Never Ask What Else Could Go Wrong… A TragiComic Thanksgiving Post

Which of the following is NOT true:

1. There’s a mammoth yellow jacket nest beneath our side porch, inches from the door.

2. A massive vertigo attack sent me to the ER at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday.

3. A tree fell on my car.

4. I got a summons for federal jury duty.

5. The dog ate my homework.

I’ll give you a hint: I don’t have a dog.

As for the yellow jackets swarming round my threshold, they are definitely there, but I’m cagey. The little varmints have only nailed me three times. Mostly they buzz around in intricate flight patterns that would shame the Blue Angels, but they do add an Olympics-level degree of difficulty to making it from car to kitchen, encumbered by bags of groceries.    

Less painful, but arguably more annoying is the ant invasion that started the end of March, the same week the dryer died. We’re talking zillions of teensy, weensy ants—“sugar ants”, Google informs me—that (ha-ha) supposedly vanish when you wipe surfaces down with vinegar. More than a gallon of vinegar later, I can tell you they do not succumb to such trickery, but watch patiently from some invisible seat on the sidelines until the vinegar dries and then resume their activities.

What’s so impressive is their mastery of teleportation. Swarming over the kitchen windowsill, above the sink, they can—without any visible trail of migration—surface in the cat’s food bowl on the floor eight feet across the room. Commercial ant traps yielded so-so results (I’m thinking about penning a Consumer Reports study on the various brands), but it wasn’t until the onset of cold weather that the microscopic beasties packed it in. I like to imagine them tucked up tight for the winter in their teensy-tiny ant beds, dreaming of summer and cat food.

I wish the yellow jackets would take a page from the ants and fold their tent, but the cold only seems to make them BIGGER. BOLDER. We are saving the can of organic, eco-friendly wasp and hornet spray until we feel the same.

Whacked Upside the Head 

The Vertigo attack—sudden, unexpected, the mother of all nausea-inducing experiences—seems to have been a one-off. The ER doc very skillfully—and with a determination bordering on the manic—twisted my head sharply one way, then the other, using something called the Epley maneuver. And (this is why we believe in science) it worked.  But a light-headed sensation, like someone had peeled off the top of my cranium, alternating with a pressure at the base of my skull, dogged me for several months after.

Now, I’m not given to hypochondria. One of my life goals, in fact, is to avoid the prescription meds merry-go-round until I’m at least 100. I confess to the occasional Excedrin—one tab, never two—for a headache. But, I didn’t want to be cavalier about the state of my head. I need that brain. So I called my doc, hoping to get some sort of test that would pinpoint the source of the floatiness/pressure in my noggin. His pearls of wisdom?  I quote them here in their entirety: “Maybe you should look into Chinese medicine.” 

Okay. Time for a new doctor. Maybe one I could actually see face to face (with masks, of course). Who didn’t respond to my rare medical queries with: “Wouldn’t worry about it. You look fine to me.” So I researched the intersection of local physicians and those my health insurance covers, and found a well-reviewed doc… on maternity leave!

Well, unlike COVID, pregnancy is predictably finite. I signed up for a slot on her return date, and for the first time in several decades, four doctors, and billions piddled away on insurance premiums, I got an M.D. who actually examined me. Who knew about medical stuff. Who ran simple tests that revealed my problems were likely all in my nose. Sinuses.   

Grounded

However headspinning, the vertigo/doctor snafu was a snap compared to the muddle with my car. The one the tree fell on three weeks ago.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. To get the entire picture, we must go back to August when, a week after the vertigo attack, my car was rejected at a local Inspection Station. Massachusetts’ cars must pass an annual test, or the RMV (it’s rumored the V stands for Voldemort, but it’s actually the Registry of Motor Vehicles) grounds your wheels. Do not pass GO.  

Now, my car is no teen-age hotrod junker. It’s a 2017 dealer-maintained Subaru Outback with low miles and zero rust—a model of automotive perfection that I will be paying for well into the next century. So why did such a paragon fail to get its little “Passed” sticker?

“Most inspection stations don’t have a camera,” the attendant said proudly. “But we do!” (Now she tells me.) And said camera decided my admittedly rather aged rear license plate wasn’t quite up to the cover of Motor Trend. “Don’t worry,” the woman assured me. “Just take it to the RMV and they’ll give you a new plate. You won’t even have to pay. Then bring it back and we’ll give you your sticker.”

I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but since COVID struck, rare is the one hand who has any frigging clue what the other hand is doing. Bureaucracy is a mean crapshoot in the best of times. Now it’s a black hole of impenetrability. You can’t “just take your old plate to the RMV” because the RMV is CLOSED. It has been CLOSED since March. You’d think someone might have tipped off the inspection station. Nevertheless, as Elizabeth Warren would say, I persisted.

