Well, my Redwings are losing, and I find they play better when I don't watch, so I'm taking a moment to share this with you:
This is a chapter from the first of my three Elsie W. books. These books are going to be a huge departure for me as an author, since I've spent so many years crafting romantic stories that have little to do with real life. My Elsie Books, I promise you, are completely, utterly, and entirely, the truth. (Well, other than actual names of people, our company, cities other than Milwaukee, and specific addresses. Those have been changed to protect pretty much me.)
Here's a chapter, and it's not in it's final form yet, but still I like it.: Enjoy!
Chapter three: “To Serve and Protect…and take personal care of Elsie.”
Early on in our working relationship, I realized that Elsie is one of those people who truly believe that everyone around her is there to take care of her, and if someone doesn’t take care of her in the manner she expects, they have done her wrong.
Case in point, the second week I worked for Stuff Installed, she came rolling in like the circus she is, rolling food case, four purses, cotton candy hair, makeup all wild, and most of her clothing shifted out of place or coming unfastened, and she looked especially distracted.
“Hi Elsie.” I say, “How are you this morning?” I ask every morning.
“Not so good.”
That last time she said this, a tree had fallen on her house, so I was instantly ready to be comforting. “What’s up?”
“I think I left my iron on.”
“Oh.” See, I have no comforting response for that. We have an iron. I have a vague idea what it’s for. I ironed something once in college. I think my husband used our iron to melt the wax for his cross country skis once. “So won’t it turn itself off?” (My mother, who does iron, has one that turns itself off. And my mother is the least technologically advanced person I know.)
“No. It’s an old iron. I’m afraid my house will burn down.”
(You know, what’s left of it after the tree fell on it.)
“Well, why don’t you call a neighbor and ask them to turn it off?”
“None of my neighbors has a key.”
It should be noted, she’s talked of having a roommate…one that doesn’t work full time, and spends a lot of time at home. I’m starting to wonder if the roommate is imaginary…or wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer.
One of Elsie’s most noteworthy, and annoying, habits is calling information. Most of us call information as a last resort, when we can’t find the number, or we aren’t near a computer. Elsie, is not most people. She has unlimited Information on her phone plan. This means she never, in her mind, has to write down a phone number.
“Mudville Wisconsin….Mudville, Wisconsin. MUH-UD- VILLE WIS-CON-SIN. Yes, I live at 1234 Smith Lane. My neighbor’s address has to be about two numbers up or down. Can you give me their number?”
I can only imagine what the information operator said. I’m sure it was something like, “Do you have a name?”
“No. I don’t know their name. But my name is Elsie W. I live at 1234 Smith Lane. I’m sure my neighbor’s house has a number that’s two up or down from mine. Can’t you just give me their number? I left my iron on and I’m afraid my house will burn down.”
Again, I’m guessing here, but I’m thinking the Information Operator said something to the effect of “Are you insane?”
“What do you mean you won’t look it up? My house might burn down. Can’t you just call my neighbor? I’m sure they’ll be happy to go look.”
(I’m a charitable person, in spite of the tone of this book, but if Information called me and asked me to break into my neighbor’s house, I would be more than hesitant. Especially if I don’t know their names. Which I do. Normal people who have lived in their homes for more than seven days find out the names of the people they live next to…you know…in case they need to file a police report when the smell gets too strong to ignore.
Then again, I’m sure the neighbors DID know Elsie’s name.)
So Elsie hung up. But, undeterred, and unable to trouble herself to find a phone book, she dialed information again. “Mudville Wisconsin. MUH-UD-VILLE…WIS-CON-SIN! Police department please. POLICE DEPARTMENT PLEASE!”
Have I mentioned that making personal calls while at work is highly frowned upon at Stuff Installed? No? Well, it is.
“Yes, police? Hi, My name is Elsie W. and I live at 1234 Smith Lane. Can you go to my house, break in, and turn off my iron?”
I don’t have to guess what the police said because this time Elsie repeated everything the office said. “What do you mean you don’t do that?”
“Of course you do that. My house might burn down. Do you want that on your heads?”
“Just break in to the house, turn off the iron. Then it’s just a broke lock, instead of having a house fire, which would cost the city much more than a broken lock.”
