(A continuation of the previous tale, The Blur: Oh is it Halloween, I forgot to care)
After three days of not thinking about how to be in three places at once on Saturday, Friday night arrived and I realized my logistical nightmare could no longer be ignored.
I had a small foretaste of the following day’s delights as I loaded four boy-children in the van, and spent the better part of an hour and forty five minutes driving back and forth between two schools and two different basketball practices.
It had been snowing since the day before, and even though we’ve lived here for nine years, we still haven’t come around to the Calgarian way that is buying a separate set of tires for the winter months. I always forget when it’s September and the roads are clear how stressful and lifespan reducing it is, driving in snow and wondering if your car is going to make it around a particular corner or up a hill. How it might, in fact, be worth $1000 or however much it costs to acquire tires with more adequate tread.
But alas another November without snow tires is upon me.
At practice I, emboldened out of necessity, approached one of the Hen’s coaches, who also has three boys…in basketball…to see what mutually beneficial child-trading deal we might strike for Super Saturday. I should point out that I had never spoken to this particular coach, yet there I was, begging him for a ride.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
He offered to drive the Hen to his game (located one-hour-in-the-opposite-direction from the Gort’s game) but due to his own scheduling conflicts could not bring the Hen home. Which means I had to ask the other coach to bring the Hen home. In return, I offered to supervise a kid I’d never met for half an hour and drive him to his basketball practice which was at the same gym as Percy’s….but an hour later.
The Hen’s first driver also wanted to leave exceptionally early, due to the inclement weather, which meant I had to leave the Gort’s game before it was over…..without the Gort. Obviously. Having no prior knowledge of any of the Gort’s teammates or their parents, I had to survey the sample of available parents and boldly ask someone I only knew as ‘Tristyn’s mom’ to drive my firstborn home.
I remember when he was a baby and I made detailed lists for babysitters regarding his food and sleep schedule, how annoyingly particular I was, and here I was begging a complete stranger to drive my son across town.
I did try to sniff the air circumspectly to see if her breath smelled of alcohol, but did she have a driver’s license? Was she a responsible driver? Had she been imprisoned for anything?
I will never know.
With two kids taken care of, I still needed to find Percy a ride home from his practice so I could drive across town to ‘The Costco’ to deal with my ‘slow leak’ tire. Fortunately, I managed to pawn off my third-born on his coach, whom I know and have talked to at least three times.
‘How are you Nicola,’ one of the moms sitting on the tiny wooden benches against the gym wall asked when I sat down with my ‘fourth’ (stranger) child. A yellow basketball came barreling down towards my head as I tried to gather my thoughts. Fortunately another mom alerted me to my imminent head injury with a panicked ‘Whaaaah’ and I slapped the ball away, inelegantly.
‘Well, I’m a bit frazzled,’ I replied. Though I suspect the harried look on my face, and my general unkempt appearance, magnified by the fact that I was wearing two coats had already corroborated as much.
I explained about my Super Saturday logistics and she shuddered sympathetically. ‘I think in San Francisco they’re piloting an Uber-type initiative that’s just for getting kids where they need to be. I’m not sure I’d use it though.’
I thought of Tristyn’s mom. ‘Well, I just asked a complete stranger to drive my child home, so that couldn’t be any worse.’
‘True, the drivers are probably vetted somehow.’
Hopefully more vetted than my ‘sniff the air’ test.
The Hen’s ‘first driver’ arrived at the gym, and with my temporary charge reunited with his father, I hightailed it to Costco for my 12:15 ‘appointment’. I have a rather old-fashioned view of appointments as it turns out, one shaped by years of medical, dental and professional appointments that were set for a specific time and, as such, expected to commence on, or very close to that specific time.
My first inkling that a Costco ‘appointment’ was not, in fact, an appointment, was the line-up of cars parked outside the Tire Center, in the fire lane. My second inkling was the line of people snaking out the door into the concrete-floored entryway: people with appointments, people who’d driven in snow, remembered how awful it was and raced to buy snow tires, people reporting for the 40 kilometer, post-tire installation torque check. My third was the customer service representative with the blunt bangs and brisk manner of speech saying ‘it should be about two hours.’
I hadn’t planned on spending two hours at Costco. I didn’t really have two hours to spend at Costco. I was starving, thirsty and the only thing I needed to buy was dishwasher pellets.
I returned a few shirts I’d bought against my better judgment. That killed 15 minutes. I went to the restroom which killed perhaps two minutes while eviscerating my self-esteem. Whenever I visit the Costco restroom, I inevitably gasp in horror as I glance in the mirror on my way to the stalls. I don’t know if it’s the fluorescent lighting, the grey tinge of the concrete, or perhaps I just look my most unattractive when I go to Costco, but the person I’m looking at in the mirror is about 57 years old and possibly the ugliest person on the planet.
Just once, and I realize I’m fighting an uphill battle at this stage of the game, I’d like to take a glance in the Costco mirrors and feel okay about myself. Not great, mind you, just ‘not bad’.
I entered the warehouse, ready to avail myself to whatever samples they were offering and wouldn’t you know it, on this particular Saturday at 12:30 there were almost no samples to be had. Just an obscenely thick hunk of cheddar on a Wisecracker. Which I ate, because I was that hungry.
I considered buying a duty-free-shop sized bar of Toblerone but didn’t think walking around, gnawing on a giant slab of triangular chocolate would help my ‘look better at Costco’ goal. I stared at the menu items on offer in the food court: pizza, hot dog, polish dog, sandwich, chicken strips, french fries, chicken caesar salad.
What was the lesser of all evils in this situation? I bought the french fries, ate a quarter and threw the rest away.
At the two hour mark, having purchased 132 dishwasher pellets, I made my way to the tire center, figuring my keys would be back in my hand within minutes.
My first inkling that this was not going to be the case was when I saw the line of people snaking out the door into the concrete-floored entryway. My second inkling was when the same blunt-banged, crisp-voiced customer service representative told someone in line ‘it will be 2-3 hours.’
She’d conveniently left off the ‘3’ when it was my turn.
I sat on the bench in the tire center, with nothing but my box of dishwasher pellets and a low-battery, data-less phone to keep me company. That and the rhythmic bench-kicking of the two kids sitting beside me, waiting for their dad. Tunk-tunk-tunk-tunk. Over and over and over while I festered in my personal hell.
Two hours and forty-five minutes after I arrived for my ‘appointment’ I was summoned by the blunt-banged, crisp-voiced lady. ”Thanks for your patience,’ she chirped as she handed me my keys.