Anyone who knows me would tell you I have infinite patience. I enjoy working with children, driving a school bus (a true test of serenity), and watching a garden grow. I like the slower pace of life in the country and revel in the time it takes to produce good brown bread, a rich cup of coffee, or to read a great book.
However, when I have to be somewhere on my own time, look out. I search for the quickest route and the fastest mode of travel. I get irritated with slowpokes, traffic jams, and people who loiter in the centre of sidewalks to chat. I want to get there fast or not go at all. You don’t need to tell me it’s a problem. My kids, in particular, tell me it is.
I get it from my dad. At 87, he met me down a side road in his old Ford pickup and passed me at the speed of light. We barely had time to wave before he was gone in a cloud of dust and a shower of gravel that smashed into my windshield with unpleasant results.
Naturally, like Dad, this attitude of mine can get me into scrapes. I always argue that I make life interesting, but few agree. My misdeeds are remembered and brought forth at critical moments to prove a point.
This summer, I parked in a vast lot on holiday near Amsterdam, so my family and I could take a fast train into the city. Upon our return late that night, we found ourselves locked in. 'Trapped and Alone' might make a good title for a horror flick, but it wasn’t so great in real life. My option was to back up the rental car and bash through the barricade to freedom, or for us to sleep bolt upright in a shadowy parking lot on the outskirts of town.
After repeated efforts to pay with every credit/debit card we had, a sign finally flashed across the barrier screen, SLAGBOOM OPEN. The heavy blockade lifted. While none of us were entirely sure what a slagboom was, we were thankful it had finally seen fit to let us go.
However, the worst was when my daughter, Aliyah, and I were in the Dordogne region of France. Parking was almost impossible on the narrow road behind our apartment, and it was a long way to walk around to our entrance. Much easier would be to cut through a deserted business, I thought with my usual impatience. I stood with my nose pressed to the glass. By golly, I could see right through to the other side. Precisely where I needed to be. Yay!
I opened the door and waited. Nothing happened. Furtively, I hurried through the empty corridor. All was well until I tripped a stupid sensor, and the frantic howling of an alarm filled my ears. Pounding footsteps were heard, angry voices rose in the air, and the far-off sound of a siren caused fear to clutch my heart.
Did I wait around to calmly explain my purpose for entering a building off limits to the general public? No.
Did I think about how to say, “Sorry, police officer, I’m a fool” in French? No!
I dashed out the other side, scurried to my apartment, and hid till everything settled down.
Is there any wonder my kids sigh and shake their heads?
Helen Row Toews is an author and humorist, works as EA and school bus driver, and carries a license to drive anything on wheels. She grew up and still resides on the family farm near Marshall, Saskatchewan.