So you had a rough few days, babycakes? Stack them up against the few days that an Arlington couple has just had, and in the roughness sweepstakes, you'll finish second.
The trouble began for Mark and Janice Zelbo on June 3. While Janice was driving on Massachusetts Avenue NW by herself, the brakes on the family car took unscheduled annual leave. Janice coasted to a stop, fished her handy-dandy red-white-and-blue card out of her wallet and called the AAA.
A tow truck showed up, driven by a guy with "Charlie" stitched above his left breast. He hitched up the Zelbomobile and towed it out to Tyson's Toyota. But he apparently attached the hook improperly, for when a Tysonian took a look, much of the underside of the car was a crumpled mess.
The haggling quickly began. Was Charlie responsible? Was AAA responsible? Was any of the damage there before Charlie attached the hook? What would Tyson's charge for repairs?
This is the sort of thing that can make you old before your time -- especially when AAA splits hairs, as it did at first, and agrees to pay for some of the damage but not all.
Mark Zelbo spent the better part of a week meeting with the owner of the towing company and with assorted AAA officials. At last, it looked as if all was settled. So the Zelbos went out to dinner in Adams-Morgan to celebrate.
They parked in a poorly-lit lot. One section of it was raised, and looked out over a sunken ramp. Not paying full attention, Mark drove right off the pavement and out over the dropoff. There the car hung suspended, balancing on its belly, unable to move backward or forward.
What to do?
Call the AAA, of course.
And who should show up?
Charlie, of course.
It's a relief to report that Charlie did better this time. He hitched up the car and yanked it off the ledge without damaging it. It's an equal relief to report that AAA has now agreed to pay the full cost of the June repairs.
As for the Zelbos, they were last seen heading for a bicycle store. I think they were still able to smile, but I wouldn't want to bet on it. He was a middle-aged man in a suit and tie who approached the counter of a McDonald's near the White House and ordered some lunch. While Lisa Leinart waited in line behind him, the man handed the counterwoman a $5 bill. As he did so, Lisa noticed that his "hands" were really prosthetic devices painted and shaped like the real thing.
When the staffer brought the man his change, he asked if she would please put it into his jacket pocket. He patiently explained that he couldn't hold coins, or pick them up from a countertop.
"She looked at him like he was crazy," Lisa reports. " . . . . Instead of just answering yes or no, or simply doing it, she just stared at his hands, saying nothing."
Finally, she did the worst thing of all.
She placed the change on the counter and cheerily asked the next person in line if she could help him.
Disgusted, Lisa scooped up the change, opened the man's jacket pocket and did what the counterwoman should have done. The man thanked Lisa. Then he told her that he goes into that McDonald's at least three times a week. He added that he "thought by now they would catch on" about his hands.
Maybe seeing this story in print will nudge them in that direction, sir. We have needed it for a long time, and I want to thank Jim Holmes of Sterling for starting the Washington Area Council for Acts of Stupidity.
I also want to thank Jim for nominating the first WACAS member: a Dad who took his three-year-old daughter to Great Falls recently.
While Jim happened to be watching, the Dad was attempting to take pictures of his daughter. "However, he was trying to pose her on the very top of a rock approximately 15 feet high and directly over the river," Jim reports.
WACAS is easy to escape from, Dad. Just use your head. And the two eyes attached to it. If you love Old Washington Yarns as much as I do, you'll appreciate this submission from Harry J. Maginnis of Bethesda.
From 1939 to 1942, Harry worked as an aide to Sen. Robert A. Taft. The Senator owned a much-travelled Buick in those days. It had seen better days -- many of them -- but Taft was still very proud of the car. And his pride was well-known around town.
One evening, Taft attended a social function at the Sulgrave Club. As he left, the doorman called smartly to the valet: "Senator Taft's car!"
Taft responded: "It's a good old car, but it won't come when you call it."