Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Image result for delivery man old fashioned

Back when I moved into my second house in Scarsdale, I had a neighbor, Iris, who, with her husband John, came to our Sukkah one year and regaled me with stories of the feuds she had with deli men all over New York City.

Deli men?

Yeah. This one once put the wrong tuna with the cranberries on her bagel, this one deliberately failed to put the free chips in the bag. Another gave her a funny look when she asked for four sugars in the coffee.  What funny look? I don’t know. A funny look. I would never go into that deli anymore.

By the time she had finished, we were up to dessert.  I realized that even though she worked mid-town, she needed an extra hour for lunch because she had ixnayed every single deli in walking distance.

I said: Isn’t feuding with everybody—exhausting?

As she shrugged, John said, in that complete yes-this-is-my-life-but-that’s-just-fine tone: Iris is picky.

Picky, I’ll raise you a picky.

Fast forward. I am now living in Maine where snow is freely dispensed and generously adorns everything.

It’s also mighty cold.

The heating oil delivery company says their driver will come and deliver the oil.
When he doesn’t come, I call.

Oh yes, he was there, the receptionist says.

Nu, why didn’t he deliver the oil?

He said he couldn’t get to it, to the hose connection outside the house.


There was snow.

Of course there was snow. It’s December. It’s Maine.
I hang up only after she promises me he will be there tomorrow.

10 degrees. 5 degrees. Minus 5 degrees.
I’m waiting. I have little twins, dammit.

Finally, the delivery guy, whose name is, yes, Guy, shows up.

I point to the connection on the outside wall of the house. There are stone steps leading down to it.  There are a few inches of snow on the steps.

He just stands there.

I shovel them, while he waits.

Nope. Not going. I’m not killin’ myself. I got kids.

Howzabout going around the house the other way, I ask. Because I got kids, too. And they’re going to freeze.

You remind me of my ex-wife, he says. She was Jewish, too.

Whoa? This is Maine. We are not in the Tri-State Area anymore, Toto. It’s a little creepier here. Is he even allowed to… What would his supervisor say if I…

I can’t imagine why you divorced her, I say, breezily.

He stares at me, but then nods, goes back to the truck, undoes the hose and shleps it around the house, the other way, the long way, where there are no steps.

I watch him from my perch as he fills the tank and tells me about his kids.
And how he’s strict with them. I believe that. I believe that very much.

In January it snows, too. More snow than I have ever seen, in fact.

Time for the oil delivery.

He doesn’t show.

In Maine it’s kind of hard to get workmen to come to the house more than once.
The first time, they're all T-squares and measuring tape and dirty fingernails and can do; all lumberjack in plaid and flannel from L. L. Bean though here you just say Beans.

They look competent. It’s a fraud.

They might be on their way to your house to say, install the dishwasher that’s been poking out of it’s place under the counter like an outie bellybutton for three weeks, and a friend of theirs suggests fishin’.

Boom. No show.

I call the company.

Oh yes, he was there, the receptionist says.


He said there was too much snow.

It’s taken me four months, four full months to calm down from my natural New York City state of calm.

The tension returns, right between my shoulder blades.

I get them to send him.

Forty-five minutes later he shows up with a smirk.

I go inside my house with my cell phone. I whisper furiously: Can’t you send another driver?

Nope. He’s our only guy on that route.

He is still standing in my driveway and has made no move to deliver the oil. He has not lifted that orange thingie on the back of the truck and revealed the giant bobbin that holds the 100-foot black hose.

Nope. Still the only Guy in town.

I try to reason with him. You like music?

Yeah, I like music.

I walk him down the path towards the hose connector. Not the long way around path, not the steps path, but yet another path that involves walking down my neighbor’s driveway and around my own personal Mt. Katahdin of snow.

I don’t like to go on a neighbor’s driveway, he says.

He goes back to the truck. He hesitates. I hold my breath.

YES! He is releasing the orange thingie and there is the hose!

That will be $500 dollars.

And now, it’s February. Half the synagogue has checked out—to Florida, to California, to the Dominican Republic.

We remain; the Frozen Chosen.

Oil is low, my husband says.

It's vacation week, but the guy will come on Monday.

Sunday evening, 7 o’clock, it starts to flurry.  By 11:30, huge chunks the size of marshmallows are coming down. Of course I can’t sleep.

By 4 in the morning, Maine is another freakin’ winter wonderland, dumped with another two feet. How much snow does He have?

By 7:15 AM the streets are plowed. The kids have school.

I gentle them awake, and dress my little princess as she lies inert in her little princess bed while the little prince sits in front of the heater. It’s so cute when he shakes his little socks at the heater to warm them up.

