“We live in the park!” is the brightly canned response I give my kids whenever they’re stuck staring at a mountain of gleaming green goose poo or shrieking about spiders daring to breathe in their direction (side note: do spiders practice aerobic respiration? I DO NOT KNOW).
I’m not exactly lying to them, unless you add in the two parking lots because I’m pretty sure parks don’t have parking lots, despite the interchangeable names; I’m just sort of… bending things. I mean, yes, the reason I flipped out during FLOODGATE 2013 was partially due to my proximity to the river (8-9 feet) and the proximity to the park behind The FBI Surveillance Van… *ahem* the FLOODED park mere feet from Your Aunt Becky’s front door.
*in high-pitched, I-just-got-kicked-in-the-balls-voice* But who’s counting? (answer: me)
While my idea of “roughing it” involves having to walk more than three feet to an ice machine and staying at a hotel that does NOT have twenty-four hour room service in which I can order my waffles and coffee brewed from beans the magical unicorns fart out (see also: hotel coffee = expensive), I don’t actually mind living in a park. Beats the SHIT out of saying, “I live in a van down by the river” along with something about “government cheese*” which would be a great name for a rock band, if’n you think about it.
Completely pointless sidebar: do you, o! wise Pranksters, think that any band starts out with the objective of being dumped into the “light rock” category to be played by orthodontists everywhere? THESE are the things that keep me up all night long *guitar solo*.
Alas, I digress.
While you won’t find me within ten miles of a campground for fear that a motley band of rogue campers will attack me and take me hostage AT aforementioned campground until I finally crack and tattoo I HEART CAMPING on my ass, I do enjoy nature. So long as it isn’t in my living room.
When I first moved into the FBI Surveillance Van, my upstairs neighbor warned me about the spiders that dare to weave webs SOMEHOW BREATHING in our vestibule and how he’d occasionally pull down the webs in such a tone that I knew the appropriate response was to shriek and possibly throw something out of panic. I didn’t. He was visibly disappointed.
What I didn’t bother explaining that, as a former waitress who once worked summers at an outdoor fancy gazebo, slinging Honey Brown and wearing dryer sheets to protect my allergic ass from bees, we were daily assigned tasks to complete before our shift. Several hours we spent at a whopping two bucks an hour getting our gazebo ready for business. One of these tasks was a duty we called “cobwebbing.”
The server stuck cobwebbing would bemoan her fate to the rest of us who were MORE than happy to be brewing iced tea and wiping down tables in preparation for the inevitable onslaught of people who wanted to get drunk and feed the carp bread for amusement.
Cobwebbing became a thing the night that my former friend Mikey decided to tell a woman who’d noted that there was an unsightly stain on her cheeseburger that it was “spider poo.” Whether or not spiders shit, I don’t know. The spiders could’ve been spitting on us, crying spider tears for their slain kin, or, as Mikey so tactfully pointed out, flinging poo on us. We can’t be sure. All I know is that from then on, one of us had to grab an ancient broom with a handle so frayed it would leave us blistered and splintered, and begin to sweep the cobwebs from the top of the gazebo.
Not a terrible job.
That is, if you don’t know what happens when you remove a spider’s home.
(for the uninformed: they get pissed and fall all over you and crawl up your shit)
I quickly got over any fear of bugs after slinging beers and burgers for several summers there (mostly)(okay, earwigs are still fucking minions of Satan). This also would be why I didn’t give my cobwebbing neighbor a medal or something.
The only bug that has remained both mysterious and full of the awful was The Tick.
Not only is that motherfucker creepy looking, it also carries Lyme Disease which is one of those things you do NOT want to have. While the name is fairly innocuous – cute, even – the effects are not. I’ve known people who’ve died from Lyme Disease and that does NOT even include my fake dead cat Mr. Sprinkles. Earwigs, sure they’re creepy, and spider bites can get kinda gnarly, but The Fucking Tick of Doom? You do not want to piss off The Fucking Tick of Doom.
Early Sunday morning, my kids were climbing all over me, trying to get me to wrap them in bubble wrap and let them roll around in it, and because I am both lame and boring, I explained that we simply did not have ENOUGH bubble wrap to attempt such tomfoolery.
“Mooooom,” Alex said, exasperated by my acute onset boriningness, “Can’t you go to the store and pick some up?” While this was a good idea and a sure-fire way to have some fun, it was a quarter past Let Mommy Sleep Until The Sun Rises and I was in no mood to track down an industrial amount of bubble wrap.
“I need my coffee, Al.”
Mimi poked her head up and calmly informed me, “I drank all your coffee, Mama.”
I groaned. “Was it good, at least?” She nodded her head vehemently reminding me, once again, that one cannot drink coffee through osmosis.
I turned to Alex, sitting to my right attempting to hack my i(can’t)Phone when I saw it.
No, not the ear boogers I’m normally on the hunt to remove.
It was a fucking tick.
In my kid’s ear.
There was a fucking tick in my kid’s ear.
The one child who will kick the ass of anyone who dares speak ill of his Mama is terrified of bugs. And no, it can’t be some weird childhood fear: we’re talking Phobia Country.
