From “You Might As Well Laugh”

By Sandi Kahn Shelton

I don’t want to sound like one of those people who blames her mother for everything, but the fact is I’ve had five major car disasters in one week. And my mother was visiting from Florida.

You can’t just ignore a coincidence like that.

I don’t know how my automotive life got all tangled up with my mother’s visit, but trust me. It happened.

I should have suspected something when, as her plane touched down on the runway, the sky immediately turned black, an Oz-type wind whipped up, and by the time I was lugging her two massive, lead-filled suitcases to the car, I had to dodge lightning bolts and leap over lakes.

We left the airport in a blinding rain—so blinding, in fact, that the first highway sign I could actually read said, “Welcome to Massachusetts.”

Mothers can be touchy about these kinds of mistakes, you know. An incident like this can often remind them of the time you dropped a plate into a neighbor’s washing machine during the spin cycle, or when you were learning to drive and ran out of gas four times in one week.

But my mother stayed cheerful, even when it took 30 minutes to find a place to turn around. She said she’d always wanted to see Massachusetts anyway.

So I thought we had dealt with our mother/daughter/car issues, but later that night, a nice man rang our doorbell to announce Disaster No. 2. He’d come along, he said, in time to see some kids running away from our car. When you live in a city, that’s never a good sign.

Sure enough, the lock on the driver’s side had been permanently jammed. The choices, as my mechanic has explained it, are: pay $85, or climb into the driver’s seat through the passenger-side door.

In spite of the fact that I opted for the difficulties or climbing through the passenger-side door, more Fun with Cars was lurking. This is against my personal theory of Life Problems, you understand, which requires that one problem be completely solved before the next one comes along.

But the next one came anyway, in the form of tow trucks and parking tickets. We’d gotten so caught up in the lock-jamming problem that we neglected to move the cars in time for the street-sweeping event—which was being held at the crack of dawn in honor of my mother’s visit, no doubt.

“This is a very precarious time,” I whispered to my husband. “Odd forces are at work here. We must be very careful of our car keys.”

He gave me a strange look—and an even stranger one six hours later when he arrived at the shopping center to rescue us.

My keys had simply vanished.

They weren’t in the video store, where we had spent 45 minutes browsing, nor were they anywhere in the department store, where we had tried on skirts, purses, shoes, hats, jewelry and jackets for the rest of the afternoon.

My husband said what husbands always say at times like this: “Did you look in your purse?”

I didn’t say that to him 24 hours later when his keys were missing.

We searched for over an hour—and then because it was MY mother who was visiting and not his, the universe decided to give his keys back to him.

I found them tucked underneath the back seat of his car, hiding behind a kid’s book and a granola bar. Never mind that there was no possible way they could have gotten there. No one holding those keys had been near the back seat in days.

Still, it was inspiring to think that a lost object could actually return from the other side, so I called the video store and the department store yet again. I had barely said hello when the woman sighed and said, “Look. You have to stop calling us. We. Don’t. Have. Your. Keys.”

We were making arrangements to replace the keys—and get some extra sets—when another tornado-laden thunderstorm blew in suddenly, forcing the entire family to take cover.

It wasn’t until after it had gone that we remembered the car windows.

The seats were swamps.

But my mother was great about sitting on layers of towels to go back to the airport.

Given how things were going, I think she was just relieved we didn’t have an accident on the way to the plane.

And when I got home, safe and sound, the department store called. They had found my keys.