I was in stealth mode, which in parental terms is the art of being present in body and wallet, but not seen. Ever.

Once again, life had brought me to a McDonald’s parking lot. The teen girl was inside, sharing fries with a boy.

I turned the key on the old minivan, backed out of my parking spot and creeped to a slot closer to the windows. My goal had nothing to do with spying.

“Tsst, still nothing…” I muttered, holding my phone out the van window, hoping the extra couple inches would help me connect. “Stinkin’ WiFi.”

The teen girl, the same doe-eyed one inside, had used up our phone data, leaving me dependent on restaurant hotspots like a hipster bum.

But as I contemplated whether “bigjimmy333” sounded like a safe network to join, I realized I had more pressing concerns — my bladder.

I entered the restaurant, keeping my head down, careful not to make eye contact with girl or boy as I was still in stealth mode. Then, I performed my potty walk of shame. Picture a mall speedwalker suddenly hit with a cramp. She stops, because if she doesn’t there would be a large-cup-of-coffee-sized problem. She takes three breaths, then speedwalks the final few feet to her goal.

“Low water pressure, sorry for the inconvenience,” read the sign over the bathroom faucet. Always one to endure hardships well, I soaped up and readied to endure even this.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

But this was not inconvenient low water pressure. This was the drip one gets in the desert when attempting to drink from a cactus. This was a leaf after the rain.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

I collected droplets in my soapy palms. One drop. Two drop.

Growing impatient, I flapped my hands around the sink, in the process catching the magic electronic eye of the soap dispenser… filling my hands with MORE soap.

I was going to be a while.

My phone blipped. Hands still soapy, I pulled out the device.

“Hello, WiFi,” I whispered in delight.

And now I had a dilemma on my hands, and this was more than just the soap kind. I could go back out to my van with my data-depleted phone. Or I could make myself at home here, in this McDonald’s bathroom, rich in both WiFi and, it seemed, strawberry air freshener.

I surfed Facebook. I answered emails. I Googled...

“What are you doing?”

It was my daughter. She was looking at me and my soapy phone screen.

“Oh, um…nothing,” I said, my cover blown. “Just, um, hanging out.”

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Martha Petteys writes a weekly column for The Post-Star. Write to her at petteyshome@gmail.com or visit her on Facebook.


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