ON OUR TEAM SINCE
FEB. 24, 2002
WAY WITH ME
It was one of those days
that leave you shaking
By JOYCE KIEFER
I dont tempt the Fates by assuming a day cant go wrong when everything about it looks right. But couldnt I tempt them just once with one perfect day I had planned down to the hour? What could go wrong?
All the components were right: great fall weather; meeting friends who date back to membership in the Black Masque Society at San Jose State; picking up Corky at the airport and stopping for lunch in quaint Santa Cruz along the way, then arriving at the beach condo where wed all stay, right at check-in time.
An hour before leaving the house, I checked Corkys flight. It departed exactly on schedule. The day was locked up.
The Fates were laughing.
First, I chose to drive the wrong car. Instead of our gas-saving Prius, I took the 99 Subaru Forester because it has more room to drive people around. I was close to the San Jose Airport when I saw a column of smoke. I turned on the news station. The smoke came from a grass fire that shut down the main turnoff to the airport. Fortunately, I heard the announcement soon enough to turn off on the road that circles the airport and use the entrance on the opposite side. Unfortunately, this made me late. Tangles of construction detours enticed me to make wrong turns, but I stayed the course and pulled into the garage next to Corkys airline.
I blame my husband Bill for what happened next.
Corky waited for me on the curb right next to the garage entrance, but I didnt see her. I didnt expect her to be at that spot after our conversation. She wanted to meet me there, but Bill said it wouldnt work. The way he interpreted the airport diagram on the internet, there was no place for me to pull up. At his advice I told Corky Id meet her at baggage, even though she didnt plan to check any in. She thought shed save us time, so she waited on the curb after all and waved her arms when she saw me. Problem is, when I drive I dont look to the right or to the leftjust straight ahead.
I missed seeing her because of Bill.
I found a good parking spot, set the brake, locked the car, and scurried off to meet Corky at baggage. I ran into her just before crossing the street to the terminal. We hugged joyfully and walked the few steps to the car. Things turned out so simply after all. While we began our typical gush of conversation, I reached into the side pocket of my purse for the keys. Nothing. I dumped the contents of my purse onto the concrete. Cell phone, notebook, wallet, library cards, pens, Kleenex, but no keys. I peered into the car and there they werein the ignition. Corky asked if I could hear the motor running. The car feels hot, she added. It was also vibrating like a stallion ready to bolt.
Gusts of panic blew through me, first because of the car, second because of what had happened to me. Advancing age had just swallowed a chunk of my mind. Corky was there to watch me shrink from the capable college girl she once knew to a fading old gal who cant juggle more than one focus at a time.
The 99 Subaru is obliging, rather than fool proof. It lets you push the lock button on the door and lock yourself out with the keys inside, if thats what you have a mind (or no mind) to do. If youve also left the motor running, you can detect an evil chuckle when you listen closely. The car is impossible to pry open.
Not yet knowing that, I called AAA for help and gave detailed directions to the garage entrance where I would wait. The tow truck drove by 40 minutes later. I caught the drivers eye but he gestured that it was too late to turn left into the garage. Another 20 minutes for him to circle the airport and return. Finally he and I arrived at the car, which Corky had calmly guarded all this time. She and I hugged with relief. He pulled out a saw-like tool and tried to pry open the window. No luck. He called the dispatcher. She ordered a locksmith. He drove away. I called the dispatcher and asked how long the locksmith would take to arrive. She said several hours and I, not they, would pay for his service.
I persisted. What if the car runs out of gas by the time he arrives? Then, she said, Id have to place a call for someone to bring gas. That person would arrive an hour or so after the locksmith.
I hadnt called Bill because I didnt want him to see how seriously Im losing my mind. Glasses and shopping lists are one thing, but leaving the keys in the ignition with the motor running? Im independent and dont need my husband to rescue me or be my chauffeur. Or do I?
My predicament was still Bills fault. Hes discouragingly hard to contact. When AAA called the locksmith, I finally phoned home. No answer. No surprise. Bill doesnt pick up the phone when Im gone and seldom checks the answering machine. He refuses to have a cell phone. He doesnt check his e-mail more than once or twice a day, so text messaging is not likely to work. Worst of all, this was the day he attends a noontime Bible study and now it was well into noon.
Corky and I chewed rabbit-like on the snacks she brought to share at the beach.
I prayed for a heavenly message: Check answering machine when you get home. Call Joyce. He did and arrived before the locksmith. No recriminations, no drama. He just unlocked the car and left. I was flooded with gratitude for the patience hes shown me for the 46 years of our marriage.
Once on our way, Corky and I relaxed into the friendship that has sustained us for years. We resumed our chatter and relaxed over a 3 p.m. lunch at a sidewalk cafe in Santa Cruz.
When we arrived at the condo, Corky explained why we were late. I dreaded a response of silence and exchanged looks of pity. But instead, Diane stepped up with a tale of her own. A resident of Eugene, Oregon, shes an avid University of Oregon Ducks fan. She was delighted when her grandson asked for a Ducks bumper sticker and drove across town to buy one. She found a parking space, fed two dimes to the meter that blinked expired, and dashed into the store to make her quick purchase. When she came out, she saw a ticket on her windshield. Expired meter, was checked off. She looked at the meter next to her car. Thirteen minutes left. Strange? Then she realized she had fed the wrong meter.
Diane would not resign herself to accepting the goof-ups of age. She ran after the meter maid who was driving off in her cart, but couldnt catch up. So she got in her car and caught up with her in the parking lot. The meter maid listened sympathetically but explained that she couldnt change the ticket now because she had left the crime scene. Diane, she advised, should explain what happened in a letter to the court.
Diane did exactly that. At the end she wrote: Your very nice officer Baldwin explained that I could request a dismissal if I supplied any information that might help my case. I did try to catch her as soon as I realized what happened, but I am 69 years old and just couldnt run fast enough. I really, really am not senile but was distracted and careless. I hope youll forgive this temporary lapse and (I) promise to be more observant in the future.
The court refunded her $12 ticket the next week.
Come to think of it, my day was perfect after all. I double dog dared the Fates and won despite the obstacles they threw my way. I ended the day with a group of women who have shared the ups and downs of lifes changes with sympathy, humor, and determination to go forward no matter what.
...and there was a happy ending!
After all the merry mishaps, Joyce (bottom row, far right)
got together with her old pals. Joyce seems especially
cheerful as The Fates yell down: "Don't forget your keys, Girl!"
©2008 by Joyce Kiefer. The keys illustration is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA. The photo is the property of the author. All rights reserved. This column first posted Dec. 1, 2008.
TO ACCESS JOYCE KIEFER'S ARCHIVE OF COLUMNS ON THIS SITE, CLICK HERE: KIEFER ARCHIVE.
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