The UPS man (should) always rings twice


I came back to Miss Cathy’s the other day after running errands to see a notice that UPS had tried to deliver a package. As I pulled the “ups-it” off the door I saw that the “No answer” box had been checked. I had been expecting the package (a pair of cargo shorts from Macys online-nothing work related or that couldn’t keep but “I wants wat I wants”). I was as disappointed as a kid on Christmas morning that gets socks instead of an Xbox.

My options for re-delivery were to reschedule (and wait) or pick the package up myself-not exactly Sophie’s choice but still….

I was pissed because I knew mom had been home when the UPS man came so there was no reason that the package shouldn’t have been there waiting for me. I sulked into my room-childish I know but hey, apparently there’s not much going on right now in my life if a delivery from Macys is what makes my day.

I realized I was being silly and was prepared to let the whole thing drop until later that day when Miss Cathy said something that annoyed me (quelle suprize) so (petty Mr. Pettington that I am) I brought up UPS. Without missing a beat she sidestepped any responsibility for the missed delivery like Wonder Woman deflecting bullets with her magic bracelets.

“I didn’t hear anybody knock,” she said dismissively, ”You know they just tap, tap, tap on the door anyway.”

Funny, I thought to myself, it’s awfully curious that she couldn’t hear the UPS man knocking on the door in the middle of the day when old eagle ears could hear me parking my car, walking up the steps and pulling out my keys when I come home late at night (and she’d been fast asleep).

I found it interesting that she was pleading Helen Keller when the last time this happened she had a completely different rationale. Back then she’d taken the position that she wouldn’t go near the door if she weren’t expecting someone. I tried to tell her that a robber or murderer wouldn’t be so polite as to knock so chances are whoever was on
the other side was harmless-or a Jehovah’s Witness.

Besides, the door is made of solid steel with a New York worthy Medeco lock so she was well protected as long as she didn’t open it.

I was annoyed about the whole thing but it’s not like I kicked the cat (and before you forward this post to the ASPCA I’m just joking and a) we don’t have a cat and 2) I’m still grieving the death of my 18 year best friend, Missy the cat.

I went about my day and later decided to call UPS to negotiate how/when/where I could pick up my package without having to wait another day (heaven for fend I deny the world the sight of my skinny calves).

Soon after I got off my cell Miss Cathy came to my door. “I have something I need to talk to you about” she said (Never a good opener where she’s concerned-right up there with the infamous relationship killer “We need to talk”).

“You know this wouldn’t have happened if you would have bought that doorbell like I asked you, too.”

So, now it was MY fault-touché, the best defensive is a strong offense (no matter how offensive).

“I can get it myself if it’s too much for you to do,” she said, meaning the doorbell-not the package. “I’ve asked you time and time again and you just ignored me and I know you heard me” Clearly, she was on a roll, “And I didn’t appreciate when you said, “you don’t need one-no one comes to visit you anyway”.

Why….I was stunned. First of all I didn’t know what had set her off since I wasn’t…even…talking…to…her and “bee” I don’t remember saying anything as catty (or mean) as “no one comes to visit you anyway” (not out loud at least…I mean, it did sound like something I would say).

Honestly, I don’t remember if I said it or not but that wasn’t the point. She went off and I went to my happy place. I agreed to buy a new doorbell “soon” and got the hell out as soon as was politely possible.

My trip to the UPS customer center was like being at the DMV; the line was long and the workers at the counter were surly and lethargic. An hour later I had my fashion in hand and headed back knowing that I was going to be getting several more deliveries in the days ahead (what can I say…online shopping is my new addiction).

The next day I put a post-it of my own on the door that read, “UPS: Please Knock loud and Knock twice, Elderly inside, Thank you”

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Senior moments: Part ll


Getting to the Bowie Senior Center proved to be a test of will and fortitude. The drive, less than fifteen minutes on the highway during non-rush hour should have been pleasant enough but I had Miss Cathy in the back seat remember-the killer of all times good.

It’s not that she’s intentionally an annoying companion on the road; I think that being confined in a space with her that’s about as big as my bedroom makes me feel claustrophobic.

Don’t get me wrong I love my car, a 2001 Burgundy PT Cruiser….it’s my lifeline and literally my “getaway” car. I also use it as a “living room” sometimes when I have something intimate or important to do like a private phone call or to write in my journal un-interrupted.

I mean, can you blame me, I’m with my mother seven days a week, twenty four hours a day unless I’m off working somewhere or shopping or heaven for fend I’m out doing something pleasurable for myself like being out on a date or relaxing with friends.

Of course I have plenty of outings and a lot that I do away from the condo, but I’m never gone for long because I don’t like to be away from her for more than five (or eight hours max) and that’s usually reserved for work and not play.

