Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mirrorgate: The Crime Of The Century

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published May 1, 2014]  © 2014 

The man who knocked on my front door pointed to the curb.  “Is that your car?”

Instantly you know there’s no good news to be had.  Which doesn’t, of course, keep you from fantasizing he’ll say, “I just wanted to say that I totally love those older model Toyota Corollas.  Such classic lines.  And SO affordable.”

But, of course, what he said was, “A truck just hit your car and took off.” 

It wasn’t just any truck.  The good samaritan on my porch had been painting the house across the street when a big service vehicle bearing the prominent logo of a Famous Company sheared off the driver’s side mirror assembly of my car sending its now-micro-pieces some 30 feet ahead in a truly impressive debris field.  The driver stopped, quickly looked around, then sped off.    

I do have to say that doing a hit-and-run in a well-marked business vehicle with a GPS on it may not be the smartest move.  Obviously, he didn’t think anyone had seen him.  Both the house painter and I tried calling Famous Company but among their many customer options was not “Report hit-and-run by our service vehicle.” 

Before “the body” could be removed (or in this case, vac-ed up), the police came out and took crime scene photos.  I took a bunch too.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I was finally able to get through to Thelma at Famous Company’s Risk Management office, apparently in the South. She did not inspire confidence that this matter would be resolved quickly.  When asked to describe what happened, I said - exact words - “One of your vehicles hit my car, sheared off the driver’s side mirror, and left the scene.  It was a hit-and-run.”  Thelma drawls, “Oh, mah.  Thas more than Ah can put in thah spaice.”

Over the next four days, both the house painter and I were called repeatedly by the police, my insurance company, and several levels of Famous Company people - field supervisors, Risk Management, Third Party Claims Assessment.  I went over to the neighbor’s house and apologized to him where he was still trying to get a little painting in between phone calls.  “I’ve never been so popular,” he laughed.

On the fourth day, Famous Company said they were coming out to do a crime scene re-enactment.  The painter needed to be there too.  When I told my husband, he said, “Do you get to be the truck this time?” 

The Famous Company guys were really hoping for a house painter who smokes dope on the job and calls you “dude.”  Their bad luck, this guy was the sharpest witness in America.  They were dismayed that I had had my mirror replaced, never mind messed with the crime scene.  I assured them that I had ample photos of the corpse.

They had me put my car in the exact place on the street where it had been hit so the distance could be measured from the mirror to the ground. The Famous Company field guy admitted that the GPS on their truck showed it being precisely in front of my home at 4:32, the reported time of the crime. And the painter’s description of the driver was dead on.  But, sacre bleu, their truck showed no damage in the corresponding place. How could it have hit my mirror? 

The detective assigned to the case had an explanation for that, which he basically summed up, albeit more kindly, as “armored tank hit your crappy Corolla.” 

The Famous Company guys push on:  Is the painter positive there wasn’t another car right behind their truck that could have hit my car?  I could see a new theory emerging.  The Famous Company driver hears a loud noise behind him. Someone has hit my car! He pulls over, sees my mirror in a bazillion pieces in the street.  Outraged, he speeds off in search of the real killer, er, crasher. 

The painter is having none of this.  He is 100% positive there was no other vehicle anywhere in sight.  At this point, the salary cost of all the people involved in this has exceeded the sum total value of my car. 

But ultimately Famous Company concluded that, despite reasonable doubt, they would just pay me the $406 (a crime in itself) for my mirror.  And the painter, against all odds, was actually able to finish the job.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

**The Case Of The Rogue Reserves

My older son, a life-long prankster, still has to keep his hand in it even though he's now in his 30's. 

San Diego Public Library


The item you requested is available for pickup from the Library above and will be held for 12 days. A $1.00 restock fee will be charged for each item not picked up. Please bring your library card with you when picking up your hold.

1 The book of the penis /

Maggie Paley ; illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier.
Paley, Maggie.
call number:573.656/PALEY copy:1

 From: Mom
To: Rory
Subject: Fw: Library Pickup Notice

Hi Rory - This notice from the public library showed up on my computer tonight. I showed it to Olof and said, "Somebody hacked into my library reserve account. I need to report this to them immediately!" Olof pondered this for a moment and said, "Before you do that, you might want to reflect on who might have been visiting this past weekend." Good point. Why do I think this has your name written all over it? Affectionately, Mom

----- Original Message -----
From: Rory
To:  Mom
Subject: RE: Library Notice

I think someone may have had trouble resisting the temptation of ordering some fun titles, given that the library card # and password were right there on your computer which was just sitting there right in the guest room. 

---- Original Message -----
From: Mom
To: Rory
Subject: Fw: Library Notice

Rory – For the record, my password was not posted on my computer, just the library card number.  But as soon as you type that in, the library aids and abets persons like you by prompting:  “Your password is the last four digits of your phone number.”  Gosh, thanks, public library! I am probably the only person in America who can't leave her14 digit library card number taped to her computer without fear that some malicious pervert houseguest will take liberties with it.  If I don't check it out, it will sit on the reserve shelf just inside the front door with my name on it for 12 days, after which I am subjected to a fine.  There are few things I would wish to do less than dispute a fine for a volume called “The book of the penis” with that lady at the front desk who wears a bun. 

