Mama Gets in Line

Not long ago, I saw Kevin Spacey do some hilarious impressions on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Spacey mimics the late host of that show, the inimitable Johnny Carson, particularly well. In fact, Spacey pretended to be Carson’s son in his younger (and much less famous) years to gain entrance to exclusive clubs, parties, and shows, “borrowing” tuxedos from prop rooms.

Kevin Spacey had nothing on Mama. She did such good impressions, she could (and did) call up her own mother to mess with her. And she could drop a name on a dime, but only if she realized someone was being pretentious. If she saw an opportunity to befuddle someone just a little too full of themselves, bar the door, Nellie.

Years ago (Mama would be ninety-one if she were still with us here), one of my uncles was at a major university hospital for surgery. I won’t say which one. I might want to visit my home state again someday.) Some of my aunts, an uncle, and Mama went to visit him for the day.

Of course, they got hungry while there, so off they went to the hospital cafeteria. I should say cafeterias. Things were different in those days. There was a separate, nicer dining area for the physicians and surgeons. Mama was having none of that.

Dressed to the nines, Mama and the others got right in line – with the doctors. They chatted about “their patient,” addressed each other appropriately, and dined in high style. All the while, those around them tried to figure out who these interlopers were.

They’d never get away with such pranks today. With tight security, credentials on name badges, locked doors, and carded locks, all good things, a person would find it almost impossible to pull such a prank. Besides, I never see separate dining facilities in hospitals these days.

However, Mama did train me well. When I was the age she was during her doctor escapade, I entertained myself by becoming a mannequin in fine clothing or department stores. You haven’t had fun until you strike such a perfect pose on a store pedestal you can freak out a grown man with a slight wink.

But back in time to the hospital story, Mama and her co-conspirators finished their meals, thoroughly amused with and proud of themselves. As they left the dining area, still calling each other Dr. So-and-So, a real physician whose curiosity finally got the best of him introduced himself and asked them who they were. He handed himself to Mama on a silver platter.

As they all walked confidently away, she turned to him and whispered loudly, “We’re spies from Duke.”

Jean Sanders Shumaker is a freelance writer, editor, educator, victims advocate, and former publications coordinator. A native of North Carolina, she has lived in Colorado for almost twenty years. She is a member of the US Press Association

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