So This Just Happened

So, um, yeah, this is ehero_diet_cokembarrassing or sad or embarrassingly sad, but I think my emergency contact should be the drive-thru employees at my local McDonald’s. Apparently, these people really know me.

It doesn’t hurt that I’m a creature of habit. Every morning Monday thru Friday between 7:40 and 7:50 I’m at the drive-thru getting my Diet Coke. I love a McDonald’s Diet Coke like the rest of you love a Starbucks venti-grande-trenta-frappy-soy something or other.

Sure, just like you could make coffee at home, I know I could drink a canned Diet Coke (shudder), but I’m telling you there is something about the carbonation/syrup ratio and the amount of ice in the cup that makes a Mickey D’s Diet Coke the best there is.

The realization that the McDonald’s employees had become part of my posse was when I returned from being out-of-town and multiple workers expressed concern about where I had been. I was touched and then chagrined.

The denouement was when one employee, a lovely young woman who runs that drive-thru with the demeanor of a general invading foreign soil and is always a whirling dervish of multi-tasking, shared, “Since we hadn’t seen you in a while we were talking about if we should ask one of the cops that come through here to do a welfare check on you.”

Oh. My. God.

These were the thoughts swirling through my head like waves of storm churned angst. Had my life really come to this – McDonald’s employees thinking I needed a home visit from law enforcement? Do I look so old that they thought I did a slip and fall in my home and my corpse was slowly moldering away in the foyer on the world’s ickest ceramic tile that needs updating, but who has time to chisel out those monster 24 x 24 tiles of 80’s bad taste.

And back to old. How old do I look? Sure, I look pretty crappy in the morning. I’ve just dropped my daughter off at school and I admit I look rough, most days I still have pillow marks on my face. But, some part of me still thinks I can pull off the no makeup look with non-brushed hair in a ponytail. It’s the morning – I’m going back home to groom. That’s what the Diet Coke is for. It’s grooming caffeine.

And back to old again. Do I seem frail? I’m not frail. I’m going to Pilates, dang it. Do they want to see a plank? I’ll do a plank right now. Yeah, I’m going to get out of my car and do a plank which my daughter, the competitive dancer who knows a thing or two about planks, just the other day called, “surprisingly not awful.”

It took a while for me to recover from the phrase “welfare check.” But the more I thought about it I decided to be delighted that the employees notice me. Thinking back they’ve noticed when I’ve gotten my haircut (when exactly zero of my family members did) and they comment on my son being home from college whenever I add on a Diet Dr. Pepper to my morning order.

So, here’s a shout out to the drive-thru employees at McDonald’s – thanks for caring and handing me my morning Diet Coke with a smile.

The Dog Park

If I had to make a top 10 lisdog-humort of my favorite things in life my dogs would be on it. I know I should feel bad that one of my siblings wouldn’t make the list. I also know I should feel fiercely ashamed that Diet Coke would make the list before the aforementioned sibling, but here’s the thing: Diet Coke’s not crazy. I can’t really say that about my oldest brother.

But enough of my family drama let’s get back to dogs – wonderful, amazing dogs. I’m one of those people who if I was forced to choose would more often than not take the company of canines over people. They’re great listeners, non judgmental and don’t talk back. Does it get any better than that? I mean really, who cares how much they shed?

Recently, one of our beloved dogs passed away. Usually when we lose a dog our family tradition has been to have a period of mourning and reflection before getting a new addition to the family. Last month, my husband freelanced on that rule and while I was out-of-town adopted a dog. He assured me that “Tahoe”, a rescue beagle, was as mellow as they come. In fact, he described the dog as “totally chill.”

This stumped me a little because although I don’t know a lot about beagles I was pretty sure the word chill wasn’t an accurate description of the breed. When I got home Tahoe was indeed a most mellow fellow. We found out that next day this was because he had pneumonia. After a hefty vet bill and one week of recovery Tahoe’s personality was in full bloom.

The dog is gregarious and has never met a stranger. He also believes every animate and inanimate object adores him. A walk with Tahoe through the neighborhood feels like he’s campaigning for public office. I’m certain he could get out of the vote for, at the very least, County Commissioner. Due to his exuberant personality I thought he might enjoy the new dog park.