I get them to school, come home, and panic. I am taking an on-line course which is turning out to be a lot more work than I thought, the car is due at the shop, the dogs are barking and Guess Who is coming?

I call the company.

Oh, we can never tell you when he is going to show. The drivers start out at 6 in the morning and they have a full day.

I look towards the steps. No way. The house is completely surrounded by 4-foot-deep icy crusty snow. No way.

I look down at my neighbor’s driveway. The driveway is shoveled, but then there is the 4-foot-deep issue—all the way and I mean all the way across the yard to the connector.

I sigh and get the shovel.

I don’t know why this is, but when you are angry, you cannot lift weights. I know this because I was at the gym once and I was in a stupid fight with Sruli and I couldn’t lift at all. It’s like your muscles are so tense already, they can’t handle the extra pressure.

But I didn’t know when Guy was going to come. And I knew damn well he wasn’t going to walk through that snow. And he might come any minute. And the dogs were still barking.

I am still sore from this, but I set to work like a madwoman. I heaved and ho-ed. My eyes were tearing. And the dogs were still barking,

5 shovelfuls for each advance. It was…overwhelming, infuriating, frustrating and really heavy lifting.

I kept hearing what sounded like a big truck coming up the hill. It was probably my blood pressure rising.

Halfway. Wow! Halfway!

I mused, as I shoveled, that I should run to Joanne’s Fabrics and buy some red carpet to roll out on the newly shoveled path before he comes.

Or maybe line the path with the candy canes the twinkies made us buy on sale at Walmart after Christmas.

But I didn’t want him to get mad. It is exhausting, Iris. EX-HAUS-TING.

I make it to the connector, inch by inch, pound by pound. I smooth out the area right where he will stand.

Still no show.

I go into the house, get my phone, come back outside to take a picture of the path for Sruli. He has been shlepping up to Augusta all week for a police chaplaincy seminar. See what I also do for this family, I am saying.

The house is getting colder and I can’t concentrate so well.

I call the company.

Oh, he’ll be there, the receptionist says. Before the end of day.

At 3, I go to pick up the twinkies. They are cranky and demanding and I have to take them to Pizza Hut RIGHT THIS MINUTE to redeem the free pizzas that they earned for reading 10 books this month.

And NOT the Pizza Hut that we went to with Amelia. The one we went to with Katelyn. That’s the good one.

I drive to the good one. Which is closed due to maintenance problems. Yeah. I bet I know who delivers their oil.

I take the twinkies  to Applebees. I hate Applebees.

But they are in heaven. Apparently the grilled cheese is just the way we like it, Mommy; the fries are not too crispy (?) and there is a nice dipping sauce for the apples.
My salmon is terrible.

At least Applebees has heat.

Sruli calls as we are leaving. He’s on his way home. Did the guy come?

I don’t know. I hope so.

Did you notice the temperature in the house when you left?

Amazingly, I did. 48.

Oy, he says. Did you leave some water running? Yes. Good, he says.

I say: Did you get the picture of the path I shoveled?

Yes. I can’t believe you did that.

When I get home, the yellow receipt is stuck in the door.  I exult.

O Lord, deliver me from harsh thoughts, from petty grievances. Make me not like Iris who seethes, rather allow me to see that it’s dangerous for a man with kids, a man whose been at it since 6 in the morning, to walk through the ice and snow at every house. Grant me understanding, Lord. 

Deliver me. Deliver this day my oil.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Heavy Load

Image result for laundry

Compared to the horrors our people suffered, heck compared to anything anyone had ever suffered, this is nothing to kvetch about. But here goes:

For thirteen months, I had no washing machine.

We were living in the shul in North Bergen, New Jersey and the machine broke and since everything there was supposed to be temporary, the $600 to fix the machine was never found, nor was I authorized by the board to pay for it myself.

So, like the rest of my Spanish speaking neighbors, I found myself at the Lavanderia de Ropas.

The parking lot was deceptively large, but besides the Laundromat it served a Dunkin Donuts, a Quick Check, a CVS, and a Burger King. AND it was the hangout of choice for the Young and Latino.

It was impossible to find a spot. I schlepped the twinkies’ stuff, Sruli’s stuff, and my eighteen black items in various containers ranging from the purple mesh bag leftover from Zachary’s dorm days to the plastic white plastic laundry baskets from Target that really don’t fit so nicely on your hip.

The place was teeming. 

Kids running around with candy, people screaming superfast into cell phones, six TV’s all tuned to Univision, blasting the fights of the handsomest soap opera couples I have ever seen. The Young and the Restless Latino. “Por que, Ramon? Por QUEEEEEEEEEE?”

