Thursday, September 25, 2008

Maybe a Little Less Conversation

At the beginning of the school year, I shared my views on the social rules that govern bus stop interaction for grown ups. Today there was an older woman whom I’ve seen around a few times. Her grandson rides the bus, and usually his mom, this woman’s daughter, picks him up. Once I asked the grandma if she lived near her daughter in the neighborhood. She was quick to tell me that her daughter lives with her, and she seemed affronted that I didn’t know. She said, “She lives with me. It’s my house.” I formed a negative impression of her then, based on just that brief exchange, and today my hunch was completely confirmed. So that you can share in how I had my very life force sapped this afternoon, here is our word-for-word dialogue. I had just walked up to the bus stop to find only the German au pair and this grandmother.

Me: Hi ladies.

Off-Putting Grandma: It’s hard to believe that so many kids live in this neighborhood, because it’s so quiet. (She said this with an air of accusation, as though our neighborhood kids are somehow not as robust and noisy as they should be.)

Me: Yes, it is. Though some streets are busier than others.

OPG: Oh, there are a lot of kids on your street?

Me: No, because we live in that little cul-de-sac, but the adjoining street has a lot of kids who are the same age. They’re always playing outside together.

OPG: We don’t let Trent out of our sight. There’s a lot of weird people driving through this neighborhood.

Me: There are?

OPG: Yes, you don’t see it because you don’t live on the main street.

Me: Maybe not. What are you seeing?

OPG: Years ago a man pulled up to the high schoolers waiting for the bus and flashed himself.

Me: Yuck.

OPG: And a Mexican man and a white lady wound up living in a vacant house when the neighborhood was being built.

Me: Like, they were squatters?

OPG: Yes, and we called the police, then the sheriff, then the tow trucks to get them out. If you pay attention, you see a lot of cars that don’t belong here driving through.

Me: Well, nothing exciting happens down our way. Nobody ever drives into our cul-de-sac.

OPG: Yes they do. One time a black man figured out the garage opener code of that pinkish house in the other cul-de-sac and was robbing the place. He drove up here from Dekalb to do it.

Me: Wow, that’s a long drive to break into someone’s garage. What year was that?

OPG: 1994. And that same year, a woman was out walking in Deer Creek (a nearby subdivision) and a man pulled her into the woods and raped her.

Me: Terrible. I wonder where the bus could be?

OPG: Do you live on the corner in that gray house?

Me: No, we live down in the little cul-de-sac.

OPG: Oh, are you the house down in the hole?

Me: No.

OPG: There was a handicapped man living in the gray house.

Me: He doesn’t live there anymore.

OPG: She left him or he passed away?

Me: I think he died before we moved in, and a few months ago, she moved out.

OPG: Well, one time the electricity went out and he was stuck in his garage. You say he died?

Me: I don’t really know—it was before our time. The woman there was very nice though. Look, there’s the bus!

OPG: Well, a handicapped man lived there for years.

So readers, you get the idea. I think she could have thought of terrible things to say and bad news to share until the sun went down. This encounter had so many layers of awfulness—bringing them all to light would require very patient excavation. The top layer is the total endemic racism of this woman’s worldview. Below that is her toxic negativity. And underneath that is a whole bloomin’ onion of bad things. I hope I don’t seem arrogant when I say that, based on this encounter, I now have full certainty that this woman is awful in all or most aspects of her life. Just awful. Also, everything out of her mouth was said with either a tone of rebuttal, or of very patiently explaining something to someone very stupid. So social rules or not, I am giving this woman the big chill from now on.

Other than that, it was a lovely day, and I hope you are all well.


Hootie said...

But deep down inside, aren't you a little bit grateful to her for providing fodder for a blog post? You should make her a trifle.

Amy said...


I'm sure it was excruciating...but it does make for interesting reading! Wow, that was a strong dose of bitter for the after school pickup! I wonder what has gone on in her life to make her so unpleasant? And the fact that it would be exposed so easily!

Family dynamics fascinate me--like, I wonder how she and her daughter relate to each other. (Yes, I am terribly nosy.)

CB said...


Becky said...

I know! Didn't you feel your joy ebbing as you read that?

And Hoot, it is true that blogging allows one some compensation for these frustrating encounters. Maybe I'll make her a tray of mini muffins, each containing a whole acorn.

Carrie said...

reminds me of every conversation i have ever had with my grandma.