Saturday, October 20, 2012

I Heard I was in Town


 (Author's note: The following is all true, really I mean ever word. Now it did not happen all at one time.)

There is an old saying that in this infinite universe no matter how rare and unlikely an event might be as long as it is not absolutely proven impossible it has probably occurred somewhere. Such was the case one Saturday morning when I crawled out of bed to find that my wife had not left me a weekend “Honey-Do” list before she and the kids drove off to her mom’s house. Do not misunderstand me, I had absolutely no desire to be bound to the stifling suburban domicile I find myself living like some oppressed medieval serf. It is just that the idea of my wife forgetting to write down a list of  “productive” or “substantial” tasks for me to do over the weekend is akin to the sun not rising in the east and bears collectively deciding as a species to poop someplace others than the woods.

For a very brief period that Saturday morning, I actually found myself suffering from a married man’s version of the Stockholm syndrome where I felt upset at not finding some sort of task list of demeaning and time consuming items to keep me busy. Luckily, since I was still not fully awake I accidentally slammed my head into an open kitchen cabinet door while looking for the coffee and came to my senses.

Part of my return to proper male sanity was the realization that my wife was at some point sure to remember her mistake and burn up as much cell phone minutes as needed to contact me.  There was only one way to save my unexpected freedom, and it was a road trip to the coast. I figured it was far better to haul ass and ask my wife for absolution when she came home than hope she might give permission for my impromptu escape from my suburban nightmare when she called.

Without any real plan, I quickly showered and got the proverbial hell out of Dodge. I stopped only long enough to make sure that Sparky the Dog and Spock the Cat had plenty of water and food while I was away from the house. No more than thirty minutes after realizing my opportunity for unrestricted freedom and the danger it faced I was on the road to the coast to the spend the day at the beach.  

***

The usual route I take to get to the beach has me going through my hometown of Georgetown, South Carolina. I usually do not stay very long anymore since I have no real family left living there but it satisfies some part of my soul to ride through town and see all the places familiar to me. Except this time as I hit the town limits I saw a huge billboard declaring that there was a fall festival going on that weekend located on Georgetown’s main business avenue named Front Street. Feeling a spontaneous urge to do something really different I decided to skip the beach and head into town and check out the party.

Barely an hour later I am sitting at a small picnic table on Front Street, eating a huge bowl of shrimp and grits while listening to some unknown band play their rendition of Buffett’s “Margaritaville.”When I added the beautiful morning and the cool breeze to the equation, I had to figure my unannounced road trip was the best idea I had in a long time. I had no illusions about the repercussions when I got home, my wife and her family are very deliberate and structured people while my spontaneous nature is something they have never understood. There would be metaphorical Hell to pay as my wife pouted over what she considered were fantastic home improvement task I could have completed that weekend.

But that was in the future, at that moment I was wrapped up in my shrimp and grits while watching the crowd pass in front of me. The hordes of people milling about were in happy and friendly mood and I could not suppress the thought wondering if I knew any of them during my years living in Georgetown?

While I did not run with a popular crowd or was well known in my own right I did know enough people in Georgetown to begin wondering where the Hell everyone went. Just by random chance on my brief stops at one of Georgetown’s local restaurants or parks, I should have bumped into some friend or acquaintance at least once. As the years passed, I had long since given up wondering, or even caring for that matter. Leave it to a precocious universe to start offering answers at that moment.   

“Hey Tony!,” Some guy in the street wearing a Hawaiian shirt, baggy cargo shorts like mine, and flip flops yelled looking straight at me in a heavy northern accent. “You lousy Son of a Bitch, where the hell have you been, the old gang has been wondering for years where you disappeared.” He further said almost running up to me then grabbing my hand in a monstrously violent handshake.

Had this unknown guy been angry or shown evidence of being unhinged I would have immediately thrown down but from the smile on his face he seemed genuinely happy to have found someone he thought he knew.

“I’m sorry sir,” I said, “You have me confused with someone else. My name is Ron.”

“Holy shit,” he said somehow realizing his mistake. In all honesty, it was probably my southern accent, which is rather heavy at times but whatever the case he released my hand and stepped back. “I’m so sorry,” he said, “but you are the spitting image of one of my old Air Force buddies.  In fact you could be his twin and I know that bastard didn’t have a brother.”

“No problem,” I naturally said, “the truth of the matter is that you’re not the first person to mistake me for someone else.” I went on to explain that several times while I was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado soldiers returning from duty in South Korea swore up and down they had known someone who looked just like me in their unit. And, to beat the point a little further, I explained the same thing had happened here in South Carolina a few times. Other than some brief thoughts about where my “dear old Dad” might have strayed in his youth, I had always discounted the occurrences as just one of those things.

