Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Driving Miss Crazy...

My parents' neighbour, Rita, is nearly 80. Rita has one son who went to university and never came back, her mum pretty much brought him up. Widowed at 58, she spent the best part of the next  two decades enjoying herself and spending lots of money. My family liked Rita and found her a pain in the arse in equal measure. Some people (like Rita) are not capable of doing anybody else a favour, yet demand regular favours from others.  My mother once contracted lead poisoning from some second hand eye make-up and could barely move. My brother and I were under 8 and out playing, mum asked Rita if she would call us in, she refused.
We all get old, we all will need help one day and so on, but Rita milked every opportunity to get us running around for her. Shopping for her with a giant list of things to get from different shops, milk from 'Kwik Save'  bread from Somerfield, ham from M&S. We'd have to do her shopping every time she had so much as a runny nose, or a bout of passing 'loose stools', which was a regular occurrence. In her defence, she was funny without ever trying, and came out with some classic phrases such as "Roy? He hasn't worked since the small beer strike" in reference to a local unemployed gentleman. I have some incredibly fond memories of Rita, and used to love looking at her garden which was festooned with gnomes, swan planters, windmills and flowers of  every colour in the rainbow.
Yesterday, Rita must have been spying, ready to pounce. As I left my parents' house, she appeared and exclaimed "Luce, take me to town will you" this was not a request, it was a demand. I tried fobbing her off by suggesting I deposit her near town, but she was insistent that I drop her off by 'Caddy's' (a pet shop which closed down in the late 80's). I explained to Rita that it'd be impractical to drop her by Caddy's as there is nowhere to park, but she's gone a bit senile and didn't listen. I tried a little light small-talk (I'm a bit of an expert at small talk) but all I got was the odd grunt and a few belches back from her. Halfway to town: "turn 'round Luce, I forgot my bank card". I was not amused, but followed her order, knowing deep down that it was in her bag and she'd spend ages looking for it.
Try again, head to town, explain I'll drop her IN TOWN meaning I'd have to drive past town in order to turn around, that's the way you have to do it, unless you're driving a taxi or bus. Rita assumes I am a taxi, and is quite angry with me for not turning right at her request. Next, I'm aware we have a flat tyre. My heart sinks, and I tell Rita (who assumes I can still drop her off by the non-existent Caddy's). I pull over near the park, which is right in the heart of town, and suggest Rita gets out. "No! I want to go to the chemist, I can't get off here". I offer the alternative of waiting in the car whilst I change the tyre, hoping she'll change her mind and get out. No chance, I'm stuck with a tired, hungry 2 year old, a 79 year old misery and a flat tyre.
I open the boot, it's choc-a-bloc; pushchair, holdall rammed with blankets, black bag full of clothes for charity, buckets and spades... in my head I'm Tony from Bullseye reeling off the prizes "that's red, number 5, it's the golf umbrella". 2 year old is running out of ideas to gain Rita's attention, he's tried cute, tried shouting, now he's throwing polystyrene from the car seat at her. I realise I'm going to need help to change the tyre, so it's time to do my best impression of a damsel in distress. I spy a man my dad's age, looks just the ticket, and he's only too happy to oblige (until he sees there isn't a handle for the jack). It takes him ages to lift the car, especially with Rita weighing it down, but in all fairness, he was efficient and didn't complain.
Back in the car, I'm desperate to lose Rita now, she is draining the small reserve of patience I'm left with after years of being surrounded by challenging kids. It's not easy though, Rita has a new plan: "Lucy, I'll give you my prescription, you can hand it in"...NO WAY. You may be nearly 80, but you're fitter than a lot of people half your age, you have all the time in the world, and an umbrella.
"I'll drop you off opposite the doctors, OK?"
Rita and I come to blows between now and dropping her off, she refuses to get out of the car on the brow of a small hill, meaning I have to pull over on a busy main road, causing chaos. My blood starts to boil, I have little sympathy for her unfortunately (because I know so much about her life of self-absorption).
As she gets out of the car I roll my eyes and mouth some obscenities. A horrified onlooker gives me a look which says 'heartless bitch'. I glance into the mirror and see Rita toddling, her limp grey hair which used to be coiffed to auburn perfection, a dowdy mac and shopping bag have replaced her immaculate jacket and handbag. It's a sorry sight, I calm down instantly, and yes, I feel a bit sorry.
Sorry for the next person who has a day like mine with lovely Rita.


