When my friend Melinda asked me if I would mind helping her out in her office for a week, it sounded like fun. Besides, I had milked the argument that I wanted to be a stay-at-mom about as long as I could get away with it. My youngest was nineteen years old at the time. The only way we could tell that he still lived with us was that his dirty clothes piled up in front of the washing machine. Also, food disappeared from the refrigerator at an alarming rate.
I will admit to being a little worried about the morning rush hour traffic when I left the house and headed for Melinda’s office. It can’t be as bad as everyone says, I thought. Besides, I am a cheerful, optimistic person. I can handle it with my usual good humor. I was actually whistling as I started the car and pulled out of the garage.
I popped in my favorite cassette of 1960’s folk music. (This was in 1995. That’s the form of portable music we had at the time. Google it.) Donovan and I began to sing along, “They call me mellow yellow…quite rightly…they call me mellow yellow.”
I rolled down the window (that’s the way we lowered the car windows in 1995. Google it.) and breathed in the crisp morning air. Ahhh, this is great! What fun it will be to join the teeming masses of American workers, eagerly on our way to our rewarding careers, doing our patriotic duty to keep our country’s economy thriving.
Ahh, this is my favorite Donovan song. “The sun is a very magic fellow; deeper than the deep blue sea-ee-ee-ee…”
Uh-oh. Construction. That’s ok. I have plenty of time.
As traffic inched past the orange barrels, I was determined to maintain my good humor. I paused to let in every car waiting at driveways and side streets. The drivers behind me beeped angrily, but I didn’t care a bit.
When a teen driving a “muscle car” cut me off, I smiled, waved a hearty greeting, and shouted cheerily at him, “Groovy wheels, young man!” (That’s the way we expressed our opinions of an impressive vehicle when I was in high school in the late 60’s. Google it.)
“Up yours, lady,” he shouted as he raised his middle finger in vulgar salute. (That’s the way we expressed extreme displeasure back in the late 60’s. Oh, wait, that’s still how it is done).
How rude, I thought.
Oh, my, look at the time. I am going to be late on my first day. Drat! What is the holdup this time? I could feel my good mood beginning to slip away from me.
I leaned way out the window and craned my neck. Great, I grumbled. There is a feeble, elderly man in the crosswalk.
“Get a move on, old man! I don’t have all day!” I yelled as a bird flew overhead and made a smelly deposit in my hair. When I jerked my head back into the car and fumbled for a tissue, the car door’s lock pin caught the sleeve of my jacket and ripped it half off. “!#!*&%$!”
I swerved just in time to miss a huge semi which turned right in front of me.
“Beep, beep, beep!” I honked. “That is an illegal turn, you idiot!”
As he crossed my path, his exhaust belched a cloud of diesel smoke and fumes into my car, leaving my face coated with sooty residue.
“Cough, cough. Move it, moron!”
Donovan’s mellow voice warbled, “Little pebble upon the sand; Now you’re lying here in my hand…”
“Oh, shut up, Donovan!”
I ejected the cassette, jerked a few yards of tape off the reel, and flung the tape cassette out the car window. A gust of wind from a passing bus caught it and blew it back into the car. The tape wrapped around my neck and caught in the hinge of my glasses. The cassette case dangled from my ear like a psychedelic earring.
At the next corner, a very pregnant woman tried to flag me down.”Help me! I am in labor! I need a ride to the hospital!”
“Get out of my way, lady! I am late for work! Next time, plan ahead!” I shouted as I blew past her. Like I have time to fool with that.
By the time I pulled into the office parking lot, there was only one parking spot left. Just as I reached it, a compact car cut me off and stole it. I jumped out of the car, cursing and flailing and kicked the car until its bumper fell off. So did the heel of my shoe. Someone called the cops and I got a ticket.
I limped into the office and bellowed, “Where is the coffee machine?!”
“Since when do you drink coffee?” asked Melinda.
“I really don’t, but it goes well with this cigarette.”
“Since when do you smoke?” she asked.
“Since about 20 minutes ago.”
Melinda’s eyes swept over me, taking in the bird poop in my hair, my sooty face, the cassette case dangling from my left ear, the jacket sleeve hanging off, the broken heel, and the stench of exhaust fumes clinging to me in a noxious haze.
The office phone rang incessantly.
“Would you mind getting that?” she asked.
Snatching the receiver, I barked, “Yeah, what do you want?! Heck, no, I do NOT know where Mr. Emery is! What do you think I am? Psychic?”
“Is it quitting time yet, Melinda? Somebody call me a cab.”