Monday, November 15, 2010

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

I woke up on Saturday morning to the first snowfall of the season. The ground was covered in a thick blanket of white, and some of the largest snowflakes I had ever seen were billowing from the sky. I was overjoyed. I opened all the blinds and immediately began dancing around and singing. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..." As the kids woke up one by one, I excitedly shuffled each of them to the front door as they rubbed their eyes to show them the gorgeous snow covering the ground. They were as thrilled as I was. We whooped and hollered and sang "Walking in a winter wonderland..." Ruanita, once again the lone voice of reason in the house, shuddered and rolled her eyes at us.

I quickly dressed and prepared to head to Target to do our twice monthly grocery shopping. Ruanita suggested I wait and do it on Sunday instead due to the weather. However, being the hearty Minnesotan I have transformed myself into in recent years, I scoffed at the mere mention of changing plans because of a little snow. Besides, Target had Diet Pepsi's on sale Saturday. They would no longer be on sale by Sunday. So we made out our grocery list. I grabbed my environmentally-friendly reusable shopping bags and headed to the car.

I almost fell exactly three times on the way to the car. I am a Ralph. People in my family have the uncanny ability to find the single flake of snow that has attached itself to the ground, slip on it, and bust our butts. Grace is simply not a gift that God has bestowed upon the Ralph children. Despite a good deal of slipping and sliding, however, I made it to the car. When I was dancing around the house joyously singing, it never occurred to me that I would actually have to clean off the car.

First and foremost, I had to dig out the ice scrapers. They had been nestled all snug in the trunk of the car since May. As soon as I opened the trunk, the huge pile of snow on the back window slid down and landed square on top of the bags and boxes of Christmas presents we had bought for the children and had yet to smuggle in the house from the trunk of the car. I envision some pretty warped packages come Christmas morning. I soaked myself practically climbing into to the truck to reach for the ice scrapers that were firmly planted at the very back of the trunk. I proceeded to brush and scrape the snow and ice, only to find that my windshield was frozen on the inside as well as the outside. So I sat in the drivers' seat and scraped the inside of the window, blanketing myself in white ice and snow. By the time I actually pulled the car away from the curb, I was pretty much drenched from head to toe.

I turned on Christmas music to set the mood for my romp in the snow. 102.9 Lite FM is already playing their 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a week Christmas music. Ruanita will not let me listen to it when we are in the car together, but Saturday, I threw all caution to the wind. I was a rebel. I drove to Target bouncing around to the Ronnettes(?) singing "Sleigh bells ring. Are you listening..." I drove in the slow and cautious manner that, although initially completely antithetical to my instincts, I have become acclimated to in my years in Minnesota. I quickly discovered that my 2010 Toyota Camry is probably the worst car I have ever driven in the snow. Isn't a Camry supposed to be the be-all and end-all of family sedans? That's why we bought it. Perhaps in warmer climates it a precision machine, but certainly not in the great Northland. The tires had exactly zero grip on the road. I slid to the left. I slid to the right. I did the hokey pokey and turned myself around. My anti-lock brakes, though I know they are technologically advanced, made that hideous grinding noise that drives me batty ever single time I touched the brakes. Minneapolis, after slicing municipal budgets yet again, had not cleaned a single flake of snow from the streets. And all of the street lights were out. For those of you who do live in Minneapolis, you should understand that the street lights in Minneapolis go out anytime the weather is anything but seventy degrees and sunny. A single flake of snow...a drop of rain...a slight gust of wind...all of these can easily knock out the street lights in the entire city. And the city is populated by morons who do not understand how to manage a four-way stop. The prevailing wisdom here is stop when you want to stop and go when you want to go. There is no attention paid to who arrived at the four-way stop first. No...rather than waiting until their turn to go, the fine, upstanding residents of Minneapolis simply take their turn whenever and wherever they choose. As if that were not bad enough, when it IS their turn, those same lovable Minneapolitans look at you with a frustrated expression on their face and wave you if you were holding them up. is your turn, you simpleton! I know how to manage a four-way stop! Do not wave at me, twit!

Anyway...despite my car's less than stellar performance and the residents of Minneapolis' attempts to drive me mad, I did eventually make it to Target. I should explain something here. When I do my twice monthly shopping, I have to make two trips inside the store. Target's shopping carts are not large enough to hold all of my groceries and all of my household items (toilet paper, paper towels, etc) and all of my personal hygiene items (shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc) and all of my medicinal purchases (Advil for me, Mirilax for Nicky, Claritin for Ruanita, princess gummy vitamins for Sophie, etc) and all of the various and sundry items that I do not need, but that find their way into my cart in Target. So I make two trips. I purchase all of my non-food items first. I check out and take those items to the car. I then come back in the store and purchase all of my groceries. Yes...that's what happens when you have a family of five.

