I have a friend named Travis who is 3 years old and sometimes stays at my house for the weekend, which is great with me.
We get along very well and occasionally mosey out to look things over, as we did the other day. We looked over some department stores.
I took Travis' hand and we sauntered up and down the aisles, pulling merchandise off the shelves and putting it back. Well, actually, he pulled it off and I put it back, but at least we both knew our jobs.
Nothing Travis does truly upsets me, even in restaurants where my own children once offered virtuoso performances in milk-spilling and spaghetti-throwing. I was younger then and used to die with embarrassment, but now I am mature and steady under fire.
When Travis and I were having lunch, for example, he decided to entertain by removing his hot dog from the bun and tossing it in the air. The hot dog, not the bun.
It landed with a mustardy splat directly on the bosom of an amply endowed matron who, quite naturally, was startled and perhaps a bit perplexed as to why a hot dog would drop from the ceiling onto her bosom.
I, however, maintaining admirable aplomb, leaned over and said, "Excuse me, madam, but I believe you have our hot dog."
She nodded in a somewhat blank manner and, with the very tip of her fingers, handed me back the hot dog. I thanked her kindly and returned it to Travis, who thought it was a terrific joke.
I mention that only to indicate how calmly I am able to deal with the unpredictable nature of toddler companionship. I only fall apart when it comes to bodily functions.
To begin with, I do not believe God intended for man to change a baby's diapers or otherwise deal with their basic biology, with the possible exception of wiping away the drool when they eat puree of banana squash.
Women handle that kind of problem quite smartly, for which I am eternally grateful, since someone has to do it. A world full of odoriferous children is too awful to contemplate.
Travis, I am pleased to report, is out of the diaper stage, which eliminates the necessity of dealing with diapers and their attendant unpleasantries. But we have another problem here.
His mother has taught him to announce to the whole world whenever he requires use of the, well, toy-toy. I hate being cute, but toy-toy is what they say in Santa Monica. That isn't what I said when I was a kid, but we had no cute in East Oakland.
It would be all right with me, however, if Travis simply shouted toy-toy! to cover all bases, but he doesn't. He is specific in his demands. He shouts, "Travis make pee-pee!" Or, if required, do-do.
I suppose I wouldn't have been as startled had I been warned about the pee-pee/do-do business in advance, but I wasn't. We were in the middle of a crowded department store and Travis pointed skyward as though to drive home an oratorical point and said, "Travis make pee-pee!"
It caught me completely off guard, so naturally I said shhhh , which is probably exactly the wrong thing to say to a child in the midst of toilet-training. I did, however, curb the instinct to walk away and pretend I had never seen him before in my life.
"OK," I whispered, "we'll find a bathroom."
"Travis make pee-pee," he shouted again, "now!"
He was beginning to attract the attention of passing shoppers. I don't object to getting a lot of attention, but I prefer getting it by writing columns, not by shouting pee-pee! in a crowded department store.
I picked him up and we hurried off to find the toy-toy. Naturally it was locked.
I resent the growing tendency of public establishments to require that you seek a key in order to use their damned toilet. In this case, I had to get someone behind a counter to push a buzzer to unlock a main door that led into an area of restrooms. But there was no one behind the counter.
I shouted for a toilet attendant even as Travis shouted his pee-pee requirements and then added the ominous possibility that maybe there was do-do involved here too.
There was no question in my mind that Travis was enjoying the whole thing, but I, alas, was not. We favor different types of entertainment.
Our combined chorus of demands finally attracted the attention of a security person who got someone to push the buzzer that allowed us use of the facilities. I had less trouble getting aboard Air Force One when I was writing politics than I had getting Travis to the toy-toy.
However, we made it all right and I told him what a good boy he was, and he gave me a smile as sweet as the first day of spring. That alone made the whole unnerving experience worthwhile.
"Travis," I said, as we drove home along the San Diego Freeway, "anytime you want to use the toy-toy, no matter where we are or what time of day it is, you just speak right up."
That seemed to please him because two minutes later, in the middle of a horn-honking, bumper-to-bumper traffic calamity, he shouted "Travis make pee-pee!"
Maybe I went a little too far.