a lot, except I did not attend Morning Prayer at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday! There are very few things I do at 6:00 a.m., and I decided the night before that Morning Prayer is one of them! No guilt.
Our silence began Friday night, after supper. It was a wonderful meal of baked salmon, baked cod, lovely vegetables and fresh salad bar. I did not have dessert, so don't remember what that was. Anyway, as it turns out, I sat at a table with a husband/wife couple and another woman for dinner. We were exchanging pleasantries when the gentleman "started in on me." For starters:
"I saw your husband at the polling place last Tuesday but didn't have a chance to speak with him. How's he doing from his surgeries? Is his hip and knee behaving? Is he getting back to normal?"
I looked at him, wondering "Who are you?" Then I asked, "My husband being who?" He looked at me rather quizzically and asked, "Aren't you from St. Luke's?" I replied that yes, I was, but my husband did not have hip surgery. I went on to explain that he had had both knee and intestinal surgery. "Oh!" he exclaimed. "Well, how's he doing now?" I said that my husband was doing fine. (He still had not referred to either one of us by name.)
He then started inquiring about our son. "Is he in elementary school?" "No," I explained, "he just started at Worcester Tech."
"REALLY! How old is he?"
"Fifteen" I responded.
"WOW! That's awesome! Did he have to take a lot of advance placement courses to get in at such a young age?"
I'm beginning to wonder if this guy really does "know" me... "No, he just filled out the application and was accepted. He would have been thrilled to go to Doherty High, but was ecstatic to be accepted at Tech."
He replied, "That's amazing!"
At this point, his wife - who had been eavesdropping during her conversation with the other woman at our table - chimed in. "I heard you say your son is a student at Worcester Tech! How old did you say he was?"
"Fifteen" I replied.
"Isn't that something? What an incredible opportunity for him. And at such a young age! You must be thrilled!"
I said that, yes, we were pretty thrilled and excited for him. Then she asked me what areas of study he was looking at. "Oh, he's interested in Veterinary Asst., Culinary, Allied Health...but he's going to be exploring all of those things." And then, her face sort of fell. And then, it hit me.
"Did you think I was talking about Worcester Polytechnic Institute?" I asked. She admitted that, yes, that was the case. And then, she slapped the side of my arm and said, "If you were FROM here, you'd know that WPI was always called Worcester Tech and that Worcester Tech was previously known as Worcester Voc."
I looked her in the eye and said (without slapping the side of her arm), "Well, I live here NOW, and I know that on the front of the building it says "Worcester Technical High School."" She turned and started another conversation with the other lady.
But, the husband was not yet finished. He leaned on his elbow and wondered, "So, Mary, do you work outside of the home or do you just maintain the Rectory?"
Swallow or spit food at him? Hold my fork or stab him with it? Laugh with my mouth full or be the submissive Rector's wife he wants me to be? For some stupid reason, I became the latter and told him about my two part-time jobs. Part of me felt like he'd stripped me of my garments in front of the whole room. Part of me felt like he was one of the rudest people I've ever "not met!" Part of me wanted to just get up and walk away and maybe pass gas as I did. But I didn't. I was polite. I was me, being the nice girl.
Later, re-telling this experience to a friend, I was not saying anything kind about this man whom I do not know yet who knows so much about me! After telling Warren about this experience, he seems to recall having met this man, but doesn't recall the circumstances.
All I know is, if and when I encounter this ungentleman again, I will think long and hard before answering his questions. I will probably come up with outlandish replies to them, which I'm sure will get repeated and will come back to haunt me. But at least I'll have had the satisfaction of "not being nice" in a nice sort of way. The joke really is on him, not me.
Good grief! Would you look at the time? I've been here way too long, and have some serious Rectory maintenance to tend to! Must go and get things done so I can rise early and do my 6:00 a.m. Morning Prayers.