In 1989, Joanne Palmer left a publishing career in Manhattan and has missed her paycheck ever since. She is a mom, weekly columnist for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, and the owner of a property management company, The House Nanny. Her new book "Life in the 'Boat: How I fell on Warren Miller's skis, cheated on my hairdresser and fought off the Fat Fairy" is now available in local bookstores and online at booklocker.com or amazon.com.
Joanne Palmer's Life in the 'Boat column appears Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today. Email her at email@example.com
Find more columns by Palmer here.
This is the battle cry uttered by Kathy Bates in one of my all-time favorite movie scenes. Cut off from a parking spot by a car full of twentysomething girls, Bates responds by punching the gas pedal, screaming, "Towanda!" and smashing into their car. Not once, not twice, but six times. Oh yes, the movie is "Fried Green Tomatoes."
Now that I am : ahem : slightly older than the character in the movie, I occasionally contemplate a Towanda moment.
Case in point:
Last week, I arrived at the parking lot for tubers with three eager 11-year-old boys. Everyone was eager to get out of the heat and into the river. The only thing stopping us was a pack of twentysomething girls in skimpy bikinis. There they stood, blocking the one remaining parking spot. I rolled down my window, letting precious air conditioning escape, and stuck my wrinkled face out.
"Hi," I said brightly. "Can I pull into that spot?"
"Like, like, like, like, like, like, we're saving it," babbled the leader of the bikini brigade.
Clearly all of her exposed skin had given her sunstroke, a speech impediment, an unfortunate command of the English language, or all of the above.
I sighed. Patience is not one of my virtues.
"Well, I really need to park."
"Like, like, like, like, like, like, the car is coming."
A small growl began at the base of my throat. I looked over my shoulder and no cars were in sight. No police cars, no witnesses ... hmm : Towanda or not? Feeling like the most boring, responsible, let's-not-set-a-bad-example mother on the planet, I put the car in reverse and began the search for a parking spot.
Once on the river, my mood improved. I bantered with other tubers, giving restaurant recommendations to a family from Kansas and chatting with another couple that wintered in the Bahamas and summered in Steamboat.
As I paddled along in the sunshine I contemplated the scars on my legs. Each scar a memory: a fall on a rock in Utah, knee surgery, a painful scrape along the cement trough of the Alpine Slide. All of these scars were surrounded by a constellation of black and blue marks and a crisscross of varicose veins.
Yup. My bikini days are over.
After a quick stop, I gave my big tube to my shivering son and his friend. They would sit up higher, out of the water, and stay warmer on my oversized tube. I now had to ride two tubes down the river.
At the next rapid, my tandem tubes flipped, and I fell into the river.
My elbow smashed into a rock.
My butt bounced off another rock.
Ouch, ouch, ouch!
"Help!" I screamed.
To my complete dismay, two walked away.
Walked away! Were they too young to have seen Baywatch?
On the brink of a near-death experience, I did what any woman would have done.
I thought about what I was wearing.
Yesiree. I started thinking about those twentysomething girls in their barely-there bikinis. Would those boys have jumped in the river to save them? Probably. I reviewed my appearance. Ball cap, sunglasses, T-shirt and shorts. They probably mistook me for a lumpy piece of carpet instead of a damsel in distress. I threw my arms around a large rock and tried again:
"I need help!"
Finally, one boy who must have been an Eagle Scout and raised by a kind, compassionate mother, begrudgingly waded into the water to rescue me. I hauled myself out of the river and shook myself off like a dog. The next time I tube, I think I'll wear a life preserver over my sensible L.L. Bean tankini.
And to any half-naked twentysomethings tempted to steal my parking spot, just remember what Kathy Bates said: "Face it girls, I'm older and I have more insurance."