The Wiper from Hell
Last winter we went skiing in Minocqua. It was on that trip that Sven discovered that my windshield wipers needed to be replaced. Being the frugal Norwegian that he is, he got up early the next morning, drove to Walmart and picked up a new one. "You only bought one?" I said. "Well Millie, I wasn't sure if I had the right kind," he says as he snaps it into the driver's side slot. And life went on. Just one week after my youngest son graduated from high school and just one day after his big party, Rene moved away from home. He managed to sublease a beer stained apartment for the summer, near the campus of the college that he would be attending in the fall, rather than stay home, where he could eat free home cooked meals, get free advice, listen to frogs croaking by night and the golf channel's soft clapping by day. I know. I thought the same thing. That kid must be nuts to leave all of that behind. As Rene and I drove over the railroad tracks in our station wagon chucked full of clean laundry, bedding and grocery bags, he glanced back from behind the wheel at Lodi and said, "Wow, this feels weird." I did not cry. I already did that in the grocery store. He was driving because it was just better that way. For the next eight years, every August 15th, Rene would move to yet another apartment. And no, he wasn't going to school for eight years. And no he is not a doctor, although he did recently marry an Iranian woman with a PHD in engineering. Each one of the apartments that he moved to was harder to find than the last. And not one of them came with a parking lot. "Hi Mom," he says standing next to an old wooden door at the bottom of some badly carpeted stairs, wearing a t-shirt, a pair of shorts and socks. "You need to get some shoes on," I said. "I have some groceries in the car for you." "I'm good," he says. "I can get them in my socks." "No," I don't think so." "Where are you parked?" "That's the thing Rene. I am going to forget how to get there if you don't hurry up and get some shoes on. I came through some backyards and alleys. All I know is my car is next to a really tall building in a little parking lot with a sign that says, violators will be towed." I saw his gray-green eyes flick as my words registered. "I'll be right back." He returned with untied shoes on his feet. "You should tie those," I said, as usual. "I never do," he says, as usual. Rene and R.Z. recently moved to Rochester, Minnesota. They are renting an apartment that has a parking lot. Because they love me. But you see, for every parking lot, there is a parallel in the universe that is the opposite. I am not a scientist, nor a mathematician, nor a philosopher, but I can guarantee you that in order for life to be balanced, all forms of matter must work against each other. "Okay Mom," Rene says on the phone, "Now, our address doesn't come up on GPS. But we live right by Target. So I entered Target as our address. When you guys get close to Target, call me and I will direct you in. I just sent you a text with the link." "Okay honey," I say. I hang up the phone. I type in 'directions to Target in Rochester, Minnesota' into my computer. The directions from Lodi to Target in Rochester, Minnesota come right up. I double click on it. How do you want to receive these directions, email or text? It says. "Hmmmm," I think. "I obviously must have done this before. It has my email address and my phone number. I double click on text. Sure as shootin', I receive a text with directions to Target in Rochester, Minnesota. As Sven and I pulled out of our driveway last Friday night at 5:45 PM, he says, "So you have the directions from Rene, right?" "Yep, right here in my phone," I say and hold it up. "I put the Atlas in the back seat, just in case," he says. "We won't need that," I say. It is an I-94 to I-90 drive almost the entire way anyway. I send my my sister Louisa a silly text. She happens to be hanging out at my mother's condo and her very brave son, Christophe, is house and Hunter sitting for the weekend. Louisa and I bullshit off and on as Sven and I make our way toward Rochester. We are about half way there when I click on a 'track your package' link in an email. "Shit!" I scream. "What's that matter?" says Sven. "My package was delivered at 11:34 A.M." "What package?" "A shipment of my books are sitting by our door." I look anxiously at the black thunder clouds in front of us. I turn around and I look anxiously at the black thunder clouds behind us. "Is it supposed to rain in Lodi?" "Yes." "Crap!" I send