Saturday morning, Hick had planned to leave Norman bright and early. We had a lot of road to put behind us. He set the alarm for 5:30, so I could get up first and take my thyroid med and shower, and then by the time he showered, an hour would have elapsed, and I could have breakfast. We would eat, and hit the road by 7:00.
I woke up at 5:20, and figured maybe we could even leave a few minutes earlier. You know. Because 10 minutes makes a big difference when you're driving 9.5 hours. Kind of like taking off your shoes before getting on the scale at the doctor's office.
We were downstairs in the lobby by 6:20. AND THERE WAS NO HOT BREAKFAST! Because, in his infinite wisdom, Hick assumed that when Hick is hungry, food will appear. Like people listening when E.F. Hutton talks. Or dead baseball players coming if you build it (baseball field in the corn). But it doesn't. Not on the free Holiday Inn Express breakfast bar on Saturday morning. Not until 7:00 a.m.!
Don't you worry about Val and Hick fortifying themselves before hitting the road. I had a pouch of Great Value Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal in my pocket. So I used one of their bowls, and drained some hot water from their spout, and used the cinnamon shaker sitting nearby. Then Hick grabbed me a boiled egg out of the cooler where the yogurt was kept, and I snagged a bagel from the clear case of muffins and and breadstuffs. A bagel staler than any bagel I had ever bitten into before. Like it was, perhaps, an original item from the 1600s. But it wasn't rock-hard. Just very chewy and dry, like it was made of that desiccant stuff in tiny envelopes in shoeboxes. I only ate half, after lubricating it with some cream cheese. A 50-cent-piece sized tub of plain, and another of strawberry. Unrefrigerated.
Hick went to the pancake maker. That's not a person. It's a machine. One that never works when The Pony is with us. He also had a boiled egg. And a cinnamon roll. And two glasses of orange juice. Not a proper diabetic diet, methinks. But who am I to judge? He called for his lab results today, and his A1C was 5.2. Which is, I think, good, because his doctor wanted it under 6.
Anyhoo...the breakfast staff was just on the other side of a swinging galley door, and we heard them mentioning that people were out there! That was us. The people. Every now and then they came out and fussed with the packaged goods on the counter. I was ever-hopeful that a pan of scrambled eggs was eminent. Until I made Hick go read the hours posted on a plastic plaque on the wall, and found out that breakfast really didn't start until 7:00.
So here it was, 6:40, and I chugged my second cup of water to dislodge that bagel residue from my throat, and I looked at Hick like, "Let's get going." He was finishing his last sip of orange juice. All we had to do was toss the plates, take the elevator upstairs, brush our teeth, and wheel out our already-waiting luggage. I figured we might get gone by 6:50.
AND THEN IT HAPPENED!
Singin' Stranger felt the unavoidable pull of Val's weirdo magnet. We didn't know he was Singin' Stranger. Though in retrospect, he had the bowlegged walk of a backup musician circa Hee Haw's height of popularity. He came strolling across the lobby, making a beeline for our table. We were, after all, the only other people in that room. I could see him with the eyes in the back of my head.
Now if there's one thing Val knows about weirdos, it's DO NOT ENGAGE. Much like when a middle-schooler tries to pitch a fit over some imagined slight, you do not feed the fire. You go about your business and let the embers smolder until they go out. I kept my eyes down on my plate. Put the knife and spoon and bowl on my plate. Stacked my empty plastic cups. But Hick looked up and was caught in the web. Even helped wrap himself in the cocoon for later devouring.
Seems this Singin' Stranger had once lived in Missoui. In Branson. Worked in shows. Performed with his brother. Of course Hick had worked with some woman whose brother inherited a lot of money and moved his own local country music show to Branson for several years until the money ran out. Oh, it's hard out there for a temp country singer. Singin' Stranger went into the hospitality field, but kept singing as he could. He was offered a contract in Nashville. But he said no, if you don't want my brother too, I'm not going. Freed him up for more time to stall couples finished with breakfast and about to hit the road back to Missouri, I guess.
I couldn't believe it! I kept checking my phone. Nodding absentmindedly. But HICK WAS STILL CONVERSING! (Note that Val did NOT say conversating!) At this rate, we'd never get out of there. I got up at 5:20 for nothing! I stood up from the table and threw away my plate. I came back and reached for Hick's plate. Tossed it in the trash. I started wandering past the back of the Singin' Stranger. Hick got the message. He stood up and slowly came after me, still conversing. I swear, Singin' Stranger followed us all the way to the elevator. And when we came down and started past the front desk, he tried to lure Hick in again!
"Did y'all get your bill under the door?"
"Um. No...but my wife took care of it. She paid with a credit card when she reserved it."
Singin' Stranger looked right at me. But I kept walking. Wouldn't meet his gaze. Didn't care what he said. "Yep. That's the best way. You know it's already done. You know your room is held for you--"
I went right on out those double doors. It was already 7:05. No way was I going to delay my journey home to hear more about Singin' Stranger's glory days. I guess he's used to people being polite.
Heh, heh. He hadn't tangled with this ol' Val!