I used my superior memory of completely pointless acronyms to access the one that serves me best: IPDE (Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute)(TEN AND TWO, GODDAMMIT, REBECCA! AND WHERE ARE YOUR FUCKING PANTS?) and not the one that has never served me well, ever: Turn Around, Don’t Drown.
I had to get the fucker out of his ear before he saw what, in fact, had been crawling around his poor ear canal and before the fucker decided to make Tick Babies in his ear or some shit. I did the only thing I COULD do in such a situation: I pinned him down, teased him about an ear boogie and pulled the still-squirming The Fucking Tick out of his ear canal while I dry-heaved into his hair. I levitated to the bathroom to kill The Fucking Tick of Doom, trying to recall what one must use to kill The Fucking Tick of Doom without alerting children that there was an actual problem.
Bleach! I can use BLEACH! That shit is AWESOME! I patted myself on the back for thinking so quickly on such little coffee. But try as I might, no amount of bleach killed The Fucking Tick of Doom and I didn’t want The Fucking Tick of Doom to make Fucking Tick of Doom Babies in my drain, so I dusted off the neurons that held the information I so needed.
I can use oil to kill The Fucking Tick of Doom.
I scampered into the kitchen, pleased to note that my children had not, in fact, noticed anything awry and were intently working on hacking into my electronics, and grabbed a Ziplock baggie. Back to the bathroom I dashed, bag in hand, ready to execute The Tick of Doom for DARING to crawl NEAR my child.
I picked up the still-squirming Tick of Fucking Doom, holding back the urge to heave, and dumped his bleach-covered ass into that baggie. Then, I grabbed some of that oil you’re supposed to put in your hair to make it shiny but usually makes it end up looking like you shellacked your head and squired that fucker down. Then, I closed the baggie, making sure The Fucking Tick of Doom was submerged in the oil.
I had successfully slayed my first Fucking Tick of Doom.
*Not entirely sure if this is actual cheese or a pasteurized processed food-like product or something that Dick Cheney invented when he was hungry one day.
Some fifteen(ish) years later, I can’t help but hear the voice of my father screaming at me every time I use my turn signal, “SIGNAL YOUR INTENT, REBECCA” followed generally by some nonsense about “AND PUT ON A FUCKING PAIR OF PANTS, DAMMIT” because that’s the way my brain works: it remembers odd turns of phrase and holds them captive in some random corner of my mind that could be better used, oh, I don’t know, LEARNING HOW TO MAKE COFFEE?
(stands up holding cup of lukewarm coffee in Styrofoam container and announces:)My name is Becky, I’m 32 years old, and I can’t make coffee.
However, I CAN remind you (loudly) to SIGNAL YOUR INTENT to other drivers, which has always made me giggle: what if my intent was to flash them or whip donuts at old people? Is there a special signal for THAT because my turn signal doesn’t seem to do much beyond blink stupidly.
Nevertheless, I DO signal my intent every fucking time I turn, which means that somewhere along those years in which my father remains convinced I didn’t listen to him, I actually DID listen to him.
Goes to show you never can tell.
A couple of weeks ago, when the rains came and the river engorged, I checked the forecast on my i(can’t)Phone as I was dressing for work, figuring we were probably due for a tsunami or something. I learned that while we were NOT experiencing an earthquake, fire, tornado, random flinging of fish or *waves hand* some OTHER horrible disaster, we WERE under a flash-flood warning.
Which, no shit, Sherlock. The river looks as pregnant as half my Facebook feed.
I continued reading what the National Weather Center had to say about this particular warning, wondering if this here part of the Fox River was to be submerged that day. Turns out, not that day, but it did give me a particular bit of wisdom I can’t get out of my head for the life of me.
This message informed me that in the event that I should encounter a standing body of water on the road, rather than say, “Wow, my car needed washing anyway!” and truck on through, I should instead “Turn around. Don’t drown.”
I can’t tell you why this stuck with me long enough to tell my coworkers about it a couple of hours later (and, I should add, not having encountered any bodies of water on the ground or elsewhere), but it did. It’s not a particularly funny statement – the idea of drowning in a car is fucking freaky as fuck – and it’s not even a particularly useful statement.
I mean, SIGNAL YOUR INTENT can be applied to just about everything you do, ever…
Wanna go on a date? SIGNAL YOUR INTENT.
Want to eat? SIGNAL YOUR INTENT.
Want to lounge around in your underwear? CLOSE THE BLINDS, THUS SIGNALLING YOUR INTENT.
…but “Turn Around. Don’t Drown?” I can’t come up with a single other instance in which those words, in that order, would tumble from my mouth.
My coworkers seemed similarly befuddled by the sentiment and I vowed to cross-stitch it on something, well, if I cross-stitched anything ever, which I am pleased to say that I do not. We also told one another as we passed in the halls, “Turn around. Don’t drown,” for no particular reason whatsoever.
