Driving Miss Edna

Miss Edna’s kids got her a cell phone. They were concerned about her driving without one. She pooh-poohed the idea.
“I’ve been driving for almost 70 years and never needed a car phone. If I need to make a call I can always use a pay phone. All I need’s a quarter.”
“When was the last time you saw a pay phone, Mom?” her son asked. It was his turn to handle Mom. “They took them all out.”
“Who did? They should put them back. What if I need to make an emergency call?”
He bought one of those pre-paid phones designed for seniors that flip open and have gigantic buttons. A phone truly designed for seniors would have a handset, rotary dial and a curly cord. Voice messages would announce the caller for pre-screening, like the answering machines  in many seniors’ kitchens. Miss Edna certainly thought that’s how they worked. Her kids regularly got messages like “Hello? Are you there? Pick up? It’s me. Mom. Pick up! I know you’re there.” When no one answered, she’d go on to leave a message that did not truly require another person to qualify as a sort of dialogue.
“All right, don’t answer, but I’m calling to tell you that someone named Nancy Pelosi is out to get me. I got a warning today in the mail. It said ‘Nancy Pelosi is out to get you!” written right across the envelope. In Magic Marker! Do you think she moved into that house that was for sale for so long? Or maybe she’s a squatter. No one in their right mind would buy that house. Maybe that’s why she’s crazy. Good thing someone in my neighborhood warned me. Or maybe the mailman warned me. Do you call a mail girl a mailman? She’s not a man. Why is she a mailman, then? If I call you and I’m dead, you’ll know who did it. I’m afraid to walk my dog. Did you get me more dog food? I don’t know why I call you- you weren’t much help. I’m going to call your sister, who’s always too busy with her job. Even when she’s home.”
He showed her how to use the cell phone and insisted she keep it with her whenever she was driving. She promised. The next day she left a message on his cell phone. “You there? Pick up! It’s me. Mom. Why did you get me a phone that only calls a few people? I can’t afford a phone that lets me call my neighbor? Your sister won’t pick up either. I swear you’re all shunning me. This is Mom. Hello? Hello?”
He waited until after he poured himself a Scotch to call her back. “I put our numbers on speed dial. Like I showed you. That’s so you can call us quickly without having to dial our complete phone numbers. It’s easier and faster.”
“How is it faster? If I need help my neighbor can get here quicker than you. We’re on a neighborhood watch to look out for that Nancy Pelosi. No one’s seen her yet. You don’t even pick up, even thought I know you’re there. I guess if I’m dead I’ll just have to call 1-1-9.”
He blew out a sigh and sipped his drink, followed by a gulp. “Nancy Pelosi is a member of Congress and is not out to kill you. If you have an emergency when you’re home, you can use the home phone, like you always do.”
“Who elected a crazy squatter to Congress? No wonder they’re in such a mess. So why’d you spend money on a stupid phone that only calls a few people?”
“For when you’re driving, Ma, for when you’re driving.” He downed the rest of the Scotch and started sucking on the ice cubes.
Miss Edna took pride in her driving ability. She always drove with her sister, Vera, as navigator. Since Miss Edna’s eyesight wasn’t so good, Vera watched for the hard-to-see things like traffic lights and stop signs and called out a warning. Yelled out, actually, as Miss Edna’s hearing wasn’t so good either. To allow for some reduction in reaction time she drove in the middle of the road, very slowly. She prided herself on not texting while driving, since she had no idea what that was anyway, and how would she have any extra hands, what’s with the steering wheel and her ever-present cigarette?
On their way to the Senior Center, she hit a stop sign. She blamed Vera for not giving her ample warning. Vera blamed Edna for ignoring her warning because she was lighting a cigarette.
“As if that were the problem,” she sniffed as she told her son the story that evening. “I’ve been smoking for 70 years and never hit a stop sign before. She wasn’t paying attention. I think she’s losing it, son.”
He son sighed as quietly as possible. “Are you OK? Was anyone hurt? What did the police say?”