But the point is, I’m never alone..except for when I’m in my car….my PT, my four wheel “safe place”.

My car, I guess, has come to represent one of the few things that’s really “mine” and mine “alone” so I guess I’m hard pressed to share my space when it’s time to put on my chauffeur’s cap and become “Hoke”.

Now that she’s riding in the back she’s given up (more or less) “back seat driving”-cue Alanis Morrisette. It seems that since she can’t see the oncoming traffic she can’t comment or react the way she used to when she was riding shotgun.

I got this little “tony-tip” from my brother and it definitely makes a difference. I’m less apt to daydream about steering the car into a ditch and walking into oncoming traffic as much (so that’s a good thing).

The problem now is that since she has so much room to stretch out in back she’s usually doing something; like emptying out the contents of her purse or snacking or building a bomb for all I know but the noise she creates is just about as irritating as her front seat car talk ever was.

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld could learn a thing or two about torture from this old woman. The constant sound of her digging through her purse makes the idea of water boarding sound like a facial.

First of all it takes a full five minutes for her to get her seatbelt on. Every time she gets in the car (which in itself is very Cirque du Soleil) she attacks the seatbelt as if it were her adversary, pulling and twisting, all the while keeping up a constant stream of jibber-jabber and bracing herself as I put the car into gear and back out of the parking space.

I had turned on her favorite country music station, as usual, thinking that would lull her into a manageable state of inertia but the twangs and warbles of the Oakridge Boys or Shania were no match for whatever she was determined to find, deep in the bowels of her handbag.

Try as a I may to meditate and focus on something else-like driving (or finding a rock somewhere on the grounds of the center once we got there and beating myself to death) nothing could distract me from the rumbling and fumbling, like the constant drip of Chinese water torture, mind numbing and relentless, as repetitive as her constantly asking me what day of the week it is, all the way to our destination.

Senior moments: Part I


Recently I’ve been driving Miss Cathy around to a few of the senior centers in the area because she expressed some interest in what they had to offer. Of course she didn’t just come out and “say” she wanted to go. Mom’s way of “asking” was to tell me how her sister-in-law, my Aunt Dorothy, who I’m related to as a cousin on one side of the family and a nephew on the other (hey, country folk…..what can I say) really “enjoys” the senior center in North Carolina where she lives and all it has to offer.

After listening to her I read between the lines, the same way I do whenever she asks, “do you like Popeye’s chicken?” (she knows I don’t). But, that just means that “She” does and she wants me to go get her “two pieces and a biscuit”. So I interpreted her chatter about Dorothy the same way, as interest in a senior center and I was right.

Unfortunately, I had thrown out all my brochures and research in a moment of disgust after keeping them for more than a year “just in case she changed her mind” and wanted to avail herself of all that was available to her as a senior.

When I first moved here I collected everything I could get my hands on about “what to do with an old person”. Back then I was eager to please and enthusiastic to share my findings with her (suffice to say it’s an entirely different story these days) my enthusiasm has waned and what I find is mostly apathy.

Back then she told me in no uncertain terms that she had no interest in being in a room full of “old folks” as she called “them”…which led me to wonder who the hell she saw when she looked in the mirror every morning.

But, the times, like underwear, do need to change and it seems that now she was ready for something new.

I was giddy with the prospect of getting her out of the house (even if it was for just a few hours a week) but I was unprepared and not knowing how or where to begin. But, not to worry, after a few clicks on the all-knowing Google I found what I needed and we were off.

I decided to sidestep the quaint facility that was located in Miss Cathy’s solidly middle class neighborhood for another more affluent area. So, our first stop was the Bowie Senior Center less than 10 miles away.

Tom Wolff aptly named this group of moneyed movers and shakers in his native New York the Masters of the Universe so this would be their Washington DC equivalent. If you’re searching for a place to park an old person better there be BMW’s and Lexus’ in the parking lot and not Civics and Ford Focus’s.

Casino..Royale…with cheese


Last week I took Miss Cathy to the new “Live Casino” that opened up about half hour away from her condo. She was ecstatic, gambling to her is what shopping is to me…. part cardio, part treasure hunt. Needless to say….she was dressed and ready to go forty minutes before our agreed upon departure time.

We arrived around two thirty; pre-early bird and post all-nighters. Even at that early hour the casino had that perpetual midnight thing going on. Since there are no clocks (who needs to be reminded of how quickly the time passes as one is losing ones mortgage money) and no windows (no need of fresh air either) the stale air and artificial light are your only indications that you’re indeed still alive and time is very much irrelevant.

