Mom and I arrived in St. Louis last night around 10pm. Our attractive and capable BabyLock hostess/event producer picked us up and we got to the hotel. The beds are clean as can be, the room is spacious, and you could eat an omelet off the bathroom floor (I will not be attempting this) but I must confess my sails luffed when I saw the name of the place, driving up. It’s that hotel chain that pops popcorn in the lobby. You know the one? It’s a nice gesture, but it makes the whole hotel smell like a movie theater. Bed + buttered popcorn is not a good sensory mix. It reminds me of one of those weird all-night church youth group shut-in things at the local cineplex where everyone is doing things they should not be doing. So much safer at home.
Anyway, Mom and I approached the desk and we’re checking in and the lady helping us has this absolutely bizarre accent. I mean, it’s really unusual. I’ve got a pretty good ear for accents, can usually tell the difference between, say, a South African and an Australian accent. But this one was totally beyond me. In just under two minutes, I decided, “Oh, I see. She has a speech impediment.” And I felt really glad I hadn’t asked her where she was from.
“Where are you from?” my mother asked, cheerily. And then, in a way that would make me gasp with laughter in my hotel room later, Mom said, with absolutely zero trace of malice or entrapment, “I have to ask because your accent… Well, it’s just… It’s unplaceable!”
“Ew, oim frum Englund,” the girl said, suddenly now more affected than she had been before.
Ah. Now I understood completely. This woman, rather than to repeatedly hit her head on the popcorn machine to add interest to her long, dull, Drury Inn nights, decided to affect a “British” accent to help pass the hours. It was not a British accent. It was… It was not a British accent. But that’s cool. My friends and I used to do stuff like that. We’d be at a Perkins in Des Moines, eating cheese sticks and drinking Cokes and we’d decide to pretend we were all foreign exchange students from Ireland and start talking with the worst brogues the world has ever heard.
“Top o’ th’ marnin’ to ye,” one of us would say. Then someone would say, “Eim rrrrrrrrredeah ta arder, Miss.”
“What can I get for you?” the waitress would ask, bone weary, silently pleading to whatever god she prayed to that the Perkins would be struck by lightning and Ray would send her home early. We’d fool around with our accents for awhile, get bored with them, and then go back to being something approaching socially acceptable. For the love of Mike we were so obnoxious. I’m so sorry, Perkins lady.
I texted Mom when I got to my room: “She’s from England like I’m from Malawi.”
Mom’s reply: “Yeah: England, Arkansas.”
We’re on the road together four days. Further dispatches to come.