Sunday, February 06, 2005

Ramblin' Around

I have these two friends who volunteered last summer to do crafts at a camp where I also volunteer. Friend B has a loud booming drill-sergeant voice. She works in law enforcement and carries a gun. I was not sure how well she would do with the girls, but it turns out she is a natural. The girls loved her. Friend C has a quieter soft-spoken voice. She is a teacher who works with elementary age children for a living.

Friend C, who is well adjusted and for the most part, unflappable, and fully capable of exerting her authority (would not want you worrying about “poor little C”) recently had the experience of running into some of the little girls she worked with last summer when she started attending their church. There was not a glimmer of recognition from the girls as to the fact that Friend C had taught them crafts last summer. She knew some of them had attended the camp, but there were 400 girls at camp and she did not really recognize the girls either.

One Sunday Friend B visited Friend C and went to church with her. Lo and behold, the little girls started buzzing, “look, Mrs. B from camp!” and they ran over to speak to her and to ask if she’d be there again this summer. Not only did they recognize her, they remembered her name as well. Meanwhile, Friend C, having been incognito in the midst of these girls for three months, watches the scene unfold without the least bit of surprise. Friend C says she is used to being invisible. She says it happens all the time, and not just when she has been the forgotten partner of Friend B either.

I know what Friend C means. I often feel invisible myself. It’s not a bad feeling, really. Sometimes it is downright amusing. Sometimes it is downright amazing. Last year around this time, I was rear-ended by a man who had been to the Mardi Gras parade and had been doing a little too much of the “let the good times roll” (laise les bon timps roule, or something like that, it is a Mardi Gras slogan) routine. He was drunk. My car was totaled and I had to ride to the hospital in an ambulance strapped to a gurney with a neck roll on my neck (where else would one put a neck roll?).

I was more scared than injured. It was the THIRD time I had been rear-ended in that car. And when I got over being scared, I was angry. The first time I was hit, the guy was digging in his Burger King bag for a French fry. That one was a light bump, but enough to require body work. He jumped out of the car apologizing (as did the drunk guy) and when he went to use the phone at the nearby store, leaving me to watch his kid (always the care-giver, aren’t I?), the kid starts wailing plaintively “don’t let them take my daddy to jail”, which made me suspicious, but I reassured the kid his daddy was not going to jail. Still, when the kid said he was going to meet his daddy, I told him he was going to stay right there with me. In my care-giving mind, I was worried about the kid crossing the street, but the more pragmatic side of my mind knew the kid was collateral. Surely daddy would not run and leave his kid.

The second time, I was at a red light and a guy was talking to his buddy in the vehicle beside him. The buddy was in a turn lane and when he got the arrow to turn, the guy behind me assumed he had a green light and gassed his big-ass truck into my little-assed car while I sat there, waiting for the light to turn green.

So, yes, I have some history with being rear-ended. But the nice part of me knows that accidents happen, and we all have been guilty of being careless while behind the wheel. It is not like I myself have not pulled some boners. I have just been fortunate that (knock on wood) there have been no collisions.

Just last week, I was tooling through the WalMart parking lot and instead of going all the way to the end of the row of parking spaces, I cut across an empty spot. I did not notice the big green truck coming through. I must have startled him because he honked and gave me this look that said “you dummy”, like he personally had never done anything stupid while driving (I bet he was thinking derogatory thoughts about crazy women drivers). It just hit me wrong, and I honked back at him. He was leaving, and I went on my merry way up the row, looking for a parking space. However, when I looked in my rear-view mirror, I noticed this plain car with a red light flashing on the dash. I pulled into my parking place and, guilty soul that I am I jumped out of my car and started confessing and apologizing profusely (while my pragmatic mind was telling me to calm down, there was no way he was could give me a ticket on a parking lot). The (good-looking) young man looked confused for a moment. I realized he did not want to give me a ticket at all, he thought I was in some sort of danger (did I say I had held the horn down for more than a few seconds, like some sort of lunatic….or damsel in distress?) and he was all set to rescue me. I should have kept my big fat guilty mouth shut and played it cool. In the end, he told me to just slow down and be careful. I did.

At this point in the story, I find I have digressed, and I have forgotten what my point was. Oh yeah, the subject of being invisible…and now it occurs to me that maybe people just turn me off because I ramble on and on, they get tired of waiting for me to get to my point. Hmmm, for anyone who is still with me, here is where I meant to go before I got off on the tirade of telling about being rear-ended so many times.

I got subpoenaed to go to court over the Mardi Gras rear-ending. I was going to call the court and ask why I needed to be there, but I never did (procrastinated, again), so I had to go. I missed class. I showed up in court. I went into the court and heard the judge tell three guys (in the interest of time, the judge was killing three birds with one stone), all accused of DWI, that they were fortunate not to have killed or injured anyone. I am sitting in the court, hearing all this, wondering why the state of Louisiana wasted my time and their money to subpoena me, only to ignore me, and when they started arguing about the exact date upon which my guy’s “incident” occurred, I could no longer contain myself. I said in a perfectly clear and authoritative voice the exact date the incident occurred. The judge, the attorneys, the DWI guys all looked straight at me, but no one acknowledged that I had said one single word.

I wish I had been bold enough to get up and deliver a scathing speech telling them in no uncertain terms that I had indeed been injured. My car was totaled. I could not get an accident report because of the timing of the accident (Mardi Gras always brings a lot of police stuff to deal with). I could not get a rental car to drive because I could not get an accident report. Unfortunately, I have never been very bold. So I kept my mouth shut, court adjourned, and I went home, feeling invisible, my presence having been invited, no demanded, but my voice not welcomed. How stupid was that?

I know how Friend C feels. Like her, I find it laughable, most of the time. Sometimes it comes in handy, being invisible. What I also find is that when one is invisible, one can make all sorts of observations. Sometimes, I speak, or write, of the observations, sometimes I keep my mouth shut.

Sometimes I’d like to rewrite my own character and be brilliant rather than invisible but I am just not that brilliant, though come to think of it, for a short time in my life many years ago, I was known as Sparkle Farkle. Anybody remember her, from Laugh-in? But heck, even then I did not sparkle.

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