Travel Log: Thanksgiving, Niceville, Florida

Travel Log 2

(Nov. 23, 2017)  Thanksgiving Day! Here in Niceville it’s a balmy 66° and sunny. Typical northern Florida weather. To a man who’s still acclimated to Virginia, 66° actually feels pretty warm.

I’m staying with my folks for a few days, but was originally going to stay alone in the family house. The original plan had been for Mom and Dad to leave on a trip the day after I got here to see them off, so I made other commitments for Thanksgiving dinner. Their plans changed, so they’re here. But instead of upending plans, we spent the morning together watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade before I headed to my friends’ for dinner and they attended a small party at our neighbor’s.

My friends are Marie and Mike. All three of us attended Niceville High School, along with my older brother. My brother was class of 1988, Mike was class of 1989, Marie, I and a few others were class of 1990. My brother, Mike, and I were all in the Air Force Junior ROTC program together. Well, in the fall of 1988 during a Friday night football game at Niceville I introduced my friend Mike to my brother and I’s mutual friend, Marie.

They got married in 1992 and have four daughters, one just graduated from Tulane, one starting college, one in high school, one in 7th grade.

I’ve only ever introduced one “set” of people, and they’ve been happily married since 1992. I only introduced them because Mike and I were chatting during the game and Marie happened to wander by, see me, and stopped to talk. So, I guess I can say with full truth that, as far as being an accidental match-maker goes, I’m batting 1,000!

I got to their place in Bluewater Bay just outside Niceville at 4:00 p.m. Pat, Marie’s mom was there. Her dad, Tom, sadly passed away two years ago. Our group of friends always congregated either at Thom and I’s house, or Marie’s, so Pat has been as much a part of our growing up as my own parents.

Marie’s cousin Touley and her husband Randy were also there visiting…and this is where it gets really interesting!

Touley and Randy own a big rig and work as truckers together. Long before they met, Randy was working for U-Haul, various towing companies, and heavy equipment rental places. He has all the verve and sass of a man who spent his life up to his elbows in grease and gears, engaging in the hazing and course banter of the sort that in today’s world would likely end in a lawsuit.

He is also one hell of a story teller!

Long ago he was working at an equipment rental place. To protect the guilty I’ll call the place “Shipley’s Equipment Rental.”

Anyway, Randy was relating a phone call he got one day.

Shipleys’ Equipment Rental, this is Randy.”

Hi, yeah, I need to rent an electric vibrator.”

Randy looked at me as he told the story and said in a perfectly deadpan voice, “I wasn’t going to waste time on a phone call like that. I just told him, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have those here—you’ll need to call an adult bookstore.’”

And hung up.

About this time Marie, Mike, Touley, Pat, and I are all reduced to quivering masses of “Jello” with tears coming out our eyes like Niagara Falls.

Randy said his boss caught the end of the phone and asked him why the hell he told someone to call an adult bookstore?! Randy explained the call…at which point his boss started laughing.

Randy, we carry those. Right over there on that shelf.”

And then the phone rang again.

Shipley’s Equipment Rental, this is Randy.”

It was the same voice as before, “Maybe I should rephrase that—I need to rent a concrete vibrator.”

I was just informed we have them on the shelf,” Randy replied. “Come on in!”

You see, newly poured concrete is compacted and consolidated using an internal vibration. Randy was unaware of this at that early point in his career.

And then there was the “nervous turtle” request.

Randy had moved on and was working for a larger equipment firm—the kind that rents out mobile gear like backhoes and steam rollers.

He answered the phone and heard a man with the thickest, deepest Southern accent you can imagine. The man was calling from deep inside Alabama.

Hey, Ah needs to rent a nervous turdle.”

Randy was…well, stymied. “I’m sorry, you need to rent what?”

Ah needs a nervous turdle.”

Uh, yeah…I’m sorry, can you described the job? I’m not sure we have a ‘nervous turtle.’”

Ah knows y’all do, I’s rented it before.”

Ok,” Randy said he was rubbing his head in frustration by this point. “I’m sorry, but can you described the job you’re doing?”

We’res resurfurcing roads and needs to mill the asphalt.”

Oh! You need an asphalt milling machine!” Randy suddenly comprehended. “Why do you call it a ‘nervous turtle?’”

Cause it sort uh looks like an upside down turdle and shakes likes it’s nervous.”

Don’t even get me started on the story Randy told of dealing with a call center in India that was harassing his business!

Needless to say Randy dominated the night, and references to calling adult bookstores became common catch phrases used liberally by all around the table.

The evening of course got a bit nostalgic as Marie and I told Touley and Marie’s eldest daughter the story of our senior prom in 1990. Marie and Mike were already dating, but Mike was away at college. I had no girlfriend (being gay in a conservative high school in the early 1990s meant I was so far back in the closet I couldn’t even see the door). In fact, none of our group of friends had a date. So, we gathered at Marie’s house and made a group dinner before getting dressed and going to the prom.

It was a rather epic evening, if totally non-traditional. We returned to Marine’s house and stayed up the rest of the night watching movies, playing games, and hanging out under Pat and Tom’s eye. Pat was engaged and conversational with us, relating her stories of being “Mach 2 Max,” an early female Navy line officer. Tom was a retired Air Force colonel, gemologist, and wanna-be stand up comedian. That man could slay a room with such efficiency Jack the Ripper would have been jealous!

Just over two months later my parents hosted our group’s graduation party in my backyard. Again we stayed up all night just to say we did it and go get breakfast at the local Waffle House or Coffee Shoppe (I can’t remember which). That May 31, 1990, my parents sat up all night with us, Mom relating her stories of growing up with her dad laying oil and gas pipes across country following World War II, and my dad relating some of his Air Force stories.

Pat found the memories a hoot and was loving them as much as she did Randy’s stories. Touley and Randy were rather impressed by our creatively iconoclastic group of friends. I think Marie’s eldest daughter, Anne, found it all rather amusing too, but then, Marie and Mike could have just raised her to be very polite!

It was a very good Thanksgiving Day in Niceville. First with my own folks, then dinner at Mike and Marie’s. It was a day laden with old friends, fond memories, absent loved ones, new youth, and (for those of us over 21 years old) wine-fueled hysteria brought on by Randy’s rendition of telling a customer to call and adult bookstore!

It was a nice Thanksgiving in Niceville!

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