November 06, 2007

Thoughts about Karen

I am surprised she remains my friend after all the grief I've put her through, all the baseless accusations, however paranoid, I've lobbed in her direction. "In her direction?" Hah, most of them I've batted square to the first baseman who tagged her out the moment she arrived. She is always out in my book, always guilty of the worst possibility, never given the benefit of the doubt, let alone allowed the grace of good intentions or granted gratitude for things well or freely given. No, in my book (and I fear in Joe's most inner unspoken opinion...since he judges her over-spending harshly and equally her liking for information on movie stars and up to date fashions, all vapid to his way of thinking), in my book she is a thief, a liar and a cheat. In that order, or was quite recently.

We moved Joe from his 10th floor apartment in February to an 11th floor one opposite Karen's and just beneath me. That was when I discovered several large containers of "white" change that he had collected. It must have taken several years to accumulate so many quarters they filled a large mayonnaise jar, and nickles and dimes to fill a 3 pound coffee can. I could not even begin to estimate the total worth of it all, but surely it amounted to a hundred dollars at least. I remember this change collection vividly, having stored it overnight in my apartment, not wanting the movers to be tempted as I'd been warned could happen.

Well, now Karen and Gary are clearing out Joe's apartment for good. They started while I was at Brock Hill and continue on into November, paid to do so by Joe, as well as being paid in that they can take largely whatever they want in the way of furniture and items that Joe doesn't want or hasn't bequeathed elsewhere. He did make sure that I received items that I'd bought him myself, but I wanted precious little, having just about everything I need already. I had bought him a leather recliner once when I'd had the money (when my former long time ago boy friend died) but I didn't want that, so we gave it to his cousin, a nice guy and someone we thought would enjoy it. But I wondered what they would do with Joe's money. It was his and I knew that Joe was funny -- frugal to a T -- about money, at least with most people, though never with me. I wanted to make sure that he did get the amount that the change represented, or that at least it was used for his benefit. But when I looked, the change was not where we had put it. Most of it was gone, only empty peanut butter and maynnaise jars were left!

My immediate reaction, absolutely immediate, was: Karen took the change, she had to. She was the only one who chronically was short on money, had the motive and was "evil" enough to do so. Karen was obviously the guilty party. I knew Gary never spent any money, or as little as possible, his luxuries being Meals on Wheels and Delivery Water (the large bottles brought in with a dispenser). Otherwise, he seemed to have little interest in buying things, unless they were a deal and/ or he could get them cheap or for free with coupons. But Karen was extravagant, and chronically overdrawn. She got much more money a month from social security than I did, but at the end of the month was surviving on pasta and hard boiled eggs, or else went to the local food pantry, that's how broke she was.

It's a long story that I won't go into, except to tell you that in the end, a week later (due to Joe's inexplicable failure to explain) I learned from Gary that Joe himself had laboriously rolled all those quarters and exchanged them, on the days off that we thought he had spent doing nothing, resting, thinking. He had actually driven himself to the bank, when we thought he had stopped going out by himself...I did doubt this for a while, believing that Joe might be covering for Karen, needing her assistance as he still does. But it makes sense. As Gary points out, what self-respecting thief leaves the empty jars there after stealing the change???

I apologized to Karen, explained that my chronic assumptions about her were again proven wrong, and she, accepting of me as always, took me back with grace and good humor, though not without some dramatic comments about how she'd almost been hospitalized she'd been so upset. Just about as "almost" as I'd "almost" gotten into Hampshire College (ie I was wait-listed but never did get in).

But something is wrong here. I do not usually assume that someone is a pathological liar, not even after being burned by two of them (separate occasions), and knowing that one had been next door to me in the hospital, stealing clothes from others' laundry with impunity...Something is wrong, and it is not simply that Karen is the person with whom I have the most contact, which is how I explain my paranoia to her. No, there is some other explanation for why I keep going back to that well of distrust, keep returning to my assumption of her fundamental untrustworthiness. But what?

It came to me the very next day when Josephine came over to help me clean up my apartment. Karen suggested that Josephine might go with her to a musical at the local theatre for Broadway plays. THey would have "box" seats at a low price for the handicapped, Josephine going as a companion to Karen. Jo then asked me to come along too. She really doesn't care for Karen, I know, and wanted me for better company. I know now that I had a right to ask for some time to "think it over" but at the time I believed I had to make a decision then and there. Panicked by this, I did not know how to say No to a friend asking me to rescue her. So I agreed, though it was $40 for a ticket to a musical I have no interest in seeing. ("Wicked" is about how the witches in the Wizard of Oz became the Evil one and the Good one. Sounds singularly boring to me..) But the thing is, to get THREE tickets Karen thought she'd have to lie and call TWO of us handicapped physically as the seats involved are for the "mobility impaired" not merely the disabled. She had it all planned out, the lie she would tell, it was all rehearsed. Even though it turned out not to be necessary, still the very idea bothers me.

Now, this seems to me to be emblematic of the problem: Karen's willingness to lie when it is convenient, even when it is not truly necessary. She wants what she wants and won't take No for an answer, so she lies to get a Yes. It's not as if it would kill us if a third person couldn't go to the theatre...Or had to sit in the more expensive seats. Or if we had to ask for a special pass to have three of us sit in the "box" seats (They aren't even truly the box seats that Karen lured Josephine in with, but merely a boxed-off section, way in back on the first floor, high enough to see from but not true box seats.)

She feels she must lie, another example, about the ten year old glass top to her table. She wants to upgrade to a larger table, and the glass is in perfect shape, but she doesn't want to pay for a larger top. She figures she will lie to the store and tell them she just bought it (paid cash) and it doesn't fit so she wants to return it for a larger size...I realize that this is actually good practice, recycling. But that is not her motive. She could give the table top away and still recycle. This is a lie to get away with not paying for a new table top, and while noboy truly suffers, it is cheating and lying in a way I find distasteful. And I think my mind extends from there to "If Karen will do that, she might do anything..."

Now, Karen, when I confronted her with this, said that actually there is a hard line drawn between where she would lie and where she would not. She would never lie where it affected others or where it truly mattered. But where it's a matter of mere convenience, why not? She grew up being taken advantage of as a handicapped child, and learned she had to lie in order not to be treated like a second class citizen. Now she was only doing what she had learned to do so well, and it served her just as well now as it did then.

Maybe, maybe not. But it makes me, I believe, so distrust where she draws the line, IF she draws the line, that I am paranoid around her. And if she cares about that, she needs to mend her ways. Though it may be too late for that. It may be that I have "pegged" her as a liar, which "fact" it may be impossible for me to unlearn. More's the pity, because Karen does have enormous patience and great social skills and could be a good ally, for all her other faults, if only I could overlook them as well as she does mine...

Oh, Pam, talk about cheating. You wrote this on the 5th but are putting it up as if it is the 6th, all because you have something on the 5th already and you want to get credit for both days...SNEAKY!!!!!

Posted by pamwagg at November 6, 2007 09:47 PM | TrackBack


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