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Friday, January 23, 2009

"Sorry for the delay, m'am . . . ."

If I had heard that one more time, I do believe I would have let loose with a primal scream loud enough to wake the dead - a category which would surely include most of the folk who were in the waiting room of the VW Dealership Service Department.

It started off easily enough. I needed to have my car inspected. You know my car. My baby. My little 'galactica blue' VW convertible bug.

So, I brought it to the VW service center at the Dover, DE place where I bought her four years ago for her 55,000 mile check and to get her ready to pass inspection. The annoying little "check engine" light had been coming on and off and I did have a problem with my battery a few weeks ago, so it didn't come as a surprise when they told me that I needed a new battery.

The bill came to just under $200. Ca-ching!

I had just left the parking lot - after 2.5 hours in the service station waiting room - when the 'check engine' light came on again. I called immediately from my cell phone and was assured that it would probably take a few 'cycles' to clear.

It didn't. Give it a few days, they said. Alternative? Drive it back it and it would cost me $56 just for the computer diagnostic - exclusive of what it would cost to fix what they found wrong.

I decided to give it a few days.

When I took my car in to be inspected on Wednesday afternoon, wouldn't you know that I picked the one day when the State Inspector was there to inspect the inspectors. After an hour and a half wait, I learned that my car had failed inspection.

I felt like a proud mother whose spirit had been crushed by the high expectations of my beautiful daughter. Failed? No car of mine FAILS!!??!!

This time, I called the VW Dealership in Summit, NJ. I figured I was already in for $56 bucks. After an hour wait, they told me that there was an electrical short in the ignition.

Three hours (for a total of four hours) and $379 later, my car was ready for inspection.

Said inspection would cost me $78. Seventy-eight dollars? What do they do, for pity's sake, that would cost $78 whole dollars????

Ca-ching! Ca-ching! I'm not doing the math. I don't want to get depressed.

I'm set now for two more years, but SHEESH! So much for my supposed day off. Being in the waiting room of a car dealership from 7:45 AM to noon, and then over at the Inspection Center until 1:00 PM is not exactly my idea of relaxation and fun.

The good news is that, while I was waiting, I read "Left To Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust" by Immaculee Ilbagiza. Yes, I read the whole thing. In one sitting.

It's an amazing story. In 1994, Imaculee was 22 years old and home for Easter Break from her second year of college when the Genocide began. She survived by hiding in a Hutu Pastor's tiny bathroom for 91 days with seven other starving women.

Imaculee's story is simply and straightforwardly told, which is what makes it so compelling. I am fascinated by the nature of prejudice - the Tutsis were hated by the Hutus because they were taller and lighter skinned, and so favored by the German and Belgium colonizers of their country who helped them become better educated.

The hatred the Hutus held for those who colonized them was easily transferred onto the Tutsis. I'm still not certain, however, of the tipping point that lead to the genocide. Supposedly, it was the death of the Hutu President, which seemed like an assassination, but it had been building for quite a while before that.

It was as if the air got wild one day and then the genocide began. Sort of the way it has always happened.

Imaculee's faith, however, is amazing. Humbling. Awe-inspiring. What is fascinating to me is that the elements of the spirituality of suffering are almost universal and have so many parallels.

When you buy the book, portions of the proceeds go to fund the LEFT TO TELL Charitable Organization which helps children in Africa. So, go. Buy the book. Read it. You won't be disappointed.

I left the inspection center and, after spending an hour in the gym, I came home and organized kitchen cabinets and my cookbooks. Then, I cleaned out my cupboards, organizing the canned soups and vegetables I knew I wouldn't be using into two boxes to bring to the food pantry tomorrow. I am ashamed at the small box of expired cans of soup, vegetables and fruit I had to throw out.

Tomorrow, I take down the Christmas tree and decorations. It's time.

I plan to start reading, "A Long way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah before my head hits the pillow and I close my eyes tonight.

This is the story of a suffering of another sort - how to forgive yourself when you have been forced to do evil, how to regain your humanity and finally, how to heal.

Can you tell? I'm already getting ready for Lent.

Truth be told, these two books put any annoyance or discomfort of my day in proper perspective. And, made my day off worth while.

Funny how other people's stories can do that, right?


suzanne said...