“Took their sweet time getting there, that’s for sure. We missed Scrabble. They only have Scrabble on Thursdays. We waited so long we had to eat our emergency rations.” He knew how many snacks they carted around in their giant pocketbooks and speculated they could have survived for several weeks. The artificial sweetener “liberated” from restaurants would have tided them over. He kept those thoughts to himself.
“Thank God you had your cell phone to call them,” he observed.
“What?! Speak up, I can’t hear you when you mumble.”
“Maybe if you turned down the TV…” he yelled.
“Then I can’t hear it. You need to speak up better. Don’t yell.” She aimed the remote at the TV and held down the sound button. It got louder.
“There. Is that better?” He shrugged.
So, how long did it take the police to get there after you called them?”
“What? Weren’t you listening? I was driving. In my car. The phone was at home. I guess someone else saw us and called them. Or they just happened to wander by.”
He felt his left eye twitch. “Mom, that was the whole purpose of the phone! Where is the damn phone?”
“Over there. On the counter. Don’t get huffy. You make such a big deal out of it. I didn’t want to carry it with me in case it got stolen. And it doesn’t work anyway.”
“Mom, people have called you on that phone. You don’t answer it. Don’t you listen to their voice mails?”
“Nope, phone doesn’t make a peep.” He opened the phone and checked. There were 18 new voice mails.
“Maybe you can’t hear it over the TV?” he said. She glared at him. “I can hear fine with the TV on. Lately though, there’s been some kind of annoying music that plays every once in awhile. Even when the people on TV are talking.”
“All right, Mom, let’s practice with the phone. I’m going to go into the kitchen and call you. When the phone rings, answer it.” He went into the next room and dialed her cell phone number. He listened to it ring. And ring. And ring.
“Mom!” he yelled. “It’s ringing! Answer it!”
“It is NOT ringing, Mr. Know-it-All. But there’s that damn music again!”
He walked back into the living room. Sighed out loud. “Mom, that ‘music’ is your phone. That’s your ringtone.”
“Boy, you got a bad phone. It only calls a few people and now it doesn’t even ring right. What kind of stupid ring is that? Whatever happened to dingalingaling? Don’t sigh at me.”
He hit himself in the forehead with his phone. “Ma, I am going back in the kitchen. When you hear the ‘music”, answer the phone.” He walked into the next room and called her phone. Listened to it ring. And ring. And ring.
“Hello? Hello? HELLO?!” she yelled. He stuck his head around the corner. She was holding the phone out at arm’s length, yelling at it.
“Ma! You gotta flip it open! Like this!” He demonstrated. “Then you can hear me. Let’s try this one more time.” He shut her phone, retreated to the kitchen and called again. After the first ring, he heard the sound of the phone being flipped open. From a distance, he could hear her calling. “Hello? Hello”?
He popped his head around again. She had flipped the phone open, and was calling hello. Still holding the phone at arm’s length.
He walked over, pulled her arm in and held the phone next to her ear. He said hello into his phone. “See?”
She rolled her eyes back so far the irises almost disappeared. “How stupid is that? You need a phone to speak to me? You’re standing right here. That’s the problem with people today. No face-to-face conversation.”
He returned the phone to the store the next day. Within a few months Miss Edna had rear-ended a Caddy, setting off her airbag. Vera had not been with her, having reached the point where she no longer felt comfortable risking her life. Miss Edna said she’d only looked down for a moment to light her cigarette from the car’s lighter, then to pick it up off the floor. Her car was totaled. At least that’s what her kids told her. Her son made sure he was last in rotation for Driving Miss Edna.


One thought on “Driving Miss Edna

  1. A line from Fried Green Tomatoes (the book, not the movie), when Earl had it with his wife, signed his pension over to her and skipped town: “Well, that’s it. old girl. When you hear the phone not ringing that’s me who won’t be calling.” Love Aunt Edna. Let me rephrase. I love the STORies of Aunt Edna. Keep ’em coming. Lord knows you have the material.


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