I took my son with me as backup in case Tahoe with acres to roam went, I don’t know, full wolf or something. Once we got inside the park and it was time to let our dog loose I felt like the theme song from Born Free should be playing.

For those you who not familiar with this almost fifty-year-old movie let me tell you all you need to know. A couple raises an abandoned lion cub and then when it grows up they have to release it back into the wild and many tears are shed as Born free, as free as the wind blows, As free as the grass grows, Born free to follow your heart plays over a montage of the lion bounding off into the open African Savannah. (As a child of the 70’s it’s doesn’t have the full boo hoo quality of say a Brian’s Song, but it’s close.)

As soon as Tahoe is leash-less he takes off like a Walmart shopper first in the door at a Black Friday sale. He even gives us an over the shoulder “so long suckers” look. I feared he was a goner. I knew using simple math that it would be quite a feat for him to jump the fence, but never being one to underestimate the brilliance and determination of the canine spirit I didn’t rule out some sort of elaborate tunnel system dug by the dogs, in shifts, when their humans weren’t looking.

I frantically tell my son to start running after Tahoe. He gives me the teenage “no way” eye roll. I quickly explain that I almost certain the dog is going AWOL. He shakes his head at me and matter-of-factly says, “Relax, no one, most especially our dogs, would ever want to leave you.”

I’m irrationally excited by this statement. It might be, perhaps, the best compliment I’ve ever received in my life, but before I can delve deeper for clarification and a chance to extrapolate on the praise (I mean it’s not like I get many accolades from my teenagers. I think the last nice thing my kids said to me was back in 2013 and it was that  “dinner was decent.”) Tahoe comes barreling back towards us like a soccer ball kicked by the love child of Thor and She-Hulk. My son smirks at me and simply says, “See, I told you he come right back.”

“Because I’m awesome right?”

“Well, maybe and it doesn’t hurt that you feed him steak.”

Not quite the continued declaration of my greatness I was looking for, but I’ll take it. If I want real devotion there’s always the superior mammal to turn to – dogs.

*Attention SnaScreen Shot 2014-12-29 at 11.01.47 PMrky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂

Death By Convenience Store Parking Lot

04787b5aa86b7e966c5e7a63126525e2I think I’m going to run for some sort of national office and my campaign platform is going to be simple yet life changing. Everyone attempting to get a driver’s license will first have to prove proficient at navigating a convenience store parking lot.

This is because the skills you must possess to successfully exit the area without any discernible damage to your car, your mental health, or your middle finger prove that you are, indeed, ready for any of life’s abundant challenges. The sheer number of people who wouldn’t be able to pass this test would make the roads safer for generations. (You’re welcome.)

Last week, I saw my life flash before my eyes when I made a “QuikTrip” stop for a Diet Coke. The convenience store I decided to almost end my life at is located by an interstate and a busy city road making it ground zero for any kind of IQ/Driver’s test wrapped up in a road rage tortilla. To up the danger factor there’s a hospital across the street.

Now, I know most of you are thinking wouldn’t a hospital do just the opposite and make things safer? Let me answer that with a great big no. To fully explain why, I will now take you through a morning at the QuikTrip.

I pull into the parking lot and don’t even attempt to find a gas pump. It’s too dangerous at 7:50 a.m. You have the pump circlers and the pump blockers going at it. The pump circlers are those drivers who, at a high rate of speed, much like a pace car at Daytona, lap the gas area in an attempt to find an empty stall. You do not want to get behind one of these goobers as they’re known for stopping short in their rush to claim a soon to be empty pump.

The pump blocker is the fool who, through some divine gift of second sight from the goddess of petroleum, believes they can predict who will be done pumping gas first and then places their car in a “next up” position thus creating a traffic hazard. It can get nasty when the pump blocker impedes the forward progress of the pump circler, like turn you right off your morning beverage nasty.

Once I’m parked, preferably off to the side of the store, I exit my car to go inside and get my Diet Coke. When that mission has been accomplished my single goal is to leave the QuikTrip unscathed. But something is always going on to up the degree of difficulty of me accomplishing that objective.

Today, it’s two large landscape trucks nestled on either side of my car and a roofing van, with a large, overburdened trailer, in a “let’s make our own horizontal parking spot” behind me. The sheer size of their rigs has created the mother of all blind spots. I might as well close my eyes and back up because the accuracy would be about the same.

