The Expotition

(Dedicated to my lovely mother  — who read me every A.A. Milne story ever published)

The spot was so close to the entrance. I’d slowly maneuver my way in, finish my shopping, and head home. I should have realized it was too small — tightly framed by curbs at the front and the right side. And to my left, an even larger car than mine was oozing over the white line. Any other day, I wouldn’t have even considered it, but it was so close on such a cold day.

I drove in slowly, figuring if I had to rub noses – better to scrape the curbs than the piggy gas guzzler. Not quite the fit I wanted, so I started backing out, only to find I was stuck. One of my wheels wouldn’t move, and even if the other three were fine, this one was getting its way.

That terrible car next to me had stolen my freedom. He’d be gone forever leaving me stuck in my car without water (somebody finished it and didn’t refill it – probably me) and an enervated cell phone. My last hours would be spent reading once-interesting C-Span interviews, a map of the California coast, and watching people cross the parking lot with packages. All because I wanted to be close.

A tear tumbled down my cheeks. Would the driver who parked the big SUV ever return during my lifetime? Would they find me before frost bite, gangrene, or blood poisoning claimed my body? How long would it take to send out the dogs?

I cried some more, this time with the volume turned up. Everything was wrong now, every kind of frustration I knew. I buried my face in my hands and bent over the steering wheel that took me nowhere.

And then she arrived: plump, in the warmest sense of the word, carrying a floral umbrella. She looked inside my window.

“What’s the matter? Why are you crying in your car? What’s so terrible?” I unrolled my window and looked at my re-born grandmother. “I can’t get out.” She looked at the car. “You got in; you can get out!”

“Look at my passenger front wheel,” I whined. “It’s stuck against the curb. It won’t turn.”

She walked around and inspected the position of the wheel. “You can’t stay there forever…  I’ll tell you what to do.”

She did, too. And in seconds my rear bumper was in the driving lane and I was free again.

She walked around the car and stood right next to the headlights and lightly tapped the hood.. “Very nice work. Now come out and stop all that crying. It’s fixed. Where are you going?”

“I have a long list and I’m starting at T.J. Maxx,” I told her, giving her a gentle hug, which was meant to penetrate her seven layers.

“That’s where I was headed until I heard someone crying her heart out in her beautiful car.”

“Thank you. I should have said that first. You rescued me,” I explained. “You told me just what to do and it worked.”

“I wanted to help. That’s all. But I have to tell you what’s so funny.”

I waited, wiping away my tears.

“I’m 85 years old and I’ve never driven a car in my entire life, but even so, I helped you get unstuck. I hadn’t the slightest idea – I just knew you needed some help and it worked.”

”That’s incredible,” I said, laughing with my friend.

“I wouldn’t even know where to put the key …”