Barbara Cartland’s child
long ago perfected the motionless glide.
The Boomtown Rats – Diamond Smiles
Ah, the Wife. She’s such an interesting character at times. Especially, it seems, when we head on down to the United States of America. Don’t believe me? Read about one of our interesting adventures here.
Let me tell you about another time. The time when we moved without moving. It was kind of a Twilight Zone moment.
So, we’re on our way back from Florida and the car is a filthy mess from all the driving and various weather zones we’ve traveled through. At one point, might have been in Georgia, we stopped for gas and we picked up some snacks and stuff. On the way back to the car, we saw they had one of those touchless car washes.
Not sure if you know the type I mean, but basically, it’s a big glassed-in box that you drive into, stop at a certain point, throw it into Park, and watch in fascination as this big arm works its way around the vehicle, alternately gushing water or cleansing foam or whatever the hell they squirt at cars to make them look pretty.
I paid for the basic wash, we all hopped in the car and made sure all the windows were up and tightly closed and the doors were fully shut. Then we headed around and into the glassed-in box.
Really, the entire operation’s pretty idiot-proof. You drive in, there’s a sign in front of you that tells you when to stop and what to do next, which is put it in Park.
Okay, I need to pause here to explain something about myself. For those of you that don’t already know this, I’m a man that lives by a different code. I dance to a different drummer. I hear a different calling.
What I’m trying to say is, I’m a man of action. I’m a thrill seeker of the highest order. Nothing will get between me and pulse-pounding, soul-shaking, knuckle-whitening excitement. And this is important to know when I explain what I did next. It’s so you understand my heart-thundering frame of mind.
When we pulled into the building, the sign said Stop, so I stopped. But then, the sign said to put the vehicle in Park and, dammit, being the excitement junkie I am, I chose, instead, to simply leave the car in Drive and put my foot on the brake.
I know! I know what you’re thinking, so I’ll just state it for the record: Yes, I know how to push the envelope!
Anyway, I felt it necessary to set the stage there. So I pull in, brake, and wait. The Wife says, “Aren’t you going to put it in Park?”
“Why?” I say, with just the right hint of cavalier attitude.
“Because it says so!” says the Wife, indicating the instructional light. Huh! I think, someone’s a stickler for the rulebook, isn’t she?
I simply wave her concerns away like so much cigarette smoke and watch as the robotic arm glides into position at the side of the vehicle and starts spraying water at the windows, making a playful pattering noise as it flushes the grime of two countries away.
All goes well until the arm, which started on the passenger side then passed around the front of the car and now worked its way back along my side, the driver’s side. That’s when the Wife spoke up, quite panicked.
“We’re moving!” she said.
“No we’re not,” I replied in my most soothing, dulcet tones.
“Yes we are!” she shot back. “We’re moving!” She turned to the Boy and the Girl in the back seats. “We’re moving! Aren’t we moving?”
“No,” they both replied calmly.
Her eyes wide as dinner plates, she turned back and looked out the front window. Her arm shot up, index finger extended. “Look!” she said. “Look at the door! We’re moving, I tell you!”
“Honey,” I said. “Look out the side. Look at the wall.”
“I’m looking! We’re moving!”
“No, you just saw the arm moving back along the car and it made it look like we were moving forward.”
“We’re moving!” Her eyes were the size of a Texan’s belt buckle now. “We’re going to hit the door!”
The kids and I were doing everything we could to not laugh at her, and failing miserably. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I could feel my foot on the brake. I could look out the side of the car and see the wall five feet away, not moving. I could look out the front window at the exit door and see it not approaching. I could look back at my kids doing the same thing and laughing.
Then I could look over that the Wife. Freaking.
“Okay,” I said, and rather reasonably if I do say so myself. “The exit door is only about ten feet away. If we’d been moving all this time, don’t you think we would have hit it by now?”
Of course, as I’m going through this particular piece of irrefutable logic, the arm has worked it’s way around to my side again, spraying the soap. Again, it’s moving back along the car. Which, again, makes it look, if your eyes follow the arm, like we’re moving forward.
“PUT IT IN PARK!” the Wife wailed. “WE’RE GOING TO HIT THE FRONT DOOR!”
Logic took a holiday that day, apparently.
Hilarity, on the other hand, moved in with us. I was crying I was laughing so hard.
Long story short, this went on until the car wash finished and the front door slid open. It was still ten feet away when it did so.
I released my foot from the brake and we cruised out of the car wash. I wiped tears from my eyes all the way back to the highway.
But it doesn’t quite end there. Turns out there was a bonus story.
On the way to the highway, mostly to drown out the sounds of her family laughing their asses off at her, the Wife tore into some of the packages of the stuff we’d bought in the store.
Now, I don’t know if it was the frame of mind, or sheer coincidence, but we’d just hit the highway, I just got it up to cruising speed when the most soul-searing shriek of abject terror erupted three feet to my right.
Imagine this. You’re speeding down a highway at 70 mph, wiping the odd tear of laughter from your eye, watching for police, keeping an eye on the traffic, the normal sounds of family around you. Then, out of nowhere…
“WHATDUH WHATDUH WHATDUH!”
At which point the car does a fairly serious wobble in the lane as I furiously whip my head 360 degrees, Linda Blair-style, looking for the source of impending doom.
Not seeing anything, and all of this occurring in the span of 1.3 seconds, I then turn to the source of the shrieking horror, the Wife who, by this time, is doing everything she can to pull herself up to a standing position on the seat, all while still being buckled in.
She sees me glance over and jabs a horrified finger at the shiny black thing clinging to her bare leg while her face contorts in unbridled terror, chin crumpled up and pushing the lower lip out so it dangles like a pork chop from the front of her face while her eyes roll and spin like lotto balls.
I reach over and pluck the horrible thing from her leg.
Holding up so I can look at it and still see the road, I realize it’s a small long piece of black shiny plastic. It says, “Made in Mexico” on one side.
“What,” I say, casting an accusing eye at her as she clambers back to a seated position. “The. Fuck?”
“I thought it was a bug,” she said sheepishly. “I was saying ‘what the, what the, what the?'”
And that was the day we perfected the motionless glide and faced down the attack of the deadly WhatduhWhatduhWhatduh bug.
You Americans. You got some crazy shit happening down there.