Too often, I tell people, "The next time I'm in town, we'll get together for a beer." Then when I get to town, I'm so busy, there is no time to meet with all the people I want to see.
It's always good to chat with my friend Alan Stubbs, whether in person, by phone, text, or social media. Our conversation often closes with, "The next time I'm in town, let's get together for a beer." It's mutually agreed we'll do that, but again, I get busy, and it doesn't happen.
A few weeks ago, I was in town on a work trip. After a day filled with completing tasks, I was ready to call it a night, but instead, I decided to show up at Alan's house – unannounced. It was after eight – maybe closer to nine, in the evening.
I parked my van across the street, in front of his house. Alan has German Shepherds, and I don't know if they play well with others, so I gave my dog June a rub on the head, "You wait here; I should be back in a bit." I grabbed two cans of New Glarus Moon Man from the cooler. On the way to his front door, I noticed how well-groomed his lawn was. I didn't hear the bell ring when I pushed the button, but I knew it did because his dogs sounded off.
Now, German Shepherds have a deep, throaty bark that will definitely get your attention, and these puppies were barking in stereo. "I hope he doesn't release the dogs on the unexpected intruder," I said to myself. I was having visions of a police canine officer in training, taking down a fleeing suspect wearing those oversized protective sleeves. I envisioned myself lying face down in the grass, being apprehended, pleading for mercy while soiling my shorts right there on Alan's perfectly groomed front lawn. "How embarrassing is this going to be? Maybe, I should have called ahead."
There was a commotion on the other side of the door; Alan commanded the dogs to back up and be quiet. The heavy inside wooden door opened; now, just a thin pane of glass separated me from my potential demise. The dogs wanted to see who was outside or perhaps who was for dinner. While he wrestled the dogs, I intentionally kept my back to his door. With the dogs safely retrained, the storm door opened; I turned around, smiled, and presented two ice-cold cans of brew, "Hey, mister, if I give you some beer, can I stand on your front lawn?"
I fully expected Alan to say, "Get off my porch and stay off my lawn." But I could see the curiosity in his eyes; he really wanted to ask, "What kind of beer?" He greeted me, "Palen, what the heck are you doing here?"
"I told you the next time I was in town, we should get together for a beer, and you agreed." We shared a good laugh about that. The dogs were still restless inside the front door. "Let me get them settled down," Alan said, "go around to the back door; I'll meet you there."
When Alan came out the door on the back patio, one of the dogs ran out around him – I prayed the gate would hold. The German Shepherd pushed his nose between the bars in the fencing. I offered my open hand so the dog could sniff my hand but kept it back far enough from the gate so he could eat my hand, just in case Alan hadn't fed them supper yet.
Alan put the dog back in the house and came out to visit. I offered him a brew, "Man, I'd love to, but I'm on a working weekend – I can't have a beer." Well, he might be working, but I was finished with my chores, so I cracked my beer open, and we began to chat.
We talked about a lot; how things were going, the city, the airport, people we hadn't seen for a while – we even talked about the beer I was drinking while he held a frosty, sealed can. "It's brewed in New Glarus, Wisconsin, and Wisconsin is the only place you can buy it."
"I thought you were living in Minnesota," Alan said.
"I do," I explained, "Superior, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota, make up the Twin Ports. I just drive across the high bridge, and on the other side is an endless supply of this tasty brew." I took a swill of my beer, "Oh my. This is good." Alan said he couldn't wait to try his later. "If you ever get the chance, it's worth the drive to New Glarus to visit the brewery. It's built like a really cool Bavarian village."
As I described the setting, Alan had a look on his face like he knew what I was talking about, "You know, I have been there." Ideas began running through my head; I asked which was his favorite flavor. "That was years and years ago," Alan admitted, "I don't remember now, but one was really popular." I started rattling off a few names, "Spotted Cow. That was one of them I really liked."
It was getting late; time to wrap up our visit. I offered, "You know, the next time I'm in town, WE should get together for a beer." We shared a good laugh about that, said our farewells, and I was headed back to the van. It was good to see Alan – albeit a quick, surprise visit.
