Driving Miss Grandma, Part II - what really constitutes a collection?

by Judith Katz-Schwartz

Dateline: 6/26/99

So, here we were, Grandma and I, traipsing from bank to bank, gathering cookware, clock radios, hair blowers and electric razors in a madcap, cashless shopping spree. At each bank, Grandma would tell the officer she would like to have "a present". Then the officer would explain that gifts were only for new accountholders. Then Grandma would explain that she had a big pile of money sitting in this particular bank, and that she was going to yank it out of there so fast, he wouldn't feel a thing except the breeze from the revolving door as we exited. Then the bank officer loaded us up with great stuff, with a bemused smile on his face. Grandma was always polite, always calm. She ended each conversation with, "Denks awful a lot", her standard expression of gratitude. See, Grandma didn't feel that she was hoodwinking these bank guys in any way. If they were giving out gifts to get into the good graces of new customers, then they sure as heck should be giving some to their old faithful customers, who had been banking with them for years. Grandma felt entitled to the stuff, and now I think she was right. Apparently, the bank officers thought the same thing.

Of course, Grandma was, above all else, a Grandma. So, each time we went back to the car to put a load of "presents" in there, she tried to give me most of them.

"You need maybe a clock?", she queried me.

"No Grandma, but thanks".

"You want some dishes? Look, they're very nice. Some pots? Last time I cleaned your pots I saw they were banged up." When Grandma visited you, she always wanted to clean everything. This was a rare occurrence, of course, since Grandma visited you as often as she called you. Usually, you visited her. Once, she was so frustrated because I wouldn't allow her to clean anything in my apartment, she actually dusted the leaves on my plants. Finally, the family agreed that Grandma could scour the pots in all our homes, any time she chose to do so. Peace at last.

"Here, this is a nice shaver, you'll give to your husband".

"Thanks, Grandma. Too bad I'm not married".

"Denks God".

This was Grandma's way of saying she didn't like anyone I was dating. But that's a whole other article.

So, having stripped bare all the banks in Bensonhurst, Grandma and I took a lunch break. I won't bore you with the details of our luncheon experience (well, actually, I'll bore you with the details some other time). An hour later, I staggered out of the diner, hoping never to see or smell food again--or at least until dinner time.

At last, the moment of truth had arrived. "Grandma," I said, "the hearing aid store is right up the block. Let's go."

"Hokay," Grandma said mildly. She strode past me, being careful not to step on my lower lip as she went by, and led the way to the hearing aid store. As soon as the shock wore off, I followed her in, already hearing in my head the grateful admiration I'd get from the rest of the family. After all the years of screaming, fighting and complaining, I would be The One, the one who finally convinced (or coerced. I'm not proud) Grandma to get a hearing aid. You see, we're Jewish. We argue for sport. It's a recreational activity to us, and sparring with Grandma over her hearing (or lack thereof), while it didn't qualify as a Main Event, was surely the longest ongoing tournament we had, longer even than the NBA playoffs. And I was about to become Champion Of The World.

In the store, the technician was nice as could be to Grandma. He took her into a special booth for her hearing test, while I strolled around, looking at the giant models of ears, nerve networks, brains and hearing aids. I learned more than I'd want to know about anything with veins. When the test was over, the technician told us that Grandma unquestionably needed a hearing aid. He showed her the latest ones, so tiny and self-contained, they were invisible when worn. He explained how they worked, and how much they cost. Grandma paid close attention to every word, which was unavoidable, since he shouted every single syllable loud enough to be heard back at my apartment in Manhattan. Even now, two decades later, distant stars are probably still receiving signals from the sound waves blasted into the atmosphere that day. I guess he knew with whom he was dealing, and I wondered if, when he applied for this job, he had to scream during the entire interview, to demonstrate that he had the skills to perform the work. When the technician was done with his entire speech, diagrams and all, Grandma said, "Denks, awful a lot. I don't need a hearing ache". And off she went, out the door. I offered the now-dejected technician a lozenge for his throat, and followed her outside. Curses, foiled again!

Oh, I suppose you're thinking, "When is this story going to end?", or "What does any of this have to do with collecting?", or "Does this woman think I have the slightest interest in her Grandmother's hearing aid?" It'll all make sense to you in Part III. Or maybe not.

Driving Miss Grandma Part III

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Copyright 1999 Judith Katz-Schwartz. All rights reserved.