I could not concentrate on Monday. Storms were very severe on Sunday night and the rain had not stopped falling. This was not the reason for my lack in concentration, however, it was more that something was missing. I was not sure what it was that was missing, but I was convinced I had forgotten to do something before making a trip back to Blighty.
My new suitcases did stand taller than the old, and that was another dilemma. Would they be suitable? Did the airline have a policy on checked luggage? Would I have to swap them out at the counter? I came to the conclusion that my severe panic was merely because I had booked my tickets several months ago; I had 'plenty of time' to organise.
Samantha's friend Jodi and her husband were flying in from Connecticut on Monday afternoon, having attended the wedding of her (Jodi's) brother-in-law, who lives Stateside. I knew Samantha was going to take a couple of days off work, and I would have to don the cap of Sam for those days, adding to my fast and furious workload. Coupled with the fact that I had to make sure everything was up to date by Friday, this sent me into a further tailspin. I walked at lunchtime, as the temperature had dropped considerably, and the electricity in the air made it a little dangerous to be in water. Jodi and Will landed a little late, but not enough to cause disruption to their plans.
Despite being rather busy, Dana and I managed to leave the office at six forty-five and headed north to the Outback restaurant, where we had a wonderful reunion with the kids. Jodi is one of Samantha's oldest friends, having started school together at rising five, and she was one of Samantha's bridesmaids. We chatted twenty four to the dozen, discussed the States and where we had visited, as Will lived Stateside as a child, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. "Is there anything else I can do for you?", asked the waiter, as he cleared the table. Perhaps it was the company that caused me to go back into my old ways, but I heard myself say, "Maybe a dance?" The waiter looked absolutely horrified. His mouth dropped, and the cutlery on the plates were heading in a downward position as his fixed grasp on the crockery had become rather weak. I attempted to remedy the situation, and told him I was only joking, but by that time, he was in a state of shock. The relief did show across his face, but he disappeared from sight very quickly. "How was everything?" asked a lady who suddenly appeared at our table. She quickly introduced herself as 'the manager', and we expressed our appreciation for our waiter. She seemed somewhat relieved. "We do our best to make sure our customers are satisfied, and to meet their needs, as best we can", she added, and I wondered if the waiter had been totally satisfied with my explanation that I was indeed, joking. I chose not to revisit the matter!
Taking two weeks off work is going to put pressure on Dana, as he will have to wear most of my 'hats', and take back a few of his that he has placed upon my head over the past few years. "It is what it is", he says, whilst calculating how much he can actually bring hone to finish, and how much sleep he will get during my absence. Having Samantha take two days off certainly made me appreciate how much taking on another person's load could disrupt one's schedule!
Despite the excitement of returning home, I started to think about what I will miss in my adoptive homeland. Strangely enough, I find myself yearning for things I never thought I would. When I go home, I want toast, made with nice English, white starchy bread. I want butter that has a higher cream factor. I want proper chips, and chocolate, although not necessarily together, and I want people to understand what I am saying! When I am at home, I miss Tex-Mex, chicken and waffles, fried green tomatoes, Cholula hot sauce, and the somewhat diverse dialect.
"Have a safe day, ma'am", was the farewell felicitation of a Sheriff to whom I spoke on Tuesday. It was a new slant on the norm. It made me smile. No sooner did I put the phone down from the law enforcement officer than it rang again, and I was connected with someone who was a little more confused. "Are you a process server company?" I responded affirmatively. "Then you called me!" The adamant male on the end of the phone was getting quite 'ticked' with me. I explained that no one from our office, nor contractors associated therewith, had called him. We did not have mention of him in our system. He told me the name of the company from whom he had received the call, and I calmly explained that we were a different entity. "What's the difference?" he asked. "The name, for starters", I said, wondering if he needed me to reinforce this in dance! "But you are process servers, so why did you call?" It took a long time to explain that there were many companies in Texas, and many in the greater Austin area, that were in the same business. "Give me their number then", he asked, and I told him I did not know who called him, and did not have a number for someone I did not know. He did not seem to grasp the fact. "So what did you want to give me?" I decided then to end the conversation and told him that we had no papers for him, and did not have a need to contact him. Although confused, he seemed relieved. I was somewhat concerned that I had led him into a false sense of security, but there was no other way to communicate we were not the people from whom he received the call. On the plus side, it would appear that when querying by Austin Process Servers, we would be the name that appears!
Samantha called a little later to ask if I would like to join her and her friends for a walk to the 'top of the Iron Bridge'. The views, apparently, are spectacular, and whilst I have seen the city from Mount Bonnell, I had never ventured up the side of the crags that form the bank of the Colorado River, or Lake Austin as it is known at this juncture. I told her that I was rather busy, but to let me know when they were leaving her house, and I would recalculate my options!
"Are you a process server company?" I responded affirmatively. "Then you called me!" The adamant male on the end of the phone was getting quite 'ticked' with me. We went through the same conversation as we had earlier, and I ended with the same response.
