Call me crazy, but I’d like to introduce you to my wife.
If you’re a mascot.
There’s something about guys–and gals–in big, fuzzy animal outfits that raises the level of my otherwise sub-standard social graces. Where I’m reticent in gatherings with humans who aren’t dressed as gophers, redbirds and tigers, with mascots I find my social footing and somehow become the sort of Chamber of Commerce glad-hander I’m sure my dad always wanted me to be.
“Kids–someday you’ll bring YOUR wives to Fenway, just to annoy them!”
Believe me, I’ve got nothing against people. Some of my best friends are people, and they have been for a long time. I’m not one of those–you’ll excuse the term–“people” who makes friends with people just because it’s fashionable, or to get a sort of “people pass.”
I myself am descended from a long line of people, so much so that I can pass for a person when the light is right. And the wind’s at my back.
Mascots are different from people, however. They have an inner person, but not an outer person. Whenever I get to know someone’s innermost thoughts and feelings, I usually like them a whole lot more. So why not, for the sake of efficiency, just pal around with beings who only have an inner person, and cut to the chase?
People are always sizing you–by which I mean me–up. There’s the upraised eyebrow of skepticism, what Thorstein Veblen called the “physiognomy of astuteness.” There’s the withering look my mother-in-law gives me when I’m about to step outdoors at her retirement community in Florida wearing a non-collared shirt, shorts and flip-flops.
Veblen, making goo-goo eyes at the wife of a fellow faculty member.
Mascots, on the other hand, all seem to have the cheerful disposition of a cheerleader–without the baby-blue eye shadow and the little paw prints on their cheeks. When I see a happy, smiling mascot, it’s as if I stepped into a Chip and Dale cartoon. They’re animated–so I become animated too!
When I see a business acquaintance in a restaurant or at a social setting, by contrast, I’m always worried that the person will recall something unpleasant in our past. Like “Don’t you owe me an insurance certificate from the Digby Adhesives transaction?” You can imagine the kind of dressing down I’d get in the car going home after an encounter like that. “What exactly do you DO all day at work–when you’re not ‘blogging,’ that is?” my wife would say, with a tone that would chill a three-bedroom home on the 4th of July.
But with mascots–it’s a whole different story. Take Boomer, the mascot for the Boston Cannons, our local lacrosse franchise, for example.
“SO nice to meet you–I’ve heard so much about you!”
When I spied him walking down the sidelines at a game to which I’d dragged–er, taken–my wife, my only thought was: how do I get this guy together with my better half? If I could get them talking, I was sure they’d hit it off and it wouldn’t be such a big deal that I’d paid $20 a ticket for seats in a stadium that’s only 20% full.
So I stood up, and flagged the friendly howitzer down. “Boomer! Excuse me–Boomer!” I called out, trying to pry him away from a bunch of kids who were hugging him. Probably hadn’t even started on their summer reading lists.
He made his way slowly, methodically down the rope line, and I began to feel pangs of guilt. Who was I, really? Just another one of perhaps thousands of fans that Boomer needed to interact with. I looked around the stadium and, seeing all the empty seats, revised my estimate downward by 80%. Still, he was a minor celebrity, and I was just another stupid fanboy, hoping to touch the hem of his garments, like Blind Barnabas, who stood on the way as Jesus passed, and was healed.
“Whoa, dude–don’t get grabby!”
But as he drew near, my resolve returned. “Boomer–excuse me, Boomer,” I cried out–and he heard me!
He came over with the speed of a used car salesman seeing a prospect walk on the lot, or a politician who spies a TV camera.
He said nothing–mascots usually don’t–but he shook my hand heartily. I thanked him profusely for joining me, told him how much I admired his work, and then–with as much grace as a man of my ilk can manage–said “Boomer–I’d like you to meet my wife.”
He was a perfect gentleman . . . I mean gentlemascot . . . about it! I turned and said “Sweetie, this is Boomer Cannon, the team’s mascot.”
I should interject at this point that my wife is a bit of a manners maven. When I met her she had three etiquette books to her name–Emily Post, Amy Vanderbilt, and “Miss Manners,” nee Judith Martin.
Miss Manners, Nat Fleischer: Admit it, you’ve never seen them in the same room together.
I, by contrast, had no books on manners. I had three books on literary style–Strunk & White, Fowler’s Modern English Usage, and Nat Fleischer’s Ring Record Book and Encyclopedia–but manners strike me as falling between the cracks of the three types of rules: natural, conventional and logical. The main point of manners is at bottom that you should avoid offending anyone unnecessarily. (Save your ammo for when you want to offend them intentionally.) That’s natural, conventional and logical.
The wall of etiquette in my wife’s apartment represented a challenge to me. Anybody who has three etiquette books is just asking for it, if you ask me. So I challenged her to a game of Etiquette Pursuit; each of us would pick questions for the other to answer randomly from one of her books; single elimination, hockey shoot-out style.
She asked me a question about wedding gifts or dessert forks, I can’t remember what exactly, something every schoolboy learns at his mother’s knee. I nailed it, and so it was my turn.
I chose a question that struck me as one that was neither too difficult, nor too obvious, nor unfairly archaic, e.g., “When entering a motion picture theatre, a gentleman removes his hat, allows a woman to enter first, then buys her a box of jujubes.” To wit, when writing a thank-you note to the President or another head of state, should the note be handwritten or typewritten?
“Typewritten,” she said, as if it were obvious that, since it would eventually be deposited in the National Archives, clarity, precision and accuracy were essential.
“BAP!” I said, making my game show wrong-answer-buzzer sound. “Handwritten.”
There ensued a tirade of special pleading such as hasn’t been heard on this continent since the disappointed native inhabitants of Manhattan asked for a refund for the $24 worth of costume jewelry they’d received for their island. Ever since, my wife has been on her guard against lapses that could be used against her otherwise-sterling record in the manners department.
And so, as the mascot offered his white-gloved hand, my wife said “Nice to meet you, Mr. Cannon.”
To which the man in the fuzzy-fabric suit replied through his wire-mesh grille, “Please–call me Boomer.”