Never Saw That One Comin’

04 Apr

Do you know what I’ve discovered about surprises? You never see them coming. (I know, I know—duh!)   I read somewhere that kindergarteners are one of the most delightful group of humans for a multitude of reasons (full of joie de vivre for one), but mainly, this is so due to how much life takes them by surprise, and their unmitigated joy (if they like the surprise), or their colossal meltdown if they don’t.

Surprise Bear

Surprised Bear | Courtesy of

My grandson is 5 years old, and the other day after being dragged from one clothing store to another with his mother he was promised by said mother that if he’d be patient, she would take him to the giant toy store in Manhattan for a new toy. However, the clothes buying took longer than anticipated, and my daughter thought it would be more prudent to stop for a slice (what they call pizza in NYC) before proceeding to FAO Schwarz (you know, the home of the giant floor piano used in “Big” where Tom Hanks played “Chopsticks with his feet?”).

The world of a five-year-old doesn’t have much bandwidth, so when he was being pulled through the door of a pizza parlor instead of toy heaven, he vociferously began to complain. He wisely chose not to throw a full-blown, fall-on-the-floor, kicking and screaming tantrum, but tried the more subtle approach of firmly crossing his arms in defiance and protruding his lower lip into a pout that could win the Guinness World Record of protruding lips. His mother totally ignored him (as all good parents should at the moment of a five-year-old siege), but the waitress did not. Upon seeing my grandson’s very unhappy face, the waitress asked him what was wrong.

KINDERGARTEN TERRORIST: “SHE [when a mother gets on a five-year-old’s shit list, the person who gave him life suddenly becomes persona non-grata, and the mother turns into a “she” or “that woman”] PROMISED ME FAO SCHWARZ, AND NOW I’VE BEEN DRAGGED INTO THIS PLACE TO EAT PIZZA!”

FAO Schwarz Front5 Wikimedia Commons

FAO Schwarz | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

SHE: [addresses her rebuttal to the waitress] “In whose world is eating pizza considered a punishment?”

CHARMING WAITRESS: “Well, I’ll tell you what, sweetie, if it will make you happy, I’ll fix your pizza anyway you want it, get it to you as quickly as possible, and get you out the door in no time so that you can get to FAO Schwarz as fast as your little legs can carry you.   So what would you like on your slice, darlin’?”

KINDERGARTEN TERRORIST: [The KT sighs, knowing that he better play along before “She” bypasses FAO Schwarz altogether and decides that a “time out” until Jesus returns would be a more appropriate choice after the pizza joint.]

“Okay, I want pepperoni [pout], cheese [pout], and more cheese, please. Can you cut it into little pieces for me [swallowing sob] and put some salt on it too [sucking back crocodile tears]?”

CHARMING WAITRESS: “Sure honey, whatever you want” [waitress looks back at my daughter as she goes to place the order and whispers:] “Don’t worry, Honey, I’m just humoring him so that he won’t have a meltdown—I won’t put any salt on his pizza.”

As the waitress walked away, my five-year-old grandson leaned across the table in complete wonderment and surprise at what had just transpired and whispered to his mother:

“Well, I never saw that one comin’!”

Surprise Gomer Pyle

Actor: Gomer Pyle | Surprise meme

I almost peed myself from laughter over the retelling of my grandson and the pizza parlor experience. It got me thinking about good surprises (big and small) that either inform our intelligence (shake us out of our ignorance) or make our lives more palatable so that we can survive to get to FAO Schwarz (heaven). It made me wonder if in any given life there are more “bad” surprises than there are “good.” I’m sure it must be so in Third World countries, but can it be so in the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free?  I’ve written about my own life that was full of Lemony Snicket Unfortunate Events in Monsters’ Throwdown, but I still think growing up in America has given me a leg up because of its provision of wonderful surprises. So I’m trying to spend my latter days anticipating the “good” surprises and relishing in the joy they bring—no matter how small.

