Friday, October 10, 2008

In Regatta Da Vida, Baby

So today was one of those days where I'm amazed I was even slightly coherent; it was howling gusty winds all night, screaming across my lake and roaring up the hill to slam into my house, tossing debris into the walls and rattling the windows, tugging at the eaves. I can drop off to sleep if it's a steady wind, even a gale-force one, but the slamming gusts are less restful. And this morning I woke to the machine-gun rattle of hard-driven rain pinging like hailstones against my windows. But it was warm, and the sky was dramatic with scudding rain clouds on the way to work. Everything has its compensations.

Besides, it's not by any means the worst wind we've had up here. One year, in February or March, it was so windy that it tore the roofs off of several buildings and froze pipes (even though it wasn't that cold in terms of ambient temps, the wind chill was vicious.) I had to plug my truck in, even though the ambient temp was over 30 degrees, because the wind was freezing the oil in the crank case. One of my clients, a long-haul trucker, had his semi blown over flat on its side (luckily he wasn't hurt.) Another truck - a tandem rig - got blown over, right off the highway, in the front yard of the clinic. The phone lines at the clinic failed; we could hear them ringing, but one my one the lines went out and we couldn't answer them. They just rang and rang, and we couldn't hear anyone, nor could they hear us. It was as if they somehow fused together; it took them two days to repair.

It was pretty dramatic. The entire town was talking about it for weeks. A little later in the spring, though, after the temperatures had gone soft and balmy, it had faded from people's minds - or so I thought. One day in early May my neighbors were having the Second Annual Rainbow Lake Regatta party. The regatta is sort of silly rafts toodling around the lake with various means of propulsion; the party is lots of food and alcohol, and that year there was music and a big fire. (The previous year it was warm, so no fire. Still lots of alcohol.) There were 3 kinds of wine and two kinds of whiskey, not to mention moose bratwurst and smoked salmon, amongst other goodies. It was actually a hilarious party... I can't remember much of the funny stuff specifically (though I laughed a lot) but I do remember this one story, which was when I realized that the legacy of that windstorm was not quite over.

At the time of the storm, it was still somewhat dark in the early morning, and after all that wind, very dry. One of our compatriots at the party, Richard (a trim, pleasant-featured, middle-aged man, with a certain kind of craggy and yet kindly good looks), was driving to work in that bitterly cold wind. After all the cold and dry, he was evidently feeling pretty chapped... not just his lips, but his whole face, as he'd been out in the wind a bit too much. He scrabbled one-handed around in his truck and came up with a chap stick, which he applied to his lips - not just the usual places, though, since his skin was also chapped. I've done this, and maybe you have too; if I've had a bad cold or something, say, and my entire upper lip has chapped: You apply the Carmex for about an inch around your actual mouth. Kinda attracts lint and hair, but oh so soothing. Richard thought as much, anyway, treating his chapped face with the lip balm. Mmmmm. Much better.

Anyway, he gets in to town and stops at the bank to make a deposit. Everyone is grinning and cheerful - maybe happy the worst of the wind is past, even if it is still blowing? Maybe just a nice friendly town? - at any rate, they all give him big smiles and he smiles back. The more he smiles the more they smile, and the more they smile, the more cheerful he's feeling. He's opening doors for other bank patrons, he's waving people into traffic in front of him, he's yielding right-of-way. Pretty soon he's having a great day, smiling and nodding at other motorists (all of whom give him a return grin), whistling his way to work at the school, generally enjoying himself.

Our Richard works in one of the portable units at one of the schools (a building off to the side, detached from the main school), so he goes into his office there and is doing some paperwork before he had to meet with school administrators and supervisors. He's on his way out the door to go to the main building when he just happens to catch sight of himself in a small mirror that hangs near the door. What the...?

See, now here is the hazard of driving to work in the dark. Things are not always what they seem. In his one-handed grubbing about for a chap stick, he is naturally not going to be looking away from the road for too long, and color is muted in the dark so apparently he didn't notice anything amiss as he applied, not chap stick, but his wife's fire-engine-red lipstick, to his lips. And all over his face. In a biiiiig raggedy clown mouth. Pretty much from nose to chin. (Evidently he was pretty generous with his application.) So here he is all happy and cheerful about all the friendly smiling Townies out after the Big Blow, all thrilled to be out and about again, all giving him grins and waves. But in fact, they're not glad to be out, they're not in a humanitarian mood, they're not relieved about the end of the windstorm, they're not even just being friendly. They're all in a smiling happy mood because they're amazed and bemused by his lipstick-laden face. And evidently too startled to ask him WHAT on earth he's doing covered in Cover Girl.

Not sure what kind of a riot he would've started had he gone in to the main building like that, but it's entertaining to think about.

He retired shortly thereafter.

I'm sure it was a coincidence.


MaskedMan said...

OK, now *I'm* grinning and laughing, too.

Black Jack's Carol said...

Loved your "Fall" post with its blaze of pics to drool over. Although I've heard about Alaska's beauty, your blog is making it real for me. Also loved this post, with its warm chuckle-inducing narrative. You left two images (without pics:) of Richard that will stick. I guess, in a way, its one impression of a down-to-earth fellow, thoroughly able to enjoy the telling of a joke at his own expense. But, all the grins and nods exchanged between him and everyone he met, conjure up a second image of his ability to appreciate good humor, even when he's not quite sure what it's all about.

AKDD said...

Thanks! It was much funnier when HE told it, of course, but it still makes me laugh when I think about it. And you're right, his ability to laugh at himself was perhaps the most appealing part of the story.