08 April 2009

Don't call us

I started out this morning in a remarkably good mood. Just so you know that.

At 6pm, on the dot, I had the macaroni and cheese in the oven, though I still needed to clean up all the mess that goes into making the macaroni and cheese (I am not talking about stuff out of a box here). For reasons that I can't exactly explain, I've had a yen to make hot cross buns (a sweet roll that is traditional for the end of Lent, and involves fruit and icing and stuff), so I set to putting together the dough to get it into the refrigerator.

(Let me also admit here and now that this is my mothers HCB recipe and I've never made it before.)

So I was fiddling with yeast and milk and butter and currants and flour, and I couldn't seem to hold on to anything, so flour was flying all over and the milk and butter mixture was spilled on the counter, and there were currants everywhere, and before I knew it, my hands were completely covered in sticky dough.

And naturally, the phone rang.

"I can't answer the phone," I yelled. "Someone pick it up."

I was assuming that it was one of the kids' friends who are usually calling with homework questions all afternoon.

As I was trying to disengage myself from the batter, the daughter appeared with the phone, looking worried.

"They say they need to speak to you," she told me.

Somehow, I maneuvered the phone to my shoulder, and with no small degree of irritation said, "Hello?"

It was my bank. They wanted to speak with me about the transaction I made on Monday.

My heart suddenly ratcheted completely out of control. "I didn't make a transaction on Monday."

The lady on the other end was flustered. Evidently, this was not on her script. They wanted to ask me about customer service. It was a survey.

My mind was racing along now, too, though far less erratically than my heart. I realized that the spouse was at the bank over the weekend and the transaction probably posted Monday, and just as I was about to begin screaming at this woman for calling at dinner time, I registered something else.

This was not a young woman. This was, in fact, a considerably older woman. She sounded nervous. She sounded like Muriel on Courage the Cowardly Dog.

Would I be willing to answer some questions, she asked hopefully.

Still speaking with an edge to my voice, I explained I was up to my elbows in dough, but if she'll wait until I wash my hands, I'd talk. She laughed, still nervous, but said, oh yes, of course, and I was assailed with a vision of a grey-haired old woman in a flowered dress sitting in a wing chair with an antimacassar behind her head. Somewhere in there with all the collectible spoons, there was probably a cat, asleep, possibly blending into the faded draperies behind it.

I washed my hands.

I picked up the phone.

I was very civil.

At the end, she asked what the bank could do to make me feel like a valued customer.

"Don't call me at dinner time!" I exclaimed, but I was laughing.

She was laughing, too, and apologetic.

It's not that I have a special place in my heart for old ladies; I've met plenty of really mean old battle axes. But the lack of confidence in this woman's voice, the awareness that she was asking questions at a really inconvenient time, the fact that she was willing to wait until I'd gotten the dough off my hands told me that something else was up.

Or maybe I just have a good imagination.

The countdown is on. The next couple of days are going to be nuts.

The empty pink leather satchel is watching me balefully.

Go listen to some music: "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" from the album Don't Call Us, We'll Call You by Sugarloaf.

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