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Of All the Minivans in Brooklyn I Had to End Up in Yours

January 21, 2011

So for the last couple of days Graham and I have been working hard to purge and declutter our home.  We set aside two days to do this, but we actually need another day to finish the deal.  It’s been a hard, but PLEASURABLE experience to purge all the dead weight in our home.  My motto had been: GET DOWN TO THE ESSENTIALS.  If we don’t use it in some essential way, it’s GOING.  That meant getting rid of some art supplies that I hadn’t touched in years, gifts that people had given us over the years that I had held onto out of obligation, even some of my art went into the trash.  We have ONE closet in our apartment.  Not counting the kitchen cabinets and the pantry closet, that’s all the storage we have, so the overflow in our bedroom and kitchen was getting TOO MUCH.  It felt good to get rid of files, unwanted bags, heaps of clothes, and old baby items that we just couldn’t figure out what to do with.  It was SO satisfying to be able to store the stuff we did use easily in that one closet.

You should have seen the PILE of stuff going to the Salvation Army.  It was a MOUNTAIN.  I was going to take a picture, but it just didn’t happen in all the activity.  The one problem with living in New York is transportation.  I had a mountain of stuff to get to the Salvation Army.  There was no way we could do it on the subway, with or without the baby.  So I called a car service and requested a minivan or an SUV.  Graham stayed behind with Gus.  When the minivan pulled up I immediately jumped into high gear loading up the mountain of stuff.  The driver was kind enough to help me.  Then I got in the van, thanked her, told her where we were going and we were off.   Then she took one look at me and said, “You the lady who had the baby here?”

OH MY EFFING GOLLY.  You have GOT to be kidding me.  GLADYS??

Of all the freaking minivans in all of Brooklyn, WE GET THE ONE MY SON WAS BORN IN.

I couldn’t believe it and told her so.  She laughed and I laughed, but it wasn’t funny to me.  I was laughing because it was SCREWED UP.  Also, unlike when I was in labor, the polite machinary of my need to be socially good kicked in.  Unfortunately so was a heeby jeebie, nervy feeling  crawling up my back followed by a bomb of nausea as my body started to have flashbacks.  I glanced at the inside of the van and took a deep breath, trying to remind myself that I wasn’t in labor this time.

Gladys said she didn’t know it was me at first.  “You fat now?”  She asked making a motion around her face.

“Am I fat NOW?”  I asked.


“Uh, no.  I don’t think so.”  At least compared to when I was 42 WEEKS PREGNANT. I decided to let that one slide into the “language barrier” part of our communication.

She told me about taking the van to get cleaned.  I gather the car cleaning service made quite a scene.  She said, “you did EVERYTHING back there.”  You don’t NEED to tell ME, lady!  (For the record, we paid for the clean up, plus whatever wages she might have lost that night.)  Gladys said she told the cleaners, “I say, ‘no, no it’s okay–it’s a BABY.'”  More laughter between us.  The laughter was helping me not to puke.  It was also helping me not throw F bombs in her direction.  I guess I still have some feelings about how she tried to kick my husband out on the dark freeway while I was in active labor.  She asked about Gus, if all was okay.  I told her he was great.  Then she asked his name.  I told her it was August.  She looked at me blankly.  “Like the month,” I said to clear it up in case she didn’t understand me.

“They call people that?”  She asked.

“Yes, they call people that.”

She shrugged and didn’t say anything for awhile and neither did I.  I looked outside and continued to count my breaths, saying to my insides, “You see?  It’s daylight and it’s a different day and we are going a completely different route.”

When we got to the Salvation Army I was a little jittery, but I jumped into high gear again, with the van double parked and the mountain of crap in the back.   I was relieved when Gladys jumped in to help.  I had imagined a New York chaotic scene with someone yelling at me that I couldn’t unload there and especially this much, but it was all for naught.

Gladys gave me a ride back to the apartment.  I should have just taken the subway, but my mind wasn’t exactly in the right place.  When we started back to the apartment she said incredulously, “You give all that stuff away?”


“You just give it?”

“Yes,” I said.  And she did what she seemed to do best, laugh, shake her head and question every answer I gave her.  Before she dropped me at my door she asked me how much I paid in rent, why we lived where we lived, and if we were Polish.  Alas, no.

I wish I could tell you some beautiful story of forgiveness and a circle completing itself, but that’s not what happened.  I was glad to get out of her van and I never wanted to see it or her again, but I did wish her well and I thanked her for helping me unload the mountain of junk, and gave her a tip to match her efforts.  On the way home she told me she was most likely going to move back to Ecuador.  I wished her luck and meant it.

  1. warrior two permalink
    January 21, 2011 5:51 am

    OMG, almost exactly a year later! What a great story! And even better that it didn’t play out like something from a sitcom! (Nice that she at least helped you load and unload, this time.)

  2. simone permalink
    January 21, 2011 6:04 am

    ohmygod….that’s amazing! There’s should be a word in English for weird and hilarious and totally uncomfortable. (Somewhere in the world there must be one)

  3. Kathy permalink
    January 21, 2011 1:52 pm

    What a hilarious yet awful story. Thanks for sharing; I had a good laugh with my coffee

  4. January 21, 2011 3:29 pm

    Ah, New York, New York: isn’t it (very occasionally) just like a small town, where you bump into certain folks at just the wrong time? Though in this case it seems that just about any time would be the wrong time.

  5. January 21, 2011 4:09 pm

    Kismet! Kablooie! Wowee!

  6. January 21, 2011 5:03 pm

    Woah! I was going to say serendipity, but that has too positive of a connotation. Whether she moves or not, looks like it’s time to start using a different cab service.

  7. Mare Freeborn permalink
    January 22, 2011 3:30 pm

    Holeeee crap! No – other – words. ;-}

  8. summer permalink*
    January 22, 2011 8:02 pm

    Everyone: DUDE! I! KNOW!

  9. January 23, 2011 5:39 am

    I just found your site a few days ago through Offbeat Mama and totally devoured your amazing birth story. And now the follow-up story…wow. I applaud your self-control and patience – I think I would have lost it after the “fat” comment!

  10. Lisa Parsons permalink
    January 24, 2011 4:43 am


  11. Jenny Parsons permalink
    January 26, 2011 12:04 am

    I think you showed great, great, great control of your emotions and I continue to notice how big your heart is. You are open to whatever, real and yet able to think things through before acting (dumping, whatever). Gladys obviously doesn’t have a clue about the life you live. To all the Gladys’ in the world: I hope you have a Summer in your world.

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