Monday, February 21, 2011
Adventures in Real Parenting: The Greatest Show on Earth
Reasons number 257 - 261 why I should never leave the house.
1. Circus loosely defined
On the way to the circus, Sophie and I got stuck in horrendous traffic. On a Sunday. We left the house two and a half hours before the start time and wrongfully assumed we'd get to participate in the preshow stuff where Sophie, the deprived child who can't remember ever having been to a zoo or Graceland (I swear she was with us!) and never went to a circus because her parents were always broke, getting divorced, sick of raising kids or too busy chasing the American Dream instead of actually living it, could pet a damned elephant.
Sophie putting her palm against an elephant's leathery skin would have made up for a lot of my parental failings and laziness masquerading as principals.
Atlanta's traffic is a mess even on a good day. Exit #249C is the exit for the Georgia Dome, Centennial Park, The Georgia Aquarium, Phillips Arena and seven hundred and twenty-eight other southeastern attractions. Exit #249C has one lane. Turns out that yesterday Exit #249C was super busy with families going to the circus, people trying to get to a cheerleading competition and seven hundred and twenty-six other events in that geographic area equivalent to about four city blocks.
It took us one hour to travel a mile and a half as we inched along in the right lane which was also the RIGHT lane for where we were going. I watched car after car zoom up on the left and then flick its signal on to cut into the lane where we sat and sat and sat. The people here don't know when to be assholes to assholes, apparently. They could use some Chicago in their driving. I'm sorry, but no, you can do prayer hands and puppy dog eyes at me as your husband wipes flop sweat from his brow and jiggles the turn signal but fuck no, you are not cutting in front of me. I've been sitting in this lane, the RIGHT lane, for fifty minutes while you just got here. You can wait, lady.
Had more of the people in front of me had that same attitude, maybe my girl could have pet an elephant. Damn it.
2. I curse an entire city and act like the Yankee I am
I was so pissed off about the bad road engineering and the lack of cajones of the other drivers in the RIGHT lane to deny the line cutting jerks who thought their time was more valuable than ours that I started wishing ill on the whole city of Atlanta. "Bring back Sherman and let him burn the damn place down again so they can start over and get the engineering right." I grumbled. "And while we're at it, let's put some public transportation in place so some of us could get the hell off the road entirely."
And Sophie thought the circus was going to be fun?
3. I ruin a little kid's surprise
We finally got close to Phillips Arena. I wanted to park in the first lot I saw ($6 cash) and walk. My anxiety-riddled kid wanted me to get closer. We got to the Centennial parking garage ($12 cash, but the sign didn't say cash only) and I only had $10 on me. The website said I could use my debit card. Fuck, fuck and fuck. I asked the attendant for directions out since I only had $10 and he told me, but then said, "Just give me the ten and go on up to the right and park."
Okay, so I hated Atlanta a little less.
We got inside the CNN food court and took our place in line, but my anxiety-riddled kid (gee, I wonder why?) wasn't sure we were in the right line because the signage was non-existent. I asked the woman in front of us if she was in line for the circus and she opened her gorgeous, but icy blue eyes wide, but said nothing. What?
So I asked again because I'm that socially adept. "Are you in line for the circus?"
She shot a look at her tall husband who looked down at me as if he wanted to stomp me like a bug. Sophie nudged me with her elbow and tipped her head toward the boy standing between the couple. Oh, hell. I mouthed I'm sorry to the parents, but the damage was done. The woman gave me an extra hard frown and the man shrugged and turned away.
I felt like an ass for ruining the kid's surprise. Maybe they were one of those families who cut in the traffic line in which case good.
4. All I could think of was Rosie
Sophie and I finally got through the line five minutes before show time. Petting an elephant became just another unfulfilled wish because I didn't have the good sense to leave the house six hours in advance of the fucking show. We snaked through the sea of humanity until we reached the escalators to go up The Matterhorn toward our seats in the clouds.
As we climbed, we could see animal rights protesters with big posters showing elephants being abused during training. Sophie looked at me over her shoulder and we both shook our heads. Suddenly, it wasn't the upward climb making me feel sick.
5. John Lennon was right about Karma being like Carnation Breakfast
We reached the top and donned our oxygen masks. Had I really congratulated myself on the last minute purchase of discount tickets so my poor kid who'd never been to a circus could finally see one? We found Section 302 and ... have I ever mentioned my acrophobia?
Well, I didn't flatten myself against the wall, but looking down the steep slope for Row F made it hard for me to breathe. I would have to do this for my kid no matter what.
Sophie looked down at the steps. "Mom, I don't think I can do it."
Oh, hell. The poor kid inherited my phobia.
"It feels like I can't swallow right." Yep, I knew exactly what she meant.
The very nice usher let us sit at the top in the accessible seating area. We had to look through the railing, but at least we could breathe. Most of the time.
"Sophie, I'm really sorry this didn't go so well," I whispered in the dark.
"Can you see?"
"Thanks for bringing me."
"You're welcome, honey. I'm sorry I am the way I am." There was more I wanted to say, but she knew what I meant.
Later, as we traveled through downtown Atlanta hoping to find I75 North, we passed through a sketchy area where people were hanging out everywhere. A pile of clothes and shoes sat abandoned on the sidewalk like the person wearing them had evaporated as he waited to cross the street. We sat at a red light and watched two men in a parking lot a few yards away exchange money and something else.
"So," I said a bit too cheerfully, "what did you think?"
Without taking her eyes off the deal happening right in front of us she said, "I'd say it's been a full day. I like spending time with you. I'll never forget today."
The light turned green and I felt a sense of relief. "Me, too, baby. And me either."