My cousin Shirley and I motored to Havre for a nice meal and to take in the Montana Actors’ Theatre’s latest production. Shirley had a bit of shopping to do, so we left early, adding a splash of minutes for the unexpected. My theory is that when you allow for the unexpected, the unexpected is what you will get.
In the best western tradition, we headed off into the sunset, which glared in our eyeballs all the way to Havre. Although we both were hungry, we decided to take care of mundane tasks first. We quickly found the items on Shirley’s list, then headed up the hill to Murphy’s Irish Pub. Neither of us had been there in a long while.
We made ourselves comfortable at a small table right in the middle of the dining room. After cruising the menu, we decided to share an appetizer. We planned to order our main courses once we had knocked the edge off our hunger. Did I mention we were hungry? We both had skipped lunch in anticipation of dinner. We were ravenous.
Our friendly waitress soon placed drinks and a lovely chicken quesadilla in front of us. We tucked right in amid much lively conversation.
Meanwhile, the hockey team streamed in. Actually, I don’t know for sure that it was a hockey team. But the large congregation of youngsters of varied ages had that hockey-team type energy. They began settling down; no, “settling down” is not the right phrase. Imagine a horde of milling children, at least 20 or maybe 200, seeking their places at a long table, all the while maintaining the semblance of a perpetual motion machine. Try to remember when you were 8 or 9 or 10. “I don’t want to sit here. I want to sit on the other side.” “I’m not sitting next to HIM, Yuck.” “Go away; only girls sit here.” “Girls have cooties. Pass it on.” (Slug!) Hey, I like that kind of energy. Those kids were having a ripping good time.
Parents trooped in behind them, trying to get the kids sorted out and seated. They planned to enjoy their meal in relative peace at another table, further away. In the midst of the melee, as Shirley shifted to let a parent through the narrow space between our table and the pack of milling youngsters, she bumped our small table, causing it to tilt. My drink, untouched as yet, turned topsy-turvy. The glass shattered. Icy liquid mixed with glass shards splattered onto my shirt, puddled into my lap, and ran down one leg into my shoe. The word that comes to mind is “drenched.” I sat stunned, looking down into the lake in my lap. I had to laugh. What else could I do. I picked a chunk of glass out of the lake, held it in front of my eyes like a crystal ball and predicted, “There is a shopping trip in my immediate future.”
Our waitress brought towels. We sopped up the mess as best we could, paid for the quesadilla and left into the cold and windy night.
We raced over the hill and down to Kmart. I grabbed three pairs of pants and headed to the dressing rooms. Shirley went off in search of a shirt. The first pants I tried on fit nicely and the legs were long enough. I’m always surprised when that happens. I asked the clerk, Theresa, to please cut the tags off my back pockets. Shirley showed up with three shirts. I ducked back into the dressing room and sent her after boot socks, preferably a wool blend, to wear with my sandals. Once I was dressed and warm again, I tucked my dripping clothing into a plastic bag supplied by the helpful Theresa. I carried my fistful of tags to checkout. The entire shopping expedition took fifteen minutes.
We still had time for dinner before the play. “Let’s go back to Murphy’s,” I said. “The quesadilla was great, and we already know what we want to eat.”
So back we went. This time we chose a table far from the madding crowd. We enjoyed a leisurely meal and had plenty of time to drive across town to MSU Northern for the play.
The moral of this story: Expect the unexpected. You never know when the Shopping Genie will strike.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High in 1963 and left for good. She finds, after returning, things now look a bit different. Join her in a discussion of her column at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)