Virtue & Mischief: Nothing but the finest


From time to time, when I was a young boy, my father would look at me wistfully, place his right hand solicitously on my shoulder, and say, “Timothy … I remember before you were born that I had a catalog of wisdom in my brain I wanted to share with my son someday. Like Solomon’s Proverbs. But I didn’t write it all down, and I simply can’t remember any of those valuable nuggets today. Sorry.”

At the time, I couldn’t possibly have cared less. I thought he was being clever. Sarcastic. Only later did I realize he was serious and that I could have made good use of some of those lessons as I journeyed through my life. On the other hand, the odds are high I would have ignored or rejected his pearls, human swine that I am.

In any case, I am convinced that one of those slices of sagacity would have read something like, “Choose a partner who is low maintenance. Your life will be significantly more peaceful and pleasant.” By blind good fortune, it appears that’s precisely what I’ve done.

Last weekend provides a fitting illustration. Krista and I had a couple of days off from work and had arranged for granny amigo to watch our three free-wheeling, electronic-besotted teenagers. We reserved a room at a nondescript hotel in the middle of Nowheresville, OH, situated between an outlet mall to our immediate east and an adult bookstore to our immediate west. Very romantic, I thought to myself. Nothing but the finest for my lovely bride.

But this weekend in the nondescript hotel promised many extraordinary and rare delights for Krista and me, and I knew she coveted them as much as I did, and much more than she coveted time in a swanky, 4-star resort: Extended periods of quietude. Peace. Uninterrupted sleep. Meals during which we could converse with each other at our own pace and using a reasonable volume (i.e., we wouldn’t have to speak at a decibel level somewhere between a toilet flushing and a jet engine to ensure being heard). No washing dishes or clothes, no making beds, no assisting with homework, no commute, no slamming doors, no plunging toilets, no fixing bizarre and unpredictable messes, no refereeing sibling skirmishes which resemble a prizefight between Mike Tyson and Clubber Lang.

Krista and I got a slightly-than-later anticipated start on Friday, but not to worry. We weren’t in a rush! There was no deadline to keep. We could leave and arrive whenever we liked! Ahhhh. So we departed in the early afternoon and stopped for lunch along a strip of restaurants a few miles north of Dayton.



“Where do you feel like eating?”

“How about Cracker Barrel? That sounds good to me today.”


So we pulled into the Cracker Barrel parking lot, only to find it nearly empty.

“Wow,” I said. “This is a great time to come – no wait at all, obviously. I’ve never seen it this empty.”

We approached the entrance and were greeted by a handwritten sign which read, “Closed due to maintenance issue. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

We speculated what sort of “maintenance issue” they were experiencing, ambled back to the car, and decided on our backup plan.

“How about [unnamed restaurant]?” Krista offered. “I love [unnamed restaurant]. I used to go there all the time with dad. It brings back great memories.”

“Sure,” I replied. “Sounds good.”

So we drove down the road and pulled into unnamed restaurant’s parking lot – which was pretty full – and walked inside. We waited to be seated and quickly detected (1) the floor was extremely sticky, indicating it had been quite a while since it had been mopped, and (2) the service was less than stellar. Still, we had already struck out at our first choice and we opted to give unnamed an opportunity to prove our first hunch incorrect.

Bad decision. After waiting 10 minutes to be seated, a palpably bored waitress showed us to our booth. Ten minutes later she deigned to bring us menus and utensils. Ten minutes after that she came ’round to take our drink orders.

“Ummm, ma’am, I think we’re ready to go ahead and order everything,” I informed her with a little ice in my voice.

“Oh. OK,” she deadpanned.

We ordered our respective lunches while the waitress looked blandly at us, recording nothing on paper. A knot formed in my stomach. We had been there for 30 minutes already and I had no confidence our order would arrive in a timely or accurate fashion. Smoke was beginning to slowly billow out of Krista’s ears. Another 20 minutes went by and our waitress informed us that one of the items we had ordered was not available. “Sorry,” she said unenthusiastically. We looked at each other, incredulity written on our faces. We ordered an alternative and the waitress skulked away. Ten minutes later Krista spotted a waiter and gave him an earful while requesting the manager. He showed up – quickly, it must be noted – and received a similar earful, an earful which included the phrase, “…and I’m not paying for this meal.” At this point the cook appeared through the window where food is given to the servers and lamely intoned that our food would be out “very soon.” Finally – a full hour post arrival – our straightforward meal of burgers and fries was conveyed.

Not correctly. Somehow, they had got Krista’s order wrong and, as the modified, mixed, and tortured cliché goes, it was the straw that unleashed the fury of a low-maintenance woman. Suffice to say, we departed and let everyone there know what we thought of our experience. Our getaway was off to a bang-up start.

After finding a third option (where we able to order, receive, and eat our delicious meal in approximately 15 minutes), we pulled onto the interstate and immediately became lodged in a several-miles-long backup, thanks to a rollover accident involving a truck transporting cans of oil. Oy. But Providence had determined we had endured enough for the time being, and he opened an off ramp that took us to an unblocked road through which we could reach our ultimate, uber-romantic destination.

We held hands and talked in the car for the next hour, slowly regaining our sense of peace and gratitude. Without further mishap we arrived, rolled our suitcase into the hotel, rode the elevator to the third floor, walked down the hallway to our room, opened the door, and strode inside. I took off my jacket and opened the drapes to take in our weekend view: A gargantuan neon sign announcing the price of diesel and unleaded fuel at the neighboring Speedway gas station.

“Aaahhh,” I said to my dear, patient wife. “Nothing but the finest for you, my dear.”

By Tim Swensen

Virtue & Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the column series Virtue and Mischief. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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