I was a smart kid

When I was younger, I remember being aware of a big “Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign. I couldn’t have been more than6 or 7. At the time, my parents were attempting to enforce a “no eating or drinking in the car” rule, so I just thought that this campaign was part of a movement to keep the nation’s vehicles from looking “like a fucking dumpster” (in my father’s words). It made sense to me; my sisters and I frequently spilled our drinks in the car, and we weren’t even driving. My mom, however, had (and still has) a serious Diet Pepsi addiction. You know how some smokers need a cigarette as soon as they wake up? That’s how Mom was with Diet Pepsi. The sound of a Diet Pepsi can being popped open in the morning is as natural to me as the smell of coffee brewing. Naturally, there was always a Diet Pepsi at hand in the car as she ferried the four of us around.

My mother drinks and drives all the time! I would think to myself when I saw the PSAs with the stern cops cuffing the guilty parties. She didn’t even seem to care, taking a big swig from the can right next to police cars. In my mind, it was only a matter of time before she was caught and arrested. But the thought of separating my mom from her beloved caffeine was too much for my 6 year old brain to handle, so I just prayed that no cops would notice my mom’s brazen consumption. She didn’t spill very often, I reasoned, so maybe they’d let her off easy.

In another flash of childhood brilliance, I announced to my mother one day that I knew why the handicapped parking spaces were so close to store entrances. I’d been eyeballing these spaces for months, knowing there must be a good reason for these spaces to sit empty while our caravan of strollers, diaper bags, and crying toddlers trudged past.

“So handicapped people can get into the stores quickly without everyone in the parking lot staring at them,” I proudly informed her. Hey, it made sense to me. I knew that I personally had a hard time looking away from someone with an obvious handicap, and my younger sisters certainly were no better. I don’t know what I thought happened when the handicapped patrons actually got in the store; would people be so engrossed in deciding between Scooby Doo- or Flintstones-shaped Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that they wouldn’t notice someone speeding past in a motorized wheelchair?

“Well, that may be part of it, but it’s probably because people who are handicapped typically have a harder time getting around in the first place,” my mom patiently explained.

Oh. I guess that makes sense, too.

8 thoughts on “I was a smart kid

  1. I too, was very afraid of the drinking and driving thing. I seriously thought taking a swig out of the water bottle was going to get my parents hauled off to jail.

    Funny, when I really DID drink and drive, I didn’t seem to care….

  2. I’d like to say I thought the same thing, but the truth is that it never occured to me.

    I was not a smart kid.

    Or maybe my parents didn’t drink in the car…?

  3. kate – When I told my mom about my fears later, she laughed and said she always got nervous when her dad would drive past those “Do Not Pass” signs.

    ben – I definately kept my mom busy. I tried to help, like when I washed my baby sister’s hair with Nair, or interrupted her conversation with the neighbor to let her know that another sister “needed to be wiped.” Mostly I just made things worse.

    kristen – I was just worried my mom would be taken away. There was no way my dad was prepared to take care of us four girls. He would be driven to really drink and drive.

  4. I, too, didn’t understand as a kid the whole “drink and drive” thing as it applied to why drinking applied only to alcohol.

    My mom once negatively called someone a binge drinker and I made it my mission not to drink my NesQuik so fucking fast.

  5. You were not a good citizen. Your mom flagrantly violated the rules (right next to a police car?!) and you should’ve turned her in. Did she go through a six-pack in just a few hours? And then drove around on a caffeine high? Oh, the humanity!

  6. I used to take the tips my dad would leave at restaurants and put them back in his wallet. I thought it was weird he left his money on the table.

    Kids do the darndest things!

  7. arjewtino – You went on a chocolate milk bender? Glad to see you’ve recovered.

    dingo – My sisters and I would sneak around behind her and finish her warm, flat Diet Pepsis she had abandoned or forgot about. It was such a verboten treat, even now the taste of it just makes me feel guilty.

    so – Too funny. Your dad didn’t ever notice you putting money in his wallet?

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