(Yes, you read that correctly. She would charge the city for breaking the lock she asked them to break to turn off her iron.)
“So you won’t do it? You won’t go to my house and break in and turn off my iron?”
“You are willing to risk my house catching on fire?”
“You know, your police department is really bad. I know people who work here who say they would never live in Mudville because the police are really bad. And you won’t help me? What, you have so much to do, sitting there in your office?”
“Well, just so you know, you’re losers for not helping a single woman, and now I might just lose my house. I’m all alone, I have nothing and no one to help me.”
(Except that roommate you keep talking about and the cats that may or may not have escaped when the tree fell on your house.)
She hung up. I was, at this point, stuffing building permit forms into my mouth to keep from laughing out loud.
Elsie wasn’t done…oh no. No, her next call…well, it was to information.
“Mudville Wisconsin. MUH-UD-VILLE…WIS-CON-SIN. Give me the mayor’s office.”
(Wait…the mayor’s office? Really?)
“Hi, I’d like to speak to the mayor. Yes, I’m a tax payer in Mudville and I have a complaint about the treatment I’m receiving at the hands of the police in Mudville.”
“Hello, Mayor? Yes, I called to tell you that your police are complete losers and they won’t help me. I need them to go to my house and break in and turn off my iron so my house won’t burn down. Well of course they should do it. Other police departments do it for people all the time.”
(I have my doubts about that.)
“Well, just so you know, everyone in the Milwaukee area thinks Mudville is full of stupid red neck loser who won’t help out. Just so you know that.”
After dressing down the mayor, she hung up.
I was in shock. I’ve voted many times, but I’ve never actually talked to a person in public office. And I’ve certainly never yelled at a mayor because the police won’t break in to my house.
“Oh I know her,” says Elsie. “Our kids used to play together. And can I tell you something?”
Her question of death. If she asks this, I’ve learned that the answer is to run to the bathroom until her need to talk passes.
“That officer I talked to has it in for me.”
(Oh yeah, and she thinks everyone has it in for her.)
“It’s true. My son was once pulled over for drunk driving and that officer beat him up.”
“Oh that’s terrible.” Police brutality…in Mudville? It’s not terrible…it’s never happened.
“Yes, see, my son bullied him when they were in school and that guy held it against him. So when he pulled my son over, he beat him up. And then he tried to hit me just because I was trying to follow him to the police station to make sure he didn’t hit my son more. And when we got to the police station he arrested me for harassing him. “
(I would love to see the police report, since I have several questions, the first being, “What were you drinking that evening?”) Instead, I said, “Oh. Yes, that’s truly unfair.”
“I wasn’t speeding or anything, just following him. And he had me arrested. So he clearly has it in for me which is the only reason he wouldn’t go check on my iron.
(Right. That’ s the only reason. Your bad history with one local police officer.)
In case you’re worried, no, her house did not burn down. Her iron, while it was indeed on, was sitting on top of the drier, and therefore not anywhere near flammable materiels.
Elsie’s idea, however, that the world was at her service, doesn’t stop with the police department in her town. No, the county sheriff’s office became her personal GPS device shortly after we moved to the new office.
Between her home and the office location there are several choices for driving routes. None of them are very good and all of them take at least 30 minutes. My own drive is about that long. I’ve never been late for work. She’s never been on time.
When Stuff Installed moved from its old location near our homes, to a shiny new office further away, Elsie struggled with the drive. Well, she struggled with the ability to get her fanny moving to be to work at 11 AM. Yes, you read that right. 11 AM. She doesn’t have to wrestle with the masses who snake their way through the roads to get to work during rush hour. No, for her, a 30 minute drive probably means 30 minutes, but since she’s always late, she blames it on traffic.
Okay, that’s not fair. She doesn’t ALWAYS blame her tardiness on the traffic. There was a day she did blame it on her rolling cooler and four purses, all of which managed to stay in the driveway as she drove away from her house.
Nope, not making that up. She blamed her tardiness on her luggage.
“They weren’t in the car when I drove away, so I’m betting their just sitting there in the driveway. I have to go back and get them.”
“But you have your phone, right?” By this point, I knew that she kept her phone in the second of her four purses.