A week later, I had a trip planned to the Lake of the Ozark's in Missouri. Since it was a working trip, and Melissa had some other things to do, I would be traveling with June Bug. Since Ottumwa wouldn't too far out of my way, I stopped in Superior to pick up a sample pack of New Glarus – it was a twelve-pack with three bottles each of four of their brews. I also grabbed three extra bottles of Two Women, another New Glarus beer I thought Alan would enjoy that wasn't one of the four flavors featured.
I sent Alan a text inquiring about his birthday. If by coincidence it was coming up soon, that would be a reason to give him a present. He replied, "Lol. January." Eight months away. I asked what year. I needed to make sure he was of legal age to be drinking beer and cover my tracks for asking such an odd question out of the blue.
Quickly doing the math, I concluded myself a year older than him. "Crikey, how about a little respect? I am your elder." We shared a laugh about that. Well, the birthday angle wasn't going to pan out for me, but there's no need to wait for a special occasion; I would give it to him on my way through town.
With some last-minute changing circumstances, Melissa decided to go with me. Seeing the sample pack in the van, she said, "Oh good. I was going to ask if we could stop to get one to take to Missouri." I explained it was not for us – I bought it for a friend. "Well, couldn't we keep this and buy him another." I gave her a scowling look.
"Drinking another man's beer in his absence is just plain rude." I did the right thing; we stopped in Superior and bought another twelve-pack sampler.
I knew we wouldn't have time to visit when we got to Ottumwa. My plan was to set the package outside his door, ring the bell and run – a May Day gift of sorts since it was within the fifth month. With a few other stops along the way, time had gotten away from me; it would be well after dark when we arrived.
Plan B; I'd set the box of brews next to his truck in the driveway and let him find it in the morning. Driving south from Duluth on I-35, it started raining. It continued raining the entire eight-hour drive. Forty-five minutes from our destination, it was still raining steadily. Melissa checked the forecast. It was going to rain all night and through the next day.
I imagined Alan picking up the box. The saturated cardboard would fall apart. Bottles would shatter when hitting the concrete, leaving shards of glass all over his driveway. That would be a horrible surprise, and I didn't have a plan C. "Think, man, think."
We stopped for gas, and I went inside to get an ice tea. While I was paying, another clerk lifted a trash bag from a can behind the counter. She took a new bag and gave it a couple shakes, opening it with air. The clean bag was translucent white and just the right size. "Excuse me, ma'am," I said to the young lady, "could I trouble you for one of those bags?"
She turned around and asked, "Do you want the one with trash in it or the empty bag?" We shared a good laugh about that, then she reached into a cabinet and handed me a new bag." I asked how much I owed her, "One eighty-nine for the tea; the trash bag is free for giving me something to laugh about on a blah, rainy night."
The rest of the way to Ottumwa, I considered my mission. I would have to approach the drop-off point from the very edge of his property, turning perpendicular to make my way to the truck in his driveway. I decided against putting the package at his doorstep for fear of drawing the attention of his guard dogs. I couldn't let the bottle clatter at all while setting them down. I had to be perfectly quiet. I had it all planned out.
I parked a little way down the street from his house. I made sure I had the dome light shut off and removed the keys from the ignition to avoid the ding, ding, ding. I carefully picked up the twelve-pack and partial six-pack of beer and set them inside the plastic bag. Climbing over the driver's seat, I opened the door, stepped out of the van. I whispered to my wife, "Wish me luck." Melissa rolled her eyes; June said, "Be careful, Dad." Edgar, the cat, shook his head, "What an idiot. Only cats can see in the dark of night. This will be a disaster."
I softly pushed the van door closed, carried out my mission with stealth-like proficiency, then returned to the get-a-way vehicle. I pulled the door shut quietly, started the engine, and pulled away. At the stop sign at the end of the block, my wife said, "You did it, honey. Nice job." June said, "Good job, Dad." Edgar, the cat, declared, "You got lucky."
We started to head for the other side of town, then south toward Lancaster, Missouri, where we would stop for the night.
The next morning, I got a text from Alan, "Hey there, Santa, you are much too kind. Thank you so much!"
I tried to play dumb; what? What are you talking about? "How'd you know it was me?"
"1+1=2…I truly appreciate it!" That was the reply, and it made me feel pretty good.
The following morning, I received a message from my favorite priest, "Were you in town yesterday?"
I chuckled as I replied, "Quite possibly," then asking in jest, "was your house vandalized or something?"
