It is not humanly possible for me to mind my own business. Some may call that an immense character flaw. I call it the makings of a great humanitarian. I proudly choose to not live a life of suburban isolation. Instead I choose suburban pot stirring. That’s why when a friend of mine asked for help breaking up a PTA coven, instead of saying, “What the hell?” I said, “Hell yes!”
I meet Eleanor last year. We both had children who were doing a club sport. Which in my neck of the burbs means your child has aged out of playing on neighborhood teams and now seeks to empty your wallet by being on a team that requires “try outs.” Beware newbie parents of any sport that has a “try out” criteria. It’s code for “This is going to cost you a whole bunch of money.” I’m not kidding about this. One of my (many) money-making schemes is starting some kind of competitive league for something or other like the Blue Ribbon Elite Breathing Society. All parents (suckers that we are) need to hear is the word elite, select or competitive and we’ll pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of our child being one of the chosen ones. It’s an awesome business venture. Parents fork out money for the lessons, the league events, the extra training/coaching sessions, the uniforms, travel, registration fees etc. Talk about a cozy little nest egg.
There are upsides to club sports. One of them is that your child gets to meet and compete with a lot of kids outside their school district environs. Which, of course, means you, the parent, also get to meet a lot of new people. That’s how Eleanor and I became friends and bonded on the bleachers. This fall Eleanor began sharing tales of what life was like at her youngest child’s elementary school. Most of the stories focused on the PTA. Which sounded like a domestic terrorist organization that vajazzles. Hello, Homeland Security. I, with my giving spirit, would offer advice as in: “By God, if my kid went to that school I would do blah, blah and blah.”
We’ve all done it – talking big and braggy about how if we were in someone else’s shoes, what we would do would be infinitely superior to whatever they were doing. I find woman are most vocal about any kind of husband misbehavior. Brace yourself for the onslaught of righteous indignation flimsily disguised as advice if any friend, colleague, acquaintance or airplane seat mate confides or confesses that their spouse is a huge jack hole. We will get all worked up, offer a slew of “you should do this” guidance and then snuggle up and get cozy in our blanket of “I feel so blessed” (and by that we mean superior) because our husband “would never to do that.” Really, a good tale of someone’s jerk of a husband can make your whole day.
Well, just after the New Year Eleanor decided to take me up on some my esteemed advice. She requested my assistance with her daughter’s elementary school PTA. I was all, “Of course, what can I do to help?” I was thinking she desired more of my sage wisdom and Lord knows hearing myself talk while offering advice are two of most favorite things in the whole wide world right behind Diet Coke and Target. But no, Eleanor wanted a little more from me than my vocal cord calisthenics. She wanted me to get involved, mix it up, if you will, with the PTA board. She wanted me to go to their next meeting. Oh my, this was quite a gift.
It’s one thing to go to your own kids schools and do a little PTA throw down. Yet, you can really only go so far. For the most part you have to behave yourself because you’re forced to interact with these women everyday and there’s the principal and usually a few teachers at the meetings. You can’t go all full-out crazy mom. You have to be tactical and a little more stealth. It’s a long-term mission that requires a mixture of covert ops and perhaps some incendiary devices. But, just think of the crap you could rain down on a PTA meeting where you would possibly never see or have contact with any of the people again. For me, it was the stuff dreams are made of.
Before I bellowed yes and jumped in the air while doing fist pumps I told Eleanor she would have to go more in-depth about what the problem is they wanted resolved. What was their goal? I would also need a little face time with the “other moms” she kept talking about that also desired my help. A meet and greet was scheduled for the next day at 4:30. The “other moms” would meet us outside the building where Eleanor’s and my kid practiced. I came prepared with my trusty reporters notebook (Staples 2 for $3. You should pick up a few. Also great for grocery lists.) As I’m talking with Eleanor and freezing my butt off, a white, a little bit worse for wear, Conversion van pulls up that looks like something John and Kate Plus 8 drove pre marital meltdown. The van stops, Eleanor waves, a passenger window rolls down and a woman who needs to up her moisturizer game (maybe a night-time serum with some retinol A and a vitamin C chaser) says, “Get in.”
