When I was a teenager my family was on some road trip, careening along in my mother's minivan when we spotted a truck dangling some strings attached to unwieldly objects scraping along the highway just ahead. Before my mother could even utter the words, "Fred, watch out..." one of the objects had gone flying and the next thing we knew this ungodly noise was coming from the bottom of our vehicle. My brother and I looked on excitedly from the backseat as my father pulled the car over, slowly, safely, to the shoulder, he and my mother got down on their hands and knees and withdrew from below our Toyota Previa, a large, plastic duck. What I'm saying is, I come from a history of ridiculous situations, some, like this one, just a matter of circumstance, and some, like this, are more a product of genes. Genes and insanity.
I make fun of J all the time for just this sort of thing. The time in high school he busted his tooth trying to catch the string to the attic door in his mouth (because it was snowing, and he was excited). The time he allegedly locked himself in a closet in college. But the thing is, I'm no better. And together, well...When we lived in our last rented house - a beautiful, big place - we neglected to tell our landlord upon signing the lease that we had a cat. Hyperactive, at-that-chewing-stage pitbull? Check. 10-pound-monster who would eat her way through your expensive cabinets to get at a cupcake? Yup. Got one of those. But ancient, incredibly well-behaved and practically non-existent cat? We figured that might lose us the house. So we didn't tell her. And every time our kind, easygoing landlord stopped by the house to pick up a rake, or in the later months, show the place to a potential buyer (which happened a lot) we'd - tell her about the cat? - no. We'd hide the cat in the bathroom, guarding the door and making small talk until she left. We'd stick him in a carrier and drive around town until we felt it was safe. Anything to perpetuate the image that we were living in a cat-free environment. How did we get ourselves into this situation? And why did we keep it up? Why, for the love of God, did we not tell the woman, who wouldn't have dwelled upon it for more than half a second, "Hey, we have this old, beige cat"?? Because this is how we are.
In the early months of our relationship I'd spend nights at the bachelor pad J shared with our good friend Grant and we'd sometimes stay up late, snuggling under his flannel penguin-decorated sheets, watching Nick at Nite, "Three's Company" a particular favorite of ours. We loved the situations those guys got themselves into. Jack Tripper always wound up in trouble, whether it was pretending he was gay so the landlord wouldn't mind his living with the two girls, or bringing some hottie back to the apartment, and then realizing he had to figure out - quick! - how to make sure she wouldn't get confused and think he was actually dating Janet. Or Chrissy. J and I would laugh, "How do these guys get themselves into these situations?" We knew better than we cared to admit.
I covered the Chatham County primary election last night, and as usual, the results weren't available until the early hours of the morning. I did what I could from home. Once I'd sent my stories, minus the final tallies to my boss at about 1:30 a.m., I finally got into bed, and it seemed only minutes before my night of sleep was over and J was gently saying my name and giving me information about Enterprise Rent-A-Car. We have two cars, sure, but two cars don't help you when they're broken, each in their own, unique way. Mine had two flat tires. J's Saturn was making scary noises with each application of the brakes and we decided that, for our safety, it would be best not to drive either to work. I sat up, and since I was the one in need of a ride, called AAA to get my car towed to the service center, and Enterprise to explain I'd be needing a car for the day. Suddenly jolted from my sleepy state I realized each would be at our house in twenty minutes or so, jumped in the shower and just as quickly out, put on my bathrobe, inside-out, hence, I could not tie the terrycloth rope round my waist and my naked body was visible every time I moved. I had just gone to put my left contact in when our fire alarm which was installed, brilliantly, just beyond the door to our bathroom, went off, bleating it's alert to the world. This happens just about daily in our house after anyone showers. The dogs retreat under the coffee table, unable to understand why two somewhat-responsible people had to have that awful alarm go off every day Normally J is there to make it stop. His height makes it easy. My lack of height makes it near impossible, and as J was outside awaiting a tow-truck and a rent-a-car salesman, I was on my own, and I was blind. I had to wait a deafening four minutes or so before I had gotten the contacts in my eyes, pulled a stack of cookbooks below the offending alarm, and stood upon them to reach the reset button, my inside-out robe swaying open and closed. Luckily our neighbors' windows don't really look directly into ours because I'm sure there's nothing like hearing an alarm and looking for its source to see what's the matter only to spot a young woman wearing a bathrobe, open in the front, mind you, with sopping hair, standing on a stool made of cookbooks because that's all she's got to work with. Not my finest moment, but at least the current landlord knows we've got a cat.