My grandmother is 85. She lives alone in the rowhouse in Philadelphia that she and my grandfather bought in 1962 or so. Most people would describe her as a "character". On bad days, my mother refers to her as "that old bat" and implores us to please, for God's sake, TELL HER IF SHE'S TURNING INTO NANA. (One time I did, and she told me to go right to hell.) My grandmother has always been a bit peevish and irritable, even when she was fairly young (she had my mother at 21; my mother had me at 20, so she was a grandmother by the time she was my age). She's also highly opinionated and outspoken without reservation, a trait that has intensified with age. You're familiar, I'm sure, with the type of old lady who says whatever pops into her mind knowing that she can do so with utter impunity because of her advanced age. That's my Nana.
Nana has always been a writer of strongly worded letters to newspaper editors, local officials, and members of Congress. She has very nice Catholic school Palmer Method handwriting, and she writes her letters in longhand, on lined letter paper (the kind you used to be able to buy in tablets at drugstores) at the end of her kitchen table. Back when she smoked, she'd organize herself carefully before she set to work. Her ashtray, cigarettes, and gold lighter on the left; a cup of black coffee on the right, and her pad of letter paper in front of her. She had the names and office addresses of the mayor of Philadelphia, the governor of Pennsylvania, her Senators and Representative, and every member of the Philadelphia City Council (they were a frequent target of her outrage) in her leather address book. I don't recall that she ever wrote to the President, but perhaps she did. Or perhaps she just copied him on her letters to her Senators. Her letter-writing efforts were not restricted to politicians and newspaper editors. If a product or a service or an establishment didn't live up to her expectations, those responsible would hear, in letter form, from my grandmother.
I’ve found unsettling resemblances between myself and Nana recently. I’m not peevish like she is (although I have my days and can easily see how they’ll increase in frequency with age), but I’m always railing against some outrage or injustice, and I don’t generally stop with just verbal ranting. My Senators and Representative receive frequent emails from me, and not just via the form letters you can send electronically via their websites. No, I sit down and compose letters just like Nana. I send them electronically. I drink tea, rather than coffee. I’ve never smoked. But sitting in my kitchen at my computer, I might just as well be my grandmother.
Our dryer is broken, and it’s been broken for two weeks. It’s likely to remain broken for some time, since the company which sold it to us for a lot of money LESS THAN TWO YEARS AGO is refusing to make any exception to the warranty, meaning that they expect me to pay for repairs. The dryer’s been repaired once already (again, less than two years old), and I’m quite firmly determined that it should be repaired at the company’s expense (no names. But it rhymes with Hurlpool). I have a family of four, and I don’t do laundry any more frequently than any other mother of two children. I don’t throw tennis shoes or wet hamsters in there. So strangely enough, I actually think that it should still work. Unnamed company disagrees, and during a 30 minute phone conversation, they politely reiterated their utter indifference to the fact that their $700 machine has ceased to operate. That impasse unresolved, I found the address of the company CEO and wrote a letter. Yes. I did. I also wrote a letter to the National Association of Manufacturers (they’ve been on my list for quite some time, actually). I haven’t heard back yet. Weird, right?
Right now, my laundry room contains a $700 dryer, along with a couple of drying racks covered with wet clothes. I’m going to try to break these people down one more time. If that doesn’t work, maybe I can get my grandmother to send a letter for me.