I needed coffee.
No, I didn’t use the wrong verb. I know what I’m talking about. I didn’t want coffee.
I NEEDED coffee.
I’d gone right past the desire for a nice, comforting warm mug to gently sip and moved into the I’m-jonesing-seriously-jonesing-someone-get-a-big-needle-and-mainline-this-into-me-NOW desire for coffee.
It wasn’t so much that I crashing from lack of caffeine – although I was tired.
It was our second night in our new house in Portland. The truck had arrived the day before, and by the end of the day we would have access to our beds, kitchen utensils, our coffee pot, and all the little things that make a house a home…. but that wasn’t for several more hours. And for all that the move had gone much more smoothly than we had hoped, it had been another long night on the world’s worst air mattress.
I shouldn’t complain, since it was actually a very expensive air mattress… and even better than that, it had been free. A hand-me-down from my mom, it was queen-sized, not-lumpy, and inflated to about two and a half feet off the floor, which somehow made it feel like it was an actual bed.
The icing on the cake was that you didn’t need any special machinery to inflate the mattress—oh, no! This was much too nice of an air mattress for any of that low-class stuff! All you had to do to inflate it was to plug it into a wall, twist a knob, and go slowly deaf as the air mattress inflated with the gentle, soothing roar of a 747 airplane landing three feet from your head.
Oh, did I mention that the air mattress had a slow leak?
Every two to three hours the Bean and I would find ourselves mashed against each other, trapped in a sinking hole in the center of the semi-deflated mattress. Not only was it incredibly uncomfortable, but it seems like every time The Bean and I get within three feet of each other I end up pregnant, so it wasn’t something that could just be ignored.
What made it even worse was that the Squidgelet was sleeping in our room, about two feet from the end of our “bed”. While he’s normally a deep sleeper, every time we would turn that knob and the mattress would roar to life with its deafening whine, the Squidgelet would slam awake, jumping up to clutch the sides of his port-a-crib, shrieking in abject terror. No matter how hard we tried, no amount of soothing and shushing and “there-there”s managed to convince him that no, there was no such thing as flesh-eating robots, no, they weren’t in our room, and no, we weren’t all about to die a horrible, gory, painful death.
Sag. Click. ROOOOAR! SCREEEEAAAAM! Soothe. SCREEEAAAAAAAM!!!!! Soothe. SCREAM. Soothe. Whimper. Soothe. Little whimper. Soothe. Sleep.
Sag. Click. ROOOAAR! SCREAAAAAM!…. etc, etc.
Thankfully, this didn’t happen all night long. Nope. It only happened once every two or three hours.
Also, I think I should mention that we had been sleeping on this air mattress for nearly a week.
Are you with me now? Do you understand why I’m saying I didn’t want coffee, but that I NEEDED coffee?
When the DragonMonkey came barreling into our room early in the morning from his makeshift pile of blankets of our new living room floor, I sat up, blinked a couple of times, and realized that if I didn’t get coffee, and SOON, bad things were going to happen.
Sure, I needed the jolt of caffeine, but it was more than that. After packing, and driving, and uncomfortable beds, and our move, and waiting on the moving truck to arrive, and all the stresses that come from picking up your roots and moving to a completely different section of the country, I just needed one thing that would be the same. I needed one comforting thing – something to relax into, something I could rely on.
I needed Starbucks.
A quick glance at Google showed me there was a Starbucks only a little over a mile from my house.
You know, if I walked to the Starbucks, not only would I get my coffee, I could get skinny while doing it.
I changed the boys and loaded them up in my brand new (used from Craigslist) super expensive stroller I had just purchased yesterday. After years of making do with crappy used strollers, I had finally bit the bullet and shelled out some money for an expensive stroller:
The Phil and Ted’s Explorer Stroller with inline doubles kit.
Doesn’t it just sound expensive?
Here, take a look at it:
It just looks like money, don’t you agree?
Let me tell you, it handles like money, too. After more than a year of struggling to get my cheapo double stroller to round corners and leaning all my weight onto it to make it go over ridiculously tiny cracks in the sidewalk, I now had an all-terrain stroller that was light as a feather, folded up with room to spare in my Honda Civic, and so lightweight that I could maneuver it in little tiny stroller doughnuts with just one hand, like some kind of illegal street racing car.
I used to get excited about going dancing, good-looking men, and having guys check me out as I walked by in a pair of tight jeans.
Now I get turned on by strollers.
On my way out the door I grabbed Max, put on his leash, and took him with me.
It didn’t really matter if I wanted to take him with me or not – if I wanted The Bean to be able to sleep, then I had to take him with me.
