A businessman walked into a bar… Sounds like a joke, right? Well, in a way it is, but the joke was on me. This was in my days as a bachelor. At the time I lived and worked in Southern California, and had to make a troubleshooting trip to Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It was not pleasant. An electro-mechanical device my company manufactured experienced a potentially hazardous failure in the field, and the customers and end-users were annoyed to put it mildly. At the end of several days of suffering verbal beatings (for the company) I staggered into a dark lounge somewhere in Atlantic City, plopped my sorry ass down on a stool, and ordered a cocktail. The place was deserted. About midway through my beverage the door opened, an attractive female entered, and sat down beside me. So I’m thinking why with all the empty barstools would she sit right next to me? Here it is important for me to report that in my frame of mind at that specific moment the last thing I wanted to do was hit on that lady. However, there is something in the guy code that compels one to at least make some kind of contact. I mean, one does not want to be perceived as a wimp. I was almost angry with her for putting me in that position when all I really wanted to do was enjoy a bit of solitude with my mind-numbing chemical concoction. I puzzled about what to do and finally threw out the old tired line, “May I buy you a drink?” |
She looked at me with distain (like she smelled rancid cheese) and replied with fortissimo, “F**k off, a**hole!” The bartender tried to keep a straight face and turned his back, but I could see in the mirror he was having a tough time holding back tearful mirth.
Well, what could I do? Her reaction fit perfectly with the kind of week I was having. However, I appreciated the ironic humor of the situation so I laughed sardonically. She gave me this surprised, shocked look as I raised my glass to her and said, “Good one.”
At that point she looked around at the empty room and after a moment realized what happened. “Oh, my gosh. I’m so sorry. I never noticed, didn’t even see you; thought I was alone.”
I don’t know what’s worse; being sneered at and cussed-out or not even detected. That’s me: the invisible man. Turns out she was a purchasing agent for a nearby company and had just experienced one-of-those-days. We chatted for a while about our woes, shared a second drink, and went our separate ways. That incident alone made the trip successful for me because it provided a (darkly) humorous memory and something to write about years later.
You know how you anticipate a journey especially one into the unknown? Speaking for myself, I am filled with delightful anticipation accompanied by an electric thrill of the potential for discovering new experiences, new people, and even new aspects of myself. As a youngster growing up in a comfortable, prosperous, middle-class town I felt like I was enclosed within some kind of invisible wall that would restrict and define my entire life. I often thought of my fate as that of a goldfish confined within finite boundaries compelled to watch life pass before me, but never able to participate. Many of my classmates talked only of a life after high school, which consisted of getting a job, marrying, and settling down in the community. It is not my intention to disparage such a vision, but it wasn’t one shared by me—ever. I saw my future self cruising the Amstel and Nile Rivers, walking past the Kremlin with the KGB on my tail, climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa, having a beer in Borneo, looking at the Great Pyramids, seeing the Red Sea from Jeddah, dining in Paris, and watching the faithful attend the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. I did all that and much more, but there was another journey that topped them all, one that can never be trumped.
My parents attempted to blunt my ambition with logic and reason, but I know in their hearts they only wanted to protect me from disappointment; and secondarily to keep me close. After I became a parent I understood the latter all too well. That was the one journey in life—the Big Kahuna—that I treasure the most. What can compare to being greeted after a long workday by one’s little daughter or son squealing with delight because you’re home; leaping into your arms and giggling as you spin them about? What kind of value is there in the simple, solitary act of lying down with your little ones and telling a story before they fall asleep? How warm it felt when they would simply climb unto your lap maybe for comfort or just to feel safe. Then one day it all ended with adolescence as you knew it would. You were replaced by friends, and more handsome and clever people on the screen and in the arenas. Suddenly you weren’t very smart anymore, and perhaps sometimes even an embarrassment. Geography and chasing a career separates you except for rare visits, and you find yourself wishing for the time when you were all together warm and happy. You’d give anything to experience it again, but it’s gone forever and can never be recreated. Not in this life.
With that in mind here's a message to my children:
And so, soon—sooner than I want—I’ll be compelled by biology to wade into the eternal sea to drown. However, before then I wish to leave the following on the sand to be discovered by you. That way you’ll know what was in my heart before I went under. And that is: The greatest gift I ever received was from your mother—the two of you. The greatest joys of my life were celebrating birthdays and holidays, attending your activities, and traveling together. When either of you intrude in my dreams—and I dream nightly—you’re always between three and six years old. Don’t ask me how I know, but I do. My heart is full and my memories are clear, and I pray that dementia never takes them away. As long as I have those, we’re always together.
What a journey. Thanks for the ride.
Copyright by Gene Myers, author of AFTER HOURS: ADVENTURES OF AN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESSMAN (2009), Strategic Publishing Group, New York, NY – a hilarious account of the author’s overseas travels; and SONGS FROM LATTYS GROVE (2010), PublishAmerica, Fredericksburg, MD - a mildly sinister, but amusing work of fiction. Both are available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and available in Amazon Kindle and Nook formats. Watch for SALT HIS TAIL, a catch-me-if-you can crime thriller.
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