Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Toonerville Trolley

Himself called to me as I was dumping my tiny saddlebag on the butler table. “How were the Weebles?”

I groaned.

“Do you need an aspirin?”

“No, I took some before I left the house this morning.”

“Need to blog?”

“Boy howdy, do I ever!”

He chuckled sympathetically. “What happened?”

After I dropped the Eldest off at work, I made good time getting to the Weebles. There wasn’t much traffic on The Pike (I-90). They finally finished (after 5 years!) the bridge reconstruction by the old Carling Brewery. Got to the Weebles, in 35 minutes without speeding! Got them loaded in the wagon, and we head to Market Basket.

Course, it poured buckets on Monday, the day social security check funds were available, so all the Weebles in Middlesex county were shopping at Market Basket. There were no handicap spaces available. Off loaded the Weebles in front of the store and parked the car.

When I got into the store, Dad was feeding cans into the can return machine. Ahead, I saw people jumping out of the way so knew Ma had headed towards Dairy. As I get there, Ma is lifting 12 packs of root beer and ginger ale into her cart.

“Just wait a minute for him! Let him put the soda in his cart. This basket isn’t big enough.”

Dad shows up with a carriage and the two off us offload the soda. We’re down to the last pack. (3 rootbeer, 3 gingerale) when Ma suddenly decides to take off too look at the special on shredded mozzarella cheese.

I yell at her as I’m the one hanging onto a carton of gingerale and the side of the scooter basket.

Finally, everyone is settled and heading in the right direction. Ma calling for this item and that item over her shoulder and me chucking items into her basket as I trot along. Once in a while she is forced to stop and wait because some poor Weeble lady is debating the fine points of sour cream or cottage cheese.

“Oh, lady! Hurry up!” Ma mumbles rather loudly.

I think of the traffic jam Ma will cause when she has to sain all the meat. Tit for tat in my not so humble opinion.

We passed the fish market, which doesn’t smell as bad as it has in the past. Either that, or I’ve become immune to the smell. We arrived in the meat department and the ritual of the Monthly Blessing of the Meat begins.

Ma points and I lean over the counter, grab a candidate, and pass the package to Ma. She pokes, prods, stares at the meat, passes the package back. Occasionally, she places the blessed meat into her basket, and we repeat the ritual down the miles of refrigerated meat cases.

In front of the roasts, a Weeble gentleman turns to speak to us. “Beef is $6..99 a pound! Can you believe that?”

Now, I don’t do the grocery shopping. I wouldn’t know good prices from high. I can tell by the inflection of his voice he must be shocked with the price so I respond by dropping my jaw into a wordless “Oh” and widening my eyes.

He seems pleased by my reaction. “I used to be a butcher. Top to bottom, beef has the same nutritional value. Doesn’t matter whether you are buying filet mignon or the hoof. You tell your sister over there.”

Now, I wasn’t sure if he was trying to be gallant and complimentary to Ma or to intentionally insult me. I held my tongue.

“Y’know, my wife says I talk to all the women, but I only talk to the pretty ones.”

I chuckle and realize he must be like Dad, married to a shrew (God bless Ma) and has to chat with strangers to pass a pleasant moment or receive validation. I put on my best smile, and we continue our separate ways.

Ma has accosted one of the meat managers and asks for a particular cut of meat. He goes through the swinging doors and returns with a half dozen packages. He carefully places them in the meat case.

I select a likely candidate and present it to Ma for the ritual blessing until she has found one she is well pleased with.

The meat manager is stocking the roast chicken bin.

“The meat’s all blessed and kosher,” I tell him as I go by.

He chuckles.

In produce, I notice several adult children helping Weeble parents. We sound like a herd of barnyard kids. “Maaaah, do you want the plum tomatoes or the Big Boys?” “Maaaaah, are these carrots ok?” Maaaaah. Goat 2

Ma is fingering the plum tomatoes. Her eye catches the 99 cent per pound over the Big Boys and one of the plums suicides to the floor and rolls under the counter.

I look around, but no one notices the sacrifice the little tomato made.

Ma wants two pounds of the Big Boys. As I’m stuffing tomatoes into the plastic bag, I mouth, “Don’t get the biggest ones. Take the smallest you can find.”

Around and around produce we go. Ma exclaims over the high prices. There are sympathetic replies from other Weebles across the department.

Dad finally catches up to us, his basket amazingly laden with good. Cereal, toilet paper, paper towels.

“Her Royal Heiney has a desire for prune juice,” I tell him and send him on a quest to the other side of the store from whence he came.

Ma zips over to the bakery. She wants a loaf of French bread. Some loaves have been put out that are warm and fragrant.

Another display captures Ma’s attention, and the old lady caroms off a table laden with pies. One pie box gets caught by the backrest of her scooter. She does not stop but hits the accelerator and the pie box crumples, and the tin pie pan curls up slightly.

We have a brand of commercial pies called ‘Table Talk’. This pie should be labeled ‘Table Gag’. I wonder how long before it will appear on the bargain table.

Dad has witnessed the pie fiasco and sings his own version of the “She’s Stupid” song.

Finally shopping is finished in record 2 hours. I direct the Weebles to a checkout line and leave to troll the parking lot for a handicap space. No handicap spaces are available, but one next to a handicap slot miraculously opens up.