“Yes, but I was on the phone as I was driving out of the driveway.”
If the image of Elsie W. driving while on the phone doesn’t touch your soul with the icy grip of fear, it’s because you haven’t read enough.
Other than that one day with the luggage, she blames her tardiness on traffic so consistently, it seems, she has others convinced that she struggles as much with rush hour as anyone else. She’s good that way. Remember, she doesn’t have to be to work until 11 AM.
So it was no surprise when, on a perfectly lovely Monday morning, she called the office to inform us she was going to be late. She went on to tell me that if NBM didn’t believe her about the traffic, he could call the Walton Country sheriff’s department. I told her that probably wasn’t going to be necessary. (Given her basic mindset that everyone is out to get her, she’s a master at covering her fanny by saying, “If you don’t believe me…”)
She then arrived, seven to ten minutes late as is her habit, and proceeded to grouse about how bad traffic was.
“Funny, it’s well after rush hour,” I try to say with respect.
“Yes, well I called the Walton County Sherriff and he says that that stretch of the highway is ALWAYS busy no matter what. So I need you to map quest me a different route to work. Something that takes less time.”
Apparently, ‘please and thank you’ are not in Elsie’s vocabulary. So she’s got me cracking on finding her a better way to go.
There is no better way to go. She has a choice: The interstate, which she has been told is ALWAYS BUSY. (Yes, I’m the sheriff meant to say that there are always cars on that stretch of road. I’m sure he didn’t mean to make it sound like it’s always bumper to bumper. But Elsie, who believes the roads in front of her should involve NO cars, didn’t see it that way.) The other choice is two lane highways. I know, from experience, that these roads are always slower, though they may seem more direct. A good day on a two lane highway is never going to be as fast as a slow day on the interstate.
It took me about four minutes to plot out three routes from her house to work. I handed her the Mapquest printout of all three.
“What are these?” She immediately shuffled through the papers, putting them in the wrong order.
“The directions you asked for.”
“Oh…okay.” She shuffled through the papers again. “So which way is the fastest?”
“Can’t be. The sherriff told me that there is always traffic on the interstate.”
“Yes. There is. It’s the interstate. But the other routes are going to be slower. They are two lane roads, one winds through residential neighborhoods.
“Even at the time of day I come to work?”
Oh, how I ached to say, “No, at about ten thirty they widen to a four lane one way, Elsie Only drive just for you.”
Instead, I said, “Yes, I have driven these roads a lot and they are always slow.”
She waved a dismissive hand at me. “Well I’ve lived here for nearly 60 years. I’m sure the two lane highway is faster than the interstate.”
(Yes, but you asked me…oh never mind.)
Now I thought…and this is where I am stupid I guess, the matter was settled. She was going to drive the two lane road and that would be that.
Imagine my shock…the next day. THE NEXT DAY, when she arrived, seven minutes last as usual, and this happened:
“Hi Elsie. How are you this morning?’
It was bad. She ignored me and went right to her desk. And picked up the phone. Not her cell, which, as you know, has unlimited Information. No, she picked up her office phone, the one where all calls are recorded for training purposes. And this is what she did”
“Walton, Wisconsin. Walton, Wisconsin. WAL-AL-TON. WIS-CON-SIN. Sherriff’s department. SHERRIFF. OF WALTON. WISCONSIN. WAL-AL-TON. SHER-RIFF.”
(Seriously. But wait for it.)
“Yes, I’m the lady who called you yesterday and I’m wondering, did you find a better route for me to get to work?”
People, try calling your local sheriff. Don’t tell them your name, anything. Just launch into “Hi, I called you yesterday. Did you find the right road for me to take to work?” See what happens.
This is a woman who can’t remember a phone number other than 555-1212. Not even her own work number. (More on that later.) But she expects the Walton County Sheriff to remember, without any clues, who she is, where she’s driving, and what she wants. Better yet, she expects the sheriff to give a crap. I live in Walton County. We have a great sherriff’s department. But they not going to remember, write down, or acknowledge a request for the best driving route from Mudville to Westowne. (They will tell you it’s the interstate.)
And before you ask, no they won’t break into your house and turn off your iron either.