On a bad day, I not only want my local grocery to post this sign, I would voluntarily enforce it. Those are the days when I am certain the car traveling the speed limit is going to make me late. (Don’t they realize that DPS never gives tickets for 5 mph over the limit. Pick it up, people!)
Bob says that I always estimate it takes 20 minutes to get to a destination. Whether I am at the office or the grocery store, “about 20 minutes” is my answer to how long it will take to get home. I am correct if everyone on the road cooperates. When they don’t and my ISM pipes up, I become a demanding 13-year-old, muttering and shooting the finger at complete strangers.
My ISM (I-Self-Me) stayed with me after I got sober. The alcohol left but not the ISM. It gets quieter if I’m leading a sober life, keeping touch with a higher power, thinking of others before I think of myself. Working with other alcoholics helps because I see how the ISM looks on others. (Is that how I appear!? Oh lordy!) That’s how it is for me, at least.
I started driving a 13-year-old neighbor to school in August. It was one of those careless “If you ever need help getting her to school, just call” offers. Thrown out to the air, one more intention with no muscle to back it. Her mom was recently widowed, doesn’t drive, and jumped at the chance to get her child a safe ride to school.
Do you know how people say mice are more afraid of you than you are of them? It’s the same thing with 13 year olds. Just replace afraid with repulsed. Pulling up to the driveway, her mom ran outside holding her thumb and forefinger slightly apart in the “just a minute” sign. She coaxed The Grump out of the house. I watched hissed exchanges between mother and daughter before Grump broke her mother’s hold on her arm and stomped down the driveway to the car.
Our first few weeks of driving consisted of dazzling exchanges.
Me: How are you doing this morning?
Grump (muttering): Fine
Me: How’s school going?
Grump (eye roll, sighing): Fine
I know how the weather is at their house by the way she walks down the driveway. Partly cloudy is a slouchy shuffle and moderately loud car door slam, Mom smiling and waving. Heavy weather is stiff posture and double time march with Mom’s hands stuffed into her pockets.
It was the day that I stopped trying to converse with her that things changed. I started the Margaret Monologue, talking incessantly , telling her about our 3 dogs and the stray cats, about things Georgie and JD have said or done, about embarrassing things I do. I told her that my dream job is being a school crossing guard with the vest, hat, and whistle. I expounded about the freedom to abuse power with my whistle and ability to stop traffic for no good reason at all. (Eye roll)
A month or two ago, she asked me if it were true that the school counsellor encouraged Georgie to go to smoking cessation classes because she thought GE smoked. I’d told Grump that I smoked in the house and car and GE reeked of smoke which led teachers to believe she was a clandestine smoker.
(Mom’s started smoking again and one of my teachers asked if I smoked. I thought about Georgie.) And? And?? She didn’t say whether I’d inspired her or encouraged her or helped her feel globally connected with others whose moms were inconsiderate smokers.
Three months into the school year, I’m still driving her. When the crossing guards change, she points out that “somebody got your job!” She knows me well enough to know that she can flip radio channels from public radio to C-101 if I don’t give her the hairy eyeball. I know her well enough to know not to ask “what’s the matter” when she slams into the car.
She isn’t one of my alkie tribe, but she’s a good reminder of the 13-year-old porcupine who resides in my brain.