The ice gleaming through the thick ruts of snow on the road had other plans. After slipping around a corner a little faster than I'd planned, I stopped looking at the clock and focused on keeping the car off the sidewalk. In the back seat, Sass scolded her Hello Kitty doll on points of etiquette: "No, Kitty! Unh unh! Be nice." Little Man peered around him in serene contemplation of the dirty cars sliding past his window.
As I turned the corner onto my parents' street, I noticed a mailman removing envelopes from a large green deposit box. He was decked out in full Canada Post winter gear: huge blue boots resembling fishing waders, snow pants and a navy hooded parka, complete with fuzzy ear flaps peeking out from the sides of his head. Sass started singing "Wheels on the Bus" while the mailman closed the box and shuffled through the snow toward the curb. Then time turned to sludge as, without looking and without hesitation, he stepped off the curb into my path.
Because I had been watching him, I had an instant to think, "He's not stopping. He's not actually going to walk right in front of me, is he?" before the car was careening across the road, steering wheel shuddering as I yanked it to the left and stomped the brakes to the floor. When no body thumped into the windshield, I slammed on the horn and yelled uselessly through the closed window at the guy, my heart pounding. Sass and Little Man were silent as I straightened out the car and crept down the street to my parents' house. In my rearview mirror, the mailman stood in the middle of the road and waved a glove at me, no doubt giving me the finger inside his cocoon.
It takes a long time to get an infant, toddler and their two diaper bags out of a car. I could see the mailman several houses away as I hurried the kids into my mom's warm kitchen. Hoping to leave before the mailman got any closer, I rushed through my drop-off instructions:
"Hejusthadabottlefreshdiapershe'shadtoastbebacksoonthanksbye!" I'd made it down the porch steps when I heard a gruff voice booming at me across the lawn. I ducked my head and pretended I hadn't heard it, jabbing at the car key fob in a staccato rhythm.
The voice thundered again, closer this time. "Sorry 'bout that!" Horrified, I looked to my right to find the jovial mailman grinning and nodding at me from the house next door. My cheeks heated around my weak smile as I nodded back and slid into the driver's seat, desperate to get away.
Driving down the street, anger swept over me again before cooling into confusion. I knew I'd done something wrong, but I wasn't sure what it was.