Monday morning dawned a little on the chilly side, but sunny and bright.
“I know!” I thought. “I should DO THINGS.”
This shall be known as mistake number one.
I decided the best use of my morning would be to take the kids to the zoo, and have a picnic lunch at the playground afterwards. I have taken this type of outing before, and it’s totally doable. The zoo in Madison is quite small (and quite free.) So if we get there when the zoo opens, by 11:00 or so we’ve seen everything there is to see. That leaves plenty of time to eat lunch, play at the playground, and get home just in time for afternoon nap.
So, off we trek to the zoo.
Now, the zoo has a normal parking lot. But farther away, closer to the playground, the parking goes like this:
I decide to park in this parking lot, because I want to make a quick exit when we’re all done.
This shall be known as mistake number two.
The morning progressed quite uneventfully. We saw animals. We ate lunch. We played at the playground. Tra-la-la-la.
Soon, it was time to leave. I return to my minivan, only to find...
Now, this is not a situation of, “OMG this minivan is so big, I can’t get out even though there is actually a ton of room, I can’t judge distance, please help me not suck at driving.” No. I can negotiate through rush-hour traffic in Chicago with this van. I can drive to and from work on while snow falls on icy roads with this van. I can parallel-park this van.*
No. Behind me, on a street that is maybe one-and-a-half cars wide, is a giant school bus. This would not have been a big deal if I had some wiggle-room on my right. Unfortunately, parked on my right was one of those big white utility vans. There was no wiggle-room. I’m parked in.
“No problem,” I thought. “I’ll just ask the bus driver to move the bus. Usually these bus drivers just sort of wait around the bus until the field trip is over.” And this is what the bus driver looked like:
Oh, right. There’s nothing there. Because the bus driver was NOWHERE TO BE FOUND.
“Ok,” I thought. “He’s probably in the bathroom or eating lunch or something. I’ll just kill some time until he returns.” So back to the zoo we go. I bribe the kids with some ice cream, and a half-hour later we head back to the van.
Still stuck. No bus driver.
Now I’m getting kind of pissed. “Fine,” I think. “I’ve seen kids running around in these school t-shirts all day. I’ll just find the leader, and ask that the bus be moved.”
So, I ask around. The parents were sympathetic, but no one knew where the leader or the bus driver was. They tried to describe them to me, but it’s hard to pick some one out of the crowd when they’re all wearing the same t-shirt.
“Why Angela,” you say. “The zoo must have a loudspeaker or something. Why didn’t you just have them call for the bus driver?” I DON’T KNOW, THAT’S WHY.
By now the kids are breaking down, so I head back to the van. Fortunately, we still had the portable DVD player in the van from when we took a road trip a couple weeks ago. So the kids watch tv, and soon Toddler is fast asleep.
“Hmmm... I’ll just let Toddler sleep, and by the time she wakes up, surely either the bus or the utility van will be gone.”
One-and-a-half hours later, Toddler wakes up. The bus is still there. The utility van is still there. The drivers of these vehicles are still NOT there.
Resigning to the fact that my day is totally boned, I figure we’ll just play at the playground until some one moves. I unload the kids, explain we’re going to play, and we head to the playground. We get not ten steps away from the van, when suddenly the driver of the utility van shows up. HE can leave, because the bus isn’t parked behind HIM.
I tried to explain to Preschooler how we have to go back home right now, but she’s not buying it. I tried to make going home seem like a better alternative than the promised playground, but I still have to drag Preschooler kicking and screaming back to the minivan. “It’s ok!” I say. “I’m sorry! We’ll go home and have a popsicle AND a lollipop AND we’ll all play outside together in the front yard!”
This shall be known as mistake number three.
I loaded every one back into the van, and buckled my seat belt, ready to finally leave the god-damned zoo. But just as I shifted the van into reverse, the utility van left, and another car parked in its space. OF COURSE IT DID.
Then I did this:
At last, I was able to work my way out of that parking space and we were on our way home.
“Wait a minute,” you say. “Just HOW did you break your toe?” Well let me tell you....
*Now before I get too cocky, I will admit that I can’t change a flat tire on this van, and I can’t drive up steep icy hills with this van, and I can’t drive for more than two hours in this van without needing a serious break involving food and a bathroom and maybe a quick rendezvous to a living-history museum. BUT STILL.