A Day Off– and An Off Day

red shorts

From 1935 to 1962, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote a newspaper column called “My Day.” Six times a week she wrote this! She never missed except for when Franklin died, and then it was only for four days that Eleanor was away from her typewriter. In her writing, she covered many, many issues: the war, race relations, the rights of women, outer space…she had an opinion about everything. It was amazing what she could come up with each day– a one-woman, world-saving dynamo!

Let me tell you about my day, a day off which should have had me doing nothing more strenuous than looking at the ringing telephone while laughing crazily because I didn’t have to answer it.

It began after I’d had my first cup of coffee, which involved boiling water in the kettle; mixing a batch of creamer from powdered milk because we never seem to have any ready-made on hand; wrestling the lid off the jar of Folger’s De-Caf Crystals because it had apparently welded itself shut overnight; and hacking the last mummified micrograins of sugar from the sugar bowl because I am too lazy to walk three steps and refill the thing. This first cup was easy, and so I decided to have another, with vague thoughts of maybe going on a nice, long bike ride. I refilled the kettle again, and wandered off to the computer because I like to play on Windows Live Maps. Have you ever tried that? It’s fascinating– you can zoom in on your friends’ properties and see how messy their yards were the day that the aerial shots were taken by the Russians and then sold to Microsoft; you can climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower or investigate rocky little hill towns in Tuscany; you can navigate the fjords of Norway and you don’t even have to wear a sweater! I get so involved with this program that I forget about the real world and things like tea kettles that are whistling away atop the kitchen stove. Whistling tea kettles are fine, but I must remember to install my ear devices in the mornings, or there’s going to be a fire one day.

Not minding the lack of a second cup of decaf, I decided I would forgo the bike ride. It hadn’t rained for seventeen months hence, but the day I decide to go get some fresh air, it threatened rain. One thing I do not like being is far from home as the sky blackens above me. Instead, I decided to go to Palmer’s Garden Center for some ground cover because there are bald patches in my yard that are beginning to annoy me, though they are pleasing to the pigeons who like to dig up my flower seeds.

After perfunctory ablutions– I had been mildly toiling out back– I dressed in a tee, flip-flops, and a longish pair of red shorts with the pull string, gathered my things and headed for the car: wallet, phone, sunglasses, ball cap, little note book, and… KEYS, I remembered as the door slammed behind me. Isn’t it amazing how that gung-ho feeling immediately evaporates into helplessness when you lock yourself out? I called Kirk, a good 20 minutes away, and he started on his rescue mission. With all that time to kill, what do you do? I chased some squirrels out of the rose bush… I recited the Alma redemptoris mater… I moved some potted coleus… I recited the Ave Regina caelorum… I watered the coleus on the sly, because it was past my legal watering time… I recited the Salve Regina. I paced– I noticed that something felt unusual as I walked, but couldn’t quite place it. Maybe it was the heat and all that Latin. Soon Kirk drove up and, after listening to many clever comments about my adorable silliness, I was finally on my way. My Day was finally beginning.

I had to buy Lotto tickets, which means I had to go into a convenience store. I hadn’t really had THE shower of the day, so I felt right at home. I always feel like such a snob in those places; just what are those whitish things floating in that glass jar– eggs?! You’re kidding me! No no, no pig’s knuckles for me. And how old is that cheese in the cooler– it looks like it’s grown a beard. THAT’S your wine selection?!– who knew that vinegar could come in so many nice colors!

I filled out my Lotto cards, taking care to stay within the tiny lines which I could barely see, and I brought them to the counter. Everything went fine until I felt my longish red shorts sort of loosen in back and, thanking God that I was wearing my Calvins, discreetly tried to tug on the pull string– but there was no pull string. I looked down, and saw that both pockets were turned out and facing front, and that’s when I realized that my longish red shorts were on backwards; the pull string was obviously tucked in back. Nice, right? This being a convenience store with things like chewing tobacco and suppositories on the counter, nobody noticed, but I nevertheless slipped into the men’s room in order to right things. It was quite acrobatic trying to right things while not letting anything except the soles of my flip flops touch that floor! But I managed. And you know3 something else about those longish red shorts? In another time and place, and on another sex, they would be called “culottes.”

