There’s an old saying that “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” and I suppose that’s true. Whatever you eat, someone paid for it, or in my case, I usually pay for it by having it remain on my hips for life. Whatever the case may be, I have come to the realization that NOTHING is free. Whatever it is, you are gonna pay for it somehow, someway, someday. And because I tend to forget things, sometimes I need a reminder.
So I don’t give much thought to free stuff. I have Jenda to look after, and work to think about, and a household to run, and none of that is free. In the mornings, I drive on the interstate to get to work since I can get there quickly. In the evenings, I need to decompress from work so I drive down backroads so that I have time to process everything from the day and calm down enough to get home. Part of that homecoming takes me through a small town that really makes for a pleasant drive. That is, until I have to drive past the dumpy, nasty redneck biker bar. Usually, I embrace the entertainment value of rednecks, but this place is just too scary on too many levels, so I always speed up going past this joint and head safely home. The other night, I abandoned all reason and logic and did something really stupid. While this is not the first time, it was one of the craziest.
As I drove through Colfax like a bat out of Hell, I happened to glance over to my left because something strange caught my eye. In fact, it was so incongruent for a nasty biker bar with half of a race car protruding from the roof that I almost came to a complete stop. Looking back on the situation, I should have probably stopped and made a run for it, but I just wasn’t thinking clearly.
In the parking lot stood a beautiful maple console table, two nice reproduction Louis XVI armchairs, and a whole pile of other stuff. Next to this absurd accumulation of trash and treasure was a large cardboard sign which read, ‘FREE, TAKE IT, GRATIS.’
I was now at a crawl and considered stopping to grab the chairs and the table and who knows what else. It occurred to me that the place couldn’t be ALL bad since someone there had good taste in furniture and some familiarity with Latin. But I decided that the thing to do would be to go home and enlist Jerry’s help in loading the stuff into my car, and perhaps his car too if there was enough good stuff for the taking. I sped home, dashed into the house and told Jerry that we had to go pick up some great free furniture.
“Is one of your friends moving or something?”
No. Not exactly. You know that little bar in Colfax?
“The one with the car sticking out of the roof?” he asked with narrowed eyes.
Yes, well, there’s a bunch of furniture out front with a sign and I need your help and….
“Hell no! I would never go to that place. I don’t care if they’re giving away free Ethan Allen living room sets. And you don’t need to be hanging out up there either!”
Well damned if I’m not going back for the free furniture. I huffed upstairs, changed out of my work clothes into the first t-shirt and pair of shorts I could find. Armed with my sneakers and fierce determination, I grandly announced to Jerry that I would get the furniture without his help, thank-you-very-much!
“Sure thing. Oh, by the way, did you mean to wear your Barack Obama campaign t-shirt to the redneck biker bar or are you just really trying to stir things up?”
I burned rubber backing out of the garage, still haunted by the sound of Jerry’s laughter. It’s not every day that there’s nice, decent looking FREE furniture on the side of the road outside of a redneck biker bar for shit’s sake. I knew that Barack and I could handle it. Of course, all that changed when I got back to the bar.
I hadn’t driven past more than 45 minutes earlier. But now, the table, the chairs, and the sign were gone. Of course there was still something there covered with a filthy, ratty looking green tarp. With my luck, it was probably two day-shift hookers hiding out from the cops. Nonetheless, I decided to investigate. I pulled my little purple mommy Honda into the parking lot, went over, and started nosing around under the tarp. Actually, I would have been happier to see the hookers. The junk under the tarp was filthy and the smell under the tarp could’ve knocked the buzzards off a shitpile from 50 paces. So there I was, bent over with my big ass in the air when a deep voice behind me asked, “Whatter you doin’?”
Straightening up, I was confronted with the sight of an enormous man, at least six feet tall, with long grey hair and a flowing grey beard, covered with tattoos, wearing biker regalia and striding purposefully towards me.
Holy crap! It’s Harley Manson!
I immediately folded my arms across my chest to protect the president, of course. Then I began stammering and stuttering about not wanting to disturb anything, I was just looking, there was a sign….
“That’s John’s stuff,” barked Harley.
I began apologizing, assuming that John was one of the Harley Manson family.
“John’s back here. Come with me.”
The general direction of ‘with me’ was behind a privacy fence that ran along the side of the bar. There was only one opening in the fence which presumably led to where John and perhaps the rest of the family were waiting. It occurred to me that loading furniture into my car was not going to be a problem since I was probably going to be murdered and disposed of behind this seedy little bar!
I know it seems strange that I would just follow along behind Harley, since any idiot knows that you should scream bloody murder and run like hell in that kind of situation, but I’m not just any idiot. It also crossed my mind that his big-ass motorcycle would outrun the mommy Honda with no problem and just as I was making my escape down the highway, I’d look out the driver’s window and there he’d be, so I figured, what the hell? Why not?
Harley led me behind the fence and went to summon John. The back of the bar was just as horrible as the front. There was a small patio area and the back yard of the place was strewn with old vacuum cleaners and air-conditioning units. I stood as close to the fence opening as possible as Harley brought John over to meet me. I prayed for forgiveness and something quick and painless. Then Harley said, “John, this lady was lookin’ at your stuff. Is the stuff out front still for sale?”
WHAT?! Sale? You have got to be kidding me. The sign said FREE, not CRAP FOR SALE! Harley wandered off and left John to handle my indignant outburst, sell me some ratty furniture, and then kill me.
John was actually a rather affable sort. He was filthy, had no teeth, and was puffing away on some powerful Panama Red, ready to sell me some nasty furniture. And no, I do NOT use drugs, but I could tell that the smell of that little ciggie sure as hell wasn’t Marlboro. Now that Harley was gone, I wasn’t too fearful of this stoner hippie, but I was ready to make my escape. I remembered the book, The Secret, and knew that I had to think positive thoughts and visualize my freedom. It came in the form of an old rug hanging over the fence. Wow, what a groovy rug. Is this yours? I asked, positioning myself in the opening of the fence, and thus, closer to my car. John began telling me about this rug, for the low price of $20.00. Then he directed me to his van where he said he had one he’d sell me for $10.00. Just as I was going to make the break for my car, I noticed it on his dashboard…a copy of The Secret.
Flooded with relief that no one was going to kill me, I stood and chatted with John. Turns out he is selling all of his stuff to move to a hippie commune in California where it's legal to smoke cheeb. (There’s a shock!) He told me about some local bands in the area that he liked and we parted friends. I haven’t stopped back at the bar, and barring that Ethan Allen giveaway, I never will. I’ve learned my lesson. Lessons, actually…. Furniture is expensive, but friendship is free. And wherever John is, I hope he’s high as a kite and happy as a clam.