I fought the Crazy and the Crazy won

2 Apr

So Goose’s BFF’s mother invited us to dine with them at McDonald’s Monday, much to the delight and excitement of Goose who rarely gets to experience such a treat since sometime in the past year or so Mr. T and DynaGirl decided that McDonald’s is the Devil’s diner and no persons in their right minds would ever eat there voluntarily, and consequently in recent months the Bythelbs family’s patronage of the golden arches has dropped off considerably.  But since Goose is in half-day kindergarten and gets out of school a full 3 hours before her other siblings, Mom will sometimes treat her to a drive thru happy meal.  I avoid going in to the Playplace as a general rule because well, it’s a McDonald’s Playplace and it just kind of ooks me out, but I relented on Monday and accepted the invitation to eat inside.

I’ve never quite been able to figure out how the Happy Meal holds such magically enchanting powers over my children.  As soon as we walk in the door, they immediately head to the display of that week’s featured Happy Meal prizes, and then there’s the discussion that inevitably follows about which toy is most desired and how death or at least eternal misery is certain if said toy is not present in the Happy Meal box of wonder, and then Mom must always point out that one does not get to choose the toy–a toy is just chosen and it is completely beyond Mom’s powers to change any child’s Happy Meal toy destiny and no amount of begging and pleading can change this.  Of course the begging and pleading and hoping and pining and crying and whining continue until Mom threatens to leave right then and there with no Happy Meal box of wonder or french fries or chocolate milk or all-white meat pieces of chicken mushed together and molded into random egg and boot shapes. 

Well, Monday was no different, only Goose really was on her best behavior and deserted the begging and pleading for just the hoping and pining for the Disney Princess plastic choker complete with a real live picture of Beauty and the Beast’s Belle on a locket-like pendant filled with perfume balm (it looked like lip balm, but the instructions showed a finger and a wrist and a disembodied nose floating above with some squiggly little lines I took to signify scent).  BigHugs on the other hand was completely enamored of the Pirates of the Caribbean pirate ship (this was one of those gender specific boy/girl toy weeks) and went to full begging-pleading-hoping-pining-crying-whining mode.  I usually try to stand firm on my principles and not ask the lovely McDonald’s workers for specific toys (because I’m just not one of those parents and I believe in teaching my children “you get what you get”), but I saw the pirate ship just sitting there at the Happy Meal box waiting station and on impulse asked if I might have one of those pirate ships.  So BigHugs did get her beloved pirate ship, and I’ll be damned if Goose didn’t get her princess choker!  Success!  And amazingly enough, both BigHugs and Goose ate their meals without trying to sneak off to the little rodent tubes and tunnels before they had finished, and when it was time to go shoes and jackets were happily reapplied and we skipped out the door on our merry, little way.  This was destined to be the best McDonald’s experience ever!

So we got home and Goose was proudly prancing about in her precious plastic perfumed princess pendant and BigHugs wants to know where her pirate ship is.  No problem, I had tucked it safely away in the diaper bag back at the Playplace while we readied ourselves for departure.  And there it was, except when I pulled it out it was missing a mast.  The ship had originally come unassembled with two masts to stick into the deck and stick them I did, but now one was unstuck.  Oh well, I figured it had probably just fallen off into the diaper bag, so I rifled through the bag but didn’t find it.  So I emptied the bag of the wallet and diapers and little wipeys box and cheerios and Dora fruit snacks and first aidy ziploc with the bandaids and benadryl and the snot rag and everything.  No mast.  Hmmm.  Well, on the way home, I had to stop suddenly for the idiot driver who had swerved in front of me and sent all manner of loose articles in my van flying and sliding all over the place.  It probably got knocked out of my bag and slid under the carseat or something.  Whatever–I can check it out later or next time I happen to be in the car.  Or I can check it out now since BigHugs is looking at her ship a little funny like she knows something is not quite right.  I looked under all the carseats and the floor mats and inside the open box of capri suns because hey, it was open and it certainly was not beyond the realm of possibility that a wayward pirate ship mast could have found it’s way inside during a sudden brake-slamming type stop.  Hmph.  No mast.  Anywhere.  It is lost and gone forever.  I went back into the house and told BigHugs I’m sorry, but her mast was lost and gone forever, but it’s OK because her pirate ship still has one mast and is just as wonderful as it ever was.  No biggie.  But BigHugs looked sad.  “The mast is lost?  My pirate ship is broken?  Mama can fix it.”  “No, honey, I’m sorry, but it still works.”  “Oh.”  She left the ship on the table and walked away.  Even better, I thought, because now I have a reason to throw it away now rather than waiting the customary 2-3 weeks before the lame-oid Happy Meal toy “mysteriously” disappears.