Max has never been good with change…. and by change, I mean anything that is different. This could be as big as the recent move, or as small as the fact that ohmigawd there is a visitor standing in the living room.
Change is synonymous with death as far as Max is concerned, and when your horrible, gruesome death is imminent, there are really only two ways you can handle it:
- Pee/poo in the house
- Scream-howl like someone set your fur on fire.
Since we had been very careful about keeping him in the kennel unless he was supervised (thus eliminating the “crap-in-the-house” emotional outlet,)Max was left with screaming.
Whereas he used to scream only when we got in the car and drove away from the house (Oh no! I’m all alone! Desolation! Destruction! The wolves will eat me! Oh no!), he had now started to scream every time we stepped outside, or got more than twenty feet out of eyesight.
I have a small video I took of his howling scream back when we were packing in Huntington Beach. It’s not the best, but I’m too lazy to set up a trap to get a better video. The problem is that he will only make the sound when I am not around, so it’s obviously hard to video tape. Still, here’s the not-so-great video so you can kind of get an idea of what it sounds like. He shuts off howl just as he really gets started in the video because he happened to see me round the corner. Usually he’ll keep it up, without a break, for minutes on end.
Also, yes, that is me saying, “I don’t like you,” in the video, which sounds hateful, but it’s really just truthful. I love Max. But on days when he acts like that, making that sound every time I disappear from view, I don’t like him. I don’t like him at all. If you can like a dog on a day when he has made that noise at least ten times, including when he was inside (in his kennel, because he had already piddled on several things out of nervousness), then you are a better person than I am.
Keep in mind that the reason he was making this sound is because I walked around the corner from the kitchen and had been out of sight for nearly ninety seconds, and he was now he was in the backyard all by himself, and obviously going to die.
So, Max came with us. Kids securely strapped in, purse slung over my shoulder, dog at my side, I set off down the road in search of my local Starbucks, sexy little all-terrain wheels of the stroller transitioning smoothly from gravel to grass and back again.
About a quarter of a mile down the road I noticed that my directions were taking me out to the highway.
Well, that wasn’t going to work. There was no way I could push my stroller along on the side of a highway while semi-trucks and cars whizzed by me at highway speeds. Even if there was a bike lane (which there wasn’t), and even if Portland is very pedestrian friendly (it is), I would still die.
Turning the stroller around (look at that sweet, sexy, sharp little turn! Que magnifique!), I walked past our house again and turned down a little side street. Sure starting over added almost a half mile to the walk, but I could use the exercise, and besides—it was kind of fun getting to know my little town.
I wheeled down the beautiful little street, listening to the birdsong, breathing deep of that delicious scent of green growing things, and felt happy.
My life was awesome.
I had finally done it.
I was out of California. I was living in Oregon. I had made it out of the city and into a small town.
Life was beautiful.
About a 3/4 of a mile down the road I came out of my reverie and took a look at my cell phone map, trying to get my bearings again.
That’s when I realized that my cell phone navigation system was trying to send me down the OTHER busy highway at the end of town.
What the HECK, phone?! Why was it trying to kill me? What had I ever done to it?
I mean, what had I done to it besides drop it in the toilet? Oh, and I guess drop it on the pavement…. oh, and down the stairs… oh, and on the pavement again… and let the baby stick it in his grimy, sticky mouth…. and let the DragonMonkey play “Angwy Biwds” with his grubby little hands to keep him from throwing a fit in the store…
Well, okay. Maybe I hadn’t treated my phone that nicely, but death by highway seemed like a bit much.
Turning off into a little side street, I decided to try to circumvent the highway.
I walked past some cute little houses.
I walked past a trickling little brook.
I walked past a beautiful, green park.
I walked, and walked, and walked, and walked.
About three or so miles later, I was sweaty, and angry, tired, coffeeless, and there was still no friggin’ Starbucks in sight. Three or four miles when you’re out for some exercise by yourself is no big deal. Three or four miles when you’re exhausted, and out of shape, and you hadn’t had a single drop of coffee yet was torture. Max was dragging beside me, and the kids had been whining loudly for the last mile.
“No yike! Yet me out” whined the DragonMonkey. “I wanna go home…. I hungwy… Yet me out!”
“No, no, no, no, no…” whined the Squid, twisting in his fancy little five point harness. “No, no, no, no…”
“Just a little longer,” I said tonelessly, for the millionth time.
And then, miracle of miracles, we rounded a corner…and hallelujah, there it was, shining like a beacon of hope in the distance.
“Stawbuuuuuucks!” cried the DragonMonkey joyously.
