Sunday, May 5, 2013

i just haven't decided on a title for this one yet

anne lamott has a story called "the carpet guy."  it's always been a favorite of mine...makes me laugh and gives me the ability to see grimy little parts of myself that doesn't hurt as bad as a regular mirror.  i have a similar story.  i'm going to try to tell it...

my son was in a car wreck friday morning at 7:30.  i had been up with my three year old a couple of times in the middle of the night, so i got up with him to write a note and sign a permission slip (yes, they still require those for eighteen year olds apparently...), but then i kissed him, explained my sleep deficit, and excused myself back to bed.  he came to kiss me good-bye, and (i am so glad for this), i told him i loved him.  and went back to bed.  and was awoken by a very scared sounding eighteen year old on my phone, telling me he'd just been in a wreck.  he sounded both very alive and present in the moment, but also very confused as to how this had happened.  i asked him where he was and if he was okay.  he was on the same (DAMNED) stretch of road we've seen at least five wrecks on while on his way to school since we've moved out here.  i could go into all the thoughts of "i can't believe i didn't tell him not to drive that way to school" and similar or progressive thoughts to that one, but i won't.  if you're a mom, i'm sure you can fill in those blanks.  i told him i'd be there in a minute.  (because frankly, i 've never had a wreck...yes, in over twenty years of driving, i had no experience to tell my son what to do next, and all i had to offer was "i'll be there in a minute...let me throw on clothes.  i love you.")

the rest of the day went fine.  my husband was able to coach us a bit on the phone, the police officer was very helpful, my son received a citation for failure to control his speed (which apparently is a common challenge for young drivers on that particular stretch of highway), and we all made it home fine.  i will mention, because it is relevant to a story i'm TRYING to make short, but i just don't think i'm going to succeed, that a wrecker (hired by the city police) picked up my son's totaled (for the second time, it was a hand-me-down from my stepfather who salvaged it at the collision center he manages) truck.  when i made my calls once we were home-insurance, police department, municipal court, and then the wrecker company-the wrecker man told me my car was totaled and that most people just sign over the titles to their cars to him.  i told him i'd get back to him.

fast forward some hours to that evening, and when my husband called the wrecker man to inquire about the cost of towing my son's car, the wrecker man told him that most people just title their cars to him and call it even.  my husband told him he'd get back to him.

now, we live five minutes from a pick and pull auto parts place.  we see the sign often, think places like that are awesome, use them ourselves when necessary, and my husband called that place.  they offered us $600 for the car, knowing it was totaled, site unseen, offering to pick the car up from the wrecker place for free.  so we went to bed last night, grateful the wreck wasn't any worse than it was, grateful our son and the driver of the other car were fine (it's texas...the other driver was a big truck with a big back bumper...she really just needed a broom to dust my son's car's debris off her back bumper), and just generally a little more appreciative of life.

now's where i realize this one's going to be long, but i'm committed to stick with it...i apologize.  :)

today we were going to look at cars.  i have made the radical decision that even though my son made a few mistakes his junior year, and even though we've struggled with regaining trust, that ultimately, he's a good, responsible kid.  also, i like life with another driver in the house.  and i like what the responsibility and independence of him driving does for our home and our relationship.  so i wanted that car replaced.  unapologetically.  so this morning, the first order of business was to get the totaled car's towing costs paid for and make arrangements for the pick and pull peeps to take ownership.  this sounds so easy, taking one sentence to express and all...but it was one awful experience.

i'm going to start the story with some realizations that may ruin it...because no one has every actually expressed them.  but i think it will be quicker and i'm just going to have some faith.  it turns out the wrecker man doesn't have business hours on saturday or sunday.  and when my husband said he'd be there soon to pay the towing fees, the wrecker man did not take that to mean two hours later, my husband and oldest son would show up to clean out the car and pay him.  this is just part of my life with my husband, but the wrecker man was a little put off by it, i think, although he never expressed this to my husband.  and i believe he decided to be a little jerky about that...well, the time thing on top of the fact that my husband refused to title the car to him to let the wrecker man make the money selling it to the pick and pull place.  so when the wrecker man told my husband that he only accepted cash on the weekends, and my husband left to get cash to pay him, the wrecker man left, and began a day of cat and mouse that would have any cat hungry and any mouse feeling pretty darned good about his evasion tactics.    my husband would drive out there again, at a prearranged time, and the wrecker man wouldn't be at his place of business.  yet, somehow, it would be my husband's fault that the meeting was another miss.  we drove out together, my husband and i, and our nephew who we were keeping for the day, and our three year old and our nine year old.  and again, another miss.  and again, it was our fault.  the wrecker man would tell my husband (both times) that he'd JUST been there and would come back if willing, but it would be such a hassle, set a time, and not be there.

meanwhile, our pick and pull guys were trying to get in the game and get through the jobs ahead of us so they could go get the car.  but we were not being successful at getting the car "released" and paid for.

so i called the police department that contracts with the wrecker man asking for some help.  the officer found it questionable that we'd been told to title the car to the guy three times and still had no price to work with, but he explained the wrecker man's interests (he didn't want to be stuck storing a car that no one would pay for the storage of) and suggested we try to coordinate all three of us (wrecker man, pick and pull, and us) being there at the same time so money could get exchanged, car removed, and business d.o.n.e.  he said he'd call wrecker man as well.

at this point, we arrange for pick and pull to be there, wrecker man says he'll be there, and after dropping my husband at a car dealership, i head back with three littles to be there.  well.

