Thursday, October 11, 2007
My mother is tight. Very, very tight. One way in which she cuts costs is that she used to take some dirt cheap flight from Vienna to Baltimore via London, in which you had to transfer by rushing from Gatwick to Heathrow within an hour. Frankly the stress would have killed me, but there is no amount of discomfort she will not put up with to save money. And I just do not feel the same.
Any of her money saving activities could win her a place in the Guinness Book of Records, but this incident stands out in my memory. A couple of years ago, my husband's fifty year old uncle, Uncle Sean, who had been a heroin addict but was cleaning up his act, decided to take a five day package holiday to Vienna. A few days into the trip, my husband's dad phones me from Ireland and says that Uncle Sean died while staying at the hotel, and that the family have been trying to talk to the Viennese police to sort out releasing the body (they wanted it shipped home for a Catholic burial), but weren't making much headway, since the police only spoke German etc. etc. Could I call my mum who lives in Vienna, and get her to sort it out?
So I tell her the story and she is happy to get her teeth into the project. She goes round to the hotel and discovers that Sean spent the first three days of the holiday locked in his room, and, she notes, did not partake of the free breakfast, nor of the clean sheets and maid service. After a few days of no one going in or out of the room, apparently the management opened the door and discovered the body. Doctors concluded that he'd died from a methadone overdose, probably taken purposely. And while this was all very sad and tragic, mum had a few unanswered questions she wanted answers to. Such as asking the hotel manager,
"His body was removed from the hotel on the third day, but he had paid for a five day vacation, correct?"
The manager looked at her blankly. "So?"
"Well, it is obvious, is it not? He should be given a refund for the two days he did not stay at the hotel."
"But he's dead," the manager pointed out.
"Nor," she went on, "did he use the hotel facilities while he was staying at the hotel, so he should have a refund for those days also. Your behaviour is outrageous. Do you really think you are going to get away with this?"
Apparently, she went on and on until she got the dead guest's package holiday refunded.
Amazing, what? But there's times when I wish she wasn't quite such a spendthrift and enjoyed herself a little more. Or let me enjoy myself a little more. The situation that has arisen, is that my husband and I have been invited to go to Madras in February for an Indian friend's wedding. I am actually really excited to be going and I don't get excited about much. The guy getting married is of the top caste in India and there will be 1,200 people at the reception so I reckon it will be quite a swanky do. I even told him I would wear a sari for the occasion. I know in some ways that seems like an embarassing thing to do, because Hinduism is not my religion, only I thought I would look even more stupid wearing western clothing and standing out like a sore thumb. Really, I have always been fascinated by India. Just, the people, the colors, the sounds, the scenery. Everything. And John's parents have even agreed to stay here to look after the kids while we are away!
But in any case, I'm not going to tell my mum about it right now. It's just so boring to always have her rain on my parade. She will say, "But it is so expensive to fly to India!" And I will say, "So what do you suggest, going by camel?"
I admire her ability to squirrel away money, but for God's sake, what is life for, if not for living?
Also, check out a great new movie reviews blog I am involved with here!