I was having a Facebook Messenger chinwag with my loyal sidekick Andrew “Grover” Leal Wednesday night…and I vowed during that interaction that I was going to cease “lollygagging” and start getting content up on the blog on a regular basis. This ambitious promise would begin on Thursday; I would grab a title from a stack of DVDs that threatens to topple over and kill me in my sleep one of these nights, watch the movie, and have a review up Friday morning.
As you’ve already surmised…this event did not come to pass. But there’s a story to go with it.
I got a late start Thursday morning due to my decision to sleep in (I had a rather fitful night…maybe I was worried about toppling DVDs, I can’t be certain) so when I finally rose and shone I was seated at my desktop giving my e-mailbox a quick look-see. That’s when my mother enters this little drama.
“I need you to pull up my bank account,” she says in a half-whisper. (I think she was worried that my father would hear her…but judging from how the TV’s volume is maintained in our living room there’s little chance of that.) “I think I forgot to pay the rent.”
It took me a few minutes to log into her online account, mostly because I always have trouble remembering the answers to her security questions. Let me just break here and say that it’s no picnic having to remember not only my passwords/security answers but those of my parents. It doesn’t help that I can’t use the same password for every account, either; I know they tell you this is a bad idea, but companies compound the complications by insisting that your password consist of one uppercase letter, one number, and that symbol that Prince used to go by before he changed his name back to Prince. I finally got to the point where I had to start writing down passwords, particularly in the case of CVS.com, where we have three separate accounts for Mom, Dad, and I. (CVS’ website also sucks because I needed to use three different e-mail accounts as well.)
But I digress. I log into her bank account and scan it to see if I can find the rent payment. “I don’t see it, Mom.”
“Then I forgot to pay it. I was awake early this morning asking myself if I paid it, and when I couldn’t find it in the check register I knew I hadn’t. Will you print out directions to the realty and then come with me…so we can take care of this?”
This will not be too much of a problem, if you’ll allow me another digression. When my mother was in the hospital for back surgery, her handling-of-the-household-accounts duties shifted to my father…who, while successfully mailing the rent out on time, forgot to put a stamp on the envelope. (Our life is just one big sitcom.) We discovered this the day the rent was due, since USPS was nice enough to note Dad’s boo-boo on the envelope. The landlord’s office is in downtown Athens, so I knew this was going to be an adventure because Dad couldn’t find a downtown address even with the most sophisticated navigational methods known to man. (He just has a terrible sense of direction, and only remembers where places are after rigorous repetition.) Thanks to my crack scouting skills, however, we did eventually find the realtor and righted our rent wrong. That’s why Mom wanted me to go with her.
Mom’s sense of direction is far superior to that of my father’s, but it’s also far more timid. You see, the ‘rents and I will be celebrating our tenth anniversary of living in this area (we technically no longer reside in Athens, but it’s just 20 minutes away) this August, yet even after being here for so long my mother is always hesitant to go places with which she’s not familiar. If she’s got an appointment somewhere out of her usual environs, she’ll have me print up a Google map and a day or two before that appointment, conduct a “test run” to make certain she finds the place. (I know this sounds kind of silly…but there have been at least two, count ‘em, two occasions when Google has neglected its mission statement of “Don’t be evil” and we have wound up hopelessly lost.)
Back to our exciting narrative. Our trip to the realty was without incident; it was only after we took care of the delinquent rent that Mom, returning to the car, asks me: “How do we get out of here?” (Me: “We don’t. We sleep in the car until we die.”) I have a pretty good memory for street names…but here’s the thing: you can be driving down a street in Athens…come to a stoplight…and once you’re through the intersection, find that the street name has completely changed in imitation of the light. This must be a uniquely Southern condition because streets in Savannah (our former stomping grounds) did the same thing…it kind of ticks me off, to be honest. That aside, a few Classic City streets later and Mom was back in her comfort zone.
On our way to the realtor, Mom was a little upset (she kept reminding me of ZaSu Pitts, hand gestures and all) as to how she could have forgot paying the rent…and eventually we decided that the reason was due to the commotion surrounding the selling of my father’s van. Allow me one last digression.
