Travelling and Telephones

Several years ago my Aunt Sharon was getting into Nanna’s car and she noticed a big black smudge in the middle of the steering wheel. Sharon, who firmly believes that cleanliness is next to godliness and takes both of these virtues very seriously, immediately inquired as to the cause of this unsightly mark.

“Oh, it’s just ink,” explained Nanna. “That’s where I hold my newspaper on yard sale day.”

Apparently this used to be a habit of hers on Saturdays; she would fold the newspaper to the ads section and drive around town in search of the advertised sales, no doubt posing all kinds of hazards to life and limb as she careened around corners with her eyes on the paper. Fortunately, those were the days before texting and therefore everyone else on the road was alert enough to avoid catastrophe.

Eventually Nanna became unsteady on her feet (and ran out of storage space) and fell out of the yard sale habit. Instead she took up a new hobby: worrying. This could be done from the comfort of her La-Z-Boy and meshed perfectly with her other favorite pastime: complicating the lives of her offspring.

Driving to visit Nanna invariably entailed phone calls that would go something like this:

Phone rings.

Us: Hello?

Nanna: Oh, thank goodness you’re alive. Why aren’t you here yet?

Us: It’s five o’clock. We told you we’d be there at six.

Nanna: Well, hurry up. I’ve been worrying about you all day long.

So we’d reassure her and then we would hang up the phone and wonder why she had felt it necessary to devote an entire day to worrying about a two-hour drive. But Nanna was never one to leave things till the last minute.

Sometimes she’d call before we’d even left, demanding to know what the holdup was.

“Nanna, it’s three o’clock,” Mom would say. “The girls aren’t even out of school yet.”

“Well, I’ve been expecting you for half an hour,” Nanna would huff, indignant that she should be expected to conform to such trivialities of time and space. “Y’all should have told me you were coming so late.”

 “We did!” Mom would yell, only not out loud because that is not what proper Southern women do. She managed to save the rant until after she had hung up the phone.

My Aunt Carrie, who often drove up to spend weekends with Nanna, had similar problems. One weekend the phone call might go like this:

Nanna: Carrie? Where are you? I’ve been waiting for hours.

Carrie: It’s Friday, mother. I don’t get off work until five. I’ll see you tonight.

Nanna: Well couldn’t you take the afternoon off to come see your old mother? Your boss would understand.

And then she proceeded to guilt Carrie so thoroughly that the next time she did take the afternoon off, leading to this phone call:

Carrie: I’m just calling to let you know that we’re on our way and we’ll be there around 3 o’clock.

Nanna: 3 o’clock? I wasn’t expecting you till night time! Don’t y’all have work?

Carrie: We left early today so we could come see you.

Nanna: Well why would you do that? Your job isn’t good enough for you? Your boss is going to fire you…

Etc., etc. You can see why we didn’t always answer the phone when we knew Nanna was on the other end.

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