Fast-forward an hour.  It was about 4 pm, and I had approximately one hour before Mr. T and DynaGirl’s piano lessons.  The pirate ship was still sitting on the table looking all lonely and sad.  I thought to myself that the little lost mast must have fallen off in the Playplace or maybe the parking lot as we were loading up.  The little crazy wheels in my head started turning.  You know, I thought, McDonald’s is right on the way from the piano teacher’s house.  Perhaps I could just make a quick pass of the parking lot on my way home from dropping off the kids–it would only take a minute.  If the mast wasn’t just sitting in the parking lot, I would just come home.  No biggie.  It’s not like I was going to go in and scour the Playplace or inquire at the counter if they had found any spare pirate ship masts floating around.  But then I thought, that’s so lame–it’s just a cheapo Happy Meal toy that’s going to be forgotten in about 2 seconds.  Drive by the parking lot?  Don’t be ridiculous–you’re not actually considering doing that.  I distracted myself by helping DynaGirl with some last minute practicing and rocking with BigHugs who was begging for a nap.

It was time for piano lessons and BigHugs was asleep, so I loaded the two oldest in the car and left Goose to watch the sleeping Big Hugs with very detailed instructions about not answering the door or unlocking it or even peeping out the window or answering the phone unless she hears Mom or Dad on the answering machine or trying to operate the microwave or any other electrical appliance (except for maybe the tv that she darn well better be parked in front of without making the slightest movement off the couch for the entire duration of my absence), and reminded her to be sure to run right over to the next door neighbor’s if some calamity should befall our house in the 6.2 minutes it will take me to make the roundtrip to drop off the kids at piano.  I drove the kids to piano, thinking all the way about that little plan I had formed earlier in the back of my mind with the quick drive-by perusal of the parking lot, but I quickly dismissed it and decided once and for all that I most definitely would drive directly back home and forget all about it.  But then I got to the stop sign–I could drive straight through and go home or turn right and make that quick hop over to MickeyD’s.  I was at a crossroads, people.  Stay straight and return to the safety of my home, keeping my dignity and sanity in tact or make a right turn towards Crazyville. 

I turned right.  There I was gunning the pedal to the floor, heading straight off the canyon wall into the abyss of insanity, Thelma and Louise style.  And it was strangely exhilarating.  Well, maybe not exhilarating, but my heart was racing and my palms were beginning to feel all tight and sweaty against the steering wheel.  I pulled into the parking lot and there was an open space–the exact space I had pulled out of 3 hours before.  As I pulled into the space my eyes scoured the ground for the tell-tale white mast, and holy cow there it was!  Right there!  Not a foot away from my now parked vehicle!  I wouldn’t even have to turn off the engine and I could be out and in before anyone could know what I was doing!  Just one little problem–there was a car parked in the space next to me and its back tire appeared to be ever so slightly covering the helpless little mast.  As I got out of the car to make my first extraction attempt I noticed there was someone in the driver’s seat.  I would have to be discreet.  I quickly bent down (leaving my car door open for a quick retreat) and tugged at the mast.  It was stuck.  Like totally stuck.  I weighed my options:  I could accept defeat and just leave, wait for the car to leave or politely ask the driver to just back up the tiniest bit to release the mast.  I dismissed the first option immediately.  I mean, however crazy this whole scenario was, the mast was right there–I had come too far to give up now.  The second option didn’t seem very wise, seeing how I had no idea how long that person might be planning to sit in the parking lot and also considering I had two little girls at home waiting for me who had now been alone for 8 minutes instead of the 6.2 I had originally planned on.  I went with the third option.  Sure, the lady might think I was completely nuts, but then again maybe she was a mother and would relate to my wanting to mend my child’s broken heart.  I wouldn’t have to tell her her vehicle was sitting on a piece of a Happy Meal toy, right?  I wouldn’t lie or anything, but I could let her think it was some more valuable possession.  That would be OK, right?