I left the office on Tuesday and went swimming. As I sat down to read for ten minutes, I received a call to say that Samantha and Co., were just leaving her house. I didn't so much a run (as it is impossible in my Dollar Tree flip flops) as walk rather quickly back to the condo, to take a shower and get ready. By the time I had found my sun glasses, they had pulled up behind my unit and I took my seat in the back of Edward's car.
'Do not park in the row', was the sign on the side of the road. We looked up and down the row of cars parked, and could not quite work out what it meant. Which row? The row that was not formed on the other side of the sign, or the row upon which the cars were parked. I was with one American and three other Englishmen. I had to stop thinking with the majority. As we walked away, feeling a little nervous about leaving the vehicle in a 'row' of others, the meaning became apparent. "Hedgerow", I commented as we started to climb the jagged rocks. "What?" came the response. I explained the shortened version of what the sign meant. We had parked by hedges, and it was ordered that we did not park the car 'in' then. "Why would you?" we all agreed!. The view was, indeed, spectacular, and whilst I had been warned to wear 'proper walking shoes', there were many (younger, I might add) people in more flimsy footwear than my Dollar Tree flip flops! They managed to make the trek up the cobbled stones without losing their footing. However, upon reaching the top, I found there was another, less treacherous path, which I vowed to take my 'proper walking shoes' down, but which had a little more foliage, and perhaps more chance of encountering 'wild life'. What a dilemma! Edward and Samantha were attempting to recreate a picture that they had taken five years previously, and Will (who really is a master photographer) was only too happy to oblige. However, they could not agree as to which tree they stood against, and Will took many pictures of many trees! The heat had started to return to its seasonable best, and we chose to leave the high top, and return home.
"Do you want to see the city from Mount Bonnell?" was answered with a positive response. Another mountain, another view. We parked the car in a row of other cars, and headed to the top. The views, as always, were marvelous, and the houses below were the envy of all who surveyed.
We arrived back at my house, with no Dana in sight. Not having seen the inside of my condo, Will came in for the first time. Jodi had stayed with us many years ago, but her stay was cut short due to us having to return for my dad''s funeral. These were happier times, and they looked around with fascination. "You have a pool table" said Will. "You have a piano", said Jodi. "Do you play?" they both asked in addition to their individual questions. I told them both 'Yes". I did not add that I play pool better than I play the piano, although not much better! Jodi asked me to play something. I sat down on the stool, stretched my arms, rubbed my hands together, took a deep breath, and planted my fingers upon the ebony and ivory, for one blast of noise, and then clomped over the keys like a two year old on a toy. Jodi was laughing heartily. She understands my humour. "That is as good as it gets", I told her!
Jodi and Will left for England on Wednesday and Samantha was a little sad. Everyone was going home but her. It gets to us sometimes!
"Are you a process server company?" I responded affirmatively. "Then you called me!" The adamant male on the end of the phone was getting quite 'ticked' with me. I could not believe this person was calling for a third time, and decided to transfer the call to the one with the authoritative voice. After explaining that there were many companies in the greater Austin area, Dana could no more make the caller understand that we were not the company that called him, than could I when I took the calls. We just hoped the person who did call would make contact!
Saturday was different to our usual routine. No Costco, no Dollar Tree, no Sam's Club. Instead we headed to the mall for the Tax-free extravaganza. School supplies and clothes were on offer for zero tax, and we thought it might be a good opportunity to stock up. Stock up on what we were unsure, but it was worth a shot! I did manage to buy some moisturizer for my aunt, which whilst was not tax-free, did have a very big discount, as competition between the stores was rife! Anything that was not included in the list of products not liable to tax this weekend, appeared to have quite a large discount applied!
I still felt as if something was missing. We were running a little behind schedule, and this caused me to continue 'tail spinning'. I believed it to be somewhat psychological, but was not sure. I was leaving for home on Monday, and that meant I had the whole weekend to get everything together. However, my weekends, although not really structured, are far more structured than I care to admit! As I mentioned last week, I find I leave for the pool on a Sunday at two and rarely deviate. I like to be there at two on a Saturday, mainly because I am the only one who sits in the afternoon shade! It is part of my routine, and if I am 'put out' for any reason, I find it hard to focus on other things. I realised that I now need to focus on not being so focused! We did not reach the pool until 3!
As of this time, I am packed. I have everything I think I will need, and have all my electricals charging, ready to be packed away. I have shoes, I have clothes, and I have the couple of things that have been requested. (Another reason for my thinking something is missing - there were very few orders.)
Hopefully, my next post will be from my mother's house, next weekend. I have the rest of today and tomorrow morning to complete the few minor things I have to do. I have a check list that is checked more than the traditional twice, and am confident that it is complete. However, should I have forgotten something, anything, I have to remember, I am going HOME! Perhaps I shall manage to relax over the next twenty four hours, and enjoy the sun and pool. I have to remember that my 'tale of two cities', is not as gruesome as Dickens, and certainly not as gruesome as I have made it sound! Safe travels to me and here's looking towards ...... another story!