Thursday, July 26, 2007

A stroke of Nalgenius

It seems trite to say that this is one of those "only in the Midwest" stories, but it does seem unlikely that this would happen in, for example, Newark. Or Long Beach. Bear with me.

It's a month ago. We're at Target, the one near Miller Park in West Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Of the three Milwaukee-area Targets we see fit to patronize, the West Milwaukee Target is the only one with a layout I can wrap my brain around. There's another Target, about four miles away whose layout is exactly the opposite of the one in West Milwaukee. This is a problem for me, because my wife is liable to send me out to Target to buy, say Sensodyne-brand toothpaste, because my autopilot will send me to the Sensodyne location imprinted in my brain, and I will return home with an acetylene torch, which might void the warranty on her electric toothbrush. So I go to the one in West Milwaukee.

None of this is especially relevant to the story that follows, but now you have some insight into my shopping psyche.

As I was saying, it's a month ago. We're at Target, the one near Miller Park in West Milwaukee. We're looking for something that comes in at a cross between a messenger bag, a backpack, and a purse, for Gretchen (to carry around her acetylene torch). Our three-year-old, apparently confident that she's mastered her tricycle, which she has owned for a month and can almost pedal up a 2% incline, decides to check out the bicycles in the next section over. "Checking out," in this case, means touching each one to see which is most likely to fall over on her so that she can injure herself, and we can sue Target for negligence and get an out-of-court settlement of 300,000 tubes of Sensodyne toothpaste. Somehow, Sylvi manages to escape the section with out breaking any bikes or bones. My wife survives another unsuccesful search for the perfect bag (enabling us to adopt bag shopping as a hobby for the indefinite future), and we go on with our day.

Halfway home, we realize Sylvi's water bottle is not in the car. Not, under ordinary circumstances, an especially big deal - only we're rapidly approaching nap time, which means that she's adopted the timbre of voice known as the International Symbol for Three-Year-Old Meltdown, namely a whine on par with a Boeing 717, or possibly a tornado siren. Plus, it's a real, live three-year-old-sized Nalgene bottle, which is de rigeur for hip three-year-olds at the zoo. So I employed the lose-lose option, which was to drop Gretchen and Sylvi off at home in a futile attempt to distract her from the trauma of Water Bottle Loss long enough to get her to nap, and I went back to Target in a futile attempt to locate the water bottle - an effort that involved an overly long conversation with the disinterested person manning the lost-and-found and a 25-minute wander through every aisle I remembered walking through earlier.

A month passes by. Sylvi has gotten over the trauma, but also has lost her status as Best-Appointed Toddler at the zoo. Still, she's hydrated, so it's all good. Gretchen has found a bag that can accommodate a driver's license, chapstick, a couple of diapers, and five years' worth of receipts, or the new Harry Potter book ("Harry Potter and the Sensodyne Brand Toothpaste") if you take everything else out of it. Now, we're at Target looking for a bag for me. My laptop, anyway.

Not only do we come up with a laptop case, but as we traverse the luggage aisle, Sylvi notes, casually - as though she had just been waiting for a trip back to the luggage aisle for the last month in order to point this out - "Oh, there's my water bottle."

Not only had the water bottle not been thrown out, taken by someone, or sent to lost-and-found, it hadn't been moved. It was still half-full of water.

And after we got home from Target today, Sylvi took a nap.

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