The Weelbes come out. Ma is toddling and pushing a carriage. Usually, she zips across the parking lot in her scooter, neither looking right nor left for on coming traffic. I’m wondering why the change of routine. She hit an incline and the carriage slowly rolls forward with Ma wobbling behind. I’m reminded of a little toy I used to have. Donald Duck had a wheel barrow. If you put Donald with his wheel barrow on an incline, he would shuffle and sway his way down the track. Ma looked just like that.

I grab the carriage and Ma and we slowly make our way to the car. I tuck her hand into the crook of my arm for support and carefully guide her to the front seat. I’m struck by the idea of our role reversals. She is small and frail. How many times did she take my hand and guide my shaky steps when I was a toddler?

Groceries and Weebles finally loaded into the car. I head for the Weebledom. One quarter a mile away from Market Basket, Ma asks, “Would your husband be able to do me a favor later today?”

“What do you need?” I’m thinking she wants their postage stamp of a lawn mowed.

“I need toilet paper, paper towels and Tide.” Her tone is wheedling, pathetic, and at the same time manipulative.

“What the ^#$@?” I shout in tongues. “Dad had toilet paper in his carriage.”

“I made him put them back. They were too high priced. If there’s time, you could take me to Donlan’s and that other place.”

“Why the %$@#$@ didn’t you just buy them at Market Basket.” My voice is rising to a dangerous level. I can feel a pain form behind my left eye and the fleeting thought to slam the car into the nearest phone pole.

“He wanted $9.99. Brooks has it for $6.99. I save $3 dollars!” she says smugly.

“You save money? You what about me? Gas is $3.00 a gallon. I’ll burn one getting you to Brooks. There’s the $9.99 you tell me where the savings is.”

She folds her arms across her chest and begins shouting "I know what I’m talking about."


I’m steaming. Yes, go ahead, I can hear you laughing your Moony 1 off! “Better you than me!” I can hear you. I should have just driven them home, but instead, cut across three towns to get over to Donlan’s and Brooks. Donlan’s for a jumbo pack of paper towels and Brook’s for toilet paper and Tide.

“Joe, what would be the best way for her to go?”

“I’m going the best way!” I roar. “Sit back, shut up, and enjoy the ride.”

I hear “You go, girl!” from the back seat.

I’m not very familiar with the area. It’s changed a lot in the nearly 22 years I’ve been married, but I find Donlan’s and pull into their parking lot. “Where’s this other store?”

“Across the street.” She is fumbling for blank checks.

Across the street is an Einstein bagel store. I’m pretty sure they don’t carry Tide and toilet paper there. Maybe they’ve come up with a new go together and slogan. ‘Let our hole take care of your hole.’

Dad points to another building just opposite Donlan’s , “That’s Brook’s”.


“You go in Brook’s and I go in Donlan’s otherwise we’ll be hear all %@#%@#$ day!”

“What am I going to get in Brook’s?”

“Toilet paper and Tide!” Ma shouts at him.

I’m fuming as I head into the store. “Driving the #$@!@# Toonerville Trolley!” I really loathe grocery shopping.

Back at Weebledom as I help Dad unload the groceries I tell him. “You better warn her this is the last time we go all over creation for one item here and one item there. It won’t happen again.

He’s sympathetic, but I know his hands are tied.

I burn rubber out of the driveway. I give a primal scream at the end of their street as I leave. I head back to The Pike, one hand on the horn and one hand out the window. I feel the tension ease as I cross under I-495, the line of demarcation between Civilization and The Land of Here There Be Dragons.

“Y’know, Kid,” I tell Himself as I wind down my tale. “The idea of moving to some Godforsaken place like Minnesota is starting to look appealing. Might have to go online to start job hunting for you. They must have one community college that needs a chemistry professor. Maybe you could work for some company that refines ethanol from corn. That’s about all they have out there anyway.”

“Your day could have been worse. You might have had to travel to Millis to pick up a pair of pinking shears because they were on sale like my mother wanted. Remember?”

“I think I’ll have that aspirin, now.”
NB: The total mileage for the Toonervill Trolley is 84.12 miles. My car averages 19 miles per gallon. So, that's 4.42 gallons of gas burned. At $3.03, that's $13.41 plus 90 cents each way for Pike tolls. $15.21 spent for the round trip. Yup, Ma sure is saving money. By the way, may I direct your attention to the map. Notice the nice Stop and Shop grocery store just two miles from the Weebles house? Also Roche Bros. and Donlan's. One stop, one store. Sounds like a good mantra for me.


Erica Vetsch said...

Come to Minnesota!!!! I'll start calling realtors! This was stinkin' hilarious, and you showed remarkable restraint. The Toonerville Trolley was lucky not to wind up the Boston Massacre!

Jamie said...

Weebles: The Movie. PLEASE! You owe it to your adoring public, I can't get enough of their antics.

CJ said...

A movie! LOL Might have to have a title like "Under Golden Pond"

Nutter... said...

I'm SOOOOOO FREAKIN GLAD you're finally putting your foot down! I was beginning to think I'd be the most horrible daughter on the planet. (Although I have to be nice to my weebles currently, as they're dog sitting for 18 days!) I'd have snapped at your mom long ago. *KUDOS!* Bring her into the new century and YES, we'd have LOTS of chemical opportunities!!! And GOOD PUBLIC schools for young one! *grin* (Where she could take the right language. (giggle giggle)...

nutter said...

The University of Northern Iowa is hiring in the sciences... *grin*

Alesia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

OMG, CJ, you just crack me up!! I'm tired just reading your blog. Why do elderly parents want it their way, or no way? I love it that I'm not alone with that problem.