This morning, one of my coworkers frantically ran into my office, and, not noticing that I was in the midst of a particularly important conference call, practically screamed, “THEY’VE EXTENDED THE THUNDERSTORM WARNING UNTIL 12:15!”
I craned my neck to look outside, thought, “yup, sure is dark out there,” before shrugging at her and returning to my call. It’s April in Illinois. Thunderstorms are as omnipresent as deep dish pizza and a deep abiding hatred of Wisconsin.
Once I hung up the phone, I decided that I probably SHOULD see what sort of weather I was going to have to deal with some 9.5 hours later when I decided to leave Not Chicago. The Weather Thingy told me that St. Charles DID have… not 4. Not 5. But SIX entire warnings and not a DAMN one of them about the fish.
(won’t someone think of the fish?!?!)
I clicked on each of the six blinking advisories to see what would ACTUALLY apply to me and, upon scrolling down through the “you’re probably gonna wanna get the balls outta there,” I noted something. Something major.
“Hey Ames,” I said to my coworker who happens to have the misfortune of sharing an office with me.
She put down her paperwork and looked at me, “Yeah?”
“THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE THINGY DOESN’T TELL ME TO DO WHAT I’M SUPPOSED TO DO.”
She blinked at me.
“What do I do if I encounter still-standing water on the road? DOES THAT MEAN IT’S TIME TO WASH MY CAR AND/OR SHOW OFF MY MAD OFF-ROADING ABILITIES?”
She blinked again.
“Duh,” she said. “TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN.”
And just like that, I lost my ability to retain any new phone numbers so that TURN AROUND, DON’T DROWN can forever live in my subconscious*.
*And yours too!
It took me by surprise.
In part, I’m certain, because I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off for three months running (which, I should add, always gives me the delightful impression of a severed human torso running around with feathers stuck in it’s puckered pooper)(you’re welcome), and in part because I’m readjusting to my new life.
Lemmie back up, for those of you not playing along at home: the weather here in Chicago is one of two seasons:
1) Ass hot
2) Ass cold
(I wasn’t so good at mah maths)
Collectively, we refer to them as “ass” which, in a nutshell, is accurate but couldn’t be farther from the truth of what Chicago really is. We’re a great city, we love our cheeseburgers, passionately cheer for our favorite sports teams (North SIIIIIDDDDEEE) whether they’re winning or not, and we’re a loyal bunch. It may take time to win us over, but once you have, we’re yours for life.
Which is why we all still live here, despite the temperatures fluctuating from ass to, well, ass.
The winter had been mild, as far as Chicago winters go, until the endless snow began in January. And February. Then March, that wily whore, decided to get in on the snow action. In April, naturally, the rains came.
I should stop to mention that the only reason I noted the rain was because I have moved from higher ground to on the motherfucking river (not, I should clarify, to be confused with “Rolling on the River” because I’m pretty sure that the Fox River is not the river of which Ike and Tina sang), which, naturally, is in a valley, which means that when the river gets high, my pooper puckers alarmingly. In the six months I’ve lived here, I have to admit that I’ve grown quite fond of the FBI Surveillance Van and would, therefore, hate to see it underwater.
I should’ve been annoyed today. My i(can’t)Phone was broken, which meant that the fancy whoodilly on my dashboard that allows magical gnomes to play my digital music over my radio would not be working. Which left me with two radio stations: The Badger* and some SUPER Christian station that’s always damning someone or another to hell. While occasionally amusing, I was running late for therapy because while blogging is SORTA like therapy, therapy is pretty awesome and allows me to flex my narcissistic muscle for upwards of an hour.
It had been a long day in Not Chicago, and while it was a good one, I was annoyed that I’d let myself do “just ONE more thing” before realizing it was time to scoodledoo, and OMG if I’m late, I’ll probably FAIL or something *whines* and and and and…
That’s when it hit me.
Instead of being annoyed by the mountains of “white” snow, which I call “Chicago white” because they’re grungy and gross by April flanking the country road I take home, I was smacked in the face.
The world, well, it had woken up.
I cracked my window, preparing for some sort of weather incident in the car (I was imagining tornado, but it’d have probably been an ice storm, just for kicks), just because, well, obviously, and there it was. The wind blew into my car, smelling of fresh earth and new beginnings, reminding me, once again, why I pink puffy heart springtime in Chicago: the possibilities that yawn before us truly are endless.
The farmland that follows my merry way home had somehow transformed – where there had, just yesterday, been miles of yawning Chicago White sludge, I could see vast acres of green miles into the distance, peppered occasionally by crisp red barns. The robins, fluffy and fat on the earthworms the rains had dredged up looked fatter, more healthy and more determined than I’d seen them in many years.
An endless parade of people seemed to exit their homes to busy themselves, helping their bit of earth to wake up and coax their flowers into blooming, all of us pasty white from this unbearable, endless winter. They stood as I drove by, hands in the air, waving hello. I waved back like a lunatic, probably preventing them from ever attempting to wave at any stranger, ever, but I could tell they felt it, too.
The world was waking up.
The endless winter had, at long last, passed.
And the possibilities, well, they are endless.
*I can’t make this shit up.