Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Learning the hard way.....

Christine over at Real Men Don't Watch American Idol got me thinking about my first job and that led me to think about some of the girls I worked with and that led me to remember an incident that probably aged me about 10 years.

I had been working for a couple years and I had only been married about 6 months when this incident occurred. My husband had been trying to teach me how to drive a stick shift. Now I want to pause right here and WARN everyone who doesn't already know this.....NEVER EVER have anyone you really care about try to teach you this particular skill....especially your husband or boyfriend. He had a 1955 Ford at the time and we would go out in the evenings and he would try to teach me how to drive and manually shift at the same time. I knew the fundamentals of it....I understood what it was supposed to do...I knew where the gears were located but something strange happened between the coordination of my left foot and my right foot and I would jerk the car and of course stall it. I think I was eventually called every name that meant idiot or stupid and then some. I was called names that I didn't even know the meaning of. He said over and over that he just could NOT understand how ANYONE could be so ignorant that they could not do something as simple as this. I eventually got indignant over the whole thing and told him to stick it up his a$$ and said I'd never let him teach me another thing as long as I managed to live. My car was an automatic so I figured I never needed to know how to drive a stick shift anyway. So there!

Part of the job I did was work after banking hours microfilming checks. Well, this one particular day, one of the teen-aged girls I worked with (the bank where we worked employed seniors in high school on a part time basis) spilled red ink all over her skirt. She immediately burst into tears, saying that her mom was going to "kill" her. I didn't live too far from work and had a washer and dryer in the apartment building that I could use. The plan was for me to take her skirt (she put on a smock that looked like a housecoat that we kept at work to wear over our clothes when we had a messy job to do) and take it home and wash it, dry it, iron it and bring it back to work. Only problem was.....it was a Saturday and I didn't drive that day, my husband had brought me into work and would be picking me up later. He was at his brother's helping him work on a car. So she tossed me her keys and said....take my car, its parked alongside the building...a blue Ford Falcon. I grabbed her skirt and out I went. I found her car, unlocked it, got in and to my dismay noticed THREE pedals on the floor. CRAP! A stick shift. Now I could abort the whole mission and go back inside and announce that I was TOO STUPID to drive a stick shift or I could WING it with what I already knew. I chose to save face and try it.

This is city traffic I'm talking about. No country roads so I couldn't just take my time. I had approximately 3 miles to drive, about 4 traffic lights and 2 stop signs to maneuver. I can't tell you how many times I stalled her little car, how many times I nearly gave myself whiplash by jerking it as I started to move in first gear.....how many cars were lined up behind me with drivers chewing on their steering wheels. I was humiliated and embarrassed and was yelled at and honked at by so many irate drivers that its a wonder it didn't go down in the annals of history. There were fists being waved out car windows as well as obscenities turning the air blue. I truly expected to see hundreds of villagers with torches and pitchforks following in my wake. If I could have thrown on a red wig and sunglasses to disguise myself I would have. It was that bad.

I figured out that once I got out of first gear I didn't do a bad job so I did everything possible to not EVER go into first gear if I could possibly help it. If I didn't have to stop, then I didn't have to go into first gear. Worked for ME. After aging 10 years I got to my apartment, washed that skirt and got the ink out. I dried it, ironed it and took it back to her. I wasn't quite as bad on the trip back but I still managed to jerk and stall that poor little car several times. She was so happy about her skirt and hugged me and thanked me over and over. I just kept thinking to myself....I hope that transmission doesn't fall out on her way home tonight. Did I ever tell her that I didn't really know how to drive a stick shift? Yeah.....SURE I did. Just like I told her that I stalled that little car of hers about a hundred times.

So basically I learned how to drive a stick shift the hard way. I can drive one alright now if I have to but I don't like to.....and I still will do everything in my power to stay OUT of first gear.
Oh yeah.....and I never told my husband about my experience either. The way I figure it....if he would have been a better teacher.........I'm just sayin'

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Its never easy.....

