Late last week, my knee started to blow up. A small sea of synovial fluid sloshed over my patella. It looked like my knee had gotten a breast implant. I wasn’t exactly proud of how gross it looked, but I wasn’t ashamed either. I wore shorts all Memorial Day weekend. My daughter and her friends were fascinated. My wife, Judy, was not.
She threatened me. “If you don’t have that looked at first thing Tuesday morning, no more under-the-table handjobs at restaurants,” she said. So of course, given these terms, I was happy to turn off my screens for the day and head down to the doctor’s office.
The doctor doesn’t take appointments. I pulled into the lot and observed a batch of impatient looking Medicare types through the glass waiting room window. Many of them looked hungry. I felt like I would feed them if I only had food. Anyway, I smiled at the desk girl who never smiles at me. A three-hour wait. I put my name on the waiting list and decided to do a few chores.
First, I had to get some gasoline. Regular was $4.25 a gallon. I wasn’t disgusted, as you might expect. I was thrilled. I smiled at the lady filling up her Excursion next to me. She didn’t see me. Her eyes were fixed on her phone. She was texting.
My pump wasn’t starting. The screen where normally it tells you to slide your card read, “Pump Busy.”
Normally, I’d just head to another pump, but they were all filled. I had never pressed that little “assistance” button on the pump, so I decided to give it a shot.
At first, the female voice was somewhat professional and reassuring sounding.
“Hello, you having some sort of problem?” she asked.
“Yes, it says ‘Pump Busy’ and it won’t let me pump,” I said.
“Whaaaaa?” she said. I heard some commotion in the background. Maybe laughter.
Jesus Fucking Christ, I thought. Here we go. I repeated what I said.
“What pump you at?” she asked.
I looked for a number. There was no number.
“Hell-LOW?” What pump you at?” she asked again.
I just wanted gasoline. I wanted to pay $4.25 for a fucking gallon of gasoline so I could drive my sorry ass back to the fucking doctor’s office and wait 3 hours so I could get this death fluid drained from my kneecap. I wanted to drive around so I could feel like I was being productive. I wasn’t trading, I had to get something done. I was here looking for fulfillment.
“I CAN’T FIND THE NUM-BER!” I shouted back.
I looked up and realized that the woman across from me, the one who was (still) filling the Excursion was looking at me. She thought I was talking to myself. For whatever reason, I felt I had to explain myself to her.
“I’m not talking to myself, I’m talking to this button on the pump,” is exactly what I said. She didn’t say a word. She smiled weakly, finished pumping and then slowly backed her way into her truck all the while keeping her eyes fixed on me. She left.
I chuckled to myself. I attract absurdity and confusion.
“What’s funny?” said the voice from the pump. And then, “What pump you at?”
“There was this lady,” I said, laughing now. “I can’t find the number.”
There was a long pause. “I see you’re at pump #4. It says it’s working fine.”
And indeed, I looked at the screen and it was now working fine.
“Thanks for your help,” I said to no one in particular.
I drove home. The guys who are building this monstrous pool house on my neighbor’s property all know me now. I pulled in the driveway and they waved. “What’s up, Chico?” I said. I went to the door and found that my house key wasn’t on my keyring.
I vaguely recalled removing it a few weeks back. I guess it hasn’t been an issue because Judy has been home all the time with our new kid. But today they had a doctor’s appointment. I was a bit concerned about how it might seem to the pool house people if I just walked up to my door, fumbled around with my keys and then didn’t get inside, so I decided to let them in on the situation.
“Ha! I’m locked out!” I yelled over to them.
They waved back. I don’t think they speak much English.
“Okay, bye Chico!” I said. I pretended to look closely at some fungus growing at the base of a tree. Then I touched a piece of siding on my garage. A quick glance over at Chico assured me they were back to nailing up siding. I slid back to my car.
I drove to a friend’s house who has our spare key. After all, I lock myself out more than you’d think probable. There was an unfamiliar car in the driveway which I assumed belonged to their housekeeper. I knocked on the door. No answer. They leave their back door open and have always told me, “If we’re not home, just go in and get your key.” And so that’s what I did. I opened the gate to their backyard and walked in, quite comfortably, mind you. We’re good friends and I’m at their house at least once a week.
There was a woman in their pool swimming with my friend’s 2 year old daughter, Pearl. The woman was attractive. A babysitter. I didn’t know who she was. “Oh!” she gasped. She brought Pearl closer to her.
Minus the kid, this had all the makings of a really good porn scene. Of course, that’s not how it went down.
“Hi!” I waved. Then, for whatever reason, I introduced myself, first and last name. I’m not sure why. I’m sure that made her think I was some sort of salesman. I explained myself. “I’m locked out. I’m friends with Nick and Susan. My key is in a drawer in their kitchen. Can I go get it?”
She ignored me and addressed Pearl. “Do you know this man?”
Now, I have a playful sarcastic way with kids. I joke around. I tell them little lies. Just last week, I had told this same kid who was looking at me now, that I had a pet bear in my garage.
Pearl gave a very serious look at me and shook her head “No.”
The babysitter looked back at me. The strap from her bikini top was sliding off her shoulder a bit. “You can’t go in. I don’t know you, Pearl doesn’t know you, and no one told me you’d be coming by.” she said.
“Yeah, well, I didn’t exactly plan on locking myself out…“ I paused. Sarcasm wasn’t going to get me anywhere. In fact, in a second, she’d probably call the police. I tried to reason with her. “Look,” I said. “I don’t want to put you in an uncomfortable position, but I need to get into my house. Why don’t we just call Susan?”
The girl had very nice breasts. You know how when you’re trying so hard not to stare directly at something but your eye sort of jumps there anyway? I think that happened, like at least a few times in a matter of 10 seconds. The awkwardness level was quickly rising. The woman looked at me suspiciously. I started feeling suspicious myself!
“You have her number?” she said. “Sure, call her.”
“I don’t have a phone,” I said.
The girl looked over at her phone, a few feet away over on a table. I could tell she didn’t want to exit the pool dripping wet so some strange dude could check out her body, but there was really no choice. She got out of the pool, quickly made for her phone and texted my friend.
I decided to take this opportunity to joke with the kid. “Pearl, you know me! Next time I come over for dinner, I’m gonna get you!”
“No!!!” she screamed. “Don’t get me!!!” She started to cry.
The babysitter looked at me. “Yeah, you’re definitely not getting inside.”
I heard a car pull up in the driveway behind me. It was Judy.
“Chico told me you were locked out,” she said. “I thought you’d be here.”
She looked over at the babysitter, dripping wet in a bikini and then back at me. She frowned.
Pearl held out her arms and yelled, “Judy!”
Judy and the babysitter started chatting. An easiness descended upon the situation. Clearly, it was time for me to leave.
It was safer for me to chill with the Medicare people in the waiting room. I drove back to the office and waited 2 hours before I could get my knee drained. The doctor removed 30 ccs of synovial fluid. He told me it was the perfect lubricant.
I couldn’t help myself. I tried a joke. “If only I could cover my body in the stuff it might be easier for me to get my chores done!”
He didn’t laugh.