My mother drives us to the mall. She parks the car somewhere. Hours later we emerge, blinking into the sun, shopping bags hooked in our elbows, feeling vaguely queasy from both the foodcourt buffet and at the idea of the credit card bill.
The half hour search for the car begins.
I trail behind her, trudging from section to section, wondering aloud if I remembered seeing shopping trolleys nearby or if you could see the road or not. Was it near a tree? Well, how could it not be… seriously, why are there planter boxes everywhere? Is this a garden or a car park? If they took out half the facking trees they’d fit in more cars and we wouldn’t be in this mess.
This is not an uncommon series of events.
Tempers become increasingly flared. I bemoan the fact that didn’t I get a diet coke for the ride home because now I’m really thirrrrrrrsty. Mum sets her jaw rigidly so her words all come out through her teeth because she doesn’t care how thirsty I am, and could I stop whining and just help her?
The bonds created through the shared shopping experience begin to fray.
One of us asks why the other didn’t make a note of where we were parked. There are usually numbers, or zones, or colours, or spirit animals. What were we talking about that was so engrossing that we didn’t remember? Oh, right, it was about how we couldn’t forget to buy a birthday card for Nana. Oh crapbags, did we remember the card for Nana? Ok, when we find the car, we’ll stop on the way home.
If I’m smart, I won’t ask if we can also drive through Maccas to get a chocolate shake.
Depending on how hot it is, we sometimes do that thing where you start to let yourself sink into a fantasyland because reality is too horrible to deal with. Like the time I went tramping, and we had to walk in the hot sun for six hours, and to get through it I started seeing mirages of what might be waiting at the other end. It got elaborate. Choosing one reward seemed to cancel out so many others. By the time we got to the end of our hike I had invented what was basically a pool built into a trailer. It would be towed by a blue sportscar driven by Gary Oldman. I would emerge from the path to find him holding a tray topped with ten warm bagels full of cream cheese, four Snickers bars, and a Maccas chocolate shake.
…I really should be getting corporate sponsorship for this.
On one particularly humid day, as we lumbered from section to section looking for her green SUV, we slid into delirious chatter about impossible ways to fix the situation.
Imagine if we could just yell for the car and it would peel around the corner to pick us up, like in Knight Rider!
Imagine if we were rich, and our driver would just be waiting for us as we came outside! His name would probably be something like Jenkins. He’d call us ‘ladies’ instead of ‘ma’ams’, because sometimes we want to feel like fancy French princesses.
Next time, we are definitely writing down where the car is. No, we’re taking a picture of where we left it. No, we’re attaching a… balloon… to the… side mirror… so it floats above the rest of the cars. What if someone steals the balloon? Ok, we’re installing a retractable balloon. How will that work? I guess, we will press a button on a remote and a hatch will open and the balloon will pop out. What if it floats away, or it pops? Ok, we won’t install a balloon, but a… giant… arm. How will that work? Well, when it sees you coming, it will pop out of the roof, and will wave around, and to make sure you see it, it will yell ‘I’M OVER HERRRRE’ in a booming voice.
The sun beating down, the giggles setting in, we eventually found the car. And now, every time we wander a parking lot searching for the lost car, we talk about the giant arm. My mother’s birthday is only a few months away, and it’s about time I built it. I think I’d be in her good books for a while if I managed to get this done.
She might even drive me through Maccas on the way home.