I'd broken a sweat already, turning the pool chairs so they faced the dewy green of some spectacular hole on the resort golf course, putting down the big beach umbrella so we'd get some early sun and have some cover later. It was nine-thirty in the morning in the glorious hills outside Austin, Texas. My friend Tammy and I had sought a quick getaway for the long May weekend. We'd already established that there were going to be far too many children there (we both love our own, but when we need to rejuvenate, screaming toddlers aren't exactly what the doctor ordered) but had decided we'd get in some pool time until we couldn't stand it any more.
Tammy had just arrived with coffee when a woman stormed up. "These are my chairs!!! I put towels out on five of them--one, two, three, four, five--at eight-thirty this morning so no one would take them!! I. Am. Here. With. MY. Family!!" She looked at her husband and rolled her eyes towards me. "The resort doesn't put the towels out for you. You have to be out here early, taking care of it." She clucked her tongue at my deeply boorish behavior.
At moments like this, experience must override instinct. If I'd actually looked at her, I honestly might have strangled her on the spot. But I've learned the hard way that trying to talk to a person who is screaming at me is a complete waste of time. And that the kind of person who screams at someone who took "her" pool chairs--even inadvertently, not that I was given the benefit of the doubt in any way--finds every day a trial through which she must suffer inumerable fools like me. If this is the sort of thing that makes her come unglued, life can't be any fun for her or anyone who has the misfortune to be in her daily orbit. Her husband looked as though helplessness was a habit, and her teenaged daughters cast their eyes downward.
So I meekly packed up our things and made to move. Another nice patron pointed towards a couple of chairs that weren't taken, he was sure. Tammy cursed under her breath but, after counting to ten, agreed it would have been a a major scene if we'd objected. And we got our sun-screened time by the pool, the children were all really cute and fun to watch, and we read our chick magazines and talked about clothes and workouts and men and had a nice time as we'd planned.
At dinner that night we played the I wish I'd said game. Most of it isn't fit for publication, but I thought "I'm really glad you're not my mom" would have been pretty good. But we decided the Southern passive-aggressive tactic would have been quite satisfying. "Well, bless your heart," we'd have said, "you had everything all set 'till we showed up!" If you are not familiar with the way this works--it took me at least five years in Texas before I got it at all--it roughly translates to: Excuse us, you crazy *^$#%. Do you own this %$&*@!& place? We could take you in ten seconds, but since you are clearly in need of meds, we'll leave before your children require even more therapy than they do already. But she wouldn't have understood. Whatever else we might have going on, at least, we concluded, we don't have to pass through life being her. Bless her heart.