Last Days in Cincinnati
by Curtis Wiggins
I have some very useless things lying around my house. The most obvious are our two cats. My wife would disagree with me on this point. Not that I have anything against cats, I like cats, but it's just that our cats simply don't do anything. They just lay around the house being, well, useless. I wouldn't mind so much if every once in a while they would wash the car, or take out the trash, or maybe mow the lawn. You know, if they won't go out and get a job, the least they could do is try to pull their weight at home. I have spoken to the cats about this on a few occasions. The ignore me. They are very good at that. It takes millions of years of evolution and breeding to produce an animal this capable at the art of ignoring. But this isn't about or cats; but rather about another useless thing I found laying around the house. (You can make up your own joke here, if you like.)
While wandering around looking for useless things, I found a coupon for a free pizza. This is a good thing. One large pizza with two toppings, free. This is a very good thing. It is redeemable at any location in the Greater Cincinnati area. This is not such a good thing anymore. I do not live anywhere near anything that remotely resembles Cincinnati. This is a good thing if you consider the difference in the amount of snow there and here in Florida. (Cincinnati - entirely too much, I'm not going out there, it's too darn cold vs Florida - none in this decade.) This is also a good thing if you consider the distance to the closest beach. (Florida - a 15 minute drive vs Cincinnati - what's a beach? Oh, you mean with sand and water and stuff like that. I think they have one in Cleveland.) But, I was not considering the snow or the beach, I was considering my free pizza, which was in Cincinnati, over a thousand miles away from me, and my coupon, and they don't deliver. This is a bad thing. My hopes of feasting on free pizza would not be realized tonight.
You may ask why I had a coupon for a free pizza from a pizzeria in Cincinnati, Ohio. If you did, I would tell you that is a very good question. After all, most people in Florida do not normally have a coupon for a free food from another state. You might then ask how I got this coupon. If so, I would tell you it's all because of the Flintstones and/or Ross Perot. You would probably fail to see the connection; which is understandable. To be perfectly honest, Mr. Perot personally had very little to do with my free pizza. The company he founded, however did. They are the ones who moved me from Florida to Cincinnati in the first place. No, let me correct that. They gave me a job and an expense report. A Ryder truck moved me to Cincinnati. I'll explain the Fred and Barney connection in a minute.
About six months after that company moved me into Cincinnati, they moved me out again. I was going to Dallas for a ten week temporary assignment. Afterwards, they would send me somewhere else, though they didn't know exactly where yet. These unusual circumstances resulted in a three way split. I would go to Dallas, my wife Kathy would go to Tampa, and our furniture would go to a warehouse somewhere in the midwest. Chicago, I think. The three of us would then be reunited ten weeks later in an entirely different city. (The whole thing looked kind of silly when this new city turned out to be Dallas.) It would be three years before my wife and I found our way back to Florida. Sadly, some of the furniture passed away before then, and did not return with us.
My wife left Cincinnati first. Shelly, her best friend (at the time), flew up from Tampa to help her drive back. Shelly had never been out of Florida before in her life, (Valdosta doesn't really count.) She had never seen mountains, or snow, or any of those things you don't normally find in Florida. Shelly was very exited about seeing all these things on the way back. The cats were going with them too. They were not very excited about the trip back; after all, they had seen all the sights on the drive up six months ago. Plus, they didn't really care about mountains, and they were completely unhappy about this snow substance. Not to worry, they would meow a little at first, but they would settle down after a couple hundred miles.
To say cats do not travel very well is like saying dogs don't do quantum physics very well. Our cats can no more relax in a car than a dog could work out the theory of relativity on a cocktail napkin while sipping a gin and tonic, making passes at the cocker spaniel at the end of the bar. In light of this, we thought perhaps the cats might travel better if they were sedated. Yes, we gave our cats drugs. We wanted to do it right though. Rather than just fill their milk bowl with Jack Daniel's, we went to a vet who gave them some kitty quaaludes to help them relax. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It wasn't. The cats started tripping. Then, the apartments across the street caught on fire. (I swear, I had nothing to do with it.) Fortunately, there was nobody home at the time. All the noise and commotion and flashing lights and sirens did nothing to help the cats' state of mind. The vet said that the cats should be given about six hours to fall asleep before traveling. But after all the excitement, what with a fire and all, Kathy and Shelly were wide awake. They decided to leave then, rather than wait until morning. This was probably a mistake, because the cats were also wide awake, and very high, when we loaded them in the car. I think it is safe to say that the cats had never been for a ride when they were high before. From what I heard later, I don't think they enjoyed the experience very much. Probably the kitty equivalent to a bad trip at a Hendrix concert, only without the music.