For instance, I once worked for an asshole who was a bigot, mean-spirited, and a braggart (“If there are 10 people in the room with me, I am always the smartest, and so whatever you have to say as a black woman and a lowly secretary will never match my intellect.”). He was from Mississippi and couldn’t stomach any feedback from me except, “Yes, Massah—whatever you say Massah.” Boss-man tried to get me fired because I refused to empty his waste basket of week-old rotting garbage from his daily lunches (he had pissed off the African-American and Hispanic janitorial staff so badly that they refused to clean his office). I desperately needed that job and couldn’t quit because mine was the only income supporting our household at the time. The jerk of a boss underestimated my intelligence and the fact that I’m also a praying woman, ‘cause I prayed every day that God would fry his ass (I’m still working on the “love thy enemy” thing). As karma would have it, within nine months from the day he started treating me like shit, the dude was fired from his job in disgrace, was sued for divorce, lost his home, and for the next decade or so failed to keep a job longer than a year. I, on the other hand, got handed a job working for the asshole’s boss three levels above him and ended up working for the company for years while making a hefty salary utilizing my intelligence and skillset.   All I could say at the end of that tenure was:

“Well, I never saw that one comin’!”

Surprise orum dot ladypopular dot com

Courtesy of

Another lovely surprise in my life happened from a completely random choice. Years ago, my husband and I stopped by a gorgeous little B and B to spend the night because it was halfway between point A and point B on our way home from a long trip. At breakfast we ended up chatting with a delightful interracial couple sitting at the next table. Although we never exchanged last names, I realized almost immediately that the woman was Anita Hill (the African-American law professor who testified against the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas regarding sexual harassment when she worked with him at the EEOC). During that awful hearing, the Right Wing threw everything but the kitchen sink at Ms. Hill, the male Democrats hung her out to dry, and I cheered her demise because I was a Christian conservative at the time.  I joined prayer groups that “beseeched God” to make the way clear for Clarence Thomas to be appointed a justice on the Supreme Court because he was God’s man, and she was Satan’s little helper.  Clearly, I had drunk the Kool-Aid.

Today every time Thomas votes against the good of our country and its people, I hang my head in shame, and I repent for being such an idiot. But the day I accidentally met Anita Hill (I never let on that I knew who she was, and we never talked about the hearing), that meeting left no doubt in my mind that she was innocent.

A documentary has just been released (Anita) that clarifies the truth about that riveting historical moment. The world has since learned through several books (one written by two journalists who had no skin in the game) that there were other women waiting to testify against Clarence Thomas who had experienced the same treatment from him as Anita Hill, but they weren’t given a chance to speak. There were people waiting to verify that Ms. Hill had complained to them about Thomas’ harassment when it happened, but they were never called before the committee because the Republicans turned it into a character assassination of Anita Hill (“they didn’t want to hear the truththey just wanted to win,” Ms. Hill has said). After the hearing was over, a rabid Republican core group tried to get Ms. Hill fired but failed (she had tenure), tried to get the Dean of her school fired, and some even tried to shut down the law school where she worked. But never mind, as so often happens when nasty surprises slime us, the attacks turned Anita Hill into an ardent champion of women’s rights and the poster child of sexual harassment in the workplace. Thousands of women came out of hiding to tell their long-suffering stories of sexual harassment because of the courage a soft-spoken, humble woman demonstrated by the way she stood up to her haters.

Anita Hill has become a hero to me and millions of women. And guess what?

“Well, I never saw that one comin’!”

Anita Hill Apology Sack Star Tribune

Used by Permission: Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star Tribune

I am discovering that life is very, very difficult, but every once in a while, a good surprise comes along to give us hope and faith in a future that would otherwise cut us off at the knees and leave us completely undone. When that happens, all we can do is express our thanksgiving with gratitude to God and chant the declaration of one precious five-year-old:

“Well, I never saw that one comin’!”


“Life is full of surprises.”John Major

“Sometimes it is better to begin the journey, to get under way, then it is to sit back and wait until such time that you’re convinced that all conditions are perfect and that there’ll be no surprises along the route.”John Engler

Would you like to know your future?

If your answer is yes, think again. Not knowing is the greatest life motivator.

So enjoy, endure, survive each moment as it comes to you in its proper sequence—a surprise.”Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration



Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on April 4, 2014 in Uncategorized


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14 responses to “Never Saw That One Comin’

  1. imagesbytdashfield

    April 4, 2014 at 11:28 am

    The grandson – who is now sporting a fro that makes him look like a mini Questlove of The Roots – has never tried to hold us hostage like that. He’s slick with his techniques and we often just give in. But he knows not to press me too much because Nana don’t play after awhile. And yes, Karma can do some numbers on people sometimes.