Back in the car, I realized I’d forgotten to cash in a Powerball ticket that I’d won a few weeks ago. Don’t get excited! Don’t get excited, everybody; it was only four dollars, but still. I brought it back inside and gave it to the lady behind the counter, who fed it into her machine for verification. Well, it kept spitting back out; she punched numbers, she fed, she punched some more, all the while giving me a running explanation of the entire Lotto system since its inception. And still the machine wouldn’t work. Of course, since I hadn’t put in my ears, I didn’t hear a thing that she said. There was something about Tallahassee, and writing and sending things, but who can say? Better to pass on the four dollars and use the ticket as a bookmark.

Off to the nursery I went, where I loaded up my trunk with purslane in various shades, and I paid without any mishaps– the debit card went through; there was a big, flat box for the plants that fit nicely into my trunk; all was well– I should have known.

I next stopped at the house of some friends so I could see about their cat while they were away. My compensation for this week of cat-sitting was a HUGE bag of pistachios, and an almost-full box of Godiva chocolates. But you never see this cat– you fill the bowl with treats, and the water bowl with fresh water with a little gin in it, and place a dollop of fishy-smelling paste on a plate… you call out the cat’s name, you make tapping sounds on the can like in the commercials, but no cat ever appears. Whatever. I thought I saw it one day in the shadows, but it turned out to be a dust bunny.

As I entered their house, I stopped to gather the day’s mail from the floor in front of the slot, and brought it to the table. I began stacking the mail in size order, and was suddenly assailed by the sound of the house alarm shrieking through the peacefulness– even with my ears out, I could hear every WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP as the neighborhood was alerted to the fact that the castle walls had been breached by Huns. Calmly, I approached the control panel, whose graphics suddenly looked as if they were written in Cyrillic. Calmly, I tried disarming it as usual, and it worked. Then the phone rang, and some woman asked me all sorts of questions as to my identity. Apparently she believed me, because a visit from the police was diverted. Can you imagine? There I would have been in the paddy wagon, my longish red shorts down around my knees, smelling of cat food, accused of petty theft. And they would have used my high school graduation photo in the newspaper story.

I drove home in a downpour, my trunk filled with flowering purslane, my pants resting sensibly around my hips. At home, the rain stopped and the plants went in the ground with not a squirrel to be seen. Nothing unusual happened the rest of that day, but I couldn’t help wondering if Eleanor Roosevelt, in between resigning from the DAR and fighting for feminist issues, had ever put her pants on backward. One can only hope!


11 responses

  1. I didn’t wet myself. I’ll leave the spontaneous ablutions to darlin Darlyn. But I give it a very enthusiastic wry smile and an affirming nod. Great stuff.

  2. Jimmy,

    I will tell you about the time that I locked myself out of the house but it will have to be after several coctails and even then I will only discuss it in hushed tones.

  3. I actually DID wet my pants, and I am in work right now, reading this. People thought I was crying!! Jim, you are the most clever person I know. You always make my day =) This is hysterical!

  4. Ive walked out with plenty of shirts wrong side out and today forgot my tennies at the gym so enjoyed a workout in my socks as the “weird girl”. I want the discipline of daily writing a simple palette- my day. Enjoyed your writing.

  5. Hey, I put apple cider vinegar in Picard’s (African Grey parrot) water every day. Wonder if gin serves the same purpose?

    Thanks for a great story, Jimmie.

    “I hadn’t really had THE shower of the day, so I felt right at home. I always feel like such a snob in those places;”

    Do you ever go to WalMart? If so, what do you wear there? LOL

  6. I proudly admit to being a Folger’s Crystal gal and love the ‘instant’ part of ‘instant coffee.’ That said – I roared at your experience in the convenience store. I only get to go into those places when traveling since I do not have a car and live in NYC. Our local bodegas, while filled with curious stuff, do not have the treasures of those drive-in convenience places. Thanks for the laughs.

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