My furniture left Cincinnati next. Movers came the next day and packed up all our worldly possessions and stuffed them in a truck. As far as I know none of the furniture was given any medication. When they were done, I saw what was essentially my whole life (materially speaking) packed into the back of the truck. My life didn't take up that much room. There was space in the truck for three or four other lives at least. By that night, my bed was about half way to Chicago, along with the rest of my belongings. I decided to spend the night in a motel. They have beds there. The next morning I would go into work for the last time, pack up the last few things, say good-bye to everyone, and goof off for a few hours. After which I would jump in my car and ride off towards Texas, which was conveniently located in the general direction of the sunset. I always thought it would be neat to ride off into the sunset; I didn't think about the fact that the sun would be shining in my eyes and I wouldn't be able to see anything. I didn't think about that fact because it rained the whole way to Dallas.
That morning, as I was getting ready for my last working hours in Cincinnati, I was listening to the radio. Pay attention, this is where the Flintstones and the free pizza all come together. Every morning, the radio station had a trivia question. First caller with the correct answer would win, guess what, a free pizza. I had never called in because they rarely asked a question to which I knew the answer. If they did, I was in my car, nowhere near a phone. I wasn't about to invest a couple hundred in a carphone just on the hopes of winning a free pizza. The question this particular morning was "On the Flintstones, what was the name of the lodge that Fred and Barney belonged to?" Easy, they were Water Buffalo's. They wore those funny blue hats with the horns on them and did the secret Water Buffalo handshake. Then I realized that since I was still in the motel room, I was near a phone. It had finally happened. I knew the answer and I was near a phone. Just my luck, it was my last day in town and I knew there was no way I would be able to cash in on a free pizza even if I did manage to call in first.
I decided I would not call in. I figured that while I was debating about fifteen people would be on the line with the correct answer. Besides, I never win at these kind of things anyway. So I sat down and listened to the radio, waiting to thear what lucky sap would win my pizza. First caller - no clue. Second caller - Elks lodge...get real. Third caller - Shriners...come on. Maybe I should call in. Naw, any minute now someone will get it. Fourth caller - Racoon lodge...no, no, no, that was the Honeymooners you moron. Then I had the sudden realization that the Flintstones and the Honeymooners were really the same show. This had never occurred to me before. Same show just a different historical setting. It was like a vision. I was so taken by this that I completely missed what the fifth caller said. Whatever it was, they were wrong. Sixth caller - Elks lodge...no, somebody already said that, pay attention. On and on it went, nine or ten callers, all wrong answers, none of them even close. I couldn't stand it anymore. I had to call in and give them the correct answer. So what if I couldn't use the pizza, at least I would be the one who answered the question. I dialed. Busy. Damn. I decided to call now and someone else is going to beat me to it. I dialed again. Ringing. Cool. I was almost there, no one had given the answer yet. The DJ answered. He asked me if I had the answer. "Yup, Water Buffalo" I said extremely confidently. Then he through me a curve. "What was the FULL name of the lodge?" Boy, these guys were tough. I didn't even know there was a full name, I just knew that Fred and Barney were Water Buffalos. You know, they wear those funny blue hats with the horns and do that secret handshake. I was beginning to panic. I had no idea. I was beginning to see my free pizza sprout wings and fly away from me. I was running out of time, and still had no idea. So, I did what I always do when I have no idea. First, I thought about it carefully, logically, practically which always fails to come up with anything useful; so I reach back and take a wild-ass guess at it. This technique is known as the SWAG, or the scientific wild-ass guess. This particular SWAG came out something like "The Royal Order of Water Buffalo." Boy, what a stupid answer; where did I pull that one from? I was really surprised when the DJ told me that was absolutely right.
He asked me to stay on the line so he could get my name and address. He was going to mail me a coupon for a free pizza. This presented a real dilemma. Not only did that blow my chances of getting my free pizza before I left town; but he wanted an address. I didn't have an address anymore, I was moving. Today. I told him this. He understood, but he still had a pizza he had to give away to someone. We decided to mail it to my old address, since it would eventually be forwarded to me, and I could then mail it to one of my friends back in Cincinnati. This made sense to me at the time. When my coupon promptly arrived six weeks later, all my friends in Cincinnati, who worked for the same company I did, had all been moved out of town like me. There was no one left to mail the coupon back to, so, I kept it.
That is why I have a coupon for a free pizza that I will never use, unless I find myself back in Cincinnati. I keep it as sort of a trophy of the trivia question I successfully answered on the radio. I keep it too because it reminds me of a neat time in my life when I was living in and moving out of Cincinnati. I was only there six months, but it was a good six months. I also keep it because you never know, I may one day pass through Cincinnati again. If I do, I'm going to take my coupon and get my free pizza. Or maybe not, it looks like it's expired.
(c) 1994, 2000 Curtis Wiggins