Ugh, they’re back. I was nice to them and now they’re back. I always do this.
I’m standing in our side yard, peering through fence slats at a car parked across the street. Disembarking from the car are two elderly women. They pull a walker out of the trunk, unfold it, and make a beeline – in their slow but insistent elderly woman way – straight for our driveway, whence they will proceed up the walkway that curves around one side of our garage to the front door.
I’m on the other side of that garage, hunched down a bit so the reflective blue plastic of my helmet won’t be seen over the top of the fence. Having just pulled my bicycle out of a side garage door, I was on the verge of opening the gate and riding off down the driveway when the car rolled up. Now I’ll have to wait.
Or will I? If I time it just right, I can probably sneak out the gate and ride down the street in the other direction without them noticing. For this to work, I’ll have to start the moment they round the corner of the garage to the front door and be gone by the time they ring the bell and turn back.
I’ll have to work quickly and silently. It’s possible, but risky.
In the time it takes to consider the plan, the window of opportunity for executing it has already closed. I register the sound of wobbly plastic wheels scraping up the driveway, then the sound of our front gate being dragged open. They’re already nearing the door. There’s no telling how long they’ll wait before turning back. If I go now, they might be rounding the corner again just in time to see me sneaking out of the gate. What would I say then? Would I be able to say anything? I might just panic and sweep a walker out from under someone.
Defeated, resigned to waiting it out, I take another glance through the fence slats at their car. For the first time, I notice a third elderly woman waiting in the driver seat. She’s almost directly across the street from the gate I’d thought of opening, staring at the driveway I’d thought of riding down.
Good thing I was slow to act. She would have seen everything.
In itself, that wouldn’t have bothered me much. I assume Jehovah’s Witnesses know that people tire of them. I imagine some even take a certain amount of pride in spreading their message so insistently that people who don’t want to hear it must actively avoid them. The description of my escape might have made for an amusing anecdote at a lady’s luncheon.
What would have bothered me is this: That third woman wouldn’t have had all the necessary information for an accurate retelling.
Seeing me fly out one side of the house just as her friends disappeared around the corner of the other, she’d have had no way of knowing that I had already been preparing for a bike ride when the car pulled up.
So she might have seen me not as proceeding with my bike ride despite their presence, but as having chosen a bike ride because of their presence. From her vantage point, I might just as well have seen the car pull up, thrown on my biking clothes and helmet, and flown out the back way on my Mongoose because two elderly women were headed for my front door.
As though simply not answering the door wouldn’t have been enough.
As though I was afraid they might break it down and barge right inside.
As though two elderly women instilled such terror in me that I had to flee the house immediately, leaving behind all my things.
For this version of the story to be told and retold among all of Jehovah’s people until the end of time would be too great an indignity.
So I wait it out, pretending to busy myself in the back garden – bicycle helmet still on – until the car is gone. Then I crack open the gate, poking my head out and looking both ways like an irreligious groundhog before pulling the bike through. And then I ride off, a grown man with a pant leg tucked into his sock, riding a bargain store bike, having just hidden from not two but three elderly women.
Good thing I waited. Otherwise, I might feel very silly.