I had to go to the DMV recently to register all those requirements for the state I'd just moved to. And it made me remember another time, another DMV trip, a few years back. I managed to find myself in line wearing my husband's swim trunks, a white pump and a brown wedge shoe and holding a snake in a tupperware container. Looking around, I had to recognize, "Most people probably wouldn't find themselves in this situation. I should work on that."
How did I come to find myself there, wearing that, holding that? Like anything, really. A series of small not-so-bright decisions that added up until I found myself inadvertently scaring people at a government office. The swim trunks? Someone knocked on my door bright and early that morning. I threw on the closest things around to answer the door. Besides, I reasoned, men's swim trunks could pass for shorts, right? (My husband assures me, wrong.) The person at the door turned out to be my proper British friend, Jackie, who was dropping off her daughter, the equally proper Glynnis, for a play date with my daughter. I got on with my day and pretty much forgot about the swim trunks.
Then a few surprises happened quickly. My daughter, the nature lover, found a garter snake in our front garden. Joy! Glynnis was properly horrified, but it was my duty to teach her the joys of nature, so I kicked on the two handiest shoes around (pump and wedge, but hey, they were for the correct feet, so give me some credit) and armed with tupperware, went out to capture said snake, who we planned on releasing after an hour or two.
Right at that moment my husband phoned. "You have twenty minutes to get to the DMV or we'll have to go through a huge process to reregister our cars in the state! Please go now!" Knowing the DMV was fifteen minutes away, there wasn't a second to spare - so I loaded up the kids and tore off.
My daughter was the one who lugged the snake into the DMV, not wanting to leave it in the car on a hot summer day. Once she stepped into the room, she was greeted with a wall of uncomfortable stares. (Snakes, as it turns out, do not sit quietly in tupperware, but tend to slither around in a very enthusiastic manner.) As a six-year-old, the collective hatred of everyone in the DMV was a lot to handle so, in the grand tradition of children everywhere, she pawned the thing off on me.
And there I stood. Two different shoes, swim trunks, and a snake who was doing his damnest to knock the lid off the tupperware.
The crowd just stared and the two men ahead of me in line, scooted as far away as they could get, casting nervous glances back at me. "Ha, ha!" I said. "Lid's on tight!" I said. My fellow DMVers expressions subtly shifted from 'irritation' to 'we-may-have-a-looney-on-our-hands.'
Glynnis whispered loudly up to me. "Aren't you afraid all these people are going to think you're crazy?"
"Yes, Glynnis. Yes, I am."
When a first grader is giving you advice in how to act around others, it might be time to reconsider your decision making process. Just perhaps.
On the plus side, that day Glynnis learned a valuable lesson: when it came to play dates, snakes might not necessarily be the biggest thing she needed to worry about! Just passing out life-lessons to the next generation - that's me.