Watching the Watchers

“Pull Me Up,” which is what I called this week’s column, is about vigilance; about who looks out for the one who’s looking out for the rest of us.

I am married to Mr. Vigilance. Personified. When we travel I’m all the time talkin’ to little kids in the food line or jokin’ around with the smokers in that walled-off leper colony of a cement room they’re forced to use.

Not David. David is practically testing the instrument panel on the plane. He lies awake the whole night before a trip and worries. Boards the plane and worries. Lands and worries.

It’s not because he’s a seasoned traveler and I’m some neophyte. For the last 23 years I’ve been flying all over the map, comin’ in to Tampa when it’s 93 degrees and soaking with humidity to be on some dumb magazine show for 90 seconds; screeching in to Tucson and taking a wrong turn in the desert at midnight; climbing into some little rental car just as dusk is settling over some godforsaken rustbelt city whose newspaper I’ve made arrangements to call on…. Wherever I am, I just look at my little map and set right out, full of delight and happy expectation, assuming some stranger will take care of me, get out of his car to draw me a better map than the one I have; offer to lead me to my destination even because this has been my experience. I expect cheery good will on the part of the universe if not big affectionate pats to the head.

David must just expect something else, though we don’t talk about it at all – maybe because he’s so busy looking after me. I say this because I….. lose things; I drop things; I walk out of the kitchen thinkin’ I’m done in there for the next five hours, totally not noticing the six-inch flame still doing the Hula on an empty burner. And there’s more: Once I put a five pounds of flour down the garbage dispose-all, causing it to become instantly constipated. Once, while easing the baby into her carseat I put my purse on top of the car, off of which it instantly slid the second I accelerated, to be  picked up by a Bonnie-and Clyde style couple who the cops then gave lights-and-sirens chase to through three towns in central New Hampshire…

The other day was a real low point though: the other day I came trotting down stairs with my Innisbrook tote bag just as David was getting ready to leave for work. “Oh nooooo!” I shouted with dismay because inside this nice leather shoulder bag that he had won at his latest golf tournament everything was suddenly soaked.

Patiently he set down his own pile of stuff and took it from me. Out came the diary and the daybook, the three New Yorkers and the Time magazine, the nectarine and the cell phone,  all of which I clucked and mourned over and tried to dry off.

“WHAT have you GOT in this bag?” he was just exclaiming – until he came upon the full cup of coffee that had tipped over inside it.

“You put COFFEE in a tote bag?”

“Oh hmmmm… well I thought I had sealed it.”

Then he turned the whole thing over to shake out the pencils, the gum and the pacifier, the toothbrush, the carrots and the lip gloss – and found something that embarrassed even me: a half-eaten ice cream cone, the cone part anyway, now a soggy blob of waffley goodness still wrapped in its protective paper napkin.

He cleaned it all up anyway and handed it back to me after like ten whole minutes, and I couldn’t understand why he was smiling.

“Wait, I made you late for work – AND your hands smell like coffee and rotten Maple Walnut,” I said. “Aren’t you mad at me?”

“Nah” he said.

“Really? Why not?”

“Because the kids and I are gonna have a REAL laugh over this one!”

How grateful am I for the one who watches over me while in my manic way I attempt to watch over the whole known world? Really grateful – of course.

And hey: getting laughed at behind my back is a mighty small price to pay.

So thanks for all the vigilance, Davey Dave… NOW WIPE THAT SMILE OFF YOUR FACE!