08 May 2007


Today, at the dentist's office

Hygienist: So, what does your husband do for work?
Me: Um. [pause] He's a counselor in the public schools.

[Just couldn't deal with the whole "He died" conversation while getting my teeth cleaned.]

Last week, at the bank

Customer Service Rep: Sure, I can help you open a new checking account. Let me get the paperwork. OK, I just need to ask you a few questions.
Me: Sure. [Oh, shit, I hope she doesn't ask my marital status, because I will have a meltdown.]

[Thankfully, marital status was not part of the questioning.]

Last Tuesday, at my front door, 7:00 p.m.

Me, to woman I've never seen before, who is standing on my front porch: Hi. Can I help you.
Woman: Snickollet?
Me: Yesssssss . . .
Woman: I'm Rita.*
Me: Yesssssss . . .
Woman: Rita Smith.
Me: Oh, yes, right, yes, OK, you worked with John at his old job.
Woman: Yes.
Me: [Holy crap, I can't wait to call John and tell him that crazy Rita from his old job showed up on the doorstep out of the blue right at baby bedtime! Figures. Oh, wait. Can't call John. Feh.] Would you like to come in?

*Not her real name.

A few days ago, on the phone with a rep at one of the companies that holds a retirement fund of John's

Rep: So, I'll need a certified copy of his birth certificate as a part of the paperwork to release the funds.
Me: He was born in South Korea. I have no way of getting that for you.
Rep: Well, it's required by law.
Me: Even if I got it for you, it would be in Korean.
Rep: It needs to be part of the file.
Me: So there's nothing you can do to help me here. [Lady, I've got a death certificate here. If the man died, obviously he was born at some point!]
Rep: I'll talk to my legal team, but I'm not sure.

[The legal team is still discussing this, but they've said that John's passport might suffice. I suppose I could ask his parents to try to get a copy from Korea, or maybe they have a copy, but I'm feeling stubborn because the situation is just so dumb. I'm trying to get to John's money that was taken out of his paycheck every week, people! Jeepers cripes.]

Last week, out and about away from the house, on my cell phone with the towing company that was trying to pick up John's car for donation to the Car Talk guys

Dude: I'm at your house, but there's no car here.
Me: As I explained to the person I talked to yesterday, the car is parked in a lot across the street. It's in space number four.
Dude: There's no lot.
Me: Are you in the right town? There's a street by the same name one town over.
Dude: Yeah, I'm in the right place. I followed the directions.
Me: OK then, what does my house look like?
Dude: House? There's no house at number 79.* The numbers go from 77 to 81.
Me: OK, then how can you be at my address? You must be in the wrong town.

[I mean seriously, dude. WTF?]

*Not our real house number.

A couple of days ago, while baking cookies with one of my best friends from college

Friend: I have to grate the damn chocolate? Why? What good could that possibly do?
Me: That's Christopher Kimball for you.
Friend: Take a chill pill, Mr. Kimball.
Me: Maybe we could find a proctologist that would be willing to remove the stick from Mr. Kimball's ass.

[I love the recipes in Cook's, but honestly, CK needs to a) lose the bow tie, b) stop feeling superior to everyone else because he lives in Vermont, and c) have a stiff drink or two. For whatever reason, CK is bearing the brunt of my anger at the world right now.]


cindy said...

I gotta know, why was Rita there?

Linda said...

I remember trying to pay the rest of my mom's car payment after she died. I wasn't on the account and I had talked to several people, faxed and re-faxed the death certificate, gotten the amount I had to pay and where to send it, lost the paper I had written it down on, called back again and got someone who wouldn't tell me the information again. I broke down screaming at her, "I'm trying to give you f-ing people money! Why are you making this impossible for me? My mom is dead!"

Some of those types of situations I handled better than others. Obviously.

Snickollet said...


Rita was just dropping by to say hi. It was really strange. I was trying to put the kids to bed, I'd never met her before, and I had another friend over helping me with the babies. She and John were not even close friends! It was seriously awkward.

Yankee, Transferred said...

Rita needs to get a grip. Seriously. I'm thinking of all of you, all the time. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Sending hugs.

OTR sister said...

A few days after Mom died we were still getting lots of calls for her. At one point I responded, "She's dead. Can I take a message?" When I hung up OTR Girl asked me the obvious question of how exactly was I planning to deliver that message?

liz said...

Oh man, seems like you are dealing with real winners.

Leggy said...

Life's aggrevations multiply 100 fold during grief. I can't believe Rita- how weird.

silene said...

As an estates attorney, I'll volunteer the following assvice: If you can't get satisfaction from some of these administrative types, have someone else call "on your behalf". The aggravation they will cause can sometimes be over the top. Usually I or my paralegal (who's tougher on these folks than I am) will just say, "No, you don't need that." If they know they're dealing with an atty type, they'll usually work around the problem - a courtesy they somehow don't extend to others. Why they are so awful to the bereaved I have no clue.

Frankly, there is no reason why a retirement account administrator should need a birth certificate; I suspect they're trying to determine whether John was a US citizen. You can probably get them that information some other way.

I will also volunteer that if you have questions about any of this stuff, even though you have no idea who I am really, please e-mail me (my address should show up somewhere) and I will be happy to answer any questions I can. One of the nice things about my job (and some days, the ONLY nice thing about my job) is that I can be useful to people I care about.

Rev Dr Mom said...

Having been through some of this crap getting divorced, I can only say it must be 100 times worse when you've lost you husband to cancer. Sorry. Bureaucracy sucks.

The Car Talk Guys thing, though is awesome (except for the clueless tow truck guy--wtf indeed!). My neighbor in VT was the director of Good News Garage--they do great things for people.

luolin said...