He replied, "In a good way! Did you know it was a special day?" Unbeknownst to me, it was the twenty-fourth anniversary of his ordination as a priest. Melissa and I have a favorite coffee, Norseman Grog, roasted by Arco Coffee in Superior, Wisconsin. He wrote, "Well, thank you so much for the Grog. It made my day to find it in the mailbox! The Holy Spirit at work." That also made me feel pretty good. Another top-secret, covert operation was successfully carried out in the dark of night.
It truly is better to give than to receive – both of my friends really appreciated receiving the gifts I delivered. Still, I think I felt even better for sharing them.
I got to thinking; the next time I go to Ottumwa, I should get together with Alan. Maybe we could actually have a beer together, you know, the two of us, having a beer at the same time in the same place. Should such an event ever occur, I think I'd call it "Stubbs and Suds." In the meantime, these midnight deliveries are working out pretty well, too.
I took June's water bowl and food dish to the car. With everything else packed and loaded, I was all set to head out on my trip. It was already after dark, but I figured I would get in five or six hours of driving before stopping for the night on my way to the East Coast.
I went back to the house to say goodbye to my wife. "Do you have enough cash with you?" I told her I had a little. "How much is a little?"
"I don't know, probably about ten bucks." I've become so used to swiping a card that sometimes I don't think about taking or needing cash.
"You need to take some cash with you. One of these days, you're going to get stuck someplace that doesn't take cards." Melissa reached into her purse and pulled out two, twenty-dollar bills and offered them to me. "Here, this is all I have right now, but I want you to take it."
"I don't need that," I insisted, "I have enough cash on me, and I don't want to take all your money" But she insisted more.
"I can get more money tomorrow when I go to work. Just take this with you." Maybe she's right; I do travel to some pretty remote places. I didn't resist when she tucked the two bills into my top shirt pocket, "I'll see you in a few days; you need to get going." She gave me a hug and a kiss and walked me toward the door, pausing at the coffee table to hand me my travel mug. "Here, don't forget your coffee, and pull over if you get tired."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." June followed me outside. I opened the car door, and she jumped in, across the driver's seat to the front passenger side. I sat down, put my seat belt on, and started the motor. I took the two twenties from my shirt pocket, and put them in the cup holder, took a sip of coffee, and set my mug on top of them. "She worries too much." I said while giving June a rub on the head, "You ready, girl?" She sat in her seat, staring out the windshield. She was ready. I turned on the headlights and pulled out of the driveway, giving two toots on the horn.
I wanted to get past Madison before stopping for the night, thus avoiding the metro traffic in the morning. We made it and drove on until we found a place to rest for the night. June and I got out to take a little walk before retiring. A lot of dairy cows reside in rural Wisconsin. The scent in the cool night air had June's curiosity - we couldn't have been too far from the farm. I told June, "I saw a bumper sticker once that read; Wisconsin – Come Smell Our Dairy Air." We shared a good laugh about that before we went to bed.
Jack called to discuss what time I would arrive at his house and if I would be staying in the area. I told him I would be heading home right after our meeting. "We have snow that popped up in the forecast for tonight. You'll have about two hours of driving on winding roads through the Appalachian Mountains to get up to my place, and some of them are pretty steep." He warned, "I want to make sure you get back out of the mountains before the snow hits." I stopped to check the weather and calculate my en-route time, and determined I would be okay.
After our meeting, June and I wasted no time getting on the road. We had less than an hour of daylight and two hours before the snow was expected. We were only twenty minutes down the mountainside when I told June, "It appears the snow is two hours early."
The snow was pretty light at first, but the snowflakes soon became big and wet. About an hour into the drive, the snow was falling heavily, and it was now dark. It was one of those snowstorms when turning the headlights on high beam made me feel like I was commandeering the Starship Enterprise. Traveling at warp speed through the galaxy, stars, meteors, and space debris streaked by outside.
We had to slow way down, especially for the hairpin turns in the road. It took two hours to travel this road, getting up to Jack's house and over three hours to get back down. Not far out of the mountains, the snow stopped as suddenly as it began. We drove through Virginia and deep into West Virginia before stopping for the night.
Early Sunday morning, I stopped in the small town of Bridgeport, West Virginia, for fuel and got online to look for churches in the area. I had just missed the eight-thirty mass at All Saints Church by ten minutes, and the next mass wasn't until eleven. I didn't want to wait that long, plus two hours down the road, I would undoubtedly find a church to go to in Charleston, a much larger city. I stopped in Elkview, about twenty minutes out of the city, to grab a sandwich and a cup of coffee.