I stood up (because I had been crouching by the back tire trying to recover the mast) and tapped on the passenger side window.  The lady looked up and seemed somewhat alarmed.  She was in the middle of her meal–looked like maybe a quarter pounder with cheese and large fries–and was shaking a bottle of something (ketchup? tobasco sauce?) onto her fries.  I smiled my sweetest, non-crazy smile and signalled for her to roll down the window.  She just stared at me.  I tried to talk to her through the window, but she just pointed at her ear.  I came around to the driver side window and tried to speak to her again.  She just shook her head.  I made another attempt at the roll down the window signal (all the time smiling for reassurance) and she just pointed to her ear and shook her head.  She looked like she was probably of Hispanic decent, so I suppose it was possible that she did not speak English and figured there was no point in trying to talk to me.  Only it didn’t really look to me that she was mouthing any Spanish words.  I’m no professional lip reader, but I can recognize a “No habla ingles” when I see one.  I finally tossed my hands up in the air and returned to my car.  I sat there in the driver’s seat for a moment and weighed my options again.  I thought I should really just leave.  I had now been away from home 10 minutes, and it would take me an additional 4 to get home.  Who knew when this woman was ever going to leave the parking lot.  Maybe she was somebody’s ride and she was waiting for them to end their shift.  Maybe I had frightened her to the point that she was afraid to make any move at all.  And who knew what kind of condition the mast would be in anyway once her tire rolled off of it.  How heavy is a Chrysler Town & Country anyway?  Would the plastic of the mast be able to withstand the pressure of the vehicle pressing it into the asphalt parking lot?  I decided once again that I had come too far to give up now.

I tried to sneak a peak at her out of the corner of my eye.  I didn’t want to full-on stare at her–I mean obviously this was a very paranoid woman if she wouldn’t even roll down the window for a perfectly unmenacing looking woman with no visible weapon of any kind.  (Plus she had to have had a good thirty pounds on me, she should have felt confident that she could take me down if need be.)  Who knew what she would do if I spooked her?  Here is my mind’s play by play of what happened next:  OK, she’s down to her last couple bites of burger.  Oh, now it’s done!  She’s folding up the wrapper and tossing it into her bag.  It should be any time now.  Oh crap, here come the rest of the fries!  Come on, anyone can eat fries and drive at the same time!   OK, the fries are gone.  She’s collapsing the red cardboard and putting it into the bag, too.  Here comes the drink to wash it all down.  Wait, now she’s stopping to make a phone call.  That was fast, there must have been no one there.  Come on, start the engine already.  OK, now she’s cleaning out something from under her nails–must have been the ketchup.  She’s got her phone out again.  And it’s closed.  Here comes the napkin to wipe her face and it goes into the bag, too.  Oh, oh!  She’s reaching back…yes!  She’s got the seatbelt.  The seatbelt is now buckled!  She’s turning the key in the ignition, she’s looking in the rearview mirror, she’s backing up!  And she’s gone!  I dashed out of the car, snatched up the mast, hopped back in and after a quick examination saw that other than a few minor asphalty dents and scratches, it was perfectly fine.  Oh ho ho, victory was mine!

