“Hi Meg, I'm Greg and I am your driver from Green Mountain Transit,” I said.
“Why didn't you call the night before,” retorted Meg.
“Sorry, I didn't know I was meant to. Could we just review where I am taking you today and what I have on the manifest from GMT?” I said.
“That Mary, she always screws things up. I'm tryin' to get her fired...,” shrieked Meg.
“Sorry to hear that,” I replied, ignoring the stream of vitriol coming out of my mobile phone as I reviewed the manifest. “So it says that you're going to Health Family Services in Peterborough, NH for an appointment at 11 am, correct?”
“It also says that you have a scooter. I am planning to pick you up at 10, okay?”
“No, that f%&*ing Mary, hrrr. I told her. Nobody can carry that thing. It's 350 pounds, an electric scooter. I just take my walker. That kid needs to be fired. And I ain't gonna be ready at 10. I gotta take my f%&*ing shower,” came her retort.
“Ah, well I am sure that Mary and everyone up at GMT has their hands full, what with the holidays. How about I pick you up at 10:15,” I said. If this woman possessed a similarly unsavory health regime as her disposition, perhaps a shower would be beneficial. It was 30 mins to Peterborough.
“See you at 10:15,” I repeated as it was apparent that my question had not registered due to the uninterupted cursing concerning Mary and GMT. I held the phone an inch or two from my ear, took a breath, exhaled and waited. Finally, she paused and after five seconds of phone silence that felt painfully like an eternity, “yeah,” she said.
Meg is my third ride, and given her disposition, I thought it best to call Lynn, the ride coordinator at GMT, to ask her if this woman was safe to ride with.
“That's our Meg,” said Lynn rosily. “There she goes burning more bridges.”
Funny, I thought to myself, I had not really extended a “bridge” to Meg, not even so much as a draw bridge, and given this early interaction would have trepidation in extending anything with the exception of needle containing a strong sedative.
“Let me call her, and check things out. Then I'll call you back,” Lynn said with a sigh. She had been down this road before with Meg.
Five minutes later after Lynn had called me back to confirm where Lynn was going and presumably attempt to remind her that she needed to modify her behavior, I set out for Meg's house, preparing myself for what was sure to be a long ride to Peterborough with an ailing, irratible woman in need of a punching bag. I thought about Meg's predicament as I drove over to her house. She must have been abused, was probably on a lot of medication and in pain or discomfort. While these immediate thoughts caused me to feel sorry for her, my resolve to not become Meg's next victim dominated. Whatever, I met the otherside of that door, regardless of its predicament was not going to be tolerated, if it continued on the abusive track.
Hm, where was 59 Grimes Hill, I mused. Like so many Vermont homes, Meg's home lacked the normal numbering or obvious signage common in most of the western world. It's sort of a sport up here with road signs and house signs. Or maybe it's a way the locals differentiate themselves from us outsiders like me. “By Jeez, didn't ya see the sign, young fella?” How many times had I fell prey to that one. And there is nothing to say in response, apart from the obligatory “no, can't say I did.” It's just part of the cultural fabric up here, just as my people don't believe in waterproof footwear, aside from the grossly uncomfortable and impractical “wellies.” Yes, if you hear an English person remark at how damp it is, while they remove sodden walking shoes and wet socks, you do NOT meet it with a practical, “well you could wear a tote, boot or any manner of readily available modern waterproof footwear.”
If you did, you would be met with an astonished look, a look exclaiming “well, why would we do that? How dare you presume to provide a practical solution to a challenge that has been providing generations of my countrymen discomfort for centuries!” And so goes the same logic with Vermonters. You won't get them to change their signs, so take a page out of the anthropologist's book and suppress any urge to culturally intrude with outsider wisdom.
Okay, I will have to call. I swallowed the lump in my throat and punched in Meg's number. There was literally not even one ring. She was probably watching me out one of these windows as I drove up the road and turned back down the road again like some 8 year old cyclist.
“Hello Meg? It's Greg, I am just trying to find your...,” I began.
“I told ya, it's the house right after Frost Street...f%$King idiot...,” came the on cue curt response. Upon the beginning of the "f&*k" word, I hit the little phone hang up receiver icon on my car wheel—so satisfying.
And there it was, right after Frost Street, though my rider had never said this. If she had, it had been lost in the stream of obscenities. She wasn't out front waiting, as most of my rides are. That would be too easy. No, I would have to brave going to the door. I got out and proceeded gingerly around the back of a jacked-up Dodge truck, then past the rusty rear of a Jeep Cherokee, up the steps to the dark, uninviting storm door.
A deep breath, and I opened the squeaky, rickety storm door. That's one thing about America that I can never understand. Why is a thing called, after all, a “storm door” the most rickety, flimsy piece of metal that a Chinese metal shop can put out? If it is supposed to provide protection to the occupants from an impending storm, it inspires little confidence in me. Plus have you ever encountered a storm door that opened and closed smoothly, that is without screeching or requiring violent jerks and much cursing?
Storm door open and resting uncomfortably against my back, I banged vigorously on the wooden front door. Without so much as sufficient time for the knock sound to find its way into the ear of the interior resident I heard what sounded like a stream of language that would make a drunk and defeated Red Sox fan sound aimiable. Thankfully the din of the passing traffic conveniently served to muffle much of the ensuing sounds. There was something about “time to take a f%$*ing shower,” and “why can't I find the friggin' door bell, motherf$%&er. I'll be another f%$8ing minute...f%$8, idiot, asshole, b#$%ard. Note, there is NO doorbell. I looked. Trust me, banging on that door was not my first choice.
I took a step back. Okay, so it was 10:30. Peterborough was 30 minutes, and riders like Meg were not exactly agile. I'll give it two more minutes. Then I am telling her that I am leaving. So I waited, another two minutes and, of course, no sign of Meg. She was probably inside enjoying some mid-morning entertainment watching a young man looking rather nervously perturbed and uncomfortable pretend to read email on his iPhone. I knocked again.
This time my hand upon being raised to come down on the door for the fourth knocked was interrupted with a violent opening of the door. A woman leaning against a walker with freshly died red hair stood glaring at me and started on her tirade. I am rather proud of myself for happened next. For rather than getting flustered and escalating the situation, I raised my right hand in a sort of traffic cop stop signal and said calmly and maintaining eye contact:
“Meg, you are being verbally abusive. If you want a ride to Peterborough, you will need to stop immediately or I will leave right now.”
I watched for any reaction, and surprisingly my words or demeanor, for I am not sure which worked, had the affect of stopping Meg dead in her tracks. Her mouth kept moving a little, but the volume lowered like a siren winding down. She hung her head and still leaning on the walker sighed.
“Is that clear?” I asked, again maintaining eye contact.
“Yes,” she said with a murmur. “I won't say another word all the way over.”
We had been into our ride two minutes, heading down I91, when the silence was broken. "My daughter had one of those," said Meg as she nodded in the direction of the speaking GPS in my car. "Had the damn thing ripped out. Never worked."
I raised my eyebrows, pushed my lips forward a little and nodded in acknowledgement--so much for not saying another word.