RECENTLY I WAS IN NORTH CAROLINA to meet my new girlfriend's adult children. I thought back to the last time I had been there. It had been about twenty-five years since I had flown into Raleigh-Durham where I was joining my sales associate, Jeff, to entertain his Class 8 truck buyer for awarding us some new business.
I was also planning during this trip to head to nearby Pinehurst the following day where I would be joining my oldest brother and a group of his friends for four days of golf. Halleluiah. I was being smart, expensing my flight, coming in the day before to meet Jeff. I thought this was creative, you know, killing two birds with one stone.
Earlier that week, I had purchased a new blue blazer finished nicely with embossed bronze buttons. I hadn’t purchased a new blazer for years and thought an upgrade was in order. The justification? I wanted to look refined as Jeff’s boss, and secondly, jackets were required for the evening at the country club where we would be dining. Traditions have long shadows especially in the genteel South.
Jeff flew down earlier in the day to attend some meetings and had rented a Chrysler minivan. He needed the space a van afforded for his engineering samples. I had never been in a minivan, they were new, and were renowned for their many cupholders. Jeff pulled the vehicle into baggage claim and parked at the curb just as I was coming out of the terminal. The tailgate swung open and I quickly placed my golf clubs and suitcase in the rear compartment. I came around to the passenger side where a large sliding door popped open, automatically, and moved back toward the rear of the vehicle. How cool was that. Never had I seen this type of door in action.
It was warm for April and I took off my sport coat deciding to hang it on the hook inside the open sliding door. As I jumped into the front passenger seat Jeff pushed a button on the instrument panel and the side door came to life, steadily moving forward to close as we prepared to depart. I think it even was beeping. At that very moment, my coat fell to the floor landing in a clump across the track of this new-fangled sliding door.
I warned Jeff, “Oh crap!”
It did not take a rocket scientist to figure out what came next. Jeff repeatedly pushed some button trying to stop the damn door. It was too late. The door cycled back and forth acting as if it had a mind of its own. It kept running over my new blue blazer. I looked down in disbelief, noticing torn lining and white silicone grease on the dark fabric. Part of my coat was wrapped in the door’s roller mechanism. To top it off, I discovered a single bronze button rolling out on the blacktop. The coat was a goner. No question about that.
The baggage attendants looked away and began hiding their faces, whispering under their breaths, acting as if nothing had happened. The minivan’s side door finally came to rest. Silence filled the front seats as we took in the last gasps of my new coat. Jeff then cried out, “Bobbbb, I am so sorry.” Jeff and I then broke into hysterical laughter. The attendants, who had shown remarkable restraint, joined us, grabbing their bellies and wiping away tears. What a funny scene.
The following days in Pinehurst brought more laughter, this time from my golfing compatriots. They were roasting me for my dinner jacket, a loaner supplied by the head waiter. They thought that the coat made me look like a race track bookie who had lost a lot of weight and money. It was an awful weave and fabric; and indeed, it was way too big. The grand old South always delivers such fond
memories, and on this trip it became very clear that humor led the way.