Just another day in paradise here in beautiful Backroads. I was assaulted by a maximum security correctional center inmate on the way to my mom's house yesterday. Oh, don't worry about ol' Val. She's just fine. Here's how the incident went down.
I was piloting T-Hoe along city streets when I spied a "Men Working" sign. No big deal. It was the third one I had seen on this particular trip. Cresting a little hill by the long-abandoned, razed-building, Coca Cola bottling plant site, I saw a work crew from one of the local maximum security prisons. I'm not sure which one. There are three within 25 miles. Yes, Val lives in the Maximum Security Triangle.
These work crews are all over the place, trimming grass and weeds along the roads. They don't get mowers. Only those on the prison grounds can ride those spiffy, circle-spinning, hand-controlled mowers in jet pilot formation. The ones along the road are only supplied with weedeaters. They are all in the standard uniform white T-shirt with gray slacks. Usually a white prison van is parked nearby, and a brown-uniformed guard with a shotgun stands at the ready. There's never been any trouble that I know of, save for years ago, when we only had one prison, when a work-detail dude ran off and was found hiding under a boat. It's a pretty good gig to get out into the community, I suppose, if you're confined all the livelong day for nearly the rest of your natural born days. So they don't want to do anything to mess up their several-cents-an-hour job.
As I drove past the weed-consuming crew, a gigantic boulder thudded against T-Hoe's left flank. He shuddered. I shook. In the door mirror, I saw all of the incarcerated employees staring open-mouthed after our rapidly receding haunches. That's how hard it hit. I still have not dared inspect the real or imagined damage. I don't want to know. That's because you can't sue the state of Missouri. And I mailed the last payment on T-Hoe last month. We got the title lien release thingy last week. Ain't that always how it goes?
In other news, my day went downhill from there. About a half mile up the road, we noticed that the center stripes and sidelines had been painted. Badly. The center was fine, but one side was larger than the other. In fact, a good three feet of pavement extended past the side line in some places. "It's called The Shoulder," said The Pony. Even though this road had no shoulder before, and no more pavement had been added. Oh, well. He'll learn soon enough when he really starts driving his little truck. Oh, and that line changed intermittently, narrow, then wide, like driving along the falling sands in an hourglass.
I picked up Mom, dropped off The Pony for high-speed internet use, and headed off to redistribute some of Genius's college funds. We encountered another work crew, these in a lift truck with a flagman waving me into incoming traffic. An inmate would have known better. Further up the road, at a speed of 10 mph, we spied the problem many cars ahead. It was a pair of orange highway department road-striping trucks. They were not putting down paint. And they could barely fit between the yellow center stripes and the white sideline. I believe that qualifies as irony.
To add a final insult to my non-injury for the day, a most disturbing incident occurred as The Pony and I wended our way home. I pulled into the gas station chicken store for my 44 oz. Diet Coke. My favorite parking space welcomed me. I unhooked my seatbelt. I picked up my coinage and refill cup. And a scofflaw pulled her car right up beside me in the no-parking zone where it impeded my progress into the store, and blocked the truck pumping gas under the roof. I had no patience left for such nonsense. I flung my seatbelt back on, and told The Pony. "I'm not even dealing with this today." It's hard to keep my uncivil tongue in my mouth when I encounter these parking lot ruffians.
Off under the overpass we went, to The Voice of the Village. Some ne'er-do-well had discarded a 44 oz. styrofoam cup on their parking lot. Oh, the inhumanity! Somebody could have saved forty cents with that cup! I pulled into a regular parking space with the law-abiding parkers of the Village. A man came walking across the lot as I gathered my beverage-harvesting accoutrements. "Oh, no! Just my luck! He's going to get to the soda fountain before me! And with my luck today, he'll get the last of the ice, or the last of the Diet Coke. Wait! Maybe he just picked up some cups off the lot to put in the trash can." Nope. He went in the store with two cups.
I headed in anyway. To be first in line after him. A lady was walking my way with a cup, but she wasn't even close enough for me to hold the door open for her behind me. I waited a respectful distance from the fountain. Dude was on his second soda. Almost my turn. Just as he popped the lid on his last cup, that woman stepped up and started a cascade of ice into her cup. IT WAS MY TURN!
But wait. That was not the worst part. SHE WAS THE CASHIER FROM THE GAS STATION CHICKEN STORE! Getting a fountain soda at her competitor. She looked at me and chuckled. I was polite. You never know when you're going to need a favor when Diet Coke is concerned. "I just came from your store! I was getting out of the car when somebody pulled in there where you have the curb stopper so people won't drive into the building. I hate it when people park there. So I left and came over here."
"Oh, I do, too! They do it ALL the time! I'm working in the kitchen now. Did you know that?"
Well, no. Because she just took my money at the register the day before. Anyway, I asked if she was happy, and she said she guessed so, that she had worked in the kitchen years ago. But she was glad her hours didn't start until 9:00 now, even if it meant cleaning the chicken kitchen at night before closing.
Dang. Busted. I felt like Jerry Seinfeld when he went to a new barber, and Enzo walked in as he was getting his hair cut.
At least I know that NOTHING can make my hair look any worse than it does now.