Thursday, December 13, 2007

Oy vey

Where do I begin? Tuesday evening was unbelievable.

You'd think the van being towed away would be the worst thing that happened. In fact, it was the least worst thing of the day.

Here's the short version of the story:
Van breaks down. Crazy tow truck driver yells at me and drives off. After a successful tow, I call my mother. She gets angry almost immediately--before I can even tell her about the crazy tow truck driver. I get home and rant at Amanda and Chris (her fiancé) and they listen patiently.

Here's the long version of the story:

I loaned the van to Amanda for a couple of days so she could visit friends in Baltimore and Annapolis. On Tuesday evening, she picked me up from work and I took over driving duties. Unfortunately, she had an encounter with a gas station stanchion and either put a new dent in the van or added to a current dent. There are so many dents that it's hard to tell. I didn't care.

We'd decided to get Ethiopian food and we headed to U Street. A couple of blocks away from the restaurant, I noticed a cloud of white smoke coming from the rear of the van and a red light on the dash. I pulled over and went back to take a look. What looked like water was pouring out of the engine compartment. Because it was dark, I couldn't see what was going on with the engine--I assume a hose was disconnected or punctured.

It was time to call AAA. While we waited for the tow, Chris went to get the food. Why not? About half an hour later, he came back and we set up for an Ethiopian picnic in the back of the van. So far, this is about the best wait-for-a-tow experience I've ever had.

About ten minutes into our meal, the tow truck shows up. Amanda and Chris pack up and grab their luggage. I tell them where to catch a cab. I'm talking to the tow truck driver when they head off. This was a mistake. I should have asked them to wait until we had the car hitched up before they went for the cab. But I couldn't imagine there would be a problem.

The first thing that happens is the driver asks me where the drive is.

Jamy: Um, well, the engine is in the rear, so it's rear wheel drive.

Driver: You sure?

And he SMIRKS. He smirks at me. I'm not pleased.

Jamy: Yes, yes, I'm sure. It's rear wheel drive.

Driver: You sure? It important.

Jamy: Yes, rear-wheel drive.

Then he gets on his cell phone. He's an immigrant and speaking another language but occasionally I hear him say "Volkswagen."

After a couple of minutes of this I say, "Are you calling to find out about the drive?"


"Want me to check the manual?" I head to the glove box and pull out the manual.


I check. Guess what? It's rear-wheel drive. I say, "It's rear wheel drive."

"What? Sure?"

I say, loudly, "YES. It's REAR-WHEEL DRIVE."

He says, "I don't need this from you!"

I say, "What?"

He says, "Please move the car across the street. You must move the car."

I say, "Ok. Why?"

He says, "Why! Why! You have to move the car! It's a one-way street!"

What he didn't explain is that because the car is rear-wheel drive, you have to hook it up to the rear wheels. The way the car was parked, you couldn't access the rear.

I say, "I'm just asking why."


I say, "What? I'm just asking why. Is it because you have to hook up from the rear?"


I wasn't yelling at him. I was annoyed. I'd been annoyed since the initial smirk, but I consciously lowered my voice. "I'm just asking you a question."


I say, "You can't just leave!"

He screamed, "Yes I can!" And he drove off.


My heart was pounding and I was short of breath.

I called AAA. I made a complaint. According to them, the driver reported that the van needed a flatbed tow and that's why he couldn't take me. I figured that was just an excuse he made for abandoning me, but I didn't know for sure.

Next I called TR. He offered to come get me. Mostly I needed to hear a sympathetic voice. The crazy tow truck driver was large and menacing. I needed to feel safe. I told TR I'd wait for the next truck and call him again if there were a problem.

The next truck came quickly. He happened to have a flatbed rig. I asked him, "Do I need a flat bed tow?"

He said, "No."

We successfully dropped the car by my mechanic. He's supposed to look at it today. Hopefully it's nothing serious. (Turns out it's the water pump. $600 please!)

On my walk home from the repair shop, I decide to call my mother. It's been a while since we talked. Whenever we go this long without a conversation, it's a good bet she's stewing about something. But, hell, I'd just had a scary encounter with an angry tow truck guy and I wanted to talk to my mother.

After I tell her the van had broken down, I mentioned that Amanda had added to the size of one of dents in the van. Mistake.

Mom said, "That's the problem. Amanda caused this."

"No! No. There was too much time between when Amanda hit it and the leak started. That can't be it. Plus, where it was dented wasn't near the engine."

"The leak couldn't come from the engine."

"Ok, yes, I mean the engine compartment."

"It could have been from the water tank." (She means the reservoir for the little sink.)

"Well, no, it couldn't have been. That's not where the water was coming from."

Mom says, "Why are you angry at me?"

Huh? "I'm not angry at you! I'm just trying to explain what happened."

