You know misery loves company, right?
As my husband and I came out of a store today, this is the first thing we saw. He was very polite and didn’t gawk at it or say anything, thinking the owner might be close by. But I’m a woman of certain years and my oral sphincter is looser than it used to be. Before thinking, I said I’d bet a hundred dollars that this car belongs to a woman driver battling mentalpause.
Women have long gotten a bad rap for our driving and, if you think about it, we probably deserve it. I don’t know of any really good women drivers although there have to be some out there. Most women do the yap-yap as they drive, gesturing like an Italian, and doing these indecisive brake-taps that are only cute when you’re a kid. “That car came out of nowhere!” they wail, when reality hits.
I’ve seen women’s cars with so much greenery stuck in the front grill that they could hunt deer out of it. “How’d THAT get there?” they ask, mystified. I myself backed over a white thing with a bunch of wires coming out of it at a construction site one time. And another time when I tried my hand at back-hoeing, I accidentally uprooted a small tree and was happily driving around with foliage. “What tree?” I asked, looking around.
Add the brain fog of menopause (my husband calls it “mental-pause”) and we can stop talking and pay attention with every viable brain cell in our head– and it’s still not enough!
I have this confession. Months ago, my mother-in-law decided to splurge on a new car and, in the spirit of generosity, decided that I could have her old car. When I say old, it’s not really THAT old; in fact, I’d say it was about my age. Anyway, she took care of it all the years she had it and it I was happy to have something besides the rattler I drove, in case Rattler broke down one day and I had to get somewhere. For clarification, Rattler is an automatic transmission with the gear changer between the seats and– I’ll call the new car Matilda– Matilda is also automatic, with the controls up near the steering wheel like a legitimate old-lady car.
We had just gotten brand new tires for it and I had some errands to run, which included a visit to WalMart. I didn’t get quite enough sleep the night before and felt a little bit addled. To battle the addleds, I wrote out a complete list of errands and locations, numbered in order of sequence. As I finished each errand, I scratched it off my list, something that I have to do now in order to remember anything!
Let’s back up just a little.
A few days before this fateful day, I had gone somewhere with my mother and had driven her car. I am a die-hard emergency brake person and always crank up the brake out of habit, which I did in my mother’s car. She has memory issues of her own and doesn’t put the brake on because 1. either it’s too hard to un-brake when she’s ready to drive or 2. she forgets all about it and drives with the emergency brake engaged. The next time I spoke with her, she told me to please not put her emergency brake up, that it made things difficult for her, and that it wasn’t even necessary. “All you have to do is put it in Park,” she said. In an effort to listen to the wisdom of my elders, I thought…. Hmmm…. okay.
So there I was in the WalMart parking lot with my list and jumble of stuff in the seat next to me. I sifted through the jumble for everything I might need. Keys are in my pocket. Get your list. And a pen. Do I have my keys? (tap tap) Yes, they’re in my pocket.
For those who might be reading who have not yet encountered the joys of the menopausal brain fog, when I’m in the middle of it, it feels like those lottery ping pong balls. I’m trying to keep all my balls in the air and some simple little something sends them crashing down. Once they hit the floor they roll willy-nilly and I can’t find them anywhere amidst the proverbial dust bunnies and wizened french fries and I’m about to cry because leaning over makes me dizzy and I just cracked my head on the steering wheel (metaphorically, we ARE still in the setting of my car, right?). This day was a day like that.
The environment of the “new” car was so different but I thought everything out. I moved slowly to prevent mistakes. I distinctly remember trying to remember if I had put the car in Park and then decided that I must have; the key came out of the ignition. Keys don’t come out of the ignition unless it’s in Park, right? At least it doesn’t in the Rattler.
