I make a lot of plans that I don’t follow through to completion.
Okay, that’s not entirely fair. When I plan something I more often than not do it. It’s just that nebulous pre-planning stage where I’m a risk. More than just a verbal agreement, but less than an actual day, time, and schedule. That’s where I’m dangerous. The thing could happen or not. I have no way of knowing until we plan some more.
At 6:49 a.m. yesterday morning I was still looking for something to go wrong with the plan. I was in the car, but it still didn’t feel like much of a plan. Not because I didn’t want to see Mel – it had been nearly a year, after all – but because driving across two states to have brunch at a random Waffle House is the sort of thing I verbally commit to and maybe even plot on a map once or twice, but don’t actually follow through and do. Trust me – I have many friends who can verify this sort of thing. Interstate plans are my least-likely to be achieved.
(The conversation started in Facebook Messenger as follows:
Me: We should have brunch sometime, despite being separated by multiple states and hundreds of miles.
Both: [Interminable rambling about kids’ schedules.]
Mel: Well, there’s a Cracker Barrel exactly at the mid-point between our houses.
Me: I was hoping for a Waffle House.
Mel: That’s the next closest dining establishment to the exact mid-point between our homes.
As you can see, it really wasn’t much of a plan.)
An hour later I was doing 85 on I-95 South just to keep up with the other cars, belting “Rent” at the top of my lungs to the wind rushing in from my open window. Certainly, something would go wrong once I left the highway. I am not a noted navigator, and there were four separate state routes in Maryland I would need to navigate. Plenty of room for error and plans canceled at the last minute.
I kept thinking that until I actually passed the Waffle House on my right, because that is how I think. The thing that makes me good at project management makes me bad at doing things with friends – I assume the process is in danger and possibly broken until it delivers. Now I just needed to make a right into the parking lot and the plan would be consummated.
A right. I know I passed a ramp into the lot, but it was into the gas station. A Waffle House would have a proper ramp. With signs. Waffly signs. I would be seeing it any moment now.
I came to the intersection at the edge of the not-quite strip mall of gas station, Waffle House, and liquor store. There was no ramp. I leaned forward tentatively to peer across my dash at the road ahead to the right. No ramp. In fact, it looked a bit like a highway, extending unceasingly into the distance with no options for a K-turn. Though it beggared belief, apparently that small and informal gas station ramp was also the entrance to the only Waffle House within two hours of my house.
(That may not be true. According to their handy store-finder, there are three Houses of Waffle slightly nearer within Maryland though not necessarily as directly accessible, and one in Lancaster whose time away would largely be dictated by how many horse-drawn buggies you would get stuck behind in Lancaster.)
I looked left and right. I looked forward and backwards. There were no cars as far as the eye could see.
I carefully placed the car in reverse and drove backwards the hundred or so feet to the entrance to the gas station. A woman was just exiting in her sedan, and I gave her a jaunty wave as I reversed past the ramp, came to a stop, and then turned into the lot.
Mel was waiting for me, seated in the window, drinking coffee from one of those curved little mugs like we used to have at our coffee shop. Her hair seemed impossibly long. I kept meaning to tell her how long her hair looked, but when you’ve driven ninety minutes to see someone for ninety minutes and then drive away for another ninety minutes you have to be efficient with your topics of conversation.
We ate hash browns with picked jalapeños, swapped stories about our kids and eCommerce, and probably said the word “vagina” more than any other pair of people who have ever been seated together in a Waffle House.
My plan was fulfilled. Now I just had to figure out which direction was north so I could get home.