Three people in as many weeks have told me I'm smart for not being married. If these people were unhappily wed guys in their thirties or forties with obnoxious little kids and wives with fat asses, I probably wouldn't have remembered what they said. I've heard the cries of regretful married men too many times. But these anti-marriage advocates are women over sixty-five. One is ninety-four. I didn't really have the opportunity to question the two younger Golden Girls about why they're so opposed to the sacrament of holy matrimony, but I did ask the ninety-four year old. She was my grandmother's hospital roommate until late Saturday afternoon when I came to visit.
I walked into the hospital room and saw Berta dressed in her best old lady suit and matching hat, sitting in a chair next to her hospital bed with her purse on her lap . I barely had time to kiss my grandmother hello before Berta let me know she was pissed.
"Do you believe I'm waiting two hours for the ambulance to come to take me for my rehab? Two hours!" she said in some kind of accent I couldn't quite make out.
"Yeah, well. I'm sure they're on their way," I said, trying to move past her so I could get back to my grandmother.
"This is some racket they run here. They're all in cahoots. The doctors, the nurses, the ambulance company...and they want me to write them a check for the ambulance."
The next thing I knew, I was writing a $55 check to First Response Ambulette because Berta couldn't read the name of the company off the napkin that the nurse had written it on.
"What's an ambulette?" she asked.
"I guess it's kind of like an ambulance, but smaller. Maybe with less equipment inside. I don't really know," I said.
"I'll give them an ambulette alright. They won't take me unless they have the check, but I'll just stop payment. That's all. Two hours they making me wait. They could wait to get paid too."
"Sure, you could do that," I said, feeling guilty that I'd spent the first few minutes of my visit to my grandmother dealing with a stranger's ambulette issues.
"They said I could pay by credit card, but I'm 94 years-old and I never had a credit card. That's what's wrong with today's society. People buy things without money. If I wanna buy something, I buy with money. Pssht, with credit cards they want me to pay."
"They're all crooks. I wouldn't be surprised if Palm Gardens doesn't even know I'm coming."
And then the next thing I knew, I was calling Palm Gardens nursing home to make sure they were expecting Berta. I thought about explaining to Berta that the odds of an entire nursing staff and an ambulette company conspiring to steal fifty-five bucks from her were slim. But before I could, she said: "You're a nice boy. Are you married?"
"Nope," I said.
"You're smart," she grumbled.
"You think so? Is marriage that bad?"
"Ah, the women out there today," she said as she waved her arm at me in disgust. "Better to stay single."
I wanted to ask her if she'd been reading my blog when the ambulette driver walked in. She gave him a good five minutes of shit for being two hours late and accused him of being involved in the big scheme to steal $55 off her.
"I'm just a driver," the ambulette guy said in his defense. "Whatchoo complainin' 'bout really isn't my...I mean this isn't like my..."
He struggled to find the word and I could see him sweating a little. Berta had gotten him so flustered that he forgot how to say "responsibility," if he ever knew the word to begin with. Instead, he regrouped and said, "this isn't my, you know, my liaison."
I thought for sure Berta would tear the guy a new one for not having a basic grasp of the English language. "People can't speak English in today's society," I could hear her saying in my mind. "I wasn't even born here and my English is better than yours, you fuckin' idiot!" I felt a little bad for the guy. But after I tried to intervene to make sure the driver knew where to take her, and he told me to mind my own business, I wanted Berta to abuse the dumb illiterate bastard. Instead, she kept complaining about how crooked everyone there was, as they rolled her out of the room tied to a gurney.
I wanted to go after her and ask her why exactly she was so anti-marriage. I thought a 94 year-old woman has to have some pearls of wisdom to share. But Berta was too busy carrying on and accusing the staff of larceny.
I think Ol' Bertie was so angry at the nurses and the ambulette company that she didn't really want to educate me anyway. She probably thought that teaching someone else's grandson about life wasn't her liaison.