On Your Mark, Get Set, Freak Out!

>> Friday, October 5, 2007

Michael pushed the start button on that little red stopwatch he uses to time everything. It was my turn to be timed. I grabbed my purse, bolted from the car where Michael and the girls waited, and raced to the grocery store.

The challenge? How long would it take for me to buy two heads of cabbage and two cans of sliced potatoes? (Isn't married life exciting?!) I said less than five minutes. He said, “Oh, yea?”

The race was on.

I jogged across the street to the Albertson’s and noticed two pollsters stationed on either side of the entrance, ready to knock me over the head with their clipboards. Damn.

"Are you registered to vote? Are you registered to vote?" they asked.

“Yes! I’m registered,” I said, sprinting between them. But they weren’t just interested in my voter status -- they wanted me to sign something.

“Canyousignthepetitiontostopthe...?” they tried to ask, but I was too fast for them.

Leave me alone! I thought. Yes, you’re trying to change the world and make it a better place. Yes, your cause is probably worth listening to and is more meaningful than buying cabbage. But can’t you see -- I’m being timed?!

I forged ahead. Once I shot through those grocery store doors, anything could happen. I might have to dodge shopping carts, kids, and crates of apples like a football player. Someone might be loitering near the cabbage, carefully weighing and examining each one to find just the right head. In the checkout line, someone ahead of me could ask for cigarettes or need a price check. The tension was fierce.

But to my delight, the path was clear and straight from me to the cabbage -- practically illuminated. No one stood in my way as I raced to pick up the potatoes, and the lady in line ahead of me was just handed her receipt. I’m gonna make it! Yes!

The checker probably wondered what my wild eyes and goofy grin was all about, but I didn’t care -- I was gonna beat the timer. She wished me good day, I said “you bet!” and ran through the automatic doors to the car.

The car? Huh? The car... I don't see the car. Where is the car?

I performed a quick mental check: I’m not losing my mind, it was parked right in the corner spot and it’s clearly not there anymore. I looked away. I looked back. Nope, still not there.

Then it occurred to me. Oh, ha, ha. Michael probably moved the car to throw me off, which is really pretty irritating, but OK, I can take a joke. I’ve got plenty of time, anyway. I looked around the parking lot one more time, but no car and no Michael.

Meanwhile, the pollsters were hovering. They clearly saw I had all the time in the world now that no one was there to pick me up. I searched my purse for my cell phone and remembered I left it in the car. Grrr. I didn’t know what was going on, I couldn’t make a phone call, and the pollsters were moving in. I was getting pissed.

I walked beyond the grocery store to appear less conspicuous. I waited. I paced. People gave me clearance. I felt like an idiot. Exposed. Homeless. Lost. I wasn’t an independent 36 year old working mother -- I was suddenly a frightened, angry teenager, waiting for a date who would show up late and drunk with one of his dopey friends. I felt abandoned and at the mercy of someone else. I was trapped in a situation I couldn’t control. Ick! And worse than that, if Michael didn’t show up soon, I might have to ask someone for help! Ahhh!

Then I saw it. There! Across the parking lot, pulling out of the Wendy’s drive-thru, I saw our car. Apparently, he’d taken the girls to get their beloved chicken nuggets. In a flash I knew why. That night he planned to visit the library to check out more books and videos for the girls. This was his way of being efficient, making dinner easy on all of us, and generally being a nice guy.

But it was too late. I’d crossed over to the dark side. I couldn’t turn away from my anger, now. Suffice it to say, Mommy went a little cuckoo.

When Michael pulled up, I was in the Hate Zone. Me = Poor Victim. Michael = Overlord from Hell. I reached for the car door and it didn’t open. I knocked on the window -- loudly. Michael shrugged his shoulders. In my blinded state, I interpreted this to mean he wasn’t going to let me in the car until the look of pure destruction was gone from my face. Later, I learned the door was indeed unlocked and he didn’t understand why I was standing there looking like I wanted to tear his arm off and feed it to him, when all he wanted to do was make the girls happy and get library books.

But that was later.

So, I decided to walk home. Just like that. I’m not gonna talk to you anymore. I’m not gonna wait around anymore. I’m done. I started walking.

Then, as I walked away, I started thinking. Hmm. That’s a long walk and I’m hungry. Am I really going to walk home? Is this who I am? Should I flip off the people who are staring at me? Oh my God, am I still some hick from the Trailer Park? Would Michael really drive off and let me walk home? No. No, he wouldn’t. Would he?

He would not.

Just past the Albertson’s he pulled up next to me with the passenger door slightly ajar -- a clear sign to any blinded-by-anger moron that it was open. I climbed in.

Here’s the adult conversation that ensued:


Michael: “What?”


Michael: “I was trying to be efficient.”


Samantha: “Mommy, don’t be mean to Daddy.”

Michael: “Samantha...”

Elizabeth: “Well, I don’t know if she’s being mean...”

Michael: “Lizzy...”

Me: Humph. Silence.

We went home. The girls went outside to play. Michael checked the mail. The cat purred and laced through my legs. I unpacked the cabbage and potatoes -- thunk, thunk, thud, thud. I banged the pot on the stove, grabbed the butcher knife, and cleaved the cabbage in half with one big, satisfying thwack. Then I took a deep breath and chuckled.


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