Everything seems to happen at once. Ginnie’s mother died in Ozark, Missouri, and there was my brother’s birthday party in Ashland, Wisconsin. My place is definitely with my wife in time of grief, but my brother’s birthday had been planned for months. What to do? Ginnie is the oldest of seven children, she would have plenty of familial support. Ginnie made the decision, I was to go north while she went south. We kissed goodbye.
The weather forecast north was for the first snow of the year. Great. I made the decision to drive my four-wheel drive truck instead of the compact car. This was the best decision I made all weekend. Just north of Mason City/Clear Lake it became a whiteout with 100% snow-packed interstate. I pulled into a rest stop.
“Sorry. The power is out. You can’t use the restroom,” the attendant said to a group of us bleary-eyed, chagrined travelers. I snapped a quick picture of the snow-covered rest area, text it to Ginnie, and headed for the nearest convenience store.
Sign of the times: convenience stores are so large now they are like mini supermarkets, replete with shopping carts. There was a stampede for milk, bread and gas. I headed for the restroom.
While using a stall, Ginnie text me a picture of sunny Missouri in its fall colors. Pretty. The lights went out in the restroom. Uh, oh, power outage? It was pitch black and I was the only one in the restroom. Then I figured out there was a motion sensor on the light switch. Because I was in a stall, not thrashing around, lights out. I remembered the flashlight on my smartphone. I was fumbling for it, when the restroom door opened, a man walked in, and the lights popped on. There I was with phone in hand. He looked at me, I looked at him, and with the mouth-full-of-Christmas-candy accent that Minnesnowdans speak, he said, “Oh, sorry ‘bout that,” and turned around and headed back out. Hmm.
On the way to my truck, I noticed an impulse special on stainless steel, insulated mugs — “$9.99, fill it free!” Right beside the mugs was the flavored syrup, hazelnut, French vanilla, etc. I’m a sucker for hazelnut. What the heck? I needed a traveling cup anyway. I grabbed a mug and pumped about 20 squirts of hazelnut syrup into it. I went to fill the mug with coffee. One of the choices was hazelnut coffee. Double hazelnut, what could it hurt? I headed for checkout. The clerk had been eyeing me. She said, “You missed the hazelnut cream.” I went back and poured four containers of hazelnut cream into the mug. I have always been a man of excess. I took a sip of the concoction and my ears tingled. Perfect.
My truck was covered with snow. I had remembered my winter coat and hat, but not a snow brush. Also, because I like to drive in comfort, I was wearing Crocs. Everyone around me was in some sort of insulated boot. These trucks nowadays are so high off the ground. I tried to brush the snow off the windshield with my arm and got a Croc full of snow. “Well, that’s a crock!” The same clerk was sweeping snow off the sidewalk. She kindly took her broom and brushed off my windshield. That’s Minnesnowdans for you.
Finally, safe at my motel room in Ashland, Wisconsin, I cranked the heat up, pulled the curtains back, and viewed the waves of Lake Superior crashing the shoreline only a few feet from the walkout door. How romantic. The room had everything—a microwave, dorm refrig, coffee pot. With my books and poetry to protect me, I could spend a couple of weeks here. What else do you need?
Oh, yes, Ginnie.
Contact Curt Swarm at firstname.lastname@example.org