I was inside the store shopping for a baby gift for my niece’s new baby, excited about the upcoming baby shower and getting to see everyone. I moved more slowly than usual because, like I said before, I hadn’t gotten quite enough sleep. I was drifting along on fumes when I heard the over the intercom, “Ranf Anf, please return to your car. Ranf Anf, please return to your car.” I didn’t pay much attention except to think, “Hmm… wonder why they’re calling Ranf Anf to go to her car?” I pushed my buggy about 30 more yards before it hit me. Ranf Anf?! Oh, no! that’s ME!
So I push the buggy to a place that I can find it when I return (IF I return) and walk out to the parking lot. I search the horizon for four entire minutes. No Rattler anywhere. But wait a minute. I drove Matilda today. But Matilda is nowhere to be seen either. I’m getting a little desperate now and I pick up my pace. I stand in the middle of the immense parking lot, a little speck from an arial view. I span the entire parking lot until I see something. I see a sheriff’s deputy parked beside an electrical pole with a concrete base. Holding up the pole is my burgundy Matilda!
Sometimes I wish men understood women.
“Is this your car, ma’am?” said he.
“Nah. I’m just walking past all these cars to the hinterland of this parking lot so I can get to those trees over there,” the cartoon in my head says.
I say, “Yeeeessss…”
“Where’d you park it?” barked he.
“Park it?” I said. The head cartoon speaks again, “Where’d I park it? Can I get another question, please? Give me another question!”
I disregard the cartoon and say, flustered, “Park it? I don’t know. I never know where I park my car.” Which is why I usually park my vehicle two miles from the store entrance, way out by itself where I can easily spot it. “I think I parked it up that way,” I said, pointing vaguely. If I knew where I parked my car on any given day, I probably wouldn’t have menopause.
The deputy rattles me with questions I can’t even remember now and at one point I had to bend over to get my breath. I had a mental picture of my car helplessly rolling backward, straight for a toddler or an old person. In addition to having to live with the fact that I had killed some innocent person, would I also go to jail? What is the penalty for– was it negligent homicide? Did I really have the car in Park? And would I feel as bad if it had been a person older than toddler and younger than old? Could Matilda really have been in Park?
The back of the car had a perfect pleat smack-dab in the center of it. “Well, you’re lucky it didn’t hit anybody,” the deputy said. I babble for a while in that stream-of-conscious fashion addled women do. The deputy squirmed a little bit and then said, “Do you want me to report it to the police?”
Even when I have the dum-dums, I’m no dummy. I partially lifted my head and asked rhetorically, “How will that help me?” Cartoon voice said, “Are you crazy? Why would I want to report this? So my insurance company can know I’m an addled woman driver who can’t keep her car from rolling in a highly populated parking lot? My insurance would go sky high and–it’s a wonder I didn’t KILL somebody!”
“Well, no, it won’t help,” said deputy dum-dum.
Long story long, I was soon released to finish my shopping. Which I did. I bought a beautiful plush pillow to match (perfectly!) the handmade quilt I already had. I got some booties and some disposable diapers—-well, you know the stuff you get for new babies. As I finished up my purchases, a man walked up to me and said, “Are you Ralph Ann?”
“ME?!” I say, frightful. “Yeeeessss. Why do you ask?”
“Have you been to your car lately?” he asked.
“DID IT ROLL AGAIN?” I say, as calmly as I can muster.
“I was just wondering if you’d been to it and if you knew it had rolled.”
“Who are you and how do you know about my car?” said I.
“I ‘m So-And-So with Asset Management and on the video the lady who got out of that car looked a lot like you.”
“VIDEO?!” said I.
I’ve been afraid that any day now one of my friends will re-post a People of WalMart video that shows my slow-walking self crawl out of a car that starts rolling almost immediately, soundlessly behind me and then out of the frame.
Needless to say, today’s photo op made me happy. I am not happy Other Crazy Lady didn’t look where she was going. I certainly don’t feel superior, even though my car has a lot less damage. Oh, no. I don’t have any of those uncharitable thoughts. I’m just thrilled to be able to prove that I am not alone. There’s comfort in that. And you know menopausal misery sure does love company.