Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pissing In The Woods

“I was almost shot once.”

Sometimes I find myself saying this phrase aloud at times when I find the current conversation boring. Most of the time the lifeless communal “dialog” is due to only one person. Everyone knows this type of person. This is the friend that everyone has; the person who absorbs conversations so that it wraps completely around them. It’s the friend that gushes about every meaningless detail of his or her existence. You are only friends with the person because you have no reason to truly hate them. They just bore you. They’ll trail on about the new socks they found at the Gap. They’ll deliver manifestos about how much they love bagels. They’ll present an oral thesis on how good their gas mileage is. The other people that might be “engaged” in this conversation are either too bored or not creative enough to protest the wasted words. They are just awake enough to feign interest.

When I utter these five words, a ripple effect quickly spreads throughout the room. It’s as if every person has just received his or her first breath of air while simultaneously receiving an electric shock. These brightening expressions give me a brief feeling of self-satisfaction. Even more so, I always find the expression from the brainless babbler supremely arousing. Call it petty, but I believe the energy-sucking prattler should be put in his or her place. I see it as a public service. I’m not saying that I’m a terribly interesting person. However, I do know what is and isn’t interesting. I know this story is supremely interesting for one simple reason: it is, unabashedly, true.

It is next impossible to tell this story without first explaining some my family dynamics. My mother is an incredibly successful businesswoman. She is fantastically smart, sharply organized, and shrewdly ambitious. What is so off-kilter is that, thanks to these attributes, she has overcome one major flaw. My mother has a secret, but powerful handicap: she is the world’s worst decision-maker.

“Heather, don’t you think it would be a fun idea to visit Ocean City next month?”

“You mean during Christmas? Mom, you want to spend Christmas at a summer resort?”

“Well, yes indeedy! I think it would be fun! There will be plenty of stuff to do!”

“But mom, everything there is closed in the winter.”


Every year we would leave early due to mind-boggling boredom.

She repeated this mistake for several years, until finally her mind was set straight when she got into a car accident (in my car) and the local police officer treated her like a bowl of seagull shit. I have inherited a diminished version of this flaw. Instead of trips to the beach, my mistakes involve trips to the grocery store. About once a year I will buy soy-based mayonnaise and try to convince myself it will taste just like the real thing. Someday, hopefully, I will learn that I can’t outwit my taste buds.

One of the pinnacles of my mother’s lack of decision-making prowess was reached on a brisk August night. We were driving home from our family’s timeshare on Bryce Mountain in the Shenandoah Valley. My mother as looking at the map, and she noticed that we were very close to the location of her company’s team building event that was to be held the following week. It was to be held in wooded plot of land in the middle of Fredericksburg; a town whose human population is very closely rivaled by its cattle population. So my mother decided that the best thing to do at 10 o’clock at night was to drive into the uncharted territory of Nowheresville, USA.

We got off the highway and ended up on an unlit back-country road whose asphalt paving was the only sign that it had been visited in the past fifty years. After twenty miles or so, my mother, brother, and I were all hit by the exact same urge at the exact same time. We all had to, at that very moment, take the biggest leaks of our lives. It was as if the urine fairy gave us all a tap at the same time with her three yellow wands. My mother pulled off on to a tiny dirt road, and she and my brother shot off into the dark woods. I, however, was way more timid, and decided I would try to hold it until we got back to civilization. My mother, with her aforementioned flaw, came to a different conclusion.

“Get your ass out of the car,” she exclaimed while zipping up her trousers.

“It may be a helluva long time before you get to piss again, so get out and pop a squat!”

“But moooooom, we have no idea where we are. I could be pissing in some guy’s rose garden for all I know. I can’t see my hand in front of my face!” My logic seemed lost on her.

“Get out of the goddamned car right now! If it’s too dark for you, just piss somewhere in the light of the headlights.”

Most mothers seem to have no concept of privacy when it comes to their children. My mother is not exempt from this. When we are shopping for clothes, she opens the door to my dressing room without knocking, and often leaves the door wide-open.

“I’m not pissing in front of you and Chris! Fine, I’ll just find a spot in those things that look like bushes.”

I walked deeper into the woods to where I could not be heard or seen by my mother. As I walked through the brush I debated whether or not I should fake taking a leak and hold it until we reached a fast food restaurant.

What happened in the next few seconds totally negated any decision that I was about to make.

As I reached for my belt buckle, I heard a very loud pop. I dismissed it immediately as someone’s tire blowing out in the distance. But then I heard it again. And again. And again, again, again. Then I felt a sharp gust of wind and heard a sound that can only be described as a ptwang. I heard the ptwang sound again, and a leaf just above my head exploded. I realized that someone was firing bullets at me.

I crouched to the ground and ran as fast as I could (not very fast when you are crouching). As I scuffled over the car, my mother rolled down the window, and asked (in a very matter-of-factly tone) “Heather, are you being shot at?”


And then my mother proceeded to drive off. Without me.

I was running at full speed now. I caught up to the car and banged wildly on the windows. My mother slowed the car down, but did not come to a full stop. I tried to open the door. It. Was. Locked. My mother took a moment or two to unlock the door. I half-expected the handle to come off in my hand. Finally, the door was open and I dove into the car.

“DRIVE WOMAN! DRIVE!” And we took off into the night.

My mother laughed the whole way home.