Case study: responses to audio stimulation

THE SCENE: Stuck in the van, northbound I-5, late afternoon.

THE AUDIOBOOK: Carpe Demon: Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom, by Julie Kenner, which so far had seemed pretty tame. Not likely to contain any of those scenes I couldn’t listen to with my boys in the car. You know—THOSE kinds of scenes.

PROTAGONIST: But my old life kept peeking in, and I was so afraid that Stuart would look at me one morning and catch a glimpse of my secret. Or worse, that one morning he’d wake up and catch a glimpse of a demon.

SQUIRT: (perks up) Demons? Maybe this isn’t such a dumb story after all.

BONNIE: (to driver of Honda) Just a minute, hon, while I figure out what this STUPID GUY IN THAT HONDA IS DOING!

PROTAGONIST: … I twisted in his arms and kissed him, hard at first, and then softer…

SQUIRT: (nervously) Mom!

BONNIE: (the Honda driver isn’t listening) What a NOODLE. Why is he STOPPING on the freeway? IS HE DIALING SOMEBODY?

PROTAGONIST: …until I felt him relax under me and open his mouth to mine…


BONNIE: Oh, ho! He’s PICKING HIS NOSE! Mr. Booger!

PROTAGONIST: … His hands tightened around me, and he pulled me close. I wanted to be even closer…


BONNIE: What? Oh! Ooops! Sorry!

(she looks at Squirt, who is clinging to the passenger-side window)

You okay?

SQUIRT: (anguished) MOM! How could you?

Now let us compare and contrast the above with the following:

THE SCENE: Stuck in the van, northbound I-5, late afternoon, the very next day.

THE AUDIOBOOK: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, by Harlan Ellison. My only previous experience with Harlan Ellison was “The City on the Edge of Forever,” an episode in the original Star Trek series which I thought was way cool.

Turns out Mr. Ellison was holding back when he wrote that episode. Little did I know that his normal output might best be classified in that genre known as “Chock Full of THOSE Kinds of Scenes.”

HARLAN ELLISON: I loved My Aunt Babe for 3 reasons. The first was that even though I was only 10 or 11, she flirted with me as she did with any male of any age who was lucky enough to pass through the heat of her line of sight.

BONNIE: Hmmm! (punches PAUSE button) Maybe I should preview this one first.

SQUIRT: Hey, Mom! I’m listening to it!

BONNIE: You are? Well, okay. I mean, Ellison wrote that “City on the Edge of Forever” Star Trek episode, so he’s probably okay. (punches PLAY button)

HARLAN ELLISON: The second was her breasts!

BONNIE: (punches PAUSE button) Maybe not okay!

SQUIRT: Don’t stop it! This one sounds a lot better than that Carpe Demon crap.

BONNIE: I think this just might be a little too adult for you, young man. Star Trek notwithstanding.

SQUIRT: Mom. I’m FIFTEEN. I hear lots worse at school.

BONNIE: Yes. Well. Doesn’t mean you’ll be hearing it in my van. But still… Harlan Ellison IS considered one of the science fiction biggies, so… (punches PLAY button)

HARLAN ELLISON: The second was her breasts! I knew them as “titties”!

BONNIE:(punches PAUSE button) That’ll be enough of that, MISTER Ellison!


Frankly, I don’t think the boys and I will ever be able to listen together to THOSE kinds of scenes, even after they hit 18.

Maybe when they’re lots older, like in their forties. And married. With three kids apiece.


11 Replies to “Case study: responses to audio stimulation”

  1. LMAO, omg, it really is a different world when you have boys :o) your Sudan avatar, it’s such an important issue one the world needs to be made aware of.

  2. Bonnie, I spend hours in the car every day. Audio books are preventing me from driving off the road!

    Michelle, that is a link to the St. Luke’s Refugee Network, which has been assisting Sudanese refugees in San Diego for years and years. When the refugees arrive in San Diego, St. Luke’s helps them in countless ways, from finding housing to helping them learn how to adjust to our society.

    I’ve heard some of the Lost Boys speak about their experiences—it’s heart-breaking. Their book will make you cry: They Poured Fire On Us From the Sky.

  3. Boy’s at the eyerolling stage. Or the look.

    Afraid I laugh while he just gives another look and quickly changes the subject, the radio, the tv or whatever it was that was causing the eye twitch.

    Of course, when Dawg has him trapped on the escalator, then he really gets a dose of you know how much I love your mom and so on…

    Evil parents. 😀

    Now you have me curious about the books, Bonnie.

  4. Kait, I know the look very well. Not quite “if looks could kill.” More like, “if looks could just shut you up.”

    Exactly, Bernita. I am a squirmer.

    Mark, that IS an embarrassing scene. I bet your mom was just as uncomfortable as you were. I could never watch that scene with my boys.

  5. Hilarious! Boys grow up sort of lopsided, don’t you think? One day they’re playing with trucks, the next they’re budding moguls planning their first million. The scene in your van was a perfect example…why else was one scene ok and the other totally NOT ok?

    And awesome that you keep the Sudanese story alive. The hospital where i work “adopted” several of them when they first came to the country with nothing but the clothes on their back. Literally. It’s been an amazing experience hearing their stories and helping them adapt.

  6. What’s happening in the Sudan for the last twenty years has pretty much been overlooked in the United States until recently. When people hear about the genocide they want to help, but other than writing to their representatives there’s not much they can do, unless they want to help the Sudanese who’ve made it to the United States.

    There’s a documentary about two survivors’ experiences.

  7. I loved Carpe Demon. It really is good…too bad you got one of the only bad parts in stereo. LOL…your boys crack me up…they sound so much like mine. (And mine are only 5 and 10…YIKES!)

  8. 5 and 10—you’re in for some fun, Mimi. And you’re right, that was the ONLY “bad” part. And that was as racy as it got, too. Nothing at all like cable television.

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