For the what seems like the tenth time, Grandma Harriet shouts into the navigation system in her new red Lexus, frantically pushing every button on the touch screen. Even though she doesn’t know it, we’ve circled the enormous shopping mall at least four times. Getting frustrated and disoriented, she finally gets ahold of the car’s in-person help line. A polite male voice with an indistinguishable accent answers, and Grandma Harriet requests directions. She is advised to pull over while the man locates directions to the mall.
Instead, she keeps driving, occasionally looking in the rearview mirror to fix her frizzy orange hair. She tells my mom and me about her new life in Florida, which is an open carry state, as she removes her oversized sunglasses to reapply her red lipstick. After living in Philadelphia for many years, her biggest fear is getting into an accident; not because of a possible injury or damage to her car, but because someone could pull out a gun and shoot her.
Her fear started, she tells us, when when she was at a restaurant having dinner with two new friends, a retired dentist, and his wife.
“So your grandfather and I are sitting there at this fabulous new Italian place, Il Gabbiano. We’re waiting and waiting for Sheldon (the dentist) and his wife Eleanor to arrive. They were very late, so we ordered a nice bottle of wine.”
We pass the mall again, but Grandma Harriet is so focused on her story that she doesn’t even notice.
My mom then says, “Harriet, we just passed the entrance again.”
“Oh F***!” screams Grandma Harriet.
“As I was saying, just was about to take a sip of the fabulous wine the waiter just brought when Sheldon and Eleanor appeared.”
Your grandfather pointed out they were late.
“Sorry about that but I had some difficulties getting the Jaguar started so we had to settle and take the Ferrari,” Sheldon said.
“When Sheldon sat down, he immediately grabbed the bottle of wine, checked the label, and then poured himself a glass when he realized it isn’t as cheap as he suspected,” Grandma Harriet continues.
“How did you meet him?” my mom asks, trying to deter Grandma Harriet from her rant and refocus her on the task at hand – getting to the mall.
“We met at a fundraiser for the Holocaust Museum this past spring,” Grandma Harriet replies. “But let me get back to my story.”
“He was so rude, he didn’t even ask how either of us were doing, he just started talking about his buddies at the golf club and how he was so glad he could spend all of his time there now that he had sold his practice. Apparently he sold it for millions,” she says with an eye roll.
“So your grandfather and I were sitting there, listening to him talk, when he said, ‘Now that I don’t have my practice, this is my most prized possession. It was a tiny pistol!”
Sheldon was showing it off so that the entire restaurant could see.
“I must have had this look of sheer horror when he gave it to your grandfather to “take a look.” He then had the audacity to ask if we’d like to go with him to the shooting range next time,” Grandma Harriet fumed.
“I don’t know what happened next, because I excused myself to the restroom but in fact headed the opposite direction to the front door. Your grandfather left shortly after I did, and we drove as far away from that place as we could.”
As she tells us the story, barely missing the freeway entrance ramp, Grandma Harriet swerves and we end up in a gas station. As she is entering directions from the call center into the navigation system, a black monster truck covered with red flames screeches into the gas station, loudly playing heavy metal music. Unable to stop, the driver hits Grandma Harriet’s car.
“Lock the doors and duck down,” yells Grandma Harriet in a panicked voice.
“Ma’am? Ma’am?” says the help line operator that is half a world away.
“Shut up! I just got in an accident!” Grandma Harriet screams at the machine as she ends the call.
We see a huge man wearing a white tank top that perfectly shows all of his U.S. Army tattoos. He knocks on Grandma Harriet’s window and motions for her to roll it down.
“He has a gun!” Grandma Harriet screams as she locks the doors and turns on the car, getting ready to flee the area.
Grandma Harriet prepares us for a quick escape. Barely knowing her way around the new suburb, she speeds onto the freeway and heads back to the safety of her gated community.
As we pull up to her house, Grandma Harriet has a realization.
“There are a lot of geezers who live here; if they can’t even drive straight how are they supposed to shoot straight?” Grandma Harriet wonders.
She then announced her newest plan; bullet proof windows for both the house and the car. And maybe for Grandpa Harrold’s and her bicycles too. After all, bulletproof vests would be very unflattering.