When I was a younger man, I swore by Japanese cars. Toyota and Honda were my cars of choice, because they were generally cheaper and definitely more reliable than most American made cars. But things have changed now, and as I'm driving cars all over the country, I get a chance to drive a whole lot of different cars and see what they are like. Ford has become my favorite new car, and I was driving a Ford Explorer from Tampa, Florida up to Rhode Island.
I thought I had delivered in all of the lower 48 states, but just realized that I'd never delivered in Rhode Island. Been through it many times, but until yesterday never actually dropped off a car here. With all of the bad weather in the northeast this winter, I was a little worried about coming up. But I checked the forecast and found I would be coming at a time when it was cold but no precipitation. And being in Rhode Island, I might even bump into little Stewie Griffin.
I got off the Interstate highway and took back roads from Connecticut to Rhode Island. When I crossed the state line, it was on a bridge going over a large frozen lake. I found it really incredibly beautiful.
Just a few miles past the sign welcoming me to the state, I stopped for gas. I went inside for a snack, and the cheerful woman behind the counter nodded at me. "Morning. Or I should say good afternoon, but you know what I mean."
"Yes I do," I said, smiling.
"Nice day, huh? It's really warmed up here. It's short sleeve weather."
"You must have been inside all day, its 33 degrees according to my car's thermometer."
She laughed. "We consider that balmy here. You're in Rhode Island now, things are a little bit different here."
I got my snack and continued on to the city of Warwick, which is where I was set to deliver. I had made a reservation at a motel and my first stop in town was to check in. There was a very nice man at the front desk and he said, "Welcome. How may I help you today?"
I showed him my reservation and he checked me in. "What is check out time?"
"Noon tomorrow, if you are only staying one night."
"We have a delicious breakfast in the morning, all free for our guests. Eggs and bacon and waffles and cereal and danish and bagels. Coffee and various juices."
"That sounds wonderful."
"Well, you're in Rhode Island, we like to put out a spread and make people feel welcome."
"You sure do that well, I've gotta say." I went to my room and put down my bags. Then I decided to go get dinner at Cafe I saw down the block from the motel. The waitress who was serving me seemed very upset about something. I guess I have a sympathetic heart, because even when a perfect stranger is in distress I want to help.
"Have you decided yet?" she asked with a very serious expression on her face.
"There's so many good things on the menu, it's a tough decision."
"You from around here?"
"No, first time I've ever stopped in this state."
"Welcome to Rhode Island, you'll find it's a pretty nice place full of decent people. We are a hearty breed."
"Yes, I can tell."
"Why don't I let you look at the menu for a few more minutes."
"Um, wait." I looked around the Cafe and saw that there were more waitresses than customers at the moment. "I have a request."
"Let me guess, you want to substitute mashed potatoes for spinach."
I shook my head. "What? No. I wanted to ask if you could sit down and visit with me for a moment."
She looked a bit confused. Then she looked all around her and saw that it was too slow to make a good argument. "OK, but just for a minute." She sat down across from me, and I could see and feel her anguish. Something was very wrong.
"I don't mean to be too personal, but you look like you have something troubling on your mind."
She shrugged. "Maybe I do. But I don't know you, I'm not going to spill my guts to someone I just met."
I nodded. "Yes, but sometimes someone you don't know is the perfect person to unload on. No judgements, and I'll be gone tomorrow and you'll likely never see me again. If it would help to talk, then I'm listening."
I could see in her eyes that she was carefully weighing what I had just said. "Well... I caught my boyfriend cheating on me -- again! Last time it happened it was another guy, and this time it was my best friend. He says he'll never do it ever again, but for some reason I just don't trust him."
"That's very wise."
"Because he has promised you before and broke the promise. And if he was with a guy, then he probably isn't ready for a committed relationship with a woman."
"He's not gay!"
"I didn't say he was."
"But you implied, didn't you? Maybe he just has a strong sex drive and I can't satisfy him."
"Maybe its time for you to move on."
"Yes, but then maybe its time for you to mind your own business. This is Rhode Island, we are moral and made of good stock. I'm done talking." She got up quickly and walked off in a huff. Another waitress came to take my order, and I guessed I went too far with the gal I was trying to comfort. I try to help people wherever I go, but have learned that some people don't want any help. Not unless you tell them exactly what they want to hear.
After dinner, I got up to leave and the gal I had spoken to came up to me. "Hey, uh, I wanted to say... I mean... Just wanted to thank you for listening. I didn't mean to be a rude bitch."
"No, you absolutely were not. I need to keep my nose to myself."
She smiled. "Still, you were trying to reach out and help, and I do appreciate that. I'm just not used to it. You're in Rhode Island, and here we know when to say Thank You."
I left and went back to my room for a good night's sleep. It was good to be in Rhode Island.