Thursday, October 16, 2008


I have a close friend who, like many of us, is juggling a demanding job, husband, children (two teenage daughters and a five-year-old son), plus all the push and pull of her extended family. Unlike me at least, she always seems fairly together:
nicely dressed, appropriately accessorized. Even though she's being yanked in a dozen different directions by the demands of her life and she's always hurrying from one thing to another, she projects an air of confidence and professionalism that I'm sure serves her well in all the different roles of her life.

This, however, is not the story of how she "does it all" in heels and the perfect shade of lipstick. This is the story of what happens when the facade cracks. She's always very together--right up until she's not. I've known her for fourteen years and can count those times on one hand. One of the times she "fell apart" involved sucking her engagement ring into one of those industrial vacuums at a car wash. There followed frantic phone calls and several hours of general hysteria before the ring was retrieved. This is the story of a different time.

As part of her job, she frequently travels within the region to give presentations to various groups. Recently, she was asked to drive to a city about an hour and a half from home to give a forty-five minute presentation on a Saturday. After the presentation, she would be done for the day so she brought along her husband and son, thinking they could have lunch together and maybe see a movie--make a day of it. And, as a bonus, she could drive the company car and not have to pay for gas.

She dropped husband and son off at a nearby mall and went to the hotel where she would be giving her presentation. She told them she would meet them back at the same entrance in an hour or so.

The presentation went smoothly and as she was gathering her things she realized she should probably make a stop in the ladies room before she left for the mall. While in the restroom, she somehow managed to drop the car key in the toilet. This is the key to the company car, mind you.

She's sitting there, contemplating her options. She realizes almost immediately that the only option is reaching in for it. After all, it's the key to the company car, she's stranded an hour and a half from home, not to mention her husband and son stuck at the mall waiting for her, and her cell phone is locked inside the company car because she never brings it in during presentations. So even though it's icky*, she takes a deep breath, stands up and...the toilet is an automatic flusher and the key is gone.

I imagine there was a moment of staring in awe and wonder at the toilet before she went to find the contact woman from the hotel who had helped her with the presentation earlier. While they were waiting for maintenance to see if there was any way to get the key back, it suddenly occurred to my friend that her husband and son were still at the mall, probably on their way to the entrance to meet her so she borrows the hotel lady's phone and calls her husband. She says, "The hotel shuttle is going to pick you guys up."

He says, "Why? What's wrong?"

She says, "Nothing. But the car is locked and the key"

"Unattainable? What do you mean unattainable?"

"Uh, it's just, um, unattainable. I'll explain later..."

Give her credit--she did explain later--not only to her husband but to everyone at work, where they all laughed hysterically. And then she told me, so I could laugh hysterically and now I've told you. Laughing hysterically is strictly optional, but she really went to a lot of trouble so it might be nice if you could at least titter politely.

*Doesn't "even though it's icky" strike you as the awesomest motto for parenthood EVER?

A PS to Brunette Best Friend from high school--I know, I know, you have a way better locking something in the car story. But it still (24 YEARS later!) makes me wince to talk about that...


  1. Youngest Sister10/20/08, 10:47 AM

    I've read this a couple of times, and I can almost see the look on her face when she stood up, and the toilet flushed behind her.

  2. It's not just that it happened, but that it happened to her that I loved. Mean, huh?