Doing Battle with Bureaucracy

My first attempt was only mildly frustrating. Ninety minutes navigating the state website of links that took me round in circles until, under a completely different topic, I found a phone number. Desperate, I dialed and got…a real person. Not only that, but one who knew what he was talking about. How often does that happen?

I ordered a new plate—note quite “free” as promised—but no biggie at $10. I also received an official certificate, documenting the transaction, and a note stating my new plates would arrive in 4-6 weeks. In the meantime, the certificate would serve to assure the inspection station that I was in compliance. In plain speak: It should have been enough to earn my car a Pass.

Only it didn’t.  

The staff at the inspection station just shrugged when I showed them the letter. “We don’t know anything about this,” they said. “We have a camera [I know, I know]. We have to photograph the new plate. We’ll get in trouble if we don’t have the plate. The state’s very strict.”

What the state was, actually, was extremely confused. After my original call with a knowledgeable person, I never found two people who could agree on next steps, or even had a clue as to what next steps might be. I do remember one man screaming at me at 8:30 one morning: They HAVE to give you the sticker. How many times do I need to tell you, they HAVE to give you the sticker. Now I have other customers waiting. [Sound of phone: SLAM!]. Meanwhile I was informed the time until delivery for the new plate had doubled. It seems—I kid you not—that the prisons were just starting to re-open, and the inmates were way behind on their license-plate orders. 

I will save you the details of the more than 18 hours of RMV calls (about half of which was spent listening to pre-recorded messages that ended with: There are no agents available at this time) and the two subsequent trips to the inspection station where people became increasingly hostile.

A Triumph of Democracy

One night, unable to fall asleep for all the chaos in my life, a metaphoric light bulb went on: I should call my state rep. The next day I did. OMG, she had everything straightened out in under an hour. The station would give me my sticker now. She emailed me a copy of the official letter verifying this, just in case anyone tried to mess with me. It was a triumph of democracy—Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. My state rep’s name is Lindsay Sabadosa, and she is a DYNAMO! Vote for her. Even if you don’t live in Massachusetts.

So, Lindsay settled my sticker woes on Monday. Tuesday, I had a dental appointment, and Wednesday was the day off for the inspection station manager Lindsay had dealt with. Thursday—I would get my PASSED sticker on Thursday. I was euphoric.

Well, Wednesday I was at my desk, querying agents, when an ENORMOUS gust of wind blew up. Within seconds, an earsplitting CRACK! shook the house. I ran downstairs to discover that a huge limb from our ancient maple tree—about 50 feet long and weighing several hundred pounds—had broken in the gale. And landed smack on my car, smashing the windshield. If there is a pattern in my life, this may be it. 

My car’s still in the repair shop as I write BUT, when I called the inspection guy that Lindsay had dealt with, and explained the further delay, I got zero aggro. “Just bring it in when it’s fixed. I don’t even need to be here,” he said. “We’ll give you the sticker and you don’t have to pay for another inspection.” Boy, that Lindsay is GOOD!

You Are Summoned…

While I was dealing with vertigo aftershocks and recalcitrant inspection station folks and confused, sometimes belligerent, RMV staff—still dodging yellow jackets and combating ants on the homefront—while all that was in full swing, I received a jury summons. And not just your usual jury summons, where you toddle down to the county courthouse and maybe hear a drunk driving case that lasts one, two days, but a federal jury summons, as in a United States District Court summons, where for two months you are on call, and may serve more than one trial, and the trials are definitely not about drunk driving. Which means they can go on for “some time.”

As the letter cheerfully informed me, our “group” was the first called since the courts had been closed for COVID. As if COVID was now a thing of the past. As if virus cases wouldn’t spike in the fall (the summons being for November and December), which they definitely have, enough to close all public and private schools in Massachusetts. Enough to say good-bye to any hopes I had for holiday visits from our kids. Enough to make it exceedingly dicey to spend hours in a room with several dozen people, breathing the same air, despite plexi-glass dividers and masks, day after day. Enough to make it very precarious for Ed, who is immunosuppressed. I really didn’t feel like risking his life—or mine—as part of the guinea pig team to see “what happens” when we re-open the courts. Then there’s the glassy-headed post-vertigo “zing” I still experience some mornings, a state in which I would not recommend getting into a car and driving a half-hour down the highway.

So, I was a tad worried freak-out-level anxious, basically pretty much the state most of the country has been in since November 2016, and doubly so since COVID landed. I wrote the court about all this, and got the required medical letter to document the danger to Ed.

Then I had to wait.        

And wait.