For a second I thought, “Get in? Was I being kidnapped? I was doing these ladies a favor. Not that I expected anyone to say, “Welcome, Oh Great One.” (It would have been nice) but, seriously, “Get in?”
I looked at Eleanor and she whispered, “They’re kind of skittish about this whole thing, but it will be okay.”
I replied in a very definite non-whisper, “Yeah, well if any of this is going to work these moms need to nut up.” By the way, what is the female equivalent of nut up? Would it be ovary up? Get your fallopian tube out of a bunch or unclench your uterus (is that even possible?) None of those sound nearly as good to me as the classic “Nut Up.”
I reluctantly climb in the van and I’m greeted by first the reek of boy feet, with an underlay of fermented french fry and finished off with the funk of unidentified lunch box refuse. It was a turbo sinus cleanse. There are four women already seated in the van. The driver, a friendly woman with curly hair and a big smile. Like Little Orphan Annie all grown up. She must suffer from some sort of terminal nasal passage blockage (I’m thinking a tumor – hopefully benign) because I don’t know how she drives this van everyday without a) passing out or b) taking it to the nearest full service car-wash for a complete detail job. There was the window greeter – Moisturize More. She seemed pretty no-nonsense. I was poised not to like her, but then I noticed we had on identical track pants and I knew I had found a kindred spirit. In the back row of seats was a very pretty young mom with short blonde hair that accented her wrinkle free face. (I’m thinking – show off.) Next to her was Ms. All Business. This mom had the body language of a woman who could run a Fortune 500 company and the militant bob haircut that would like great in an Ann Taylor suit. Eleanor and I sat down in the middle row of seats and Moisturize More asked if I wanted a drink and lifted the lid off a cooler filled with Diet Pepsi.
My friends, this is when I began to feel more than a little disrespected. Diet Pepsi, in a can, not even a bottle, in a cooler, in a I’m guessing, 1994 Conversion van with odor issues. Was this anyway to woo someone to do your bidding? Hell no. My first order of business was to class up this group. I suggested, okay demanded in a chit chatty way, to, at the very least, be taken to a McCafe, which is McDonalds attempt to be swanky and yet still serve the same addictive swill. They do, though, have Diet Coke on tap and even the aromatic stylings of McRib would smell way better than this van.
Orphan Annie, looks at Eleanor and says, “Do you think it would safe?”
I look around at all of them say, “There’s a McCafe right down the street. Why wouldn’t it be safe?”
Eleanor says, “No, no, it’s not that. We’re worried about being seen or overheard talking by the PTA board.”
I said, “I’m willing to take that chance. Now are we going or not?”
Orphan Annie said, “Sure, if everyone thinks it’s okay,” and starts driving towards the McCafe.
I’m sitting there thinking while trying not to breathe through my nose, “Holy crap, these women act like a bunch of battered wives. Who the hell is scared of their PTA board? Ovary up, indeed!”
I get this motley crew hustled into the McCafe, grab a Diet Coke, and herd everyone into a booth in the back. After taking a few calming, curative sips of America’s favorite sugar-free beverage I flat-out ask, with cursing, which I usually don’t do unless I know someone fairly well, but I felt the situation warranted it. Plus, I’m still peeved about the Diet Pepsi. So, I say, “What the hell could a PTA board do that has you all so spooked. I’m a little embarrassed that a bunch of freaking grown women could be such damn cowards. Are these women packing heat? Have they threatened you or your children with physical violence?”
More Moisturizer gets frowny faced. Ms. Business sits up all straight and starts working her bob like a pendulum by shaking her head at me. (It was a little hypnotic.) Orphan Annie gasps. Cute Blonde just sits there looking about 12 years old (still hating her) and Eleanor simultaneously apologizes to me about her friends and then apologizes to her friends about me. I hold up my hand and say, “Let’s not waste our time with good manners. I’ve got about 30 minutes before I have to start the kid retrieval process. So someone please tell me what’s the damn deal.”
