Some decisions are just right.
It feels good to have made that thing happen. You feel the inner strength, the stretching of your learning edge. You have a sense of profound worth and well-being. You know even if you’d been off your game it would have still been a fantastic experience.
And then there are the other kind.
This is an almost-accurate account of one of the latter. Come on in, rinse out your cup and take a load off. You’re gonna enjoy this. Well, that is, unless you were involved.
Ida sat in the control position of Universe Operations. It had always been thus, regardless of its construction. The kitchen table was for years the ubiquitous stainless or chrome legged rectangle with black and grey formica top. Mostly gray. Later, it was upgraded to one of round oak. It was medium butterscotch color and had two leaves if more space was needed.
The design or material made no difference to Ida. She ran her Universe from the same position for all the time I knew her. It was ‘her’ chair, seated at ‘her’ spot before the dining table.
Every morning’s ritual was the same. Always an early riser, she first got fresh coffee going in her stainless steel percolator. While the java was perking, she then compounded the colossal annoyance to anyone within earshot by playing ‘Reveille’ on her piano, followed by whatever fast, upbeat music was running through her mind as she awakened. I don’t believe it ever occurred to her that other bipeds close by preferred sleep to morning concerts. Wouldn’t have made much difference if it had.
Then, freshly-perked joe in whatever cup was handy, she retired to THE place. Her well-used Bible always sat there, a writing pad and pen close by. Unless something or someone intruded, it was from her chair at the dining table that Ida controlled the vast reaches of her universe.
Said intrusion occurred. The telephone rang.
No. I mean it actually rang. Marking where she’d been reading, she rose from the table, walked to where the phone was, lifted the receiver and answered with her customarily-cheery, “GOOD morning!”
Her silence spoke volumes. Her expression swiftly morphed from arched eyebrows and smile to dead-eyed ‘seen-it-all’ to the narrowed, steely glint that always signaled mayhem for whomever dared to cause it. Someone was about to have a Very Bad Day.
Her jaw was set. She cleared her throat. Her voice, dangerously low, was modulated like the baritone rumble of an awakened lioness.
“Would you mind repeating that? I’m not sure I understood what you said.”
She reverted back to silence. Oooooh. Not good, Person On The Other End Of The Line.
I could hear her turbines spooling up. This was not going to be pretty.
“That’s exactly what I thought you said. Repeating it, though, sure takes away a lot of its impact, doesn’t it? So, tell me–how long did it take you to come up with your disgusting, foul-mouthed speel? Did you have to write that all down, or were you able to pull all those filthy words right out of your pea-sized little brain? I’m surprised you had enough mental power to do it!”
“Who do you think you are, anyway? Do you have any idea who you called? I’m an old woman, old enough to be your grandmother–though I’d never bother claiming you if I were that unfortunate! You need some strong soap jammed in your mouth! Why, if I could get my hands on you, you’d never have any notions about any woman ever again! I’d cure you, you sorry, pathetic excuse for a man!”
“Just the idea of you making all those vile, obscene suggestions makes me want to throw up! At this point, she’s got the phone mouthpiece a few inches from her mouth, shaking her finger at it. No worries. Her volume level at this point was approximately that of an F4 on full burners . . . “You want to know what God has to say about people whose minds and mouths are as filthy as yours? HE says—”
There was something neat about those old Bell telephones. If you didn’t have the earpiece right up to your ear, everyone in the room could actually hear the other person hang up, leaving the hum-buzzing dial tone.
That’s what happened.
“Click.” “Buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. . . .”
That’s the only known time in Earth history anyone ever dared make an obscene phone call to my mother.
I seriously doubt they ever tried it again.
Hmm? Oh, yeah. I was right there and witnessed her side of the conversation.
Frankly, I was trying to figure out a way to tippy-toe out the back door before she realized I’d been there. I had no desire to serve as a target of opportunity for one of the most incredibly awe-inspiring memories of my youth:
A fully-enraged Ida.
When my little mother had finally had enough, there was no Reverse gear. I soon learned when she got quiet it was the most opportune time to seek someplace in another zip code. That was always the first red flag.
Only a few times was I, ah, dull enough to not have distinguished the early warning signals and let things escalate beyond all Male Failsafes. Those few times were permanent lessons. Of course it helped to note that my tough daddy was usually nowhere to be found during those times.
So. Whoever you thought you were then, and if you yet survive, whoever you are now–be thankful you were on the phone with my mother and nowhere in reach.
Being coldcocked with a plow handle or having your belly button rearranged with an electric mixer would have been merciful.
2nd Cuppers? This week’s challenge goes out to all moms. Consider this: if there were a lot more Idas out there, there might be a whole lot less of the types like the poor, misguided sap who had the all-time worst possible luck to dial her phone number that day.
© May 2013