A Flea Circus

I got an email this morning saying an air show would be flying overhead around 11.30 a.m. I set my alarm for 11.10 a.m. so we wouldn’t forget. That happens these days. Not only do the days run one into the other, but the hours flitter away like little bird feathers, where I’ll go upstairs to print out my son’s daily school schedule, and two hours later, I’ll finally come back downstairs, having forgotten to print the schedule and we’ll have missed a Google Hangouts meeting with his Spanish class.blue angels 1

When my alarm went off, me, my husband and my son climbed into the car and headed to the ocean. The planes were taking from an airfield one town south of us. Since our local government banned parking on every street in our town, I figured we would drive one town North, where we would could park, and then walk out onto the beach. But as soon as we got into the car, my husband said, “Let’s watch it in Sea Girt,” – the town from which the planes were taking off.

What happened next is what typically happens in our family. I have a plan (watch from the town North of us). My husband, who wasn’t even going to come, suggests something else (let’s watch from the town to the South), and I listen. And then it turns out to be a bad plan (we ran into a roadblock, which created traffic, which made it difficult to turn the car around, which made us late for the air show). And as always, I spend the next 10 minutes saying how I didn’t even want to do my husband’s plan but that he forced us into it and now look what happened, and oh, if I’d only followed my own instincts, and didn’t let myself be bullied by him (I wasn’t), we’d be there now.

To get to the town North of us now meant we had to go through our own town, where parking was prohibited, but we tried nonetheless. We pulled over and planned to stay in the car. We were close enough to the beach to still see the planes. Five other cars had the same idea and pulled in behind us. My son jumped out and climbed onto the roof of our car, as he often does. Just then, a police officer pulls over.

“Get down! Get in! Now!” my husband and I yell at our son, as if he’d climbed up there unbeknownst to us and we were only now finding out.

The police officer got on his megaphone and said, “You can’t park there.” We all pulled out and headed North. The show was about to start. The woman in the car in front of me was driving about five miles below the speed limit. It was torturous. I wanted to stop my car, run out and bang on her window and say, “Do you have any idea that you’re going to make us miss the show? It’s the only thing exciting going on this week!”flea circus

As we were about to go through the gates to the town north of us, I remembered a friend of ours lived right there near the beach and that perhaps we could park in her driveway. We got out of what was now a parade of cars heading North, and we headed to our friend. As we approached her house, we could see there were about seven cars already in her driveway. We turned around and headed back to the beach road, but there was now a traffic jam, as cars that had parked along the street there were being chased away by police and were all pulling out at the same time.

We joined the line of cars now heading into the town north of us and as soon as we got through the gate that separated our town from their’s, it was clear there was not going to be any parking available near the beach. All of the spots were taken. There were people standing by their cars, people on the boardwalk, people crossing the road, it was like a day in mid-July.traffic jam

I moved slowly north on the ocean road, looking in vain for a spot that maybe someone missed. Finally, I took a sharp left and headed inland, just to get away from the crowd. I went down two one-way streets the wrong way and finally saw a spot. Just as we were pulling in, we heard a loud WHOOOOOOSH!

“It’s over!” my son said, as he caught a glimpse of the planes heading north out of the passenger window.

“What do you mean, ‘It’s over.’ It’s an air show. They go back and forth,” I said.

“They’re gone,” he said.

“They’ll be back,” I said, shutting off the car and getting out.

Just then, a father and daughter came toward us. There was couple behind them, and a family not far behind, all heading back to their cars from the beach.

“That’s it?” I said to the man and his daughter. “It’s done?”

“That was it,” he said.

“What kind of air show is that? I don’t believe it’s over,” I said.

“They’re heading up to North Jersey,” he said.

We all got back into our cars and headed home, our pent up enthusiasm cut short. We’re all so antsy and in need of adventure, a flea circus would have gathered a big crowd. Maybe we are ready to get back out there and roll the dice with this virus, if for no other reason than to break up the monotony – like kids playing with matches or broken glass. And then if people start getting sick, we’ll all run back into our houses and shut our doors, until the next big event, like a boy scout badge pinning ceremony or a bocci tournament, draws us all out again.

Published by Caren Chesler

Caren Chesler is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times including Modern Love, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, Popular Mechanics, Scientific American, and Salon, among others. Her parenting essays appeared regularly in The Huffington Post for a time, and she has a blog called The Dancing Egg, about having a baby at 47.

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