Christophe a text. "Please bring in package that is leaning by the front door before it rains." I don't hear back from Christophe. He is at work. I send Louisa a text. "My books are on the deck by the front door. I sent Christophe a text. He didn't answer. Is it raining there?" "Not yet, but it's going to. I will send him a text too." I click on the map link on my phone and I show it to Sven. "See that blue dot, right there?" "Yeah," he says. "That's us." A half an hour goes by and still no confirmation of text received by Christophe. It begins to rain. "Millie, just because it's raining here doesn't mean it's raining there," says Sven. "Jesus. What is wrong with that windshield wiper?" I say looking ahead. "My side is fine," says Sven. "Well I can't see a thing out of my window." A robotic woman says, "Warning, your destination may be closed by the time you reach it." "What is that supposed to mean?" says Sven. "Our destination is Target. They must close at nine o'clock." "Our destination is Target?" "Yeah." "Why?" "Because GPS doesn't recognize Rene's address. Don't worry. We have it covered." "We should pick up some beer pretty soon," says Sven. "We probably can't buy any after nine o'clock." "Sven, you are supposed to take the next right!" I say, looking at my phone. "We are coming into a serious situation of some loop-de-loos, here." Just then a text appears at the top of my screen and it disappears just as fast as it popped up. It was from Louisa. I click on it. "We got your books into your house safe and dry," it says. "Yay! They must have driven over to our house." "Millie, what am I supposed to be doing here?" says Sven. "I don't know. I can't get the map back up." "What does that sign say?" he says. "I don't know. I can't see anything out of this window. My windshield wiper doesn't work." I manage to get the map back on and the robot lady is talking. "Take the next right and veer right," she says. Rain is pelting down now. "Get over Sven. Turn right there!" We make it. "What do we do now?" he says. "I don't know. I had to turn her off. My phone is getting low on power." "We should stop and pick up some beer," says Sven. "It's 8:54." Why are there always orange barrels where every we go, I wonder? Well at least I can see them. "Uh-oh Sven, I think you were supposed to turn there." "Where?" "Onto 52. I know we take 52 North." He takes the next exit to turn around. "Maybe I can get back to it on this frontage road," he says. "Not according to this lady. She wants you to go back out and to go that way." "What way?" "The way we just came from." Another text flashes at me and fades away. I click on it. It was from my brother-in-law. "Got your books inside, bitch." "Where am I supposed to go now?" says Sven. "I don't know. I lost the map again when I clicked on a text from Pierre." "Would you stop looking at your texts?" He pulls into a parking lot. "What are you doing?" I am going into that grocery store to buy some beer. "Well, then I am going in there to pee," I say. Sven is standing next to the car in the rain when I get back. "Got beer?" "They don't sell beer in grocery stores in Minnesota," he says. "That is ridiculous." Sven starts to back up the car. "Wait a minute," I scream. "Where is my phone?" "Did you take it in with you?" "Maybe." I hop out of the car and run back to the sliding glass door. The sliding glass door doesn't slide. I try to push it to the right. It does not move. I try to push it to the left. It does not move. A woman is walking toward me pushing an empty shopping cart. "They close at nine," she says. "But I left my phone in there." "That sucks," she says and walks away. I bang on the glass. Three employees are walking my way. They stop. They look at each other. They know my kind. "But I just need some milk for my grandbaby!" they figured I would say. "No can do, lady. The tills are closed." "My phone," I say and I begin playing charades on the other side of the sound proof glass. "It is in the bathroom," I continue acting out the scene. They hurriedly let me in, not wanting me to pull my pants down in their parking lot. And there it was, just where I left it, sitting on top of the toilet paper dispenser, hidden from view by the silver assist bar above it. So it really wasn't all my fault. It was hard to see. Rene calls as soon as I get back into the car. "We are almost to Target," I say. "I'll call you as soon as we get there." Five minutes later, we successfully pull into the Target parking lot. "Yeehah!" "We are here," I tell Rene. "Where?" "We are