Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Woman Scorned

One of our company cafeteria cashiers is a middle-aged, southern, red-headed, and fiery yet pleasant woman named Rosie. She's nice to everyone that comes through her line.

Up until very recently, we had a self-serve salad and fruit bar. Take what you want, and pay by the ounce (kind of how drugs are sold in East Nashville). If you could guess the exact price of what you chose, you got it free. Not a penny over or under - no accounting for relative humidity or sytrofoam density variability.

I used to go 3 days a week to buy strawberries, blueberries, and cantaloupe for breakfast. While I enjoyed the food, I hated the game. Lots of employees loved the game. It was like their little prudish version of Vegas roulette. Me? I just wanted to get my breakfast, pay Rosie, and walk back to my desk for my first cup of morning coffee.

But sweet Rosie wouldn't have any of it. She'd beg me to play the game. Wanna guess? No ma'am. Aww, c'mon - just take a guess. So to humor her, I'd take a slug at it each time.

Monday: $2.57. No, sorry. Its $3.21.
Wednesday: $3.14. No, sorry. Its $2.87 today.
Thursday: $3.03. Oh so close. But its $3.07.

After a few weeks of this nonsense and zero wins, I thought I'd have some fun with it by bringing my own variable of nonsense.

Rosie: Got a guess today?
TMC: 18,000 dollars
Rosie: What? Laughs. No, really what's your guess.

Rosie: Got a guess today?
TMC: 17.76
Rosie: *Muffled dismissive chortle* No, $2.98.

Rosie: And?
TMC: 21.12
Rosie: Silence. Glare. Takes my money.

Three days. That's all it took to destroy her niceness towards me. This whole exchange was about 18 months ago. Ever since - including today at lunch - she snubs me. Oh, she'll take my money. But its all professional with her now. She'll chitter-chatter with other customers. But with me, nada.

I didn't intend for it to go this direction. I was just trying to have a bit of cynical, playful fun. I'm not sure she even knows why she doesn't like me anymore. And now with this much time having passed, I don't know how to make amends. The cafeteria has since replaced the pay-by-the-ounce scheme with a checklist/fixed price menu. The days of guessing and winning free meals is over.

However, this is the cross I must now bear. I sheepishly go through her line and take my flogging of limited interactive communication.

Rosie, I'm sorry. If it'll make it all better, I guess $3.17.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday night comforts

After a tough week of funeral traveling, I was ready to put this week behind me. We were invited to dinner by our neighbors a couple of houses down. Their son and our son are best friends. We've visited often, gone out to dinner a handful of times, trade-off taking each other's kid to the pool, scouts, school activities, etc. But we've never really gotten to know them much beyond that.

We were invited along with a few other folks to sit on the deck, eat grilled ribs, that ambrosia fruit salad stuff, tomato and mozzarella salad, cheesecake, etc. Also margaritas, wine, and brew were provided. Ummm-hmmm.

After quaffing a couple of after-work Dos Perros from Nashville's Yazoo Brewing, I was willing to experiment with something different. I tried Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic for the first time. Good stuff.

One by one, the others left until it was just our two neighbors, my wife, and me. The night air was fantastic with a nice breeze, lightning bugs were plentiful, and beer remained. I was then offered an Italian beer, Birra Moretti. Mamma Mia, it was a good and tasty brew. Capiche?

The four of us don't have a whole lot in common beyond having sons as best friends and living on the same street. My wife stays at home and runs Mom's Taxi Service for our two. I work in a corporate office setting, roll pretty conservative, and dig NASCAR and Americana music. Our neighbors are both chemistry professors - one at a state university and the other at Vanderbilt. They list pretty significantly to the political left. Her van may be the only one in our subdivision sporting an Obama sticker. But hey - we all have to get along, right?

Because the evening was ultra low-key, I wore a pair of flip-flops, a pair of shorts, and my John Prine concert tee. Once other conversations ended, my neighbor said she didn't know I was a Prine fan and that she'd been a fan of his for years. We talked lyrics, his early job as a postman, his getting discovered by Kristofferson, her meeting him in a Nashville book store, the recent show at the Ryman, etc.

Her husband then asked me if I knew who Townes van Zandt was. I responded with an "absolutely!" He then told me a story of his meeting Townes and having a meal with him years ago via a friend. When he met him, Townes introduced himself simply as "Hi, I'm Townes." He said his friend whispered that it was THE Townes van Zandt. I laughed when my neighbor said he thought to himself at the time "So? Who the hell is Townes van Zandt?"

We then discussed how Townes really never promoted himself in his time. He's one of those artists whose fame seemingly came largely after death than during life. They didn't know Townes once lived in Franklin, TN for a while. I told them the story of Joe Ely picking up Townes as a Texas hitchhiker and getting one of his LPs from him (an armload of albums was the only possession he was carrying). We debated on how great a songwriter he was - as measured back in the day and as compared against today's songwriters. And we talked about his decline, hip surgery, and eventual death on New Year's Day 1997.

Talk about Townes and Prine then led rapid-fire to Dylan, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Luke the Drifter. Before we could go far with those discussions, my wife not-so-subtly gave me the throat-slash sign. Cut it off - its getting late - time to go.

But it was definitely an enjoyable Tennessee summer evening. Got to know the neighbors a bit better. Sampled two beers that were new to me. Agreed to share some TVZ boots with them. And my week ended on a far better chord than the minor one in which it began.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

R.I.P. Uncle Earl

Well, its over. Just like that. The uncle I've blogged about a couple of times is no more. We got the call at my parents' house this morning about 6:30 AM. Apparently, he slipped away peacefully with his wife by his side.

I was at my parents' house to take them and another of my uncles to the Nashville airport for a two-day visit to Jacksonville, FL to visit with him. The news since my visit there a couple of weeks ago had all been positive. His stamina had improved, his dependence on heavy oxygen had decreased, his voice was stronger, and he had been enjoyed additional visitors.

My mother/his sister couldn't wait to get there to see him. She's been so anxious to make the journey. My dad, however, physically couldn't do it. He recently had hip replacement surgery, and he needed a good bit of rehab before making the trip.

Against his doctor's recommendation, my dad said "I'm going." So I booked them a flight on Southwest, and they were packed and raring to go this morning.

We were literally 5 minutes away from getting in the car and my driving them to the airport. Then the call came. Immediately both my parents became obviously distraught - both at his death and the fact they didn't make it there in time. The second part hurt me more so than the expected first part.

My dad started with a round of What Ifs. What if my mother had gone to Jax without him? What if they had flown 2 days ago? What if he had postponed the surgery another six months? I'll certainly never be mistaken for a grief counselor, but I tried to assure him the What Ifs weren't necessary. Things happen for a reason - and oftentimes for reasons we'll likely never understand while on this earth.

So now, its time for next steps. I've got to get funeral flights booked, pack a suit to wear in the Florida summer sun, and acting like an adult the next few days by being attuned to the needs of my mother and my aunt.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I went to the NASCAR races in Charlotte, NC. I was so grateful to my many friends for gathering for a Hey Earl! shout-out photo. I had hoped to get the picture to him to have a good laugh and let him know yet again how much we thought of him. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the photo to him in time.

I've lost my uncle, my friend, my mentor, and my son's namesake. The world has lost a great man, and this nation has lost a great patriot. But heaven has gained a great soul.

R.I.P. Earl Taylor Leming: January 17, 1952 - June 3, 2010