It was just starting to drizzle as I dragged my mucous-ridden self and a bag full of fight-the-crud potions back to my car. That’s when a solemn stranger holding an official-looking clipboard materialized out of nowhere.
“Is this your car?” he asked in the hushed, reverent tone of a tenured undertaker.
My brain is wired to jump to worst-case conclusions, so it wasted no time jumping into overdrive. Had my car been the victim of foul play? Did it sneak out of the parking lot and run someone over? Was it featured on America’s Most Wanted? Or was this guy distracting me so it would be easier to snatch my purse?
“Yes,” I admitted guiltily. “It’s mine.”
The sullen stranger shook his head sadly. “Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Who did this to you?”
Now, he was starting to sound more like a freelance therapist who heard about my wacky mother, who always believed she was Martha Washington. Reincarnated, of course.
But no, he was pointing to the battle scar on my windshield.
Back in my Honda’s youth, a dump truck traveling at 300 mph hurled a small boulder at us, which landed smack dab in the middle of the windshield. My insurance company promptly dispatched professional windshield fixers who assured me that their expert patchwork would do the trick, and the crunchy circle of crackled glass they left behind gave the car character.
“They always get away with that,” the undertaker said. “Especially with you people of the female persuasion. No offense.”
We interrupt this column for a valuable life lesson: When you say “no offense” to a stranger (of the female persuasion) who you’re already offending, you’ve summoned the mother bear. Adrenalin shoots through our childbearing bodies in anticipation of battle. We lace up our mental boxing gloves to inflict an upside-the-head attitude adjustment while you stand there wondering what planet you’re on. Got it?
“Can you make your point before we have to set the clocks ahead?” I said, bouncing and weaving Sugar Ray-style between coughing spells.
“We can replace your windshield, which they should have done in the first place,” he said. “And I’m in town all week.”
Red flags shot up like magic beanstalks. The circus leaves town when the show is over. Standup comics stay a week. But windshield replacers are supposed to hang around.
“Strike two,” I choked, nudging the undertaker away from my car door. “Just give me your card.”
The invasive request seemed to startle him. Opening a notebook covered by a black-and-white photocopy identifying his company, the undertaker pulled out someone else’s card, crossing out the name and number before scribbling his own on the back.
“Strike three. Gotta go,” I said, finally squeezing past him into my car.
“Wait, we’ll call your insurance company together. We’ll set up an appointment in no time,” he said, waving his binder inside my window. “I certainly don’t want to hold you up.”
I couldn't break the speed limit in reverse, but I was ready to floor it the millisecond I cleared the parking space.
“You know, they’ve tightened the stalking laws. Please get your hands out of my car,” I said, as politely as my dark, sickly mood allowed.
Moments later, I was free. This juicy prey narrowly escaped the forlorn undertaker, now reflected in my rearview mirror.
He’s lucky he didn’t try that with Martha. She would have torn him a new windshield.
JAN A. IGOE writes from her Little River home, when she’s not defending herself in drugstore parking lots. Tip: Do not catch the crud. It’s bad this year! Write Jan at HumorMe@SCLiving.coop.