It's early February and occasionally we have unseasonably warm weather which thaws the surface of the ground in the pasture just enough that it is a sea of mud. I know people say "sea of mud" and they think they know what it means, but until you have lived on a farm that is a construction site, and you have four dogs, teenage and tweenage boys, and various trades/craftsmen and others who are making multiple daily trips to and fro from the barn to the house and the parking area and then back to the barn and the house and the field for feeding, shopping, chores, and because you forgot what you went out there for and other errands, you really can't. Know what it means, I mean. The mud.
But it's not just the ground that is muddy. This time of year because of the holidays being over and the seasons teasing you with warm 60 degree weather one day and blasting you with 50 mph winds and subzero temperatures the next, and because it is a sort of wait and see time before good weather kicks in and outside chores become excuses to play, I find that my thinking gets muddy. Not one to point fingers but, so does yours.
So this morning I wake up and idly think, why don't they make snore strips for dogs? I actually design them in my head, imagine the fortune I would make, write the commercials and retire to Aruba. I spend a few minutes thinking about trying a human snore strip on the Big Spotted Dog. You can imagine the reason. Fortunately, my thyroid medication kicks in before this line of thinking becomes an incident that would require explanation and I remember HEY, today is a BIG DAY!
Ripper (Daughter In Law) and I are moving crapdedoodle. I don't think I need to share the WHY and the WHERE of this crapdedoodle: let's just say that the ebb and flow of my life requires endless piles of trinkets and chachka and doodads and geegaws to be packed up, lugged up and down stairs, in and out of trucks and barns and apartments and townhouses and basements and attics - mine and other people's. I can assure anyone who ever felt that they don't have enough THINGS in their life you just have not said YES often enough or looked hard enough. The more room you have, the more you amass. I do go on the occasional shopping spree, but really, I can tell you that if you just keep your ears perked, you will find yourself the happy (or at least willing) recipient of the byproduct of other people's lives - their flotsam and jetsam, their effluent, their excesses and and failings. And sometimes, they even have really good taste! I like other people's stuff just as much as new stuff and I'm not talking about stealing. Actually I wonder how stupid you have to be, to go to all the trouble of being a thief. There is so much stuff out there for free! I mean, why bother to climb through a window in the middle of the night and risk losing your freedom (or in West Cornmeal Township where I live) risk getting shot in the leg when you can just say Yes, drive up the driveway in your truck and most people will help you load it up.
Anyhow, today Ripper and I are off to bring a motherlode of stuff home and in order to earn it, we are also delivering seven large pieces of lovely craftsmen furniture to a woman who has bought it from the owner. When we said yes to this (Ripper will tell you that I said yes and she had a blackout) we weren't also moving My Son's family into my house, Eldest Grandson did not have a broken hand, and everything seemed possible because I was breathing the fumes of an estate sale. Nothing is ever as easy as I think it's going to be or as tragic and difficult as she feels it is.
Because I had a moment of clarity and realized that I was just not big enough to take an oak entertainment center down three flights of stairs, or even help Ripper do this, I have made arrangements for help. We are picking up two guys at a Mission in town and they are going to help us and we are renting a freaking big truck.
Ripper arrives this morning and I tell her we have help. That we are picking up two as yet Unknown Unfortunates at a men's mission who are going to be our legs and muscles. It's not just easier, it's GOOD KARMA.
Over her head forms a cartoon bubble where frame by frame it is revealed she is thinking that we will pick these guys up and later today will be found on the floor of the vacant house with steak knives sticking out of sucking chest wounds by her husband my son who has been calling our stolen cellphones frantically for hours.
She says, Other women don't do this.
I wave this concern away! I tell her I have decided it will be a great day! It will be FUN, we will get so much done! And, it's sort of like the exercise program we both said we would start around the new year, which is just six short weeks behind us - no time like the present! Then I tell her I will buy her breakfast. She gets in the car.
We go through the Burger King drive thru. I order a croissant sandwich, breakfast potatoes and a small diet coke instead of the coffee that comes with the meal. I believe this is a number three. It is 3.49. Ripper orders a bacon, egg and cheese, breakfast potatoes and a medium coke instead of a coffee. Hers is 4.59. I have to repeat this several times for the woman taking the order, shouting into the little box. She says thank you very much that will be 14.99 please pull around to the first window.
No. No it will not be 14.99. I'm not going to do the actual math, but just rounding the numbers up to the next dollar I can tell it won't be 14.99. It's like 7. Ripper says, That's not RIGHT. Even though Ripper is in the passenger side of my car, the woman in the box hears this and declares, I have to charge you extra for the coffee and cokes. I say, No no, they always just swap that out. And even so, two sodas are not seven dollars.
