Maybe it was the on-going, entrenched, toxic political climate affecting me, or maybe I was weary and having a bad day, or maybe it was merely indigestion. But, truthfully, I don’t think I can blame it on any of these grab-bag excuses. More likely it was just that badass part of me that doesn’t usually show itself, at least not in such a raw undeveloped manner…
It happened this way, last August:
Elaine and I and our two dogs are coming home in our truck camper from a crime writer’s workshop, traveling a long stretch of two-lane highway (one lane in each direction) in the U.P. of Michigan. My wife and I haven’t had breakfast and it’s almost noon with few restaurants in sight. There are no grab-and-go places to eat for those of us who are traveling with our dogs and don’t want to leave them in a dangerously hot environment. Though, when we have our truck camper, it’s not as dire a situation as with our auto because we can put our pups in the camper while we eat. The larger camper space stays much cooler than in the small confines of a car. But even so, we need some shade to park under. Not easy at high noon.
So, when we finally come upon a restaurant where a treed shady spot is available, though it be across from a nearby motel, we stop and walk back to the restaurant. So far, so good. That is, until we return…
Elaine climbs into the back camper to get the dogs so we can move on. Meanwhile, I’m busily kick the tires and do what I see men do, pretending to perform some vital function on the vehicle. My fallacious concern for the safety of the tires is soon interrupted by an aproned woman, in her fifties, who is crossing the highway, yelling at me:
“You can’t park there, that’s for guests of the motel,” she howls. She comes at me like a crusader on a God-given mission.
“Okay,” I say, “Sorry. We’re on our way out.”
“Didn’t you see the sign,” she bellows back at me? Her words are obviously not a question; it’s an admonishment.
“No, I didn’t see a sign,” I lie. The place is empty as is the motel parking lot across the street and I can’t see the big problem. I figure that she’ll be content that we are now leaving and will have successfully shooed us out of this place. We did see a sign, but technically speaking, it said that the beach was private and only for motel guests’ use. We are merely located in a parking area, aside the road by the coastline—no other vehicles—and hadn’t gone to the beach.
“I can’t believe you didn’t see that sign,” she screams, vexed, and throws out her arm and pointy finger toward the sign that doesn’t happen to be, at the moment, in my view.
“I told you,” I insist, perturbed, pausing between words, so she can get what I’m claiming: “We. Didn’t. See. The. sign.” I wonder what’s wrong with this mad woman. She’s not listening and we are clearly in the process of leaving. Her job is done, here.
“How can you not see the sign?” She’s getting closer; her snarl lets me know that she’s not finished with me. “The sign is right there!” She repeats, as though we haven’t been addressed this point before, several times. She’s back using her pointy figure, her other hand on her hip.
I’m feeling like I’ve time-travelled to my childhood self, and…
I’m in front of the principal,
as well as my mother,
and God is watching.
I’m in big trouble.
I decide to plead my case, once more, “I told you I didn’t see the sign. And anyway, we’re leaving.” I can’t believe this woman. Geez Us! I just want out of here and away from this bulldogish woman, bent on chewing my ass to shreds.
“Can’t you read!” Another snottily posed question that really isn’t one.
“How can I read a sign,” I snap back at her, “that I didn’t see?” Surely, I figure, she can understand the logic of my comeback.
At this point in our encounter, I’m not about to go into the fact that the sign didn’t say we couldn’t park here, just that we couldn’t use the damned beach—and no one else is even around. I’m now convinced than any further logic would be lost on this screaming predator.
I was correct.
“I asked you, can’t you read!” Now, her eyeballs are threatening to pop out of their sockets, along with her vocal cords. Her hands on her hips and she’s moving in closer to me.
I’m incredulous. Really, I just want out of this place and back on the road. But this situation has just crossed my line and has stepped into the territory of a playground showdown–at High Noon. Which is beckoning the mentality of my two-year-old self who is up to the task.
“I can read, you fucking bitch, I have a goddamned master’s degree, but I didn’t see the fucking sign.” My throat is raw from my shriek. My eyeballs must be bulging, too.
I’m out of control.
I’ve played my Trump card, a fine education—though admittedly not from an Ivy League school. Still, ashamedly, I’m aware that pulling out my master’s degree is a bit of an overkill display of my qualifications, given the particulars of this situation. (This isn’t a job interview.)
She slaps both hands against her chest, as in sudden heart pain, then sucks in air and manages to utter from the debts of her being, “You cursed at me!” It’s a hard blow for her and she pushed back by it.
I am grateful for her retreat.
But geez-us, it wasn’t my master’s that impress her; it was my cursing that performed the trick! Regardless, I can’t believe that this woman is taken aback by my pissed-off— vulgar, perhaps—but understandable response to her agression. I would have guessed she’s been “cursed” at many times before, given her proclivity to “beat a dead horse.” Whatever, I’m relieved to find something that has made her back off.
However, the woman recovers from my blasphemy and slaps her credentials on the table, “I have a degree too!”
But I’m not done with her, I throw down: “Not in public relations, I bet!” Then, I take a step forward. I want her to be aware I’m not on the run anymore.
About then, my wife and the dogs emerge from the camper, drawing the heart stricken, rule enforcer’s attention, and Elaine asks, “What’s going on out here?”
The woman lifts a hand off her chest, points at me and exclaims, “She cursed at me!” She waits for a horrified reaction from Elaine.
Elaine glances my way and finds me, well, smirking from self-satisfaction. She’s used to my cursing. It’s an everyday event since 45 stepped into the presidency–mostly at the TV set.
“I’m calling the police.” The woman huffs and pulls out her cell phone, obviously needing someone to care, maybe someone who’ll put us in jail.
For one thing, we are not in a town; we are on a sparsely travelled road in the U.P. Phone reception is iffy, at best. There are no cops, unless a state Trooper happens by—which I’ve seen few of. Secondly, we have not exactly committed a murder or a robbery. Shit, we are not even littering. There are no warnings about trespassing around, just a sign about a private beach, which we are not on. And furthermore, we are in the process of leaving. Surely this situation will not be considered a high-priority.
Elaine shakes her head, calmly puts the dogs in the backseat of the truck, motions for me to join her. We drive out with the woman standing, now, by the road, phone to her ear.
We smile, sarcastically, and wave good-bye,
She affects a smile, as well, and waves…
Elaine’s and my eyes meet, non-verbally questioning: What the hell was that all about?
For more SaturdayScribbles, scroll down to: “All I said was…”