The BIGGEST STRANGEST MOST STRESSFUL Domestic Episode of All Time
Time is of the essense. It says that right in an agreement of sale, if you are a realtor. I am always at the beck and call of others and they dictate how I spend my time.
In addition to my professional duties, I try to burden myself with gratuitious pointless civic duties and fractious domestic ones. One particular day this summer I was juggling a family reunion for fifty, a pitched battle over zoning at the township level and FINALLY getting my dining room set back up after a pipe had burst the previous February.
Rippergurl (my beloved daughter in law) had kindly offered to lend her considerable decorating talents to the dining room job and I had exactly five hours to shop for new cushions for my patio set, buy some sundries for the reunion and get the dining room ready for company (the ceiling had fallen down).
Time line: 930am
Rippergurl shows up in the driveway and convinces me that the only place to get these cushions is FORTY FIVE MINUTES DRIVE away but guaranteed to have the lowest prices on cushions. It is a bastion of Amish/Menonite textile arts. AND the place is going out of business. There is a HUGE SIGN that says so! We choose to take my car, because it is an old Camry and we can whip in and out of small spaces in it. I'm driving - I took a performance driving course with Bob Bondurant that, although it doesn't help me drive in bad weather, gives me the confidence to swerve in and out of buggies on local highways. They may be quaint to tourists, but to me, they are just moving orange cones.
Time line: 1000am
We shaved fifteen or twenty minutes off the drive to the store and arrived just as the big tent in the parking lot was filling up with geriatric Winnebago driving bargain hunters. Collassal GOING OUT OF BUSINESS signs wafted in the air. Rippergurl was feeling up the bathmats and drooling over the litttle girl baby dresses but I was sadly disappointed when I found NO CUSHIONS. Not one. Not even something gingham. I consoled myself with buying a bunch of crap I didn't know I needed until I saw it. I couldn't tell you right now what even one item was but it later added up to over a hundred bucks.
Now it's time to head into the buildling where Rippergurl is convinced the 'good stuff is hiding." I'm not sure, but I figure with her help I am going to breeze through fixing up the dining room way in time to get to the critical township meeting (the fate of the free world hangs on this). We go in, put more forgettable crap in the cart and make light of the fact that Rippergurl's skirt is probably the shortest garment that has ever quaked the hallowed halls of this establishment. Did I mention that all the clerks are Menonite, which is to say, like Amish, but out in the world and judgmental?
The cart is now stacked high with empty plastic containers that the inner voice of Rippergurl's OCD has convinced her she will fill with useful labeled items. (This voice LIES) I have collected even more forgettable consumer goods.
Feeling like we have spent entirely too much time making fun of the tasteless decore of the store, and always aware that time was awasting, we decide to check out.
We find ourselves in a check out line behind an Amish woman who appears to only be purchasing large white cotton underpants, hairpins and dozens of cans of spray paint. This Amish woman looks manly even for an old Amish woman, and we can't figure out what she must be doing with this collection of items. Then, it occurs to me, and I pantomime to Rippergurl with effective gestures and facial grimacing, that she probably pins the big white cotton underpants on her head and huffs the spray paint. The clerk is a young florid menonite girl dressed in an ugly dress the color of self loathing with black ankle socks and addidas sneakers. She has stashed the roller blades she uses to get to work under the counter. Her name badge identifies her as EDNA. Remember this. Remember her name. Suddenly, in the middle of ringing the Amish huffer's order, Edna STOPS. Leaves the counter and answers the phone. For no reason. There are piles of people in the store, but our Edna feels compelled to stop waiting on her customers (A H - amish huffer) and Rippergurl and I. She answers this phone at the next counter over, speaking in hushed tones and covering the receiver with her hand. She is turning very red, but we can't hear a word she is saying. She hangs up and when she gets back to the counter, she puts all the AH's items in a big bag, thanks her and sends her on her way.