I'm sure CK did 18 different versions of that recipe just to find out whether grated or melted or chopped chocolate was best. And then went out and tapped the maple trees on the back 40, or whatever they call it in Vermont. Also, in rural Vermont, old friends always show up on your front step and you feed them apple pie.

Seems like a fine target for your wrath, but I hope the cookies were good at least.

OTRgirl said...

I do love that cookbook. I like knowing WHY I should do something and they explain it all. As for the stick where the sun don't shine, he wears a bow-tie, what else do you expect? I've yet to meet a relaxed bow-tie person...

I still remember a funny conversation with a co-worker the Monday after Mother's Day a couple years ago. We teased each other alot, so he got what he deserved on this one:

Him: "Did you call your Mom for Mother's Day?"
Me: "No."
Him: "What?!! What kind of daughter are you anyway. That's horrible. Why didn't you call her?!"
Me: "You're going to feel bad when I answer this, but you really don't have to . . . I didn't call 'cause she's dead."

He felt bad, but I laughed the rest of the day.

Julie said...

More, please, about how much you hate Christopher Kimball. I can't get enough of that, personally, loathing him as I do.

BethGo said...

Yes Christopher Kimball is a big snooty snoot but he does know his stuff. I've only seen him on America's Test Kitchens. He's actually hilarious if you can put yourself in the proper frame of mind (snarky).
And what's up with Rita. Had she come by to pay condolences? Did she at least bring a coffeecake or a casserole?
I wouldn't have let her in the house unless she'd brought some yummies.

Amy said...

Dear Snick,

I am delurking to say that I laughed out loud over your last exchange. We, too, love Cook's but can't stand CK. And I lived in Vermont for a year - it was nice, but certainly not the paradise he makes it sound like.

I also lived in Medford for 10 years. I wish I was still there so that I could perhaps be of some small service to you (even though you have no idea who I am). Good luck. We Internets are rooting for you.

Amy in Allentown, PA

Anonymous said...

You are doing well. You still have your wry sense of humor :)

Just take it day by day... Glad to see you posting.


Anonymous said...

I remember clearly how my dad answered the phone the day after my brother died.

"Sorry, he died yesterday", and then hung up. I think that is when it hit home that my brother was not away, he had truly died.

Heart breaking stuff but has to be done :(

Sending all my positive vibes you and your childrens way. Knowing this time completely sucks for you and hoping you are doing ok.

OK is good at this point.

Thinking about you and yours lots lately and hoping you are ok.

Amy in BC

Melany aka Supermom said...

It can't be easy to handle conversations in situations like that. I hope that guy finally found your house ;)

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Rita obviously doesn't have children or she would never have shown up at bedtime. Did she know about John's death or did she have some sort of premonition (she sounds like that type) and had to get over there right that second?

As for the retirement account people, it doesn't make sense that they'd want to find out if John was a U.S. citizen since they'd happily taken his money out of his paycheck while he was alive without any concern about his citizenship. Could it be that they wanted to know his age when he "retired" so they could calculate what you are owed? Actually, that doesn't make sense either. Perhaps they just like to make life hell for people whose lives already are difficult.

Never trust a man who wears a bow tie and likes to put his hands in sticky dough. And never trust a car garage that hires guys who can't even read a map.

ShabbyDoll said...

The first conversation reminds me of one that I had right after my dad died. I was at my husband's company's holiday party, in the ladies' room. Several of my husband's colleagues knew my dad was sick, but many hadn't heard yet that he had died. A well-meaning woman asked, "How's your dad?" I answered, almost automatically, "Fine." And then I realized that I couldn't really get away with that, and amended, "I mean, he died." That poor woman looked horrified, but I just sort of smiled apologetically and left. It makes me laugh a little to this day. Death is the ultimate absurdity.

Amy said...

I wanted to tell you that I made those Cook's Illustrated noodles you posted, and they were DEEPLY AWESOME. You were so right about the cold beer on the side. Thank you.

Speaking of food, no kidding, I at least hope Rita brought some. Who DOES drop-ins? Under any circumstances? I wouldn't just barrel up to the front door of my closest friends!

Anonymous said...

I love that you are taking it out on Christopher Kimball. Yes, the recipes are divine, but he deserves it!


Vanessa said...

It's been nearly a year since my husband died, and I'm still having those conversations. The most recent time was just last weekend, when I was at the Triple A office and they asked me if I'd like them to send him a new card along with mine. I blurted out "He's deceased, he doesn't need one" and then felt awful because I thought it had sounded disrespectful -- of him, of his death, I don't know what. Anyway, it's awful every time and always leaves me sad all over again.

Another uncomfortable situation I'm encountering, now that some time has passed, is meeting people who aren't aware that I had a husband who passed away. I can never figure out when or how or if I should tell them. With people I'm going to be seeing a lot, like new coworkers, I try to find a way to mention it as soon as I can so they don't inadvertently say something that will end up embarrassing them when they find out. But I never know what to say to casual inquiries, like the hairdresser who asks "So are you married?" Argh.

Sending hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I am late to the party, but can we talk more about Christopher Kimball. I fucking HATE that guy (and there are only a few people in the world I hate, and one of them is Osama bin Laden). What a fucking arrogant, uptight, full-of-himself prick. I can't stand his bullshit, pseudo-down-home letters from Vermont. If I saw him and I'd have to kick him in the balls.

Julie said...

I live in NYC and West Rupert, VT and recently saw CK at the local volunteer fire dept. awards dinner with his family. He's part of the community. And, yes, that part of Vermont is paradise so please don't move there so it gets to be over-populated. There's nothing for sale, anyhow.....