The fourth ended in the usual spectacular way, as Samantha and I drove to the 'church on the hill', (as we have dubbed it,) and found that by 8:45pm, all spaces had been taken, and our newest improved site to watch the sky sparkle, was now everyone else's favourite place. Instead of turning right as I exited the highway, I bumped right onto the grass median that separates the Mopac Expressway from the 'frontage road', and parked up next to half a dozen cars that had decided this was a legitimate place to stop. Last year the police had directed the overflow of traffic, (which had not joined the queue to actually take the downtown exit, and watch from the bridges, or attempt to get down to the lake front,) to park along the grass verge, and it turned out to be a very well organised procedure. This year the police were no where to be seen, but their legacy lived on, with everyone remaining very courteous, in need of no further instruction. Cars and trucks continued to fill the space and by the time the show began, the green was full. It was probably the best performance we had seen so far, in Austin, but as soon we perceived the last rocket had been launched, Samantha and I jumped into the mini, squeezed through the space that was left between two sports utility vehicles, (who had made a second row,) bumped off the median, and politely paid it forward by letting another car slip in front of us, before driving under the bridge and back onto the highway towards home. It took the usual fifteen minutes to reach my house from the departure point, whereas those who had ventured to find a spot nearer the actual launch pad had taken an hour to leave the downtown area, and were then subjected to a high traffic level on the road home.
After spending nearly four days away from the office (Dana had suggested we leave half day on Friday, as most offices were closed for the duration of the week) I did not emulate the bright sparkles of my birthday fireworks on Monday morning. Austin gradually got back to normal, (or as normally weird as Austin can be,) and it was a reasonably busy day. However, as always, in this city, the week was still young, and there were a lot of wonderful things up and coming on our calendar. The 11th of July landed on a Wednesday, and as in the USA, the month is always put first in writing the date, the convenience store '7 Eleven' have a customer appreciation day on 7/11! The complimentary Slurpee was not going to be ignored by the two Brits, who were making their trip to the Courthouse. Samantha had mapped out the relevant stores that could be found en route, and an executive decision was made that 'one is enough'. The queue was about ten deep, as we entered the store, and we were handed a paper cup. Not being an expert in these cases, I filled mine with a coke flavoured ice mixture, while Samantha, who obviously has far more experience, mixed the cola with cherry, and departed with a far more exotic concoction. She took a sip and sarcastically mimicked me when offering me a sample, 'I can feel it rotting my teeth already!' Mine was saved as an offering for Dana. The sugar-free option was not available, and I did not need the extra energy to complete my afternoon. Even though it was only one free gift, fortunately Samantha felt it was enough for her to announce she had taken part in the event.
Friday required a little more than just stepping into a store and leaving with flavoured ice. Whether 'Cow Appreciation Day', is an independent occasion, or if it was the brain child of the fast food chain, 'Chick-fil-A', (answers on a post-card are unnecessary unless the urge is overwhelming! - I do try to a modicum of research before committing to a statement) was not really important. The fact remained that Friday 12th July was the day that the bovine-free burger joint was going to give away sandwiches, dependent upon the level of commitment of their customers. Samantha does not do anything 'by halves'. Arriving at the office in a pair of shorts and an out of character plain white t-shirt, the material scrunched up under her arm was her cow suit that she had made for Halloween, so that she and her dog could be 'a herd'. In order to fulfill all orders, we had to hit at least two restaurants and claim our appreciation meal. We left the office around 12:15pm and drove south to our first stop. As Samantha exited her car, she donned the suit and we walked into the store. There were a few others in some sort of costume, but as I pointed out to my daughter, who attempted to defend her honour, and costume, they were all under 10! However, she pointed out to me that there were even fewer people who had pinned a cuddly black and white toy to their business attire, and had simply arrived with a picture. Full outfit allowed a full meal (drink, fries as well as a sandwich) and possession of any other form of cow would receive an entree. With a small beanie baby calf clipped to my dress, I accepted a chicken wrap, whereas Samantha, whose eyes were hidden by the hood that showed the ears in their full glory, was given an option of the choice of the whole menu. Surprisingly enough, the waitress commented on my accessory, and looked at Samantha as if it was quite usual to enter a food establishment dressed as an upright four legged beast! Well this is Austin!
We got back into the car and headed north to the second location, and had to wait for a parking space to become available. Although the fast food store is regularly in the news for its conservative stand, receiving a lot of bad publicity for standing by the corporations moral beliefs, it is always the most frequented of the drive thru's, with queues confirming support of the company - a free meal was not given when going through a drive-thru. As we reached the front of the queue, (with virutally no one taking advantage of the free offer) having found a place to park, the waitress at the counter squealed with delight. She called to her associate, who in turn called the manager. Samantha's costume was announced the 'best' they had seen. Everyone came to the kiosk window to view the udderless wonder, and after much discussion about how she had not adapted this from a snuggie and had made it from scratch, the manager, who asked if he could take pictures for the store, said that she should receive two meals, even three, for this fantastic costume. She swished the tail and they almost fell about laughing. My lapel accessory received little more than a smile. In fact, it was totally unnecessary, as I could have just let Samantha receive her prize, and then held on to her arm. After all, if someone could show a piece of paper with an imprint of a patch, I could surely parade my daughter in front of the till and say, 'here, I have a cow!' (No sordid remarks please....she can be difficult at times...but...) The hostess came out of the restaurant with a jumbo drink (no elephants were involved) and then two bags containing a sandwich and some fries. We were not disappointed that the promise of more than one meal should be provided, as we had our quota. My wrap, a sandwich for Dana, fries for the dog (not all of them), lunch for Samantha, and a treat for Edward.
The work day came to an end, and Dana and I left the office, to come home to start the weekend. Shortly after we had dinner, Samantha called, with great excitement in her voice. 'They gave me more!', she shouted. It appears that the manager of the second restaurant had kept to his word, and the large beverage was between two and three time times the regular one that was offered gratis, was not the only 'extra'. At the bottom of the bag was not one sandwich, but two, and upon reflection, the second bag of fries was much larger than the first. Happy with the outcome, and apparent success, of the day, I had one happy daughter, and once again we had enjoyed life in the weird capital, with a tail that will keep her gong until next year, and ......... another story.