Yesterday I met my best ol' ex-teaching buddy Mabel for lunch.
It has been a long time coming, this lunch. Mabel has been waiting for my RETIREMENT for three whole years! In fact, for the last two years, she sent me the remaining number of days I had left, every morning, on the countdown to The Forever Vacation. That's what Mabel calls it. Oh, we've had a couple of breakfast meetings when I could spare a day off. But not many. I had 96 sick days left, you know.
We met at a restaurant in Mabel's new neck of the woods. I had a delicious dish of two long pretzel rods and honey-mustard dipping sauce made with a burnt end. Not Val's end, mind you. It was delectable. I ate every crumb, and used a knife and fork. You can call my Mr. Pitt With a Snickers Bar if you like. As long as you don't call me late for lunch! Mabel had a fish sandwich and sweet potato fries. Okay. I had ONE fry. Because Mabel insisted. Let the record show that I did NOT have to loosen my belt.
We had a wonderful reminiscing/current-gossip session. The waitress was not TOO obvious about asking us if we needed anything every 10 minutes or so, in order to shame us into leaving. C'mon! We were only there two-and-a-half hours! And they did NOT need the table.
Mabel picked up the tab AND left the tip! PLUS, she gave me a retirement card. She's my FBF, you know. My forever best friend. AND she tucked some scratch-off tickets inside! That Mabel knows what makes me tick. Besides, it's hard to wrap gas station chicken and 44 oz Diet Coke.
Which brings me to our leave-taking...Mabel hopped in T-Hoe and directed me to her new house. The house that her Forever Vacation built. I did not take the inside tour, with time running short and Mabel wanting some loose ends tied up first. I gifted her with the latest anthology containing my works, and some of my World Famous Chex Mix. Then I took her back to her vehicle, which was getting the side-eye from a troupe of three waitresses towing trash dumpsters. After allowing Mabel a non-Christmas, non-birthday hug (you don't know what toll this takes on Val, the unhuggable), I headed across the overpass to the Love Station.
You heard me! The LOVE STATION. Mabel had warned me about the outflow from the Love Station before I set out on my three-and-a-half hour tour. As you might imagine, I texted back, LOVE station? Before you start thinking Mabel is some hoity-toity madam at a roadside bordello, let the record show that the Love Station is a truck stop. So...I figured I could drop in and pick up a 44 oz Diet Coke on my 30-minute ride back home, to avoid going another 10 minutes into town and then back again to the homestead.
Well!!! The Love Station is a TRUCK STOP! Val is familiar with truck stops. Did she not spend three years living in Cuba, Missouri, which might just as well be called One Big Truck Stop? Still. The Love Station almost screamed TRUCK STOP! There were truckers EVERYWHERE! Truckers of many colors. Tall truckers, short truckers, fat truckers, skinny truckers, solo truckers, daddy truckers, man truckers, woman trucker, Chester's Chicken-buying truckers, laying out front on the sidewalk trucker!
How did Val know these were all truckers? And not just travelers stopped for gas at the Love Station? Because every one of those truckers was muttering something that included the word RIG! They were all over the place. I almost felt guilty for invading their territory. I made a quick round of the store, back past the coolers that even sold BEER cases, until I spied the soda fountain against the front wall. It was kind of hard to see, with the coffee station being more prominent. But I found the DIET COKE! And a 44 oz cup.
I got in line behind a trucker, another trucker, and beside a daddy trucker holding three little boys by the hand. I don't know how he did that with only two hands. Anyhoo...I saw a lottery ticket machine, and got out of line to go get one. You can never have too many lottery tickets. But I DID restrict myself to ONE, because, you know, Mabel had given me some in her card. But I figured, "Val, when will you ever be here again? There just might be a winner in there waiting for you."
I paid for my 44 oz Diet Coke and walked back past the trucker laying on the sidewalk in front of the store. He wasn't laying all the way down, but leaning against the front wall, talking on a cell phone. I put that 44 oz into a spare 44 oz cup that I had brought along, to double insulate it. Then I headed home, picked up the mail, replied to texts from The Pony and Hick, and notified Mabel that I had reached my destination.
Inside the homestead, I added some sugar-free cherry limeade powder to my 44 oz Diet Coke. I filled my yellow bubba cup with ice half-moons from Frig II's freezer and added water, then I filled my purple bubba cup with ice half-moons to add to my soda once I got it to my dark basement lair. I put those three cups in a Walmart sack to carry down, so I could have one hand on the banister spindles so as not to fall if my bad knees collapsed. We do not yet have the handrail Hick promised to put up when we moved in when Genius was three years old. I also put Mabel's card and my other lottery ticket in the bag.
Once I reached my office, I set down that bag of beverages and turned on New Delly. And what to my horrified eyes did appear but the slow turnover of MY 44 OZ DIET COKE! The bubba cups squeezed on it from each side, and it began to tip. I tried to grab it! But over it went. And the Love Station lids don't fit as tightly as one might expect.
I saved most of my beverage. But the part that escaped looked like a crime scene. OH, THE SODAMANITY! But the good news is, I still had about 42 oz left! AND no important papers were soaked. AND...I won $15 on Mabel's tickets, and $20 on the one from the Love Station.
If only I had known how I would reap the benefits, I might have tried this Forever Vacation thing sooner!