parked right in front of Target." "Okay, so go back out of the lot and you will see an I-Max theatre. Our apartment complex is kitty corner from it. Do you see it?" "Where are we supposed to go?" says Sven, while Rene is talking in my other ear. "Go back out to the road. We have to look for an I-Max." Sven and his Norwegian foot are driving at five miles an hour. It is black, it is wet and it is very blurry out. "I don't see an I-Max," he says. "I don't see anything," I say. Rene is still on the other end, listening. "Mom, do you see a big apartment complex? "No." "Hey, there is a liquor store," says Sven. "And it's open." He pulls in and jumps out of the car. "So you are at Apollo Liquor," says Rene. "No. It's Andy's Liquor." "Andy's Liquor?" "Yeah." I hear Rene say something to R.Z. and then he is back on the phone. "Mom, did you click on the link that I sent you?" "You sent me a link?" "Yes, I sent you a link with the directions to Target." "Well, um, I looked it up myself, honey." There was a long pause on the other end of the line. "Maybe you should click on that link that I sent you. I think you might be at the wrong Target." "There is more than one Target in Rochester? How big is this town?" "It's a city, Mom." "Okay. I will. But, I better do it real quick because my battery is low." "Did you bring your charger?" "Yeah." "Plug it in." "I can't, unless I go inside someplace. Maybe I could go and plug it in for a little bit in the liquor store." Another pause. Sven comes back to the car with some Corona under his arm. "So what's the scoop?" he says. How should I break this to him? I wonder. I look at my phone. I look at my sweet Sven. My Sweet Sven does not look that sweet. "I think you should talk to Rene," I say and I pass my phone over to the guy with the only working windshield wiper in the car. "No," I hear him say. "It's definitely Andy's Liquor. No. No. No, I don't see that. No, not an I-Max. No. I don't see that either. There's a Kwik Trip coming up." Sven is driving at a snail's pace as he talks into my phone and cars are passing us on the left and on the right. He pulls into Kwik Trip. He hangs up the phone. He hands it to me. "What are we doing?" "They are coming here to get us." A little after ten o'clock, we saw another Target. It looked a lot like the other one. We saw an I-Max theater and an Apollo Liquor Store. So Rene was not making these places up. We parked our car in their parking lot. We toured their new apartment. We clinked together a couple of bottles of Corona over a granite topped island. And after a few laughs, we called it a night. We had the weekend in front of us. It was a great one. If you have never had the chance to see the animated series, Archer, or the stand up acts of Jim Gaffigan or Maz Jobrani, or had a smoothy made by R.Z. or an Egg McRene with bacon instead of sausage after seeing two people made for each other search for sausage that neither one ever bought, or a have a hot cup of café au lait from Steamers, or eaten at Rojo Hefe, or seen your son and his wife repot your two new grand-plants, or relaxed in a hot tub, or blew up a bed with adults laying on it, then you have not laughed hard enough, lived long enough and you obviously have never been to Rochester, Minnesota. If you would like directions, I can send you the link. By the way. The return trip was really short. "When will you be home?" says the text from my brother-in-law. "Two minutes," I answer. And then one and a half minutes later, we see Sven's truck pull out of our driveway, and drive past us, with a trailer attached. "Who's trailer is that?" I say to Sven. "I don't know," he answers. "Well, I guess I'm going to take your car to the dump and to the store." "Okay. But don't forget about Iris' dance recital." "Of course not," he says. I unpack. I take a shower. I call my mom. "I will be there at 1:30 to pick you up," I tell her. "Okay," she says. At ten after one, I call Sven. "Yeah?" he says. "Where are you?" "I'm at the grocery store." "Well if you aren't home in ten minutes, I'm going to take Pierre's car to pick up my mom to go to the dance recital." "I'm heading to the checkout now." Pierre walks in the door. "I hope it's okay that I borrowed Sven's truck. Do you want me to park it in the garage?" "No. If Sven doesn't get back here in five minutes, I'm taking his truck to the dance recital. And thanks for bringing my books inside." "No problem, B.I.," he says. On Tuesday I received a text from Louisa. "Did you ever get that wiper replaced?" "Get serious," I answer.