Monday, January 16, 2012
The Price of Cheese
"Prefab" Sunday too?! Yes, I am cheating a bit again tonight by using something I'd written a couple of years ago. I read what I was working to my husband and he was bored quickly and thought it wandered, so it needs more work. You and he and Safeway may be grateful to know that I am choosing to go to bed now instead of working that piece to death and being up all night. So enjoy!
“Ma’am, is there a reason you have been asleep in this parking lot for over an hour?” demanded the young and obviously single and child-free police officer. His dark countenanced partner stood just behind him, his face registering some concern, but more of what I saw as “What were you thinking, you deadbeat? She must be on something.” look. “We were just taking a nap,” I replied.
I had pulled into the grocery store grateful to have made the 30-minute drive from the restaurant, where I’d had lunch with my husband, back to home territory without falling asleep and killing us all. I was that tired. When we got back my 4-year-old daughter was asleep. Not so with the 12-month-old, however my son could not undo his car seat restraints and so I gratefully put on some soothing music and closed my eyes. The baby complained. All responsibility fell away and I was warm and calm and free.
Once someone had tapped on the window, asking if we were OK. Jolted awake, I gave the hi-sign and they signaled “OK” and smiled and went on with their day. I closed my eyes again and went back to that blessed country where I was not failing, not incompetent, not fat, not crazy.... Somewhere in the distance I could hear that my son was crying, but I knew that he was OK. He was angry at being stuck sitting in his car seat. He was angry and safe and that was all. I absolutely could not rouse myself. I knew I was not awake, (this happens to me all the time, being aware of dreaming) and, frankly, I wanted to stay that way indefinitely. Soothing music peppered with angry crying ebbed and flowed. And then another tapping on the window. Wake up! Goddamn do-gooders.... Why doesn’t anyone mind their own business anymore?
“Ma’am, do you realize how long you’ve been sleeping here?” asked the smooth-faced young man in the police uniform. “Is there a reason that you and the kids are not at home?” Oh---my---God. I could not believe this was happening. Someone actually called the police?! I was horrified and angry and in shock, aware that I so must not be flip with this kid, I mean officer. So then we went through the whole we’re-concerned-that-you-may-not-feel-safe-at-home-but-can’t-tell-us-thing. More than once. “Because you seem a bit upset, Ma’am.” “Yeah, I’m embarrassed!” I respond. Who wouldn’t be upset at being questioned by the police in the parking lot of Safeway with people coming and going all around while your two children are both awake and upset now thanks to the interrogation. This was a new and exquisite state of failure for me. Of course I can see how it looked from the outside, perhaps on videotape: a mother, unconscious in the driver’s seat with one child unconscious in the back seat, and a baby that screamed off and on for an hour or more. Perhaps multiple people or cart-collecting staff had come to the customer service counter to express their concern. How can the screaming of a baby, let alone your own baby, three feet behind you not wake you up? There must be something wrong. Better to call 911 and be wrong than to do nothing.
After finally satisfying the officers that I would consider home a better and safer place to nap with the children than my own safely locked, air-conditioned car, parked the middle of the day in a busy grocery store parking lot near the cart-return area where constant foot traffic passed, I had another experience to add to my towering pile of things that would never have happened to my mother. Also I still had to do the shopping I’d driven there to do.
Red faced, with my stomach spitting acid hate for all the goddamn do-gooders who thought I was an unfit mother and might be right, I gathered up my little one, took my daughter’s hand, and crossed the white-hot, sunny spotlight of the parking lot to enter the store in order to purchase the Land-o-lakes sharp american cheese that I can find at no other grocery’s deli counter.