Remember a few posts back when I said I was going to have to get a handicapped placard and also submit a request for door delivery of my mail?

Well, I went to my local Secretary of State's office with the form my doctor had signed requesting that placard. I went in and came out approximately 10 minutes later with said placard that's good for 5 years. Better yet, it was FREE. I was pleasantly surprised. Maybe things are getting better for me, I surmised. Maybe, at this ripe old age, it won't be such a chore to get things done. That was before I wrote my letter to the Postmaster of my local Post Office.

I wrote a very nice letter and enclosed the note from my doctor requesting door delivery after my mishap this winter. My daughter used to be a mail carrier before her accident and she had several residents on her route that received door delivery for one medical reason or another. I was hoping that things would run as smooth with the post office as it had with Secretary of State. Sigh....WRONG.

After 10 days passed and I hadn't heard anything I decided to call and find out the status of my request. I finally got the Postmaster on the line and was surprised to hear that he was one of the most rude people I've ever spoken to.....and believe me, in my career I've had the experience of speaking to many rude individuals. I could not believe this man held a job in which he was supposed to deal with the public. He was very condescending and attempted to humiliate me several times. He started out by saying that he'd never received my letter.

Ever just know when someone is lying to you? Well, I felt that he was lying to me about that. You know I feel bad enough that my physical health has deteriorated enough that I have to have special service....I really don't need to be treated so badly. He gave me one excuse after another as to why I didn't meet their criteria for door delivery. He said I had to be not only wheelchair bound, but housebound as well. Then he made ludicrous suggestions such as asking friends, neighbors and relatives to get my mail and when I said I didn't want to be a bother like that....he said "well, you don't have to have your mail EVERY day, do you? Then he even suggested that I get in my car and drive to my mailbox. Hmmmm, last time I checked, we did not drive a vehicle from the passenger's seat and that's where I would have to be sitting if I were to reach the mailbox from my car. He fluffed me off at the end, saying he'd look into it and get back with me....and when I said how are you going to do that when you don't have my contact information and he said...well, its on your letter, isn't it? And I said...."I thought you said you never received my letter". I gave him my information....which I sensed he wasn't even writing down and we hung up.

I had made this call while at work and when my boss stepped out of his office I told him about what happened and how awful this man was to me. My boss said....well, let me give you a couple phone numbers to call. I ended up calling my Congressman and faxing him copies of my letter and note from my doctor, as well as a statement detailing the conversation I'd had with the Postmaster. They promised me they would DEFINITELY look into this. And yes....if your doctor thinks you should have door delivery, that is reason enough for you to have it.

So I am waiting to hear. This Postmaster had better wake up and smell the coffee. I am from the "Baby Boomer" generation and there's going to be plenty of us that are going to require special needs in the coming years. I'm sorry about that, but its a fact of life. If he can't deal with this in a compassionate and professional manner, then maybe they need to give that job to someone else who can exhibit those qualities. See....its never easy for me. Consider this post like a public service announcement...in case any of you have the same problem. I was told my complaint will be forwarded to the big guns in Washington. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Is that ink red?.....

I never heard him enter my office. I just looked up and he was......there. He had a presence about him, no getting around that. He was dressed entirely in black except for a dress shirt that was blindingly white, buttoned up to his neck tightly with no tie. His complexion was swarthy and his hair, black. In his accent that had a familiar ring to it, he asked if I was a notary and I said I was. He asked if I would notarize two pieces of paper for him. I said yes, of course and asked him for picture identification. He said he would show me his passport.

He slowly set his black briefcase on the counter in front of my desk and opened it. He removed two pieces of paper and handed them to me. The contents were typewritten but not in English. It looked close to Russian but I knew it was not....maybe Croation, I was thinking.