Edna is now checking out Rippergurl's stuff. There are many many plastic containers, jeans for her husband, a baby girl dress for a niece and other crappdedoodle. Edna totals Rippergurl's order and Rippergurl starts rummaging through her purse to find her debit card. She can't find it. She blames my son!!! As if I raised my baby boy to go in his wife's purse and steal her debit card. Like he would continually demagnatize his and steal hers. Anyway, this is what she wants me to believe has happened, and I offer to put her purchase on MY debit card, not out of guilt for what she alleges my son has done for the fiftieth time, but because I am the best mother in law in the world. I tell Edna to just add my stuff - my nameless, forgettable, items to hers and we will get out of this god forsaken place. Soon, Edna finishes ringing all our crap up and hands me the little slip from the register to sign, and I sign.
We bundle up our many bags and head for the car.
We are buzzing down the highway on the way home and feeling pretty good for spending a morning buying stuff we didn't need and getting home to get the job done in plenty of time for me to get to the township meeting where I will secure the futures of all. We are brainstorming about what we are going to do to my dining room to really impress all the cousins at the reunion. Suddenly a look comes over Rippergurl's face. She seems.....for a moment... as though she is listening to a voice from far far away. It is her inner OCD. She says - Show me the slip for this stuff we just bought.
I fish it out of my wallet (while swerving in and out of buggies) and she says HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! EDNA CHARGED US FOR THOSE FREAKING UNDERPANTS!!!!
I hang a power U Turn in the middle of a three lane highway (in PA we have these to accomodate people who want to pass the buggies) and starting incinerating the road back to the store. I keep thinking, I don't have time for this - I am scheduled to FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT at a township meeting at 300 - the sneaking bastards who run my township are trying to pull something and they have scheduled an unusual, off site meeting in a futile attempt to keep me from attending and causing a public display. But, I can not also allow Self Loathing Edna to be co-dependent with her Paint huffing Grandma. In milliseconds, in Rippergurl's mind, this has gone from a simple mistake to a FELONY. Have I mentioned that she is Cherokee/Italian? Do YOU want to be the unfortunate clerk who screws with her? She has the pent up barely contained rage of the Native American mixed with the pathology of a Northern Jersey Mobster. As I screech to a halt in front of the store, she grabs the receipt and says, I will take care of this!!! She jumps out of the car, exposing enough leg to cause her to be tarred and feathered, and stalks into the store.
Four way flashers on, I am sitting at the curb waiting for Rippergurl to emerge triumphant, credit in hand. Each flash of the fourways matches the march of the numbers on the car clock. TICK TOCK TICK TOCK. What could be taking her so long? I can see her, through the window, in heated discussion with two different women. Is it possible she has forgotten our problem was with EDNA? I decide to commit to a parking spot and go in.
I park - it seems miles - from the store, in a line of campers and suv's. I grab my purse and hike in, enter the store just in time to hear Rippergurl say, oh, here's my mother in law now.....I belly up to the counter where REBECCA is asking the following questions into a phone:
1 - Is EDNA there?
2. Your neighbor - Edna - is she there? (see, Menonites don't often have their own phones - they aren't adverse to using yours, even giving out your phone number to friends and relatives, but they won't have this particular devil machine in their own kitchen)
the questioning continues...
3. Can you get her? At this point, Rebecca covers the phone with her hand and mouths to us - Edna is out in the pick your own field!
I am wondering how this got out of control. Rebecca, I say, Rebecca, we don't really need Edna - you just need to get these big white cotton underpants, hair pins and spray paint off my credit card.
Rebecca then makes a fatal mistake. Her eyes narrow, giving her a cunning, feral look. She says, "Well, I know you SAY you didn't buy these underpants, but how do I know that? I have to talk to Edna."
I say, "You really don't have to talk to Edna - just look at the receipt. I didn't buy this stuff, but it's rung up on my bill."
She takes the receipt and says, "How do I know you didn't buy this stuff?"
I say, "Look at my daughter in law. Does she look like she wears underpants that size? Does it look like she would know what to use a HAIR PIN FOR? Do WE look like We would ever use SPRAY PAINT???"