I soon learned that Hawaiian shirt dude’s name was Mike and he began explaining how he and Tony joined the air force straight out of high school, served together at the Charleston Air Force Base for several years before Tony was reassigned to West Germany. The two lost contact with Mike telling me his friend had for the most part fallen off the face of the earth. After Mike’s wife Carol joined us at the picnic table, he further explained the he and Tony so liked the Lowcountry of South Carolina they talked about retiring here right from the start of their military careers.

Even Carol confessed that my resemblance to the lost Tony was uncanny which made me feel required to recount my history there in Georgetown. Before I really knew it a couple of hours had passed and we all went our separate ways with me continuing to prowl Front Street listening to music and developing some strange need to make contact with someone I knew.

***

I eventually left the Front Street festival and headed north to Murrells Inlet with the intention of hitting one of the seafood restaurants there for a late lunch of fried shrimp. Being a creature of habit I stopped at a place called “Creek Ratz” and settled in at a table on the patio overlooking the marsh. Since it was so late in the afternoon, the place almost empty with me having the beautiful Diane as my waitress almost exclusively.

Once my heaping pile of fried shrimp was set down on the table I took my time savoring every bite. I must have looked pensive while I sat there because Diane asked if something was bothering me. “No, not really” I said, “it’s just that after living most of my life in Georgetown County it is like everyone I ever knew has disappeared.”

Diane looked thoughtful for a moment trying to think of something significant to say. “Maybe you have inadvertently stepped through a crack in the space-time continuum and entered a parallel universe where you never existed. Some people have the ability to walk across different dimensions as easily as a regular person enters a room.” She said in all seriousness actually looking concerned. “I can perceive ripples in space-time and this area is full of them, “she went on to say. I fell in love with her on the spot although she was way too young for me.

***

My last stop on my great weekend road trip rebellion was my original destination, the south end of Pawleys Island. That little spit of land had always been one of my favorite places to enjoy the sun, sand, and ocean and by the I time arrived that day it was mostly empty with only a few odd stranglers like myself walking the beach.  My plans by that point were to watch the sunset over the marsh and then hightail it home to feed the dog and cat, which I was sure, would be planning their revenge for dinner being so late.

I had been there for thirty or forty minutes walking the edge of the shore watching the incoming tide when I looked up and saw another couple strolling towards me. They were huddled close together sharing a blanket wrapped each of their shoulders. It was an obvious intimate moment between the two and I looked straight ahead as we passed to give them some privacy.

“Ron Johnson, is that you,” I heard the guy say after passing them by. I immediately stopped and realized that I had finally stumbled upon some old high school acquaintances. As luck would have it, they were one of those obnoxious couples that fell madly in love during their freshmen year. I quickly remembered they had this habit of walking around campus during their free periods so close together you could almost believe they were physically connected. Carrying on a conversation with them was even worse, to them everything was all hope, love, flowers and a bright future. This will sound mean but being around a couple that much in love was like overdosing on saccharin. Their devotion to each other was sweet but prolonged exposure to them left a very bad mental aftertaste.

Trying not to be cynical here but going to sound like it anyway there does seem some justice in the universe that most couples like them usually end up hating each other after the real world smacks them in the face. Fairy tale love just cannot stand the pressures of mortgages, medical bills, stressful jobs, and young children always demanding their parents full attention and time. Standing there in front of them it was evident that this couple had beat the odds, which I had to grudgingly admire.

We talked for several minutes going over our respective histories after high school when they both chimed in that seeing me was like seeing a real ghost. “I don’t understand, what do you mean by that?" I asked. 

“Yeah,” the guy laughed along with his wife. “A rumor went around a few years back during one of the reunions that you were dead.” On that note, I decided it was time to go home. 


14 comments:

lime said...

first of all i salute you for grabbing your opportunity wen you saw it. i think you needed it. sounds like you found pleasant enough folks to spend some time with. the waitress is pretty funny. i imagine phoebe from friends. hahahaha. the couple on the beach...ok, now i hear the twilight zone theme. how does such a weird rumor start?

Life As I Know It Now said...

You must have fallen through the cracks as your friendly waitress suggested.

Yes, there are some few lucky couples who are happily and forever in true love with each other. I don't know any of them of course but I envy them and think them unnatural. :) :)

Windsmoke. said...

I reckon the waitress has been watching way too many Star Trek episodes/movies. As the saying goes "When the cats away the mice will play"!.

Mike Williams said...

