Sunday, October 3, 2010


I checked my mother out for a blockbuster weekend and had to return her this morning. Don't take me wrong; she's 88 and lives independently. A couple from her church planned a whirlwind drive to Charlottesville with Lexington right on their way, so Mother hitched a ride like a college student. Thanks to cell phones, I waited only 5 minutes on Friday and no more today, at the same gas station drop-off. In the meantime, we spent half of Saturday at the annual Mennonite Relief Sale in Harrisonburg. Anyone up for a $2,700 quilt or a $1,000 Martyrs' Mirror?

This takes me back about 22 years to the day I traveled to our employer's processing center in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey with a fresh face from law school. As we waited to check in at the hotel I asked if he'd like to go for a late-night drive to the city. His jaw dropped, "The Big Apple?" I nodded. "Sure," said he.

We agreed to meet in the lobby in 10 minutes. Off we went. When we approached the Holland Tunnel, my passenger muttered, "A toll? What's this for?" It was my jaw's turn to drop, "You've never paid a toll?" He said, "Never. How ridiculous! We have to pay to drive on a road?" Where had he been all his life? In the Midwest, I guess.

This short drive remains one of my favorite trips to the city. If it had happened today, he'd have used the word "awesome" so many times -- in reference to the lights, the action, the landmarks, the people -- I'd feel obliged to give a lecture on what the word once meant. "It's noon at midnight!" he exclaimed at one point.

"Don't forget," says Virginia, "why are you remembering this?"

On our return, before we crossed the river, I said, "Oh, we haven't been outside the car. Would you like to step out so you can say you walked a few steps in New York?" I could have pulled his door shut and driven away, but I wasn't up for that much excitement. Instead, a black stretch limo stopped behind us and as I waited for my friend to return, several people stepped from the shadows and approached its back right window, one-by-one. "Hey!" I shouted, finally the one with ants in his pants. He jumped in and off we went. I'm glad to report that today's drop-off did not offer that kind of excitement.

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