Have you ever had one of those moments where you say something to someone, and, immediately after saying it, you realize that you have, inadvertently and unknowingly, said something terrible; something shocking; something your mother would smack your hand for and send you to your room, were you still ten and she still cooking your dinners.
I remember the moment like it was yesterday, though, in reality, it was more like five years ago. I was visiting the doctor for my 6-month checkup when expecting our third child. I sat in the examination room, just to the right of the built-in desk where a nurse sat, pencil in hand, ticking off the appropriate boxes as I answered her irritating questions. You know the kind: the ones that you dearly just want to answer, “YES! I SMOKE, I DRINK, I WALLOW IN THE MUD AND I NEVER BRUSH MY TEETH!” Or, if it’s a form from the elementary school and they ask if you’ll need a translator at your daughter’s parent/teacher conference you want to write in, “Yes, Finnish, please,” or some other such language that no one around you speaks just to be obnoxious and give them pause.
I have never done this. I’ve just imagined it.
Anyway, on this given day at the doctor’s, while imagining interesting answers but giving perfectly acceptable and boring ones, I was bold enough to interrupt the nurse’s rote questions with a little clarifying information. She had asked me, one question before, how much water I drank a day. My answer did not please her. She told me how many glasses I should actually be drinking (as if I didn’t know, being on child #3) and then she moved on, scowling, to the next question. I answered that one – something about whether I’m a druggie or not – and then, as she began the next I said, “Oh, I do do Crystal Lite every day.” (“do do”…I said it like that. Speaking isn’t nearly as polished as writing, is it?)
She stopped talking, her pencil hovering in mid-air, and turned her head to look at me. Her mouth, LITERALLY, dropped open. I had been looking straight ahead, giving her my answers without too much thought, but I quickly became aware of her staring. She’s sitting a foot and a half away and she’s STARING at me. I looked at her, confused.
She continued to stare.
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.
She continued to stare.
I do not know how much time passed. Enough to make me wonder what on earth was wrong with her. Enough for me to flash back through what I said, considering and pondering, and to think, seriously, “Is she having an attack of some sort?”
I began to splutter something like, “You know, Cr…Crystal Lite…the water question.”
She continued to stare. I am not kidding.
I strove to understand her behavior; to explain my words. “Uhhhh……‘Crystal Lite’? You know…powdered drink mix? Kool Aid!” I almost shouted the word, hoping she could understand the sugary drink reference because, clearly, nothing else was working.
Still nothing. No flash of recognition. No raising of the drooping jaw.
“You asked about water…and I just wanted you to know….” My voice trailed off as she, silent up until this point, finally closed her gaping mouth and swallowed involuntarily.
Finally, “Powdered drink mix?” she managed to get out, doubt clear in her every syllable.
I nodded my head like a crazed mental patient, grasping at this straw of mutual understanding. “Yes! So I do have more water every day! I just forgot to tell you!”
“So you drink water with this ‘Crystal Lite’?” she was looking at me again, trying to understand, trying to do something I couldn’t figure out but maybe was cover up her impossible-to-explain behavior.
“Yes,” I said, nodding again. “More water than…than I said at first….”
“Okay, then,” she said, and, after presumably marking down my all-important clarification about how much water I drank a day, she moved on to the next question, all professional and normal, and wrote down the exact same answers I’d given the month before, and the month before that, and the month before that as well, ad nauseum.
It took me until my drive home half an hour later(ish) to figure out what her problem had been.
She thought I’d said I did Crystal Meth.
“I do do Crystal Meth,” her brain heard.
“I do do Crystal Lite,” my mouth said.
And she, God love her, sat there, mouth hanging open, wondering how on God’s green earth this woman sitting beside her carrying a baby and looking like a normal, non-meth-head could possibly have just dropped this bomb of information as casually as if saying she drank an extra glass of water a day.
Until it dawned on her that I WAS saying I drank an extra glass of water a day.
I mean, honestly, who hasn’t heard of Crystal Lite?
So that, my friends, is the supreme moment of misunderstanding that will never be topped in my world. I saw her around the doctor’s office a few other times after that. And always, every single time that I saw her, I felt guilty. Like I’d on-purpose answered her questions facetiously as I’d so often imagined doing.
Or, worse, like I was a meth addict.
I continue to answer such questions obnoxiously in my mind. But never once have I said, “I do do Crystal Lite”. Such a thing is far too incriminating to admit.