“Yes, Starbucks!” I agreed warmly, so happy to see it that I couldn’t bring myself to care that my three year old could recognize the logo of horribly overpriced designer coffee, and what it said about me.
Tying Max in a discreet little alcove in front of a closed business next door and blocking him off with the stroller, I went inside to get the coffee, trusting that I could make it back outside before a stray dog came over and ate him or a stranger came and stole him.
Although, to be honest, with the amount of screaming he had done lately, I wasn’t entirely sure I would mind if that happened.
Five minutes later I was back outside with the boys, having splurged on a couple of snacks for them, a large coffee for myself, and two small drinks for them. With allergies to gluten, dairy, and food coloring, the DragonMonkey can’t have anything “fun”: no chocolate, doughnuts, cupcakes, candy, ice cream, or any of that good stuff, so when he begs for a “Stawbucks”, I have a tendency to give in, despite the fact that I’m paying nearly two bucks for a small cup of heated soymilk with a little vanilla flavoring.
Also, as tired and hungry as both boys were, I ended up ordering two, knowing that they would never share.
I did learn an important thing that morning:
Back in Orange County, when you are seen handing your three year old toddler and/or baby a Starbucks cup, it is viewed with a sort of tolerant amusement. Everyone kind of rolls their eyes and smiles at the sight – it’s extravagant and obviously a kind of spoiled indulgence for a kid to have their own Starbucks cup, but it’s also kind of cute.
Let me tell you something: when you are living in a small town on the outskirts of frugal Portland, it is not considered a cute little indulgence at all. Patrons walking in were doing discreet double takes at the two little boys sipping out of the Starbucks cups, eyeballing me with a vaguely horrified look of, “Spoil those kids now and you’ll pay for it later.“
After a four mile sweaty trudge to get coffee that I desperately needed from moment I woke up, I could have cared less. Bite me, I said with my own eyes back to them, too tired to care that I was making a horrible first impression in my new town. The DragonMonkey will never go to a little kid’s birthday party without having to bring his own cupcakes in a baggie, go to a Thai food restaurant and order the Pad Thai (soy sauce contains gluten), or have a beer. If he wants a “Stawbucks” and we can afford it, then I’m buying him the overpriced little cup filled with gaggy warm soymilk.
Of course, I was so tired and grumpy that I could have been reading into people’s expressions too much, so I might have just been shooting them angry glares for nothing.
About ten minutes later the boys had finished their snacks and were getting restless again. The sky, which had been ominously grey for some time, finally gave in and began to spit out rain.
I decided enough was enough, and dialed the Bean to come pick us up.
The phone rang.
And went to voicemail.
And rang again.
And went to voicemail again.
I called him several more times, but his ringer must have been off.
The rain began to ease up, and with a heavy sigh I looked back the way I had just come.
I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t go back on that stupidly-long, circuitous route home. I was tired, the boys were cranky, and I just couldn’t deal with another four miles of crying children while dragging the exhausted dog behind me.
I glanced out to the highway and chewed on the corner of my lip.
It was only 3/4 of a mile. How dangerous could it be?
In answer, a semi roared by, hugging the road’s shoulder and driving right over the spot I had just imagined myself walking.
I could see the headlines now:
But four miles…. four more miles, and in the rain this time…..
Glancing over at a little side road, I eyeballed it. If I could just make it to a little frontage road I could see about a quarter of a mile away, I would be able to make it home. Maybe I could play connect-the-dots with the parking lots and find a path that didn’t exist on Google Maps?
I headed down, crossing behind a truck yard, pushing my stroller to the far end of the parking lot.
Delighted, I found a little path through the waist-high weeds.
Well, what’s an all-terrain stroller for if you’re not willing to take it on all terrain?
DragonMonkey and the Squidgelet laughed uproariously as they bumped their way over the lumpy grass, teeth chattering as we hit hidden holes and divots in the earth. Max stepped unhappily and gingerly through the deep grass, throwing me pitiful city-dog looks the entire way.
We made it within 200 yards of the frontage road when I ran out of luck… or rather, ran into a hidden pond.
All-terrain does not include the ability to float on water, so with a heavy sigh, I had to turn back.
On the way back I noticed another little offshoot path and tried following that one…. only to find that in order to make it work I would have to walk right alongside the railroad tracks for several hundred feet.
Ten minutes later found me in front of the same, stupid Starbucks, chewing my lip again.
Pushing my stroller slowly forward, I edged it closer to the highway, and that’s when I figured it out.
Who said I had to push my stroller on the actual road? Why couldn’t I push it alongside the road, through the grass?