Weeks rolled by. Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. Amy Baloney Barrett got skedded for a rush job. A tree fell on my car. It was not an easy time.

And then today, nerves stretched to the max, I dialed the jury-line to learn my fate. And received the good news: I was excused. For the first time in a long space that can only be measured in emotional eons, I drew a free breath.    

Hope Is a Light

So where does Thanksgiving fit into all this mayhem? How to be thankful in a holiday season where I won’t see my kids because the COVID uptick makes travel from one part of the country to another unsafe? In a year when 227,000+ Americans have died, and a racist, homophobic SCOTUS candidate—who couldn’t list the five rights guaranteed all Americans under the First Amendment—was confirmed last week in a blitzkrieg attack on democracy? Where the legitimacy of the election, just two days away, is under threat as the president, the Supreme Court, and Putin all place their thumbs on the scale to steal it for TheRUMP?

Though the last eight months have smacked me right upside the head and consumed my energy relentlessly, I’m still here. Ed’s still here. All our kids are still here. We still have our home. We can still put food on the table. That makes us more fortunate than many Americans.

As a nation, and a world, we are still here. We still have a future, something to fight for, things to discover. That gives me hope. I see people in the streets, calling out for the true inclusive justice that has eluded us for far too long. That gives me hope. I see the miles-long lines of Americans at polling stations around the country, insisting on their right to vote, and that gives me hope. Whatever is about to happen to us, I urge you to keep your hope alive.

 Hope is a light. Darkness only descends when it is truly extinguished.

A Happy Thanksgiving to you, wherever you find yourself on this journey.

20 thoughts on “Never Ask What Else Could Go Wrong… A TragiComic Thanksgiving Post

  1. Amy, Amy, Amy!

    How is that you have survived all of this? I can’t believe what’s been going on in your life. It’s all TOO MUCH! And all that over and above the crap that’s been happening that’s been stressing all of us out. Well, I say good for you, Amy! In any case, I’m glad you got out of grand jury duty, the ER doc got rid of your vertigo, the ants are taking the winter off, you got your new license and, I’m hoping, you got your car repaired. Now if you could just perform another miracle and make this election come out right, I’d be very grateful. Very, very grateful!

    We managed to get off on Thursday and are now at a hotel in Effingham, IL. Today we make it to Selina, KS and Monday we’ll be in Boulder, good ford willing and the crick don’t rise.

    You take care. I hope your luck changes!

    Love,

    Rachel

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Rachel, thanks for taking time from the road to read and stop by. Yes, 2020 has been one for the books. My best friend through adolescence loved this sort of Jewish joke/no joke thing: “God bless and keep the Czar…. Far away from us.” It’s come back to me many times this year. Apropos somehow. Anyway, I will see what I can do about the election. My last try in 2016 was a failure, but I’ve been working on it, though I do think the easiest way forward might be to start a new nation on another planet, and admission is reserved for people who understand cooperation and mutual respect is the ONLY route to happiness and long-term survival. Travel safe. Stay well.

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  2. Amy–A practical note. Here’s a possible solution to ant invasions. Take the flat top from a can of coffee of yogurt, pour in some honey. Then mix in some 20-Mule Team Borax; stir it in until it all disappears into the honey. (It’s useful as a booster when doing the laundry.) Not too much. I wish I had a better guide. The idea is that the ants will eat the mixture. The Borax is a poison which they will take back to their ant house and feed their queen. It will kill them all. If you see a lot of dead ants around the mixture, it means that the mix is too strong and is killing the ants outright. You want them to live long enough to feed the stuff to their queen. This has worked for us on a number of occasions. Probably best to keep your cats away from it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy! You have been through it and then through again! Reading your post made me feel better about what I consider to be my “dull” life. Now I’m so grateful for my dull life — and that I’m Canadian.

    I love the picture in my mind (you put it there) of ants sitting in their tiny, invisible seats waiting for the vinegar to evaporate! Truly sorry about your ant infestation, but that story is hilarious! Unless you’re living it, I suppose.

    Take care and thanks for writing this funny, frustrated piece. May your contented, uneventful times become longer and longer.

    – Lori

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Lori, thanks for the good wishes. I’m glad you’re a Canadian, too. I wouldn’t wish the madness of this moment on anyone. And I’ll be sure to share your reaction to the ants with them, if I ever see the little varmints again–which I hope I do not. We are counting down the hours here of what promises to be a very “historic” (ever notice how close that word is to hysteric?) election. Like always, I’m begging–please don’t close your southern border!