Casinos seem to me to be set up to create an atmosphere that is part faux hope, tacky decorations and mostly desperation….not unlike New Year’s Eve.

Scientific studies have documented that the colors, lighting and especially the sounds (the music blaring, coins dropping, wheels spinning, bells ringing) all merge to create a cacophony of optimism that feeds the need to pull on the one armed bandit (or gambling of your choosing) in hopes of becoming king or queen for a day.

I’m not much of a gambler. Personally I think it’d be more fun to just throw money off a balcony and watch below as people scrambled to pick up a few Washington’s as I “made it rain”. At least that way you could actually see where your money was going as opposed to the casino where the house always wins and your money just gets disappears off the craps table or in Miss Cathy’s case inside of one the fifty-cent slot machines.

Miss Cathy is and has been a devotee of “the slots” for some time now. Once inside a casino she is like a kid at Disney or one of those lost souls at Willy Wonka’s and being seventy-four with dementia and a knee replacement has changed nothing. She was so excited she didn’t know where to go or what to do first.

She’d visited the casino with a girlfriend once before soon after the opening and said she was determined to find “her” machine but abandoned that quest almost as soon as it came out of her mouth in favor of whatever big, bright, shiny box caught her eye.

She insisted that I register for a casino card “just in case” I wanted to play. Apparently the card logs you into the casino’s system and keeps track of how much you spend, giving you points in exchange for your “cash donations”. Being the trooper that I’m not I agreed to get a card but stupidly told her to not wait for me, to go find “her” machine and that I would catch up to her.

Moments later, with my new casino card and lanyard in hand I went in search of my mother. Much to my horror (and humor) I quickly found that it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. Truth was….I wasn’t thinking. As I looked up and down the rows of penny to dollars slot machines all I could see were old people.
Every other stooped over, gray haired, little old lady in a loud oversized tee and elastic waist pants could have been Miss Cathy…quelle horror!

What did I expect….diversity? This place was about as diverse as a Mitt Romney rally. I’m sure I sidestepped a lot of his base as I made my way past walkers, wheelchairs and canes. Where was my mommy? I didn’t know if I was panicked or pissed.

I almost presented myself to security to have them make an announcement over the loudspeaker for a “lost child”. After more trips than I care to admit walking up and down the aisles I finally found her.

And there she was, in that gambler’s haze; one hand on her purse and the other on the pulley, brows furrowed as she watched the wheels turn, oblivious to anything or anyone else around her as she looked at the screen hoping the wheels would land on whatever it is they’re suppose to stop on for a big pay off…they never did….so pull she continued.

So, I held her purse and handed her twenty dollars bills one a time as she fed the machine and fattened the coffers of the casino, like so many of her geriatric playmates.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a casino, everything is computerized now and you get slips of paper with barcodes on them showing your winnings (if you’re lucky enough to get any). I actually liked it better in the old days when the slots used to spit coins out when you won and you greedily scooped them up and put them in a plastic bucket that the casino provided.

Back then Miss Cathy would sit transfixed in front of a slot machine (Okay, so not everything has changed) and I’d hold her bucket for her and if/when she got lucky and her bucket would fill with coins that we’d later redeem for paper money. This would last until the spell was broken, and by “broken” I mean that she stopped when she was broke.

But, as I was “helping” her by holding her bucket it was easy to skim a little (or a lot) of her earnings and put them aside (in another bucket) so she’d have something to show for her efforts at the end of the night (or day). I would quietly hold onto her winnings (unbeknownst to her). As long as she could reach down and grab another coin to feed back into the machine she had no interest in how much was actually in her bucket.

I would do this until I was content that I had (at least) enough of her original investment in a bucket and then I would take a break. I would go to one of the many eating establishments in the casino for what John Travolta’s character; Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction would call a “Royale with cheese” (French for “Quarter Pounder”). Casinos are a lot like the sandwich that Vega’s craved and coveted; over the top for what it is, the hype offering more than the product can ever deliver and even though you know that you have to have it anyway. It’s greasy, addictive and not good for you no matter how you dress it up a give it a fancy name, French or otherwise.

I could relax for a little while knowing that it wouldn’t be long before Miss Cathy was out of L’Argent and ready to go home.

But, those days are gone and with paper replacing coins I can no longer hide her money from her so easily. I have to contend myself with just standing around and bearing witness to her losing (but in fairness to her she does win sometimes..but more often than not she just gambles that all away too).

None of it really matters though, because, like my shopping excursions where I may come home empty handed I’m still happy to have gone. So, even though she may be “busted and disgusted” as she so often says at the end of one of these outings, I know that she’s happy, too and she’s already looking forward to the “next time”, dreaming of her big pay day from the casino while I have thoughts of the casino, royale….with cheese.