A day unfolds in the town of HartlandPublished 9:05am Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Column: Tales from Exit 22
The alarm clock buzzed gallingly.
The device with a facial tick tossed me from the Eden-like paradise of sleep.
An alarm clock is like a dentist. When it does its job, it’s irritating. It’s only later that I’m thankful.
I considered hitting the annoying contraption with a hammer and would have if I’d had a hammer. I don’t keep a hammer in our bedroom. I might snore loudly enough to provoke my wife into using the hammer as a silencer.
I jumped from bed, worrying how my 401(k) was doing. I breathed a sigh of relief when I remembered that I don’t have a 401(k).
I peered out the window expecting to see The Weather Channel worthy conditions. Winter Minnesotans expect the worst. It had snowed. Not a bad thing. I’ve heard that open winters breed illness, so I took the snow as a healthy happening.
In the shower, I struggled to find a water temperature to my liking. It alternated between scalding and producing ice cubes. I searched for a working bar of soap. The shower shelf contained slivers of soaps that had toiled hard and were enjoying retirement. I pressed two small soaps together to create a serviceable bar. A shower clears my head and fosters thought. I had a neighbor who was a fanatic about cleanliness. It wasn’t uncommon for him to take two, maybe three, showers a year.
After the shower, I suffered a major disappointment. I was completely out of superhero underwear. A lot of good it did me to throw my dirty clothes near the hamper.
I ate breakfast. Burnt toast with smooth peanut butter, orange juice, tea, and a cereal containing so much fiber that there was a warning on the box reading, “Do not eat outside a bathroom.”
I had a big day planned. I was going to town. I go “up” to Duluth and “down” to Des Moines, Iowa, but I go “to” town.
I needed to go to the bank in Hartland. My father told me that a man needs a place to go. I like the bank and the people who work there. The bank is celebrating its 100th year as a business this year. It has experienced great times and a Great Depression. I stop by the bank regularly to pick up free calendars. They make excellent birthday gifts. I haven’t been a customer for all 100 years, but the bank was good to me when I needed a loan just to be broke.
I drove to town while being serenaded by Slim Whitman and Zamfir, the master of the pan flute. It was good getting out of the car.
I met a friend in the bank who said, “So you’re in town, too.”
The bank helped me become a saver and I used my savings to fill my car with gas. I came out of the gas station (Fuel’s Paradise) and watched a young man drop a handful of coins to the ground. I knew him. He’s a good guy who is addicted to his cell phone. He enjoys watching movies on a postage stamp-sized screen and using the world’s smallest typewriter. Whatever makes your rubber duck squeak. He’s didn’t want to be bothered with a pocketful of pennies. I picked them up as if they were dollar bills. I promptly pounced on each penny because of the old axiom, “See a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.” An associate told me that I wouldn’t be so lucky if I hurt my back bending over to pluck a penny from the pavement. An uncle had advised, “Anyone who won’t pick up a penny, isn’t worth a penny.”
As I grabbed the last penny, a new mother walked by. I told her that she had a cute baby. I always add, “She looks just like you.” Unless the baby is a boy, then I add, “He looks just like you.” I cover all the bases that way even though I don’t think new babies look like anyone else.
I stopped at the best café featuring real mashed potatoes in Hartland. I know a guy who eats at only the best places and he dines at this eatery. I shadow him on his gastronomic escapades. I decided to have something different for lunch, so I ordered a can of Spaghetti-Os and a straw. It was different. Outside the café, a dog sneezed. I said, “Bless you.”
Then I went home. I’d been to town.
Life is an adventure.
Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Sunday and Wednesday.