I'm disappointed you didn't get a round of golf in at Kiawah on your mini vacation. I also hope the remembered honeydo list will not be too onerous afterwards.
I am constntly mistaken for other people yet people who I knew for years long ago don't remember who the hell I am even after I tell the how we met and how long we worked side by side. Forgettable sums it up.

Pixel Peeper said...

It's always a little melancholy to go back and visit places from your past.

I've lived in a number of different places and found some coincidences that were downright spooky. I recently re-connected with one of my friends I knew from living in New York. It turned out her daughter had moved to South Carolina and lives in the same subdivision where we had lived during our time in South Carolina.

Life is just full of little coincidences and connections...

Akelamalu said...

Why hadn't you gone to the in-laws with your wife??? Only kidding.

What an interesting day you had. The comment about people hearing you had died reminded me of Mark Twains comment "The rumours of my death are greatly exaggerated".

Did you get into trouble of the wife for making hay while the sun shines?? LOL

Beach Bum said...

Lime: Yeah, I've told Dragonwife that when Darth Wiggles gets a little older and has her own social life established I'm going to do theses sudden trips more often.

Diane the waitress was cool, as for that rumor I've mentioned it in comments and my blog posts from time to time. The explanation on how it started could have been a post all by itself.

Life As We Know It: Just once I'd like to stumble into a parallel universe where I am rich.

As for "true love" I actually think its a form of insanity but what the hell, there are worse ways to be crazy.

Windsmoke: Dear lord, had I been fifteen years younger I would have made a move on Diane.

Mike Williams: I was chased off a golf course once as a kid by the staff after pinging them with my BB gun. They were messing with a bear cub in a tree and I got pissed. Of course I was behind a bunch of bushes but my laughing gave up my position.

For that reason I tend to stay away from all golf other than put-put. But now both my son and daughter kick my ass in that.

As for being mistakenly identified and forgotten I know how you feel. As long as its not some irate husband I can deal with it.

Pixel: I know what you mean, my cousin lives five minutes away from me and almost next door to a woman who I went to elementary school with, and no she did not remember me.

Beach Bum said...

Akelamalu: LOLK!!! Mark Twain always rocks with something clever to say.

Yeah, I did get in some trouble. I got home around 9:00pm with an answering machine full of messages. The first twenty were as I expected, my wife telling me what she wanted me to work on. The rest were calls wondering what I was doing.

She came home the next day and pouted but everything worked out. As for my in-laws, I'm staying home when my wife and kids go up to their places the day after Christmas, I plan on taking off again for the coast.

Joan Perry; Sidewalk Curator said...

People used to always think I looked like someone they knew but I think I've grown out of it. I have got that flash of mistaken recognition for a while.

Seems like everyone has been going to Georgetown lately. One of these days I will say, "Hey, aren't you....!"

Randal Graves said...

Your carefully concocted story is fooling no one, shapeshifting robot time traveller from future past.

Mr. Charleston said...

Ha, rumors of your demise are premature but just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.

Beach Bum said...

Joan: It is strange the number of times people have confused me with someone else. In the post I mention a bunch of guys coming back from South Korea saying I looked like one of their buddies. One of those guys was so adamant he said I had to be a lost brother of that person.

Randal: I think Diane the waitress believed the samething.

Mr C. Dude, not sure what you meant by the paranoid thing. If anything I am the exact opposite, except when it comes to my pod people suburban neighbors.

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

On two different occasions I have been told that I have a twin out there somewhere. The first time came from a waitress at the Cattleman's Club on the Boulevard in Amarillo, who told me that I had looked real sharp the last time she had seen me with my new brown Resistol hat and a matching western suit. Since I just happened to be out doing some day-work on a ranch to the north of town that weekend, my curiosity was peeked. For she didn't know me as well as I wanted her to, but I had tried hard enough for her to be quite familiar with most of my mannerisms. So, it was quite a shock to hear her say that she had spent some time with me when she really hadn't. (No, I didn't have the guts to ask if she had actually gotten to know him better than me.) the other occasion happened a few years later when a lady hollered at me from across the parking lot of a 76 truckstop in Ozona, Texas on account of thinking that I was her brother, and she was wondering what I was doing up there when I should have been back in Phoenix (Arizona) hauling gravel to construction sites for their father. It took me several tries from a much closer distance to convince her that I wasn't her brother, and she didn't appear to be on anything but maybe a little too much life, too! Of course, both of those times happened many years ago, and my wife keeps telling me that no one wants to look like me now. Sigh.

Red Nomad OZ said...

HHHMMMmmm... that's an extreme reaction to not finding a list - couldn't you just turn off your phone??!!

Maybe you found a mystery scenic loo portal after all ...