BY CHANA SHAPIRO / AJT //

Chana Shapiro

Chana Shapiro

Monday morning, I was driving, minding my own business. That’s what I shouldn’t have been doing because the other motorists were pointing and honking.

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Sure enough, I looked out my rear-view mirror and was startled – terrified – to see a huge cloud of white smoke spewing from my car. I pulled over, trying to determine if the car was about to blow up or merely melt. A man stopped to see if I needed help.

At the same time, two men doing yard work ran over. My three saviors watched in appreciative silence as the billowing smoke dissipated. One of them, speaking for the group, explained that I had too much oil in my car. Another one opened the hood and did three oil stick immersions to prove his point.

In spite of my protestations, he wiped the oil on his work pants between tests – the new black oil stains blended perfectly with the existing ones on his outfit. I kept my mouth shut.

“Is my car going to explode?” I asked.

They assured me that it would not.

“Can I drive it home?”

“Yes, but why do you have so much oil, anyway?”

“It was a mistake,” I lied.

Actually, it was no mistake. Just that morning my husband had decided that my car needed several more quarts of oil. He was guilty of over-oiling, all right, but – loyal, saintly spouse that I am, I refused to narc on him. He’d hear from me soon enough.

After all this, I decided to let my car rest at home for a couple of days. It’s old; maybe it would leak oil and correct itself, I thought. But I was clearly conflicted.

I decided to take a long walk; in fact, it would do me good to walk to and from the supermarket and drug store. It was hot, and the load was heavy, but I rejoiced in the knowledge that I was finally doing something to combat my osteopenia and detoxify my body by sweating profusely.

In fact, I became a regular walking machine over the next two days. I even enhanced my performance by donning a backpack, which enabled me to collect and carry valuable discarded items I found as I strolled. It’s amazing how many still-useful things people throw away, and I rescued each and every one.

Thursday morning, I weighed myself. I was confident that I’d lost two or three pounds from all the walking and lifting, but I realized that my scale was broken and I’d have to buy a new one.

The proof? It showed that I’d lost nary an ounce. But that was just the beginning.

A neighbor knocked on our door with some bad news.

“It looks like your fig tree died.”

That beautiful tree, a paradigm of fig tree perfection, showed an abundance of sprouts and was expected to produce a bumper crop of fruit this year. Our friend Gilbert, who planted it for us and knows loads about the subject, claimed that this particular arboreal specimen was indeed superior to most others of its breed.

Thus, upon hearing of its impending demise, I called Gilbert for help.He and I performed various Herculean tasks, trying to save the tree, but to no avail. We cut off several healthy branches and planted them nearby, hoping that someday they would replicate the excellence of their ancestor, but I was worried.

We dragged the moribund tree, now sawed into pitiful pieces, and bundled it at the curb. Looking at my late plant, I sensed that a karmic pattern was emerging, and it wasn’t a good one.

Last night, the phone rang. It was late, and I was about to hop into bed, get cozy with a sleazy mystery and a bag of junk food and then slowly fall into tranquil dreamland…but it was not to be.

Our daughter, Sara, reported that her family had just opened their water bill. It was for $6,000.

We reviewed various scenarios: some nefarious, others accidental, others just plain terrifying. I have a friend who experienced something similar, resulting in one of those exposé shows where the utility company was brought to its knees. But that took two years to acquire justice, during which her water was shut off, and Sara’s family is the type that wouldn’t do well without drinking or bathing for two years.

Sara and her husband saw this as a difficult, but rectifiable, problem, but I knew the truth. When I finally fell asleep, I dreamt of Clark Howard hauling buckets up a steep hill from a well dug by Ralph Nader and his Raiders. And the week wasn’t over yet.

I worked on this column very early this morning, determined to complete most of it before starting to cook for Shabbat. I wanted to finish both writing and cooking because I had to be at the MJCCA by 1:30, when our granddaughter was performing in a play at drama camp. I intended to stay to greet the director, meet the other campers and join in the Shabbat oneg program.

And I succeeded: The majority of my column was written by ten o’clock, and I saved it – or I thought I did. I don’t know happened, but only the first paragraph, written and saved yesterday, remained. So here I sit, an hour before Shabbat, recreating this column.

The irony isn’t lost on me. Losing my work and having to rewrite it fits the week’s pattern to a “T,” a perfectly stressful ending to a perfectly stressful week.

I believe that the Almighty is in control of everything, including my week of misfortune. I‘m counting on Him to rest on the Sabbath, as usual. He’s been so very busy with me all week – we both need a break.

Chana Shapiro expects next week to be a whole lot better than the last one. Ever the optimist, she expects her car to run without spewing a cloud in its wake, the planted fig branches to take root, the scale to accurately reveal a weight adjustment, Sara’s water bill to be rectified and this rewritten column to appear in its entirety. If there’s only one paragraph, you’ll know she was wrong.

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