The sun found its perfect spot on the back of my neck, proceeding to wrap its brilliant rays in a choking fashion with no hope of ever being dislodged. My irritation mounted in nanoseconds as I regarded the keys hanging still and silent in the ignition behind locked doors.
A single bead of salted sweat rolled down between my shoulder blades . . . of course, right in the exact spot no hand of my own could reach.
I stomped my foot and looked at my watch. Fifteen minutes. I had exactly fifteen minutes to make a ten-minute drive across town to pick up the burbling, happy, rambunctious toddler I had left with the sitter.
There was a locksmith two blocks away . . . who would cost $50 just to make the trip over to determine if he could even open the door for me. $50 which I did not have, being down to my last $20 until payday – and that $20 needed to purchase diapers and milk.
The police would not help, since I had not locked my child in the car with the keys.
Silly me! Apparently, trying to get back to a sitter who needed to go to her paying job on time and would leave the child on the front porch of her house did not constitute an emergency.
A bee flew too close to my head and with an inarticulate cry of fear, I swung my purse at it, batting it away. “And stay away,” I muttered.
A bumblebee . . . that was okay. Even a honeybee, sated with pollen . . . okay, too.
Hornets, wasps, yellowjackets . . . no go. There were too many moments firmly encased in crystalline memory of minding my own business only to have a flying menace buzz near, land, and sting.
I didn’t care what anyone said – bees liked to sting me.
Thirteen minutes left. I wondered if I could jimmy the back window open of my late 1970s Mercury Bobcat. The little flap window was of course closed tight, but maybe I could get it open just enough to slip my hand through and reach the door handle.
Worth a try, I decided glumly. At least the car had only cost me $150 cash plus $80 for a mechanic to jiggle one or two wires, reconnecting some important junction, change the oil and make sure the brakes were okay.
A broken window could be replaced – junkyards were crammed full of parts for salvage. A child left sitting in his car seat on a porch because I didn’t show up in a timely manner so the sitter could go to her paying job – well . . . that couldn’t be fixed so easily after being broken . . .
A few vain attempts to slide a Bic pen in between the window gaskets so I could pry the window open did not work. I needed something slimmer.
Hastily scavenging in my purse, I found a slim dime and a quarter. The dime created enough of an opening to get the quarter in next, which then allowed my pinky to get in on the action.
Carefully, I managed to get all four fingertips lodged securely and began to gently pull. If I could do this without breaking the window, that would be best.
Fingers slick with sweat slid abruptly and the thin opening sucked shut, pinching the skin on my pinky finger in the process.
“Damn it!” I hollered at the top of my lungs, and slammed my fist on the top of the car. “I don’t need this right now!”
I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes, trying to marshal my fading resources — never mind my non-existent patience. If this didn’t work, I supposed I could call my mom who lived close to the sitter and beg for help.
Mom worked full-time, and tended to resist being the go-to grandparent for these sorts of things.
She firmly believed – or at least emphatically encouraged – her children to be self-sufficient in every was possible, including dealing with life’s little emergencies.
Bless her soul, I snarled to myself as I wiped my hands dry on my jeans and then repeated the dime, quarter, pinky process. This time, I clenched tightly and gave a vigorous pull. Pop, pop. The little flap window was open.
And my arm simply wasn’t long enough to reach the door handle. I strained and twisted and panted in defeat. I needed just a few more inches.
I felt like weeping with despair and instead kicked the car viciously.
The kick made me feel better, although my foot protested the abuse.
The newer cars were fiberglass, but this beast was old enough to have been made with heavy honest-to-god steel . . . and merely shrugged off my kick with barely a ripple, reminding me of stolid cows chewing their cuds, tails flicking annoying flies away.
I looked at my watch. Five minutes left and a ten minute drive. Now what?
In frustration, I grabbed the window and yanked with all my might. A cracking sound accompanied the shards of glass flying around me in a sparkling haze, landing on the ground and in the back seat.
I heard a gasp and looked up to see a woman with tightly curled graying hair clutching her purse firmly in one hand and holding her other hand over her mouth. Her eyes were flicking anxiously back and forth between me, the car, and the nearby store, and she looked as though she were frozen in fear.
Of course, I though sarcastically to myself — I am such a fearful woman.
“What?” I snarled impatiently, and she recoiled from me. Reaching in to the car, avoiding the glass shards as best I could, I got the door open at last. “It’s my car – I can break it if I want to!”
I hastily brushed the few shards on the driver’s seat out the door and slid behind the wheel. Turning the engine on, I peeled out of the parking lot and made amazing time getting to the sitter, who was standing on her porch, tapping her foot, my son strapped in his car seat and yowling like a scalded cat. He disliked his car seat, always had. But, at least he was safe and there.
The woman shook her head at me as she dashed down to her car.
“Sorry,” I yelled after her. “Hold tight to your keys. You don’t want to break a window to get into your car.”
She made no response, heading down the gravel driveway at top speeds, leaving behind clouds of dust and grit.
“Hey, bud!” I reached down to scoop up my fretful child. “Mama’s here. Let’s go find a vacuum to clean up the mess I made, hmmm?”
He stopped squirming and poked grubby fingers into his mouth, lisping, “Mess?” at me, blinking solemnly up before grinning. “Mommy mess?”
“Mommy’s a mess,” I agreed, hoisting him and his car seat over to the car and settling him.
“A big one,” I muttered under my breath, hoping I had enough quarters to use the drive-through car wash vacuum cleaner. What a day.