Gangin’ Style, Big Time

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley.”

“To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns

I moved from downtown Lancaster to a house about 4 miles south of town, and one mile straight up.  Well, it might not actually be a mile high like Denver, but it sure feels like it.

I live near the top of a great big hill.  The bus stop is at the bottom of the hill.  My best time down the hill is 13 minutes.  My best time up the hill is 22 minutes.  The unfortunate part is that since I only go out to shop, my knapsack is usually empty on the way downhill and full on the way uphill.  So, the uphill hike, when my pack is full, is way more than 22 minutes.

Once, I tried it with a full pack and a 5-liter box of wine.  Halfway up the hill I got chest pain and had to put a nitroglycerin pill under my tongue, and wait a few minutes, so that I wouldn’t have a heart attack.

I haven’t carried any wine up the hill, since then, but that doesn’t make me want to give up drinking wine.  So, I needed to devise a Plan B.  I came up with a plan that would have brought old Robbie Burns to tears.  It was, I thought, the absolutely best laid plan of mice or men.

I didn’t just want to get wine.  I wanted to get a lot of wine, plus there was a veritable bucket list of things I wanted to do on the same journey.  I also wanted to make a trip to the bank, find a good local place to have pizza, and have a beer.  (I drink wine at home, beer when I’m out.)

The first problem to overcome was that the bus only runs every two hours, except for the last 4 runs of the day, when it runs every hour: leaving the depot at 2:20, 3:20, 4:20, and 5:20 p.m.  I worked out a plan that would have even impressed the D-Day planners.

I left my house at 2:10 p.m.  I got down the hill at 2:23.  The bus that left the depot at 2:20 arrived at my bus stop at 2:35, right on schedule.  I got to the bank around 3 p.m., so a quick calculation told me that the 3:20 bus would probably arrive at the bank around 4 p.m.

I took care of my business at the bank and had 50 minutes before my next bus would come.  I walked to a pizza restaurant that was just two or three bus stops down the road, Two Cousins Pizza Restaurant.  I took my time savoring the two delicious slices of pepperoni pizza with a nice bottle of Juengling beer.  I was checking things off my To-Do list rapidly.  I went outside and only had a few minutes to wait for the bus that arrived in front of the restaurant at 4:05.  That bus took me to the liquor store in Kendig Square, a big shopping center about 5 miles south of downtown Lancaster.

At this point, I’m congratulating myself on how well my plan is going, and I wasn’t worried about a thing.  I only had two easy steps to go to complete my plan:

  1. Buy a lot of wine.
  2. Take a taxi home from there.

I bought 15 liters of wine, and a bottle of Bourbon.  I dragged my purchase to the curb and dialed the number of the taxi I used to take whenever I went to the Roller Derby Games.

A recorded voice told me, “The number you dialed is no longer in service.”

I didn’t panic.  I Googled the number or another taxi service.  It picked up on the first ring.  “Thank you for calling Lancaster Cab.  Please hold on and I will try to connect you with a dispatcher.”  Bad background music started to play.

“Try?” I said to myself.  Did that answering machine say “try to connect?”  I listened to the same 30 second loop of bad music for 10 minutes, when I realized that yes, the machine must have said “try.”  So I hung up and went back to Googling another company.

“We’re sorry, but the number you dialed is no longer in service.”  Covid seems to have wiped out all the cab companies in the Lancaster area.

By now the bus that left the depot at 4:20 is arriving at the Kendig Square bus stop, and leaving without me.  I know that there is only one more bus, which leaves the depot at 5:20, but I can’t get on that bus and lug 16 liters of booze up the hill.  I have maybe a dozen nitroglycerin pills in my pocket, but I fear that even that might not get me up the hill with 16 liters of booze weighing me down.  So, I called another cab service.

“We can’t come to the phone right now.  Leave a message and we’ll get back to you.”

I left a message, and checked Google again.  There weren’t any other cab companies within miles, so I called the “trying” one again.  Again, it picked up on the first ring.

“Thank you for calling Lancaster Cab.  Please hold on and I will try to connect you with a dispatcher.”

It did say “try.”  The musical loop played for 10 minutes before a dispatcher came on the line.

“Hello,” I said, “I’m at Kendig Square and I would like a taxi, please.”

“What is the address?”

I don’t know the address.  It’s a shopping center.  I’m outside of the liquor store in the Kendig Square Shopping Center.”

“You don’t have an address?”

“I have an address of where I want to go to, but I don’t know the address here.  It’s the Kendig Square shopping center.

“Kendig Square?”

“Yes Kendig Square.”

“I don’t know where that is.  Do you have an address I can put into the G.P.S.?”

“I don’t know the address.  It’s the Kendig Shopping Center, about 5 miles south of downtown Lancaster.  There’s a movie theatre the Kendig Movie Theater.”

“Okay, we’ll pick you up in one hour.”

“Wait!  I’m not by the movie theater.  I’m outside the liquor store.”

“Okay, can you wait an hour?”

“Yes, I can wait an hour.”

“Okay, we’ll be there in an hour.”

So, now I have to kill an hour.  This wasn’t in my plan, but I dragged the booze into a nearby Chinese Restaurant.  I had just finished eating pizza, but Chinese food isn’t filling, right?  So, I ordered a quart of Beef and Broccoli.  I was prepared to wait.  I wasn’t hungry or in any hurry, but I’m telling you honestly.  The cashier handed me my change and instantly produced a bag containing a steaming hot quart of Beef and Broccoli, with a pint of white rice.

Somebody else must have called in an order of Beef and Broccoli and she figured she would give me their order, which was ready, and they can eat the order I just put in, and that way everyone gets hot food, instead of this quart of Beef and Broccoli getting cold while she waited for them to show up.

I’m only guessing, but that must be what happened.  So, I took the order to a table and sat down to slowly savor it.  I even threw in a couple trips to the bathroom.

Then I went outside and watched as the last bus of the day left the bus stop.  I was committed to the taxi now.  It had been more than an hour, so I called them back.

“Thank you for calling Lancaster Cab.  Please hold on and I will try to connect you with a dispatcher.”

“Oh boy!  Here we go again.”  To my surprise, though, a dispatcher came on within a minute.”

“It’s been over an hour and I’m still waiting for a taxi.”

“You want a taxi?”

Then we repeated the Abbott and Costello routine about the address of Kendig Square, as if we had never spoken before.

“Kendig Square?”

“Yes, Kendig Square.”

“Pennsylvania?”

I wanted to say, “Yes, of course, Pennsylvania, you freakin’ moron.  Why would I call a Pennsylvanian taxi company, if I wasn’t in Pennsylvania?”

I wanted to say that (and a few expletives), but the last bus had just left, and the other cab company that took my message an hour and a half ago, still hadn’t called me back, so my only other alternative was to call Crazy Debbie for a ride, and I knew that she would be hammered by this point in the day.  Whatever “Gang aft a-gley” meant. My plans were sure doing it. So, I was instead, polite, extremely polite to this dispatcher.

“Okay, 20 minutes.”

“Okay.

To my astonishment, 20 minutes later a cab showed up, and 10 minutes after that I was home with my 16 liters of booze.  Of course, since I’ve been home, I’ve already consumed 2 of the liters, because I figured that it was worth celebrating that I made it back from Kendig Square without needing a single nitroglycerin tablet.  To me, that was a Christmas miracle.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Peace & Love, and all of the above.

Earl

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