Earning My Stripes

I have come to believe that a woman with children must undergo a certain number of incidents of public humiliation in order to truly earn the title of “mother”. I’m happy to report that we added one to our record this afternoon. I know you all can appreciate this:

We enter the doorway of a new bank, not our usual friendly bank, but foreign territory. To make matters much worse, we arrive only about 15 minutes before the close of the business day.

The double stroller containing Bella and Bean slams the thresholds of both sets of too-narrow doors. Angelina is in the Bjorn, and I’m sweaty and generally looking disheveled from my run-in with the doors.

Before I can catch my breath, Bella and Bean are screaming for lollipops (which they’ve only gotten once—kids never forget candy do they?). Angelina is stirring from her nap.

For some reason, I felt like the tellers and bank customers were particularly unsympathetic today. Do you ever feel like some places or times are worse than others for that?

We line up in what I think is the correct line. I can already tell all eyes are on us as Bella springs from the stroller and darts for the lollipop basket as I struggle to keep Bean from exiting the stroller. She quickly returns, licking one already-opened one and asking me to open another so she can eat two.

All eyes are on us. The tellers are even getting distracted, and everyone’s high-strung because it’s the end of the business day. Customers are pacing, tellers are shuffling papers as fast as they can, people are very agitated.

As I step toward a teller to confirm that we’re waiting in the correct line—heaven knows I don’t want to be waiting in the wrong line with the state my kids are in!—my cell phone BLARES like an airhorn from inside my bag in the stroller. It is set on an eardrum-shattering ring volume. Evidently, a child has reprogrammed it recently.

All eyes are on us. Nobody is concealing their glances anymore, now they’re openly watching our circus.

I race back to the stroller in time to barely miss the call, but I see it was my husband calling and quickly return his call. I had been waiting to hear from him about something important. Huge mistake.

Things begin to happen very fast. Angelina begins fussing, Bean Copperfield exits the stroller in a flash, Bella and Bean notice a small room beside us. Both run in, then Bella runs out and slams the door behind her, leaving Bean inside.

I hang up the phone immediately and try to open the door. It’s locked, from the inside. I knock and beg Bean to open the door, but I get no response.

Great.

I notify the bank officer in whose line I’m standing, and she does absolutely nothing.

I try desperately to stay cool and save face, but I’m getting worried about Bean, who won’t answer my voice on the other side of the door. I’m envisioning him electrocuting himself in an outlet, climbing onto the table and jumping off, or falling out of the window.

After 3 minutes, I cut in line and ask a teller to help me unlock the door. The tellers remind me that they’re all trying to finish doing “balance” or whatever it is that banks do at the end of every day, but one Merciful Teller comes to my aid.

My dignity is gone.

He rummages through several drawers and produces 4 baskets of keys and 7 or 8 keychains, about 200 keys total, and begins systematically trying each of them in the lock. I periodically knock and ask Bean to open the door for me. Merciful Teller hunts through other drawers for other keys and tries them. Six or seven more minutes elapse, and still no sounds or signs from Bean locked inside the room. It’s been about ten minutes, and I’m becoming a little beside myself but still trying to look collected.

All eyes on us is an understatement.

As Merciful Teller goes to look in yet another drawer for keys, I knock again and ask Bean again to open the door for mommy.

And just that easily, the door opens from the inside, and there stands Bean in the doorway, with green lollipop slobber on his mouth and collar, smiling normally and looking totally unassuming. The only item in the wastebasket in the small room is a green lollipop stick.

8 comments:

JM, this is out of this world hilarious :) You may win the prize for the most embarassing mommy moment! On the other hand, you must have been so nervous about poor Bean - I don't think I would've held it together as well as you did!

August 21, 2008 at 10:19 PM  

JM, this is out of this world hilarious :) You may win the prize for the most embarassing mommy moment! On the other hand, you must have been so nervous about poor Bean - I don't think I would've held it together as well as you did!

August 21, 2008 at 10:20 PM  

I can't help but wonder if you were able to get your banking done after all that?? Lord knows you don't want to go back!

August 21, 2008 at 10:27 PM  

oh my, i think I have hundreds of stories like that. I still try to laugh, but sometimes I just want to cry. even thinking about blogging it later or telling dh about it when he gets home is sometimes not enough for me anymore...

August 21, 2008 at 11:38 PM  

Oh JM! You poor mommy! I'm gearing up for "adventures" such as this when we start heading out and about with *3* in tow! God bless you for remaining calm. You should have seen me when the Bible school program almost lost my child (we eventually found him out on the playground with another mother friend of mine! I was almost in tears!) No doubt you learned a lot from the experience!!! :)

August 22, 2008 at 12:07 AM  

Hysterical! Thanks for sharing. And I'd like to see Gail's question answered, where you able to get your banking finished?

August 22, 2008 at 8:49 AM  

This is great! I'm not the only one! Even though I'd had a million of these experiences, every time it happens I feel like I'm the only one! The other day I was shopping at Whole Foods. I don't know about other places, but here, that means a lot of yuppies without children, or perhaps with one child, two at the most, but at any rate people intolerant of toddlers! I brought my two youngest with me, both boys. My 3 year old was running around, but was happy and wasn't even destructive (read: good!). But my 18 mo. old was screaming his head off -- you know, one of those "happy" screams some of them go through at that age. Ear piercing, yes, but happy!! :) The other customers glared at our small trio (thank goodness my others were at home with dad!) and one sympathetic (or annoyed) cashier started giving them free raisins because he either thought they would act better if they had a snack, or he thought it would at least shut up the 18mo.old! I came out of there shaking my head that this world just can't seem to handle children!!

August 22, 2008 at 9:41 AM  

Thanks for all the empathy, ladies : ) Yes, I completed my banking, but I was so surprised at how I didn't really quite recover for the rest of the day. I was noticeably out of it and started nodding off during dinner (after a great night's sleep). It's amazing what an emotional toll these things take, isn't it? But blogging about it was quite cathartic and therapeutic!

August 22, 2008 at 1:40 PM  

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