Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Shirley Valentine

"Did you call Robert and Jaki?" Linda asked last night.

Over the years, I have learned that this sort of question can fall into one of three categories: 1) LK genuinely is interested in knowing whether I have done this; 2) She suspects I may have forgotten to call them, and she is gently reminding me in the event that is the case; or 3) She is almost certain I have forgotten and she is reminding me without coming out and saying that I did not do something I said I would do.

Number 1 is considered pleasant conversation. Numbers 2 and 3 are nagging in varying degrees, with 2 being the nice-nagging and 3 being the not-nice-nagging. We have been together long enough that I can usually spot which sort of the question it is, and in this case it was either a 1 or 2. And since I had completely forgotten to ring our friends, I was glad she reminded me - even if it was too late to call. (Part of the problem is that apparently because I have been in so many time zones this trip, I failed to realize it was no longer New Year's Eve yesterday afternoon.)

Anyhow, responding to either pleasant conversation or nice nagging, I told her I had forgotten. At which point, Shirley said, "And you said you were going to call David, too. Did you?" And trust me - it was a Level 3 nag.

That kind of surprised me - and it certainly didn't bode well for the New Year which was less than 24 hours old that someone other than Linda was starting to nag me. I winced and kind of whined a bit about that when LK smiled broadly and said, "I have decided to take the day off. Tonight, Shirley is going to nag you."

I think she was joking. I hope she was.

And she actually didn't use Shirley's name. She called her Conkie, which is a nickname we gave Shirl in 2000 when the three of us were traveling in Beijing.

We were at the Summer Palace, when our tour guide explained that the Emperor had set up the place we were looking at for his concubine. From the way she looked at Shirley, we gathered she was hinting that Shirl might be my concubine. And from that moment to today, Shirl has been Conkie to Linda and me.

Mind you, experience has taught me it's not a nickname to use in front of other people, especially when we were all working together. Once I have to explain that Conkie is short for Concubine, but not because she really is, but because we were at the Summer Palace and the tour guide looked at us, and blah blah blah. Well, you just know that more than a few times I ended up lamely telling them, "You had to be there, I guess" while they looked at me obviously thinking, "No way this fat guy has a concubine! He's dreaming!"

Shirl is our best and dearest friend, and she shares our love of travel. In fact, she is even more of a world wanderer than we are.

We have been on many adventures together. Before this year in Honolulu, the three of us have seen in the New Year together at the Victoria Falls Hotel, at a lodge on the Serengeti, in a hotel in Capetown and on a cruise ship in the South Pacific near Noumea. Not to mention many times at our place in Sydney.

And when LK has had wanderlust for places that didn't sound all that wonderful to me, Shirl was always ready to pack the bag and head off with her. They've been to Vietnam three times, Cambodia, Turkey and Macy's.

It has always been such great fun hanging out with Shirley. I can only hope that her brief foray into nagging me about something I had forgotten to do was a one-off.

But LK's full words still ring in my ears: "I'm taking the day off. It's about time that Conkie starts living up to her name."

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