When I’m in the theatre enjoying a good play there’s always some irritating arsehole that’s half an hour late and makes the whole row stand up so they can clamber over them to get their seat. I’m always scathing of these people- I mean don’t they have watches? These tickets are like gold dust. Well today that person was me and my mother and it was 45 minutes late and yes a lot of people had to stand up. I’ll be honest, it was mortifying I never want to be that person again.
It started off as a good morning. My mum and I are ,putting it nicely, the navigationally challenged half of the family. I’m gonna say that’s politically correct. Being a feminist I don’t like to admit this but we have a history of managing to create a monumental cock up wherever we travel. My darkest memory of this being the time we took a 3 hour detour to arrive in a place with the same name as the one we were anticipating yet the other side of the country. Today I thought we were covered. Mum had printed out a list of instructions as to the Theatre’s location and we were determined that despite the lack of our Satnav, we would prevail by setting off in good time.
We got to Birmingham central with 45 minutes before the curtain raise. Yeah the timing wasn’t so brilliant. We were stuck in an endless traffic jam with motivational male voice choir music blasting out of the speakers as my mum did what can only be described as the “I’m going to burst toilet dance”. A sort of limited bob up and down interspersed with seat belt strangulation. It wasn’t her finest moment as we became caught in a paradox of traffic lights that let in a maximum of three cars before changing. I could see the stress clouding her eyes as the bobbing grew to a frenzy. She reminded me of a frightened horse sort of nostrils blaring. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or hide but the former chose me and I had to choke it down as the motivational music bit the dust so she could “focus”. I wasn’t sure what this applied to though I can guess. She had both legs crossed at this point.
After 10 minutes we made it out of the city traffic jam, Mum gripping the wheel with ferocious determination. Things just went from bad to hysterical.
“Rachael I need you to concentrate. This turning is vital. It says here to take a right after McDonalds. Then there’s the Mailbox opposite our turn in.”
“Ok.” I’m quietly confident that it’ll be me that spots the turn. She’s just concentrating on controlling her bladder and keeping the car on the road.
Ma time to shine.
We both scan the road.
“I can’t see it?” Anxiety and the toilet dance straining her voice.
“Can you see it? Where’s the Mcdonalds? Oh god where is it.”
“I can’t- what’s that place called?”
“OH I SEE IT!”
“You just passed it.”
There’s a silence as our lane of cars have to go under a subway while the rest could carry on and take a U turn back.
“Oh shit. Awhh shit. Oh god.” Mum goes into temporary Tourette’s as our car bobs along under 3 subways and a network of spaghetti junctions following the rest of the cars.
“Hey no worries all that stress took only 5 minutes we’ll just find a turn off and go back.”
She looks at me like I told her the sky was neon. The dashboard clock says 20 minutes to curtain. There’s panic in her eyes as we follow the cars in shame. There’s just no turn offs.
In silence we find ourselves on what seems to be a highly fast moving road with multiple lanes.
“Mum I think we’re on a motorway.”
There’s a silence then “Yes.” A whisper from the driver’s seat. Then a verbal eruption.
“OH GOD oh JESUS CHRIST I’m such a cretin oh you stupid woman. THAT’S IT WE’RE LOST WE’RE NOT GONNA MAKE IT. I’VE BLOWN IT. RIGHT £70 WASTED. IT’S MY FAULT. IF YOUR FATHER WAS HERE HE COULD DO IT. OH CHRIST FOR JESUS OHH. WE’RE LOST.”
“Um which motorway is it?”
“You know what I’ve got no idea!” She does that manic grin that makes me feel like she may not be able to hold the toilet situation much longer.
Unbeknownst to me it was ma time to shine. Fumbling around in her bag I find her internet connected phone which I use to type in the locations. I find us a google maps SatNav. Me! The girl who can’t find her way out of a paper bag. Yeah it was a pretty good moment which I couldn’t revel in because Mum was too busy with her verbal explosion.
We managed to find a turn off thanks to the SatNav with 5 minutes to curtain. Turns out we were heading away from Birmingham sort of Walsall direction. Great.
We took a highly tense 20 minute journey back to the road we started on and with the SatNav this time found the turn which led us round the corner to absolute gridlock traffic. The clock said 15 minutes past curtain. My Mum is a very kind, polite well-spoken woman but not today.
“YOU FUCKERS! RED I’ll GIVE YOU RED YOU-FUCK!” Laughing yet I felt genuinely sorry she seemed to be welling up as she’d planned this day with such care. She turned to me.
“I’m sorry. Let’s just go home.” She’d so wanted to see Swan Lake so I said No we’d make it for Act 2 so we waited in the traffic for what seemed like days, years. With Mum now qualifying as in an emergency for a toilet.
But we got there. Parking was a nightmare but we found one after running up and down the street heckling like mad women after finding we had no change for the meter.
We paid and ran. That is where we arrive 45 minutes late, Mum sprints to the Ladies and I have to crawl over an old man’s lap to get to my seat.