They couldn’t see me because I was on the floor of my car trying to scoop up the Goldfish that fell when I turned the baggie upside-down. Damn, I thought the Ziploc was closed. (It’s never ever closed.) I banged my head on the dashboard and the trunk popped open. If I had to give this moment a cliché, I’d roll out living the dream.
Where did they think I was? Did they think I abandoned my mini-van with the trunk wide open in the carpool line moments before my preschooler emerged from the building expecting to see me behind the wheel with a snack in hand?
It’s true that when I realized I could hear every word they were saying, I scooped slower so I could keep listening. I heard one of the women saying something I was sure was about another mother, and I just had to know. Who were they talking about? What were they saying? In my mind, the odds of a group of women talking positively about another woman was about a bazillion to one, so yes, I scooped up artificial cheese snacks in slow motion because I wanted a slice of the gossip pie. It’s got no calories but like anything made of dark chocolate, I can’t stop until it makes me sick.
“She’s not around much because she works full-time,” I heard one of them say. Her tone wasn’t nasty; it was explanatory, like how a teacher talks when she’s explaining something like, say, chemical warfare to eight graders. Nerve gas attacks the respiratory system. Like that, except I could hear her straining to fake smile through her words. I then heard, “it’s hard on him,” and assumed they were referring to the offspring of the working full-time mother. Then I heard one of them ask how much I was working, “because sometimes a nanny picks Sadie up.”
I felt rage shoot through my veins like I imagine heroin does.
Look, I’m all for curiosity, but it was late November, so why were they still calculating which mothers were in the carpool line and which ones were elsewhere? Hadn’t whoever was interested in hashing that out already hashed it? For God’s sakes, it was almost Thanksgiving.
I spotted a pair of errant fish way underneath my seat so I went for them. I stretched my arm out of my shoulder socket, thinking I’d taste something like Olympic victory once I snared them in my fist. For a few seconds, I was concentrating harder on my real life rather than eavesdropping on carpool mothers.
The children were starting to file out of the building so the mothers’ conversation hurtled towards a forced closure, like swimmers forced to get out of the pool when lightning streaks across the sky. “We’ll catch up later,” each promised. I popped my head up just in time to catch the eye of one of the mothers. “Hey,” I said, holding up the bag of Goldfish as an explanation for why I had been on the floor of my car for the past four minutes. I had no way to explain why my trunk was open.
“Hey, so good to see you,” she said, curiosity about what I’d heard lurking in her tentative smile.
“You too,” I said, popping a Goldfish in my mouth, vowing never to snack on gossip pie. It’s not worth it.