The finger nails on a chalkboard civil defense siren had brought everyone who was left at the school to the basement. It was a mixed bag of parents, school staff and kids. Everyone congregated into their own zones of familiarity. Sitting with me by the art supplies are my two kids, WIll & Bella and Will’s friends, Hyatt and Grace. Also joining me are my friends and fellow P.T.O. board survivors; ABC (her real name is Allison, but for those who love her it’s – ABC for “Always Bitter Chick.”) with her three boys (6, 8 & 9), Kelly with her 8-year-old twin girls and Nikki with a toddler in her lap and the world’s most adorable first grade boy holding her hand. (For in-depth description read My Friends.) Joining us in sitting crisscross apple sauce on the basement floor is Dr. Debby Davis, the town’s beloved veterinarian. All of her kids are grown and gone, so I ask how she found herself in the school basement. She laughs and says, “I was helping the science teacher with a lesson plan on the evolution of dogs and I’m here for about 5 minutes before the siren goes off.”
None of us were very concerned about the sirens. We all figured the city must have changed their testing schedule and we are all trapped in the basement for no good reason. Trapped being the operative word because we’re at a school we have to follow some kind of district emergency management protocol. If we were at home I figure most of us would have looked out of a window, surmised that nothing was amiss and gone about our day.
Over by the stacks of photocopy paper is Team “Let’s Apply Lip Gloss” while we’re seeking emergency shelter during what could be a civil defense emergency. Charity with her “Scents for School” bag was still proselytizing about the “amazing smell of the blueberry beach” candle while her two girls 6 and 12 stuck those smell good stick things up their noses. Jacardi (read about her ickiness here) had moved on from lip gloss application to rubbing in tinted hand moisturizer while her three kids were rummaging through the lost and found and P.T.O. president Elizabeth Williams, (background on Elizabeth) who thinks she’s waaay better than the crew assembled in the basement based on her lineage that can be traced back to William the Conqueror and her limited edition Range Rover, was doing everything in her power to not have to sit on the basement floor.
“Elizabeth,” I said, “You might have to give in and sit your fanny on the floor. We could be here for a while.”
“I hope not,” she responded in a haughty voice, “I can’t fathom ever sitting on a this filthy floor.”
ABC looked at me and smiled and said, “Well, just take that plaid scarf, place mat thing you’ve got tied to your purse and sit on that.”
Elizabeth’s eyes got huge and she said, “I’ll have you know that plaid scarf is a Burberry and cost upwards of $500.”
ABC couldn’t help herself and had to continue yanking Elizabeth’s chain. Who could blame her? It’s boring in the basement.
“Really”, she says, “$500 for a place mat? That just seems wrong.”
“God Allison,“It is not a place-mat. It’s a silk scarf and I’m not sitting on it!”
Kelly, ABC/Allison, Nikki and I all tried to hide our smirks. It was so easy and yet so fun to rile up Elizabeth.
Sitting in between my group and Team Lip-gloss is the enigma known as Mark Bishop, a delicious stay-at-home dad. Everyday the debate rages on is he gay or not gay? He’s everything most middle age husbands aren’t: well rested, attentive and working a full head of hair. Mark and his daughter, 7-year-old India, are new to the school and he’s currently unencumbered by a spouse. Speculation is running rampant that he’s either a trust funder, a writer or currently enjoy the top 1% rite of passage of being investigated by the S.E.C. He doesn’t talk about himself much (another thing that makes him very different from most husbands), but he does enjoy volunteering in the classroom, chaperoning field trips and attending P.T.O. meetings where he’s currently been dubbed a “member-at-large.” It’s hard to know where you stand with Mark. Sometimes it seems he’s Jacardi and Charity’s BFF other times he’s chatting up a storm with my group. I don’t trust him. As for the gay or not gay thing – it’s a daily brainteaser. Take today for example, Mark did an intricate waterfall braid on his daughter’s hair so I’m thinking for sure gay, but he’s got on a really awful pair of sandals that no self-respecting non-hetro man would ever wear which puts him in the not gay category. He’s like a hetro/homo sudoku puzzle.