Elizabeth, I feel your pain, as Bill Clinton has said concerning your car. I think we all have car stories of one kind or another, but to make a long protracted story short, I took my Audi back to the dealer 4 times for an electrical problem, and 4 times I discovered they didn't fix the problem, so with many people in the waiting room including my husband, who declared, I looked demonized when I returned to the repair shop, understood clearly my angst and frustration, only to discover they had never checked the ignition switch, which had a worn spot, causing the engine to stop running, I discovered that. We got a free ignition switch, that my husband put in the car, and the guy behind the counter asked him to please get me out of the waiting room as I wasn't good for their business. Go figure.

Bill said...

I feel your pain. That was your day, now mine.

I went to pick up lunch and my debit card was denied. Back I go into the car and off to the bank. I see some serious looks coming from the service person, she makes a call, and hands me the phone. It’s the bank fraud department. They froze my card until I could verify two recent charges. One was for $49 to, and get this, “How to make money on line”. The second was for $340.00 to Nutri-systems. I mean what the heck, I go to Weight Watchers. In a somewhat shrill voice I said, No, No, No Friggin way. Please excuse the French. So, out come the scissors and they cut up my card. Then I get a temporary bank card, which I can only use at the bank. My new debit card will come in two weeks. Everything that automatically charges against the old card number will fail. I won’t be able to rectify that for two weeks. Then I’ve got to remember everybody who I pay for things that way and get them the new card number. With my Gym, that means that they will continue to get it wrong for the next 8 months.

I was shaking and developed a splitting head-ache. I was gang raped and nobody even bought me a drink. It’s been very hard for me to have Christian thoughts for the last 24 hours.

Oh, did I mention that that little ding on my windshield has now spread across the entire glass. Now I need a new windshield. I need to find a quiet place and scream.

FranIAm said...

Oh my - that car story. Sorry about that!

Immaculee was up here last year and gave a couple of talks and I very sadly missed her. She was supposed to be great and many folks I know got to meet her.

I have not read the book, but I have both heard a lot about her and read about her, so now I must get that book.

And from the source you recommend.

Thank you dear Elizabeth. Hope the car stays well and you with it!

Kirkepiscatoid said...

One of the hardest places for a strong-willed woman to go is to the car dealer/garage. The testosterone is almost overpowering. I hope you wear your collar to even things out!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, Bill, I am so very sorry for your trouble. That stuff scares me almost as much as war. It's such a violation. One wonders how the heck they got your number and pin. Sheesh. How awful!

You know, Kirke, I think those boys know a strong willed woman when they see one coming through the door. I think that's why they apologize all the time. As for the fees, well, don't get me started on that. . . .

Kirkepiscatoid said...

One of the joys of moving back to a town I lived in many years prior was "my car mechanic" still lived here! It takes me a LONG time to establish a relationship with a mechanic b/c it takes them a while to realize, "Yes, I DO know something about cars."

I feel Bill's pain, too. I recently had a go-round with my credit card company, explaining to them that, no, I did not make $600 worth of charges to a BP station in upstate New York, I filled out all your @#$%ing forms, and why are you still showing this charge on my bill and putting a service charge to it?

Hiram said...

The Tutsi were a Nilotic people who had come to East Africa from the northeast of Africa long before the Europeans arrived. They invaded and dominated those who were there before them, a Bantu people who had originated in Western Africa. The Europeans gave support to the Tutsi's dominance partially because they were already in charge - and partially because the Tutsi did indeed have lighter skins and longer, narrower noses. Racism played a part - but not all of the reason for Tutsi dominance.

The Tutsi of Rwanda are related to the Watusi of Kenya, the tall cattle herders whose diet includes cow blood - and who gave a name to a dance popular in the US in the early 60's.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Hiram. I'm curious, does your church have a relationship with the Anglican Church in Rwanda or did you come by this information another way?

Suzer said...

I have the same book about the child soldier in Sierra Leone ("A Long Way Gone"), but I've been too timid to open it. I went on a mission (a very brief one) to Salone in 2004, and still have a close mission relationship there. I bought that book immediately upon seeing it, but am waiting until I'm in the right frame of mind to read it. A sunny summer day might be better than the doldrums of January.

I wanted to recommend 2 other books about Sierra Leone to you, if you are interested in reading any more about that country. One is "Blood Diamonds" by Greg Campbell, and is about the diamond trade and its impact on the region. If it were widely read, it would make many brides rethink their diamond engagement rings. The first couple of chapters are harrowing -- fair warning.

The second, and somewhat more lighthearted recommendation, is "Green Oranges on Lion Mountain" (U.K. title), also called "What for Chop Today?" (U.S. title.). It's about a doctor who volunteers to go to Salone in the early 1990's, her adventures there, and getting caught up in the beginning of the civil war as it encroached upon her village.