Wht the Hell
“What The Hell!” original multi-media figure by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

There is something viral about the Heathrow airport in London. For the third time the minute my feet found the restroom after landing, my teeth fell out.

I can’t read a word on the map without my reading glasses. I know we will find our hotel, if it’s the same place as it was. English hotels don’t seem to stray for a century or so. But finding a dentist to put my teeth in order was another question. Finding one to do it in a week was another problem.

I always felt comfortable being lost in Venice and in London. I knew I would run into water at some point in Venice, and the English have been trained since babyhood to be polite, and someone always shows up to help. Paris is another side of the coin. I once asked directions in my best high school French and received a snarl much as if I had tried to grab a bone from a starving dog.

Dr. Advice says he hates being lost, but we found him sitting happily nursing a beer with a group of artisans in a bodega in Guadalajara an hour or so beyond the agreed meeting time.

Teeth and eyesight become even more prized in later life, when you realize you can’t read the phone book, a map or a menu. I miss my relationship with the telephone directory. I used to believe you could find anything you were looking for in one. Now it contains everything but your can no longer see it.

When you are forced to call Directory Assistance you receive a disembodied recording from India asking for answers you can’t supply in one word.

The menu, the cookbook, and of course the map can only be read if written in large type–extremely LARGE TYPE. Mostly I’m sad about just plain reading. When I pass a bookshelf I need to stand on my head to decipher the titles. Reading is one of the main things I do and is entirely dependent upon the whereabouts of my glasses.

And I forgot to mention the pill bottle! Who can read that small print? They crowd all the information on one tiny little bottle and expect you to read it?

Three years ago when they finished excavating my mouth I discovered that you could survive by pulverizing all your food in a blender, but it isn’t nearly as much fun. Food vanishes. Not literally of course, but our concept of food as habit, as pleasure, as love.

Steak becomes a memory. You don’t smile because there is nothing to smile about. Your dentist becomes not only your best friend, but a constant companion. The waiter at a favorite restaurant supplies your lunch before you order. Soup and ice cream as usual? You nod while sadly watching your companions chomp away at their salads.

The same waiter is discreetly pleased when you next show up with glasses and teeth.

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.


  1. I’ll be back later, but I wanted to bring this link over for you before the Financial Times takes my page away from me. (I’m over my monthly limit of articles and they’re giving me nasty popups about subscribing, or no more articles.)

    It’s a funny and oh-so-true recounting of others’ experiences in Paris . Apparently the City of Light is trying to lighten up on tourists a bit, in order to encourage them to feel more comfortable and oh, by the way, contribute to the French economy.

    I loved this paragraph: “There is even a recognised psychological disorder called “Paris syndrome” that afflicts some tourists, particularly Japanese shocked by the abrupt ways of their French hosts.” I believe it.

    Back for a closer read later.


  2. The article is funny and as you say, true. I picked up a scarf at Louis Vuitton and the clerk nearly snatched it out of my hand and put it back. I would have bought it except I saw the price tag before she grabbed it. Still—-it’s PARIS. It’s like they say in Venice as you’re struggling up 3 flights of stairs with your own luggage—but it’s VENICE! It’s supposed to take the sting out of inconvenience.


  3. The English are unfailingly polite. Many years ago a lovely gentleman actually left his post in the bank and walked me all the way to the old Globe Theatre. We had a delightful conversation all the way about American folk music and its basis in old English songs.


  4. Funny and true, as always. I had the oh so Parisian experience of being snarled at, but there were people who were extremely kind, as well. One man followed us down the street to make sure we had his directions straight. Also in Paris, I found myself barely able to read the print on the Metro maps. As soon as I got home, I went in for an eye exam. The optometrist said, rather mean spiritedly, I thought, “Well, you’ve reached that age. It’s only going to get worse, you know.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I laughed at your optometrist visit. It reminded me of one of my own when the optometrist said I needed bifocals I was shocked, then he said well after all, you ARE 43!
    And Paris is so lovely how could anyone help but love it?


  6. Kayti, I love your multi-media figure “What The Hell!” and your story. Yes, it comes down to eyes and teeth, and in my case, ears as well. Pretty soon you can’t hear when someone’s reading out the menu you cannot read! Thank goodness for glasses, dentures and hearing aides!


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