Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Weekend Update: Karma and Cadillacs, Again

After taking three trains to Astoria (damn you MTA and your weekend service disruptions), I arrive in Astoria, home of slow walkers and fat people in velour track suits that are just for show.

I head to Dunkin Donuts, where I've finally figured out what's going on behind the counter: they all have ADD.

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I get on line and watch them smack into each other while scurrying about like confused, crack-addicted ants, with no system for helping customers, and a highly annoying habit of talking to each other in their native tongue. Even though there are a total of six workers, there are easily two or three idiots helping one customer: one to make the coffee, another to make the disgusting breakfast sandwich, and a third to ring it all up.

"Next!" screams the little Indian woman behind the counter. I approach. I attempt eye contact. I make eye contact. Just as I open my mouth, she gets distracted by a coworker who can't figure out how to pour the coffee into the cup followed by a customer fat pig who's just yelled out "No, five sugars!"

Every time I see money in their tip cup, I want to take it. "No, I don't think you've earned this."

I go to my parent's house and have coffee with my mother. As is the norm, her skull unhinges and everything pours out. Every thought, every worry, every complaint, every fight with a relative, every question, every ache and pain.

And then, out of nowhere, I get this: "Your hair looks disgusting!"

She's right. I haven't had a haircut in over four months. It's part "saving money" and part "failed experiment."

Unfortunately, I have to go to Best Yet supermarket with my father in about 10 minutes, so the haircut will have to wait.

As we drive off to Best Yet, my father takes a different route than he would normally take.

"Going to get gas?" I ask.

He doesn't answer, which can only mean one thing: spying.

Spying is an age-old Greek tradition. It simply involves altering your shopping trip to conveniently pass by a neighbor's house. That neighbor might have a new car, a new fence, or an entirely new house. Maybe their daughter has a non-Greek boyfriend. Whatever it is, you must see it - NOW. You don't have to stop and say hello, because there is no Greek translation for "I was just in the neighborhood." Once you've arrived at your target destination, you must slow the car down to a crawl, blocking the street and angering drivers behind you. You will do this while craning your neck as if you've seen a UFO.

For about two months straight, my father would detour up 29th street to spy on the neighbor's new house, risking a collision in the dangerous intersection up ahead, rather than take 31 street and it's convenient street light.

I didn't notice any spying this time, but I did notice that the car's heating system was on overdrive. I roll down the window to get some relief. "It's hot in here!" I say to him. No response.

We pull into the Best Yet parking lot and I jump out. I do this to get a head start on the shopping, while Daddy looks for a parking spot.

The first two items on the list are celery and carrots. The baby carrots are currently being arranged into a very neat pile by a produce clerk, so I gingerly step around him to pull one off, feeling a little guilty to have messed up his work. This is residual guilt from 12 years of retail.

I can't get celery just yet because some crazy woman is taking her time inspecting each and every one, tossing the suspicious packages back onto the pile. Finally, she turns to me and says, "Oh, I thought you were my husband."

Don't flatter yourself.

On to the potatoes. I pick out a few good ones and throw them in a plastic bag.

Out of nowhere, my father comes with celery and carrots, having gone straight to the vegetable section upon entering the store.

"I already got those," I tell him. He takes a package of celery and plops it on top of the potatoes.

Now I have two packages of carrots to deal with. For some reason, it bothers me to throw the extra carrots on top of the potatoes, so I make a u-turn and return the carrots to the little carrot pile. Maybe this is my way of making amends with the produce clerk for messing up his pile. I forget to take the celery with me.

The rest of the shopping goes smoothly - until we get to the checkout, where "Jason" has the balls to stop ringing us up because he has just gotten a text message. He must show this to his coworker on the next register who says nothing, but raises both eyebrows. Texter is now declared "weird" by Jason.

I want to take Jason's little blackberry and throw it at the plate glass window.

On the way out, I snatch a Best Yet circular because Jason has pissed me off. I must now call the store on my cell phone and rat him out to the manager. I don't know why I am in such a vengeful mood suddenly.

As we approach the house, Daddy makes the obligatory right turn into the public driveway - and then everything goes to shit.

He attempts to shoehorn the massive 1979 Cadillac between a garage and a double parked SUV. I cringe as I see how close the driver's side of the car is to the garage.

And then I hear the awful sound of stone against metal. The car stops.

"Fuck!" I yell, as Daddy becomes confuses at how to pull the car away from the wall without causing further damage.

"Turn the wheel to the left and go back," I offer.

He tries to drive forward, but the car won't budge.

"No, go back!" say.

Again, he tries to move the aircraft carrier car forward.

"No! Reverse!" I yell, forgetting how limited his English vocabulary is.

I see one of our annoyingly chatty neighbors pulling out of her garage in her early 80s Toyota Corolla. Every time I see this car I think two thoughts: How the hell is that tinny-looking thing running? and The bitch owns two houses on the block; time to sell one and buy a Mercedes.

I know that if we don't move this car, Chatty McCorolla is going to start talking to us, and she won't stop until the car runs out of gas and all the food in the trunk is spoiled.

Things only get worse when Car #3 appears from the other back alley entrance.

I get out of the car. "Oh, let me do this!"

Miraculously, I am able to get my father to release his death grip from the steering wheel and exit the car. I crank the wheel to the left, I stomp the gas, the car pulls away from the wall. The Circus of the Alley begins.

1. Drive forward and shoe horn car into neighbor's driveway so that Chatty McCorolla and Car #3 and get by.

2. Watch Chatty McCorolla easily make the turn where we got stuck.

3. Car #3 refuses to move.

4. Hit reverse. Navigate boat back into position without hitting garage. Pull forward into preferred spot by my parent's garage.

5. Examine very slight damage to fender trim. Tell father he needs to buy a new car.


Anonymous said...

Holy CRAP you have cracked me UP! HA! Love this story. I've been there many times myself--only I don't get out and help. I just sit and watch more damage unfold.

Wardens World said...

Good one, Chris. Reminds me of being trapped with my mom and dad in the car on trips out to my sister's house on Long Island. My bad-tempered dad didn't drive but felt it necessary to shout instructions to my mother from the front seat, while me and my brother cringed in the back seat and just wanted the day to be over already. Ah, family... said...

You are truly a master of illustration!

Hamamama said...

you are hilarious, and yes, you are the master of illustrations! that's great.

and i agree, one of my new pet peeves is when sales people at stores can text while they work...just ring me up so i can get the hell outta there!!!