REBECCA looks shocked. I know she is still bothering God about us. She gathers herself and says, "I'll need to see your purchases."
I am in disbelief. I say, "You want me to go out to the car and get my bags?" We are talking a shitload of stuff. RIppergurl is undergoing some weird morphing thing. I hike out to my car and drag all those freaking plastic containers and jeans and baby dresses and all the other crapdedoodle that I will never use back into the store. It occurs to me that if I had stolen those underpants and paint and hairpins, I could just leave them in my car. Apparently that did not occur to Rebecca. She did give up on trying to get Edna to put down her pumpkins and come to the phone. Once all our purchases are out on the counter, Rebecca needs to get MILDRED - a manager- to come and weigh in on the matter.
Satisfied for the moment that we didn't steal the huff stuff, they decide that the best thing to do is to re-ring our stuff. I say, "why don't you issue me a credit for the underpants, etc?" Mildred says no, they have to rering the whole order. I can FEEL those damn Township Supervisors yucking it up that I will not get to the meeting on time. I know that in some weird dutch way they have put a hex on me - they are all related you know. So we start to re-ring each item, price checking as we go. I have to admire the process - these two women have driven passive aggressive behavior to a level seldom seen outside of a Kebucki theatre. Ah, but they haven't dealt with me before. Finished, they hand me the slip and ask me to sign it. Like that is going to happen before I get my credit!!
Rippergurl lets out a snort as I declare I will not be signing it any time soon, and they better get their act together and give me the credit. Grudging, foot dragging and furitive glances aside, they produce a credit. I sign the receipt. Rippergurl and I gather up our bags for the second time, leave the store. There is no Have a Nice Day. NO one asks us to come back. Rebecca and Mildred join hands and bother God over our souls. Edna is, I guess, still rolling around in the pumpkin patch with her cousin/boyfriend....
Loaded up and pissed as hell, we are tearing through the parking lot and out the back way....suddenly out of nowhere, a black sedan with no chrome pulls in front of us and stops. JUST STOPS in the parking lot. The man inside is having an animated conversation with the woman in the passenger seat. I beep politely. They ignore me. I tap my horn again. They continue to talk. I have no enamel left on my teeth. The veins in my neck are throbbing. Rippergurl is going through her purse looking for a weapon. I REALLY LAY on the horn. The driver's side window on the car in front of us goes down. A black clad arm and a whisp of a beard appear. The hand goes up and yes yes yes, HE FLIPS ME THE BIRD!
To top off my day, I have just been flipped the bird by an ancient menonite!
Eventually he moves and we get out on the roadway; we get home and have one half hour to put the dining room together. Rippergurl performs miracles with my stuff. When she's done she suggests that we put all of the stuff we just got out away and get out MORE stuff and put that out. Point taken. I have a lot of stuff. But, I would expect more respect from her - after all, as far as I know, I have no other daughter in laws who will inherit my 75 champagne glasses.
In the midst of some grunting and groaning as we move a sofa into place, the phone rings. I leave Rippergurl to balance the sofa and answer.
A soft dutchy voice says, "May I please speak to Mrs. Van Scoyk?"
I say, "This is she." The voice says, "My name is Rebecca and I am with Good's Store in Intercourse." (okay okay, you've all heard about the weird names we give towns in PA -- stop sniggering)
I say, "Yes." (I am thinking this is going to be my apology)
Rebecca says, "Were you in our store this afternoon? We think you may have stolen some large white cotton underpants..."
I worked in a store for a very long time. I KNOW how a customer should be treated. Rebecca finally had hit my last retail nerve. I flayed her alive. I read her the retail riot act. I ended with a scathing "AND NO ONE WISHED ME A GOOD DAY". That set HER right, let me tell you.
I made it to the township meeting weighted for bear. I picked fights with everyone. I lost, but they won't soon forget me. Which is unfortunate because my son recently needed to get a permit ...oh well.
Rippergurl and I said we ought to go back to the store - the Going out of Business thing was just a clever ruse to trick us into shopping there - and mess with their UPC codes. Amazing what a sharpie can do.....