Connor is in football, and has practice 3 nights a week. This continues until the end of October (unless they get to play in championship rounds). There aren't a lot of kids in our neighborhood participating and we're kind of in the hinterlands. Connor's school chum River lives even farther out than we do, so his dad and I arranged a driving schedule.
One of the practices is on Wednesday nights, which is the evening I see my counselor. To protect that time I agreed to take the boys on Tuesdays, James would take them on Wed, and we'd switch-off the Fridays. Since Connor would be away I would need someone to watch Scott, and so I set up the babysitting gig with D (of broken-skateboard fame. In fact, this job was the context that the issue of whether he was working off a debt or serving time came up.).
It seems simple, but in practice for 2 50-something parents new to the sport and the culture, juggling this and remembering just what we've agreed to requires some mental exertion. To add to the complexity, the practice schedules were different before school started than after school started; there were field rotations to not overuse the practice field, and their teams have yet a different field for practice on Fridays. I clutch at details the way I grab for groceries falling from a split bag.
Gary had bought tickets to see Alison Krause and Robert Plant on Tuesday night, the evening I'd ordinarily drive. He called James and arranged that we'd swap this week: I drive Wednesday and James drive Tuesday. James said fine, said he could even drive on Wednesday too if I'd like. Since driving them Wednesday meant facing the uncertainties of rush-hour traffic --because of course the practice and my appointment are at opposite ends of town-- I said maybe I'd consider that. But I thought it was doable--might make for a little suspense about making my appointment, but chances are it would be ok.
Tuesday Scott woke sick and didn't go to school. I decided to not go to the concert (there's a backstory to that, too, that I won't go into.). When Connor and River got off the schoolbus River wasn't feeling well either. He wasn't going to practice, so his dad came to get him and I drove Connor to practice. I forgot to ask him if maybe he could drive the next day after all, since Scott being sick might mean no babysitter. I called and left a message on his home phone asking if that might be possible.
Moving parts: will Scott need to stay home another day, or not? If he does, is he recovering-from-being-sick or actively-sick-sick? Will D be willing to babysit if he's still sick, or would his mother prefer that he not? Do I disclose that he is sick? Is River still sick? Did he go to school? Could James do the driving if River's not sick? Could Gary get off work in time to be home at my usual departure time if the babysitter couldn't come?
Scott woke up sick.
Trying to solve for the variable meant a lot of calls. Another call to James. Left message. Call to his cell. Left message. Call to Gary's office, left message: could he be home by 4:30? Call to Gary's cell. Left message. Call to D's mom: did she mind if Scott was sick when D babysat? She said she didn't mind, but was going to be talking to him at noon and she would ask him then. Several calls and messages hanging out there with several hours before I'd need to leave. Each shrouding an important piece of information that would guide my next steps:
If D can't babysit and James can't drive: fall-back on whether or not Gary can be home when I need to leave. If he could I could either take the boys myself on my way to my appointment, or he could take them but he'd have to take a sick Scott along for the ride.
If D CAN babysit, then all proceeds as normal. I take the boys to practice, Gary picks them up after work and brings them back here, D's here with Scott for the interim.
If D can't babysit and Gary can't be home I call James in on his offer to take the boys and I wait home with Scott, hoping Gary will get home in time for me to make at least part of my appointment.
If D can't babysit, Gary can't be home and James can't drive I take the boys to practice with Scott in the car, and I cancel my appointment.
I took Scott down to the video store to get him a movie. I checked messages upon return and no one had returned my calls. It's 2:30 and I'm starting to get nervous.
Call to James. Left message. Call to James' cell. Left message. Call to Gary's office. Left message. Call to Gary's cell. Left message. Call to M, who was very apologetic about having forgotten to call me back. D said he "didn't want to take a chance on missing any school", which was very surprising to her. So now I know at least one variable. No babysitter.
I notice I have an email. It's from Gary, saying he'd be home no later than 5:15. I usually leave for my appointment at 4:30, and the boys need to leave for practice by 4:30 too. I call him again. Leave message. Tell him I have no babysitter and that 5:15 is too late.
This calls to mind the issue of people's timesense. People who have a fairly reliable and measured sense of time passage always seem to find people with a Salvador Dali clock. And marry them. I've been disappointed by Gary's overestimating how much time he has and underestimating how long it takes to do something before. Relying on him being on time is not a safe bet.
Still no word from James. I've tried his phones a few times and didn't bother to leave messages. It's 3:30. The school bus arrives. River's with Connor. I ask River if his dad had said anything about taking them that night and he said, "I thought you were."
I'm actually starting to get teary. I left another message for Gary, telling him that he'd said he would take care of Scott next time he was sick. I told him I was calling in favors on the slack I'd cut him over the past 3 weeks: rafting trip one week, gone to Asia the next, working late on Monday night and gone for the concert on Tues and that asking him to be home by 4:30 didn't seem too much to ask.
At ten to four I got hold of James. He'd not heard any of my messages and so was flat-footed being pressed into service. I felt horrible when I realized I was asking him to go from 0 to 60 from a dead stop. So I hesitated. At this point I could still take the boys, IF Gary was home by 4:30. James lives at least 20 minutes west of us, so even getting to our house is a hike. He would need to leave now if he was going to be driving in order to get the boys to the field on time. Hesitation. Do I count on Gary getting home in time, or do I go with the sure bet? I placed my needs above James' and asked him to come. It's really difficult for me to ask a favor of someone when that favor is A. Real. Imposition. as this one was. I guess I wanted my appointment more than I wanted to avoid that shame.
About 10 minutes later Gary called. I told him James was coming and he wanted to know what I'd done that for. I told him it was too late to call back: James was already on his way. Gary arrived 3 minutes ahead of James, rendering James' favor a little unnecessary.
it was his birthday.