Right now I am sitting in front of the keyboard and monitor; safe, sound and warm after having done the school run. I have no plans to leave the house again until the next school run tomorrow. Heaven. Not just because I’m at home and it’s so cold outside; but because today was just one of those days whereby everything that could go wrong did and I need a break! I encountered 5 different problems to be precise…
The day had started quite normally: I am getting back into the routine of driving the ‘Intelligent-Computer-Programmer’ [or as I prefer the ‘Cutie-pie’…!] to school …we go early to miss the traffic but also so that he can sit in the canteen with his friends and have a hot chocolate to start their day! As each day goes by the nerves that I have about driving again after all this time of illness seemed to be lessening…it’s part of my ‘recovery’ from long term illness and living with chronic pain…getting back out into the real world! I couldn’t have done it any sooner really as I no longer take the really strong pain killers or use the pain relief patches quite as much these days, during the day: if I did I would be in danger of not being able to find the car on the drive let alone drive it! So this morning when the ‘Intelligent-one’ needed to go into the town to get a train to Manchester for a Student Conference he was attending, I happily offered to drive him there instead of him waiting for a bus...ooohhh too brave ! We had plenty of time and so I announced that I needed to nip to the bank and get some petrol on our way…this was problem number one and number two! The car park of the bank was empty except for the security van and I parked easily and confidently. As it was raining I dived out of the car and walked very quickly down the side of the van to avoid the wind and lashing rain…I wasn’t quite running as it’s a long time since I’ve done that! I slipped on something, probably leaves, and put my arm out to stop me falling: this arm, with a life of its own, banged heavily against the side of the van as well as dragging me against the van with a loud thump: I imagined I could have caused some kind of computerised voice to say something like: “Alarm, step away from the vehicle…” and was chuckling to myself when I saw the security guard, who had been standing in the doorway with his box of money, turn and look at me as if I was about to raid his van! I hurried in through the door behind him, my cheeks flushed red…he was about 6’ tall, his body armour made him look bulky, his helmet added to his height and from his belt there were chains and something that looked like a truncheon …surely he didn’t see little me as a threat? Thankfully he disappeared through a different door and I approached the counter. There was no one around, no cashier…it is a small branch, almost like a village bank really and I wonder how they manage to justify staying open…probably specially for women like me who find it difficult to squeeze onto the larger bank’s ridiculously small car park! So I stood waiting aware of the time passing and worried that I couldn’t risk making the ‘Intelligent-one’ late for his train. I attempted to knock on the glass partition separating me from the bank clerk…that is if one was ever going to appear…of course this safety glass is so tough you can’t actually make a noise on it. I knocked on the counter but that was just as dull. So I looked around for a bell and thought that maybe the pile of leaflets by the pen holder were hiding it…with my free hand I slid the leaflets to one side whereby they slid themselves into the tray/ drawer of the cashier’s counter…and the rest of them fell on the floor. I awkwardly stooped to pick them up. Unable to straighten myself properly, I made a grab for the counter …dropped my handbag, pulled the pen and holder off the counter and ended up on my knees…as I managed to pull myself up I came face to face suddenly with the cashier who had appeared from nowhere and was visibly shocked at MY sudden appearance and let out a squeal…as I managed to stand fully she stepped back from the glass partition…I think she half expected me to ask her to empty the till! The security guard re-appeared and I was faced by two total strangers who were wary of me…
“I’d like to pay this in please…” I muttered, totally ignoring their stares and the pile of leaflets stuffed in her drawer…!
