Friday, September 3, 2010

Irrational Fear and Blond Moments

This month is shaping up to send my global stress level through the roof. I'm packing to move in two weeks and my divorce trial is in 2.5 weeks. I've got a lot on my plate.

I have watched a couple of close friends go through divorce so I should have been more prepared for the irrational fear that develops soon after a split. One friend was terrified of the Avian Flu - remember the bird one that came before the Swine Flu? It wasn't even local, but she was voicing her fears constantly - stockpiling and planning for the apocalypse. When I brought it up to her soon after my split (she has been divorced a few years now), she was like, "Yeah, that was really weird, but I was going through a divorce. That really messes with your head." Another friend seemed overly clingy and depressed, but she has her head back on her shoulders in a new marriage in another state (not that a marriage will straighten you out from divorce - but she's a lot happier). Back then she was following my book advice like gospel, now I am depending on her e-mails and care packages for each new novel - she has fabulous taste.

Most of my irrational fear was poured, to some extent it still is - into my financial situation. After depending on my ex to collect and dole out our salaries for years, I realized that I had become - granted I was busy with residency, pregnancy, and nursing babies - completely ignorant of finances. It got to such a ridiculous point that I was infantilized (spell check says that's not a word, but I'm making it one), to a large degree. I look back at how little I knew back in March and how much I have learned - within a couple of short months I became the primary accountant in our split because I was better at it and more organized. I keep track of the bills and make sure that we are both contributing equally not only to this house, but to his new place and all of the accompanying utilities. Lately, with my offer on a new house, I have been depending on advice from my accountant, my realtor, my mortgage guy. I've been shopping for house and car insurance. I no longer check on an hourly basis, because I am gaining a good sense of income vs. expenditures. Last night, the mortgage guy and I were texting at 10:00 p.m. about a situation with the house. This morning, I was on the phone with my accountant for 30 minutes troubleshooting taxes, the IRS, and deductions (three separate issues). The other day, my lawyer proudly noted from my bank statements that the only large sums of money that were taken from my account since February when I opened it were my car payments. No trips to Vegas. I am being responsible. I have not built up any significant new credit, nor had to borrow from dad. Yeah, I know, I'm 37 years old. Most people get here a lot sooner. But I'm kind of proud of myself.

So I'm blond. And I have the capability to perform in a way that justifies all the jokes - always have - I guess it's part of my naive personality. I've got a great excuse with all the stress this month, but it has gotten a little ridiculous in the past couple of days. For instance - we had a little buyer appraisal square footage issue earlier this week - they were all in a tizzy and wanted to come over to measure while I was home yesterday packing. I noticed the yard developed some yellow patches over the last few days and decided it had some dreaded fungus that would cause the buyers to back out the door. I called the lawn care company and left a frantic message on their answering machine detailing my worries. On the way home from work Wednesday, I looked at all the other yards. They all have yellow spots. The season is changing.

Yesterday, I left my packing for an hour or so to pick up boxes at the liquor store, get gas, and run into work to finish up a cling on breast case. At the gas station, I noticed a sign that said if I enter my local grocery store ID I could get a discount. I tried to enter it four or five times and it didn't work. It was pouring rain and I finally got fed up and decided screw the discount I'm going to just put in my debit card so I can get out of here. Apparently my repeated insults to the digital display had rendered me an idiot incapable of any further transactions outside, so I had to go inside and get help from the clerk.

He was a thin, middle-aged man with a black shirt, single gold chain necklace, pockmarked skin (from acne or burn scars - anyone's guess), and a mask of indifference. He had a thick, Middle Eastern accent when he told me, "Just get the gas and come back in and pay."

About three hours later, when I was on my way to pick up my kids, I realized horrifically that I never went in to pay. I was mortified - I had never done anything like that before - except the time I was 10 and I broke a Cinderella in the Disney World gift shop and put it in my pocket because I was afraid I was going to get in trouble. Later I sobbed to my dad in the hotel room that I had stolen a Cinderella, and he took me downstairs to straighten it out with the nice, slightly amused gift shop worker to whom I confessed tearfully. But the gas wasn't even intentional - I just forgot.

I explained to the kids what happened and why we had to stop by the gas station before Jack's soccer practice. They worried about me getting in trouble with the police, and I too wondered if they had cameras and would I be getting a phone call that evening. Unfortunately, it was a different worker, but when I explained what I had done he found the charge in the computer after I gave him a time window. "Was it $46.90? At about 12:30 p.m.?" I said, a little breathlessly, "Yes, that sounds about right. I filled the tank. It was almost empty."

"It says here it was a cash charge. Do you have cash? You have to pay in cash."

I was a little stymied. "Are you sure you can't take my debit card? I don't carry cash."

"Sorry, you have to pay in cash."

"Well, I only have $20. And I have to take my kid to soccer practice. I can run through the money machine after I drop them off for school in the morning and give you the rest. $26.90."

He looked at me suspiciously. "Are you sure you will come back?"

I looked back without speaking. My eyes said, "I'm here, aren't I?"

He laughed. "You are a good girl. You will be back."

This morning after I dropped the kids off at school, I did just as I promised. The original guy was working, and looked surprised when I walked in. I marched to the counter, muttered apologies, and looked him in the eye.

"I believe I owe you $26.90."

His mask of indifference had strangely melted into incredulity and glee. "You know, when you drove off yesterday, I thought to myself, - I will never see her again. She probably thought she payed with the card."

"No, you made it clear that I needed to come back, and I just forgot. I feel really bad about it."

He smiled at me and said, "You know, this is the first time this has happened in, I don't know, 5 or 6 years. You are the first to come back."

Now it was my turn to be surprised. "Really? Well good for me, I guess!" I walked out feeling happy that he wasn't angry with me.

Man. It is only September 3rd. This is going to be one long month. But I've got another full day alone packing and then pool and lake plans with the kids Sunday and Monday. A nice three days to - not check (I can't promise this), not worry about work, and not stress about my next two weeks. Well, I can't promise that either. But I'm relaxing tonight after a great dinner at Acadia with my friend Laurie - cumin-encrusted tuna (rare of course) with rancho risotto, sauteed vegetables, and amazing red velvet bread pudding. It's finally deck weather, and the deck was full of people dining and enjoying a long-awaited fall. Now it's time to thaw the mouse and feed Spotty.


Ginger said...

That was awesome!

Kyla said...

Doesn't it make you feel good to be one of the few people who could come back? One time I was given too much change and returned it to the cashier, she was SHOCKED. To me, it just seems like the right thing to do.

Once I filled up with gas and then realized that my card was not with me. I went in and explained and had to give the guy my ID (so I would come back), so I could leave to get my card. I would have gone back anyway, but I guess most people wouldn't have!

Gizabeth Shyder said...

That's the weird part to me. That most people wouldn't. I would have been tortured by my conscience had I even entertained the thought of ignoring it.

The Mother said...

I, too, have a viciously honest streak and would have never slept again.

Reminds me desperately (and not too wistfully) of the year I spent on Topamax. And I'm not even blonde.

Gizabeth Shyder said...

I had to google Topamax.

I'll be sure not to add that to my misery.