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Dueling with the Dawdler

It all started last week when my mother asked me to watch Jonathon overnight while she finished the interior of someone’s cabin four hours north of GB. I agreed, but then she called back and said that the guy didn’t want them to come yet because his son was in the high school championship football game or something like that. Why she needed to impart this story to me over ten minutes is beyond me, but then again, why I need to write two thousand word entries on the nothing I did all weekend is probably beyond most people too. Fine. Whatever. Then on Tuesday night, when I walked in the door after driving home from Milwaukee, a little cranky and tired, Esteban said ‘Why didn’t you tell me that we were watching Jonathon tomorrow?’ I was immediately stymied and replied ‘who what now?’ To which Esteban then relayed the strange phone conversation he had just had with my mother, in which she breezily told him that everything was all set for tomorrow night and she would be leaving at 7 am and Jonathon would be walking to our house after school at 3.

Since it was a few minutes shy of 9 pm (and I am ridiculously adamant about people not calling other people after 9 pm unless it’s a weekend or they have received special permission), I called Mom and repeated ‘Who what now?’ And she acted surprised that I didn’t somehow intuit that the date had been changed to Wednesday and she had even made special consideration that I had class on Tuesday so they scheduled it for Wednesday and why was I acting all put out? Fine, whatever, Crazy.

So Esteban made arrangements to be home for Jonathon and when he got home, Jonathon balked at being made to do homework, but finally realized that it was a lost battle and settled down to read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, an endeavor I can hardly find fault with. I got home at 5:30 and suggested that we go out to dinner because I didn’t want to make anything, and it was very pleasant. Afterward, Esteban went to his anime thing and I took Jonathon grocery shopping and then to his house to pick up clothing. Then I went home and told him that he had to finish his math homework before he could watch TV. What? Rules? Restrictions? He couldn’t live like the feral child he normally is? He looked directly into the camera and cried ‘Oh the humanity!’ Then, while I checked his work (and to his credit, it was almost all right), I did the same trick as last year and checked the papers stuffed in his book for any progress reports. Lo and behold, there was one and the kid is flunking math again because he doesn’t do his homework. Gah. Here we go again, with letters to the teacher and tutoring sessions and he’s not doing his homework in the other classes too. Fuck all. So then I gave him the ‘ding fries are done’ lecture, complete with my favorite ‘This is your job! Homework is your job!’ which might have been more effective had I dropped my words into a bucket of water and made him bob for ten dollar bills, hoping for the old osmosis trick, as he is fifteen and so completely not interested in what his sister has to say to him. And why should he? It’s much easier to just go back to the system of mutual avoidance that he has at home, where no one notices what he does and the lip service of ‘I did my homework at school’ has no accountability, even when the report card comes in with all crappy grades.

When he finished his homework, I made him brush his teeth (what??? What is this teeth brushing of which you speak, woman?), artfully deflecting his ‘I didn’t bring my toothbrush’ excuse by shouting ‘Voila!’ and unsheathing a fresh new toothbrush like a saber. Then he could watch a little television before he went to sleep, which made him happy.

Until morning came, that is. I figured that since I lived two blocks from his school, I would let him sleep in an extra ten minutes, but apparently, since he’s accustomed to always being late, this was cruel and unusual punishment. When I reminded him that I had to be out the door at 7, and it was at that very moment, quarter to 7, I naturally assumed that this logic would compel him to, oh, I don’t know, quicken up the pace a little.

What followed was an act of prolonged slow movement worthy of Cirque Du Soleil. Every movement, every word, every very thought, was lengthened to the point where he was almost in suspended animation. It was like time lapse photography, in which the world (AKA me) zipped around him at high speed while he existed in a different time space continuum. Perhaps it was a different plane all together. I don’t know. It took him five minutes to put on his sweatshirt. Five minutes. How is that possible? I mean, it just went over his head. That is it. A simple sweatshirt. Sure, it was a hoodie, so maybe that upped the difficulty a little, threw some confusion into the mix’. Is that a sleeve? No, wait, my head goes there. I mean, that should take, what, a minute tops, right?

