The Christmas Show

Posted: December 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

On her last visit to the shop she said without any special emphasis – by the way I got something for you and Joe. Just have to remember to get it to you.  I was only mildly interested and in the hubbub of the hour we never said anything else about it. A month later she mentioned it again. This time I asked what it was and she asked if we liked the theatre. Sure, we did. Another couple of weeks go by and she brings by an envelope. On the outside her neat handwriting, dated by years of calligraphy: The Jacksons. I didn’t open because we were always busy and just handed it to Joe when I got home: “From the Sutherlands“, I said.   Some time that week Joe told me that it was a say trip to Beaufort. A little over an hour away, so his legs would be OK.  It was actually a bus trip with lunch and a show.  Although I wasn’t particularly turned on by the idea I acquiesced: there was very little we really could or would do together these days.  A couple of weeks prior to the trip Joe called them and got directions to the embarkation spot.  He was anxious about it as he tends to get about most things, so we did a dry run and located the show store that they gave him as a landmark.  I was scheduled to work on that particular day so I made arrangements for someone else to take my day on.  Friday night comes and I happen to have one of my insomniac episodes.  My last check was 4:45 on the  cable box in the living room . I had fallen asleep in the brown recliner.   At some later time I crawled back into bed fully aware of the possibility of feeling miserable the next day.  At 8 in the morning Joe wakes me up and tells me he is going to take Tomas to the store to pick up some soda and that we need to leave by 8:45.   Joe is regimented to a fault. I am un-regimented to a vice. I slept some more holding my headache to see if would dissipate in the morning light then jumped in the hot shower.  The vapor always helps clear my head.  By the time Joe got back with Tomas and the soda and a bunch of dreadful processed shit they picked up at the store I was nearly ready. Just the water picking was left which could be done in no time.  I am in the driver seat, with my backpack in the back seat. Two books inside it. My cell phone was without charge so I left it behind. There wasn’t enough driving time to charge it up anyway.  So we get to the show store parking lot and Joe looks sickened.  Not a bus in sight.  This is 8:56 and they had told him that they would leave at 9:15.  They had also told him that the shoe store was located in a shopping strip called Landmark Mall.  Well, as far as I could see there was no Landmark Mall sign around.  Joe says he is waiting for the bus right there because that’s where they told him they would pick us up.    I told him he could stay but I was going to find out about this Landmark Mall thing.  He refused to leave the car so I drove to a store that was open. Sure enough,  said mall was across the street from the show store.  I figure that he had misunderstood the directions.  So we drove across the road and saw the big bus waiting with the door open in the center of about eight or nine very old-fashioned, safe cars, all of which were brown to a degree.   I knew we had our bus. So I told Joe I had to stop at the Publix to pick up some diet Coke as I had not eaten or drank anything.  He was furious. But I parked by the store anyway.   I go in, get the soda and four 100 calorie something or another small packets: two for me and two for him. He usually puts his big hand in whatever I am eating and I don’t like it. I know he is not very inclined to wash his hands. The visions of germs and other un-pleasantries falling into my snack cloud my happy feelings very quickly.   I picked a checkout like that was short and noticed that the person was older.  Much older than me, and I am already older.   She made the change to the customer before me by holding tight to each end of the bill and snapping it loudly: every bill, one ten, one five, two one dollar bills plus change.  This she did after she checked the twenty-dollar bill the customer had given her with her invisible shit pen.  My turn comes and she runs the coke, then one packet of 100 calorie something or another. then the next . The second one doesn’t ding. She tries again and again and nothing.  So she says: You can’t have this one because it doesn’t ding.  “No problem!” I say, just ring the other ones and I will be fine.  She does but they don’t ding either.  I asked her to run the first successful packet four times and she looks between perplexed and offended.  No, she go find the shelf where I got it from. I figure I would be another day in the store so I told her it was alright, just give me the one you rang and forget about the other three.  I paid with a twenty-dollar bill and sure enough, she draws on it slowly with her fucking invisible ink pen and then makes the change:  one ten, one five and two one-dollar bills, each one securely held and loudly snapped – plus some change.  By now I am irritated with her and she knows it. She puts the coins almost inside my wallet and as she doles them out she says “have yourself a very very good day” in a passive aggressive staccato.  I ran out of the store, into the car, ignored Joe’s looks and fury , drove over to the side of the bus, parked the car among the other brownish safe cars and got out.  Our greeter’s hair was the first thing to hit me.  A lot of yellowish white hair, thick, was tightly pulled up and knotted on the very top of her head.  The name tag read: Gladys something.  She peered at us and shouted:”You must be the Jacksons” But of course I say. and she days we were late.  It is 9:10 AM and I look around the bus.  Every seat except the very back of the bus where 3 smaller seats are joined, were filled with very, very old people.  They glared at us. Several voices said out loud. You are late.   To the point where I turned to Gladys and told her we were told the bus would leave at 9:30 and that we should embark at 9:15, so 9:10 had to be on the good side of departure side.  No response.  So I go in front and Joe follows me sheepishly.  I smile and they don’t.  It was an amazing moment!!  Chastised for not being one hour early.  Finishing the gauntlet I spotted an old friend.  I had known her and her husband for years. From a church we used to attend.  We had taken a trip together: the wife and I.  She wasn’t my idea of great travelling companion but the destination had been awesome so I made the best of it.   Find her there made it good.  At least one person wasn’t furious at us.   Although I do recall that later in the day she snuck up the comment that she and Tim had arrived one hour early at the pick up stop.   I don’t get it!!!  Why sit and wait in the bus, if I can be at home!! 

