Wednesday, October 12, 2005


It’s dark, it’s after midnight, and I’m driving along the A30 with Aphrodite in the passenger’s seat. We’re laughing and talking, and reliving the wonderful evening we’ve just had, enjoying dinner over at a friend’s house. I look in the rear view mirror, and suddenly I see flashing blue lights. Oh oh!! Some emergency somewhere? Probably. I’d better get out of the way. I slow down. The lights behind me slow too, and I learn that the “emergency” is .... me.....

Gosh, am I asleep? Having those high altitude nightmares again, in Johannesburg?

“Schadenfreude”-- You know the word, don’t you? It’s from the German. It’s a compound word made up of “schaden” (damage) and “freude” (joy). It’s the perverse pleasure we feel inside when others -- our friends or our enemies -- encounter misfortune. We allow ourselves just a small “hmmph” of amusement, or a smile hidden behind the hand as we hear bad news, or a self-satisfied “I told her this would happen” with sad shakes of our heads. It’s subtle, because of course you’re not really supposed to enjoy it when others are unlucky.

Well, here’s your opportunity to immerse yourself in that forbidden but ever-so-delicious feeling. Let me tell you my wretched little tale.

Oct 5-10, Parents’ Weekend. I flew up from Jo’burg on Wednesday, and arrived Thursday morning, ransacked bags and all. Rushed over to the tennis club to see friends, freshen up, and play ball, and had a lovely, lovely day. Met up with my darling daughter Aphrodite afterwards, and then we were off to stay overnight with our friends Sooz and Don and Grant, to enjoy Ascot hospitality at its best. On Friday, Aphr and I knocked around at her school, then went over to Royal Berkshire Racquets again, for more play and fun, until finally, out to dinner that evening with friends in Bracknell.

And WHAT a lovely evening it was! The BEST! We looked at pictures from South Africa, we ate a delicious dinner prepared by our marvelous hostess, we drank champagne. And more champagne. It was REALLY nice champagne. (Actually, Aphrie, being underage AND an honorable girl, didn’t have any. She’s so responsible. Which proved to be an excellent decision on her part, for many reasons....)

Finally, midnight. Time to head back. A and I hopped into the car, and zoomed off toward home. Down the A322, onto the A30, almost to the Windmill Pub (our turnoff), when.... oh dear, those flashing blue lights. Damn!

“Mom, stop! Stop! Pull over!”

“Yes, yes, I am, I am, just a second.”

I pulled over. The policeman came up to the window and said, “Madam, could you move your vehicle a little bit forward, so you won’t be blocking traffic?” Oh dear. Great. Not a good start.

Sure, sure. I pulled forward.

“Madam, would you step out of the car?” (I notice no one calls me “Miss” anymore. Take a note. Old enough to know better, yeah?)

I stepped out of the car.

“Madam, we noticed you were weaving a little bit and driving a bit slowly. Would you mind taking a breath test?”

“Ummm, no, certainly I don’t. Mind, I mean. No problem.” (Ah, yeah, this is a BIG problem....)

They unwrapped the little tube, gave me the instructions, and I blew. I don’t know what I was hoping for, but my wish wasn’t granted.

“Madam, your breath test is positive, over the limit, for alcohol. Tell us, have you been drinking this evening?”

“Ummm, yes, some champagne.....”

“Madam, we’re going to have to take you in to the police station for an additional breath test. Where are you staying? Can your daughter drive the car home?”

“No, no, she doesn’t have her license yet. But we’re staying with friends just around the corner. Maybe you could take her there and leave her? She has an exam tomorrow morning... she really needs some sleep.” (Yeah, I bet she’s gonna sleep REALLY well tonight.)

So one police officer drove the Honda home to Sooz and Don’s, and I handed Aphrodite the keys and my laptop and everything else. As I prepared to hop back in the police cruiser, one officer said, “Madam, do you really need your whole handbag? It would be better if you just brought some ID, your phone, and some money for a cab home. Otherwise they’ll have to inventory all the contents of your handbag.”

Well, my God, that would be a nightmare, wouldn’t it? I would still be in prison right now, with all the crap I drag around in my purse! (“....seventeen pens..... six lipsticks and one lip gloss..... 4 packages of gum, all opened..... two mirrors..... one hair comb.... hey, mate, get me another piece of paper, wouldja, she’s got all of Boots in here! We’re gonna be here all night! I’m gonna miss my tea break.”)

“Thanks Officer, point taken.” I handed my purse to A. “Sorry, sweetheart. And good luck. Hopefully I’ll be home soonish.”

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