August 28, 2000: Can You Help Us?
I started to get an inkling of trouble last night, on the way to the airport. We were crammed into the cab of Eddie’s Ranger, out to pick up the rental car. During a lull in the conversation, Ed unintentionally came up with the question of the day. “Say, do either of you two know the best way to Baton Rouge?” I admitted I had not considered the issue. As it turned out, neither had Keith Collins, TeamStrange’s Ethics Advisor serving temporary detached duty as rally chauffeur. “You mean neither of you know where Baton Rouge is?” Eddie steamed. Neither Keith’s submission of “on the map,” nor my suggestion of “south” met with approval.
Things only got worse when we arrived at the airport. Those who have been following along are familiar with our love for Buick’s Park Avenue Ultra, a supercharged conveyance more than worthy of hauling our sorry asses around for the next week. I am so enamored of the Ultra that after making the online reservation, I personally spoke to two humans at Alamo, who assured me that our beloved Ultra would be ready and waiting.
Apparently, the TeamStrange web site is more widely read than previously believed.
I can only surmise the promise of another Ultra was nothing more than an elaborate ruse, designed to bring us before the fish-eyed glare of the rental counter clerk. “We’ve heard about you,” he barked. “We are familiar with the driving practices of your organization. You drove our car at an excessive and unsafe speed, all while hurling sodden tennis balls out the windows. Someone could have lost an eye! Get out, you’re through with us.”
We begged, we pleaded, and we cajoled. Nothing was working, at least until Eddie reached for my cell phone and began frantically dialing. After a brief, quiet conversation, he hung up with an evil grin. Not two seconds later, the phone at the counter began to ring.
“Why yes Sir, they’re here,” said the clerk, his demeanor rapidly assuming a submissive tone. “But I can’t possibly do that, Sir, it would mean my job…No, Sir, I’m not being insubordinate, it just, I mean, have you seen that web site of theirs?” At this question, fear entered his eyes. “I had no idea you were actually writing that column for them, Sir. I just assumed…yes, I know what happens when you assume…Yes, Sir, right away Mr. Diggler, Sir…Yes, goodbye Sir.”
We’d beat him fair and square. “I’m sorry, gentlemen, I had no idea you were friends with…” His voice trailed off, dripping disbelief. “While we don’t have any Ultras currently available, please allow me to provide you with our best Park Avenue, with my apologies.”
It wasn’t what we wanted, but we took it anyway. We certainly wouldn’t want to make Dirk look bad.
Back at the ranch, the riders were having their own troubles. They just didn’t know it yet. Earlier, at the rider’s meeting, we specifically advised everyone to make sure and ask at the time rally packs were issued whether there were any additions, changes or corrections to the bonus instructions. This advice is repeated on the inventory sheet distributed with the paperwork. Out of 57 riders, only one chose to take us up on the offer. There’s no telling when or how this kind of mistake could come back to haunt.
Day One of ButtLite 2 came early, and many riders eagerly gathered for the 0655 riders meeting. Some were apparently more eager to finish breakfast, perhaps under the assumption that Eddie would never impart any valuable information at this indecent hour. Though everyone eventually toddled in, more than one rider chose to forgo our pithy, entertaining remarks. Though the rally will certainly not be won on the first leg, it is likely the eventual winner will be found among those actually present during our little chalk talks. Of course time will tell, and we shall all see this material again.
Before long every rider but Gary Eagan had departed the Lenox. Gary decided to take advantage of the three-hour layover bonus, but not even the 517 points he was earning for pacing the parking lot were keeping him from questioning his decision. It’s hard to sit still, knowing that everyone else is on the move. Since we couldn’t help Gary, it was time to help ourselves. We climbed into the car and pointed it south, in search of Sonny’s Barbeque. Maybe they’ll know where we can find Baton Rouge.
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