I hope yours was as good as mine. I celebrated by gathering a mutinous crew and setting off on a voyage of indeterminate length with a rather questionable goal. I topped it off by getting lost. Twice. Further adding to the historical realism, I promised them fabulous treasures (well, OK, used Volvos. Work with me here) which I then utterly failed to deliver.
I like to think the whole family got a little taste of the whole Columbus experience, especially when we reached our destination, a small auto dealer in St. Louis. The locals were indeed alien to us in their customs and way of life, a fact which was brought solidly home when, as we were getting the baby out of the van, a man in a large white GM panel van pulled up next to me and asked me, and I quote, "Hey, there, boy? You wanna buy a real good, big piece o' meat? Like, about this big? (Hands held approximately one meter apart.) Like filet mignon, man, you know?"
That's not something a country boy like me is equipped to handle. I wasn't sure what was going on, but I had several theories:
1. This guy had several sides of "beef" in the back of his van, and most of them had answered his personal ad in the past week, or
2. This poor guy had been told his CIA handler would be a fat guy with a red beard, but I was not giving the proper countersign, or
3. I was supposed to stare at him while someone else got me from behind so they could empty my pockets (HA! Joke's on you, Hood Robin! You should have tried robbing the rich!)
4. For some reason, this guy had some meat he had to get off his hands quickly, and he figured the best way was to drive around St. Louis asking big fatties to buy it from him.
I guess it must have been Number Four after all, because I checked all around me, turned so my back was in the open doorway of my van (which also blocked the baby in his seat) and smiled. BIG smile. "No, but thanks for the offer." He pulled past me, pulled into the alley so he was about ten feet away, and stopped. Now I was really starting to hear alarm bells, and I strapped the baby back in, started to get the bag with the Gun Blog .45 ready, and made ready to close the baby's sliding door (it's a power door that closes with the push of one button. My Bride and the boys were already out on the other side, and I wasn't sure what to have them do, so I just said "Let's stay right here a minute until we see what that guy does." In retrospect, if I'd sent them into the crowded car lot, they'd have been a lot safer--it was hard to walk between the parked cars and if anyone had really had bad intentions they'd have been that much closer to the offices with the phones and the people.
But eventually, after what felt like 2 minutes but probably wasn't, the mobile butcher service backed out and drove past us back to the main street (this all happened about half a block off Gravois Avenue, for those who know the area.) It made sense that he would probably have to get back to Gravois, so I relaxed a little, took a look around, and on we went. By that time, I figured the office might be the safest spot anyway.
The cars? Well, I looked at two mid-90's Volvo 850 wagons, a '96 Turbo with an automatic transmission and a naturally-aspirated '95 with a 5-speed. I didn't buy either one, and the sales staff did not impress. More on that tomorrow, maybe. If nothing else, I did decide that I don't need a turbo, at least not if I can get a 5-speed. It wasn't any more sluggish than that stupid Camaro.
(And yes, I'm kidding a little bit about the danger of the mobile butcher van, but the quotes are verbatim and it did feel like an "interview.")
Expiration Cards (1970s)
47 minutes ago