Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Municipal Meat Market?

I just got back from a really bizarre experience at the public library. For no reason at all, I was, for several strange and quiet hours, a huge man magnet.

Mind you, I am 39, wearing Crocs, and need a haircut. I am no dog, thank you very much, but the amount of attention I just stirred up borders on the ridiculous.

On my way in, a nice-looking, spectacled man held the door for me and then winked when I thanked him. I have not been winked at since the 80’s. Unfazed, I found my way to an open seat and got to the business of setting up my laptop. When I looked up, the guy sitting kiddy-corner to me lit up like the 4th of July. In hushed tones, he babbled something to me about someone having just vacated that spot. I though he meant maybe that person was planning to come back. When I asked if I should leave, he quickly corrected himself and said “Oh no! No! It’s perfect that you’re here!”

It is?

Somewhat fazed now, I dove into working on my website, occasionally stealing glances at Mr. Enthusiasm to see if he seemed unbalanced in some other significant, possibly dangerous way. About 45 minutes later, he got involved in a conversation with some friend of his who happened by. At the end of the conversation, Mr. Enthusiasm apologized for the disturbance, explaining that he was Canadian. This was sort of confusing, but at least I could be sure he was harmless.

Later, I asked him where the ladies’ restroom was, which I realize now was probably unfairly leading him on. But I had to go. On my walk to and from the restroom, I received no fewer than three chin nods, each from different men. Granted, one of them was about 18 so he doesn’t really count, but since when are people handing out the flirty chin nod at the public library? When I returned to my table, Mr. Enthusiasm asked me if the restroom was still there. It was.

As he departed, Mr. Enthusiasm introduced himself and asked that next time I came to the library could I please stop by to say hello? Well, yes, I suppose I could do that.

An hour or two later, on my way to the car, I had to drop some napkins in the trash and sure enough there was a man there too. This was a different spectacled man and he looked up, smiled brightly and said “Hello!” My brilliant, sex-kitten response was “Hi there!”

Now, I am quite happily married and therefore not in the market for a man, spectacled or not. But let me say that if you are in the market, you really should consider your local public library. If you pick up a man there, at least you know he can probably read.

Crabbie the Sandbox

We thought we were cool, but then Crabbie moved in.

When my Esposo and I were expecting our daughter, I was dead set against collecting a lot of tacky, functional plastic stuff that would make our home look like a play pen. We would be two adults with one child, after all, not Romper Room.

Then the Pod of Peas arrived, and the moment she discovered that squealing could spur immediate action, however, my resolve started to erode an eentsy bit. We needed a bottle rack for the kitchen, a purchase I rationalized by noting the immediate uptick in our household’s bottle drying efficiency.

Then when Peapod could support some weight on her legs, it seemed only fair that she should have some sort of standy-uppy-thing in which she could safely poke, pull, spin and yank stuff to her heart’s desire while we marinated the chicken. So we got The Entertainer by Baby Einstein, which is plastic and quite large, but we convinced ourselves that it was cool in its own way. I have nothing to back this up, but I suspect that the entertainer was the item that started us down this slippery, plastic slope. Inexplicably, I have absolved the bottle rack.

Slowly, we began to acquire select, practical, plasticy baby things at the exact same rate that we fell into the habits of getting to bed at the same time as our 95-year-old next-door neighbor, never seeing movies, and eating dinner at 6:30. The wooden, shaker-inspired high chair of my pregnant dreams dissolved into the plastic, easy-to-clean, safe high chair of my real life. The ‘Lounge Lizard’ iPod playlist fell to the wayside, replaced by “Goodnight, Baby!” and “Sesame Street Sings the Alphabet.” Yet I remained steadfastly in denial.

Eventually, summer came and everyone got sweaty, which was apparently enough to motivate the purchase that would bury our illusions of being hip and cool, once and for all.

Peapod, who seemed a little miffed to discover that sticky salt water can somehow seep out of her pores, lacked enthusiasm for her first heat wave, so The Esposo and I figured we should get her a kiddie pool. But it had to meet several parameters before it would be welcomed into our backyard. First, it had to have a cover, so that weird, slick-bodied night-slugs wouldn’t check into it as their moist, miniature Holiday Inn. Second, it had to be usable as a sandbox in the non-summer months, which in turn underscored the need for a cover: it was important to avoid inadvertently hosting some dope neighborhood litter box for unsupervised cats. Third, it had to somehow be cool. And there it was, the mother of all challenges: to locate and purchase a hip kiddie pool.

