As our plane touched down in Portland, all annoyances evaporated. I located the Budget rental car counter, and the clerk was all smiles as I approached.
“Hey there! I have a reservation for an economy car.”
She flinched as if someone had pinched her from behind, but her smile never wavered. “Do you have a reservation number?”
“Sure do . . . let me just find the papers I printed off the website . . . here you go. Right there at the bottom. It’s highlighted.”
She was staring at my mouth, and her eyebrows were sitting high enough on her forehead to double for her hairline. “Yes, let me see.” She took the paper from my hand. “Oh, your reservation number is here on the bottom.” Isn’t that what I just said? Poor thing must be hearing impaired.
She clicked away on her keyboard and then pulled a stack of papers from a folder. “I’ll just need to make a copy of your driver’s license.” I placed my purse on the counter and started rooting for my wallet. “That’s a lovely handbag you have.”
“Isn’t that cute? I got that with my Christmas money during the big sales.” She was lip reading again and blinking an S.O.S. signal. I really should speak up.
She surveyed my license. “You’re from Florida! What brings you to Maine?” Her eye contact fell three inches in anticipation of my response, and that’s when I got it. She wasn’t deaf; she was inexperienced at decoding a southern accent. I resolved to speak more clearly, take out unnecessary syllables that we southerners pad into monosyllabic words, and avoid jargon such as shucks, ma’am and fiddle-dee-dee for the duration of the conversation.
But this was more challenging than I thought. Ever had a mosquito bite and you tell yourself that you’re not going to scratch it? The more you think about it, the worse the itch gets. Suddenly I found myself wanting to talk about mayhaw jelly, coon hunting (as if I’ve ever been) and frog gigging. I had to root around in the cellar of my mind for that box of G’s I’ve accumulated from all the suffixes I’ve dismembered, but it was the devil attaching them when I was so clearly “fixin’ to leave.” No, I did the very best I could, but at the end of the dialogue, once all the lines had been signed and I had car keys in hand, nothing remained but to bid her farewell and let the staff know that “I’ll be back to see y’all Friday.” There’s only so much a body can do.
The ninety minute drive to Rockland turned into a journey back in time. As we clipped along, years fell along the shoulder of the road, and small towns lost the cookie cutter look of chain stores and franchises, and proudly displayed village storefronts preserved from an era past. Wildflowers grew in profusion along the highway, holding their heads high with the unbridled arrogance of creatures who have never been petal to petal with humidity.
The trip gained momentum as we pulled into the Berry Manor Inn. The Victorian house and garden was a cover shot for Better Homes and Gardens, and the innkeepers were eager to offer any advice that would turn our stay into a five star experience. As soon as Mom entered our room, she was enraptured. She ran her hands along the antique furniture and cooed at the whirlpool tub. I could tell from the delighted look on her face that I was going to need a tranq gun to force her back on an airplane at the end of the week. After plotting an agenda for the next day and sampling a cup of hot tea and homemade pie, I decided to call it a night.
© 2012 – Traci Carver