Monday, November 17, 2014

The F-Bomb that Never Happened

One of the aspects of life here in Madison, Wisconsin that I enjoy most is the weather. I love four, complete seasons — including, and especially, winter. 

Snow is great, cold toes are fantastic and warming up by a fire is a beautiful thing. Shoveling the driveway isn't even chore I despise completing. We got the season's first taste of winter this past weekend, when a system moved through and left a two-inch blanket of snow and frigid temps in its wake. 

Another facet of life in Madison I enjoy is the sports scene. The University of Wisconsin has great sports teams. Football. Hockey. Basketball. Even women's volleyball. They're all top notch here.

Snow: best viewed from the comfort of one's home.
The fans here are passionate but, being the commonsensical Midwesterners that they are, they keep the wins and losses in perspective. Madison has been rated America's #1 College Sports towns by a few different publications. 

It was interesting this weekend then to watch a confluence of all these features collide in a cluster of blood-boiling proportions.

Colleagues of Mrs. Blackwell's hosted a dinner Saturday evening and Mrs. Blackwell, the boy and I were all supposed pick up a friend and make our way there. 

Instead we found ourselves trapped in standstill traffic as 80,000 football fans emptied a stadium and clogged the streets trying to get home at the same time. 

Did I mention it was snowing as this was happening? It was, and Madison is home to some narrow side streets and some steep hills surrounding the stadium. 

Yes, yes, yes. It all sounds like loads of fun and, with an anxious two-and-a-half year old in the back seat, I can attest that it was. 

Actually, the boy was fine — Mrs. Blackwell and I were not. Watching as an oncoming truck squeezes between you and the cars parked on either side of you can have that effect. 

Similarly, watching cars slide sideways while trying to navigate inclines and observing other drivers make baffling, baffling decisions that only worsen the situation can also make one a bit anxious, if not a nervous wreck. (Also, there was a fire truck complete with roaring sirens added in for good measure.)

For the vast majority of this time we were simply sitting still (a frustration all its own), unable to turn around, park or otherwise take any route out of the situation, regardless of destination. 

All told, our trip was supposed to take us about ten miles, with a pit stop to pick up our friend about seven miles in. 

Now, go ahead and allow for heavy traffic and snow and what would your worst case scenario be for drive time?

If you said about 90 minutes to make it the first seven miles, you'd be correct. 

It was in the midst of this ordeal that I reflexively uttered the F-word several times. Yes, my son was in the back seat and, yes, I realize this makes me a terrible human being. But, please withhold your judgement, it gets worse.

I'm not sure how many times I said it (I'd bet about five times) but I can say with certainty that the second-to-last F-word uttered was by me. 

The honor of that final declaration goes to the boy. Upon hearing me use the word in its adjective form to describe the entirety of our situation (as in "Awww, this is all f*****!"), the boy repeated my entire sentence. 

Cutely, he replaced the "ed" ending with an "s," thus converting it into the plural noun, an apt description of some of the drivers we witnessed I thought, but still. 
The local news. When I'm behind the wheel, feel free to put
me with the resent folks. And yes, that does say 13 degrees.

No sooner did I hear the word leave his mouth than did a chill ripple through me that rivaled the temperatures outside my windshield. Terrified, I looked back at Mrs. Blackwell. Her eyes confirmed what I already knew to be true. 

"Yes, he said it."

Awkwardly, I tried to take the word back by reciting a stream of similar sounding words. "Fun" was on the tip of my tongue when Mrs. Blackwell, sensed my imminent, futile attempt and coolly stepped in. 

"It didn't happen. Just forget about it and don't draw attention to it," she said, in a tone that sounded like she was reading from a book. 

"Done and done," I thought to myself. 

I spent the next few moments observing the sweet, pristine little boy in the backseat that I was slowly polluting. There he sat, bundled in his winter gear, pudgy cheeks and a big smile on his face. And there I sat, ready at a moment's notice to ruin it all. 

About 20 minutes later we'd managed to creep into a parking spot and turned what was supposed to be picking up a friend and going to a wonderful dinner, into hanging out in said friend's house for the evening. 

Dinner was off, but a quiet night drinking a beer and not being stuck in traffic was on.

While we sat and waited out the traffic jam, I waited for the boy to repeat the word he'd heard daddy say. 

I'm pleased to report that, nearing 48 hours later I'm still waiting. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: a special thanks to our friend Sunaina who, in addition to having captivated my son's imagination for the past two years, is also a great host. If we had to be stuck anywhere I'm glad it was at your place. 

No comments: