Al Batt: There are eight million stories in the naked city

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

Life is changed faster than underwear.

My Grandpa Cook and my Grandpa Batt both lived their entire lives without seeing a single amusing cat video online.

Al Batt

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I knew men who traveled so seldom, they couldn’t find their way out of the county with a map that was paid for. A guy told me his false teeth didn’t fit. Every time he sneezed, his wife ducked. Another said he didn’t know whether to fix the roof or get a bigger bucket, before adding he was living on Gravy Street.

If I’d miraculously come up with a $5 bill, I could have taken it to the local Rexall Drugstore and came home with a Classics Illustrated comics version of “Moby Dick” and a partnership in the drugstore.

My father and my uncles listened to the radio as A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti battled in the Indianapolis 500. The continuous roar of passing cars fell short of being riveting. In the blink of an eye, my car had a full gas tank, a rare occurrence during that period of my life. Instead of saving money from my early years, I spent it on books. Instinctively, I thought the gauge was faulty until I remembered I’d sold a set of pots and pans. I was a door-to-door seller of pots and pans. It wasn’t a dream come true. My evil overlords warned me I should refer to the product as deluxe cookware. I sold cookware until I discovered people could buy something just as good at a local hardware for half the price.

In the blink of a second eye, it was now. I visited cemeteries around my hometown of 316 people. These memories found me there.

My mother favored small cafés. Whenever I took her out for lunch, she ordered a pork tenderloin sandwich if it were on the menu. I told her to order whatever she wanted. She always wanted a pork tenderloin sandwich.

An excellent teacher told me she’d started teaching at a country school and its eight grades after a year of normal training. One eighth-grade boy was slightly older than she was. He wouldn’t do what she asked because she was just a girl. This outstanding educator almost quit teaching. Her landlord found her crying and asked the reason for her tears. She told him. He talked to the boy’s father. Problem solved.

The man lived in a house on a hill and walked down his driveway and across a busy highway to get to his mailbox. One day, as I motored from here to there while doing the day’s business, I encountered a traffic jam on that two-lane rural highway. There was considerable traffic on the road, but not that much. The man from the hill had driven down from his house to the mailbox. He’d driven straight to the mailbox, parked his car and retrieved his mail. His car stretched across the highway, blocking parts of both lanes. To make matters worse, he was opening his mail. He’d likely received a winning notification from the Publishers Clearing House.

A young man in town rode a Big Wheel as if he were competing in the Indy 500. This sometimes required him to make turns in front of cars. The locals watched for him and slowed down, maybe riding the brake a little, just in case he turned. Visitors honked at him. He’d give them an obscene gesture in return. A fair exchange.

A fellow discovered that if he rocked a pop machine, it would reward him with coins or a can. One day, he became over-energetic and tipped the vending machine over on top of himself. Good people came to the rescue and saved him from being Orange Crushed.

I talked to a grass hugger. You all know one. Guys who love to mow the lawn. He was a fescue-cutting fool. He said he cared little about the lawn. His wife wouldn’t let him smoke in the house, but the riding lawn mower didn’t care how many cigarettes he puffed.

I’ve never seen the TV series “The Naked City,” whose tagline was, “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”
That’s nothing. A town of 316 has way more stories than that.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.