"Ok. But you sound angry."

I say, "Why are YOU angry at ME?"

"I'm tired of this. I'm tired of this nothing."

Oh good gracious!

What is my mother angry about? It's hard to say since she can't articulate it. As usual, she focused her annoyance with me on an object. Remember the saga of the china and the camper? This time it's my grandfather's prayer shawl (aka "tallit"). Apparently, I don't appreciate it sufficiently. She gave the prayer shawl to me at the time of my Bat Mitzvah. We're talking almost 25 years ago. Now she wants it back. But she can't just ask for it back. She has to first justify her desire to possess this object by accusing me of not appreciating it.

"It doesn't mean anything to you. It's my father's tallit. Are you ever going to use it?"

"To be honest, no, I'm not going to use it. But it's mine, you gave it to me. For my Bat Mitzvah! And now you want it back! And I've offered to give it to you before and you didn't want it!"

She says, "Now I want it."

"I think this is so unfair! So unreasonable! You gave it to me."

She's been mentioning this object for at least EIGHT YEARS and playing a game of wanting it/not wanting it and refusing to ask for it. She won't say that she wants it (except for last nigh!). She will say that I don't appreciate and that I won't use it. Traditionally, ONLY MEN wear prayer shawls! MEN ONLY. Yes, some women do these days, including my mom, but not including me.

Look, my grandfather died when I was four. He adored me. And for my Bat Mitzvah, I wore his prayer shawl. It has symbolic meaning for me. Plus, the main reason I did the Bat Mitzvah was for my grandmother. I'm sure she was pleased to see me wearing grandpa's tallit.

After talking to Nancy about this yesterday, I realize that if Mom had asked for it differently, I would have given it too her long ago.

Imagine mom saying, "I know it's yours, but I would love to be able to use it. It has great symbolic meaning to me. Would you mind letting me borrow it indefinitely so I can actually wear it? If you ever want it back, all you have to do is ask."

How could I say no to that? I wouldn't even want to! But I do want to say no to the implication that I don't value this object. I do value it. I miss my grandfather and it is meaningful to be the keeper of this object. However, I would trust my mother with it. Why, why am I required to justify myself in this matter?

I want to mail it to her with this letter:

Dear Mom,
I know what you meant to do was ask to borrow the tallit on a semi-permanent basis because it was your father's and it has great symbolic meaning to you. I know you didn't mean to imply that it doesn't have meaning to me or that I don't value it sufficiently. I know you would never deny my feelings. I would love you to have the use of it. Please wear it in good health.
Your daughter

However, I'm not sure I have the chutzpa for that.

After we got off the phone, I left a pretty crazy message for Pele. Then, I ranted to Amanda and Chris. Thank goodness they were there! It would have been a terrible night to be alone.

Amanda and Chris: thank you SO MUCH for your patience.

I went to work on Wednesday and old boss, Larry, saw me in the hall and started chuckling. TR had told him about my angry tow truck driver. I told him the whole story. I said, "I'm not without blame, but his reaction was disproportionate."

Larry said, "There are just some crazy people out there."

I said, "Like my mother!"

I made it ok through the day, but I was almost falling asleep through an afternoon meeting.

On my way home via Union Station, I ran into an old friend, with his two little kids. One a toddler, the other a practically newborn infant. I haven't seen him for years. It was good to see him but it was awkward too. I knew he was married. He lives in Arlington, but we haven't stayed in touch. I wish we could still be friends but I understand why were not. He said, "You can see what's new with me! What's new with you?"

I said, "Well probably lots of things…but I'm at the same job. I bought a condo a few years ago. And I have a cat." Noticeably missing from my answer: husband and kids. Whatever.

Then, I got home and had to knit. Very calming. Other knitters will understand that I needed to work on a simple, simple project. It's good to have a few projects going of varying degrees of complexity to suit your mood. I knit for a bit then ate some of the leftovers.

Then JenA called. Yay! I may drop by and see her on my drive back from PA this weekend (don't worry, I'm driving the flexcar!).

Then I got an email from Mom, a forward about a job in Seattle. FOR REAL. No explanatory text, just a forwarded message.

Then Pele called. I rehashed some of the mom stuff with her. Helpful.

I IM'd with a friend.

I got back to my tv/dvd watching.

Around 11pm, I heard a bang-bang-bang at the front (outer) door. Hrm. It came again.

Just wearing my PJs, I peeked out. Guess who?

KANSAS. (Do you all even remember Kansas? My ne'er-do-well, alcoholic, non-boyfriend?)

I poked my head out the door and said. "No, no. This is not cool."

He said, "No?"

I said, "No. I haven't heard from you in months and you show up….No. You have to go."

He left. I went to sleep.

You know what? I'm staying home today. I need a rest.

Grateful for: good friends.

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