After much online research and comparative shopping, my intrepid Esposo found Crabbie the Sandbox. Cue the singing angels! Crabbie was, well, shaped like a crab and had two giant bubble-eyes that appeared to stare out into space, suggesting that perhaps this was the sort of crab who listened to Linkin Park and liked to smoke pot after work. He also had a cover, was billed as both a sandbox and a kiddie pool, and, according to several male online reviewers, could be filled with ice and beer at parties. The case rested.

We packed the sweaty baby into the car and ventured deep into the San Gabriel Valley to the nearest Toys R Us. We sauntered into the store, assuming we’d grab the crab and vamoose, but were immediately sidelined by a wall of shimmering plastic pool toys. Neither of us had any idea that there existed so many gadgets that could be squirted, tossed, splashed, bubbled, paddled and/or floated. Certainly Peapod would have way more fun if we accessorized Crabbie with some plastic goodies! Our daughter casually ignored the plastic toys we thrust at her in favor of the boring yellow laminated shelf tags. We spent an hour debating the merits of various foam noodles, squirty seahorses, bubble makers and plastic sailboats while our baby dozed off, smiling and clutching the dusty top to an old Bic pen, the origin of which remains unknown.

When we arrived back at the car, it took about 45 seconds to realize that Crabbie was not going to fit. No problemo! We could put the cover in the car and strap the base to the roof. It was now sweltering hot, with waves of heat visibly wafting off the blacktop parking lot surface. Peapod had morphed into a drowsy Vampira, meekly protesting each time the blistering sun would poke its way under her stroller canopy. To alleviate this, I strapped her into her car seat, started the engine running to activate the A/C and got back to the work of helping Sweaty Esposo tame the bungee cords. Ten minutes later, my hair was matted to my neck and we were on our way.

We got at least a mile and a half before we heard an ominous “scccrrraaaape….THUMP!” and realized that Crabbie had blown off the roof. I couldn’t see out the back because Crabbie’s lid was obscuring the entire rear window, but the panic on Esposo’s face assured me that our cargo had been ejected.

“What’s our plan?” He barked from the driver’s seat.

“I’ll jump out and get Crabbie. You pull into the median and I’ll meet you there!”

I popped out and dashed off after Crabbie, who had settled about a hundred yards away, smack in the middle of two lanes of the freeway access road. A car approached at land-speed-record pace. I waved frantically to get the driver, who was talking on her cell phone, to veer her Range Rover away from my rogue plastic kiddie pool. Disaster averted, I snagged Crabbie and scampered triumphantly back to the median, where my partners in crime waited with the hazards on. It was now 100 degrees and Vampira was sound asleep in the backseat, nonplussed by the events swirling about her. We left her there in the breeze of the lukewarm A/C and got to work re-fastening Crabbie. This took another 15 minutes, left a touch of sunburn on my forearms and smeared sweat streaks down my back.

At last we arrived home. Our neighbors, parents of adult children, grinned knowingly as we pulled into our driveway with a giant, scraped-up crab tethered to the roof of our car.

“Kiddie pool?” they asked, their eyes sparkling with delight as they watched from their tidy, child-free porch.

“Yeah, for the Pod of Peas,” I responded, gesturing to the motionless, sweet pile of baby drooling on my shoulder. They nodded, with expressions that looked more like pity than admiration “Enjoy…” they added with a wave.

We dragged Crabbie into place, filled him with water and slathered our baby with blobs of sunscreen. The Esposo, sporting swim trunks, a baseball cap and a huge Daddy-smile, made sure all the new pool toys were at the ready. The big moment had arrived!

Each parent sat on a claw-shaped seat molded into the side of the pool and we eased our baby girl into the chilly, shallow waters. We watched and waited, poised at the edge of our claw-seats for a reaction. She loved it. I mean she loved, loved it. She splashed and gasped and kicked her chubby little feet in delight. We couldn’t have done better if we’d taken her to the spa at the Waldorf Astoria. It was then that I looked up and realized that our home had turned into a playpen. It was also then that I realized that I liked my life better that way. How cool is that?