So two minutes after we embarked, the bus takes off.  I stick my nose on one of the books I brought fully intending to read my way through this adventure.  Gladys immediately comes over the sound system which was very good.  One could not miss a word she had to say.  She started about by introducing herself.  Name, age, marital status, carrier, number of children, number of grandchildren, education history of children and grandchildren.  She had six children and one daughter had ten children.  She was a Baptist, not a catholic mind you as she made sure we knew.  After the trivial stuff which took her about 20 minutes to convey she announced that God had called her to ministry so she had been starting every trip for the last 22 years with a prayer and reflexion. I look at Joe, sickened: Fuck!!!  What have we gotten into?!  Mind you – I pray every day – actually many times a day. I have a cool, cozy relationship with Mary mother of Jesus.  I used to pray the rosary. But now I drive less so I don’t make that much time for the rosary.  I got nothing against religion or other people’s faith  and their need to express it or live it.  By God I prefer not to be in THEIR moment of prayer… At any rate. there was no escape – like I said,  the sound system was excellent.  After her prayer and reflection, she moved on to the history of Savannah, GA which was our destination.  She went on and on with comparisons between our town and Savannah and the generals and the wars and the stuff that she could find out it.  And then the bus made a stop at the front door of a truck repair shop.   The story trickled down to our back seat that there had been a problem with the tire earlier in the day, so the driver had stopped somewhere to plug and refill the tire but he didn’t feel good about it even though there were double tires on each side of the rear axle and so he wanted it to be really fixed.  OK..  The truck shop was closed. So we get back on the road. Next stop, Hardee’s.  The door opens. We see no one outside.  After 2 or 3 minutes, a young woman, runs towards the bus and gets in.   A minute later another young woman runs towards the bus with a small boy. They get in.   From the back we can’t tell what is going on.  I did see the second young woman run out of the bus with the boy so I presumed that the first one stayed with us.  The bus gets back on the road and about 10 minutes later Gladys gets back on the mike and tells us everything there is to know about the girl. It is her grand-daughter, one of 10 siblings. Home schooled. Now about to finish college.  And on and on, about the twins and the scholarships and I finally got into my book and saw nothing,.   Joe can’t hear from his right ear and I was seated on his left because he wanted to stretch his legs into the passage way. Besides, the seats were by the bathroom door and I did prefer to be at least w feet away from it.  Every person that came to use the bathroom failed to figure out how to open the door.  There was a drawing of how to open the door right by the door handle.  Maybe they couldn’t read it as it was printed in blue and silver and too far down…  But they all turned the handle and pulled.  The door opened by pushing.  The first 5 people got verbal cues from us, then we gave up. Eventually they would get it…  I didn’t know how much a bus full of senior citizens can pee!!  I refused to go near the inside of the bathroom!!  The bus stopped again about 3 times. Each time at a different tire repair place, or a gas station with air pumps.  The driver picked up the mike at some point and said very slowly: “I know that I very long time ago, a service station was called service station because they serviced your automobile. Now they call them gas stations because that’s all they do. They have gas.”    He too was very old.  His seat was lower than the passage way but by looking at his legs and torso I figure him to be no more than 5 feet tall.  His belly was very distended and touched the steering wheel.  On his head, he had a toupee. A strawberry blonde toupe, slightly askew.  The natural white hair was unruly, coming out of every side of the toupee.  The mass of hair was heavily sprayed and it shone.  I tried not to look at him again with success.   As we approached  the first bridge in to Savannah, Gladys got the mike again and repeated the history speech. The she told us she had notes for those of us who might want a copy to take home.  Then she started talking about lunch. It was included in the price of the trip and there was room reserved for our group at the Pirate Cove.  Not to worry, although our tire issues had delayed us some, they would wait for us.   Now the travellers are excited.   Everyone talking at the same time.   Just by being in the bus, I learned about the following recent procedures: one hip replacement, one pacemaker, one heart attack, one double know replacement, one single knee and there was no way they would get him back there, one cataract.  AND I WASN’T TALKING TO THEM.  This was all overheard!!!   We made it to the restaurant.  