No surprises

August 17, 2022

Forty hours a week, lots of it in the sunshine, plus a long commute... After getting home from work, all I want to do is eat and unwind. By the time I'm ready to try writing something, it's bedtime.

Work is why the website is moving slower, and the writing is not very good, with too many typos. Big picture, work is why the world is such a dull place — almost all of us are working for a living, and it leaves no time or energy to be creative.

There's probably someone who could build a better robot, someone else who could design a real hoverboard, a cure for cancer, someone who could be a Congresscritter who solves problems instead of taking bribes, but they all gotta work for a living.

When I came home from work yesterday, it was hot in the kitchen. It didn't feel sunny-day hot, though, so I stopped, looked around, and saw that two of the stove's burners were on, one on high, one on medium. Nothing was on either burner, though.

I knew it was Dean because he's done it before, so I banged on his door and shouted, "Are you cooking something, Dean? Two burners are on!" But I didn't wait for an answer. With Dean, waiting for an answer would be riskier than leaving the burners on. Clicked 'em off and stepped into my room.

He told me the long story later, as I was stepping out of the bathroom. I knew it before he told it, though. Only the details vary. This time he'd made himself lunch at mid-day, but forgotten to turn the burners of. They'd been hot for about two and a half hours.

I've done that a few times in my life, too, but rarely. Dean does it about once a week. Give him long enough, and he will find a way to burn the house down. Hope I've moved out by then.

Some people in my family tell us all about everything they're doing — doctor's appointment tomorrow, lunch with some old friends on Friday, church supper on Saturday, etc.

I don't make such announcements. I keep quiet. Lay low. Stealthy like a spy am I, and here's why.

Leon went to visit his family in Eastern Washington, and needed a ride home from the train station. He's an old friend to me and my brother Clay, so several days before he'd need the ride, Leon texted both of us, asked if one of us could pick him up on Tuesday afternoon, and drive him home. Clay said his schedule would be busy that day, but I said I could do it.

So I did it. Come Tuesday afternoon, I was at the train station at the time I was supposed to be, and Leon was waiting. When he got into the car, he said, "Your brother has called me three times in the last fifteen minutes. Has he been calling you too?"

"Uh," said I, "I wouldn't know. My ringer is always off."

"Yeah, that's right. You don't do phones. That's smart," said Leon. "Clay called fifteen minutes ago, and said there might be a surprise, but he wouldn't say what. Then ten minutes ago, he called and said there would definitely be a surprise. Five minutes ago he called again, to say he couldn't reach you but he wanted me to tell you to call him."

"Well, you told me, so you done good."

"I don't like it when he does this," said Leon. "I don't know what he's up to, but my suspicion is that he's coming here—" to the train station "—to surprise us with lunch or something. And I don't want that. It was hot in eastern Washington, hot on the train, it's hot here, and I'm tired. I just want to go home."

"I hate surprises, too" I said, "and Clay knows it, so let's get you home," and with that we rolled out of the train station, toward Leon's house.

Leon's phone rang again when we were about halfway to his house, it was Clay, and he said — exactly as Leon had guessed — that he was at the train station, looking for my car, hoping to surprise us, and take us to lunch.

See, the mistake was letting Clay know where we'd be, and when. That's why I'm stealthy like a spy.

Leon held his phone against my head, and I said, "Like I've told you before, I hate surprises, so we're not going to lunch. I am taking Leon home, and then I am taking Doug home."

Then I took Leon home, and after I'd helped him schlep his luggage into his house, I said goodbye. Then I waved at Clay's car, coming up the driveway. I didn't stop, though. I took Doug home.

Clay and I have had this conversation before. Several times before. I want to do what I want to do, which isn't necessarily what others want me to do. If he wants to have lunch with me, that would be nice, and also really easy. Just send me an email, and we can make plans, but don't surprise me.

Mrs Rigby's Diner closes at 2:45 daily, and during my training on the bus, my hours are 6AM-2PM Monday-Friday. It's about a 25 minute drive from work to the diner, if the traffic cooperates, and I can get to the diner by 2:30 or so. Traffic cooperates 2-3 days a week, so there I am, ordering two hamburgers with everything, one fries, to go, please. With nothing to drink, it's about $11.

It's a mystery how they do it — 1/4-pound burgers, juicy and made to order, with fabulous fries, everything's simply exquisite, and it costs less than the price of fast food. Well, until I tip. And I always tip big, and never regret it.

It takes them about five minutes to prep my meal. I sit at the counter and wait, maybe read a magazine. There's no a/c at the diner, so it's hot inside. Can't imagine working there, even eating there is uncomfortable on a hot day.

When it's sweltering like yesterday, the waitress always says, "Looks like you could use some ice water while you're waiting," and she brings a tall glass of frigid water with giant chunks of ice. No charge, of course.

I drink the cold water, swallow some of the ice, and I'm feeling better before my burgers are even bagged and ready. Then I drive home, blow off Dean when he starts talking at me in the kitchen, step into my messy room, tilt back in the recliner, and enjoy a fantastic dinner.

After that, I pet the cat, and sometimes, some ways, I know life is good.

And now, the news you need, whether you know it or not… 

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Etsy screws over sellers at random 

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Florida court orders a "parentless" teenager to carry a child to term 

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Clemency denied for 29-year-old man serving 16-year prison sentence for selling an ounce of marijuana 

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DeSantis adds cops and firefighters to the list of new Florida "teachers" 

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Judge revokes election probe's attorneys' ability to practice in Wisconsin 

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Traveler's diarrhea 

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Unfulfilled Christian religious predictions 

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One-word newscast, because it's the same news every time...
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The End
Judith Durham
Roy Hackett
Gerald Nagler

Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Extra special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S, Wynn Bruce, and always Stephanie...


  1. The story about you laying low.

    I wouldn't mind a surprise lunch espec if someone else paid, but thats me. Youre a private man, a hermit you say. Youd hate that. Different strokes for different folks. How can your brother not know that youd hate that?

    1. I wonder the same sometimes. After all these years, how can my bro, and my other bro, and my mom all *not* know me?


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