  1. Bloody hell, what an old misery, I think you did remarkably well not to kick her out sooner.
    My Mum had a "friend" like this, twenty years her senior and housebound due to obesity (although she visited Thailand twice a year), she was constantly being called at 8am with a list of things she needed from town despite her having an able-bodied partner and a full-time cleaning lady. Mum constantly bit her tongue, did her shopping and put up with the complaints when she'd bought the wrong thing simply saying that she was ill and that she felt sorry for her. Guess what? The old cow's outlived my Mum. xxx

  2. Hi there, I am a new follower from Vix's blog! Loving you great writing style and the blog title is so appealing for someone like me who is NOT of sound mind! lol!

  3. I suspect you have had better days,Rita also sent my current wife to town for her medication,forgetting she had not yet handed the prescription in.How we chortled.

  4. Oh dear. A think a glass of wine is called for. Maybe she'll leave you something nice in her will, probably a white elephant of sorts which will end up costing you a fortune in upkeep.

    And what is it with old ladies and toilet related talk? My gran was always obsessed with whether we'd 'had your bowels moved?' when we went on holiday with her.

  5. Blimey well done - good karma coming your way for that one. There are a few 'Ritas' that live in my close - its amazing how quickly they get get out of their chairs and to the front door when they spot me walking by, i have to make sure i leave enough time before i need to be anywhere now. Scarlett x

  6. I loved reading about Rita, and like most of us, have met a few Rita's in my time...what is it about old people that makes them think they can get away with being rude and honest to the point of nastiness? My husband's Nan (in her late 80's at the time) once told me that my husband would leave me if I didn't smarten myself up (ie stop wearing ripped jeans! the fashion at the time) and that was after I had cleaned up one of her little accidents from the toilet floor! I still loved her though, she was a tough old boot and I'll get my revenge one day! I'll be back to read more of your blog x

  7. Loved the rita story looking forward to reading more I found you via the Vixen isnt she great?

  8. aww thank for your comment esp the young bit! Maybe i should have all my pictures taken in fuzzy mode a la Barbara Cartland ;o) Scarlett x

  9. Hi Annie and Nelly, thanks for stopping by. The Vintage Vixen sure is great, I have more than a bit of lifesyle envy going on (along with the obvious wardrobe envy and body envy!)
    Seems like we've all encountered a Rita, luckily they seem to be oblivious to the effect they have on others!

  10. I am a newbie, and I can't stop reading. Get a job as a columnist.That way you can stay at home and get some moolah. You certainly have a gift. I am going to treat myself and read all of your posts from the beginning.
    I had/have an Aunty Shirley. Our (my sis, my cuz and I had a catchphrase for her) "She means well" and our twelve year old heads would nod in unison as we said it. I would like to comment on all of your posts. You are pinpointing salient details of my life. The "lovely" women (who talk in such well modulated voices and are so kind and caring), the music snobbery (I am a bit older than you, though we have the Pixies in common)and how many times have I stopped to grimace and fixed a smile on my face when women aquaintences were going to daggy entertainment? And the wine! I too have dreams of sitting down with a glass of wine as it seems most civilised women on telly do...however like you, it deteriorates to three glasses.
    Now you will think I am a stalker...so gushing and creepy, but I tell you...it is very hard finding people with the same sensibilities.
    Even the meeting of the penpals post...god I was thinking of that just last week! I had better stop.

  11. I think most of us know someone like Rita; I do. My mum is always doing jobs for her and she's so rude. I think when people become old they think they have a right to be rude to others. I guess it's the way they were brought up, to respect their elders. These days, we younger generations believe respect should be earned.

    CJ xx


Sorry I am having to filter comments at the moment