history-genealogy site

This is a site where I will discuss my family genealogy research and related history. When a blog deals with a particular family group, I will try to include it in the title so uninterested people can skip it without skimming it. It is my hope to get feedback on research methods, family members and historical context from other historians, genealogists, and researchers. (c) Barbara L. de Mare 2006, 2007

Location: Englewood, New Jersey, United States

Saturday, December 27, 2008

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

“No Good Deed Goes Unpunished,”

or “Why I had Potato Chips for Christmas Dinner”

The Characters: Lori is my paralegal who started working for me when pregnant with her first child, who is now a junior in college and the center on the football team. We have been a team for the last twenty years, through all the ups and downs of our lives. In 1999 we gave up the solo practice of law, and joined the law firm of Nowell Amaroso. I was brought in as a partner to start an estate department. In 2003 we got an offer I couldn’t refuse to go to another law firm, but hated every moment of it so two years ago decided to go back on our own. Nowell Amaroso immediately asked us to go rent space from them. We love being back on the outside looking in. Their office manager, Stephanie, had stayed friends with Lori throughout the time we were no longer there, and was the one who knew we wanted to go back on our own. During our absence Stephanie, who already had one child, remarried and now has two babies. When the second was born last year, Lori filled in for her as office manager—on my dime.

The Cars: I have a Lincoln Navigator with a built-in navigation system, four-wheel drive, and hands-free cell phone connection. It also has a DVD player and four wireless headsets. It rides like a luxury car, not a truck, and has me very spoiled. Stephanie has a Toyota Highlander with none of the amenities to which I am accustomed. It does not even tell you the direction you are going. It does have a rooftop car carrier which she drove under something too short for it. Rather than remove the car carrier, she duct-taped it closed.

More Characters: My daughter is Liz, née Heather Elizabeth. Her children, my grandchildren, are Donald, 13; Timothy, 11; Stephen, 8 and Amanda, 6. They have lived with me the last two and a half years while Liz has been in graduate school. They were going to move to Seattle with my son-in-law in June when they all were out of school, but suddenly moved it up to December as Liz only needs two more credits to get her MBA. Timmy had moved to Seattle with his father in September as they

did not want to send him to the Englewood Middle School.

Even More Characters: My mother lives in Herkimer County, in the midst of our Palatine ancestors, which include a brother of General Herkimer of Battle of Oriskany Fame. She has lived there for almost 25 years. I have three brothers and two sisters. One sister and her two twenty-something daughters lives with Mom. Betty, my other sister, lives about two hours away near Lake Ontario. Her youngest daughter is 18 and lives with her. Her other four children are much older, ranging in age from 35 to 40, and live in the West. My brother Flip and his three daughters all live within an hour of Mom. Only the oldest at 34 is married, having tied the knot last summer. In addition to her husband she has two step-children who live with them. They are 8 and 10. Another brother also lives by Lake Ontario, and the third brother, his twin, lives in North Carolina. My son Michael lives in Utica, about 45 minutes away from his grandmother, where he is a college professor. Michael, Flip and daughters, Betty and Mary, an aunt and cousin, and a couple of neighbors made up the 20 persons present for Christmas dinner. I was to be the 21st.

The Story: Before Thanksgiving I took Lori and Stephanie out for a Thanksgiving luncheon. During the course of a good old-fashioned three martini lunch, Stephanie jokingly asked if she could borrow my car to go to Florida over Christmas. I told her of course she could, and reminded her the next week that I was serious about her borrowing my car. Sometime thereafter I learned that my daughter was moving with her kids to Seattle before Christmas, but Stephanie’s car was big enough to take them and their luggage to the airport. The 18th was set as car exchange day.

On Thursday the 18th, the three of us had to testify in a federal tax court case in Manhattan. In retrospect, that is actually when the trouble began. We were set to leave the office at 7:40 in the morning with a car service picking us up. Lori called me at 7:20 to say she was in Hackensack at Stephanie’s house, but realized she did not have her wallet. As we were going to a federal building, she needed identification to get in. What to do! After a few hysterical phone calls back and forth, she flew back home to get it, and we waited for her. By 8 we were on the road. Little did we know that this was just the start of traumas to come!

Stephanie was not ready when Lori was at her house, so said she would get herself to the office. Her husband needed her car to take the little kids to day care and go to an appointment in New York. Stephanie therefore came to the office to meet us in his car. She would need her own family car switch before we could exchange cars for the week. There was no rush when we returned from court—I had plenty of work to do. However I got a call from the school of my youngest grandson that he had had an accident and I needed to pick him up. I flew out of the office telling Stephanie we would exchange cars in the morning after I attended my granddaughter’s Holiday concert.