I decide safety first and wait it out. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long before the roofing crew leaves and I begin to ever so slowly back out.

Slow is the key word of surviving this QuikTrip. You never exceed 2 mph if you want to get out alive. Because just when you think you’ve dodged all the cars exiting the gas pumps, the parking spots (real and rogue), and the two entrances off the highway something unexpected happens.

For example, three women in wheelchairs rolling in from the hospital across the street. But, wait there’s more – one woman keeps on rolling backwards because of the slight incline to the QuikTrip AND her reverse rolling wheelchair is headed straight for a guy, with a walker. It’s a Driver’s Ed film come to life.

Thankfully, a gentleman pumping gas goes over and grabs the wheelchair before it can cause any human carnage and then pushes the woman up to the entrance of the QuikTrip. Of course while all this is happening traffic gets backed up and a pump circler gets his journey halted resulting in unhappy honking and in the confusion another car sneaks into the place a pump blocker wanted. This has the pump blocker crying, “No fair, that was mine!” (Last phrase edited for F’bombs.)

I, with my hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel, eyes focused on my surroundings, with a vigilant check on both the side and rearview mirrors, maintaining a speed not to exceed three miles, begin to exit the QuikTrip mindful of ambulatory challenged individuals, large profile trucks and fools looking at their cell phones. I am most triumphant when I finally navigate off of the property

In my excitement I give myself a celebratory high-five, as in two hands off the wheel high-five, and almost wreck. I blame the Quiktrip.

**For more Snarky check out my book  Snarky in the Suburbs Back to School. 

Here’s a little ditty about it: The Spring Creek Elementary School PTA board (a coven of Mean Moms dressed in Uggs, yoga pants, and dermal filler) is up to no good. Wynn Butler (middle-aged, uncool, and not bringing sexy back) is determined to find out what’s going on. With help from her two kids, a Roomba vacuum turned mobile surveillance drone, and a few good friends, Wynn launches a covert investigation that leads to the “mother of all revenge capers” at the school’s annual Fall Festival.

If you’ve ever fantasized about smoke bombing the idiot parent who has yet to master the fine art of the school drop-off lane, or standing up and shouting, “Liar, liar, Botox on fire” during a PTA meeting, then this delicious tale of payback is for you.


My Crappy Old Year

New Year’s Resolutions are for suckers.  I try to never make any because about six days after I’ve committed myself to a life changing agenda I’m already abandoning ship on the U.S.S. Pledge to a Better Me.  2010 was different.  Last year I was all about the New Year’s Resolution.  I wrote out a long list of things that I was going to change about my life.  In my earnest bravado I called it The 2010 Manifesto.  I can shamefully share with you that I didn’t achieve one of my “promises for change.”  There were the usual suspects on my list, weight loss, exercise, be more patient with my children, nicer to my husband, even try a new recipe once a week.  The recipe one really kills me.  If you had told me 20 years ago when I thought I was all that and a super size bag of chips that I would be vowing to try a new recipe once a week as a New Year’s resolution I would have thrown myself off a cliff made up of discounted Coach Outlet handbags.  Even now, I’m pondering thoughts of freeing the earth from my carbon foot print. The only things that are stopping me is knowing that if I was no longer breathing my dog would never get walked again and the fact that it would open up the possibility for my husband to date 25 year olds and I can’t let the man grasp that kind of happiness – ever.

To cheer up I started going over the last year in my head trying to find some positive things I had accomplished. After much deliberation I managed to remember a couple of things that, while not life shattering, were, I believe contributions to a better tomorrow.

The Tow Job

In 2010 I was plagued by a woman in the super size SUV.  Every morning at my daughter’s elementary school she parked her tank in the drop off zone effectively blocking traffic.  Oh, she did do a lame attempt at pulling her army combat vehicle partially up on the curb as a “Oops, sorry, but look I’ve attempted to get out-of-the-way.”  The problem was her ride was so gianormous not only could you not pull around it, but it created an epic blind spot so if you tried to escape it’s girth you risked being rammed by another car or God forbid hitting a child.  Two months into the new school year I had enough.  People had talked to Mrs. Super Size SUV, notices had been posted in the school newsletter, notes had been left on her windshield, but mesmerized by her own self-importance she refused to alter her parking routine.  The time had come for me to take matters into my own hands.