Online, I found a mass at eleven - in thirty-five minutes. Checking the route, I was twenty-five minutes away. Perfect! I ran to the car and entered the address into my GPS, then ate my sandwich and drank my coffee on the way.
It was a beautiful, sunny morning in early February when I arrived at Christ the King Church in a residential neighborhood in Dunbar, West Virginia. I was eight minutes early and found a parking spot right out front, across the street. Things were going my way.
I walked into the church and took a look around. It wasn't a large church, but it was beautiful with natural brick walls. Large wooden beams and planks made up the ceiling. Pipes for the organ stood overhead behind the altar. Parishioners were flowing in, filling the rows of dark brown fabric chairs lining both sides of the altar. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming. I decided I had better find a seat; I prefer to sit closer to the front of the church.
I found an open seat at the end of the second row. On the seat top next to it, a lady had set her purse. Not wanting to impose by taking a chair she may have been holding for someone joining her, I leaned forward and spoke softly, "Does this seat belong to anybody?"
She shot me a big smile. "Honey, you are in the house of the Lord. That seat don't belong to anybody but God Himself, and He's just been waiting for you to get here." I smiled and thanked her. As I was sitting down, she asked, "Have you got enough room, honey?" Lifting her bag and sliding it under her chair, she insisted, "You sit with us and make yourself comfortable."
The organist started playing; the congregation stood and began singing the opening song; the harmony was beautiful. I looked around for the choir but didn't see one. To the right of the altar, behind the organ, there was a piano with music stands and several microphone booms – but no choir, just one cantor.
The songs that day were all traditional hymns. During the second song, it occurred to me, some of the parishioners were adding harmony on their own. It was wonderfully uplifting and added a lot to the mass.
The priest called the children to come forward for a blessing before the children's homily, based on the same gospel reading the adults use but presented on their level of understanding. The lady next to me was encouraging a young boy to go join the other kids. The little boy seemed shy. His older sister stepped up and said, "Come on, I'll go with you," and the two went off together with the other children. It was beautiful the way she offered to go with her little brother. The entire service was very spiritually rewarding for me. I was glad I found this church.
After mass, I struck up a conversation with the lady next to me. I introduced myself and thanked her once again for the seat. She shook my hand, "Well, I'm Francine Peters, but I consider you a friend, so you can call me Fran or Frannie."
I told Fran how nice it was for her daughter, whom I guessed to be thirteen or so, to go with her little brother to the children's homily. "Sometimes when they hit those teenage years, they don't want to go to the 'little kids' stuff anymore, but she jumped right up to support him."
Fran smiled and continued, "They're not brother and sister; they're cousins. This is my 11-year-old granddaughter Charnesta and…"
I interrupted her, "Granddaughter?" I was surprised, "I thought these were your kids."
"Oh heavens, no." She laughed, "She's actually my step-granddaughter, but I fully consider her one of my own." She ruffled the little boy's hair. "This young man is my great-grandson, Kristopher – that's with a K; he belongs to my older granddaughter, Alicia, but she's not here today."
My comments about Charnesta helping Kristopher led us to a conversation on faith and doing for others. Fran shared that she had left the church for a while, "God has a plan for each of us. I was gone for several years, and He led me right back here, and here is where I'm going to stay."
I could tell Fran was a good lady, a caring soul who does a lot to help other folks. I wanted to do something nice for her. I started to reach into my pocket to give her some money. I would say, "Take your grandkids out to eat - my treat." Before I embarrassed myself, I quickly remembered that I only had about ten bucks with me when I left home. I put all of that in the collection basket when it went by. I could send something in the mail, but some people find it intrusive asking for their address the first time you meet. Suddenly, I remembered, "Wait here, Fran, I have something in my car I want to give you."
I rushed out to my car, parked across the seat, and picked up my coffee mug. Underneath it were two smashed, wrinkled up twenty-dollar bills that Melissa insisted I take. I smoothed them out as best I could, then neatly folded them in my hand and went back into the church.
I took Fran's hand, placed the bills in her palm, and gently closed her fingers over it so that she couldn't see what I was giving her. Still holding her hand, I said, "I want you to know; I make no judgments about you. If you can use this, that's great. If not, would you find someone to give it to?"