Did I mention that he put on exactly the same clothes he had worn the day before? I argued with him that he could not go to school in the same clothes as yesterday, unless he wanted to be the smelly kid who wears the same clothes every day, and look, he HAD other clothes to wear. But he didn’t want to wear them, he wanted a sweatshirt. Fine. I went into my bedroom, hauled out one of his Christmas presents (an Independent hoodie, which was infinitely more cutting edge than the Aeropostale sweatshirt he was wearing at the moment) and handed it to him. With sloth-like agility, he wandered back into the living room and I continued trying to brush my hair and get ready. I could tell he was just sitting there zoning out, so I clapped my hands at him and told him to get moving and stop dawdling. And then I realized that in one quick sentence, I had just turned into someone’s mother. Certainly not mine, as she never worried about being on time to anything, but definitely someone’s mother. Gah. I asked him to get the yogurt he had picked out at the grocery store and start eating it because we had to go.

“I don’t know where it is.” He drawled.

“Your yogurt, I said.”

Pause.

“I know. I don’t know where it is.”

“Jon… where do you think yogurt would be?”

Pause.

“I don’t know!”

My brain, at this point, suggested slapping him upside the head because clearly his brain was like a pinball machine and we were on full Tilt.

“Think.”

“The garage?”

Yes. That is where we keep the yogurt. Between the power tools and the snow blower.

“Try the refrigerator?”

Pause.

“Oh.” He replied, managing to give the word seven syllables.

Pause.

I heard him get up and shuffle into the kitchen. I’m certain aging tortoises on their final walk have hoisted their ancient bodies across the shore with more agility.

“You know what? Just forget it. You’re taking the yogurt with you. It’s ten after and I’m going to be late.” I walked back into the kitchen. He was still wearing the Aeropostale sweatshirt. “Why didn’t you change?”

“Oh… what?”

“Your sweatshirt.”

He sighed, because the weight of the world certainly rested upon his shoulders, and tried to gather enough strength to make the lugubrious journey back into the living room. “Never mind! We don’t have time.” I thrust my hand into the silverware drawer and pulled out one of the horrible food service spoons that June purchased for us (for the princely sum of $6 for 30) after she heard us complain that we had lost all but three of the teaspoons from our silverware. “Here… just throw this spoon away when you’re done.”

“Wha–“

“MOVE!”

And with that I corralled him out the door like a damned herding dog nipping at the heels of a reluctant calf.

This is why I do not allow my loins to bear fruit. Right there. Because that fruit turns into a surly teenager and even if you clothe them in all the coolest brands and buy them $80 shoes, they still make you crazy. I was very thankful to escape to work, where there were no children.

However, I had forgotten about my coworker.

I know. I’ve bitched about her before (and then locked the entry because I started to feel like I was becoming a mean person and a hypocrite, since I wouldn’t actually say it to her face) but to sum up, she’s a post-menopausal ditz who is always chattering, always narrating her day aloud to no one (complete with random “Now why is that happening?” as though she expects you to know what she’s doing and somehow answer her), always inviting herself into conversations and trying to change the subject back to herself. She’s like Phoebe Buffay without social graces, like an annoying aunt who gives you underwear and then laughs when you open it and blush, like the person seated next to you in the airplane who takes off their shoes and then starts talking about their bunions. With visual aids.

When she comes in, she usually gives me an uninvited verbal rundown of her evening, her observations about the evening, and usually a pointed anecdote about her sister who has lost so much weight after gastric bypass surgery (note to coworker: subtlety is an art best left to people who are not dumb as cattle). This morning, she asked me how the evening went with my brother, so I told her how hard he was to get up in the morning and how he had made me late. She laughed, because she is wise like the mountains and also her sixteen-year-old son is perfect (but no mention of her teenage daughter dropped out of school after she kicked her out of the house and has now made her an early grandmother) and then finally quieted down to her normal level of malapropisms.