I then proceeded to the garage for the petrol. By this time the wind was howling and the rain was lashing against my face and eyes. How I long for those wonderful days when an attendant would run out and fill the car for you! Instead I had to slide my debit card into a machine, press buttons and then discover that when it said I could now take the petrol I hadn’t opened the petrol cap…from inside the car! I hobbled quickly back to fumble under the driver’s seat for the lever, flicked it, remerged into the rain and proceeded to reach for the petrol pump…OMG what is it? Green handle or black handle? Diesel or Un-leaded? I froze…my mind went blank for a moment and I stood in the pouring rain unsure of what to do…the wind was flapping the petrol tank cover and I noticed that there was a sticker on the inside of it that said: ‘Use only Un-leaded fuel’ Phew!! A couple of clicks of the handle and we were finally on our way to the train station. Now for problems number three and four… I realised I couldn’t remember where to park for the train station or indeed which road to travel along. I have always had time to plan any journeys in my head…visualising where to go but with all the commotion and fuss I was flustered. So I nipped down a few side streets and followed behind a bus that was heading for the bus station…who cares if I had to stop behind him at 7 bus stops…who cares if I looked like a learner driver…the ‘Intelligent-one’ was busy texting so I wasn’t getting any grief from him and the cars behind me had the choice of over-taking…we were in good time for the train so I wasn't taking any chances! Then I collected my thoughts, took a turning and landed on the correct road leading into the part of the town near the train station where there is a huge, single storey car park, pay and display, just by the shopping centre…or shopping mall as it is now often referred to. As we approached the entrance barrier I collected the blue token and passed it to the ‘Intelligent-one’ and we made plans for an early lunch. Ah now this was lovely! We had a box of chicken nuggets and chips for two…sharing…with BBQ sauce and I had a coffee: I needed the caffeine. We actually HAD a conversation face to face with no mobile interruptions or grunts and groans. We even had time to wander into the shopping mall and look at computers, IPADs and talk about the latest technology for Christmas. We strolled across to the train, purchased his ticket and I showed him how important it was to always keep an eye on the electronic information boards for platform changes…especially as he is always plugged into his phone; he’d never hear the mumbled instructions coming from the loud speakers! I felt a pang of guilt that I have known that one day he would need to travel without me and yet it’s now, last minute, that I am preparing him for grown up journeys…will he cope at University in just a few short months? I also felt a surge of that all too familiar sadness nowadays at the thought of him leaving home and as his train pulled in he turned and hugged me and promised to text me and off he went…choo, choo, chooing away from me…only for a day but even so…and I waved and turned and pulled my coat collar up to shield me from the wind on the car park…OMG the car park…the token…my ‘get me out of prison card’! I’d given it to him whilst I parked up and then we got carried away with things! So, problem number four…what the hell do I do now?
I struggled to control the panic, I searched and re-searched my handbag. It was definitely not in there! I entered the shopping mall to look at the machines that were eagerly awaiting my plastic token, my coins and then these machines would let me out of the car park…but I didn’t have my blue plastic token and neither did the lady next to me who was apologising to a man in a dark uniform: “I know I put it in my pocket…I had it in my hand…I’m sure…” He didn’t seem interested in her story, how was he going to react when I said my token was on it’s way to Manchester? Ah well, some times we mistake these little men for budding night club bouncers; they are not all bad mannered or bad tempered : this parking attendant turned out to be helpful and showed a compassionate side as well as a sense of humour: because the lady thanked him for his help and as she put her umbrella up out fell her token! He smiled at her and turned to me…how I wish my token was in an umbrella! He very kindly sorted me out, I was honest how long I had been parked, I paid my debt and he gave me a token to set me free.
By this time it was time to join the school run and I promptly set off on a familiar route out of the town centre. This is where the problem number five occurred. For the past few months there have been continuous road works…constant digging, temporary traffic lights, traffic cones, you name it our local roads have suffered from it…and we drivers have suffered too. At some points you do not know what to expect and which direction the arrows or diversion signs will take you. I had been sitting at the temporary ‘STOP’ sign for what seemed an age whilst all alongside me trucks and diggers clattered away, I was chilling nicely to some soft music on the radio when the sign changed to green for ‘GO’ and as I set off a dumper truck rolled in front of me and the driver was waving his right arm…I took it that the road ahead was closed off…it certainly would look that way with all the flashing lights and cones; so I quite happily followed this truck, which I presumed was leading me to another lane, around the newly widened roundabout. He mounted what had been the pavement but was now a heap of mud and broken concrete and drove towards a stationary lorry…I was a bit unsure but I followed him in my little Kia, all the while smiling at the workmen standing at the other side of the cones…nothing strange there I’ve seen them for weeks standing around…but to my horror I had to stop suddenly as the dumper truck driver jumped down and approached me.
“Er, where yer goin?”
“I thought you were diverting the traffic…”
“Nope, I was cutting across that lane to get to this coned off area…see…” he retorted waving his arms around him and I think you can imagine my horror as I realised that I had entered a works vehicle only area and was surrounded by huge piles of muck and mud and angry looking workmen…
It was pointless trying to bat my eyelids and pretend I was a damsel in distress…my hair had frizzed beyond help due to the rain at the petrol station…what little make up I had used had left streaks on my face due to the shower I got in whilst returning to my car on the car park…looking like a drowned rat was not going to get me anywhere…oh to be a beauty queen and exert some power over these gruntled men and have long legs dangling as I stepped from the car…I had to get out, I was stuck in the mud which is why the dumper truck has such wonderful big tyres and why I should have stayed on the road!
Ah well, lesson learnt…NEVER follow a truck even if the driver is waving you on…always follow your instincts and never drive towards a pile of broken pavement if you feel it’s the wrong thing to do…
So you see why I’m glad to be at home tonight? I am warm, dry and safe from security guards, parking attendants and dumper trucks…and I can curl up in front of the T.V. and prepare myself for the simple school run in the morning…well...here’s hoping!