When the concert started the next morning, the principal announced that snow flakes had started. We were expecting 6 to 10 inches. By the time the concert was over, he announced that it was snowing hard. In anticipation of the storm Donald’s school had been cancelled, but the two little ones had school. They were happy as it was their last day, and they wanted to say goodbye to teachers and friends. Donald had heard about the projected snow and said good-bye on Thursday.

After the concert I went straight to the office to exchange cars. It was snowing very hard but driving was not yet a problem. When I got there, Stephanie had to remove her car seats from her car and put them in mine. She had never taken the one year old’s seat out, and could not get it loose. Her husband refused to come to the office to get it for her, telling her to find someone to help her. After half an hour, someone finally managed to figure it out. In the meantime I had gotten numerous calls that the little kids were getting out of school at 12:30. I thought I had plenty of time to get there before dismissal and take pictures of the kids with their teachers and classes. It was not to be! It took me 45 minutes to make the 8 mile trip back to Stephen’s school. Traffic on Route 80 never hit 30. It was snowing very hard, and the roads were slippery. That’s when I discovered Stephanie did not have four-wheel drive. I skidded near the school at 5 miles an hour.

As I approached Stephen’s school I began to think that I did not remember putting my bag in the car. When I got there, I checked, and sure enough—no bag! I picked up Stephen then went to Mandy’s school and got her, thinking all the time about what I was going to do about this. Stephanie was expecting to leave for Florida at 3 A.M. Saturday morning. I had the office keys in my bag as well as one of my daughter’s credit cards which she had given me to get treats for Stephen’s class that morning. She had an 8 PM flight to Seattle Saturday evening. I had Stephanie put the bag in my office, but how to retrieve it from there? No one I called planned to work on Saturday. There was no way I was driving back to Hackensack with my precious grandchildren in the car with no four-wheel-drive and the other crazy drivers on the road.

Friday evening, while still stewing over how to get my bag and thus Liz’s credit card before she left, Stephanie called to say she could not find her wallet and thought it might be in the back of her car. Sure enough, it was there! Problem finally solved. She had put off her departure time due to the weather, and also needed her wallet. She was going to come get it, but I knew Liz intended to go to Hackensack Saturday morning to buy a suitcase at Target. Target is close to Stephanie’s house, so I told her I would make the exchange when we went.

All was calm until I took Liz and the kids to the airport Saturday evening. While returning home from the airport, cars kept honking at me and pointing to the roof. I finally pulled over and realized the car-top carrier was open. Standing on the seat, I managed to close it, but realized there was no way to keep it closed. The locks were all broken. After a few more stops and driving slowly I made it home. It seemed to be alright at slow speeds; I made it to work and back on Monday with no problems.

Monday night I had a dinner appointment with a friend—being alone again was getting off to a good start. I could make dinner plans without worrying about homework, babysitters, or reporting in to anyone. I was trying to be upbeat after not getting out of bed all day Sunday! Being upbeat lasted about half a mile until the car carrier blew open again. Now I was going under 25. I stopped at the corner gas station, holding a ten dollar bill in my hand, but they claimed to have no cord and be unable to fix it. I drove the next mile and a half to dinner, stopping frequently. Upbeat was no longer in my vocabulary. When I got to the restaurant, I finally managed to bribe the valet parking kids to fix it for $50. They had at least 2 hours in which to do it. While still enjoying cosmos at the bar before dinner, I saw them walk through with cord—pretty thin, but cord nevertheless.

The problem was solved—or so I thought! I had planned to go to my mother’s house in the Mohawk Valley—a three and a half hour trip—on Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the weather. I did not leave on Tuesday as it was too late after I finally went Christmas shopping, and did a few things at work. Wednesday my handyman came up from South Jersey to work on solving my basement water problems and some other projects. He said cars were sliding all over the road. I therefore worked on cleaning up some of the messes my daughter had left behind and wrapping the presents. I decided I could leave Christmas morning when the weather was predicted to be good, and still be at Mom’s by noon. Wrong again!

The trip started on time under a bright sun, and I was as happy as possible without my grandchildren. Half an hour into the trip, things went downhill. Cars were honking at me again. The so-called rope was breaking. I stopped every fifteen minutes or so to close the top and try and repair the tying job. I finally made it to the service stop at mile 68 and expected the service station would fix it. Wrong again! They claimed to have no rope, and sent me into the gift shop. As I expected, there was no rope there. The cashier was at least as helpful as possible. She had some large rubber bands which she put together in a long string and gave me. I bought my first bag of potato chips and went out to fix the car. The rubber bands actually worked fairly well. The top only moved sideways, not up and down.

