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.
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.