Friday, April 22, 2011

Three Wishes

Disclaimer: These are actually not white pants
before Memorial Day.  They're light blue.
Last week, in the middle of one of the coldest, snowiest springs in recent history, the sun cracked Buffalo’s icy dome and warmed us past the point of 60 degrees.  Elmwood Avenue teemed with people itching to kick off their boots and come out of hibernation. Hippie kids gathered for some pre-season devil sticking on Bidwell Parkway.  A few bold women exposed their pasty shoulders in tank tops as they sipped iced lattes outside of Caffe Aroma.  When Charlie and I went out to run errands, the warmth and the positive energy went right to my head and I had to check an urge to rip into a mother/baby rendition of “Seize the Day” from Newsies.

It was weather that merited a celebration, so with fresh air in our lungs and the sun on our backs, Charlie and I headed for the park for his first encounter with the baby swings.  They were a smash hit.  And when the magic of swinging one foot in either direction had worn off, there were kids to watch—big kids who ran, fell, slid down slides, and did all kinds of other things that are fascinating to a seven-month-old.  All in all, the perfect pint-sized adventure for a spring afternoon. 

When we finally pointed the stroller homeward, I mused, “Nothing could spoil this day, my beautiful infant son!  Unless, of course, we almost get run over by three thoughtless drivers who fail to heed age-old traffic laws that grant pedestrians the right of way.” Charlie and I looked at each other and grinned, and the twinkle in his eye said, “Come on, Mom, what are the chances?”

Alas, dear reader, I’ll let you surmise what came to pass.  If you surmised that we were nearly hit by three thoughtless drivers, you are spot-on correct.  One was a middle-aged lady who gave us a frantic two-handed wave and mouthed, “I’m so sorry!” about six times, so she gets a pass.  The other two, though, were stupid jerks.  First, a middle-aged man laid on his horn as he sped through a stop sign.  Then a teenage boy glared at me as he careened around a corner and discovered us in the middle of the crosswalk. 

For several blocks, I fumed.  I mumbled audibly about bad drivers and the punishments they deserve.  Then I took a few deep breaths and sought solace in a daydream that I have had for a decade.  In this daydream, I stumble upon a shabby-looking lamp.  “Hm,” I say, and I rub the lamp, releasing a modestly clad version of Barbara Eden, who agrees to grant me three wishes.  “World peace,” I demand, and she makes it happen.  “Lots of money,” and my bank account bulges.  “And the power to telepathically insert my voice into the minds of bad drivers.”  She requests more information.  I oblige.

“I would like the power,” I tell the genie, “when I see a bad driver do something dangerous or just really annoying, to have my voice pop into the driver’s brain, such that he does not know who is speaking, but he knows that it is not himself.”

The genie looks pensive.  “What kinds of things would you say?” she asks.

“Oh, you know,” I reply, “stuff like, ‘Blinkers, my friend, are not merely a courtesy of the road.’  Or, ‘You WILL quit tailgating immediately!’ Or ‘I’m sure you’ve been informed that it’s illegal to stop in the middle of the crosswalk.’  That kind of thing.”

“And these drivers – they just, like, hear this voice, in their head, out of the blue?” probes the genie.

“Yep,” I say.  “Like a friendly but instructional experience of schizophrenia, only eerier.  It’s intended to frighten without causing an accident.  If the drivers happen to glance in my direction, maybe I’ll wink and give them the old crazy eyes, but otherwise it’s totally anonymous.  Oh, and I don’t get to keep talking to them after they’re out of range – this is a one-and-out set up.”

The genie gets me to promise not to use my Driver’s Ed Telepathy in a situation where it could result in a car accident, and has me sign some papers that release her from liability.  And then – ta da!  I am transformed into an anti-bad driving avenger!  I am a force for good in a chaotic world!  I am the mysterious voice that sends dozens of road hogs into years of expensive therapy!  Plus, the world is peaceful and I’m filthy rich.

Around this point in the daydream, Charlie and I arrived at home.  I went to unbuckle him and discovered that he had fallen sound asleep, cheeks rosy from the fresh air, mouth slightly open.   I managed to extract him without waking him, and he snuggled his solid little noggin under my chin.  Peace?  Check.  Fabulous wealth?  In a manner of speaking.  What's that thing they say about two out of three?

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