Karma: the Hindu and Buddhist philosophy according to which the quality of people’s current and future lives is determined by their behavior in this and in previous lives.
There it is. The definition that haunts me.
I tried my best, I really did. Raised the kids to be responsible while instilling solid values such as diligence, love of neighbor, and frugality. Middle-class income and neighborhood. Nothing fancy. Pay as you go; save for the really big things like college and cars. But it didn’t matter. One unfortunate encounter at a drive-by window doomed me and my daughter to years of insolvency.
The universe can be so unfair and unforgiving, even when you think you’re off the hook.
I watch the television commercials showing seniors living the good life, using their mega-savings from IRAs and pensions for time shares in the Bahamas and retirement communities in sunny climes. Their happy, tanned faces smile back at me from the pages of Modern Maturity and I wince. I would love to picture myself as one of those redeemed by a past six-figure income and a savvy financial advisor. Not.
I worry for my daughter who is still struggling to reach her break-even point and buy that darn cranberry storm door as one of life’s little perks. Not.
The bad karma refuses to give up.
Blame it on the bank assault in broad daylight, my baby daughter along for the ride. Little Louise and big Thelma, sticking it to the establishment.
We’re still paying.
It was just a normal run to the bank on a cold wintry day. Jenn was all of seven months old, cute as a little kewpie doll, all bundled into her furry pink snowsuit. To save time, I pulled up to the drive-by window to make my deposit. What happened next determined my destiny. It was not a pre-meditated act. Accidents due happen. Karma must have been hiding in the trunk and popped out to bite me on the nose.
As the automated deposit tray slid open, my outside car mirror managed to smack it with a sickening crunch. It was not a pretty sight. Before I could come to a complete stop, I had pushed the drawer forward and folded it up as neatly as a set of accordion bellows.
“Did I kill it?” was the only thing I could say as I surveyed the crumpled mess and the teller’s crumpled face. She was feverishly trying to retract the tray but I knew, oh yes, I knew. I had delivered a fatal blow. The whining and grinding continued. It was in its death throes.
I broke out in a cold sweat, the baby started to cry, the bank teller looked like she was about to faint. I had to get out of there, fast. So I put the car in reverse and drove backwards … right into the car that was in the drive-by line behind me.
At that point, it was like a Keystone Cops movie. The cars in back of that car started pulling out of line and careening away from the crime scene. Even the guy I hit didn’t hang around to exchange insurance.
By now the baby was bawling and I was on the verge of tears. Hysteria was not far behind. I wondered if I could plea-bargain myself out of prison. Better yet, I could promote a social cause and rail against capitalism. Gosh, I could become a hero if I played this right.
The baby’s crying soon brought me to my senses. Breathing deeply, I carried Jenn into the bank and plopped her down in front of the stunned tellers and curious customers. Jenn wailed; someone stuck a lollipop in her mouth. No one offered me a consolation prize. In between tears, I pulled out my driver’s license and told the crowd that a) I was a good mother and b) I was really a good driver and c) I had never before damaged public property.
A short, serious man appeared before me, the manager. What is this thing about short men? They had already called the police and he assured me that all would be “straightened out”. Poor choice of words on his part. He hadn’t yet been outside to see the dying drawer.
The police arrived, Jenn continued licking her candy, and I gave a full report. It was then that my rational brain finally kicked in, banished the Lucille Ball impersonation and took charge. Knowing that I was, indeed, a good driver, I questioned just how my car could have gotten close enough to the tray to actually make contact in the first place. We all went outside and I cleverly pointed out that the curbing below the window should have been extended another two feet so that cars were prevented from driving that close. Yes, that was it! Poor design! Preventive maintenance was the key! The cops nodded at my brilliance. The crowd shook their heads and started to disperse.
I was feeling so much better. I would look the world in the eye and not stand down. The best defense is a good offense. It was the bank’s fault. Feeling vindicated, I put Jenn back in the car, carefully checked my rear-view mirror, and drove home. I included detailed sketches advising the extended curbing in my report to the insurance company. (I love to draw.) My outside mirror was repaired. The bank’s damage was another story. The duct tape and gaping hole were part of the urban landscape for a few months. And then the cement truck came and extended the pavement.
Karma, however, weighed in favor of the bank.