I careen around the side of the building to the first window where a woman with a Madonna style microphone is holding a bag. I refuse to take it. I say, that total is not right.
She says, yes it is.
I say no, it can not be. Are you gonna charge 15.00 for two sandwiches all day?
She gets unction. Fourteen ninety nine.
As if her unction effects me. I ask for a receipt.
She hands me a receipt that is completely undecipherable. Sure enough the total is 14.99. Ripper is shrieking, seven dollars seven dollars let me see that! and snatches the receipt from me. Since she is convinced she is going to die today, she is upset her last meal is being screwed up in this manner.
There is much arguing back and forth, much tallying up and other BK workers start to cluster in the little tiny window. Everyone has an explanation. They start to argue amongst themselves. No one is making any sense. RIpper and I are forgotten as they turn against each other.
I snatch the receipt back, hand it to the woman holding the bag and stomp on the gas. Just one more restaurant we can never go back to.
We stop for gas and spend fifteen minutes hunting for my wallet in the car. We do find it. Then...
We decide to go pick up the Freaking Big Truck - which is actually just a ten foot cargo van - and THEN get breakfast. I decide we are going to feed the Unknown Unfortunates, too. More good karma (especially since I have found my wallet). We pull into the rental place parking lot and now I can't find my phone. I am looking for my phone because a) Ripper's phone never has a complete charge, b) I do not go anywhere without my phone, c) I have the rental contract stored in my email on my phone. We tear the car apart. I take off my coat. I take off my sweatshirt. I look in the trunk. Ripper starts to call my phone and the vibration is rattling the car like bad dental work but we still can't find it. Finally, Ripper finds it between the seat and the console (in a place I looked over and over) and says, I hate you. Get out of my life. But with affection.
We go in to get the truck paperwork and keys. The people inside have never done this before. It's new to them. They have to call for assistance. The guy who shows up is their son. Dad disappears, Mom and Son get snippy with each other (You aren't logged in. Yes I am. No you are not. You have to be logged in.) Finally son gets the paperwork printed and hands it to me to sign. I hand it back. Mom passively, aggressively, slowly and methodically, folds it into an origami crane and slides it into the envelope. Ripper and I watch this little drama with some understanding - we have sons. But this is not getting us down the road.
I am going to drive the truck. Not many people know this, but I sold little trucks and big trucks for eight years. I can drive anything, any size. I could thread a needle with this truck. It will be a source of shallow pride to me all day. So, I am packing up my stuff from the car which Ripper is going to drive and I can't find my wallet. Or my phone.
I realize if I do this one more time today, I AM going to end up with a steak knife sticking out of a sucking chest wound, but it will be Ripper who did it and no jury will convict her.
We find my wallet and my phone after a few trips back into the truck place, a few more searches of the trunk and under the seats, and a fruitful emptying of the pockets of my coat.
This is when we realize, it is National Dumb as Mud Day.
I peel out of the parking lot with Ripper hot on my bumper and my phone rings. It's Ripper. She says, You are doing great! I think she was checking to see if I still had my phone, but it was sweet of her to notice my skill. Later I realize that she was probably also obsessing that I would drive slowly and over carefully and timidly and then she would be forced into taking the wheel of the truck and that would make HER nervous.
Now because it is NDAMD (see above) and because everything seems to be moving in slow motion, when I call my contact at the Mission to tell him that I am on my way, he tells me I have missed breakfast by half an hour. I don't get why this is important. Was I supposed to eat at the Mission? He says nooooo, but the guys show up, eat and take off about their business (?) and will not be back til 11 to line up for lunch. Okay then. Ripper and I are going to eat breakfast first and kill and hour or two, and then pick up the guys.
We eat at MacDonalds where something very similar to the Burger King Breakfast we order before totals just over 7 dollars. Hmmm. Ripper even has extra potatoes. After a nice, leisurely and reasonably priced breakfast, we moozy (I don't know how to spell that) over to a lighting store and poke around. Then it's time to drive to the mission.
