Christmas Carol was an early holiday reminder: I am a woman of a certain age. As the number attached to that age mounts, my faculties may…er…alter in direct proportion. As will my husband’s. If Carol is any indication, shopping shenanigans will be one of our new Christmas joys.
Christmas Carol loses her way
As a woman of a certain age, I spend a lot of time using public wash facilities. Thursday last was no exception. Ducking out of the busy mall hubub, I was tending to business when the restroom air was pierced with an urgent, “Carol?!”
Heading to the sink I spotted the source of these outcries. A beautiful and concerned woman-who-is-also-of-a-certain-age (with strikingly purple-on-white hair, perfectly cut) looked at me expectently, “Are you Carol?”
“I’m not. And you’ve lost your Carol?”
“No, not me; there’s an elderly gentleman waiting outside that says his wife came in here 30 minutes ago, and she hasn’t come back out!”
I ditch the sass and join the hunt. Me, and a sprightly mosaic of woman of all sorts. We’re banging loo doors open and each urging “Carol!” to respond to her name. I head into the nursing mama room, asking if anyone there happens to be our (she belongs to the mosaic of searchers now) Carol? Two patiently exhausted mommys look up with concern and denial.
I meander out to meet Carol’s hubby, ask a few questions (Does she have a cell phone? What is she wearing? Is she ill/is it usual for her to wander off? And many other nosey things that one ought never presume to ask a stranger.). He’s determined: she went into the bathroom 30 minutes ago and she never came out. And even if she had come out, she would have “stayed right here to wait for me.”
But Carol isn’t in the loo, and she isn’t “right here,” and Hubby has her cell phone and purse in hand.
A helpful mall employee goes to get security.
Securing the perimeter
Our mosaic of Christmas Carol seekers is hovering and caring and wondering. Some span out into the (massive!) food court with a sort-of description of our gal. Some keep re-searching the washroom, as if she might resurface there like last night’s eggnog.
I hover un-helpfully beside Hubby and await Security.
The security guard arrives promptly, clutching his hand-held two-way radio and blinking his bewilderment. The wizened fellow (of a certain age at least matching, if not significantly surpassing that of our confused husband and his missing wife) is baffled. What to do?
Hubby recounts his tale and asks, “Could you try to page her?”
The guard is sober-faced-reluctant, “Ooooooh. Well, now. We like to do that through Guest Services…you said she went into the women’s washroom? Half an hour ago.”
“Yes. But she’s not there now.”
“Well, if she’s not there, she could be somewhere else…?” He emphasizes these words carefully, as if hoping his understanding of the situation will clear things right up for all of us.
Hubby stares calmly and perplexedly at the guard. The guard fidgets and wanders and wonders. Everyone is baffled.
Christmas Carol found
Suddenly, a few of us gals spot a woman on the far side of the food court. She’s waving frantically in our direction, her arms making broadly sweeping arcs, her perfectly appointed white outfit flapping with angel-wing-like urgency. Purple-haired-gal and I look hopefully at each other, and then at Hubby: “There! Is that your Carol?”
Hopeful, then dashed, Hubby shakes his head no (leaving us wondering who on earth she might be and why she’s gesturing so passionately in our direction) and then, there she is! His Carol. Diminutive and bespectacled, Carol is charging at a rollicking pace up the food court aisle and directly toward Hubby,
“WHERE have you been?? I’ve been looking all over for you!”
Hubby, maintaining precisely the same placid calm he’s shown throughout, murmurs, “Well, right here where you left me, of course.”
The security guard and Hubby exchange a few pleasantries while Christmas Carol bothers and fusses and recriminates. And purple-haired-beauty and I turn to go.
The gift that keeps on giving
Suddenly the security guard is at our elbow(s), radio clamped tightly in nervous fingers, relief flooding his face, “Thank you! Thank you for waiting this out.” And just as he says this, a new player, Hubby #2 — equally perplexed and searching — sidles up sheepishly to say, “Excuse me, but I can’t find my wife…”
The look on that poor security guard’s face. Disbelief. Confusion. A sort of, “Is this really a thing we’re going to do this shopping season?” bafflement. But just as we’re about to launch a second search, Angel-wing Lady from across the food court comes puffing up to Hubby #2, “Here, Dear! I’m right here!” There are shrugs and grins and congratulations, all around, and everyone’s shopping is right back on track.
This twenty minute visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future was sweet and heart-warming. The speed with which a group of women from every demographic and ethnicity and ilk banded together to seek Carol out made for a gently shared caper. Hubby (well, both hubbys 1 & 2) were kept company and reassured. Mall security got a little work out (with a possible note to put a little procedure in place: if this happened twice in 20 minutes…). And everyone was accounted for at adventure’s end. When my husband and I are in this spot, as we surely will be in just a few years’ time, I trust we’ll be in such generous and capable hands.
Photo/Maxine cartoon courtesy of https://www.pinterest.ca/ejoycave/maxine-christmas/