Talking with Mark is Dr. Jan Chaing dermatologist. Famous for her Girl’s Night Out Botox parties and creating concrete faces courtesy of her renowned Restylne artistry. I have no idea why she’s at the school unless it’s to give Charity and Jacardi an emergency botox refresh. The best thing I can say about Dr. Chaing is that it doesn’t look like she’s uses any of that garbage on herself. I’m curious why she’s not sitting by three of her best customers and then I remember the whole doctor/patient confidentiality thing and figure she’s got to act all “Oh, Jarcardi, Charity and Elizabeth aren’t my patients. Why they’re naturally wrinkle fee.” I shout over to her, “Dr. Chaing, what brings you to school basement?”
She looks over at Dr. Debby and says, “I was here with Debby. We were both recruited by Mr. Garza to consult on the science curriculum.”
Huddled by the textbooks are what’s left of the school staff at 4:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. There’s the principal Mr. No T – as in No Testosterone. He looks like he once was one of the Wiggles. You know those sort of creepy older guys who jump around and sing with the likes of Captain “Feathersword.” I’ve always thought Captain Feathersword was a euphemism for the Wiggles testosterone. Think about it what guy wants his sword to be light as a feather? The principal earned his nickname by being a world-class wimp. It’s shameful how his management style is based on avoiding conflict at any cost. Sitting next to him is the P.E. teacher, the delightful Hilda. Just two years out of college, the super sporty Hilda, a former NCAA soccer star, is loved by all the kids. She’s whispering to the science teacher, the aforementioned Mr. Garza, who looks very concerned that his I phone is not working. I want to tell him not to worry. Nobody’s phones are working. We all chalk it up to being in a basement/ bomb-shelter in a school that was built in the 1950’s. We also don’t have any electricity. The only light is from the tiny sliver of windows that rim the basement exterior. Just then the custodian gets up to tell Jacardi’s kids to get out of the Lost and Found. That simple move attracts the attention of all of the females over 18.
Mr. Miller is handsome. A needs a shave, shower and shampoo handsome. He’s like a scruffy brunette Brad Pitt/Matthew McConaughey in a mechanics jumpsuit. Yeah, that’s right he wears a jumpsuit with. . . cowboy boots. I know it sounds wrong, but on him it is so very right. Every time I see him I wonder what happened in his life to force him to make a detour as an elementary school custodian. If he ever wants to pour out his troubles to someone I’m in.
After about 30 minutes the siren goes off which is a good thing because I was almost down to my last Fruit Adventure Tic Tac I had been doling out as snack food to the kids. We all stand up and begin climbing the stairs to freedom. All the moms head out the school doors and straight to their cars. The first thing I notice is how quiet it is. I don’t hear a bird, a barking dog, a car – nothing. The second thing I notice is that there’s a very weird shaped, gray cloud off in the distance. The thing that signals big time trouble is when none of the cars start. You put the key in, turn the ignition, nothing. Well, at least that was my experience because my mini van in a decade old. For the other moms it was all press your fancy car start button, but the result was the same – nothing. We all get out of our cars and begin theorizing why they won’t start.
My son, who had been doing his own scouting with his two friends, chimes in with, “All the electricity is still out in the school and did you notice the cars just sitting in the middle of the road.”
I had not. Wow, that’s unsettling. I hand off my daughter to my son, tell them and Hyatt and Grace to stay with the other moms and go to see what’s up the cars just sitting in the road. As I’m doing the mom fast walk/jog sprint to the road by the school I start wishing I had brought some sort of self-defense item, but I had nothing to worry about. I checked out six cars that were stopped in the road and they were empty. Okay, now I’m freaked out a bit so I abandoned the mom jog and run full-out, with my boobs a- flapping, back to the school.
I announce, while panting heavily, “Everybody let’s go inside the school. Something a little strange is going on.”
