‘What to do when you’re stuck in traffic’
So The Dude and I driving back to The City last night, and of course there is horrible traffic, it being the height of summer and all. The Dude is working Google Earth to discover a back road to the Back Roads, which these days are as clogged as the Montauk Highway since Jerry Della Femina’s daughter saw fit to publish a back-roads map a couple of years ago, earning her the wrath of every Local from Southhampton to Montauk. Oh well. One Percent Problem, I know.
But the one promising lead — a teensy dirt road invisible on Apple Maps — turns out to dead-end at a golf course. In our quest, we happened to pass over and under the railroad tracks several times, which got The Dude to thinking about how he really really needs more railroad ties for our driveway. (Someone, ages ago, probably The Dude’s Dad, lined our driveway with railroad ties. But they’re really old, and crumbling, and they never did go all the way down the drive anyway. Somebody got a hernia putting them there, no doubt.)
Anyway, now The Dude’s kicking himself for not just taking some ties he had seen ‘abandoned’ at the side of the tracks near our house once. (Me, at the time: “How were you going to get the railroad ties home? I mean, they weigh, like, a ton.” Dude: “Oh, I’d just lever them up and slide them on to the car roof.” Me: “Oh.”)
So now, since we’re stuck in traffic and in need of distraction, I suggest a new mission, the new-back-road-quest having failed. “Hey, I bet Amazon has railroad ties,” I say. “Hell, you can find anything on Amazon. And you have Amazon Prime. You can get your railroad ties delivered. For free. No need to lever anything onto the top of the car. You’ll get them in, like, two days!”
Now this is heady stuff. He starts fiddling with his phone while I’m dodging New Jerseyites — hey, don’t they have beaches in New Jersey these people could go to? I mean, Chris Christie can’t have closed them all, could he?
“I found railroad ties!” he says, reading the description aloud to me. “Six bundles. $7.69 each. But you have to pay for shipping. (I bet, I interject.) “Shipping’s an extra four bucks.” I’m murmuring encouragement and wonder. (“Jeez. That’s cheap. Wow. Amazon can do anything.”) That sort of thing. When he goes on: “HO scale…” What?!? “Those are for model trains,” I tell him. “HO scale. That’s a kind of model train set.” Dude: “Oh. No wonder they were so cheap.”
I’m thinking that’s the end of that and searching my brain for a new topic when The Dude goes “I’m gonna try Home Depot.”
And sure enough, he gets on the Home Depot site (again, this is on his phone) and starts a chat session with some hapless employee, who takes him seriously when he asks about ordering some railroad ties. Dude (reading from his phone screen): “The agent is typing.” Me: “I’ll bet.”
Turns out that, lo and behold, one can actually obtain railroad ties from Home Depot — but, according to Hapless Employee on Dude’s Chat — they are “not available in your area”. I’m actually dying to know in which “area” one can order railroad ties to be delivered to your house by Home Depot — and how much they cost and how the hell much shipping would be — when The Dude stops the chat in order to take a phone call.
Gosh. This is cool. He gets off the phone, and I’m about to ask him to order me one of those big ole cast-iron pots that you see in cannibal cartoons when it gets dark and I have to relinquish the wheel. (I don’t mind driving; I actually prefer it, being a nervous passenger, especially when The Dude’s traffic-triggered-testosterone kicks in. But alas, I cannot see at night, not to drive anyway.)
Okay, now The Dude is driving, and you’re no doubt asking by now, what’s all this have to do with Grampa Peterson? And why is his picture up at the top of this post? Well. Back in the day, when my Grampa got bored in the car, he didn’t order railroad ties. (Not that he could have, of course, “Amazon” and “smart phones” being unknown concepts back then.) But even if my Grampa had been apped to the gills, he would have had a much better idea.
If traffic got bad, he would just say “I wouldn’t say no to a piece of pie”. And we’d stop at the “oasis”, which is what they called the rest stop on the Illinois tollway in those days. And, by golly, we’d get us some. Raspberry, if they had it.
And I’ll be telling you all about it before you can say “gosh, summer’s almost over already”. See you next week. Virtually, that is.
New York City. August 2017