Wednesday, January 02, 2008

trouble at the mill: the saga continues

no doubt you mouseketeers find shabbos short these days. by the time you finish the evening meal it's time to go to bed. by the time you finish lunch it's time to make havdala. those meager 25 hours when you can relax and unwind and push the week's affairs from your mind are slipping through your fingers, right?

well, never fear, everyone, because i've found a way to make shabbos last FOREVER. my method? simple. take one lost cellphone, one lost set of keys, and one polish grandmother. simmer in otherwise empty house. sprinkle liberally with head-cold.

when you are done, your shabbos should look something like this:

GRANDMA: pereleh. pereleh, wake up. you are sleeping.

YOU (lifting head groggily): huh?

GRANDMA: you didn't eat your sweet potato.

YOU: oh, it's okay, grandma...i'm pretty full from the brisket...

GRANDMA: i can barely eat myself, i am so (insert yiddish) about this business of yours with the phone. i am so upset, i think i am more upset than you.

YOU (straining to make sense of this): that's true.

GRANDMA: well you might as well forget about it, kid, cause let me tell you something, you are never going to see that phone again. oh veis mere, how are you going to get into your apartment. how will anyone know where you are. that's it, i'm looking in the phone book.

YOU: what?

GRANDMA: i am looking in the phone book to see about the phone.

YOU (starting to feel your eyes roll back in your head): grandma, what are you doing?

GRANDMA (from the back bedroom): eat your sweet potato!

two hours later.

GRANDMA: perlie, wake up!

YOU: huh? grandma? you're still awake? did we forget to bench?

GRANDMA: what do you mean, i'm still awake? it is just now seven o'clock! you are losing your mind like your father. we benched already an hour ago and you are falling asleep in middle of your book.

YOU: oh. (glancing down) look at that. it's a pretty good book, too.

GRANDMA: perlie, listen to me, i am looking in the phone book.

YOU (dismally): still?

GRANDMA (offended): what do you mean, 'still'? it is a very long book!

YOU (half-heartedly): oh, grandma, you don't need to look in the phonebook now, let's not worry about it, we can't do anything till after shabbos anyway...go back to reading your stalin biography...i didn't come here to stress you out...

GRANDMA: how can i concentrate on my reading when here you are almost homeless? i was trying to read but i am too upset. i cannot BELIEVE this has happened to you.

YOU: yeah...yeah, it was a bummer...

GRANDMA: but listen, in the phonebook i found the name of a rental phone company.

YOU: oh, thanks, grandma.

GRANDMA: so now this is what we will do. the rental phone company is in queens. perhaps they are open on sunday, i don't know. but i will take you to the phone company on sunday and you will rent a phone.

YOU: that sounds lovely, grandma. thanks for offering.

GRANDMA: i just don't know how you will sleep tonight. i was telling bobba about it--

YOU (in disbelief): when could you have told bobba about this? we got home five minutes before candlelighting?

GRANDMA ('duh'): do i not have a telephone?

YOU: right. okay. what did bobba say?

GRANDMA: bobba says you are losing your mind. but she says all college students are like this a little coo-coo in the head. faylah says you will grow out of it.

YOU: you had time to call FAYLAH too?

GRANDMA: of course faylah knows. why shouldn't faylah know?

YOU (face in your hands): right, well, i think i'm going to go to sleep now, grandma.

GRANDMA: be careful you don't put off the light in the bathroom! and i hope you can sleep now and are not worried like i will be!


over the course of that long, airless night, you will come to appreciate the irony of these words. you will realize that in a sick, sad way it is almost funny that you could not keep your eyes open for most of friday, but now that your chance for sleep has finally come, you are stuck breathing through your mouth and staring at the faint yellow flowers on your grandmother's ceiling, longingly tracing the infrared display of your lost phone in your imagination. you will have several fleeting dreams about your phone: one in which the phone magically emerges from your purse, not unlike the burning bush on the mountain; one in which you realize that your phone will never ever come back to you and, with the heightened emotions typical of dreams, weep senselessly; and one in which your grandmother has discovered the phone but bewilderingly has also removed it from your custody, leaving it with bobba for safekeeping, and bobba, a disembodied head of fluffy hair at her kitchen window, is not accepting visitors.

when you rise from your bed of pain in the morning it will be surprisingly late - elevenish or so. you will stumble blearily out of your father's old bedroom, trying to be quiet in case you can somehow sneak past your grandmother before she sees what you look like when you roll out of bed, but to no avail.

