I was doing really well at my new career of trip planner and tour guide. I really was. I got 50 people to Boston and back safely on my maiden voyage, without creating an international incident — or even a sectional one. Well, there was that one Yankee in Faneuil Hall, but that wasn’t so much of an incident as an annoyance.
We had the same number of takeoffs and landings and nobody fell and broke a hip and nobody got lost or sick on the bus. I call that win, win, win. This week I ventured back to the Northeast. Took the same flight to Boston. Ate the same lunch at Cheers. Saw a game at Fenway Park. It was delayed because of rain and a few folks had a partially obstructed view of the field because of the girders, but that’s part of the charm of sitting in a baseball stadium that is 101 years old. And not even I can control the weather. The rain stopped. We got the game in before midnight and the Red Sox won with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth — right over the Green Monster. I told Dorsey Hill he should have come with us. He really missed something!
The next day we motored over to Cooperstown to take in the Baseball Hall of Fame and the pilgrimage was worth every scenic mile. We stood in reverence and read about Cobb and Ruth and Gehrig and the little man with us named Maddux Seagraves got to see the glove his namesake wore to set a major league record for put-outs. Next year, he can come back and see him inducted.
Yes, things were going really well and I had kept my cool and handled my new job without a glitch — until. Yep. You knew there was going to be an “until” or a “but” coming, didn’t you? Things were going unusually well until we dropped into a New Jersey diner for lunch. Then we had to deal with the language barrier. What we had was a failure to communicate.
This is what happened. A group of us were seated around a corner six-top and a rather brusque lady came by to take our drink orders. My first instinct was to tell everyone to order water, but I didn’t want word to get around that Darrell Huckaby cut corners on his trips — so I said nothing. We should have all had water, y‘all.
I told our server that I would like to have a Co-Cola. Her response was “What?”
I repeated, slower, “A Co-Cola, please.”
I swear before the Sanhedrin, this is what she said. “I don’t know what that is.”
I started to explain but we had a lot of miles left to go, so I told her that I would drink water.
Meanwhile, at the table behind me, I head Mark Collins having a “discussion” with his waitress, a pretty young thing who had already served his table’s drinks. Therein lies the rub. “Ma’am,” I heard Mark tell her politely, “I ordered a Coke.”
“That’s what I brought you,” she insisted, bless her heart.
“It doesn’t taste like Coke,” Mark insisted.
“We serve Pepsi,” the girl explained, and then made the fatal mistake of adding, “It’s the same thing.”
Oops. I didn’t get to listen to the lecture Mark gave the young lady. I do know that he was very nice about it, but I am equally certain that the young lady in question will never again attempt to make the point that Pepsi and Coca-Cola are one and the same — at last not in the midst of a tour group from Georgia.
Meanwhile, back at our table, we were still not out of the woods. A couple of our younger travelers, who had never been north of the Mason-Dixon Line — or north of the Chattahoochee River, for that matter — were trying to order sweet iced tea. At first our lady tried to tell them that they had iced tea and could bring them sugar. Our folks were sophisticated enough to know that wasn’t going to work. Then she tried to sell them on ordering raspberry tea, from a can.
We weren’t falling for that one, either.
We finally all had water. You don’t even want to know what happened when she started explaining to the teens on our trip about wedding soup with meatballs and spinach. I was castigated for adding mayo to my corned beef on rye, but I let it slide. I just wanted to have my lunch and head to Yankee Stadium.
But we survived the battle of the New Jersey diner without a single casualty. I’m not making any promises about the invasion of Manhattan, which comes next. All I know is I am having a ball at my new career and the next trip will visit virtually all the fields of valor upon which the Army of Northern Virginia fought during the recent unpleasantness. Y’all come go with me.
We are visiting Gettysburg, but I have learned my lesson. I’m taking a whole cooler full of little Co-Colas, just in case we get caught behind enemy lines.
Darrell Huckaby is a Rockdale County educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.