I try to be nice. I really do. Most of the time.
Not that it always works in my favor. Occasionally I can get a little too invasive or overenthusiastic in my effort to be kind and/or helpful, and when that happens the whole situation can get out of hand in a hurry, way out of proportion to the original problem. And sometimes it backfires.
Like the time when I saw an elderly lady looking lost and frightened in the middle of a busy intersection. I ran over to take her arm, only to have her wrench it away and snarl, "I know how to cross the goddam street!"
Lesson learned. Maybe.
To be fair, dealing with the elderly can sometimes be a bit tricky. Much as we admire cultural icons like Judi Dench's "M" and Miss Marple and Jolly Old St. Nick, the reality is that most elderly people are not delightfully eccentric, but tend to be forgetful, crabby, and generally unhappy with the circumstance of being elderly. This does not usually make them great company, unless you can persuade them to have a few cocktails and tell you the real story about how Grandpa had to go get cousin Bunny out of the whorehouse.
I do think that, though we live in a youth-obsessed society, most people try to treat the elderly with respect and compassion. Whether they deserve it or not.
One that decidedly did not deserve it was the harridan whose presence graced my life last Monday.
She hobbled into my place of underemployment, a sour-faced grinch with carefully arranged orange hair. Immediately, she pointed a crooked, liver-spotted finger at my boss.
"That woman hung up on me yesterday."
(With good reason. As I understand it, you were screaming at her.)
"Can you believe that?"
(Yes, I can, and probably would have done the same thing, since the laws of physics prevent me from reaching through the telephone to smack someone silly.)
"I think you should do something about that."
(How about escorting your semi-decayed carcass out the door?)
"I was told that my services would be free."
(By whom? Rush Limbaugh?)
"That woman is telling me a different story."
(Which would be the truth.)
"I'm entitled to free services."
(You are entitled to no such thing. Least of all that public aid card you're waving under my nose. People who live in high-rise luxury condos, as indicated by the address on your registration form, should not be working the system for free services.)
"She's really fat."
(I'll ignore that.)
"Did you hear me?"
(Yes, I did. And she's black. Did you notice that she's black? I'll bet you did.)
(I'm glad you found an issue upon which you can base your superiority.)
"I don't want her close to me. I have a lung problem."
(Not on your medical history.)
"And she keeps coughing."
(Neither was your Thorazine.)
"Doesn't anybody around here know what they're doing?"
It was my original intention to be kind and patient with this old bat, it being Christmas and all. But after another 15 minutes or so of similar discourse, I finally went all batshit Sicilian on her, making it clear - in a tense, quiet voice meant to conjure images of dead fish wrapped in newspaper and severed horses' heads - that she needed to calm down, and fast. It worked, because often the only way to deal with a bitch is to be one, but it's not something I'm proud of.
However, what goes down, must come up. Which is, in fact, not true if the law of entropy is everything it's cracked up to be, but recent events in my life have turned me into an optimist:
- As of these writings, there is a plumber named Ziggy (and several of his acquaintances) rebuilding my house;
- My daughter got straight "A's" in all her courses this semester, and has mentioned - voluntarily, and without prompting - her boyfriend twice in the last week, indicating that someday her father and I might be allowed to meet him;
- My son has been furloughed from his job until January 2nd, and is coming "home" for Christmas. This would be a couch in the sitting area of our suite at the Residence Inn, but where there are children, there is a home;
- Before the firemen arrived, that fateful day-after-Thanksgiving, I managed to save the Christmas presents. Actually risked my life to save the Christmas presents, though I didn't know it at the time. They are now safely residing - along with our cats - in the basement of the hull of our home, waiting for wrapping paper and ribbons.
In addition, I've found an Italian deli near my temporary lodgings where I can get a lasagna, fig cookies, and a bottle of Galliano. What more could a Sicilian-American bitch ask for?
It looks like I'll be having a Christmas after all.