Love (I think),


----- Original Message -----
From: Mom
To: Rory
Subject: Book report:  The book of the penis

Dear Rory -

My mother, who, alas, you never had the opportunity to know, always said that one should look upon everything, bad and good, as an educational opportunity. I have spent a truly illuminating  weekend reading The Book of the Penis.  (The gardener did a bit of a double take seeing it on the coffee table when he came to pick up his check.)  I have to say, I was pretty impressed that this was written by a woman (who, according to the testimonials on the back “really knows her penises”), and that she had the foreskin, er, foresight to include an eight inch (hah!) ruler – broken down to 1/16ths - along the binding. She clearly knew her audience. I would like to note, however, that it comes in soft cover.

I learned some really neat facts that you would be well to remember the next time you are at a dinner party where the conversation is flagging. Try this: “Did you know that the original purpose of a codpiece – the guy equivalent of a padded bra – wasn’t so much intended to make them look more endowed as to protect expensive clothes from mercury-based syphilis creams?” Now if THAT doesn’t perk the table up, you should just go home.

And did you know that some guys actually get a penis tattoo? (Ow ow ow ow ow.) The tricky part, of course, is to design it so that it has the proper effect in the shall we say power position – definitely a challenge for the tattoo artist since most male members don’t exactly get bigger in the presence of a sharp object. At least that’s been my experience. (Oops – too much information!) The example they give in the book is about a guy who has his girlfriend Wendy’s name tattooed on his penis (what an idiot) only to go to a health club and find another guy, a Jamaican, with the same tattoo. Fearing that Wendy may be making the rounds, he nervously queries the other guy who replied, “No, mon. It says ‘Welcome to Jamaica’.”

If there is one thing I learned from this book, it is that guys do some really weird things with their apparati. The chapter on Penis Art was kind of neat (you can have a plaster cast made for posterity), Uses of the Foreskin not so much. Penis Piercing – see ow, ow, ow, ow, above.

My one complaint about this book is that it claimed to be illustrated. Maybe some other hapless woman whose pervert of a son reserved this book for her cut them out all as souvenirs, but as illustrations go, these sucked. OK, maybe bad choice of word there. I could go on at some length (so to speak), but if you want to know more, you’ll just have to check it out yourself.



----- Original Message -----
From: Mom
To: Rory
MORE Library Notices

Dear Rory –

OK, so your mother is a slow learner. But I have now learned to check my library account for rogue reserves. And in the process have cancelled Coping with Your Colitis, Hemorrhoids and Related Disorders; The whole lesbian sex book : a passionate guide for all of us; and The Rear View : A Brief and Elegant History of Bottoms Through the Ages. I have also changed my password. 

Signed (not love),




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thanks For The (Non) Memories

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published April 17, 2014] © 2014 

When I considered whether to go to my 40th high school reunion – my first reunion ever – the first thing I thought about was whether I’d have to confront my high school nemesis, Medusa (not her real name).

It’s a testament to the power of high school that decades later, I would even be thinking about her at all.  I had never suffered any kind of bullying until my sophomore year of high school when a group of some 80 kids from a neighboring town who didn’t have their own high school joined ours.  The crunch was such that for the first time we had to share lockers.  I got Medusa. 

I wasn’t a cheerleader-popular kind of teenager, but I was very social, a good student, and ultimately went on to be the editor of the school paper and president of the school service group.  But as a high school sophomore, my only elected office was secretary of the Organ Club (music, not donors).  I think it will be obvious that there was not a lot of cachet in this.

“Hey, Inga, wanna play MY organ?” the alphabetical creepo in homeroom would leer when club meeting announcements were read.  My husband, Olof, was fascinated by this story.  “You should have said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t play lesser instruments,’” Olof opined.  WHY, WHY didn’t I ever think of that?  I almost wanted to go to the reunion just so I could use that line.

Medusa, meanwhile, was the classic mean girl.  I scheduled my sophomore year life around trying to avoid being anywhere near our locker when she was, or anywhere near her at all.  She enjoyed making fun of me in front of her equally mean girl friends.  School, which I had always enjoyed, suddenly wasn’t fun that year. 

From time to time over the years, I would think of Medusa and hope that her children were already elementary school juvenile delinquents and that she had an incurable and relentlessly painful disease exacerbated by the penicillin-resistant syphilis she had contracted from her chronically-philandering husband.  In my ultimate east-coast vengeful fantasy, hers was the only welfare family in the uber-tony community of Greenwich, Connecticut where she was relentlessly shunned. 

My best friend from high school, Tinker (childhood nickname), ultimately persuaded me to go to the reunion. As it turns out, it was the first one Medusa had ever attended herself.  The organ club guy, sadly, didn’t show (I was totally disappointed), but I got to spend some wonderful time with my high school paper co-editor going through his yearbook and reading such touching inscriptions as, You think your [sic] liberal but to me you’re a champion fuckup.  Best of luck.” 