I asked him the question that I always ask and am required to ask....."do you understand what you are signing?". I do not need to know the content, only that the person understands it. He looked at me and nodded yes. He reached into his briefcase and withdrew his passport and handed it to me. It was new. I glanced at his picture....his head was slightly down and his eyes were looking up. It was chilling. He signed his name and I compared the signatures.....they matched. Suppressing the eerie feeling I had, I notarized the documents and curiosity made me quickly scan the passport for his vitals before handing it back to him. Place of birth.....Romania.

Holy crap! Carpathian Mountains!....Transylvania!.... garlic, holy water, somebody gimme a mirror! So many thoughts were buzzing in my head, its a miracle I could sign anything.

Hmmmm.....no driver's license? He inquired what the charge would be and I advised it was free as a service to our residents. He left without a smile and only a solemn "thank you", as quietly and quickly as he had entered. I was afraid to look out the window for fear of seeing a black hearse. Man, I have just GOT to quit looking at scary movies!! Imagination in overdrive over here!

I wonder what those documents SAID?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

There's still some good businesses out there.....

Sigh....my poor daughter. It seems like if she has any luck at all, its bad luck. If hard times build character, then she's got to have more character than anyone I know.

The other day its cold and pouring down rain....just the kind of day you want to hunker down by the fire and not even put your nose out the door. She looks outside and sees, to her dismay, that her front tire is horribly low....almost flat. Well, she has an appointment the next day and figures if she doesn't go get some air in that tire that it will be totally flat by then. She gets herself and her 6 year old bundled up and calls me to tell me that she's going to go get some air in her tire and she'll call again when she's home. If I don't hear from her in a reasonable length of time....then it means she's stranded and to please come rescue her. I remind her that most places charge for air now....which I think is absolutely shameful.....but that's another subject for another time. Then, being the sage mom that I am....I recommend that she run up to Belle Tire and just have them look at it. It has to be losing air for a reason and maybe its got a nail in it or something. If it runs into something expensive I can put it on my good ole charge card. She agrees and heads out.

After a while she calls me and she's home. I can actually hear the smile on her face, if you can appreciate that concept. She said that they promptly and courteously waited on her. They checked her tire and it was discovered that she had a rim leak due to a bent rim. Maybe done by a pothole. Anyway, they fixed this for her and did not charge her one penny! Do you know HOW RARE this is in this day and age when everyone is so greedy and me-oriented? We both needed this at this time. We needed our faith restored....needed to know that there are still some good people and good establishments out there.

So, all I can say is.....THANK YOU! BELLE TIRE, YOU ROCK! I will never be hesitant about recommending them to anyone. I wish more businesses cared about the customer like they do.

I hope things are going good, or as good as possible, for each of you in all of your little corners of the world. Times are hard for so many right now.....I'm sure each of us has our own little stories to tell. All I can say is to keep the faith that soon things will look brighter. I know its hard to do sometimes....but at least it doesn't cost anything and the rewards are so great.

How about you? Have you had any good experiences with a business lately that you'd like to share? Let us know so we can give them some business and help them prosper.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Thinking along those lines.....

Thinking about aging made me think of my grandmothers. They were as opposite of each other as they could possibly be. My father's mother lived with us when I was growing up and she was 'straight off the boat' from Europe. She was a peasant woman who could not read or write in her own language, let alone in English. My father saw to it that she was taken very good care of until she passed away at the age of 74.

Now, my mother's mother, on the other hand, was one swingin' granny. She was a hard-working, strong-willed woman, extremely attractive and managed to have eight husbands in her lifetime. She spent the winters in Florida and made the trip driving her own car twice a year until she was well into her 80's. When I think back on things now.....I honestly don't know how she did it. She was an excellent cook, a beautiful seamstress and fastidious housekeeper. She was a woman's libber way before the term even existed. She never took a back seat to anyone. She lived hard and partied hard.....a regular bundle of energy. She survived diphtheria twice. She was a born leader and never panicked in the face of chaos. She lived to be 96. She was no pure angel, that one.....but I have to admire a lot of the things she did and I think about her often. So if you see an angel someday with a halo that's a bit tarnished....well, that could be her. She'll be the one bossing everyone around.