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  4. As the “immunosuppressed Ed” mentioned in this post, I can verify that every word is true. And so is the irrepressible humor demonstrated therein. It has been a particularly odd month, and that adjective had to fight to earn a place in the galaxy of bizarreness that surround it. As you say, hope is a light–and I think I hear the scratching of a match. Great job on the post and a Thanksgiving-worthy thanks for the life you make it possible for us to live.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks as always for the kind words, Ed. Hmm, “irrepressible humor”–is that distinct from uncontollable hyteria? Guess we’ll find out after the election. Meantime, I’m huddled against the storm, matches tucked inside a plastic baggie, ready to strike a light because there’s no point in cursing the darkness (though we all give in from time to time).

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    1. Hey Neil, yes it’s been quite the year. But the vertigo aftershocks seem to be well on the wane (getting a doctor who appears to understand what her job entails has helped), and we’re hoping the tree-fixer guy can make it back to do a little more trimming on that maple before another 250-pounder branch drops. My eyes remain on the prize. The big one. Can this dmeocracy be saved? Buckle your seat belt–and don’t forget the hope.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Amy your post is so very heartwarming.

    The Law of Averages suggests that only Really Good Things can happen now. It is a LAW after all.

    Might your holiday season bring nothing but Joy and Hope, A Very Nice Girl.

    Your post will remind me to Hope!

    Fondest regards to you and Edward,

    Sandra

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sandra, so good to hear from you! And I’m really rooting for that law of averages. I’ll pass along your good wishes to Ed. Take good care and stay well.

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  6. Amy–I am sorry for all these troubles, but you have turned them into a delightful reading experience for me. Thank you! Kevin and I have been dealing with similar bureaucratic circle dances throughout the pandemic–we think COVID has relieved everyone of their ability to think clearly–but your go-round with the RMV takes the cake. These experiences are purgatorial, but your writing and your sense of humor are heaven-sent. Tom

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, Tom, as they say, comedy is when you slip on a banana peel and fall. Tragedy is when I do. Bureaucratic circle dances sounds like something out of Jane Austen, but I’m guessing with a lot fewer flounces and flirting, and a lot more headaches and confused missteps (on the part of the bureacracy, of course). Ah, purgatory. I recall some nuns teaching us about that several centuries ago. At the time, I thought “What’s so bad about floating in space?” Now I know. Really good to see you here. I’ve been wondering how you and Kevin are faring. Not only the COVID, but the fires. Enough already, eh? Stay well. Tomorrow already looks brighter.

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  7. Oh my goodness, Amy! You have been through the ringer lately. What is so weird is two of those things – well I had the weirdest dizzying experience while working out, and I wondered at the time if it was vertigo or something. I was looking it up, calling my doc. In my case, I think it was actually a panic attack, but I’m seeing a neurologist soon. Wow, and jury duty – I was called not long ago and managed to get out of it. I hope you get out of it, too. You have medical reasons. Plead with a doctor to excuse you. That’s what I did. Years ago, I had a yellow jackets problem, too. They were coming in through the air conditioner, and it turned out there was a nest nearby, so we had it taken care of by the maintenance people. I’m so, so sorry you are having to deal with all this now. We have enough stress with COVID and the election. Hopefully, a Biden win will cheer us all up. I’m here sending you positive energy, along with much love and light. Feel better soon, and I love your attitude and humor. It’s going to be okay., promise. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope your neurologist is more like my new doctor and not like the previous four. But getting things right takes time it appears. I appreciate your good wishes, even though as your next comment shows, the problem was already resolved. You are the first, however, to learn that TODAY, 85 days after my car was rejected at the annual inspection, I GOT THE PASSED STICKER. And the inmates came through with my new license plate. And we’ve got Joe & Kamala on tap. There is always hope. Thanks for stopping by. Stay well,

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  8. Hi Amy! I read this post as soon as it arrived in my inbox (like always), but then I was distracted before I could comment. Sorry to hear about the string of bad luck! Even so, I’m grateful for your blog posts and how you address important issues. How to be grateful when life is challenging? The election results helped me with that. 😉 Thank goodness that Trump is on his way out. I love your post’s conclusion, “Hope is a light. Darkness only descends when it is truly extinguished.” Amen. And if you never give up? Hope wins.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Distractions–boy, do I get that. For the “quiet” life of COVID times, there sure seems to be a lot of them. But, I got my car stickered with “PASS” today, so I’m good. And the nation is good–what a celebration. Dancing in the streets! I begin to think it will be possible for me to get my LONG hair cut sometime in the not too distant future, and perhaps even professionally colored again. Though I’ve kind of grown to like the multi-tone look of the different home-coloring brands notions of “dark auburn.” Thanks for dropping by. Stay well. We may someday get to meet up yet and raise a glass to this harrowing, marvelous thing called life.

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