So, it’s like 11:30, heading south, driving since around nine in the morning. It’s one of those days when making great time trumps coffee, but only for so long. Remember, skillful, precision driving is a rush. But, it’s time. Gotta get coffee, even shitty coffee. It’s bright, it’s dry, and the traffic is relatively light.
Garden State Parkway (okay, GSP y’all, holla!) just south of Garfield (and don’t get me going on Garfield, NJ). We stop for food and coffee. Making great time. Toll road corporate monopoly rest area. Need coffee. Well, need caffeine. Caffeine is in coffee.
I’m in line for coffee behind a well put-together middle age woman (lady). I’m assuming she’s fairly affluent, well educated, etc. I imagine a new (not late model) Saab, BMW 5 or better, or sweet ass Infinity parked out front. You can gather a lot from simple heuristics. She’s not blingin’ but she doesn’t have too. She’s the type who thoughtfully selects quality over show. This is why she isn’t driving a Mercedes or Jaguar. You can tell stuff.
I’m beat and I’m just standing there doing my thing mostly inside of my own head. Pacing myself for several more hours rally racing. Jonesin’ for Joe. Only one person in line. Thank god. The lady and that’s it. Coffee time!
The girl has her nuggets procured and is heading to a table. She stops to ask me if she could go to the McDonaldland playground after we eat (yeah, right). I deflect a visit to the McE-Coliland playground with a parentally insincere, “maybe someday when we’re not on such a long ride.” You know. I’m way too germ phobic for the McBirdFluland playground. I’m grossed out enough as it is. I don’t need herpes. I mean, we are in Jersey. Can I get a witness?
The girl says, “Okay, someday, but can we write a note to remember?” Smart kid, blessing and curse for years to come.
So the lady turns and laughs and says, “She’s adorable!” I utter a distracted “thank you.” I understand that that is what one says when someone compliments your kid. You thank them. Whatever. So, the lady offers, “She was so serious. She really knows what she wants, huh?” Okay, I’ll play along, I add, “Yeah, she’s a real negotiator.” “Ahh, yes, she really sounded like a great negotiator” the lady finishes with a good, old money laugh (hearty and knowing).
Then the awkward pause. C’mon, I just want coffee. I’m not, one, interested in small talk. I don’t like small talk with my friends. Two, where is this leading? Well, here’s where it led:
“Is she fun?” the lady asks. WTF? Is she fun? What, is she going to offer to buy the kid? How much can you sell a four year-old for on the GSP? I look her over and steel myself with a firm one million dollars. What am I thinking?! Huh?! I can’t even answer logically, “Uh, yeah, fun.”
So the lady says, “I wouldn’t know…. Never had ‘em…. My husband never wanted them, doesn’t like ‘em.” I give the old smile-with-my-mouth-not-with-my-eyes smile. “Oh.” I force.
“But it’s too late now” she says. Well, technically, sure, but what the fuck do I say here? Well, I’m so sorry lady? Is that what I say? Maybe joke that it’s a good thing she’s menopausal since I thought she was going to ask for a sperm donation.
Nothing. Not a thing. Nada. I just look at her. Dumb as hell. You’ve all seen the look (see the beach pic, that look).
“But, I’m surrounded by kids. Lots of love. I have plenty of kids in my life.” Maybe she realized she violated the information threshold and this was her way of back peddling. I figure I’ll actually say something nice and let her escape easy. I’m a big softie, after all.
She picks up her coffee and I say – get this – I say, “Uh, well, we could be in Paris, you know?” Of course this sounds not only lame, but full-on retarded. What the hell does that mean? I meant, well, kids are a lot of work and a pain in the ass and maybe you made a good decision for your life and lifestyle. You could pick up and travel any time you want. Even to Paris.