I wanted to scream, “I see no visible signs of life-forms excepts for us!” But didn’t want to scare the kids. Everybody went back into the school except for Charity, Elizabeth and Jacardi. Charity was in her Escalady screaming profanities at her dashboard for On Star to work and Jacardi and Elizabeth were comparing Range Rover service department numbers. While, those three idiots were outside we herded the kids to the cafeteria to eat popsicles that were melting in the deep freeze and Kelly and I went in search of the school staff. They weren’t hard to find most of them had collected up their stuff and were beginning to walk out of the school.
I shouted, “Hey guys, don’t bother. No one’s car is starting. It seems whatever the emergency was it rendered all of our cars kaput, along with the electricity.”
Mr. Garza, the science teacher, stopped and suggested, “Hmm, it could have been some sort of solar flare.”
Well then, I said, “It was the solar flare of doom because not only is nothing working, but there are empty cars just sitting in the road.”
Kelly added, while holding both of her girls hands, “Something bigger than a solar flare has gone down.”
Hilda asked in a very scared voice, used by those in the early 20’s whose only experience with adversity is losing five pounds so they can look bitching in a bikini, “What should we do?
I said, “I suggest we all go back to the cafeteria, check on the kids and have a meeting.”
That was something we all could agree on. It took about 10 minutes for everyone that was in the basement to regroup in the cafeteria. I reported on what I had seen in the road, the custodian, Mr. Miller confirmed that all power was out to the school and the science teacher clung to his belief about the solar flare. The vet, Dr. Debby asked the principal if they had any battery operated communication devices like walkie talkies. The principal stood there with his mouth hanging open thus prompting the custodian to answer, “It seems whatever happened has fried any and all batteries. That’s probably why the cars wouldn’t start.”
Elizabeth Williams still ticked about being forsaken in her time of need by her Range Rover roared, “Well as President of the P.T.O. I demand that you, (pointing now at the principal) do something immediately! Isn’t there some sort of procedure or manual that you can consult on this.”
God help Mr. No T, he was covered in sweat and shaking. As he wiped his nose on his shirt he whispered, “No, there’s no training for this kind of emergency.”
Jacardi spoke up, who up until now had been filing her nails, because that’s what you would want to do when it could possibly be the end of the world , give yourself a manicure, and says, “Um, hello, I’m thinking terrorist attack or something.”
Kelly, Nikki, ABC and I all looked at each other in shock. This was the first thing that had every come out of Jacardi’s mouth that we all could agree with. ABC pipes up with, “We need some sort of plan.”
I add, “Or at the very least some recon.”
“Great,” says Charity, “Who volunteers? What’s that saying from Titanic – women and children first.”
Nikki sighs and says, “It was about the lifeboats – women and children first to the lifeboats – not women and children volunteer first.”
“Oh well, that’s what I meant. The women will stay behind with the kids and the men go see what’s going on.”
That got a reaction from Mr. No T. “Yeah, about that, according to district policy I should stay at the school.”
I wanted to challenge him on hiding behind “policy,” but, I figured he was better off huddled in a corner of the cafeteria than doing any sort of investigating. That left the 60-year-old science teacher Mr. Garza, the custodian and Mark Bishop. Mr. Garza quickly shared that he suffered from high blood pressure and was on anti-anxiety medication and didn’t want to stroke out. We all agreed it would be a bad idea to send him. All eyes went to Mr. Miller. He said in a very sexy drawl, “I’m in.”
That’s when I said, “No, you need to stay here.”
ABC got what I was talking about she said, “You’re right. We need you here Mr. Miller. You’re the strongest one in the group. You stay with the kids. Protecting them is priority one.”
By process of elimination Mark Bishop, stay-at-home dad extraordinaire is our Recon Man. All eyes went to him and before any of us could say, “Tag your it” he blurted out, “Nope, it can’t be me. Sorry, everyone, but I can’t go. I’m India’s only living parent and I can’t chance it.”
