Friday, July 22, 2011
Accidental Backwoods Road Trip
Every person on God’s green Earth forgets and misplaces things at times so please understand I am not trying to act like a jerk on purpose blissfully living in the proverbial glass house unconcerned about hypothetical stones being cast my way. This is just a recounting of past events and the uncomfortable situation I found myself several years ago while being sent to reclaim Dragonwife’s, my spouse, ATM card from the people who found it after she left it in the bank ATM machine.
Somehow this became an inadvertent and unwanted quest for me which started on a Friday in the middle of spring with the hero, yours truly, going about his daily business at peace with himself and content with the world. Truthfully, if I remember correctly I believe I was doing yard work that particular morning cussing up a storm about serfdom and asshole neighbors but you all have heard that stuff before so just go with the crap I wrote about peace and contentment.
Whatever the case when I finally came back inside I remember the answering machine chirping indicating that while I was hard at work my wife found the time to call me. Given her tendencies, such calls usually meant she had remembered another thing for the Honey-do-list so understand I was indifferent at best about listening to her message. Since the list was long enough already, I decided to ignore the call and claim I did not hear the answering machine when she asked about it later that evening. At the time of this incident, I was working third-shift and without going into a deep explanation of my work hours my weekend had already started and I did not want to spend any more of it working in the yard.
That plan came apart thirty minutes later when the phone rang again and while I let the answering machine take it, I could hear my wife as the machine recorded what she said. “Ron,” she whispered in panic, “I lost my ATM card someplace, look around the house and see if you can find it. Just call me as soon as you get this message, I may need to cancel it.”
Well that presented quite the conundrum, my plans after I cleaned up involved going to the movies then sipping a cold one at a nearby bar but visions of some slimy villain skipping through town with my wife’s ATM card buying anything he wanted seemed to suggest I should reconsider. Truthfully, given my strange luck I figure there was a real possibility I could end up sitting on my favorite barstool after the movie talking baseball scores with the very person who found her card and was buying beers with it. Much to my chagrin, I called my wife back and after conferring with her began looking for ATM card but came up empty.
After turning the house upside down, I called Dragonwife to inform her she needed to move with all haste and cancel her hopelessly missing ATM card. After that, I figured the situation was solved, the card was now cancelled and would be rejected if anyone tried to use the thing. In about a week she would have a bright and shiny new bankcard and I was sure she would rush out to use the minute the nondescript envelope it was sealed in arrived in the mail. If I had any concerns it was that a week without a frivolous purchase of any kind might result in such pent up anxiety she might melt the new card the day she received it. Dear Lord in Heaven I wish that was the case because a completely new can of worms opened up the next morning.
During this period in the lives of my family Saturdays were even more laid back than now. Darth Spoilboy’s best friend lived next door and the two would be out and about as soon as the sun popped over the horizon. Darth Wiggles was a toddler and she and I would spend a good portion of the morning watching SpongeBob Squarepants before going off to the zoo or state museum. Dragonwife would pursue her favorite habit of reorganizing a closet that absolutely did not need it.
Later that afternoon would have us all going out for lunch then spend a couple of hours at the local mega-book store. All things considered, it was a pretty sedate and comfortable suburban life and if we had not answered the phone that morning it would have stayed that way.
Around nine o’clock the phone rang and since that usually meant it was my mother-in-law calling I let Dragonwife answer it. While it will surprise a few I really like my mom-in-law, I find her a fairly rational person to talk with except on the days when she gets this strange urge to turn every statement I make into some question with psychoanalytic overtones. For example you cannot believe the frustration level involved one time when I had to slowly explain to her once why I was going to the beach one cold February weekend. Somehow, the fact that I have family on the coast, had the free time and money, and simply love the solitude of having the beach and the ocean largely to myself did not compute to her.
So, as the phone rang that Saturday morning I felt this surreal psychic foreboding connected with it and figured my wife should answer it. That is the problem with psychic warnings, you can never figure out when they are counter-intuitive. Had I answered the phone I would graciously thanked the person calling and then promptly forgot to tell my wife that someone had found her now cancelled ATM card.
Just a few minutes went by when Dragonwife entered the living room explaining the situation and that she was sending me to go pick the card up in a couple of hours. Now for anyone wondering how in the world they found our phone number you have to understand Dragonwife being an attorney kept her maiden name when we were married and her last name is rather unique and alone in the local phone book. Still I was rather puzzled why I was volunteered to go after the defunct card.
“Tell me again why I have to go for your bank card?” I asked while eating the wilted remains of my daughter’s frosted flakes and drinking what was left of the chocolate milk from her sippy cup.