Giving myself a mental high-five, that’s exactly what I did.
For about a quarter of a mile it went great. Sure, the grass here in Oregon was not quite the well-trimmed grass from Southern California – it was much more rugged and beautiful. It was also about knee-length, and the wetness from the rain made for some heavy pushing, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. I only had a half a mile to go, and then I could ease onto the frontage road and be home within five minutes.
I think you can tell from my heavy use of foreshadowing that it wasn’t smooth sailing. Let me quit beating around the bush and tell you what happened:
That knee length grass got thicker.
Oh, and the side of the road became slightly sloped.
And then sorta sloped.
And then it became 45-degree-angle-REALLY-sloped.
In fact, it sloped down, right into a ditch that ran alongside the road. I have no idea how deep that ditch was, because it was filled with water – scummy, nasty looking water.
I should have turned back and walked the four miles home. If I was smart, I would have done that. It would have been a lot easier, and it definitely would have been a lot less exhausting….but I was frustrated, and irritable, and feeling sorry for myself, and all I had wanted was a simple cup of coffee, just one cup of coffee, and by-golly I’m not going to turn back one more time, even if the entire road in front of me bursts into flames.
Nobody every accused me of being not-stubborn.
The road got so sloped that the kids gradually became quieter, and quieter, and eventually I had to give up my position at the back of the stroller and start walking to the side of it, hefting the side railing up with my hands so that the wheels on the right hand side were about four inches in the air, using brute strength to keep it level enough that it could continue rolling along on the left wheels.
Usually I don’t like being 5’9″ and built like a, uh, really healthy pioneer-type-woman, for lack of a better term. I dream of being petite, tiny, delicate, and ethereal…. all those adjectives that have never, and will never be applied to me.
But you know what? Sometimes being build like a female linebacker has its upsides.
“Don’t dwop me,” said the DragonMonkey in a quiet little voice, eyeballing the steep slope that ended in the ditch filled with water.
“I”m not going to drop you,” I gritted out between my teeth, sweat dripping down into my eyes. “I’m going to kick myself when I get home,” I said, shifting my grip slightly as I continued to support about 80% of the stroller’s weight in my hands, trudging forward one labored step at a time, “But I’m not gonna drop you. You’re safe.”
DragonMonkey mulled that over for a moment. “Mama kick herself?” Wait… was this a game? Could he play, too?
“Nevermind, DM,” I panted, wiping my forehead on my shoulder. “Just sit still. We’re almost there.”
Half a mile, people.
Half a mile I carried that damn stroller in my hands, simultaneously lifting and pushing it through the dirt and the grass. It would have been hard if it had been level – having to support its weight pushed it into one of those Herculean “I-can’t-believe-I-really-managed-this” feats.
If it hadn’t been my kids in that stroller I would have happily dropped it down the hill, watched it plummet into the water, and thrown a rock at it for good measure before wiping my hands of the whole affair, even if the danged thing did cost $250 (and that’s the used price.)
Since it was my kids in that stroller, and since you’re not allowed to abandon anything that you worked really hard to push out your va-jay-jay, well, I sucked it up and I did it.
It took nearly thirty minutes to go half a mile, but I did it.
About fifty feet from the road the grass leveled out and I was able to take up my position behind the stroller again, leaning forward to shove my weight against the handlebars in order to push it through the wet, heavy grass.
My phone rang.
I ignored it.
It rang again.
Glancing down I saw it was The Bean, so I picked it up, put it to my ear, and kept pushing the stroller. I had no breath left to spare on pleasantries. If he had something to say, he could say it while I listened.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m walking.” Pant, pant, pant, pant.
“Oh. Uhhh… I saw that you called? Is everything okay?”
“It is now.” Pant, pant, pant.
“Do you need help?”
“No,” I bit out hatefully. Where was he an hour ago? I knew it wasn’t his fault, but I couldn’t help myself.
He paused, then asked, “You sure? You sound…out of breath.”
“I did need help. Not now. See you,” and I hung up the phone on him.
We arrived home about ten minutes later. The Bean greeted us at the door, all lazy, well-rested smiles. “Hey, guys! Did you have a nice walk?”
“NO.” I snapped, both Max and I pushing past him as we made our way to the kitchen to gulp down water.
Three full glasses later, I came up for air to find The Bean looking at me. “Just in case you were wondering, Starbucks is not a walkable distance from our house. Also, that stroller we got really is all-terrain. And that’s all I’m going to say about that right now.”
I walked past him to the couch and collapsed on it gratefully.
I was exhausted…. really, truly exhausted, and it was only ten in the morning.
Man… I could really use a coffee.