I stopped a few more times to tighten the rubber bands, then exited the Thruway at mile 100—Saugerties. I knew—or at least thought I knew—there were service stations at the exit. To my dismay, the service stations were now a McDonalds and another fast food joint. I headed up the road which runs along the Thruway and found an open gas station. This one admitted to having rope and tied the car-top carrier up again. I bought my second bag of potato chips and headed on up the road towards Catskill. I had gone this way many times when my in-laws lived in Saugerties, so did not even consider getting back on the Thruway. I had already decided to go the back way to Mom’s from Catskill rather than continue on the high-speed Thruway and increase my chances of more car-top carrier problems.

Going the back way involves continuing up the road I was on to Route 23, which runs into route 145, and takes me to Route 20--the east-west central New York predecessor to the Thruway. I traveled this route all my life, and could do it in my sleep, or so I thought. I still do not know where I went wrong, but somehow I never found Route 23, ending up heading up to Hunter Mountain on Route 32 instead. Going up the mountain there is no place to turn around, no side roads, and no civilization. I drove at least half an hour, through a couple of hamlets, until I got to Tannersville where I finally found an open gas station that sold maps. An old man told me not to spend my money on a map—it was easy to get back to 145. Just go back to the first traffic light, turn left, go to the next traffic light, turn left again, and I would be on 145. As I only recalled one traffic light, back at least a half an hour, it did not seem difficult.

I bought my third bag of potato chips—a big one this time—and duly turned around without the map I so desperately wanted, with nothing to tell me the direction in which I was heading, and traversing twisty, windy mountain roads. There was a light sooner than I expected. It was a blinker, not a stop light, but after some thought decided I should turn left anyway. As the lights are many miles apart I figured he must have meant that one. I soon found myself on Route 23C, which sounded good as I wanted Route 23.

I followed 23C for many miles, probably at least an hour. At one point I came to a T intersection that said Kingston was one way and Tannersville the other. Kingston is at the Thruway exit ten miles south of Saugerties where I got off, and Tannersville was where I had gotten directions. I said eeny meeny miney moe to pick a direction, also checking the sun. The way I went seemed good, as I just went a few feet, and Route 23C went off in what seemed the correct direction—I never could tell directions by the sun. By now it was approaching 1 PM—dinner time at Mom’s house.

I had my cell phone with me, but had left the charger at my office. Once I realized it was there as my battery was getting low, it was too late to go get it. It did not help that I was deep in the Catskills, so only occasionally had reception. When I again got to a town with a name, I called Mom to ask her how to get to her house. Neither she nor anyone else at the house had heard of the town or the route I was then on. I finally ended up on Route 28, and called again. My brother told me they had found where I was on the map and tried to call me with no luck. He I should soon come to Route 30 which I should take. When I told them I was on Route 28, they reminded me that it was the same 28 which goes through Cooperstown, ten miles from Mom’s house, and suggested I just stay on it. The answer to how far away I was was over two hours. I asked them to save me some pie.

I promptly came to a hamlet that looked large enough to maybe have an open gas station. It did, but the map display was gone. The clerk said it had been there last week. All I got was potato chip bag number 4. A little further down the road I finally found a gas station with maps and also bought potato chip bag number five. Finding a map at this point was not necessarily a good thing.

I did not want to drive another two hours so studied the map for a shorter route. I took the aforementioned Route 30 and found smaller roads to get northwest to Cooperstown. By now it was snowing again. Dog Trail Road” and something “Mountain Road” were definitely not good choices. I slipped and slid, then came to signs to Cooperstown, which I followed—on even worse roads! It still took me over two hours from where my mother and siblings located me on the map, but it did not seem quite as long as straight driving on Route 28 would have. It certainly was more exciting when trying—successfully at least—to keep from falling off the side of the mountain! I got to Mom’s at 3:30. The three and a half hour trip had taken six and a half. The dinner guests were literally walking out the door as I walked in, carrying two bottles of wine—the good thing I had taken with me. I forgot to mention that I realized early on in the trip that I had forgotten my suitcase; it seems like such a minor detail now.


Blogger Tom Gilmore said...

Still laughing as I print out a copy of this blog to read aloud to my wife during our 4th of July picnic in the back yard. One of our family's favorite days to be together, but this year we old folks are alone while most of our kids and grandkids are in the Seattle area....Hey, maybe they'll see your grandkids at the fireworks display on Lake Union?

1:15 PM  

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