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.