Charity, looking around the semi-circle of adults, asks “Then who in the hell is going to go?”
Elizabeth eagerly answers back with, “Snarky, you should go?”
“Really, Elizabeth, Just because you don’t particularly care for me is no reason to volunteer my services.”
“Jacardi jumps on the bandwagon and says,“Well, you do have the oldest kids so that makes sense.”
“I have a 14-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter it’s not like they’re in grad school.”
Dr. Debby pipes in with, “Well, based on that reasoning I should go. I’m so old my kids are out of grad school.”
We all look at Dr. Debby, she’s 60, if she’s a day, and weighs all of 100 pounds, not really what you would call recon material.
Kelly says, “No Dr. Debby you’re staying here in an, um, medical capacity.”
Charity perks up and says, “I’m with Elizabeth, Snarky you should go. Your already dressed for exploring in those track pants and tennis shoes and let’s face it, you’re solid, you know, big. Didn’t you tell me once you wear a size 11 shoe?”
“Okay, ladies,” I say, in a super pissed off voice, “If we’re going to base who “volunteers” on physical prowess then I think all three of you are far superior to me for the task.”
“What do you mean?” Jacardi growls.
“Aren’t all you 26.2 moms? If the decals on the back of your cars are correct then all of you run marathons and add in all those sessions on the pilates reformer and you Jacardi, Elizabeth and Charity are the Recon Dream Team.”
Kelly, Nikki and ABC are all smiling and Nikki says, “Snarky’s absolutely right. You three are suburban Navy Seals and your breast implants are probably bullet proof!”
Jacardi screams, “I’m not going! I’m not going! I’m not going! I’ve never run a marathon! None of us have, she says pointing to Elizabeth and Charity. We got those damn stickers off the internet!”
ABC says, “Well, that’s a surprise to, I don’t know, no one. We all figured your marathon stickers we’re about as real as your hair color.”
“Enough!” I say, “I’ll go. I once escaped from a bible camp that was heavily patrolled by over zealous born again Christians. I think I’ve got this.”
Nikki asks me, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
My son answers for me, “If my mom goes, I”m going with her.”
“No, you’re not. You’re staying here with your sister.”Before he could challenge that ABC quickly says, “Don’t worry about your mom Will, I’m going with her.”
I take ABC by the hand and lead her away from the group and ask, “Are you sure. You’ve got three young boys?”
“You think I’d let you go by yourself? Hell no. Besides Kelly and Nikki will take care of my boys and it’s better then sitting here watching Mr. No T cry, Charity bitch and Jacardi move on to filing her toenails. No thanks.”
I smile at her and take a deep breath and say, “Thank God, you’re coming with me. If anything bad is going on out there I want the woman with three restraining orders filed against her and who failed a court mandated angry management class to have my back. ”
ABC squeezed my hand and says, “I don’t want to make you feel bad or anything sweetie, but I’m also going to find me some kind of boxed wine.”
After a group discussion it’s decided the best course of action is to go to the Fire Station, the closest law enforcement building, and see if we can discover what’s going on.
Before I leave I kiss my kids goodbye and tell them to obey Kelly and Nikki. I also give Grace and Hyatt a hug and promise them that I will try to go by their houses and see if there is any sign of their parents.
Next, I go to my mini-van and take out my emergency fanny pack. It’s filled with all sorts of goodies – bottled water, hand gel, Band-Aids, a lone protein bar and travel size Febreze. I strap that bad boy on and then go with ABC to the kids bike rack. We figured the fastest way to get around would be via two wheels. I hoist myself up on the biggest bike I can find, a Spider Man special while ABC climbs aboard a Barbie bike, are knees are hitting the handle bars, but we’re moving. As soon as we’re away from the school I tell ABC I’m changing our plans. “Scratch the Fire Station. Our first stop is going to be my house. I want to liberate two old friends.”
All ABC says is, “Yippee, boxed wine!”
Snarky Saves the World Part 3 – coming soon.