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Rear view mirror: The mother of all hurts

Tony Schumacher picks up a fare who's had the rug of a working life pulled from under him

Written by . Published on June 17th 2011.

Rear view mirror: The mother of all hurts

SHE came down the path as fast as her old legs would carry her, waving her arms and shouting “Cooheee!” 

When she got to the car she banged on the passenger window and I lowered it. 

“Here’s your taxi fare, you forgot to ask for it!” she said. “Did you get the bits I bought for you?” 

“Yes Mum.” 

“Make sure you put that chicken straight in the fridge.” 

“Yes Mum.” 

“Give me a one ringer when you get home.” 

“Yes Mum.” 

“Don’t use all your credit.” 

“I won’t, Mum, thanks, I've got to go.” 

She stood back, wrung her hands like she was trying to split an atom and waved a nervous wave as the window went up. 

“Just drive off please mate, she’s doing my head in,” said the passenger as his mother waved at him cheerily. He had taken to staring grimly straight ahead. 

It’s a funny word. “redundant”. It makes
me think of something that is useless,
and I didn’t feel useless, I felt young,
full of promise and hard work


“Mum’s eh?” I smiled. He didn’t smile back. He just shook his forty-odd-year-old head and stuffed the ten pound note into a wallet so empty I almost heard an echo when he shut it.

We sat in silence for a while until he looked into the stuffed carrier back that had sat on his lap like a fat white plastic cat. 

“Do you eat fig rolls mate?” he asked without looking up. 

“Best not to in this job, there aren't that many public toilets around these days, are there?” 

“She keeps putting them in the bag. I said I liked them, but that was when I was 12.” 

“My mum used to do that with those mini chocolate rolls, I bloody hated them but always ended up with a plate full when I went to visit. You should tell her.” 

He sat back, arms folded across the top of the bag and we returned to silence. After a while he sighed and said: “I can’t say nothing to her, every week I go round and she’s got me a bag of shopping.” 

Silence after that, I glanced across and he was still staring, but now the stares had the glassy look of someone clinging onto tears. I decided to let the radio have a conversation for us and we sat, not speaking for a while. Eventually he spoke again. 

“It's because I lost my job last year. She’s brilliant my mum, I shouldn’t complain. Don’t know what I’d do without her. I feel guilty visiting her, there is always a bag by the door when I leave.” 

“What did you used to do?” 

“I managed a warehouse, distribution. Been looking for work for nine months now.” He paused: “Driving me mental if I'm honest.” 

I heard a croak and sniff and saw a sleeve swipe a nose and thought about how hard it must be for a bloke to teeter with tears in front of a stranger. But that’s what having the rug pulled from under your life will do to you. 

Last time I was made redundant I was about 25. I remember Dave, the bloke who owned the company, taking me for a walk into the yard. He put his arm around my shoulder and started to tell me times were hard and that takings were down. I nodded and we walked along for a while chatting until he said: “We’re going to have to let you go” and I replied, with that wonderful stupidity of youth. 



“Where am I going?” 

“We’re making you redundant, son.” 

I still remember the hammer blow, the feeling of it hitting my heart. The thump of it jumping as the words rang home, I was jobless. 

It’s a funny word. “redundant”. It makes me think of something that is useless, and I didn’t feel useless, I felt young, full of promise and hard work. 

They let me finish early that afternoon, told me to take the next day off and then work the next week as my last. 

I got in my car, switched on the engine, drove out the yard and burst into tears. By the time I got to the lights on Picton Road I was pushing out proper big snotty sobs, banging the steering wheel angry with someone but not knowing who. 

Before I got home I stopped a while to get my act together, telling myself I’d be okay, a few weeks off and I’d be right as rain, it was going to be a holiday, after all nobody starves in Britain do they? 

When I told my mum she gave me a big hug and told me things would be okay. Later on my manager rang me to commiserate and tell me I’d find something quick and not to worry. Even my mates chimed in with back slaps and platitudes about summer days on the dole and new horizons, that night, when I went to the pub. 

I walked home a little drunk and a lot depressed. I’d spent the night laughing off dole jokes and feigning indifference, secretly wanting to burst into tears but maintaining the stiff upper lip.

The house was almost in darkness when I got home, just a lone lamp in the living room guiding me in. Next to the lamp was a piece of cake and a glass of milk. Silently sitting there, like lifeguards at an empty pool, waiting to save me when I fell in. 

I hope my unemployed mate enjoyed his fig rolls - and remembers that his mum knows best.

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

HippyzenchickJune 17th 2011.

Mums give the best hugs..... fab read!

Trace Ward shared this on Facebook on June 17th 2011.
Anthony Schumacher shared this on Facebook on June 17th 2011.
Julie PolandJune 20th 2011.

You have made me cry now, reading this. I am still without work and so know the feeling well.

mrsmarsaJuly 4th 2011.

without my mum for last 7 months. Miss her so much - everyone should appreciate their mum :-(

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