pick and pull got there early, wrecker man locks them in his yard, tells them they can't have car because i am not there to pay, everyone leaves, and i swear, i must've pulled up two minutes later.  i wait, thinking i'm there to finish business.  find out from pick and pull their story.  call wrecker man to see if he's going to meet me (and i should say that this is the first time i'd talked to any of them husband had been working with them and i really don't think wrecker man expected it to be the mrs. on the phone). 

wrecker man then begins to unleash the frustration and crappiness and anger of the day on me.  tells me how INCONVENIENT this has been for him, how he's looking out for his business, how my husband hasn't ACTUALLY PAID him yet, how he IS NOT going to release my car until i've paid...bla bla bla.  (and i don't mean to discount his feelings...the police officer had really helped me see this guy's perspective...but seriously...)  i tell him i'm sorry for the inconvenience, explain that i am outside of his place of business, have been there waiting for half an hour, have three little kids in my car and cash in my hand with no other intention than TO PAY HIM.  he talks about how he never knows when we'll be there or not.  i tell him that i heard him arrange the time on my husband's phone (which plays all over the car in his rental car...seriously, i GET that it's safer to talk on the phone and drive like that, but i don't think whoever had that idea had five kids...just sayin).  i tell him other things, but not angry things because i have these three little ones in my car...and i just don't want to ruin their days by going crazy on the phone.  so they kept me in line...and i apologized to this guy.  obviously, there was some miscommunication going on.  i finally just tell him that i see, on the front of his business, that he doesn't even have saturday business hours, so i'll meet pick and pull there on monday, when he's already going to have someone there and we don't have to try to coordinate this stuff.  he tells me about all the extra storage fees i'll have to pay, about a certified letter fee he's going to charge me if i'm not there FIRST THING monday morning (he was still pretty angry) and i tell him "fine."  (don't you have it when people answer "fine"?)  he tells me he IS GOING TO CHARGE me those fees, and i say "go ahead and charge me.  i don't care.  you obviously don't care that we're trying to avoid them and it appears that us being able to coordinate this depends on you caring.  and you don't have to care.  it's not your job.  so i'll see you monday."

now, let me add here, that while i'm shakey at this point from being unleashed upon by a grown man, and i'm also pretty sure my husband's going to be pissed at me for drawing a boundary that is probably going to cost us over a hundred extra dollars, i'm pretty resolved that this is the solution we've all been looking for.  maybe we can salvage the day.  and i'm thinking i should really go get some cool drinks for these children that have been in the car for over an hour, playing wonderfully...

five minutes later he calls me to try to get me to meet him there with the pick and pull RIGHT THEN.  i tell him no thanks, i've alredy told the pick and pull to put my car on monday's schedule, and i'll see him monday.  then i bawl...very silently, so as not to alarm the wonderfully playing children in the back seat.

ten minutes later he calls and offers to tow the car himself to the pick and pull tomorrow morning, FIRST THING, and to charge me a flat rate of $200.  (we'd had some words over the fact that he had not yet given us an amount that we owed him...i'm telling you, he really just wanted the title.)  i tell him that's  not necessary, i'd really jusr rather see him monday.  he says he wants this deal over with, i tell him ok, i'll see you there first thing tomorrow morning...and what time is that?  nine.  got it.

fifteen minutes later, he calls and tells me he's going to tow the car to the pick and pull and not charge me anything for any of his services.  i tell him that's not necessary.  that i'd really just rather meet him tomorrow morning, that i know it's been an inconvenient day for all involved.  he asks me to let him do this so he can "be a person or something."  and all of the fight drains right out of me.  while i wasn't arguing with him about money (which he was clearly up to arguing about), i couldn't argue for my boundary anymore.  i was angry that this guy was so rude and difficult and had drained my day away and then thought he was going to call and tell me what he was going to do now.  i was so fracking tired of being told what he was going to do.  but that fight drained out of me, i told him to do what he wanted to do, he reiterated his plan, and i thanked him.  we hung up.

two hours later, he called to say the car was at pick and pull with a zero balance invoice.  two minutes, pick and pull called to tell me the same.  i thanked wrecker man when he called.  i thanked pick and pull when they called and will meet them tomorrow morning to title the car to them and get paid.  i have never worked so hard for $600 in my life.  (and i used to get that much a MONTH for teaching preschoolers five days a week, three hours a day, plus two extra hours to watch ballerinas before their class...i thought that was WORK lemmetellya.)

so this was much longer than i wanted it to be.  and i left stuff out.  like when he was talking to me about the  money for car, and paying for the car, and releasing the car, and i mentioned that the car happened to be what my eighteen year old son was driving before it became fodder for pick and pull.  (i might have gotten the slightest bit teary when i said that...)

i'll come back and add any reflections or insights.  for now, i just know that not fighting back is sometimes a good thing.  it can give a person a chance to realize what they're saying or doing when i don't give them back as good as they're giving.  i also knowing that not fighting can become its own fight, and then i have to work to not fight that.  i have no idea how i would've handled today if i hadn't have had three little kids that i love and want to trust me in the car.  but i worked to handle a situation they weren't even aware of in a way that would be deserving of their trust.  and i totally get that sometimes, you have to fight to deserve some one's trust.  i'm not proposing every situation be handled the way i handled today.  i don't know that i could repeat today if i tried.  but today was a really good day.  it was tiring.  i'm full of tears i may or may not get to cry (and some of those may be yesterday's tears, i really don't know).  but it was a good day.


ps--back to anne lamott's story...i thought about it a lot today.  and i do believe i will send the guy some money.  he did tow a car we owned twice.  and his bad behavior doesn't negate the work he did.  at least, this is the hill i'm hoping to make it to the top of by monday or so.  i see it, i know i want to go there, but i'm pretty tired today.  :)

1 comment:

Hope said...

barnes and noble....all i'm gonna say...barnes and you.