Sometimes the specter of death comes lurking in obvious forms. Cancer. An assclown on the highway. A bike ride through the bucolic Wisconsin countryside. Sometimes……it does not.
So we land at the Long Beach, CA airport uneventfully, and the other passengers are in an unusually charitable mood, as they do NOT try to kill me and my grandmother as she insists on shuffling her way through the airplane to get off with everyone else instead of waiting until the end to deplane. There’s another helpful JetBlue guy with a wheelchair, and we get our luggage without a problem. So far, so good.
Then I meet Helen. An innocuous-seeming, petite Asian woman with whom my mom has arranged a pickup from the airport for me and grandma. We load our stuff in her car and set off, Helen careening a bit wildly towards our destination. They know each other and attempt to have a conversation. Key word: attempt. My grandmother is apparently in a hard-of-hearing mode tonight, even though she generally has the ability to hear a pin drop a mile away. And Helen’s English isn’t that great.
Helen: How your trip?
Grandma: No! Everything okay! You go for downtown?
Did I mention yet that my grandmother has only a rudimentary grasp of English? Yes, after being in this country for 60-some years, she still pretty much just speaks Ukrainian.
Helen, trying again: Was warm in Chicago? How was weather?
Grandma: No, house not sell yet. How is swimming pool? Is cold here! How long like this?
Helen, rallying, sensing a common theme here: It’s been cold for last 2 weeks like this.
Grandma: I no hear so good – how long like this?
Helen: 2 weeks! 2 weeks!
I chime in now, translating for my grandmother.
Me, in Ukrainian: Grandma, she said it’s been like this for 2 weeks!
Me, yelling: 2 WEEKS!
Grandma, peeved: Listen, don’t talk to me in that tone of voice!
I close my eyes and just shake my head. Is there a hidden camera in the car maybe? No, this is just how absurd my life always is.
Helen: 405, is north or south? Yes, south, I want south. No, north!
While she’s peering at the sign, she’s actually stopped the car on this busy road, right in the path of the people trying to get onto the on-ramp for the highway.
Me, looking nervously at cars coming up quickly behind us: Uhhh, you might want to….
Helen: Oh, south, up ahead! (giggle) I not so good drive at night!
Whew, we make it onto the highway. Surely now she knows where she’s going?
I at least have given up on the conversation, and have gone to the happy place in my head, with coneflowers and margaritas and cute HockeyBoys, lalalala. Life is good. And precious. And much more fleeting than I had imagined just a moment ago, because now we’re on a typical 8-lane California highway, and there are 2 more lanes to the right of us, where cars are getting onto the highway, and for some reason Helen seems to think that they’re merging into our lane, and she also seems to think that this requires that she come to a complete stop. So she does. On the super-highway. And sits there, peering over to the right. Oh. My. God. I brace for the crash, and think, “so this is how it ends – not with The Cancer, or even something entertaining like a runaway truck in the town of Eagle, WI – but a fiery ball of flames on a CA highway. I just hope The Kone is kept in the style to which he’s accustomed….”
But you know what they say about God protecting fools and drunks, and Helen finally gets going again –and then, thank god, lurches over 3 lanes to get off at our exit – before we go up in said flames. So I think we’ve got the first category covered, and I’m pretty damn sure that as soon as we get to our destination, the second one will be ably covered as well, at least if I have anything to say about it…..
Next up: LeisureWorld!