I completed my summer graduate class last night; we met to turn in our final projects and fill out course evaluations. Then I strolled back out to the parking lot with some of the other graduate students--younger, more hip people with nicer clothes and better cars (and no children).
I was feeling rather hip myself, intellectual and cool, when I reached my passenger window and saw a squirrel looking back at me from inside the vehicle. This was the quickest way to strip down those illusions of elegance. Thanks to my sons' terrible in-car eating habits and my own irregular cleaning schedule, our car had become a tempting smorgasbord for the fluffy-tailed rodent. Also, because I have no car air conditioner, I tend to leave the windows slightly down to alleviate really intense heat. I may as well have sent the little guy an engraved invitation.
Being cool and hip, I screamed and ran to the front of my car, yelling "Oh my God, there's a squirrel in there!"
My elegant classmates, after raising an eyebrow at what must have seemed like immersion into an episode of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, stepped forward to assist me. "I'll open your side door," one girl offered, pulling the sliding door to reveal the utter grossness of my back seat. My spirits fell as three classmates who, moments before, might have respected me based on my dialogue around the seminar table, now seemed to view me in a different light.
"I have sons," I said weakly, as the nervous squirrel jumped from seat to seat and briefly brained himself on a closed window. He stood there tottering, looking at us with rodenty dislike. "It's hard to keep things clean."
Another classmate opened a couple more of my doors--I kept my distance, still fearing a squirrel attack. "Oh--he's almost there," she said. "He's right on the edge of the doorway."
So we all stood there and waited for the squirrel to emerge, which he eventually did, reluctantly, leaving his feast behind him.
I thanked the young people and climbed into my car, red-faced and humiliated, knowing that I would be the talk of the next class (some of them took two this summer). The elegant girls, their bracelets clinking as they got out their cell phones and stepped into their sleek vehicles, waved at me. I wondered who they were calling; their spouses, perhaps, to tell them about the older woman in their class with the forest creatures in her car?
Geez. I never harbor my delusions of grandeur for long, but it would have been nice if I could have made it to the end of summer.