We park and go up to the building, which is an old store front. The door is locked (it's not time to go in for lunch yet) but there is a dapper gentleman standing on the sidewalk, complete with snazzy hat, dress shoes and suit coat. He's very tall and he looks healthy. He asks if he can assist us. I tell him I am here to offer a few hours of work moving furniture. I am paying cash. He hods out his hand and says, Hello, my name is Robert. I will be happy to do it. I say, I really need two guys. We turn in unison and look at an older guy sitting on a bench, clearly not the man beef we are looking for. Now I am worried about offending him, though he doesn't really look all the interested. Robert says, let's go inside and maybe they have someone else for you. He raps on the door, they open up, a cheerful woman named Patty takes in the situation. Robert ducks outside again and reappears with a strong younger man in tow. This is Otis, and he can help! It's that easy. We get in the car, hunt for my wallet and phone again, and head back to Macdonald's where we left the truck. As we pull away from the curb, a young woman waves at the car and mouthes WHERE ARE YOU GOING? This is Otis' significant other. His cellphone rings and it's her. They have a discussion about what he is doing, what he is earning, and how long he will be gone. She's grilling him pretty good. When he hangs up, I ask him if he needs a note from me for the day? We laugh and hi-five each other and basically rejoice in the common themes of people's lives.
We pick up the truck and I pair up with Robert (we are close in age) and Otis climbs into the car with Jaime (the truck won't hold four people). I set the gps - a thing of wonder to Robert, who asks if it works if you are hitching - and off we go.
Robert and I settle into an easy conversation. We are both Hillary democrats who voted for Obama. Robert shares that he studied political science in college and finds this an exciting time to be living. He tells me he is a veteran. He played basketball for the Air force all over Europe and then tried out for the Denver Nuggets. He injured his knee and can't play any more. That his mother died six years ago and she was his best friend. He finds he does not have anyone to call with good news any more. He never had children. His favorite place in the world is Belgium. At New Years.
He asks about me and I give him the encapsulated Rodeo story.
Ripper calls and says she is hungry. So is Otis.
Robert says he has coupons for MacDonald's and pulls them out of his wallet. Ripper says she can't eat at the same fast food restaurant twice in one day. I decide I want Robert to hold on to his coupons, I'm buying so we go to Wendy's. We order everything they want.
Eating and driving, we get to the house and Robert and Otis load up the big, difficult furniture easily and energetically. They think of better ways to do things and Otis is particularily good at the spacial relationships that are required to load the truck.
We drive over to the delivery site and unload the furniture. The woman receiving the furniture gives Otis and Robert forty dollars each which they really appreciate. Then, we go back to the vacant house and in minutes load it up again with the items we are keeping. We all work together at this and it goes really fast. To our endless amusement, Otis' woman calls every fifteen minutes to see where he is. I keep wondering what she thinks is happening. And how does she pay for those calls?
On the way back to the Mission, Robert tells me that he had an apartment till two months ago, when he got laid off. They fired his whole shift. He's not worried. Something else will turn up. Maybe he will go to Florida to see an old girlfriend. He's thinking it might be time to settle down. Or get a camper and drive around the country. He says he's on Singlenet.com, too. He's Robert405. Okay.....he also says that he has a job interview the next day, but he can skip it and come out to the farm to help us unload. I tell him I don't think that will be necessary, we have family to help us unload. He looks out the window and says, I can skip that interview. He tells me that Otis is not really homeless. He doesn't know why he comes to the shelter.
Ripper and I decide telepathically to pay these men twice what we had originally said we would, because they made the day so easy. They are very happy, wave to us enthusiastically when we drop them back at the Mission. Call us ANY OLD TIME!
We drive the truck home, glad we have it for another day and don't have to unload it tonight. We are bushed. We sit and talk and Ripper tells me that Otis is thinking about going back to college, that his mother is a stock broker. Ripper says she talked to his mother when she called - Otis wanted her to say hello. She said that Mom was very articulate. She says Otis told her he voted for McCain because he thought McCain would do what was important, and wouldn't care about being popular. She says he told her he isn't homeless, that he and his significant other and her two kids live with another family in an apartment. He comes down to the mission because all his friends are there. His Sig Other likes the social life. Neither of them have jobs right now.
Ripper and I are sitting in my lovely home, bought with so much hard work. She says, I felt sort of guilty. We have so much.
I said, I know.
Ripper says, How do they get to be homeless, with no jobs, Rodeo?
I know she means she has met incompetent idiots just today who were not as efficient or thoughtful or as hard working. It is a puzzle, but I think about the job interview that can be missed, the injury, the death of a beloved parent. I think about relationships with insecure, needy people. About bad luck and bad decisions and bad habits. I think about National Dumb as Mud day. I tell Ripper that what keeps us from being in their situation is luck and things that can turn in a second and that we are but the width of a human hair away from going down that road most days of our lives. We just don't know it. it's the difference between saying Yes and No to the right and wrong things at the right and wrong times. It's the intervention of Angels and Shadows. I guess the answer might lay in our prayers. Robert told me that every night he thanks the Lord for another day. I told him that every night I thank the Lord that I am not cold or hungry.
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