The first night was a casual pizza event.  There were plenty of people I hadn’t recognized initially that evening but when Medusa walked in, I knew her immediately.   Tinker nodded; she’d seen her too.  What would I say to Medusa?  “Hi, I’ve hated you for forty years?” No, that didn’t seem like it would produce the desired response from her, which, for the record, was, “I’m so sorry.  I’m a subhuman life form who hardly deserves to live, but I want to make it all up to you.  Not a day goes by that I don’t regret my reprehensible behavior.” 

A bit later, I joined Tinker who had sat down for a piece of pizza. 

 “I really can’t decide what the right thing is to say to Medusa,” I said.  “Maybe I shouldn’t say anything.”

“Actually,” said Tinker, guiltily. “I was just talking to her.  She doesn’t remember being mean to you.”

“WHAT?? You’re kidding!”

“Actually, it’s worse,” continued Tinker.  “She doesn’t remember you at all.”

My pizza slice hung suspended in mid-bite.  Didn’t even remember me? I had never considered the possibility.  I hunted through my purse for my 9 mm Glock.

I had to admit that during the evening, I talked with some people who remembered me well but whom I couldn’t place, and to several whom I remembered well but who seemed to have very little memory of me.  I continue to be fascinated by who and what we remember – why some people with whom we had a lot of contact just completely fade away in our memories, and others stand out so prominently.  Of course, we can’t remember everything and everyone – just not enough disk space.  But it just didn’t seem possible that Medusa, the source of so much angst and trauma, could have erased me from her memory bank.  Or worse, never registered me in it to begin with.  Is this the ultimate act of bullying, that your bully doesn’t even remember you?

Just wait till the 50th reunion, Medusa.  I predict a wheelchair mishap.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

**The Son Also Rises

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published April 10, 2014] © 2014 

I get that sons need to separate from their mothers. But do they have to be so mean about it?

I’m a nice person.  So I wasn’t prepared for the fact that as my sons approached their senior years of high school they would suddenly turn on me.

My younger son, especially, became positively surly.  My mere presence annoyed him.  I think Henri saw me as the embodiment of all that stood between him and a future of happy mother-free manhood.  His spirit had already left home but his body had been forced to stay behind.  I don’t know who suffered more.

My husband, Olof, said that this was all part of the natural order of things.  It’s far less traumatic to let your kids go off to college if you hate them. 

But as they made their bumpy way to self-supporting non-mother-needing maturity, they were regularly sticking it to Mom.  Now, I realize that if you’re looking for gratitude, parenthood is the wrong business for you.  Still, when my younger son was a high school senior, he was awarded a prestigious national honor for which the local media came to interview him.  The kids had always referred to their Dad’s house (my ex) as “the fun house” (it was) and my house as “the boring house” (it was).  I had done every library run (pre-internet) even when it meant schlepping the kids to the downtown San Diego Library in rush hour traffic after work, driven every carpool (even on my ex-husband’s custody days), used up a year’s vacation time one year taking one of them to physical therapy after a serious sports injury, managed countless youth sports teams, ran cub scout dens, consulted on term papers – all while working.  So the interviewer asks Henri, is there anyone he wants to thank?  Yes, he says, his Dad for teaching him how to have fun.  Anyone else?  They’re practically begging him.  No, no one that he can think of.  (OK, you miserable runt, kill your mother.)

But another newspaper sees this story and he gets interviewed again.  Anyone he wants to thank?  Two people, he says.  “My Dad, for teaching me how to have fun.”  I modestly lower my eyes.   “And Mr. Litchfield, my English teacher.”   For days afterwards, I had to fight impulses to poison his lunches.

I was crushed.  And more than a little annoyed.  I didn’t say anything for a week as I contemplated the situation.  Demanding that someone express thanks is no thanks at all.  But finally one night at dinner, I thought I’d bring it up casually.  “WOULD IT HAVE KILLED YOU TO THANK ME?????” I said.

Apparently yes.  But more recently, giving a genuinely touching toast to Olof and me on a milestone occasion, Henri’s voice actually cracked with emotion as he thanked us for all we had done for him.  But not happening at 17.

Meanwhile, my older son, Rory, wrote his college abnormal psychology term paper about me, 17 pages worth of Mom-analysis.  That one actually had a surprisingly positive outcome when, after interviewing me at length for the paper, Rory concluded that there were extenuating circumstances as to why I was the worst mother in the history of the world. 

When Henri graduated from college and got his first job, he invited Olof and me to dinner. Historically, that would have been a cheap ploy for a free meal. But the bill comes, kid goes to get it.  I knew money was really tight for him with all the housing start-up costs so I immediately grabbed it and handed it to Olof.  Olof, to my surprise, whispered “Let him pay.” I did.

When we got home, Olof said, “You almost deprived your son of one of the greatest moments a guy can have – finally being able to take his parents to dinner.  He’s telling you he’s an adult who can take care of himself – and in this case, us.  Sometimes moms just miss this stuff completely.”   

How did Olof know?  Y chromosome communication?  (Is there, in fact, any?) 

So for all you moms out there with surly high school seniors, remember this:  you’ll like them again some day.  They’ll like you too.  Sometimes you just have to live long enough.