Yes, that AAA.
Okay, so when I was first in college, I learned that if I was a member of the American Automobile Association, I could get 10% discounts on train tickets, hotel expenses, and other travel-related stuff. Since I was attending school in Pennsylvania, where Amtrak actually has a decent railroad presence, it was a great deal for me to sign up even though I didn’t have a car or motorcycle or other vehicle. Then, a couple of years later, my dad mentioned that he thought he could use some of the discounts and car-towing services AAA offered, and I put him on my account for his birthday. I was an adult, and AAA only allows two adults per “family membership”, so I wouldn’t be able to add anyone else to my “family membership” after that since by that time, my younger siblings were both adults (18+ years of age), too.
That didn’t become a problem until my sister obviously needed car service that AAA provides a while later, and when we discovered that we couldn’t add her to my “family membership” as well, she went ahead and signed up alone.
Fast forward in time again. After falling and breaking her hip living on her own, my grandma came from Texas to live with us in California. My parents moved out of the master bedroom into the living room to provide her with a two-room apartment of sorts: a bedroom and a sitting room. (Do not even get me started on how ridiculous I think this whole thing is—it’s another story entirely.) She brought her car with her, which was still registered in Texas. After ignoring the mandatory registration timing, we finally got our shit together and headed down to the local AAA to register the car in California. That involved new plates, new registration stickers, and lots of official documents that had to be signed in multiple places.
Because my grandma is super old-fashioned and likes doing things in person and refuses to pay for anything that isn’t strictly, absolutely necessary, my dad (my grandma’s son) suggested she and I go down to the nearby AAA and register the car there instead of taking her to the DMV because uuuuugh DMV. So, we did.
Except that’s where another problem popped up. It wasn’t enough, according to the AAA staff person, that I, the car’s primary driver, was a member… the car’s owner had to be a member for them to process the car’s new plates and registration. Except we’d run into this problem before, and it wasn’t as simple as just adding her name to my “family membership” because there were already two adults on that account.
But no fear! My sister had a separate membership by herself! All we needed was her permission to add our grandmother to her “family membership” and then we could proceed as planned and have the car stuff done at AAA instead of the DMV. (If you knew my grandma, you would know why I wouldn’t volunteer myself to take her to the DMV if there was any way to avoid it.) So! We called up my sister while we were standing there at AAA and she gave her verbal assent to add our grandma to her account. We processed the car stuff—which is what we’d gone there for in the first place—and went home. Crisis over.
Or so we thought. Time moved along like normal until tonight, when my sister noticed that she had an overdue AAA membership bill sitting in her pile of unread mail and asked my dad why Grandma needed a membership in the first place, especially since she doesn’t drive. She wanted to take Grandma off her account and add our mother, who drives further than any of us daily and goes to see sick friends in the hospital all the time and is generally on the road more than the rest of us most days.
I was reading and not paying attention to the growing tension around me, so when my sister called me into the living room (yes, the place that is now my parents’ bedroom) to talk to her and our dad, I didn’t know what a mess I was stepping into. Already frustrated by the apparent complications the rest of us were adding to what seemed to her like a simple problem with a simple solution, my sister verbally attacked me on the spot, immediately putting me on the defensive and not making the conversation any easier for any of us.
“Why does Grandma even need AAA?” she asked angrily. “She doesn’t even drive.”
“Because the staff people at AAA wouldn’t process her car stuff without her being a member, and I already had Dad on my account, and she wouldn’t pay for her own membership, and so we asked you if it was okay to add her to your account, which you agreed was fine, so that’s what we did, and I paid for it,” I started to say, but I didn’t get so far as “…process her car stuff—” before she cut me off.
“You and Dad have and account, and I had an open space; I know all that,” she said. I frowned, my defenses up. “Grandma doesn’t need a membership and Mom does.”
We bickered back a forth for a minute or two until my dad finally said, “I wanted you [me] to come in here so that I could ask you a question, which is”—he gave us both a look and we remained silent, waiting for him to finish—“if you were a member of AAA as a driver of the car, would they process the car stuff for Grandma on your behalf?”
“No,” I said. “We tried to do that the first time.” He nodded.
“And that time that the car died in the left turn lane on Foothill? Did you use your AAA card information, or Grandma’s?”
“All right,” he said, looking back toward my sister, “so Grandma does need a membership then.”
“No, she doesn’t,” my sister argued. “She doesn’t drive. What does she even use the membership for?”
“Were you not even listening just now?” I asked, slightly incredulous.
“I just don’t want to have to pay for something that Grandma doesn’t even use when we know Mom would use it.”
“Then don’t pay for it,” I said.
“Not have AAA?” she asked, and it was her turn for incredulity. “Last year, I was the one who needed it the most!”
“No,” I said, irritated, “Don’t pay for Grandma’s part; I don’t care. If you do that, though, you get to take her to the DMV to reregister her car.”
“She could do it by mail, you know.”
“Then you get to help her with the paperwork,” I said, not even missing a beat. “We can do it your way, but your way means you also have to deal with Grandma and doing shit her way. Good luck getting her to register her car by mail when she knows there’s an in person option she could use, even one at the DMV.”
My sister narrowed her eyes at me—we both know that I’m the one who’s supposed to deal with Grandma and her car when it relates to her car—but I just looked right back at her.
“Do whatever you want,” I said. “I don’t care. I deal with Grandma and the car, but I’m not going to unnecessarily deal with the DMV.”
“I don’t think—” my sister started, and I held up a hand to stop her.
“Look, you called me in here to help you, presumably, and I came in here thinking I was going to be helpful, but all you’ve done since I’ve turned the corner has been to attack me. I’m not going to put up with that, so I’m done helping and will be going back into the other room to read.”
“Mom’s the one who drives the most around here,” she said. “She should have the membership, not Grandma.”
“And Mom’s also the only person who has a driver’s license in this house who’s also never gotten a ticket. Her little guardian angels don’t work overtime like yours have to… No offense.”
“That doesn’t sound like ‘no offense’,” my sister frowned, her eyes tearing up.
“Does Mom even want a AAA membership?”
“Well, when she comes back,” my sister said, “we can ask her.”
“You can ask her. This has nothing to do with me. I wasn’t even part of the conversation before you called me in here.”
“It was Dad who wanted you in on the conversation, not me!” she cried.
“Here’s what I think,” my dad finally cut in again. “Katy needs her own membership. She has her own car; she needs her own membership.” My sister opened her mouth to say something and then closed it again when it was apparent our father wasn’t finished. He continued. “In a perfect world, you”—he nodded at me—“and Grandma would have a membership together because the deal with her and the car is with you, not Katy. And your mom and I would have our own membership.”
“Fine by me,” I said to him, “but I already paid for your and my ‘family membership’ for this year, so figure it out.”
My mom walked by behind us toward the kitchen and I said, “Whatever, people. Figure your shit out and I will do that.” I looked pointedly at my sister: “Remember what I said about the DMV, though.”
I left the room. My sister, in tears, fled upstairs. My mom, standing in the kitchen pouring herself a glass of water, asked, “Everything okay?”
I shrugged. “Drama.”
“Should I go in there?”
“You can if you want; we were talking about you.” She looked alarmed, and I shook my head. “It’s stupid; it’s about AAA.” She blinked, gave me an owl stare for half a second, and then burst out laughing.
And that, my friends, is my family and AAA. /dies
(Unrelated side note: I got as much of this as what I was expecting when I typed “AAA” into Google’s image search.)