Fran opened her hand, unfolded the two bills, and paused. "Well, I've listened to your stories, and now I have one to tell you about how the good Lord works." There was a sparkle in her eye, and I couldn't tell if she was getting a little teary. "Several days ago, I came across a young mom sitting on the curb on the edge of the street by the bus stop. She was crying, so I asked her what was the matter and how could I help?
"The young lady said her husband, who was quite abusive, had left her the day before. She'd looked in her purse that morning to find he took all the money she had. She needed to buy groceries for her kids but had no money. Now, mind you, she didn't ask me for money either.
"Well, I opened my purse and pulled out all the money I had and gave it to her. I told her, 'It's not much, but I hope it will help.' She thanked me and accepted my gift.
"I got home and thought, 'Now Fran, what were you thinking?' The money I gave her was all I had until I get my check next week. I was out of milk and things and needed to go to the store myself. Then here on Sunday, I meet a new friend at church, who I've never met before, and you just give me some money when I didn't even ask.
"But the most amazing thing is when I reached in my purse and gave her that money – I gave her two twenty-dollar bills; that was all the money I had. Now here you are today giving me two twenty-dollar bills. No one will ever convince me that the Lord isn't watching what goes on around here – and He has a hand in it, too." Fran gave me a big hug.
Fran's story warmed my heart, topping off a perfect Sunday morning. I didn't want to share with her the coincidence in that the two twenties I gave her were all the cash I had left until I got home. I only had them because my wife gave me the last two twenties she had when I was walking out the door. I was afraid if I shared this, Fran would have refused my gift, and besides, I still had a credit card with me. We said our farewells, and I headed for my car.
I gave June a rub on the head, "I told your mom I didn't need those two twenties, but it turns out I really did."
June looked straight out the windshield; she was ready to go. "Are we going to get lunch soon?"
In preparation for another exciting season of adventurers in the Scamp, I took it to an RV dump station at a campground yesterday. I needed to flush the lines and water system, removing the RV anti-freeze, then fill the tank with freshwater. It takes a little while to do this.
I had only been there for a couple minutes; I was just getting started when a very large, forty-foot RV pulled up behind the Scamp. It was one of those real fancy ones, built on an over-the-road bus chassis. The kind that starts out at about $450,000.00 and goes up in price from there. He waited behind me for about a minute, maybe less, then impatiently pulled a couple feet closer to me. I suppose he thought that would hurry me up.
After about another minute, he got out of his motor home and approached me. He didn't ask - but told me to move "that trailer" so he could dump his RV tanks. Would anyone like to guess how that went for him?
"Pardon me?" I said, in disbelief at his lack of manners.
He repeated, "Move your trailer; I need to empty my tanks."
I looked right at him, paused, then busted out laughing, "Yeah. I don't think so." Then returned to my work.
"This is an RV service station; it's for RV's, not trailers." He informed me.
With disinterest and without looking at him, I replied, "This isn't just a trailer - it's a Scamp, and a Scamp is an RV." He firmly ordered again that I move my trailer. I stood up, looked at him, and said, "Look, dude, just because you found a bank that would finance you on a motor home you probably can't afford doesn't give you the right to act like a pompous jackass. Now, you're just going to have to wait your turn. That’s how it works for everyone, even you" I returned to my task, and he stood back by his unit and glared at me.
I found it ironic and humorous that he really didn't seem to know much about the RV he was driving. You see, I intentionally pulled in the wrong way so that my water connections would be closest to the hydrant. My waste tank valves were on the other side of the Scamp. I left the bigger side of the island open if anyone else wanted to dump their tanks while I was flushing my water system.
He asked if I was almost done. "Nope, I'm going to be a bit." I then explained, if he was in such a hurry, he could pull up to the other side of the service island as I wasn't using the sewage drain yet.
All he had to do was back up, then pull forward to the other side. (Remember, he pulled in behind me, so he also had his drains on the wrong side.) Instead, he backed up, pulled forward way past the dump station and me, then tried to turn around using the narrow roads of the campground. You should have seen him trying to maneuver that albatross in such a small area. People began gathering to watch! This was first-class entertainment for the other campers.
