Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Further Confessions of a Complete Goober

My moms in law is in town this week. As always, it's been fantastic! See, Ma likes to spoil us with comfort foods, including such favorites as blackberry cobbler, strawberry rhubarb crisp and her world-famous banana pudding. Also, because Ma can't stand a mess, our house is more or less spotless. I tell you, there's no downside.

Since I had the day off, and since Ma was around to provide me with transportation, I decided to take my car to the repair shop down the road to have a few of its many ailments seen to. I walked back, resumed my day off and soon discussions turned to what we were to have for dinner. We didn't have quite all of the ingredients for the chicken alfredo pizza Ma had proposed, so I agreed to take her car and head out to the store.

"I'll probably stop by the gym, first," I told her. Gotta work off some of this cobbler, after all.

I unlocked Ma's vehicle using the key fob button on her keychain, but found I couldn't open the driver's side door. Ma had warned me, though, that her driver's side door doesn't always open via the handle, so I would have to go around and open it from the passenger side. This I did.

On arriving at the gym, I found myself with a dilemma. Ma's keychain is a massive construction, largely due to the commercial-kitchen-sized canister of pepper spray she lugs around on it. Now, I have no problems going to the store and buying maxi-pads or tampons or Midol or any of the other things most guys typically have issues with being sent to the store to buy. I just don't see what the big deal is about it; after all, no one is going to assume I'm buying such items for myself, but, instead, will assume that I'm buying them for a girlfriend or wife, further indicating that I am equipped with a woman and therefore not a complete loser.

That said, damn if I was lugging a big ol' can of pepper spray into the gym on a set of gargantu-girly keys. Instead, I removed the vehicle's key from the key chain, clipped it to my own keys and went in to work out.

Afterward, I returned to Ma's car where I again had to open the driver's side door from the passenger side. I didn't even have to use the key, though, for I'd left the car unlocked.

At the grocery store, I decided to leave my MP3 player in the car. To make sure that it was still there when I returned, I hit the door lock and headed on into the store. Some 20 minutes later, I emerged, laden with groceries, and attempted to unlock the driver's side door with Ma's key. The key barely made it half-way into the lock before stopping. No amount of wiggling would allow it any further.

Oh, that's the broken door, I thought. I then tried the passenger door and had the same result. No deal.

Aw, shit, I thought. I've locked myself out of the car. How dumb. My MP3 player stared up at me from the passenger seat, as did the enormous can of pepper spray and the magic door unlocking key fob clipped to it. I stood there for a minute, the sun beating down on me, my two canisters of Minute Maid concentrated orange juice mix thawing in the plastic bags at my side. Then I dug out my cell and phoned Ma.

I've had to confess a lot of dumb things to my mother-in-law over the years. For instance, there was the time I drove from Tupelo, MS, to Hickory, NC, to see Ashley, but took a wrong turn in Atlanta and wound up taking I-75 instead of I-85. Unfortunately, I was in Chattanooga before I realized my mistake. I knew I'd need to phone Ashley to let her know I would be late, but didn't have her number at work, so I had to phone Ma to get the number, at which point she interrogated the truth out of me. Not fun, but to her credit Ma did eventually let me marry her daughter despite my repeatedly proven status as a complete goober.

Ma took the door-locking incident in stride. She admitted that she wasn't sure if there was even a door key on the ring, as she always used the key fob to unlock the door. She did say that she had an emergency back up key in her pocketbook, but since there were no other vehicles at home I would have to find a way to come get it.

"Can you get a ride with someone you know there?" she asked.

Oddly, I had seen a handful of patrons in and around the store who knew me from the "liberry." There was Mrs. French, who is a patron I like a lot and have worked with in local theatrical productions, but I'd just seen her drive away as I arrived at the car. There was also Mabel, a lady who used to be one of our resident amateur geneal0gists before Gene Gene the Geneal0gy Machine usurped her throne. I'd seen her heading into the store on my way out. And, unfortunately, there was also Mr. Perfect.

I've only written about Mr. W. Perfect peripherally in the past. He's a patron of ours who's a nice enough guy, but distinguishes himself through his insistence on using only W0rd Perfect for his word processing. He loves W0rd Perfect and, given the opportunity, will go on and on about it, praising Corel for having created the program in the first place, lecturing us on how it has enriched his life and proclaiming his undying devotion to it. I personally hate W0rd Perfect, mostly because of Corel's insistence of refusing to use the same keyboard commands as other, superior products and generally being in league with the devil. I therefore find such devotion to it irritating and kind of creepy. Whatever. Unfortunately for Mr. Perfect, only one of our patron computers still has W0rd Perfect on it and he tends to only need to use it when that computer is otherwise taken. He's always very cool about it and never raises a stink, but often fills any amount of time he has to wait for it with flowerly soliloquies about how grateful he is to live on the same planet as W0rd Perfect and his barely platonic love for the program.

Even as I stood there in the parking lot, I spied Mr. Perfect approaching his own car. I considered going over and asking him for help, but asking someone to drive you home and then back was kind of a big favor to ask, particularly of someone you're not friends with in the first place. I didn't imagine he would turn me down, or anything, but I really didn't want to owe Mr. Perfect any favors. There are patrons I like, patrons I don't like, patrons I tolerate and patrons I'm more or less indifferent to. I'm indifferent to Mr. Perfect, other than that whole vaguely creepy feeling about his lust for W0rd Perfect. But our relationship is pretty much one of cordial distance and I like it that way and don't want to upset that balance.

As I watched, Mr. Perfect opened the hood of his car and began staring into his engine. Ah, great. So he too had car problems. Maybe he was just putting in new oil.

I turned away and began searching the wheel wells for the magnetic key holder that Ma had said had been hidden in one of them at some point in the past. I didn't find it in any of them, so I lay on the pavement to check beneath the car itself, trying to ignore the strange looks I was receiving from passers by.

I considered my options. I could try calling my insurance agency, but I didn't think they would pay for a locksmith to open someone else's car. I then considered phoning Mrs. A or Mrs. C and asking them to come over. They'd probably do it, but I hated to have to ask. I could just sit there and wait for Ashley to get off from work, but she's working out of town this month so a wait for her return would be fairly lengthy. I could walk home. As the crow flies, I didn't live very far away, but there was really no crow-path to my house that didn't involve crossing angry-bull-inhabited fields.

I sighed and looked back over my shoulder toward Mr. Perfect's car. It was gone. In its place, however, was a new car driven by my church choir director, Martha. I almost wished Mr. Perfect had still been there, because I owe Martha pretty big already. I've not been to choir practice, let alone sang with the choir since before going to Alaska. Granted, I've been out of town a lot and our summer choir practice schedule has been fairly thin, but that choir is hurting for tenors and I haven't been out of town so often that I couldn't come in. Martha would never broach the subject, but I knew she was thinkin' it.

"Are you having trouble?" Martha asked.

"Uh huh," I said.

Upon hearing my tale of woe, Martha graciously offered to drive me home and back. My fear was that Ma's back up key would be another ignition key, but instead it was an emergency door key that unlocked the doors just fine. I thanked Martha and told her she was my guardian angel. And though it was never discussed, I estimate that it will take at least three months of regularly attended choir practices to pay off this debt.

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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.