Shirley is an elderly women who attends the same church as Karen and John and while I'm sure she possesses some wonderful and admirable qualities, she is generally known around Gloucester as being "a bit off."
Well, what's wrong with her? I asked Karen.
I dunno, but she just rides the bus all day long, nearly every day.
What do you mean she "rides the bus?" Like as in public transportation? Where is she going? Why does she ride the bus all day?
Exactly. So you see what I mean, responded Karen. A bit of a loopy loo.
You met her on the bus? That would be Shirley you're talking about then, said Karen.
No, her name wasn't Shirley, the young woman insisted as she directed Karen toward the nice old lady's home.
Oh, it was Shirley alright, said Karen.
No, it was Smith...or something like that.
Her name is Shirley Smith, said Karen as she pulled into a car park and waved to Shirley, who was standing ready and waiting.
The women chatted comfortably as they drove toward the church, but as they pulled into the parking lot Karen smelled something funny. She sniffed. It was weird, kind of like someone had gas...but not quite. As the women piled out of the car Karen lingered behind them, stealing a second to open the back door and have a look. The smell was stronger, and there was a dark stain on the upholstery. Her natural reflex was to touch the seat, but in the same moment she glanced up to see Shirley's retreating figure headed into the church. The old woman's backside was soaked through as she moseyed away, never having uttered a word about the surprise she'd just left behind.
Instantly feeling sorry for poor Shirley, Karen recruited another church lady to get the old woman cleaned up while Karen cleaned the seat of her car. And then she didn't say another word about it until she got home. Unfortunately her husband John's reaction wasn't quite so mild and gracious. But in order to do justice to the following dialogue I ask you to imagine the total astonishment and incredulity in John's voice, which I find fits so naturally with his English countryside accent. As if Englishman were born to unleash their dignified outrage on the world.
You're serious, Karen? You've let Shirley into our car and now she's left wee all over the backseat?
I was giving her a ride to church, said Karen defensively. She's old, and you know, she's kind of a nutter. What was I supposed to do?
Well for starters, you might not want to have put your hand in it. You do realize you have Shirley's wee on your hand?
I washed my hands, and besides, the only reason I touched it is because I couldn't believe it was pee. I couldn't believe she would pee and then get out of the car without saying anything.
So, what happened? Who drove Shirley home? demanded John. But Karen remained silent, pretending she hadn't heard the question.
You're joking, John said after a moment. Seriously Karen? You must be joking. Please tell me that you did not let Shirley get back inside our car.
What was I supposed to do?
You could've told her to get the bus. She knows the bus schedule better than any of us. Our seats aren't leather Karen. That means from now on, even after a good cleaning, our backseat is going to wear Shirley's wee. That's where we put our son. Parker is going to spend the rest of his days sitting on Shirley's wee.
When John gets himself all worked up about little things like old lady urine on the seat of their car, Karen usually shrugs it off as if it has nothing to do with her, sits down on the couch and opens a bag of crisps, remote control in hand. She was happy to let John rail on about the injustice of people peeing in other people's cars all day if he felt so inclined, but she would never have refused the poor woman a ride home.
I assumed this was the end of their story, but not quite. As John explained to me (on speaker phone so that I could hear Karen laughing at him in the background) he was not about to go quietly into the night with Shirley's pee lurking in the fibers of his car upholstery. This next part is why we all love John.
Look, he explained to me. There's service and then there's service. Giving someone a ride to church is one thing. Leaving church with someone's wee all over your back seat is another. So on Sunday I marched straight up to the Bishop after the service and asked if there were church funds available to pay for one's car upholstery to be professionally cleaned in the event another person from church has peed on it.
Apparently the Bishop laughed, obviously well accustomed to John's ways. I imagine this was not John's first (nor will it be his last) unorthodox request. I don't believe we have funds available for upholstery cleaning, John. But that was nice of your wife to give someone else a ride to a church activity.
Well, believe me we've seen the last of that! Next time she'll be passing out bus schedules, John grumbled.
And to conclude this woeful tale of people peeing in other people's cars, let me add that I felt obligated to remind John that now that his car wears the unhappy mark of Shirley's urine, they are actually the best suited family in Gloucester to offer her rides to church. Why soil other people's backseats when his is already tainted?