Dragonwife rolled her eyes and I got one of those looks that signified she was again wondering how she had ever hooked up with such an uncouth barbarian with absolutely no manners. “Because they were nice enough to remove my card from the machine and look up our phone number so they could return it to me.” She said now taking on this stern look that I am sure people like Stalin used whenever they are about to make someone disappear. Since I had an inkling that I might get laid that night I quickly capitulated and got ready to leave. Had I looked at the slip of paper with the directions to where I was going sex be damned I never would have left the house.
In less than thirty minutes after leaving my neighborhood, I departed the comfortable and dignified world of middle class suburbia with its ornate McMansions and perfunctory American flags calmly flapping in the breeze and entered the world of rednecks with cluttered trailer parks and Confederate flags snapping arrogantly in the wind. Now this did not bother me at first, I get along well with most rednecks and in fact, I am a bit of a celebrity among some of them because when I practice a little I can shoot a fly in the left butt cheek while chewing on a piece of venison jerky. What can I say? They seem to enjoy talking with a liberal that owns weapons and does not shy away from good deer meat. No, what bothered me as I continued my journey was that I was quickly leaving the province of roughhewn but decent country folks and moving into dangerous territory.
The area I was nervously entering sends students to a local high school where one of my best friends teaches and I could not help but remember a little story he told me once. My friend “Pete” is a decent guy who bends over backwards to help his students and be available to their parents if they have any questions or requests. This won him the respect of the people in that area even although he is originally from far out of state making him a "foreigner" in their eyes. Over beers one night he told me a story about how the grandmother of one of his best students, who at the time was suffering health issues, invited him to a fund raising benefit being held for her grandchild by one of the local civic organizations.
Pete was seriously considering going until this delightful little old lady mentioned offhand the name of organization sponsoring the benefit. To avoid name-calling let us just say that this group really likes it when white sheets go on sale. Making matters worse my friend Pete while not having an ethnically obvious name is Jewish so as diplomatically as possible he had to turn down the gracious offer by the old lady.
With this in mind I followed the next step in the directions and turned off onto a dirt road then a few miles later turned off on another dirt road that was actually more a path if you wanted to get technical. It was at this moment that scenes from the movie “Deliverance” began running through my mind. Questions abound as to why I did not say screw it and turn around and go home, all I can say is that I am stupid and figured my wife was going to owe me so big she was going to have to break out the cherry flavored joy jelly that evening once the kids were asleep. Before long the trailer that marked my finally destination appeared and after that it was too late.
The trailer and it’s outlying buildings had a very rustic nature that would have fit well in either a Great Depression or post-apocalyptic movie. It was nice to know that the residents were politically active given the number of bumper stickers on the array of broken down cars that were scattered about, the mildest being one questioning what species other than humans liberals prefer for sexual relations.
Beginning to feel bold for some insane reason, I grabbed the small wrapped present that contained a thank you gift from my wife before getting out of the car and walking up to the front door. The first person to come out was my worst nightmare, a young guy about my size but who looked as unbalanced as a hungry Hannibal Lecter. The person after that was an older lady who I guessed was his mother.
After going through the required chitchat with the lady she handed me my wife’s defunct ATM card and I gave her the small present. After five minutes of idle conversation with his mom the big guy had stayed eerily silent, this was really bothering me to the point I was wishing I had brought my pistol. Now the mom was nice but was ripping through my wife’s excessive gift wrapping on the present just like a five year-old on Christmas day.
You really can’t judge people at first sight because as soon as the lady pulled the scented candle out of the box her pleasant nature evaporated like a snow cone in the Mojave Desert on a summer day. “What the Hell is this shit.” She said with the best look of sudden disgust I had ever seen on a person.
Oh crap, I thought, I figured big guy was going to get all belligerent since I had pissed off his mom and would make me the evening meal for the nice sized sow and her piglets I now saw in a pen behind the trailer. However, like I said you can’t judge people, the big guy broke out into a huge smile and snatched the present from his mom. “Now this is precious, I smell lilac.” He said taking a sniff of the yellow candle now pressed up against his nose.
The big guy began thanking me intensely and inviting me to stay for dinner, which I turn down. Being as gracious as possible, I said my goodbyes and raced to my car to get the Hell out of Dodge before everything went to shit. Once in the car I turned it around and noticed the mom was still standing outside giving me dirty looks but her son was nowhere to be seen. Right before driving away I noticed the rainbow flag bumper sticker attached to one of the newer cars on the property and almost drove into a tree laughing at my own sheer stupidity and preconceived notions.
A fitting postscript to this rambling but very true story would be that Dragonwife never again drove off leaving her ATM card in the automatic teller. However, to keep the story factual I cannot write that, just a few weeks later she came home in a fluster looking for the card that was the replacement to the one she sent me out to retrieve. Luckily, this time no backwoods Samaritan called to say they found it, at least that is the story I told my wife.