“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Field Trip

I am not normal. I think I need to come to terms with this.

It's not to say that I think I'm "special" or "better than." It's that every time I embark upon even the smallest thing that the average person does with no trouble at all, I meet Disaster. And Disaster gets all crazy and explosive and up in my grill.

Today, my sister and I decided to take our kids to the Aquarium in Niagara Falls. To be clear, she's not normal, either. She's much closer to it than I am, but there must be something in our genes that prevents us from reaching 100% (you should meet my mom sometime--not normal at all). Anyway, we loaded up the five children in my sister's oversized SUV and braved the Grand Island bridges (of which we are both terrified and made the children ride in total silence for the duration of both) and found our way (not easily) to the Aquarium.

Does anyone recall that I said I was a "recovering" germophobe? Wait, let me start over. Let's say a person is really, really afraid of...hmm, I don't know...heights. But the person works in a tall building, and his wife loves roller coasters, and he realizes, to live my life every day, I'm going to have to deal with heights. So he learns to deal with heights. He even rides the Superman at Darien Lake. But then, on a weird day, his wife, thinking he's all recovered, drags him to try bungee jumping. She's got him all strapped to the cord and is about to shove him off a platform and suddenly, BAM! He hollers, "I'm FREAKING AFRAID OF HEIGHTS!"

This is what happened to me at the Aquarium today. Within the controlled environments of my daily life: my home, my family's homes, Target, Wegmans...I'm a recovering germophobe. But at the Aquarium today? I was a FREAKING germophobe. It's because of all the gross people!  Why were there so many at once? Why are they allowed out in public? The phlegmy coughing, the teary eyed, croaky children, and messy hair and disheveled clothing? The crusty faces? And they have no manners at all, pushing and shoving and touching whom and whatever! Good GOD!

I don't think I would feel this vocal if it weren't for what happened. Are you ready for what happened? It was actually toward the end of the field trip. My sister, the unspoken boss as the eldest, announced it was time to go. Our five children were obediently lined up, smily and sparkly like the children in The Sound of Music, donning their jackets and caps. Suddenly, just as we all buddied up and joined hands, a large group moved past us. And in that group was a girl, probably in her twenties. As she moved by my sister and me, she turned to us abruptly and...


And it was a DOOZY. Not a cute little "kerty-choo!" but a "WAAAAAHCHOOOOOOOO!" full of vile liquid and gusto. Before we could stop ourselves, my sister and I both moaned in horror, throwing up our arms as if to block the germs. But it was no good. It was done. To our grave dismay, we could not be unsneezed. (Although, perhaps from our reaction, the twenty-something sneezer learned a valuable lesson.)

From there, everything just went downhill. We got lost on the way to Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. We discovered that our "perfect parking spot" led to a path that had been barricaded and had to backtrack and re-route as it started pour freezing rain. Joey refused to eat his chicken because it "tasted gross" and Noah refused to eat his hamburger because he "already ate lunch." Everything took too long and the children became restless, shifty shells of their former selves and began behaving like the Aquarium kids instead of the Von Trapp family. To return to our car we scaled a fence and landed in mud, which Noah promptly stuck his hands in the second we were seated in the car. My niece started overheating on the ride home and kept throwing her ponytailed head between her legs because she was faint and in the way-back seat Joey discovered leaky bug spray that had spilt on his hands and he was sure he was going to die from it.

I'll end the story with a direct quote from my sister. It's what she screamed at the top of her lungs at all of us as we made our mad dash through 80 mph winds and whipping ice-rain.


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