A couple of weeks ago right after Denver’s last cough of a miserable winter (known euphamistically as a Colorado spring hailstorm), I stepped out of my husband’s pick up truck onto on a sheet of ice and slid under the car parked next to me. Since I could feel my legs going out from under me, I had time to grip the edge of the door and, as they say, go with the flow. As slides go it was a Perfect Ten; Smooth, effortless – dare I say it, almost graceful.
I landed with most of my body under a Honda. Since I could still see the sky, I deduced that only my head was sticking out. I mentally giggled to myself that if I had tried on purpose to get most of myself under a dirty car parked 9″ away from my own, I couldn’t have done it. Still, it had all happened so fast that I took a moment to take inventory. No breaks, no cuts, no sprains. This was good.
But this is where it gets ugly. I had parked at Petsmart. Those of you who shop there likely know that it’s a busy place with people coming and going at a steady rate. Though I wasn’t hurt, I was anxious to get out from under the car without getting noticed. It was awkward, you know?
I hadn’t been lying there but a few seconds before an attractive urban couple returning to their BMW noticed the head sticking out from under a car. We made eye contact. I smiled weakly. They kept on walking, though a little further away from me than was necessary. Yes, it was evident. The head under the car HAD LEPROSY. It was humiliating. I felt sure they owned reptiles.
A family and their dog heading back to their car noticed me next, but only because their miserable LabraDoodlePooSter bolted out to the end of his flexleash and started sniffing my head. Irritated that the youngster had lost control of her dog, mom yanked both child and dog back to within the family pack but only after scowling at me. A head sticking out from under a car was as normal as air.
I was beginning to wonder when the owner of the car would return when I saw a pair of Sorrel boots standing at the driver’s side. Oh My God. I had the sudden realization that whoever had approached the car from the other side was going to get in it, start the engine and back out over me like I was a speed bump.
“Hello??? Hello? Please don’t start your car,” I called politely. Though I couldn’t see him, I could tell by the boots pointing every which way that the owner was looking for The Voice. I bet he even looked up thinking God was calling. This was taking too long and I was growing alarmed. “Look under the car!” I yelled.
I suppose the last thing we expect to see when we look under our cars is another pair of eyes looking back. And like a Rorschach Test, I suspect that the first thing we’d say to those eyes means something. Call me silly, but “Are you okay?” is what *I* would have said. Maybe even, “Why are you under my car?”
But NOT, “Is my car dripping oil?”
Yes, it’s true. I drove all the way to Petsmart to go under a strange man’s dirty, magnesium chloride-caked car to check his oil. “Why yes!” I wanted to cry out enthusiastically, “You also need new motor mounts and your cholesterol is dangerously high.” Instead, I brushed off a line I’d been waiting to use for years. “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
By now a small crowd had assembled around a man talking to his snow tires – and more amazingly, they were talking back! The disappointment was palpable when I inched my way out from under the car and it was evident: it was only me.
I wish I could tell you that my stone-faced neighbors who see everything odd that happens to me at home had been there. I think they would have enjoyed thinking that there were no lengths to which I wouldn’t go for attention. I wish I could tell you that I had a sudden epiphany into the psyche of men who shop at Petsmart and that they’re a more sensitive lot than the demographics who enjoy fart and burp jokes. But the notion of dying in a Petsmart parking lot held some irony for me. Me, the savvy dog show person. Me, the person who buys pricey kibble, Red Barn Bully Sticks and gourmet biscuits. Me, a person who, if she had to go before her time, would rather it be in a Best in Show ring, or hoisting a beer at the Blarney Stone in New York City right after Westminster’s Best in Show. But if I HAD become a ghost at the Petsmart parking lot, things I would have done when I was dead will come in future musings. At least, however, had I been mistaken for a speed bump, I will have died finally thinner.