Driving a plain, tan, four-door car is kind of nice in an “I can pretend I’m a kick-ass CIA agent driving around incognito, blending in with the native hicks,” Double-O Pam, kind of way.

No one recognizes us because there are so many plain, tan, four-door cars out on the roads right now.

Therein lies the problem: The car is so friggin’ incognito that sometimes I can’t even find it myself.

Two months after we got it, I pulled into an on-street parallel parking spot right behind another tan four-door something and went into the takeout-only restaurant for my food, passing by someone exiting the building as I went in. I got my food, held the door open for someone to enter the restaurant and went out onto the sidewalk heading to the second plain Janer in line.

As I walked and balanced the food in my arms and pushed the door unlock button on the key ring (our first ever), I noticed that the first tan car was beeping and flashing and thought, “Oh, we must be on the same wavelength, ha ha.” And then I noticed the lei hanging of “my” car’s rearview mirror and realized, “Hey, that’s not my car, the first one is. Stupid tan cars.”

No that’s a lie, I stopped walking and thought, “WTF does my car have a lei hanging off the mirror for?” Whatever. Shut up.

Apparently, the person I passed going in was the driver of the plain tan car that was originally ahead of me — and they left — and the person I passed going out was the driver of the tan car that ended up behind mine. Those people pulled the ol’ switch-a-roo on me.

I’m ashamed to say that it worked … and it took me the longest 10 seconds of my life (standing out there on the busiest street in town, pushing the unlock button over and over, and looking back and forth between the two tan cars) to figure out that, well, I’m rather dull-witted. That was the important point of the moment.

The incident made me more conscientious about keeping track of where I park. And I hung a Christmas ornament off my rear view mirror, so there’s that to help me.

It’s been a few years since I screwed that one up, really badly anyway, but I learned yesterday that I’m not immune to further misadventures in mistaken car identity under the right circumstances.

While in line at the checkout counter, I conversed with the cashier and the guy ahead of me in line. It seems he was buying clothing for the two (of his eight!) children still living at home. The cashier and I were making appropriate-sounding noises that masked our dismay at having that many children, so it sounded as if we were enthralled. Then the guy asked if I had any kids (“Heh, heh,” nervously, “No.”) and kept insisting that I was “young enough to have lots of kids.” (“Heh, heh. No!”)

After leaving the store, I walked down the sidewalk apparently enthralled at the idea that I am still hot-looking enough that I could be mistaken for someone in the reasonably child-bearing years. Well, OK, he didn’t say “hot,” but young enough, anyway. I was feeling pretty good about this, laughing to myself with just a hint of cockiness. And you can see where I’m going with this story, right?

Yup, right past my car and pushing that friggin’ door unlocking button thingy at the wrong. plain. tan. four-door. car.

But now I have experience, now I’m a little smoother operator, and now, thankfully, the battery is low on the thingy so my car didn’t beep and flash its lights behind me. I did what any reasonable person would do. I pretended that I hadn’t hit the button, suavely looked at my watch and mimed an “Oh, shoot! I don’t have time for that errand. I just remembered I need to go somewhere else … in my car … that’s back that-a-way.”

Yeah, if only I could’ve tripped over my feet in that about-face and picked myself up the ground with a mimed, “OMG, I meant to do that so I could pick up this awesome nickel! I better get to my car — quick — before someone comes back for their lost treasure!”

It would’ve been an Oscar-worthy moment at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40.com

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