One morning in late October I set my plan in motion.  It was Wednesday.  Many moms were at school getting ready for the monthly morning P.T.A. meeting.  The big topic – giftwrap sales. I knew the school office would be empty for about five minutes as the school secretary helped the P.T.A. president set up the microphone and podium in the cafeteria.  This was when I made my move.  I clandestinely went into the office to use the school phone while no one could see me.  My call was to the tow truck service the school district had a contract with.  Two days early I had used my son for intel.  He was charged with asking at the high school who the district uses to tow vehicles.  I told him to say it was for a story he was working on for his school newspaper.  Not totally a lie.  He was taking a journalism class, after all.  Armed with that information I used the school phone for authenticity, in case the number showed up on the tow company’s caller i.d.  When I got the tow service I stressed that is was a critical a.s.a.p. tow job because the vehicle in question was blocking an emergency exit.  Once I was assured that the tow truck was en-route I covertly exited the office and went in search of Mrs. Super Size SUV.  I had to delay her exit from the school to give the tow truck time to arrive and haul off her Big Boy mobile.  I found her talking to some other moms and inserted myself into the group by asking who was going to the P.T.A. meeting?  Most of the moms were and I made sure Mrs. Super Size SUV was guilted into attending.  That job done I sprinted into the cafeteria and closed the blinds on the windows, saying to the P.T.A. president, “Wow, that morning sun is brutal. No one will be able to see the Smart Board if we don’t close these.” I then speed walked outside to await the tow truck.  I got giddy when it arrived and had to restrain myself from jumping up and down and shouting yippee!  I was amazed how quickly they could hitch a car of that size up.

When it looked like they were almost ready to leave I eagerly bolted into the P.T.A. meeting and announced while opening the blinds on the bank of cafeteria windows,  “Pardon the interruption, but, Mrs. Super Size I think you car is getting towed.”   She screeched and then started swearing as everyone ran to windows to eye-witness her three-ton vehicle rolling behind the tow trunk.  It was a perfect moment in time.  Her cursing and using not just the everyday swear words, but the ones saved for special occasions.  The principal telling her to “calm herself and to stop with her offensive jargon or he would have to ask her to leave the school.”  The P.T.A. president trying to resume control of the meeting, and me who started clapping. I  was joined at first by just a small cluster of P.T.A. moms and soon it seemed as if the whole room was joining in. The applause was reverberating off the cafeteria walls.  Mrs. Super Size shrieked that we were all “jealous bitches” and ran from the school.  Her hot pink Juicy Couture printed butt was the last thing we saw as she began chasing the tow truck.  Ah, life was good that day – very good.

The Make Out Manny

I have a neighbor who annoys the hell out of me and there are times, I’m not ashamed to admit, I live to mess with her.  (For more insight into this neighbor read the Suburban Warfare post.)  One summer morning I decided to give her an eyeful.  I felt justified in what I was about to do because she had been on her Yard Nazi Rampage since May. Her newest lawn obsession was the length of grass blades. She felt everyone should mow their lawn to the exact same height –  2.5 inches.  I and the rest of the neighborhood were ready to attack her with our weed whackers. To distract her from her grass-blade frenzy I hatched a plan.

Mrs. Perfect walks every morning at 6:45 a.m.  It’s during these walks that she does her daily neighborhood assessment which means she lingers and snoops at people’s houses, measuring the grass, etc. One morning I was ready to give her something brand new to fixate on.   I had borrowed a CPR/swimming rescue dummy from where I do some volunteer work, dressed it up in my husband’s clothes, stuck a blonde wig (leftover from Halloween) on it to identify it as definitely not my dark brown hair husband and finished it off with a baseball hat.  I then traded in my standard p.j.’s of choice – XL bottoms and an man’s large t-shirt for a Boobs-R-Us negligee.  Just before she passed by house I went out on my front porch and started making out with the mannequin.  I positioned myself so I was covering up most of the mannequin making it harder to tell that I was going to second base with a CPR dummy.  Mrs. Perfect came up on our house, stopped in her tracks, moaned “Oh my God, you’re one of Satan’s sinners.”  She watched me french kiss with the dummy for what I thought was a voyeuristic amount of time.  I’m talking so long that the mannequin was rounding the corner to third base.  Finally, she ran home.