I sped home.  My 6.2 minute round trip ended up being 20 minutes.  Goose was still sitting on the couch watching TV and BigHugs was still asleep.  I washed and dried the little mast and stuck it back where it belonged and then busied myself with dinner preparations.  A few minutes later Goose said, “Hey, you found the mast.”  “Yeah,” I said.  “Where was it?” she asked.  “Oh, around.”  There were no witnesses.  No one ever had to know.  Then after picking up the two oldest from piano I headed back into the kitchen to finish dinner.  Mr. T came in and said, “Hey, the mast is back!  You found it, huh?”  “Yep.”  My heart started pounding a bit.  Don’t ask, don’t ask.  He didn’t probe any further.  Chuck came home from work and BigHugs was awake.  “Oh, my pirate ship.  I found the mast!”  she said.  “You got a pirate ship, BigHugs?” said Dad.  I quickly tried to divert the conversation, “Yeah, we went to McDonald’s today.  Dinner’s almost ready.”  BigHugs was so excited for her resurrected pirate ship that she kept it by her side throughout dinner.  DynaGirl noticed, too.  “Where’d you find the mast?”  It was almost too much for me.  I began hearing a tell-tale Poe-eskian beating, I was feeling a scarlet C (for crazy) burn into my chest.  What was this, the Spanish inquisition?!  But then everyone dropped it.  Deep breath and exhale.  It’s OK.

But is it OK?  When I was younger, living at home with all of my siblings, there were varying degrees of crazy around my house and my oldest sister used to joke that she and I were the only normal ones in the family, and then I would go into my room and write, “Dear Diary, I am the only normal one in the family.”  I’m beginning to think I’ve just been kidding myself all of these years.  I mean, I’ve been able to admit for quite some time now that I’m a tad OCD (OK, maybe more than a tad) when it comes to losing things and having incomplete sets of things and really needing to find that last puzzle piece in order to feel like life would go on in any kind of happy way, but after Monday I’m having a harder time laughing off that little bit of nutjobbiness that I used to rationalize away as a somewhat endearing quality of quirkiness.  I’m beginning to think I’ve left the little dinner cruise ride around quirky harbor and jumped on the transcontinental non-stop flight to Crazy Town.

I can’t even rationalize the whole adventure as a passing whim, a heat of the moment snap decision.  It was full-on pre-meditated crazy complete with the plotting and the covering up–my little crazy wheels spinning in my crazy brain the entire time.  I fear I have no defense, and I’m not sure where this leaves me. 

Or maybe I’m overreacting?  Perhaps, gentle reader, you could offer some reassurance?  What do you make of this little incident?  Is this totally something you would do?  Or maybe not something you would do, but something you would maybe do in your head but not actually ever go through with?  Are you finding amusement in the re-telling of my little adventure?  Or are you starting to fear for my well-being and the well-being of my children and wondering what kind of moral/ethical responsibility you have to somehow intervene now that you’ve heard about it?  Let’s say on a scale of 1 to crazy, you’d give it a …?


8 Responses to “I fought the Crazy and the Crazy won”

  1. cheryl April 2, 2008 at 7:56 am #

    I love your kind of crazy. It’s the kind that makes me glad I’m crazy, too. 🙂

  2. madhousewife April 2, 2008 at 9:18 am #

    Unfortunately, it does sound like something I would do. When I was off my medication, I mean. 🙂

    Now can you see why it’s the devil’s diner???

    Seriously, it is a daily struggle for me to let little things like this go. I think it’s my way of dealing with the fact that I obviously have no control over the major issues in my life; I must sweat the small stuff.

    Probably it was the whole Kraft salad dressing thing that sent you over the edge, though. You should sue them.

  3. Jamie J April 2, 2008 at 12:58 pm #

    I think I would do it….Although I can’t believe that lady didn’t just crack the window a teeny bit. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed your story!

  4. bythelbs April 2, 2008 at 1:55 pm #

    Are you sure you guys aren’t just trying to make me feel better? Nevermind, don’t answer that.

    I am still pretty peeved off about that Kraft dressing.

  5. cheryl April 2, 2008 at 7:34 pm #

    Oh, no. You’re totally nuts (but just by the pound), but we love it because you’re making us all feel better about our crazy episodes. You know we all have them. Varying degrees, yes, but as mothers, we will always do nutty things. Forever. We simply have no other choice! So, you are in the company of fellow crazies. Feel blessed. 🙂

  6. Boquinha April 6, 2008 at 6:10 pm #

    If you’re crazy, I’m crazy. Pleased to meet you. 🙂


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