Finally giving up, he drove around a road or two in the campground until he was positioned to pull straight in alongside the island. I shook my head. After all his effort, he was still facing the wrong way with his tanks on the wrong side!
He got out of his motor home, walked around it, looking down, opening a few lower doors, trying to find his water system service compartment. I could have told him the connections were located on the driver's side, but I felt it was best to just keep quiet at this point. He disappeared on the other side of his unit, then walked back around to the door. I looked at him and smiled. We both knew.
He climbed in, slammed the door, and pulled forward to a large parking area where he could have easily just made a U-turn. Still, for some reason, he decided to do a multi-point turnaround. While he was messing around, a guy driving an older mini-home pulled up to the other side of the dump station.
The mini-home driver got out and started connecting his hose to drain his tanks. Meanwhile, Mr. Big pulled up behind him (now facing the correct direction), got out of his RV, and didn't ask but told the guy to move his camper. The man's response was much less polite than mine!
While the mini-home driver was draining his tank, I pulled forward and made a U-turn in the same spot where Mr. Big could not maneuver a turn just a few minutes before. He watched as I turned around, then I pulled up, facing the right direction to empty my tank on the same side of the island I had just vacated. He did not seem impressed by my display of skillful driving.
The mini home guy finished and removed the hose. He was pretty quick because he wasn't refilling his water tanks. I had my hose already connected to the Scamp and ready to go. I placed the other end of the hose in the drain opening and pulled the valve open to drain my black water tank, then my grey water tank.
The mini-home guy put his hoses away. He nodded my way, "Have a good day, partner," he told me, flipped the bird to Mr. Big, then got in his ride and drove away.
Mr. Big pulled into position. He fumbled with hoses, trying to figure out his system. I rinsed my drain hose, put it back in the storage tube, rinsed my hands, then replaced the water hose in its bracket.
I complimented him, "That's a pretty sharp-looking RV you have there. Did you just get it?" He glared at me and cussed at his RV. His tanks still were not draining, and I could clearly see what he was doing wrong. "You should consider changing the way you treat people. I've owned several big RV's, but I prefer the Scamp. Had you been nice to me, I would have shown you how to drain your system when you first pulled up since you obviously don't know what you're doing."
He told me where to go...and it wasn't to the next campground! I just laughed, "You ought to think about getting something you can handle. Might I suggest a Scamp? They're really nifty!" I sat in my car, turned to grab the seat belt, and saw that he was flipping me the bird.
Well, the mini-home guy flipped him the bird, now he was flipping me the bird....is that like paying it forward in a weird kind of way?
I put the car in gear and waved goodbye, using all five of my fingers, to the big RV guy.
The old adage is still true: You'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I can't wait to go camping in the Scamp this weekend; maybe we'll get a site next to the nice man with the big RV.
It's a sickening feeling when you're driving down the road, and you hear that sound, almost like a pop or snapping noise; it's when a rock hits your windshield. I know this because it happens to me too often, certainly more often than the average driver. Maybe it's just bad luck, but I've dealt with windshield issues most of my driving life, especially when I started exploring out to see more of the country.
A sizable rock came off a construction truck in Iowa and broke my windshield. A large section of slushy, frozen snow popped off the top of a semi-trailer while driving through the twin cities. It seemed to float like a potato chip through the air before smashing my windshield. When I reported it, the state trooper asked if I was following too closely. "I wish I had been," I told him, "then the icy chunk would have sailed right over my car."
Shoot, I was on a four-lane highway in Idaho, in the left lane passing a semi-truck, and sugar
beet flew off the top of her trailer and cracked my windshield. Can anyone else tell me a sugar beet has stuck them?
In most states, if a vehicle kicks up a stone or any other debris from the road and hits your car,
it is considered a "road hazard," and the other driver has no responsibility for damages. However, if something falls off their vehicle, they do. In each case mentioned, I contacted the companies, and they paid for my repairs.
I don't even have to be driving to have an incident. One time I was watching a baseball game at
Wildwood park. A foul ball was popped up very high in the air. Naturally, it came down and hit my car, cracking the windshield.