Gladys announces that we will disembark at the front and walk through the whole restaurant to our reserved room. Once the meal is over, we will leave through the back door. where the bus will be waiting.   The parking lot was enormous!! Probably something like  at least a couple of football fields.  As we walked towards our reserved room, we went past 5 reserved rooms filled with very old people’s groups.   I believe that the Pirate Cove is the preferred destination of the seniors trips.  So, we are seated, church pot luck dinner style: 6 round tables that sit 8 people each with lots of elbow room. The napkins are real cloth although they are tightly wrapped around the silverware.   As we are seated an unfriendly waiter comes around with two pitchers and barks : water, sweet tea or unsweetened tea?  We made our choices and she barks that she has to bring the unsweet tea pitcher on a second trip.  Meaning: no diet coke POSSIBILITY!!!!   The menu is announced, to the oh-ahs of most and my own personal horror:  biscuits, collard greens, green beans and bacon, garlic mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, pulled pork and barbecue sauce, fried chicken and mystery fish. For dessert, banana puding and cheese cake.   I tried the biscuit and the fish with a dab of mashed potatoes and green beans.  They were terrible. I attempted one spoonful of cheese cake and HAD to spit it back out into my spoon. I discreetly turned it down onto my plate but I did not bother to check if Joe or anyone else at the table had seen me do it.  I just couldn’t eat it!!  So, I go to the bathroom and found that the toilet height is universally handicap  – on all three stalls.   They are ready for us!!!    So we get back to be the bus, but as Gladys declares us ready I see that we are short one guy: Mark.  Oh, the regulars all have name tags on with their full names.  So I start the wave of Mark is missing and Gladys finally gets the message.  Nobody knows where Mark is. As Gladys steps down, we all see Mark coming around the building. He had failed to follow directions and left the restaurant through the front door…   The bus starts off towards the theatre.  The third time we drove by Paula Dean’s restaurant I told Joe : “we are lost”..  As soon as he agreed, the bus pulls into yet another large parking lot and the driver announces that we can go shopping at the Visitors Center where we just stopped.  We would have 20 minutes to go up and find a bathroom because at the theatre there are only three bathrooms, one for men and two for women. And the theatre is full so we will be lucky to get a chance to go there.  They talked about this for what seemed an eternity.  They also mentioned that the visitor center had many stores where you could get stuff for your friends back home.  We were less than two hours from home!   I refused to leave the bus!  I continued to read and Joe stayed because he can’t walk much. I figure that he walked more, he would be better at it.  When the visitor center bathroom break was finished every one got back to the bus except Mark.  They waited a few minutes and then seek Gladys onto his trail… Somehow she know which way to go looking.  The driver spots them from the other side of the parking lot and we pull up to where they are and hopefully this will be the last lost person we get.  Now we head to the theatre, again, we go by Paula Dean’s and all of a sudden we are in front of a small theatre.  Gladys hollers that we are to follow the red flag because we have reserved seats and off with us.   The theatre was indeed small.  From the back we could see that every head was white.  It was most definitely senior day!  Shortly after our arrival the show started.  There was more prayer, more military recognition and Christmas songs.  THe show wasn’t bad, it was a bit sophomoric.  It was like a GREAT high school program.  Only last week I attended my grand daughter’s chorus recital.  It was GREAT!  I even wrote the chorus teacher a congrats note, because she had done a great job with the kids and the kids did a great job with the music and the choreography.   The best part of the show in Savannah was a skit with a monk chorus singing Handel’s hallelujah, except the monks had taken a vow of silence… SO they hold up these cards… while the music is played (and sung) and they rhythmically bring the cards up and down… Pretty good.  Pretty HS good.  The other good part was a mini STOMP number with trash cans and all… That was really good mainly because I love stomp and drums and that kind of shit.    So the show is over, we get back on the bus, the driver tells everyone how he got the tire fixed while were at the theatre and drives us straight back home. The road was dark and cool.   I enjoyed the perspective and not driving, for a change.     You could see the almost absolute blackness on each side of the road, when no cars were coming.  I liked that. I like that because my life is too much on driver’s seat where I get to go where I must, where I see only light and miss the balance of dark AND light.

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