Well, the storm is behind us and I am back home in my house that, once again, has juice. Hurricanes, evacuations, generators. It is all unsettling to say the least. Grateful as I am that I had the luxury of evacuating to a gentler setting I was ready to return home for days. We were notified on Saturday afternoon , by a considerate neighbor, that our power had returned to the house. Yipppeee! Going home! Hooray! My husband and I decided that he would leave early the next morning in his fancy new diesel fueled SUV, dogs in tow. I would stay behind to give our beach place a deep clean. Truly, being in a condo for six days with a husband and two dogs left the place hungering for a little TLC. I must admit I was almost looking forward to it. There is something to be said for the instant gratitude that comes from seeing a tattered living space get its mojo back with a little sweeping, mopping, dusting and scrubbing. You get the picture. Strangely I was anticipating the project with delight. So Tom and I decided to go out to dinner that evening to celebrate with another couple who had outrun Isaac. We had barely brought any civilized clothes with us as neither of us had planned on this trip being a vacation, so we scrounged around for decent threads and headed out to dinner with our buddies. Ahhhhhhhh. The cabin fever was coming to an end and we were ready to head home and face a yard full of limbs. That was ok though, for we were grateful to have a dry home waiting for our return. Dinner was delightful and, afterwards, we slumbered like babies.
The next morning we woke early to have coffee together before Tom and the pups hit the road. Clever as I am, I made it a point to clear out the refrigerator and pantry before he left so that he could haul it all back to Louisiana. The fact is that an empty fridge is easier to clean, so bye, bye Tom. Adios dogs. And off they went. As for me, on went the rubber gloves and off came the dirt, the dog hair, the soap scum and the grease. I went to town with the broom, the mop, the vacuum, the dust cloths, the sponges and my new favorite cleaning weapon, white vinegar. I turned the music up and the filth came down! I was going to town with it. Whew! Yeah baby! I was Wonder Woman with a bucket. It felt so good that before I knew it, four and a half hours had passed. As I finished up and placed my beach bag by the door, I admired my work. Yes! Perfect. I wouldn’t even step one foot back inside lest I taint it with a grain of sand. Purse on shoulder, I was ready to head home so I reached in my purse to suit up. Sunglasses on. Check! Lip balm on. Check! Cell phone handy. Check! Car keys. Car keys. Keys? Keys!??? As much as I hated to do it, I stepped back inside and perused every surface for the keys. They were nowhere. Think. Think! Then I remembered. Tom drove my car the previous night. He always puts the keys somewhere logical….to him. I calmly picked up my cell phone and called him. He answered with a cheerful, “Hello Bayyyyyyybeh! Bienvenue a la Louisianne!” How impressive. He speaks French AND is already back in Louisiana.
I matched his joviality with a quick hello and then got to the point. “Uh, sweetie, what did you do with my car keys?” Long dead silence before he slowly responded like a balloon hissing its last breath of air.
“Pocket of which pants?’” I asked, hoping I could simply fish through his closet and deal with this.
“The….ones…..I am …..wearing.” he bravely stated like a prisoner being led to the electric chair. I could feel him holding his head high, ready for the blow. Instead, I held my own.
“Oh. OK. Well, that can be fixed. Just overnight them and I will come home tomorrow.”
He paused again. “Today is Sunday so there will be no Fed Ex or UPS. Tomorrow is Labor Day so they will be closed then too. Uh. Let me figure this out. I gotta go now. I have to find a gas station with diesel. I am really low.” Silence. Dead line.
So I took off my shoes and walked back into the condo, set up my computer and proceeded to send SOS messages to anyone I could think of who might be heading from Louisiana to Florida. I could handle this. I could do it, I could. I wanted lunch instead, but there was nothing in the refrigerator but the smell of clean, so lunch wasn’t an option. So I sat…for a few minutes, then headed out on foot for a sandwich and a few groceries. By the time I returned, a couple of hours later, Tom was calling.
“Your keys are on the way!” He proclaimed as though he was announcing the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
“How? Who is bringing them?” I asked.
“Who is Roberto?”
“A truck driver. Big rig.”
“Yeah. You have to figure out a way to get to Crestview, to a truck stop or somewhere you decide to meet up. He should be there by 7:30 tonight. I gave him some money and your cell phone number so I hope it works out. He will call you when he crosses the state line.” Fabulous.
“Where did you find him?”
“At a truck stop…where I got diesel after running out of gas on the interstate.”
“What did you do with the dogs?”
“They went with me to the truck stop.”
Admittedly most of this info was extraneous and of no relevance as far as my keys were concerned. Still, I wanted to seem concerned, but for the moment “Roberto” and “truck stop” was all I was getting. Then I couldn’t help myself.
“Did you walk on the interstate to the truck stop?”
“No, Joseph (his son) brought me some diesel. Enough so that I could drive to the truck stop. The dogs and I waited in the woods till he got there. You know, so we wouldn’t get hot. Or hit. I found a big stump in the shade where I could get phone service. So we sat there.”
Alrighty then, game on. His part was done so now I had to put the pieces together on my end. Crestview is about forty five minutes away from our condo and, as you know, I had no wheels. A dilemma to be sure. And honestly, after cleaning for almost five hours, then walking to the grocery in the post hurricane heat, I looked like I belonged at a truck stop…..repairing trucks. So I wasn’t too hip on calling any of my Florida friends who I thought might be able to lend a hand. They were surely all cool and clean, dressed in their polo shirts and sundresses. Probably sipping something appropriate for a Sunday afternoon. The whole thing was embarrassing to begin with and I looked like doo doo and I really didn’t want to soil my sparkly clean shower by doing anything about that at the moment. So I pondered. If only I could find someone who didn’t know me very well, they wouldn’t know the difference. They would just assume that I was a crazy woman who didn’t put hygiene at the top of the list.
I wandered outside and just sort of roamed the hood till I strolled by a house containing people I had spoken to in the past. They had a dog named Winston! I knew these people. There dog had met my dog! Well, this was a no brainer so I knocked on the door and explained my situation to these angels from God. I just wanted to borrow their car for a bit. Well whatdaya know? This kind woman insisted on personally driving me to the truck stop. So off we went and right on schedule Roberto was ringing my phone. Within an hour he arrived like a knight in shining amour…literally. I could hear the theme from Rocky building in my head as he came curling around the corner of the Wal-Mart parking lot. Our headlights kissed and soon we were shaking hands and laughing. In less than thirty seconds he was pulling away and I was sitting in my neighbor’s car with my very own keys in my hand. What a great guy! What a great neighbor! Life is funny, you know? When you least expect it, the kindness of strangers is all around you. Right? Right. 10-4 to that, good buddy.