Know what I regret more than anything? I regret that I didn't ask her more questions about her life and how she felt about things. My mother told me a lot but I wish I would have had more talks with her. You just never think of it at the time. I have written down quite a bit about her and about my parents so my children will have it to refer to someday, because they never think to ask me about stuff either. You know the last question my child asked me in relation to how things were before they were born......I was asked, for a homework assignment, "how was it really during prohibition?". I snarkily answered..."I'm not THAT old....jeesh".

I remember granny got a handicapped placard when she was in her 80's because of a bad knee that gave her trouble. As I think back on it, it was the same knee that gives me trouble. Hmmmm. Keep smilin' and make everyone wonder what you've been up to.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I enter a new phase of my life.....

Yep. I hated to do it but I have had to get notes from my doctor to get a handicapped parking placard and a request to have door delivery of my mail. My hip and my knee have had it with my stubbornness in this situation. They've heard all my excuses and are ready for mutiny if I don't cooperate....so be it.

This winter has been a brutal one....here as well as in other parts of the country. I know we aren't done yet. We've gotten some pretty nasty snowstorms in April. On one of my trips to the mailbox this winter I nearly fell and I pulled a groin muscle as well as twisted my already troubled knee. This happened as a vehicle was going by and it was a near miss. Its taken 2 months to heal from that. It got me thinking. Maybe it was time for me to consider myself for a change.

I decided I'd tackle the post office first. I bought another mailbox and had my grandson install it by my front door. Today I composed a letter to go to the postmaster of my local post office. Dealing with government and all its red tape....I'm wondering just how long it will be before my request is approved or denied; that is, if they don't lose my letter in the process. Do I sound bitter? Do you think maybe.....just maybe....I've had less than positive experiences with government agencies? Hmmmm......... yes, you would be right.

I will take a little drive over to my local Secretary of State office to submit my application for the handicapped placard one day next week.....weather permitting. I, somehow, don't think I will have a problem with that. We'll see.

So now folks, I have succumbed to riding the little carts when I'm shopping, made the decision to submit for the handicapped placard and the door mail delivery. I will be put on Medicare this month. I'm feelin' mighty old. All that's left is to go to blue hair.

Oh....and my sense of humor.....I found it hiding at the back of my closet and when I went to grab it, I only got the warped side before it got away again....so bear with me. I'll get it all back eventually. Keep smilin'.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And life goes on.....

Hello my friends....I am back. I feel much like this picture. New life sprouting from an old and dead looking limb of a tree. My faith and the faith of my friends have pulled me and my tiny family through an ordeal that should never happen to anyone. The best thing I can say about this is that no one is sick or dying. The inner flames of our souls have been dimmed, to say the least, but we have stuck together and weathered the storm. Its been a dark, horrible road and I never want to go there again. We will be dealing with the "after effects" for a while yet but the memories will stay with us forever and have left us forever changed.

I may write about it someday. I can't right now. It would infuriate some of you, puzzle some of you and some of you just would not even believe that such a bizarre thing could happen.

Yes, bizarre, unfair things happen to good people. People who have done nothing to deserve it. That has shaken my faith but I'm working on that. I've always believed that things happen for a reason and I'm trying hard to figure out what the reason is in our case. I haven't found it yet.

All I know is that it was a very unfortunate series of events that led to this and it began 18 months ago. It was all started by a spiteful teenager who wanted to "get even" and it opened up a huge pit of heartache for several people who did not deserve it. I would not want to be this teenager when she is someday made to be accountable for her actions in life. Its hard not to hate her but hate only hurts the hater, so we will not allow ourselves that emotion. KARMA will take care of her.....of this I have no doubt whatsoever.

Thank you all for thinking of me, for your wonderful comments and emails and for coming back at intervals to check on me. It will take me a little while, but I'll be OK.....I just have to find that danged sense of humor of mine.....it ran off and hid on me during this last month. God Bless.