I guess I looked out of place and confused about a certain tarjeta that I was supposed to use to get the machines going.

That’s when I met Mario. He came over to me with the card that had a picture of a dollar on it morphing into huge green arrow. Apparently you had to pay two dolares for the card, but Mario had an extra.

He was in charge of the Lavanderia. I told him that my machine had broken down and (stupid naïve me) it should probably be fixed in a week or so.

He led me to the two biggest machines in the place. Both had signs on them that even with my pidgeon Spanish I knew said Out of Order.

He took off the signs and motioned to me to put my dirty clothes inside. I motioned to the signs in his hand. He motioned to my dirty clothes. I motioned to the signs again, and he winked.


Three weeks later I had abandoned all pretense of having my machine fixed, heck of ever having had a machine to call my own.

We had more than an understanding. We had a standing date.

The Lavanderia closed at 10PM which meant the last loads had to go in my 8:30. I sashayed in at 9:45 each and every Wednesday, grabbed two of his fabulous laundry carts that wheeled in every direction, took them out to my car, dumped my stuff therein, and wheeled them, past the Burger King into the Laundromat.

While I used the best machines, Mario emptied lint filters, polished handles and mopped floors. While I folded pink princess and blue monster size 3T sleeper pajamas, Mario would fold the laundry of those lucky enough to be able to afford $1.20 per pound for full drop-off service .

I guess I was one of those lucky enough, but I can’t trust anyone not to put my black clothes in the dryer, and what happened was that while it was a major pain to leave the shul-house in the middle of the night with heavy piles of laundry, sometimes in the freezing rain or snow, brave hellacious Bergenline Avenue, try to find a spot in that farshtunkene lot, and then spend the next 2 plus hours shoving clothes in various stages of cleanliness and humectation with a tarjeta that only worked the EXACT OPPOSITE way the arrow pointed, bedeviling me every freakin’ time—I started to enjoy those moments, between loads and amid the freneticism, yea even away from mommydom and wifedom, when I could be alone.

I always bought Mario a fancy ice tea and a King Size Almond Joy from CVS. The first time I did it, he was very surprised. After that, he would see me go out to get my Caffeine Free Diet Coke and little package of cashews (38 minutes before the spin cycle) and wait happily for his treat.  He started to share his life story with me—apparently he worked three jobs so his daughter could go to medical school. He hated either his ex-wife or his mother, frankly he spoke very quickly, and it had been a long time since I was Senor Greenberg’s star Spanish student in High School.  Verdad!

When I was first married, I lived in a tiny apartment in Forest Hills. Both Robert and I worked full time and we sprung for the full service, which included pickup and delivery.

Every Thursday at 7:30AM, before the mad dash to the E or F train, one of us would call and they would answer in the thickest, juiciest of Russian accents: HALLO LUNDREE CENTR!

Within three minutes we would hear the buzz from downstairs, then the elevator would groan and we would meet them at the door with our mesh bag.

At night, same thing in reverse.

They were so fast and efficient, that one morning I swear we heard the buzz downstairs before we even made the call. We looked at each other? Did you? No. HALLO LUNDREE CENTER!

Anyway, this went on for about three years.

And then, one Thursday morning, we called. And they picked up. HALLO REAL ISTATE.

Silence. Wait, isn’t this LUNDRY CENTR?
Excuse me, isn’t this LUNDRY CENTR?

NO. Same thick, juicy Russian accent. NO. NO LUNDRY CENTR.  REAL ISTATE.

You know, they never acknowledged that they had ever been LUNDRY CENTR. Never. I passed by their place on 108th street a week or so later and there was a big Real Estate sign. No sign of any washers or dryers.  There were lots of Russian people moving into the neighborhood and I guess it was a better business.

I also guess that more than any of the other homemakers arts, I take laundry seriously.  I’m a pretty good cook, sweep enough to keep the dustbunnies at bay, and shpritz the Lysol around in the bathroom, but I really make sure the kids and Sruli always have full drawers of clean socks. Sruli even makes fun of my zealousness, but then he will turn around and thank me for doing laundry right before a trip so that he has enough black gig clothes to choose from.

Thirteen months.

This past summer, in our beautiful new house in beautiful Maine, the appliance gods delivered two large gifts.

Brand new Whirlpools. High Efficiency. Washer and Dryer. Shiny and White. 

My very own LUNDRY CENTR.

I put in a full load of little socks, underwear, and pink kitty and blue robot size 5T sleepers.
I thought about my long nights with a tired me and an overworked Mario. And all those people with their candy eating kids who were probably there right now watching The Young and the Restless Latinos scream at full volume.

It was very quiet as I pressed the button.

The machine started to whirl.

And I started to cry.