The truth is, I was exhausted...both mentally and physically.
I had just started my new job in Jacksonville and I was living in temporary housing with 2 small kids and a homesick baby sitter. Dave was back in Wisconsin. Every day I'd leave the house at 6:30 a.m. and return at 6:30 p.m. bringing 2 hours of work to do at home that night.
It was my birthday, and I decided to take the kids to Chuck E Cheese for dinner. (They serve beer). In my weakened mental and physical state that evening, I let 7-year old Kimmy take 10-month old Linda into the Chuck E Cheese rat maze.
Once a child enters the Chuck E Cheese petri dish of fun, it's nearly impossible to locate them again. Sure, there are some small plastic windows on the side of some tubal ports, but they are completely gunked up with --- well, let's not think about what it might be.
Which makes it difficult to locate your kids when you're ready to leave... unless you are bold enough to enter the hamster tube yourself.
I was wearing shorts. Crawling over hard plastic on bare knees may not be as painful as a root canal, but it's close. The further I traveled into the maze, the hotter and steamier it became. And the noise was deafening. Kids enjoy this? The smell inside the tubes was nauseating - a mixture of pizza, sweat, and feet. When I turned the corner into the blue wing I realized too late that I was crawling through a pool of vomit.
I nearly added to the inventory.
I finally found the girls and practically had to apply a crow bar to remove Linda from the apparatus.
I must step back for a minute and mention that I have never experienced a child who could out-cry Linda. Her crying was ear piercing...actually deafening. In fact, it's a shame we didn't live in Japan. She would have been a slam dunk in any sumo wrestling baby shaking contest.
I got the girls in the car. I slimy. I was sweaty. I was fantasizing about taking a shower. And Linda was screaming in the back seat. In fact she was wailing so loudly, I almost didn't notice the police car attempting to pull me over in Orange Park.
CRAP! I pulled over into the Orange Park Race Track parking lot. When the police officer asked me for my driver's license I discovered that I'd left it in our temporary apartment. DOUBLE CRAP!
I then proceeded to tell him the biggest sob story ever about my sad life: how I had moved down to Jacksonville with 2 small kids to start a new job and that my husband was 1,000 miles away trying to sell our house. The officer fell for it hook line and sinker. That is, until I got to the part about how Linda had been screaming her lungs out in the car.
He looked in the back seat and Linda, damn her, was laughing at the police lights.
I know it was wrong. But desperate times call for desperate measures. While the police office went back to his car to look up my name and address on some Inter-State-DMV database, I gave Linda my keys to play with. When I saw him coming back to my car I snatched them away from her.
You see, the police officer needed a demonstration.
And Linda did not let me down. She began to howl. The policeman said something to me and I replied loudly, "I can't hear you! What did you say?" He shouted some words I couldn't hear over Linda's howling.
I got out of the car in order to hear the officer. Since I couldn't leave poor Linda in the car, I took her out, too (dangling my keys in front of her face before shoving them back in my pocket.) Through Linda's screams I heard the policeman inform me that, not only was I speeding, but I was driving with an expired license. (My license had expired on my birthday.)
That made Kimmy cry. I let the tears well up in my eyes as well. We were quite a sight.
The officer looked at me, then at Linda and Kimmy and said, "I think you have your hands full."
I nodded, pathetically. "I sure do."
He gave me a verbal warning. Bless him.
Did I feel guilty? Nah. He was right! I did have my hands full.
And dried puke on my knees.