In the state neighboring the one we live in, my in-laws have a lake home. The home sits on the shores of a popular, large lake. One night many years back, a big storm blew through. When this happened, my in-law’s boat was in the shop for repairs, which meant the dock and boat slip at their property had nothing to weigh it down. The winds from the storm were so strong that they literally ripped apart the dock. The next morning, mother-in-law (MIL) reported to us that the dock’s boards were everywhere, floating in the water and washing up on shore.
MIL was already angry because the boat was out for repairs, but the additional destruction of the dock put her over the top. In an email to us, she wrote:
“This is the fault of the local boat company. If they had returned the boat to us before yesterday’s storm, the damage to the dock wouldn’t have happened. Charles* is going to go down to the boat place today and give them a piece of his mind!! They will have to pay for the dock.”
Let’s stop here. Rewind a second.
The boat company hadn’t promised to have the boat back yesterday. They had previously told MIL that the boat wouldn’t be ready for another week.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good blaming session though, right?
… carrying on.
MIL calls up the local dock company first thing in the morning at 7 a.m. “Our dock is destroyed!,” she wails to the unfortunate employee who picks up the phone.
“Yes, many docks got destroyed last night,” they respond calmly. “Who is this? We can put you on our list.”
Not only has MIL’s dock been destroyed, but now she’s being put on a list. Behind other people. Which means she’ll have to wait. This is more than MIL can bear. MIL’s face contorts into a sneer and she hisses into the phone:
“I want to be first on your list.”
She told me this story later on, after the phone call happened. As she told me, I’m pretty sure I made this face:
Let’s pause here for a second to consider: there is no need for MIL to be first on the list. No one is coming over to visit. No parties are being planned at their place. Their boat is in the shop for repairs. There is no need for her dock to be fixed immediately.
The dock guy laughs into the phone, “Lady, Bob Crain is having a big party today. He’s going to be first on our list. You’re just going to have to wait.” MIL capitulates to this, but counters with another sneer, “FINE. Bob Crain can be first. But I better be next.”
The dock guys show up around noon to assess the damage to the dock.
Meanwhile, back at our house, on the same morning that MIL discovers the destruction to her dock, we discover that someone broke into our car during the night. They busted out the back window in order to gain access to the car. And so begins the mad scramble that accompanies these things – calling the police, calling the insurance company, locating a repair shop open on the weekend that could fix our car, etc.
As we’re doing all this, MIL emails us to let us know what has happened. “Our dock was destroyed!!” she wails over email. My husband, Jack, being too busy with fixing our own problems, isn’t checking his email and is unaware of his mother’s dock drama. [Side note: all of this happened before smartphones were popular and email was easily accessible at all times.]
Later that evening, another email from MIL shows up in Jack’s email box:
I am very disappointed in you for not immediately emailing me your condolences regarding our dock. We have been through so much lately, first with the boat repairs and now this. Your non-response shows a complete lack of compassion for my problems.
Jack, already upset at the fact that our car was broken into, is livid. He wants to respond and chew her out, to explain that we had our own problems to deal with, but he refrains. He knows that if he tells his mom that our car was broken into, she will become hysterical about us living in “a bad neighborhood” and will take it upon herself to “fix” our situation. So Jack bites his tongue, tempers his anger, and waits 24 hours before responding:
“Dear mom, I’m sorry to hear about your dock. We were very busy this weekend and I was unable to respond until now…”
PS: The boat people refused to pay for the dock. Insurance covered it, but not without much grumbling from my MIL about the cost of the deductible.