Later in the morning, I received a personal call from a friend. I started telling him about how bad my morning was and about the dawdling and the use of the word “dawdling” and then the clapping like I was a psychotic Brownie troop leader. We were laughing and it was a jovial conversation and helped to vent some of the stress of the morning. However, as I was relaying the story, from the other side of my wall, the coworker decided that she too wanted to be part of my personal phone conversation. She started hurtling comments over the wall of the cube. “Now you know how your mother feels! Tee hee!” and “I’m sure glad my son is perfect! Tee hee!” and “You better tell him that he won’t always have someone to wake him up! Tee hee!”

The audacity.

I mean, I realize that this isn’t exactly a private atmosphere, but at very least have the grace to pretend that you’re not eavesdropping on my conversation, instead of playing Statler and Waldorf in the next cube. She’s one of the people who theoretically backs me up if I’m out of the office, but fiercely resents the fact that she do any work which is not her own. It goes without saying that I back her up and she has three times the number of clueless people than I do, to the point where one third of the phone calls I get in a month are from her clients, while she might get one of mine in a week. And when she’s on the phone, I happily back her up, answering her client’s questions. Once I was away from my desk, talking to my sister across the cubicle farm. She got one of my calls and started bellowing over the fake walls “Weetabix! Weetabix!” Because it’s just that tough to take a damned message. Or actually provide back up and answer the damned question.

Around 3 pm, I received a call from Esteban. “Has your mom contacted you?”

“No. Why?”

“Because Jonathon is here. No one is answering at home and her cell is turned off.”

I started to hyperventilate. Immediately all of the old battle wounds of sitting alone with teachers waiting for my mother to show up long after events, bubbled to the surface. I was pissed. “She was supposed to start back first thing this morning. That’s what she told me.”

“I mean, it’s no big deal. Maybe the job went long. Luckily I was here. He can sit here and do homework while I work. I just wanted to know what was going on.”

I told him I would find out and then called Mafia Grandma, who was watching my mom’s dog. MG then went into a very long tirade about how my mother had told her that she didn’t know when she’d be back and if she wasn’t in town when school let out that Jonathon could just walk to my house. I explained to MG that I was upset because she had never bothered to tell us that and it just so happened that Esteban had been home to let him in the house. Otherwise the kid would have been stuck outside in the 40 degree misting rain with no way to even get to his own house where he could have let himself in. And then MG asked if it would be a problem for me to keep him overnight one more night if she didn’t show up, which I said it wouldn’t be but I shouldn’t have to wonder if she was going to show up. MG cynically suggested that I shouldn’t really be surprised by this and then took a dramatic puff off her cigarette. Over the phone, I could actually hear the face she was making, which, you have to admit, is pretty impressive.

During this conversation, which was fairly upsetting, the coworker got a call. I could hear her over the wall “Weetabix… Weetabix… this is your client…” she said, reading the caller id. I ignored her, concentrating on my dysfunctional family dynamic. Finally she answered the phone and while I was straightening out the details with my grandmother, trying to compare cell number’s, I could hear the coworker saying “Weetabix is on the other line right now… but it sounds like she’s finishing up Let me just check.” And then she stood up and peered at me over the wall and then started talking at me. “This is for you…I told him you’re almost done.” With the implication that I should wrap it up so I could take the call off her hands.

“Hold on Grandma….” I said into the phone and then directed her with a concentrated look of death. “I am on a phone call right now. If you can’t help them, then please just put them into my voice mail.” Except that the tone of voice I used said “You dumbass bitch, I am NOT finishing up, so perhaps you can take your phone and go fuck yourself heartily.”

Her eyes got enormous and then she prairie dogged back down, mumbled something to the caller and hung up. I finished my call with Mafia Grandma, called Esteban again, formulated a game plan, ordered my brother to walk back to school and get the homework that he had “forgotten” (Score one for living two blocks from the high school!) and then asked Esteban to get him a snack. Yeah. Mean old sister makes him do homework and procures some E.L. Fudge cookies for him. During this time, I receive an email from a client. When I got off the phone, in a very measured and professional tone, I asked the coworker who had called earlier. She replied that she didn’t know and he would be sending me an email. I mentioned that I had received an email and was it from the same person? She replied that she hadn’t bothered to take their name. “Ok, thank you for taking that call for me!” I said graciously, knowing that I had achieved just enough sincerity that the sarcasm would be lost on her. Or, rather, I didn’t care if she got it or not.