Later in the day, as predicted, she came knocking on my front door to talk about my “affair.”  I suggested we visit outside so my kids wouldn’t hear and then told her it wasn’t an affair. I explained I was a little short on funds and was entertaining gentleman callers when my husband was out-of-town.  Mrs. Perfect turned white and whispered to me, “You’re, running a brothel in our neighborhood?”  (The fact that this woman believed that any man not legally blind and/or with more than double-digit brain cells would pay me for sex proves that she is indeed cuckoo.)  “Well, that’s one way to look at it, I guess,”  I then added, that we were living in a recession and one does what one’s gotta do for hearth and home. She told me that the police were going to be contacted about all of this and I mentioned that she would need something called proof or no one would take her claim seriously.  Just as I had planned my prostitution ring usurped her grass-blade height preoccupation and she spent the rest of the summer camped out in her kitchen watching my house from her picture window.  That mercifully meant she left all of us alone about our lawns.  The neighbors all wondered aloud what had happened to get Mrs. Perfect off her landscape reign of terror.  I sweetly smile and responded, “I don’t know, but it had to be something major, like hookers in the neighborhood.”  That got a big laugh.  “Yeah, right” my cute young neighbor down the street side, “Like that would ever happen.”

F.B.I. Wanna Be

I believe I share many qualities with Super Man. While I can not leap tall buildings in a single bound, nor am I faster than a locomotive. I do believe in truth, justice and the American Way.  Just last month I was able to demonstrate my love for justice by pretending to be a F.B.I. agent.  I, as a mild-mannered middle-aged wife and mother, entered my favorite convenience store one cold December evening to purchase a 32 ounce caffeine free Diet Coke from the soda fountain.  I’m a diet coke sommelier.  Some people have a nose for wine.  I, have a palate for diet coke.  I can tell the carbonation to sugar syrup ratio by taking a mere sip.   When I find a store that sells a premium mix of Diet Coke I become a very loyal customer.  My convenience store of choice is run by family who’s country of origin is not America.  Due to my daily visitations I’ve gotten to know this family well.  That evening while I was topping off my 32 ouncer a man walked in to buy a carton of cigarettes.  Upon finding out that they cost well over $30 for the carton he went all crazy pants.  He began by yelling at the cashier, then spewing hate speech based on her family tree.  I was super ticked off.  It’s one thing to get a little emotionally unhinged about the high price of killing yourself these days, but slow down there buddy if you think you’re going drop the F bomb, terrorist, and N word cocktail, on my watch, to a young woman, no less.  I walked over and told the dude in my best no-nonsense voice to “back off and exit the premises.”  He proceeded to tell me to F off.  Really, like someone hasn’t screamed in my face to F off before – amateur.  That’s when I had to go all F.B.I. on him.  I raised my voice and said, “Listen up, I’m F.B.I. and I’m going kick your ass if you don’t get out of this store.”  He laughed and said, “You don’t look F.B.I. bitch”  “Exactly, I said, I’m undercover, but I can call this in right now or you can leave.”  I had on a ski jacket that had an upper pocket where my cell phone was zipped in.  I reached in and started to slide out my phone.  The crazy pants thought I was taking out a gun.  He ran out of the store yelling don’t shoot, don’t shoot and jumped in his car and took off.  I was a little shaken, but couldn’t help laughing.  The young woman in the store said she was okay, but I stayed with her until her brothers came.  My reasoning was two-fold.  I didn’t want to leave the store in case crazy pants came right back or was out there watching the store.  I’m pretty sure when I walked out into the parking lot and got in my mom mobile with my dog hanging her head out the window he would figure out I was no F.B.I. agent.  The good news I got free Diet Cokes for a week.  The bad news the convenience store owners got a little confused and really thought I was a F.B.I. agent.  I tried to explain that I was pretending to be with the F.B.I., but I’m not so sure they get it.  They keep on calling me “Mrs. F.B.I.”  Truth be told I kind of like it.

Hmm, in retrospect maybe 2010 wasn’t so bad after all.

*Thanks for reading Snarky.  To stay up-to-date on new postings you can join Snarky on Facebook (That’s the abbreviated link to my FB page.) or I twitter @snarkynsuburbs.