"perlie!" your grandmother will call, closing her stalin biography over one hand with a massive thwack. "you slept like a BABY! i cannot think what to do about your PHONE! i am so STRESSED OUT!"

whereupon you will go back into the bedroom and bang your head against the wall for several minutes, until your grandmother shouts from the kitchen: "i made you another sweet potato!"

since i have some mercy in me, however, i will spare you the rest of shabbos. (i encourage you to try this at home whenever you feel the weekend's just a-flying by, however). and it wasn't all that bad; as the day stretched on we were able to have brief periods of conversation wherein my phone was merely a spectral figure glooming in the background, and the main focus of the discussion was, for example, stalin. or stalin's crazy daughter. or various other crazy members of my family, of which i am surely one, although my grandmother attempted to comfort me at one point by noting that at least i am not a vegetarian.

by the time havdalah rolled around i could not be more ready. 'yes!' i thought. 'bring it on, mta! i just survived 25 hours of grandma worry and i'm feeling fine!' my grandmother set down the candle and furtively disappeared back into the bedroom with the phonebook, but i paid no mind. i had a plan.

see, i had figured out how to wage this war. facebook's the only way to go. how else can you barrage the minds of over 100 people with your embarrassing predicaments? who knows if someone might actually be crazy enough to sacrifice their new year's eve sleep-in to chauffer you around queens? hope springs eternal, and so does insanity.

as i gingerly held my computer out the kitchen window in an attempt to snatch a 'very low' wireless signal from the house across the street, my grandmother burst through the doorway with a veritable 'shiz-ZAM!', batman-comic-book style. she had her cellphone pressed to her ear. 'PERLIE!' she cried. 'you're not going to believe it! listen! listen to my message which i never listen to!'

she thrust the phone into the crook of my shoulder, which was okay, because she has it on speakerphone pretty much all the time, and i heard this G-d given message descend from heaven:

"uh...hello, ms...skier....uh....i am the mta bus driver, and a passenger gave this to'ma turn it into the lost and found now...just so's you know."

"they HAVE it!" my grandmother declaimed triumphantly. "now you just have to get it! that this would happen in new york i never thought. you are a lucky kid, perlie!"

i felt pretty lucky. i was about to open my mouth when suddenly i saw something dawn in her eyes, and she looked at me uncertainly, the smile fading.

we were having the rare experience of both thinking the same thing at the same time, which was this: my grandmother was in a perfect position to drive me.

part of the problem with family is knowing where boundaries lie. as my mother once said, in a wise if slightly confused metaphor, 'people have triggers. don't step on them and you'll be fine.' my grandmother knew i would expect her to drive me, in the same way she sometimes realizes i expect other things of her which she finds unappealing, and in that moment i honestly saw dread in her eyes. for my part, i knew that she did not want to drive me. i did not necessarily understand why, but i realized that even to ask the question would suddenly, terribly, be an imposition: she would feel cornered, forced to make some lame excuse which she and i would both realize was lame, and she would know that i knew, yet she would be unable to explain to me the real reason and thus would be forced to continue justifying herself to me for the rest of the weekend.

i did the only reasonable thing i could think of at the spur of the moment: i launched headlong into a detailed explanation of facebook.

"see grandma, i'm sending out a message to all of my friends" --and, you know, people who met me once three years ago, but whatever-- "telling them what happened and asking them if they'll drive me, see, isn't that a great idea? and they can see here in this little bar that i lost my phone and now they'll know not to call me? look, here's our family pictures from israel!"

"that is a wonderful idea," my grandmother said firmly. "that is a great idea. let me know what the messages say." she took in the extent of my arms-out-the-window. "and make sure you close the shades when you're done."

after she had retreated to her bedroom for "America's Most Wanted," i sat alone in the kitchen and took a breath. for the first time, the mta had all the cards on its side, even my grandma. a mapquest revealed that no buses or subways ran near the depot, and when i asked the hotline if i could just ride a bus to the depot the operator snorted once and hung up on me. i severely doubted my grandmother was going to let me carouse off in her only car blithely down the van wyck. i felt another drop of rain on my wrist (resting painfully on the ledge) and wondered if my computer would electrocute me. i pulled it regretfully back inside.

i was, i concluded, stuck.

and then my grandmother marched back into the kitchen, wielding a phone which, she explained excitedly, was for me. she did not catch the name of the caller, nor did i expect her to.

raggedymom is not, after all, your normative nom de plume.


(let the blogover crossover begin!)


Blogger Ezzie said...

Seriously! And the Raggedys wouldn't even say the whole story, saying I have to wait and read it. Hmph.

Man, I wish I'd understood that facebook invite sooner...!

11:29 PM  
Blogger Scraps said...

Woohoo! Your phone is alive, and not stolen! Yay! I can't wait to read the end! :-D

7:51 AM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

No wonder I am losing my mind. How did I survive that household?

8:10 AM  
Blogger iguana said...

will your phone be back in time for it to acompany you home? Will it be in perfectly OK shape when you find it? WILL you find it? The suspense is killing me! Write part 2!

5:49 PM  
Blogger the apple said...

You are a *fantastic* writer. This post was so entertaining!

2:07 PM  

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