In general I try not to get noticed. As you know, I'm rather unsuccessful at this endeavor, but not in a good way. Usually when I take off my slippers and venture out of my house I have some sort of run in with humanity. If you haven't noticed lately, humanity is crazy.
Our little family is still in the throes of orthodontia. Somehow, all three of my children were born with teeth that confirmed my long-held suspicion that there is significant inbreeding in my family line.
Being the responsible parents we are, we've tried to correct any physical evidence of their dubious heritage and made sure we give strict social instructions when we attend family reunions. Thus far, none of them have tried to date relatives, but they are still young.
Orthodontia is neither cheap nor easy. We spend an inordinate amount of time in uncomfortable waiting rooms, watching Disney movies and fish tanks. The mind-numbing tedium of these visits has encouraged me to find things to look forward to. On a recent visit to Unnamed Child #1's orthodontist, I pulled into the parking garage and was giddy with joy to get a COVERED parking space. Unless you have lived in the Southwest in the summer, you have no idea how wonderful it is to return to a car that is only 115 degrees inside rather than the frequent 145 degrees.
Not only did I find a covered spot but it was next to a darling little yellow VW bug which allowed me to park and slug my offspring in one graceful motion.
Just as I was ensconcing into the blissful shade there is a loud BANG which makes me instinctively throw my protective mommy body toward my progeny. Because I am still seat belted in, it ends up being more like a pathetic lurch where I clothesline my neck, jerking backward with the recoil and end up nowhere near my child. In fact, my pathetic motion does more to frighten her than it does to protect her.
My tiny brain slowly realizes that we are not being shot at, but now I worry what part of my van has fallen off. Slowly I peer out the driver's side window looking toward the ground and I notice this:
Clearly, I have driven over a small rodent and exploded it on the side of the cute bug, sullying its passenger side door. Slowly I step out of the car, and try and wrap my mind around the situation.
There, on the ground is a bag of Jack-in-the-Box trash that someone abandoned with wanton disregard for communal hygiene. As a side note, this is one thing I will never understand, littering. I don't get why people think it's OK to just throw stuff on the ground, flick cigarette butts out their windows, or leave shopping carts blocking perfectly good parking spaces. Literally eight steps away from the trash on the ground is a perfectly good, mostly empty trash can.
I gather up the debris of my roadkill and walk to the can, trying to figure out what to do. In general I try and leave the world better than I found it, at least the same as I found it. Clearly, this is not a walk-away situation. But I have NOTHING to clean ketchup off a car. For a moment I consider using my arm, but my kid stops me. I can't leave it there, but what exactly is the proper procedure for vehicular condiment assault? I have no napkins, paper towels, plastic bags, nothing in the car that I could even smear some of it off. I crawl around the back and find an old half-empty water bottle and try and rinse some of the schmear off. It mostly just makes some of the ketchup runnier causing it to drip further down the door, but clearly not getting it off the door.
Long ago, Unnamed Child #1 has left me, partly from embarrassment and partly because she had an appointment. I finally decide I need to get reinforcements and dash into the orthodontist. I'm worried the little bug driver will return and drive away. I imagine the single driver driving away in the blistering sun, parking and not finding my mess for days - long after the acidity of the ketchup has etched its mark into the door, ruining the paint.
Hurriedly, I sprint through the door and quickly ask if they have any paper towels. Of course, this is weird, and the receptionist peers over the counter at the ground thinking I've peed my pants or barfed in their waiting room. This is an entirely logical guess, but all I can think about is the bug driver driving out into the world with the car equivalent of toilet paper stuck to your shoe.
Gasping with breath I sputter, "I need some paper towels!" She points to a bathroom and as I start to go in, she follows me asking if everything is OK.
I'm not sure I know how to respond, and what sort of liability I might be opening myself up to. For example, she might, perhaps, own a yellow bug currently parked in the shade, slathered in ketchup. I just say I have a small mess I need to clean up and take a ridiculous armful of paper towels.
Moments later, I'm on my hands and knees, in a sea of ketchup-covered wadded-up paper towels wiping as gently as possible, trying not to set the car alarm off. "Cause we all know that's what would likely happen right now.
I cleaned the bug, good as new. Well, that's not true, but when I left the parking spot, hauling a bushel of smelly paper towels, the ketchup was gone. I felt good, I left the world at least as I found it.
Settling in to my seat in the orthodontist waiting room, I fanned through a backdated issue of People magazine. Briefly, I catch eye contact with the receptionist, she smiles and makes a wiping motion against her cheek. Picking up on her signal, I wipe my cheek, and sure enough, I looked like the side door of a cute, yellow bug.