I still remember the day I found The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax. I was digging through Grandma's coat closet, where she kept toys and other interesting things (I especially loved her globe of the moon), and started browsing through a small collection of Reader's Digest Condensed Books. Even as a kid, Dorothy Gilman's humor grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. (I didn't read the unabridged version until I was an adult. Then I was sad at what I'd been missing in all those years of rereading my grandmother's condensed version.)
Sooo, there I am, driving along, listening to the radio (I get in the car, the radio goes on. Of course I get all my best ideas there - you were expecting the shower maybe?) and Bon Jovi comes on - "It's My Life" to be precise - and as I'm singing along, I think about Mrs. Pollifax and the day she decided to change her life.
In a precise voice she ticked off the list of charities to which she gave her time; it was a long and sensible list.Why yes, there is. Mrs. Pollifax has always wanted to be a spy. And so, deciding that it's time to go ahead and indulge herself, time to stop being quite so sensible, she walks into the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency, and calmly applies to be a spy.
The doctor nodded. "Yes, but do you enjoy volunteer work?"
Mrs. Pollifax blinked at the unexpectedness of his question. "That's odd," she said, and suddenly smiled at him. "Actually I suppose I loathe it."
He could not help smiling back at her; there was something contagious about her smile, something conspiratorial and twinkling. "Then perhaps it's time you looked for more congenial outlets," he suggested
Mrs. Pollifax said slowly, with a little frown, "I enjoy meeting the people, you know, it's just that so often nothing more is needed for volunteer work than a good set of teeth."
"I beg your pardon?"
'Teeth - for smiling. There are rules, too. You can't imagine how regimented some of the volunteer work can be. It's very impersonal - not yours, somehow, because of all the restrictions."
"Do you feel you're a particularly creative person?"
Mrs. Pollifax smiled. "Goodness, I don't know. I'm just - me."
He ignored that, saying very seriously, "It's terribly important for everyone, at any age, to live to his full potential. Otherwise a kind of dry rot sets in, a rust, a disintegration of personality."
"Yes," she said simply. "Yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly on that, but what is one to do? After my husband died I set out to make a very sensible life for myself - I always intended to, you see - so that I would never be a nuisance to my children. It's just that -"
"It's too sensible, perhaps?" Caught by something in her eyes that did not match the light mockery of her voice, he said, "But isn't there something you've always longed to do, something you've never had either the time or the freedom for until now?"
...Mrs. Pollifax wondered why, when she was being her most serious, people found her so amusing. She supposed that her tastes always had been somewhat peculiar. Her husband's favorite form of endearment for her had been "lovable little goose," which was his way of forgiving the odd bent in her that he didn't quite understand, and as they grew older the children, too, had acquired the habit of thinking her just a little absurd.I am sure that she would have been humming Bon Jovi as she strode into her interview if they'd been around yet.
It's now or never
I ain't gonna live forever
I just want to live while I'm alive
It's my life
My heart is like an open highway
Like Frankie said
I did it my way
I just wanna live while I'm alive
It's my life
Mr. Mason looked shocked. "But Mrs. Politick," he protested, "this is simply not the way in which spies are recruited. Not at all. I appreciate the spirit in which you —"Now that's what you call a second career! I want to be Mrs. Pollifax when I grow up. Do you think, if I sign up to take karate with my kids and work very hard, that I might be able to save the world a few times when I hit my sixties?
"Then how?" asked Mrs. Pollifax reasonably. "Where do I present myself?"
"It's - well, it's not a matter of presenting oneself, it's a matter of your country looking for you."
Mrs. Pollifax's glance was gently reproving. "That's all very well," she said, "but how on earth could my country find me in New Brunswick, New Jersey? And have they tried?"