Then later, a different coworker started nagging me that I should have the kid move in with me and how he needs me and how I owe it to him to give him a better life. I withstood this for awhile, but the fact of the matter is that even though I WANT to do that, it is out of my control, short of involving the legal system, which is not something I’m willing to do. And it’s not bad enough that I’d felt overwrought and helpless all day but here was someone whose business it distinctly was not, trying to convince me of something that I am already feeling guilty about. This is another of those people who keeps trying to convince me to have kids, as though it would be something that you should be able to talk someone into. It’s one thing to tell someone that you think they’d be a great mother (because, honestly, that’s a very nice compliment) but it’s another entirely to remind you that you’re not getting any younger and your husband is an only child and you’re preventing his parents from getting a grandchild. This is the same woman who I shut down a few months ago by saying “Why do you care so much that I don’t have kids?” But she seemed to have gained ground with this new crusade, repeating “Come on, Weet… your brother needs you! You have the room, you’ve got that DINK income! Come on! Think of how much you could help him!” until I finally said “Look, this is something that I feel very emotional about so please just…” and then didn’t finish the sentence, but she seemed to get that she had long ago passed polite conversation. Which just irritates, because I am so tired of passive-aggressive behavior from people who are supposedly my friends.

Note to people with kids: the fertility of your friends is none of your business. Assuming that it is something you can somehow affect is just rude and beyond obnoxious. For all you know, the person might be tragically unable to have kids and you’re dredging up painful feelings of guilt and unfullfillment. Don’t give me the “I only mean well” shit. You don’t mean well. If the person is such a sheep that you can actually talk them into making another person, are they really fit to bring up that kid for eighteen years? Gah. Can I get a Gah, brothers and sisters?

For the record, Mom picked him up at 5:30 and hadn’t been able to call because they were so far north that they didn’t have cell transmission.

After work, I had intended to go to the holiday open house at my favorite spa, because they had 10% off Aveda stuff, but I was just going to skip it after the drama of the day. However, Esteban suggested that I might enjoy it so I should just go. When I got there, I was nervous because there were a million cars parked out several blocks away, but I noticed a spot open up right by the door and I wanted to stock up on stupid Hand Relief as it is now the only thing that makes my hands happy. They had free wine and lots of hors oeuvres and yummy sushi rolls, and also provided a bunch of free mini-spa services, but the lines were incredible and very not-relaxing and then I started getting my mild agoraphobia in which I hate people and crowds and started sweating even though it wasn’t overly warm and I had purposely left my jacket in the car.

Finally, I just grabbed a bunch of stuff, checked out and then went home where I managed to keep myself from collapsing into an emotional heap by the sheer force of my will. Esteban suggested that perhaps I wasn’t taking things in perspective due to my impending estrogen happy hour and my mother hadn’t actually been horribly late, and was really only a few hours late. I suggested that maybe I just needed to bite the heads off some more coworkers elf cookies and perhaps work on my holiday card exchange list for a few hours, which was remarkably therapeutic and I highly recommend it.

As you can tell, I’m still a tad het up over the whole affair, even though it happened twenty-four hours ago. Luckily, however, I will be going to the Bad Bar this evening and am going to help comment’s section regular Jennifer celebrate her 21st birthday. And I need to think about what to wear, instead of familial dysfunction, which is how it should be. Yup. This calls for serious outfit planning. In fact, I’m thinking it’s time to resurrect Feather Boob Girl. And yes, the camera batteries are charged. Have the liver transplant team standing by!


Oh! Mark your calendars! On the first weekend next March, the place to be is Green Bay, WI. You can read all about it here.

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