It got quiet. I took another sip of my Diet Coke and surprisingly Cute Blonde is the one who speaks up. She says, “These woman run the school and if we say or do anything they don’t like we’re afraid they’ll take it out on our kids.”
I immediately go for the follow-up question. “Can you give me some examples of how they run the school?”
Ms. Business perks up and I hear her speak for the first time, “Well, they’re so bad the principal is afraid to mess with them. Which I don’t understand because it’s not like they can fire him, but by the way he acts you would sure think they could.”
Cute Blonde interjects, “They’ve gotten two teachers fired!”
Orphan Annie adds, “They’ve taken over things that used to be the job of the principal and teachers. Like they now decide on Student of the Month and do the school awards at the end of the year. You cross them and your kid gets nothing.”
Finally Moisturize More says with wet eyes, “I tried, nicely tried, to talk with the President about maybe changing a fundraising policy and my three kids were left out of the Award Ceremony. They were never called up once and her one child got Student of the Month 3 times last year, 3 damn times!”
My eyes are now popping out of my head. This went straight from WTH to WTF. I say, “Okay, okay, this is all outrageous and horrible, but why do you want me to go the meeting next week and what do you want me to do? I don’t think me showing up and announcing to the whole pack of them that they are on the Terrorist Watch Short List is going to do you any good besides the obvious and short-term pleasure of seeing them get ticked off.”
Ms. Business says, “Some sneaky stuff happened over the winter break. This group of officers were all supposed to be moving off the board. Their terms were up. But over Christmas they re-wrote the bylaws in executive session and extended the number of years you can serve as a PTF (Parent Teacher Family) board member to 3 years.”
Huh? Bylaws and PTF. I thought we were talking about PTA and I don’t much do bylaw throw downs. God, I’m thinking, this is a mess.
Moisturize More adds, “At the general meeting next week is when the “new” officers will be voted in. This is the only chance to get these bitches off the board.”
I was encouraged to hear swearing. It meant the women were warming up to me and shows they have a fighting spirit after all. “Do you ladies have any ideas of how you would like to go about this?’ I ask.
Orphan Annie says very quickly, “We were hoping you would show up and from the floor introduce another slate of officers to be voted on.”
Oh crap, here I was hoping for a smack down in the cafeteria and these chicks wanted to do revenge by Roberts Rules of Order. So, not my style. I set there sipping my Diet Coke saying nothing and thinking. It’s obvious these poor women needed my help and at least two of them could use a make-over day at Macy’s. I already hated the PTF (whatever) board of pure evil so my instinct was to jump in and attempt to kick some ass. Those power perverted women needed to be walking around that school, still licking their post PTF meeting wounds on Field Day. I just wasn’t sure how I was going to approach this one. It wasn’t something that could be done by brute force. It needed finesse and a certain level of knowledge about boring crap like parliamentary procedure. I had nothing. No idea how to pull this off.
I looked up at everyone and said, “I’m in, but it’s going to take a lot of work. I’ll need deep background on every board member. Most importantly are any of them currently a lawyer, a paralegal, married to a lawyer or the daughter of a lawyer. Secondly, I need cover. When I show up at the meeting everyone has to believe for 30 minutes that my kid goes to that school. Get me the most common first name of the boys at your school. Is it Michael. It is Jack – find out. Third, I need to know where the meeting is taking place and a tour of the school. Lastly, I need to observe these mega witches in their natural habitat or lair. I want to see what I’m up against.
I was glad to see Orphan Annie taking notes. Plans were made. Assignments were given. It looked like the next day I would be going to Starbucks to spy on my newest nemesis (God, that nemesis list of mine is long.) – the board president. She did not disappoint. What do you say about a woman who goes to Starbucks and orders a Venti hot water with lemon? I say she’s one crazy, super skinny, hungry bitch. How fitting that a size 14 mom was going to attempt to bring her down.
Check out Undercover Snarky – The Game Is Afoot for the next installment.
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