Seeing red on a Blue Monday

My only excuse for what happened was that it was Monday . . . and the end of the workday. Oh, and I was tired, and I have to admit, more than a little distracted. And, since I fairly often manage to do stupid things I guess that adds up to five excuses. I wonder if five would have been enough to keep me out of jail.

I was pushing my cart out of Walmart, trying to recap what I’d bought, because I’d left my shopping list in the car. I realized I was list-less way back in the egg section and I did not want to walk the five furlongs back to the parking lot to fetch it. I felt sure I’d forgotten something. Let me see, eggs, check. Milk, check. Cottage cheese, check. Grape Nuts, green onions, baby cukes and oh yeah, Fancy Feast for the spoiled kitty. I try to combine my trips to the pet food side of the store, but my lack of planning had put me over on that far east side which I swear is in a different township than the people food. It’s almost impossible to dash in and dash out of that enormous store. I know I’m slower than I used to be, but as far as I’m concerned the dairy is in Jamestown, household goods are in Russell. Pet food is in Scandia and meat is in Chandler’s Valley.

After checkout I wheeled into the parking lot, a Walmart idea of a clever joke that I call the Land of Diagonal Confusion. I often wondered who was the psychopath Walmart hired to create that illogical mess?

My friend, Julie, spotted me walking in the traffic lane and stopped to talk about the “Our Town, Warren” broadcast. Then Bill pulled his pickup beside me to talk about some theatre tickets. As he pulled away, I looked up and I was beside a red Jeep. That’s when I noticed all the red cars. Beside the jeep was a red Rav4, followed by three more red SUV’s, a silver van and three more red SUV’s. Was this an invasion? A convention? Or after a long day was I just seeing red? Never mind, I thought, let’s just get home.

I clicked my remote, heard all the beeps and whipped open the tailgate of my red Rav. That’s when Jack stopped to chat and while I jabbered with him I put my three small bags in the back. Jack headed for the store and I got into the driver’s seat, put my key in the ignition and . . . nuthin’. Oh no, not now. I knew I had my AAA card in my wallet and I was trying to remember if my cell phone was charged. Rats, I don’t have the time for this garbage. Well, that’s not what I really said to myself, but this column is rated PG and this is a family newspaper.

Try again. Nope. But wait a minute this key isn’t turning all the way. I pulled it out, put it in again and now it wouldn’t turn at all. As I reached across the seat for my purse, I noticed the cup holder was empty. Who could have stolen my phone charger? I always lock the car . . . and the other cup holder was empty. Where were my gas receipts, my good lottery ticket, the forgotten shopping list and my pens? Huh? Then I realized the mirror was set too high and I noticed some strange papers behind the visor. Uh-oh. A quick look in the back seat at some toys confirmed what I’d done. The interior was the same color as mine, but the contents definitely were not. Whose car is this?! Oh boy, now you’ve done it, dummy.

I couldn’t move fast enough. Get out quick before the owner comes. Get my stuff out of the back. What would I say? “Nice car, just checking out the interior is it for sale?” Didn’t think that would work. Lay on the big smile, beg for forgiveness? Plead tired, distracted and dim-witted? Or throw myself on their mercy, confirming every bias they have against feeble, white-haired people? “I’m sorry, I’m old. . . and it’s been a bad Monday.” “But officer, it was an honest mistake and there were just so many red ones . . . .” All this was running through my mind as I gathered my stuff as fast as I could move. I slammed the tailgate, backing away trying to look casual and innocent.

But wait. Why had my remote opened that car? As I had closed the tailgate and looked to my right, I got the answer. The twin red Rav4 next door was mine. When I used the remote, those beeps had come from my car. Okay then, the one I got into had to have been unlocked. Yikes!

Turns out that of those eight red cars in that cluster, three of them were Rav4’s. Obviously, the Toyota gods were having a good laugh for themselves while I was trying to dodge a major cardiac incident. As I backed out I wondered if the security cameras were working. I drove toward the exit carefully watching the rearview mirror just in case. No one was yelling and pointing at my red Rav, driven by the deranged escapee from the Diagonal Confusion.

I didn’t really relax until I pulled into my driveway. I let out a big, tired sigh as I turned off the key and put the car in park. I reached into the cup holder for the forgotten shopping list. The short list was written in script except for the large, bold print at the top: BROWN SUGAR.

Yup. I had forgotten the brown sugar. And nope, I didn’t go back.

Maybe next week. Or Black Friday. By then no one will recognize me. Especially if I drive my mother’s beige Buick.