Another time, I was following my wife to Duluth to drop off my car at the service shop; she was my ride home. All of a sudden, I heard it; SNAP! "You've got to be kidding me!" I said, then looked for the chip. Sure enough, there was a fresh new star in the glass just under the rearview mirror. I called her immediately, "You just kicked up a rock, and it chipped my windshield." At first, she didn't believe me, then denied any liability or wrongdoing. She claimed she was too far ahead of me for a rock from her tire, hit my car. "Well, it did," I said, then adamantly insisted, "and you're going to pay for my windshield." There was a long silent pause. "Hello? Are you there? Hello?" My car glass is immune from nothing, not sweet things, not even love!
A chip can turn into a crack running wild random directions across the glass in extremely hot or cold temperature changes. Having the chip repaired or filled can help avoid cracking. I get rock
chips frequently, so I'm familiar with the auto glass repair shop.
When I lived in Iowa, it was not a problem to drive a few blocks where Ottumwa Glass would repair my windshield. But living in northern Minnesota is different. We live sixty-five miles from the glass shop, a hundred-thirty-mile round trip. A rock chip is a real pain in the glass - if you know what I mean.
In the old days, doctors made house calls, but you had to take your car to the shop for a new
windshield. Times have changed; doctors don't make house calls anymore, but the glass shop does.
Shortly after we moved to Minnesota, I needed to replace the windshield on a truck I bought. I called City Auto Glass in Duluth for an appointment and was told, "We come to Silver Bay every Tuesday. Do you have a heated garage?" I did not, so she gave me the name of a local garage, "If you can bring it in a ten-o-clock, we can fix it for you there, and it will be ready to go in about two hours." Being skeptigal, as I am, (that's not a typo, it's a person who is skeptical and frugal – you know, cheap?) I asked how much more it cost to have them come up. "It's the same price. If the weather was warmer, we could replace the glass right there in your driveway." Wow. How could I refuse a deal like that?
The bright red City Glass van has been in my driveway several times since then, in addition to the numerous times I've been to their shop. About a year ago, they came and repaired a rock chip on my truck. During the past winter's spell of minus thirty-five-degree temperatures, the chip ran, making a large circle from the passenger to the driver's side of the glass. It was time to make an appointment to get a new windshield.
Admittedly, I'm not a real fan of some of the new technology; I don't get it; that's why I still carry a flip phone; however, some of it just makes good sense. For example, City Auto Glass has locations in several towns. If the office people are busy or on the phone when you call the local number, someone from another site will answer your call. You'd never know you're talking to someone out of town – unless, of course, you are one to break a lot of windshields. Lisa answered the phone, and I knew there's no Lisa in the Duluth office.
Lisa got some information from me about the vehicle. She wanted the VIN to make sure she ordered the correct windshield. I told her I didn't have the number with me, but they should have the truck in their system. "Ah yes, I see we repaired a rock chip on this vehicle last May." It's a mystery to me how she knew that or how she knew the schedule for the Duluth shop. "Okay, the guys will be out Tuesday morning at ten to replace the windshield on your truck in your driveway. Is there anything else I can do for you today?" With the business portion of our call done, it was time to have some fun.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, there is." I said, "While they're here, could you ask them to bring in the trash can from the curb and set it inside the garage?" There was a slight pause as Lisa tried to figure out if I was serious. "Also, can they feed the dog and do the dishes? Oh, and sweep the floors if they have time." We shared a good laugh about that. "You are full service, aren't you? This is my idea of full-service."
Lisa was still laughing when she asked, "Is there any laundry that needs to be done and would you like them to mow the lawn?"
I was pretty sure she was kidding, but just in case, I asked, "Do you think they'll have time?"
We shared another good laugh; I told her I'd look forward to seeing the guys on Tuesday. Amidst all the merriment, I forgot to ask about payment.
I called right back and reached Lori. I gave her my name and told her I had just set up an appointment. "Yes, I see Lisa scheduled your windshield replacement for Tuesday," I
explained that I forgot to ask about paying my bill, then asked if I could speak with Lisa. "Lisa is in our Rochester office, but I can help you."
"Rochester?" I questioned, "Then you must be in the Duluth shop."
"No," she replied, "I'm just down the road from you - in Mankato."
"Mankato? That's two hundred and fifty miles from here." I expressed.
"Right," she confirmed, "just two-hundred-fifty miles down the road from Duluth." I got thinking about it; when anyone drives enough to get as many rock chips as I do, two-hundred-fifty miles is just down the road.
