I live in a little gated community of condominiums on a small lake in Pompano Beach, Florida. I like my neighbors, but I’m having a problem with one of them, a seventy-five-year-old woman named Molly, who uses a walker to navigate her way around the second floor, where my apartment is.
Molly is a spry lady, despite her dependence upon the walker, and she has the booming voice of a Teamster union rep. She can be heard all over the complex without the benefit of a megaphone, but a bizarre set of circumstances came about to help me realize why people scattered when they heard Molly’s less than mellifluous voice coming down the walk. For me, it began when she knocked on my door to ask me to change her air conditioner filter. Then she wanted me to open a jar of pickles, followed by other requests to check this or that in her apartment. I realized finally that there was something terribly amiss, when she knocked on my door to ask me to put a hairnet over her new permanent in order to protect a do for which she had paid fifty dollars. She said that I should not mention to Steve, Harvey, Pearl, Donna, or Marilyn, the other residents on our floor, that I had helped her. When I asked why, Molly’s reply was simply, “Oh, they were nasty about it and refused to help.” At the time, I took her answer at face value, not putting the puzzle pieces together until later. I simply put the hairnet on her head and continued fixing my lunch. Minutes later there was another knock on the door.
“John, my phone isn’t working. Can you come over and look at it?” My first thought was, “ Do I look like a telephone repairman to you?” but I held back actually saying it aloud. I followed Molly to her apartment, where her cell phone was charging. The illuminated screen read, “Battery charging,” so I told her to leave it alone for at least an hour to allow the battery to be strengthened. With no land line phone, she needed the cell. I understood that. I returned to my apartment, where only fifteen minutes later there was another knock at my door to say that her phone wasn’t working yet. I sent her back saying that I would go to her place after the hour was up. After the phone was turned on and working again, I believed, perhaps naively, that I had seen the last of Molly for the day.
Three more knocks on my door were to inform me that her toaster wasn’t working, her TV remote was stuck, and that her hair net had come off. The toaster wasn’t plugged in, the TV remote batteries were loose, and her hair net had snagged on a coat hanger in her closet. OK, I started to feel that she was simply lonely and looking for any excuse to talk to somebody, anybody. It was, however, after her sixth knock on my door that I became annoyed enough to ponder the circumstances in order to figure out that the real reason she wasn’t knocking on the doors of other residents was that she had already done that enough times to annoy them too, so that one by one they told her to go jump off the nearest cliff, with or without her walker. I must have been the only one left who hadn’t rebuffed her requests for help. I was apparently still fair game.
Today, there were intermittent knocks all afternoon on my door accompanied by Molly’s inimitable voice yelling, “Hey, John. My phone is on the fritz again. What are we going to do about it?” I admit it. I’m a coward in the sense that I don’t want to confront Molly with what I would really like to tell her, which would go something like this:
“Look, Molly. I’m not your caregiver, and I don’t WANT to be your caregiver. After your sixth knock on my door yesterday, it occurred to me that you were a lady, who uses people, and that you would continue using me as long as I didn’t protest. Well, my dear, I’m protesting right now. I don’t know what makes you think that these are my problems, and I certainly don’t get your sense of extreme entitlement in the matter, but you need to begin solving problems yourself. Your Miss Congeniality trophy is in serious danger of tarnishing. Honey, if you can’t even put on your own hairnet, you probably can’t make toast or even brush your own teeth and shouldn’t be living alone in an apartment. Maybe you need to be in assisted living, a nursing facility, or the hush hush ward at Imperial Point. You seem to have no sense of borders, limits, or extremes, so I’m telling you now that my door is wired to deliver a high voltage shock if you ever touch the knocker or doorbell again. Do you understand what I’m saying, Molly? Is any of this getting through that hairnet?”
The worst part of all this is that for the past couple of days I’ve been turning out lights, turning down the sound on the TV or radio whenever I heard the sound of Molly’s walker inching its way down the walkway on the second floor, and not answering the door when she knocked or rang the bell. I admit that hiding from a seventy-five-year-old woman is about as cowardly as one can get, but the alternative is being brutally honest with her, which I’m not yet ready to do, but give me a couple more days. JB