Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tried and True

Cranky (Ex-)Boss Lady was involved in a freak accident about a month ago. She was talking with a friend while the friend's three large dogs were tearing around the yard when one of them barrelled into CBL from behind, knocking her over and somehow breaking her right ankle. So broken was the ankle, that she had to have a screw surgically inserted to hold everything together.

She has an adult daughter, a live-in boyfriend, and a renter who has lived in the attached apartment for so long (at such low rent) that he has become a member of their highly dysfunctional family--all of them can help her out in the late afternoons and evenings. Which leaves mornings and early afternoons during the week to me because there isn't anyone else, because I don't mind helping out--actually like to be able to help out when I can. When she called about the ankle, she said, in typical tell-don't-ask Cranky Boss Lady fashion, "I'm going to need your help with appointments and stuff." The answer would've been "yes," but I couldn't help noticing that there was no real question there.

Cranky Boss Lady is, to understate it in the extreme, a high maintenance individual under the best of circumstances and clearly a severely broken ankle does not qualify as the best of circumstances. She is unable to support herself on crutches and so is wheelchair bound and home all day with three springer spaniels.

The two male spaniels do not get along owing to having been neutered only after having gotten into numerous scraps with one another and so there is an elaborate routine that CBL has devised involving segregation and rotation of the dogs. Since she is no longer working outside the home, she has plenty of time and energy to fixate, er, focus on the "needs" of these three dogs. In addition to being rotated (one male is in the living room with CBL and the other in the sun room with the female dog and then they switch), they go outside for potty breaks every hour and a half to two hours. They have stuffed toys that are dog-specific and it's extremely important to CBL (significantly less so to the dogs) that none of the dogs plays with someone else's toy. Therefore, the hairy-stained-up-spit-encrusted toys must also be transferred from room to room at each rotation. And one of these toys, a mangled Pumba from Lion King, which makes farting and burping noises, must be dropped over the gate to land on its head so it will make noise, whether the dog is standing there to hear it or not.

I think the whole thing is completely insane, but if that's how she wants to do things, so be it. I will say, however, that even if I were the type of person to be concerned that Benny is playing with Misty's toy or to engage in a "battle of wills*" with Buddy because he's not really interested in going out at the moment since he was out an hour ago, I would make an effort to simplify the doggy routine if I was relying on another person to help me with it. I would, not, in other words, visit my insanity upon someone who is taking an hour or more out of her own day to help me.

Along with going over every weekday at 10:30 and noon to deal with the dogs, I have also taken CBL to three doctor's visits (one of these of the "emergency" last-minute variety and thirty minutes away from home); winced inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) as CBL was whining and demanding and borderline verbally abusive to office staff at these appointments; paid her cable, gas, and electric bills (in person at three different locations); picked up prescriptions for her and her son; listened to the graphic details about the bursting of her boyfriend's sebaceous cyst; purchased bandages for her boyfriend's sebaceous cyst; stopped and gotten her lunch every day--usually a ridiculously complex order from the supermarket deli, which she has never yet failed to complain about; and more, oh-so-much more.

We also went through the McDonald's drive-thru at one point and she demanded that I order her fries "straight out of the fryer," which is how she always wants her fries. When I worked with her on a daily basis at the flower shop, I told her more than once that asking for that sort of special consideration at a fast-food restaurant is just begging them to spit in your food. Still, she persisted, though to be honest, when I was tasked with picking up her lunch and bringing it back to the shop I never, not one single time, requested fries "straight from the fryer" and she was none the wiser.

This time, of course, she was in the passenger seat next to me so there was no wiggling out of it and I asked for the fries "straight from the fryer." When the bag with the chicken tenders and fries was handed out to the window to me, CBL warned, "Don't drive away yet!" Then she snatched the bag out of my hand, stuck her hand in to test the fries, declared them "warm, not hot" and ordered me to send them back. I started to pull away from the window and she yelled, "What are you doing!?"

I calmly said, "I'm going to go inside to return your fries."

She said, "I would've just banged on the window!"

I said, "I'm not going to hold up the fourteen cars behind us. I'll just go inside."

Then she proceeded to complain about the fact that I drove around the building rather than parking at the end of the drive-thru lane where I would've been partially blocking traffic. I got out of the van to go inside while she was still talking.

The punchline, of course, is that she did not actually eat the fries until we'd gotten her home and in the door and settled on the couch--so the fries were no longer straight from the fryer. Therefore, her tantrum had been completely in vain.

On that straight-out-of-the-fryer day, which was fairly early on in this whole process, Hubby had come along at CBL's insistence because she was pretty sure we would need his help getting her in and out of the vehicle (we hadn't) so he was waiting in the van while I got her settled in at home. As I was trying to get out the door, she made a heartfelt speech, getting a little teary-eyed as she told me how much she appreciated everything I was doing for her. She told me, "You are a true friend."

When I made it out the door, I recounted her speech to Hubby and said, "When she called me a true friend, I thought to myself, 'If I were really a true friend, I wouldn't be about to get into the van and start complaining about every aspect of your personality before the door was even all the way closed.'"

So, what say you, my bloggy friends? What is the measure of true friendship? In which direction does peevishness tip the scales? Precisely how much annoyance (and often (OFTEN!) bitter resentment) is required to turn generosity from something sweet to something bitter? Is it better or worse if this annoyance is expressed behind the back of rather than to the face of the annoyer? What if this behind-the-back expression feels like the only way to be kind face-to-face?

Please, my bloggy friends, share with me your insight, your wisdom, perhaps your own stories of that special someone whom you care deeply about despite actively dreading the time you spend with him or her.

Please, because it's another few days til the cast comes off and weeks (maybe months) of physical therapy after that and I need all the help I can get.

*I am standing in the sun room, holding the storm door wide and negotiating with this dog who is looking at me like I'm a complete idiot (about this he is so clearly right that it barely bears mentioning) when CBL calls from the next room, "Sometimes you've got to kind of lead him out the door. It's really a battle of wills between him and me most days." Dude, I'm no vet or doggy psychologist*, but if the dog has to be cajoled or worse dragged out the door, and he's just been out an hour ago, odds are he's not really urgently needing to go out the door.

*Though CBL did, in fact, hire a doggy psychologist to come in and evaluate the situation between the two male dogs. Naturally CBL and her boyfriend dismissed every one of the psychologist's suggestions (most of which had to do with the interhuman dynamics rather than the dog-to-dog dynamics). They were then shocked and dismayed that their $500 had gone to waste.

(Update: I'm going to "cheat" a little and use this as my TidBit Thursday post at Larissa's. Hoping to use my computer time and energy to catch up a bit more on visiting everyone else.)