Again, an oldie, but a goodie from many years ago:

I retrieved the embroidered “Operation Overlord” tee shirts and baseball caps I’d ordered for tomorrow’s sales meeting on my way out of town.   I reminded myself that the slogan “Operation Overlord” was not my idea, nor would it have been my choice. My idea of a moral-boosting term for the new sales push would have been something other than a military phrase, but that’s the price I paid for working in a male-dominated arena.

The dirt that had spilled on the floor of the car glared at me as I placed the shirts on the backseat. I decided a quick stop at the local car wash was in order before I hit the highway. I pulled through the automatic carwash and deposited the coins into the vacuum. My timing was perfect. I finished the last of the vacuuming right when the machine stopped and my cell phone began to ring. I grabbed the phone, hung up the hose, and drove off patiently answering my coworker’s questions. How did I get everything done before I had a cell phone?

I cleared my voicemails and settled in for the three-hour drive along the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. The cassette deck and I sang to our hearts’ content as the car headed for Virginia Beach. The gulls and pelicans were there to greet me just like always. I paid the toll and headed across the seventeen-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, the best part of the drive. I began to make a mental list of what I had to do to get ready for the 7 AM sales meeting the next day.

I drove the car up in front of the lobby of the Holiday Inn. I grabbed a luggage cart to haul all of the sales meeting paraphernalia up to my room. I walked around and opened the back door to retrieve my suitcase. It wasn’t there. I stood stunned trying to figure out just how it sprouted legs and escaped incognito. I knew I had put it in the car when I left the house. Then it dawned on me. I had to pull it out to vacuum all of the dirt off the floor. When the phone rang, I’d jumped in the car and left my carry-on sitting on the asphalt of the car wash.

Frazzled at my ineptitude, I reasoned that I could easily replace its contents with a quick trip to Target. Makeup, underwear, toothpaste, and earplugs were the missing essentials. Tomorrow’s outfit was on a hanger and I didn’t need the curling iron since we were wearing baseballs caps at the meeting, didn’t need hair for that.

I dropped everything in the hotel room and hurried back to my car. I reached in my purse for the car keys. Panic began to set in. No way! My heart pounded as I peered into the car to see my keys sitting in the driver’s seat. My normal habit of throwing the keys on the seat as I unloaded the car proved to be a bad one. I’d abandoned my normal routine of parking the car before I checked in and it had cost me.

I sat in the lobby trying to not to be identified as the lady that was locked out of her car and waited for the locksmith. He finally came to my rescue in his bright red locksmith car with magnetic signs on each door. No hiding now.   I signed anything he asked, probably giving away the rights to my first-born grandchild, who knew?   I would have signed anything just to have my car back.   I babbled on to the poor man as to how and why I ended up in this vulnerable state. I finally shut up when I realized that he’d probably heard it all before, different day, different pre-menopausal female. Thirty-seven dollars and ten minutes later, I was headed for Target. Not too high a price to pay for a knight in shining armor.

Back in my hotel room, sans the fugitive luggage (which the car wash had fortunately found an put away for me), I ironed my “Operation Overlord” shirt for the meeting. The embroidery stared up at me.   “Operation OVERLOAD”, not Overlord. No way! I didn’t cry, I didn’t throw anything, I didn’t even cuss. I just laughed. I wondered if this was what they called a “breakdown.” I decided that nobody had to know except for me.

Did I order them wrong? I’d placed the order over the phone, so it might be hard to tell. The next morning, I distributed the misprinted shirts and hats to my coworkers at the meeting, not pointing out the mistake, deciding to let them figure it out for themselves.

Not one of them noticed, so much for chemical salesmen paying attention to detail. I thought I had gotten away with the deception when several hours into the meeting a passerby commented that he had thought it was “Operation Overlord” not “Overload”. I rewarded him with a misprinted shirt of his very own, wishing he’d just kept his observations to himself and his mouth shut.

A week later, still somewhat worried about my mental state, I dropped by the shirt shop. I coyly asked to see the original work order for the shirts and hats.   I cancelled the Prozac prescription when I determined that the mistake was that of the embroidery seamstress and not mine.

I breathed a sigh of relief and shared my story with the store’s owner. We laughed and she handed me a fuzzy over-faxed list of “Expressions for Women on High Stress Days”. My personal favorite, “Errors have been made, others will be blamed!”