My father bought a 1989 E-150 Ford Van in 1994, the year he decided to take early retirement (at age 62). He purchased the vehicle because Dad was determined to make a success out of flea marketing, and while he went into the venture with boundless energy and enthusiasm…he never really achieved his dream of junk wealth beyond his wildest dreams. (A couple of episodes of Steptoe and Son/Sanford and Son might have cured him of this notion, had I caught it in time.) He put a lot of miles on that vehicle (over 120,000) and because of his recent eyesight problems he can’t go tooling around like he did in the past. When sister Kat and brother-in-law Craige visited us in January to help with The Great Storage Area Liquidation Project they emptied the van of the various odds and ends he had acquired over the years. (The running gag in our household was whenever we couldn’t find a certain something Dad would always remark: “I think I have one of those in the van.”)
A recent visit from Kat prompted a discussion on what we were going to do with the van…particularly since Dad was going to have to pay insurance on the vehicle in April. Kat was dead-set against him doing this, remarking (to my amusement) that this was “a hell of a lot of money to shell out for a lawn ornament.” We had tried to coax my father into selling the van after the storage shed was emptied out, but—and I can certainly understand his sentiment on this, even if I do think it’s impractical—he was really reluctant to part with the van.
I proposed a solution after Kat told Dad in no uncertain terms was he to put an ad on Craigslist (the Atlanta TV stations’ newscasts are larded with tales with poor souls who wind up beaten and robbed after innocently listing items on that platform): we’d list the van on Nextdoor.com, which is kind of a Facebook for local neighborhoods. I wrote the copy and Dad suggested changes here and there, then I went outside and took the picture below with the laptop. I posted the item for sale (Dad asked for $150—the amount of the insurance), and we hired two part-time operators to handle the influx of phone calls.
Okay, I’m being facetious about that last part. We got one phone call from someone who was interested, told us he was coming by to check the vehicle out…and then never showed. (Which pissed Mom off to no end, because she held up dinner waiting on this jamoke. Dad posited that this individual probably drove by and decided he wasn’t interested…but that’s no excuse for rudeness.) Granted, the van was not in what President Baby-Man calls “tippy-top shape”: the tires needed replaced, the driver’s side mirror was out, and the gas gauge had stopped working years ago (which always made life interesting as Dad would gamble that he had enough gas to get back home). Also—and I say this in my best Marge Gunderson voice—“Prowler needs a jump.” Another week went by, and with no further interest we executed Plan B.
Athens’ alt-weekly newspaper is the Flagpole, and in researching their classified ads I learned that the rate for a 25-word ad was $10 weekly. But here’s the thing: they also featured a “Run till Sold” option—we could run the ad for twelve weeks (three months) and only pay for four ($40). My copywriting skills were once again pressed into service, and after whittling down what I wrote in the Nextdoor.com blurb (I really had to do some pruning), we were ready to submit the ad to Flagpole. (We had a little difficulty getting Flagpole’s online software to cooperate…so I had to submit the ad via e-mail, and the circulation manager got back to me after the weekend to make sure it ran on Wednesday the 28th.)
We got a phone call the following day from a prospective buyer…who asked Dad if he could come by and check it out that Friday around 10am. A gentleman who lived about six miles from our house came by with his sister and brother-in-law and applied the jumper cables when Dad told him the battery needed recharging. There was a snag: Dad’s van had been parked in the yard for so long that the fuel pump was locked, and it wouldn’t crank. (The buyer said he could tell by the sound—he works on cars for a living.) Despite this, he wanted the van…and Dad even knocked 50 bucks off the asking price because of the fuel pump problem.
The buyer had to wait for AAA to come by and tow the vehicle, so my parents’ usual routine got interrupted (Mom announced she was going to get some lunch at the Kroger’s counter because “I’m not going to stay here and be entertained by the road company of Deliverance”) and the guy’s brother-in-law (who was a few books shy of a bookshelf) wore out my father’s ear with a non-stop monologue about his life and activities. The van eventually went off with its new owners, much to the delight of my mother (and relief of my other sister Debbie, who remarked on Facebook: “Nice. Just get it out of there!”)…though Mom has been getting a lot of mileage of “missing van” jokes (when we got back from the realtors she cracked: “I don’t know if this is our house…I no longer have the van as an identifying marker”).
Also, too: when I phoned Flagpole to let them know we sold the van, so they could stop running the ad; the circulation manager (Stephanie) informed me she’d give us a thirty-dollar credit (I had expected to be charged the full $40). I thought this was darned nice of her, though Mom had a dissenting opinion (“What the hell are we going to do with a $30 credit?”).
So that, in my usual long-winded fashion, is The Van Saga…and why my carefully-crafted blogging plans were sidelined by The Singular Case of the Delinquent Rent. I will retire to my boudoir as soon as this is ready to post to partake of a motion picture and the review will be ready Monday…honest to my Grandma.