    • etomczyk

      April 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

      TD: I can just imagine that do (don’t you just love The Roots?). Our little one would love to sport that cut, but his mother (“She”) keeps buzz cutting it. One day in total exasperation, he said to me: “Mema, you have no idea what this woman does to me.” Ha!

      • imagesbytdashfield

        April 4, 2014 at 11:40 am

        That boy has so much of you in him! 🙂

  2. Hudson Howl

    April 4, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    BAM! BOOM! POW!…..I never saw this one coming, Batman. This was so well written, I now feel completely inadequate. Good shtufffs, Eleanor. Am certain you and WW are proud parents -as your children bring forth a new crop of obviously ‘good’ folks.

    Ain’t it the truth. There really is no way to see the big picture or anticipate an out come when the variables that seem to dictate an outcome can originate from a fart in one piece snowsuit.

    There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Anita Hill was 100% truthful back when that was playing out. But not surprising , the whole President George H. W. Bush period was in hind sight a string of ‘I didn’t see that coming’ epiphanies. It happens on this of border as well, trust me.

    • etomczyk

      April 17, 2014 at 9:29 am

      Thanks Hudson. You are such a sweetheart. I shall be swinging by your place once my grandson is back on the road to home. I need some time to sit and meditate on your poetry. All the best.

      • Hudson Howl

        April 17, 2014 at 12:22 pm

        Am going to be heading out shortly to my ‘much much older Brother’s home till Tuesday in the land of bears, moose and six feet of snow (still, oh joy). Enjoy this Easter weekend Eleanor. This is the first Easter Weekend in years I have not spent in Cuba.

  3. Elyse

    April 5, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Eleanor, that was just great. I loved all the parts — your grandson is such a hoot! I do miss those days.

    If only we had listened to Anita Hill — the silent wonder wouldn’t be where he is — nor would his wife have quite the cache with the right wing, either, I’m guessing. But it strikes me as strange how Anita Hill is still vilified by so many people, even today. Even when so very many people wish the Senate had listened to her.

    • etomczyk

      April 17, 2014 at 9:27 am

      Hi Elyse. If you could see behind the conservative Christian curtain where I lived for so many years, you would understand why people still vilify Anita. By the way, she is a strong professing Christian, just not in the camp of the wingnuts. And therein lies the rub: for others to stop vilifying Anita, they would have to admit that they had been wrong. But “God told them” that Anita was lying and Clarence was being raised up by God to the Supreme Court. See how that works? Be afraid. . .be very afraid. 😦

      • Elyse

        April 17, 2014 at 9:38 am

        Oh I am. Trust me, I am!

  4. Valentine Logar

    April 6, 2014 at 8:26 am

    This cuts to the quick, so true and so faithful. I just read something this morning I think you would love, I was so surprised by it, maybe because it was what I needed today most especially. Then as I am trying to catch up with all my reading I come here and this simply reinforces what I read elsewhere. I will leave you the link, just so you will know why I think the two are interwoven.

    As always Eleanor, you speak to the truth. Having read your book and clung to the sides of my sanity while doing so, I find your wonderful spirit entirely uplifting. Your grandson, he is funny. Clearly brilliant, but maybe out of his league with his mother.

    Here is the link:

    • etomczyk

      April 17, 2014 at 9:22 am

      Hi Val. I did enjoy the article. Thanks so much for recommending. I shall stop by your place this weekend when I have some time to sit and savor. Happy Easter!

  5. aFrankAngle

    April 8, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Well done! Interesting that you had the encounter with Anita Hill … and it was just two couples chatting. Nope … I don’t want to know the future … just don’t.

  6. composerinthegarden

    April 13, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Eleanor, I was trying to figure out where you were going with this and I must say, really, that “I never saw that one coming!” Which is exactly why you are such a great writer – the trip around the bend with you is never predictable and always amazing. Good to read you again! And I still have a stellar book review to write for you on Amazon – this is my week to catch up 🙂

    • etomczyk

      April 17, 2014 at 9:21 am

      Hi Lynn. Welcome back. I’ve missed you. Thanks so much for the lovely comment and the promise of the stellar book review. You’re the best. I shall stop by your place this weekend. I could use a little bit of “composer in the garden” during the Easter weekend. Take care.


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