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This is a true story, which happened last month (which happened to be L.A's only summer-like month this year). I contribute this purely for the entertainment of the board, as a counterpoint to the thread a couple weeks ago called "Some Days It Pays to Get Out of Bed"


So there I stood, in line at planetcents, calmly waiting for my morning cappuccino to take to work, not a care in the world. I had just dropped off my daughter at her school bus stop, loaded with her gear for her 2-day school camping trip in Malibu. "Don't worry, Mom" were her ending words "I've got everything-you've checked it over and over this morning."

While ruminating thus, my eyes traveled over the trinkets for sale by the cash register-breath mints, decorated cookies, bottle openers, coffee mugs, water jugs . . . my blood froze. Bottle. Water Bottle. The thing that the camping staff sent home a notice especially to remind us to bring. A 1-liter bottle of unbreakable plastic. The bottle I made a special trip to the camping section of Target to find. The bottle I filled with ice the night before and was right now, this minute, not on the bus with my dear daughter, but-at home, still waiting in the freezer. I stuck it in the freezer (just for a minute!) while she ate breakfast, and then forgot about--out of sight-out of mind. The bottle that only cost 2.49 but now was not worth a plugged nickel if it wasn't in my daughter's duffel bag. The water bottle that would sustain her on the big endurance hike planned today, on what now looks to be a cloudless 100degree scorcher. The one thing and the most important thing we forgot to pack.

Filled with optimism and enthusiasm (Yes! I can do this!) I raced to my car and bolted back towards our house, about 4 miles east. The plan was to go back home, get the bottle, and head back the other way, in effect, chase her bus. Traffic no problem--hit every green light and though I made more lane changes than I usually enjoy, got back to the house within 10 minutes, tore open the freezer, and in less than a minute was back on the road with said precious water bottle, this time, heading back westward, determined to catch up to my princess in her coach and heroically restore her lost treasure to her.

(You see, this princess's school is in a busy area of Brentwood where the neighbors had sufficient clout to force the school to bus or carpool all students entering or leaving campus. That means you're not supposed to drive said princess to school, she must get on the school bus to get there.)

Of course I had to head to the freeway if there was any chance of catching up to the bus at any of its several stops before it got to the school, a good 15 miles away. Great gopher guts--the freeway's not moving. Get off at next ramp. Get onto nearest main street also heading west. The streets, virtually empty 10 minutes ago, when I dropped her off, are now full of cars. Slow cars. Cars not in any kind of hurry. Cars seemingly out for a Sunday drive, or maybe admiring the view, drivers who seemed to have never driven above 25 mph in their lives, and did not intend to start now. All of these cars, in front of my car, and of course conspiring to keep this knight from reaching said princess. Traffic slows, and stops. Did I say stopped? I meant frozen. Nobody's moving for 2--maybe 3 traffic lights ahead. I am not going to make the next bus stop. Not only that, I'm not going to make the stop after that. I might catch up to the bus by its last stop before school.

The water bottle sits on the seat next to me, ice melting inside, growing warmer, looking forlorn. My cappuchino sits in its cup holder, growing colder and even more forlorn. The air outside is getting hotter by the minute and reminds me that it will be especially hot for the campers today. Does she know yet that she's missing her bottle? Never mind, she needs that water bottle. She will have that water bottle. Mom will come through.

Almost half an hour has passed. I've made little progress on the road. Forget the bus stop--they've left long ago. Now I am just going to have to take the most direct and fastest route directly to her school, park, and find her somehow to give it to her. No more fantasies of catching up to a bus, waving it down, or hail-marying it through the open bus window into weepingly grateful daughter's arms. Just get to the school.

Sunset Blvd, heading west into Brentwood is slow. The air is getting even warmer. Turn on the air conditioner? Uh-oh--Only had a quarter of a tank, which was supposed to get me to work and back. Driving this far, all surface, with all the stop and go, it's now an eighth of a tank. Guess I better conserve gas and not turn on the air. It's 8:20. She's now at the school. I'm not at the school. I'm sweating. The kids are scheduled to leave in 10 minutes. I'm 15 minutes away. The gas light starts to blink . . .

The scene could be the Atlanta train station, civil war, as envisioned by Margaret Mitchell herself. No, this is a scene that "Where's Waldo" would pay to include in their book. A couple hundred girls and faculty are milling around the front of the school, in great mobs. Girls getting off buses that brought them to school. Girls boarding buses that will take them to the camp. Buses parked everywhere. Backpacks, sleeping bags, jackets, and duffel bags heaped everywhere in big messy piles. Girls heaped in big messy groups. Princess Waldo is in one of them, somewhere . . . .

A disheveled woman, with back of shirt wet, circles under eyes, wildly runs from group to group of girls, peering into the little faces, hoping to find the true princess among them. This should have been easy: Princess Waldo is wearing a blue bandanna tied like a scarf over her head. So are about 10 other waldos. It is "the style now." The frantic woman starts asking girls if they know her daughter, have seen her daughter. Arms and fingers point vaguely in various directions, most faces look blank or puzzled, some look a bit suspiciously at the frantic woman.

"Mom, what are you doing here?" <Victor Hugo reference> The disheveled gypsy woman falls on her daughter, Esmerelda, who just barely escaped from the gallows of Paris, and pushes the well worn baby shoe </Victor Hugo reference>--make that water bottle--into her daughter's happy hands.

The disheveled woman wipes the globs of mango-passion lipgloss from both her cheeks, and walks slowly back to her car, which was parked alongside a concrete wall. A bus has parked next to it, left idling, the driver somewhere in Waldoland. She can't get in her car because there is not more than a few inches room on each side. Sighing, the woman opens up the back hatch door, crawls into her car through the back door, over the back seat, and into the driver's seat. Reaches for her cold coffee. Remembers to breathe again. Decides to go get some gas and crank up the air. Oh, yeah, and go to work.

It's definitely a good thing that as parents, we are genetically programmed to care for and have maternal feelings toward our offspring. Otherwise most of the little beasts would not live past age 5.

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