"Let me see if I've got this right; I called Duluth, and Lisa answered the phone in Rochester and
scheduled an appointment for the Duluth shop. I called back with a question for Lisa and I get Lori in Mankato to discuss a question I had for Lisa, in Rochester, about the windshield the Duluth shop is going to replace in my driveway in Silver Bay?" My head was spinning. "Are you keeping all this straight, Lori?"
Lori laughed, "Absolutely, and to answer your question, Lisa, in Rochester, already received the authorization from your insurance company for the Duluth Shop to replace your glass. So, the service technicians will give you a paid receipt for replacing your windshield when they come to your house in Silver Bay – and they'll still be there on Tuesday at ten a.m." Whew! Somehow through all that, I was sure they’d come through as they always do. They've never let me down.
On Monday, I called again and got Debbie in the Duluth office. She confirmed, "The guys will be
there tomorrow, and the insurance company has already authorized the repair, so you won't have to pay anything – it's all taken care of." How could she possibly know this? That information was in Mankato – or was it Rochester? I was impressed, but that's not why I called.
I explained, "There's rain in the morning forecast, and they'll be working outside in the driveway,
so that's not going to work. Would you be able to get me in the shop if I bring the truck to Duluth tomorrow?" She said that it would be no problem if I could be there at nine.
I arrived at the shop just a few minutes early. The big overhead garage door opened, and Dakota, the technician, came out, "You must be Tom, with the Dodge Dakota?" I told him I was, "We're all ready for you." I handed Dakota the keys to the Dakota, then walked into the office, making no mention of the coincidence of names.
Debbie said, "It will take about two and a half hours to change the glass and allow drying time. Are you going to wait here?" I told her I would go to the restaurant next door to write while they had the truck in the shop. "The restaurant's dining room isn't open, just the drive-through," she said, "You can take our loaner car if you'd like to go someplace else." I thought that was pretty
nice, and I took her up on the offer.
About 10:30, I got a call from Dakota at the shop, "We finished your truck; it just needs to set a
while longer to dry. You can come to get it any time after 11:10." Wow, that was fast – they're twenty minutes early.
Another thing I like about City Auto Glass, if a chip they repaired turns into a crack, they'll take the repair cost off the price of a replacement (some exclusions apply.) I asked Dakota about it. "Well, the chip we repaired in May was on the bottom right side, and it ran up to another chip on the top right side." How could he possibly know that – not about the second chip, but the windshield repair in May, that was done in my driveway?
"I had two chips?"
"No," he explained, "the chip on the top right ran across the glass, then looped down to join the third chip on the bottom left, which then ran back over to the original chip. That's how it made a big circle."
"I had three chips." I was surprised.
"Four. There's another small chip down in front of the VIN."
I queried, "Does this fall under some exclusions apply?" We shared a good laugh about that. When he told me about the other chips, I remembered getting the one in the top left. I felt sick when I heard that popping noise when the rock hit the glass, but I had no idea there were two more.
I was very pleased with the work and they were right on time as promised.
In front of the shop, a van with a lift bucket was parked in the first sp*ace. I stopped to chat with the driver and his helper, "I wouldn't park there if I were you."
"We're changing the sign, the driver explained, "we'll have it done soon."
"I know," I said, pointing my thumb toward the shop, "But these guys are fast! If you're there very long, they'll slap a new windshield in your van before you know it." We all shared a good laugh about that. "By the way," I added, "the new sign looks great! You two do good work!"
When I left home, it was raining. Now, it was a beautiful sunny day in Duluth. It seemed even more beautiful than usual, but it always does when looking through a shiny, brand new windshield. I was sure glad it worked out to bring the truck to the shop in Duluth. Even though we changed locations, they still completed the job on Tuesday - and an hour and twenty minutes early at that.
I returned home to a real surprise! Someone took the trash in from the curb and fed the dog. The dishes were done, and the floors swept. Even the laundry was washed, dried, and folded. The lawn didn't need mowing yet, but still, I wondered, "How could those technicians possibly have got all this done? I was only in Duluth for a few hours?" The thought made me laugh.
My wife did all those chores while I was gone, but if City Auto Glass would have come to my house that day, I'll bet they would have done those things for me. Speaking of my wife, now that I think about it, she never did pay for the windshield when she threw that rock at me with her car.
Rock chips and cracked windshields are a pane in the glass - if you know what I mean, but having good people to take care of things, sure does ease the pain.
a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!