This piece has no general point. There’s nothing to be learned from this except that I’m a dork and you should never bring a Gulp…no…a Super Big Gulp to a meeting.
Last night was the “Meet the teacher” night where parents were asked to attend. My wife couldn’t make it home in time so I dragged the five children along with me. They were excited just to be going to the school at night.
When I arrived I set them up in the back of the cafeteria with coloring books and crayons and they were being as good as gold. But then there were a few other parents who came in with their children and they just started dropping their children off at my table and leaving. I was a little stunned but I started thinking that maybe they thought the school was providing an area for the children to play. They weren’t. It was just me with my four mobile kids and my one stuck in the stroller(who wasn’t happy because there was no food being put in her mouth.) One boy was dropped off. He said his name was Joey. And I could tell just the way you can tell sometimes that Joey was going to be a problem. Joey didn’t know from inside voice. And Joey didn’t know standing still.
So I’m trying to pull a miracle of loaves and fishes with the paper and crayons for them. I’m trying to keep the baby quiet, listen to the speech/instructions from the school Principal, take part in the prayer, and sign in while watching four of my mobile children and thirteen other children who look vaguely familiar to me and over whom I have no real authority whatsoever (and I was pretty sure they knew it, especially Joey.)
The baby begins suddenly rocking back and forth wildly in her stroller because some of the children (Joey) are laughing at her when she does it. And did I mention the place is blazing hot. I mean hot hot. Like practice for hell hot. Catholic schools don’t do air conditioning.
So the baby needs a change of pace so I walk her a little up the aisle while still looking over my shoulder at the children, especially Joey who’s now decided to get up to go to the water fountain. (I’m secretly resenting Joey- big time right now)
Now, because Joey got up all the kids get up and start wandering around like dazed primates. They don’t even know why they got up. They just know that one of their own got up and there were no consequences so…it’s get up time. So I’m trying to turn the stroller around to come back down the aisle to bring the consequences and then it happens. IT. The worst thing that could happen. In my efforts to turn around I knock over my soda. My Gulp. My Super Big Gulp. My 64 oz of black bubbly mess lands with a thud loud enough for everyone in the hottest cafeteria in the world to turn around and look at me. The baby heard the thud, got scared, turned her head quickly into the side of the stroller and is now inhaling all the air in the room in order to scream the scream of angry baby anguish in an echoing cafeteria. While she’s still inhaling, the soda spreads rapidly under the chairs of everyone in a ten yard area.
Then the scream happens. Every person with eyes looks up at the sweaty irresponsible Dad who clearly isn’t capable of watching his children. Then people look down on the floor at the expanding mess. They’re lifting their feet. The speech stops.
I slowly reach over, pick up the screaming baby, put her on my shoulder, and begin dragging the stroller backwards down the aisle, leaving an oozy trail behind me like a carbonated slug. After a few seconds where I was the focal point of the entire universe, the speech starts up again and a few people moved down a few chairs to avoid the mess.
As I reached the back of the cafeteria I start for the first time wondering what I’m going to do when I feel a tap on my lower back. I turn around and there’s Joey. He’s holding two squares of toilet paper up to me. Joey had run into the bathroom and obtained two squares of toilet paper for me to clean up my mess. And suddenly I’m laughing because I feel like putting Joey up on my shoulder and praising him as the best child in the world. I also start laughing because the mess that I created would laugh at two squares. I’d need a kayak to navigate this puddle. It had tides it was so deep.
Suddenly, to my astonishment this brigade of unwanted children rushed into the cafeteria after finding a vast supply of toilet paper. They rushed into the puddle and were getting on their hands and knees on the shore of Lake Gulp and dropping their squares in. They’d pull it out, hug it close to their chests, and run back to the bathrooms leaving trails of soda behind them. And they loved it. Nothing better in the entire world other than a Ferris Wheel full of cookies rolling into the cafeteria would have been better to them. As they passed me on the way back to the bathroom they smiled excitedly, some mouthing words which I couldn’t understand over the now whimpering baby.
I finally found a mop in a nearby storage closet and took care of the mess. My mess. Finally, we all went upstairs to meet the teachers. It was even hotter up there. Now, because I have three children currently in school we could stay for a few minutes in each room. In each of the rooms I noticed a few members from my team of child laborers by the soda stains on their shirts and pants. They’d wave to me. (Their parents did not) But me and the soda stain brigade are cool. We’re home team. They had my back when things got…messy. I’ll babysit them in the back of the hottest cafeteria in the world anytime.