”I dunno, Boss, I just gotta feeling we forgot somethin…”

(Chris’s suggestion for the New Yorker caption contest, which he DID NOT SEND IN because “it’s just too obvious.”  The winning caption was not, in the opinion of Malcolm and me, nearly as good.)

So, here’s a life lesson you have to learn the hard way.

Don’t ever put anything on top of the car, thinking you’ll remember it just before you drive away.  Don’t ever, ever, ever do this.

Because you won’t remember.  Don’t even play that game of Russian roulette. 

Remember A Fish Called Wanda?  John Cleese puts his briefcase on top of his sedan when he first meets Jamie Lee Curtis, so he can turn and greet her.  She bedazzles him so much that when it’s time to part, he goes putt-putting off…with his attache case jauntily riding on the roof-rack.  Jamie Lee just smiles.

Chris has put a cell phone on the front bumper, not remembering it until he heard something hit the road.  We’ve had coffee cups fall off the top of the car, and even a baby dish containing a snack for whoever was in a child seat at the time.  Once I found a pristine plastic drawstring bag from the prestigious Merion Golf Club in a ditch near our house.  It contained brand-spanking new golf cleats, size 12.  Chris said “Some poor guy put that on top of his car, got distracted, and drove off.” 

Our worst experience was the morning we were leaving a client convention in State College, PA, which the whole family had attended.  I was trying to pack the car with two needy pre-schoolers underfoot.  The first thing I put in the way back was our garment bag.  Not wanting our dress-up clothing to get crushed, Chris (the car-packing expert) had vetoed my decision, removed the garment bag and flung it on top of the Jeep, instructing me to add it in last.  He then went off to a final meeting.  The plan was that the three of us would pick him up at noon in front of the conference hall.

I threw portable cribs and diaper bags and satchels of toys in the way back, got the whining boys into their car seats, slammed the back door down – and went driving off in search of donuts, which I had promised Ian and Hugh.  Not until two miles down the road did I have the heart-seizing realization that I had …never moved the garment bag from the top of the car.

Making a U-turn, I retraced our journey, looking for bits of fabric fluttering in the fields, but found nothing.  Finally I went to the police station, and the cop said “Oh yes, someone called when they saw an Asian woman driver dragging what appeared to be a body under her car.”  It was our garment bag, of course.  Wrapped around her axle.  Laid out on a conference table in the police station, like a murder victim at the morgue, was our bedraggled bag.  Our dressy clothes were torn and grease-covered, ruined, ruined utterly.  But Chris’s antique watch, which he had put in a jacket pocket, survived.  

We put in a claim on our homeowner’s insurance.  They paid up, but they also jacked up the rates, so it wasn’t worth it…which is so often the case with insurance.

As an elderly acquaintance said, upon hearing this tale of woe, “Well, if it’s any consolation, the most APPALLING incidents make the best stories later.” 

The best consolation of that awful morning was this:  we learned our lesson.  Never again will anything be put on top of the car.  Please, please tell me we’re not the only ones who have learned this the hard way.


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