So I walked around Target for an hour or so looking at all the pretty things I did not need. I perused the Christmas displays. Debated buying Christmas wrapping paper, but decide it was too early. Besides, Ruanita had already rolled her eyes at me once that morning. I didn't need a second rolling. I eventually finished all of my shopping and headed to the checkout. When I as paying for my cart full of non-food necessities (and a few non-essential but thoroughly adorable treasures), my mom called me. I didn't answer my cell because I was paying at the time. When I finished checking out, and before I braved the elements again, I called my mom back. In typical fashion, she did not answer her cell phone despite having just called me one minute prior. I tried again. No luck, so I gave up. I wrapped my hoodie sweatshirt around myself (in my smugness over my ability to handle the snow, I had forgotten to put on an appropriate coat), and headed out into the blowing and twirling snow.

For those of you that have never tried pushing a full shopping cart through six inches of snow in an un-plowed Target parking lot, I suggest you give it a whirl. I shoved. I heaved. I kicked. I growled. My glasses were so coated in snow that I couldn't even see where I was going. My tennis shoes (again, didn't think to put on appropriate snow boots) were completely drenched. As a matter of fact, every inch of me was soaking wet by the time I made it to my car. About that time, my mom called me back. I didn't answer. She called me again. I didn't answer again. I finally got everything shoved into the car, the shopping card dutifully put away in the cart corral, and I headed back into Target for a second round of fun.

When I finally made my way back to the warm building, my hair was so wet it looked as though I had just finished taking a shower. The water was dripping down my forhead and off the end of my nose. My glasses instantly fogged up. My shoes squeaked loudly on the floor. A woman I passed smiled at me and said, "I was hoping the weather reporters would get it wrong this time like they usually do." No such luck. I grabbed my phone from the recesses of my saturated sweatshirt pocket and dialed my mom's number to find out what emergency prompted her to call me incessantly as I wrestled the shopping cart in the cold parking lot.

She answered the phone and said, "I think your daughter stole my seam riper."
"When you were at my house the other day, she was playing with it. Now I can't find it."
"Your seam ripper?"
"Yea. It was on the table by my sewing machine."
"Mom, Sophie didn't take your seam ripper. What would she want with a seam ripper? She doesn't even know what a seam ripper does!"
"Well, I can't find it anywhere. If you find it, let me know."
"Ok. Bye. I can't talk. I am wet and crabby. We will discuss your seam ripper later."

I finished my grocery shopping and headed back out into the snow-covered parking lot for the final time. This time, my grocery cart nearly tipped over as I shoved it through the snow. I stood helpless as my cart teetered on two wheels. I am afraid that would have put me over the edge. I imagine I would have left my hundreds of dollars worth of groceries to freeze on the pavement as I stalked away. Luckily, I managed to right my cart before all of the contents actually spilled. I resumed my torturous trek to my car. I put the groceries in the car, again pushing, pulling, and shoving the cart back into the cart corral. I then walked around the to the drivers' side to get into my car.

Now please know that I am not one who typically throws around the F word. Actually, I rarely say it at all. I am more of a "dammit" kind of girl. As a matter of fact, Ruanita (who curses like a sailor) has told me on numerous occasions that I just can't pull off the F word. I don't have enough venom, apparently. However, on Saturday morning, when I approached my drivers' side door, I am sure every person in the Target parking lot (and perhaps the adjoining Home Depot parking lot) heard me yell, "Are you fucking kidding me?!?"

Some jerk in his ten-foot-tall SUV parked exactly 6 inches from my driver's side door. Those of you who know me are aware that I am a little bit thicker than six inches. I stood there dumbfounded looking at the door. I thought I could probably get my arm up to the elbow into an opening of six inches, but that's about it. I opened my door, fighting the intense urge to slam it into the SUV next to me. I turned sideways and tried to wedge my body through the opening and into my front seat. It was a tight squeeze. As I am not yet forty years old, I have never had a mammogram, but I think I now have a better understanding of the procedure. My chest was flatter than it had been since I was eleven years old. But I did it. I managed to squeeze myself into the front seat of my car. I began to let out a triumphant little "Woot!" when I looked up and saw that the front windshield was covered in snow. I tried using my windshield wipers, but the snow was too heavy and my weak little Camry windshield wipers only whined. I had no choice.

Again, I cursed most crudely and pried myself back out of the car. My feet slipped out from under me as I squeezed through the door and I found myself almost sliding under the giant ten-foot tall SUV. Again, I fought the urge to beat the door of the SUV with my ice scraper. Would I get caught? Would anyone see me? If they did see me, would they even bother reporting such an obviously justifiable act of rectitude? I mulled this over while I cleaned my windshield. I eventually opted NOT to attack the SUV parked next to me. I was soaked to the bone and freezing cold. Though I wanted to destroy that SUV, my desire to get dry and warm was greater. So I squeezed myself back into the car and put the car in reverse. I turned to pull out of my parking spot, only to find that my back windshield was covered in ice and snow. Are you freaking kidding me?!? This was NOT comical at all. My life was beginning to feel like a Tim Burton movie in all its absurdity. I completely expected Johnnie Depp to suddenly come traipsing out of Target decked in full Mad Hatter regalia. I squeezed myself out of the car a third time to clean the back window. I then backed out of my parking spot, being only moderately cautious about hitting pedestrians, and began my trek home.

As I pulled out of that heinous Target parking lot, I flipped on the radio. It began blaring Bing Crosby's rendition of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." I quickly changed the station. Bite me, Bing! I am not dreaming of a white anything!


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