Have you ever agreed to do something because you didn’t really have a good reason not to and anyway it was a long way in the future?
So today I woke up and thought uch, I’ve got that fire marshal training session at work this morning. I’d been asked by a fellow Northern colleague and I don’t like to let a ‘sister’ down. (It was nothing at all to do with the fact that she is in charge of delegating the Friday car parking spaces.)
I had tried arguing that I wasn’t very good at barking orders at people other than my husband or children, but she assured me that she had every faith in me.
“Would I get one of those luminous yellow waistcoats?” I asked, thinking of the positives.
“Yep,” she said, realising she was getting somewhere.
“Would I be able to take it home at weekends?” I continued.
“Well, I wouldn’t know if you did would I?” She’s a canny lass.
By 7.37 a.m today I was already practising my shouting skills.
“Why do you have to do this to me every single day? You know we have to be in the car at 7.35 on the dot in order for me to drop you at school and then get to work on time. Do you want me to lose my job? Do you? Do you?”
They didn’t seem particularly fussed either way and by 7.38 we’d set off. As usual, things got nasty quite quickly – she’s 16 and he’s 13. I hear it’s normal.
Ethan: It’s Purim next week. Have we got a white sheet?
Me: No, we’ve used them all up on previous Purims. What are you going as anyway?
Ethan: Natalie and I are going as a Greek god and goddess.
Ilana: And you’ll be the goddess, obviously.
Ethan: Why are you such a bitch, Ilana?
We arrived at the school at 7.57. With a good run of traffic and a tailwind, I could be parked in Golders Green by 8.20 and at my desk by 8.30. In my excitement to get them out of the car, I pulled in a little too quickly and hit the kerb. No big deal …. until I set off and realised that the car didn’t feel quite right. I tried to ignore it but remembered my husband saying how much damage you can do to a car if you drive with a flat tyre. I pulled in straight away. Unfortunately it was in possibly the worst place in the whole of North West London – bang opposite the entrance to two Jewish schools just as the cars need to turn right. A little further on there was a driveway and after that the bus stop so I was up the proverbial creek. My kids were across the road and I hooted at them to get their attention.
“I’ve got a puncture,” I wailed and beckoned them over.
Ethan: Why have you called us over?
Me: I’ve got a puncture.
Ethan: So why have you called us over?
Ilana: Shush Ethan, I’ll deal with this. Aw sorry Mum, hope it gets sorted quickly.
She gave me a kiss and is now my favourite child.
Off they went, lest they be late for somewhere they wanted to be and I put on my hazards. I looked on my phone for where I’d kept the membership number of the breakdown recovery service I’d just joined because it was recommended by Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert. I couldn’t find it, obviously, so rang my husband who efficiently found the number on my computer and even offered to come and swap cars. Credit where it’s due – the boy did good. I rang the nebach’s equivalent of the AA and they promised to come and fix the puncture within 60 minutes.
As I was on the phone I noticed that things on The Mall were getting a little heated. The parents, mostly mums, were bringing their kids to Sinai school and I was mucking up their right turn. It was pouring with rain so the windows were closed, but it did not take an expert lip reader to ascertain that they weren’t best pleased with me. Complete with hand gestures in case I hadn’t understood, they called me every name under the sun. Now I have a policy about swearing in front of my kids – only as part of reported speech or when I’m hungry, pre-menstrual, menstrual or very very cross. But this lot just went for it. On a couple of occasions I wound down my window to have a go back but they swiftly turned away. Lightweights. Then one bloke did wind down his window:
“I’m a police officer. Do you know you’re parked on double yellow lines and talking on the telephone?”
“No s**t, Sherlock.” I replied. No, of course I didn’t, I was quivering by the word ‘officer’. I told him that I had broken down. He pulled forward and I thought he was going to park up and offer to help me, but no he just drove off.
And then somebody stopped to help me. A man. He asked me if he could help push the car to a less obstructive place but when he heard I had a puncture, agreed with my husband that it would be foolish to try to move it. Bless him, he didn’t look like he had the strength to move a Matchbox car, but fair play to him, he was a mensch for realising that I wasn’t there from choice and offering to help.
The abuse from the mums continued and I started to have nasty thoughts about them, especially those in their 4 wheel drives that you really need in the rough terrain of North West London. They will have the last laugh though. Their tyres could probably withstand a trip across The Rockies.
Eventually, they all dropped off their kids and went off to whatever treatment they were having that morning. It was just me and Facebook. I’d ran the car battery flat by keeping the lights on so I had no radio and my feet were getting cold. The poxy breakdown service took 2 hours to come despite my 3 calls to them saying that I was a vulnerable woman in a rough area. When the help did arrive I was sure going to give him a piece of my mind.
He was cute.
“I wish I could offer you a coffee.” I said, well after all, it wasn’t his fault.
So I got to work over two hours late. I’d have to fork out for a new tyre and make up the time. It had really gotten to me that my fellow Jewish mums had mis-read the situation and been so uncharitable. My Israeli colleague was shocked:
“You know, in Israel ….” she begins most sentences like that,” there is a Good Samaritans Law. You can actually get into trouble for not helping.”
We laughed, wouldn’t that be fantastic? Instead of being at the gym or the nail bar, these mean mothers (pun intended) would be at Holloway Prison….
“Get me my lawyer now and a skinny de-caff latte while you’re at it.”
I switched on my computer and got on with my work. I’m a helpline adviser and I help Jewish people. Hey, I get paid for it, but I’d like to think that I would be kinder to my fellow human beings in their hours of need, than the ones I’d encountered this morning. To be honest, I may not have pulled over and offered to help, but I also don’t think I’d have hurled abuse at them.
And to compound the situation, I missed the training and won’t have a chance to get my hands on that yellow waistcoat for another year.