Four fifty-eight and I was ready to go.   I had my purse in one hand, my coat hung over my shoulder.   Four fifty-nine, the seconds clicked away and seemed to slow as each second passed.   I hovered my mouse so I could log out the exact second it hit five pm because I had plans after work.

My friend Elm-Tree was coming to see me. I had not seen her in more than fifteen years,  I knew Elm-Tree back in the day when I was  first cutting my teeth in the customer service circuit   It seemed that it was a circuit of sorts, I compared it with the factory workers back in the twenties, the women worked factory jobs.  They would work until the work ran out and move to the next factory.

In the customer service trade there were different reasons for the migrations of employees.    Sometimes work ran out,  they laid off then either picked back up or dried out completely, sometimes company politics and the wage war companies battled against each other,  forced the migration of head set wearing, averages joes most of whom were female.   The top most reason for a forced migration was because someone came in the door at half past,  left out that door at quarter of , or never walked in the door at all way too many times or  a rep had just lost their mind and thoughts verbalized; it never mattered who started it.   Bottom line they walked the walk of shame.

The circuit of people running the customer service gauntlet was vast and wide.   But sometimes it seems real small because you always ran into someone who knew someone;  or a friend  worked there but before you or after you and sometimes you ran into old friends on a new job.   In those cases if they walked the walk of shame once, you wondered  how soon would they repeat it.

Meeting up with my friend Elm-Tree was good.   She worked a some places I had worked but we only worked together at one company.   She had worked with several of my current co-workers and one of them was Currie.

One second to five ‘BEEP’. I got a phone call.    I swear to all that is holy sometimes people plan this.   They know you close at a certain time and literally watch the clock to the exact second to make the phone ring just before closing.     The phone lines can be quiet all day; every single person that calls in gets responded to top speed and right at the end of the day they call; normally apologizing for calling so close to closing  or defending their thoughtless action by saying they called earlier; waited on hold 45 minutes then they needed to use the rest room.   While they are saying it you can hear them flushing their toilet or hear some noise you really did not want to hear.

These people never call with some easy issue, that late in the day.    It’s  always someone trying to get to a department that is closed for the day, those are pretty easy because you just repeat that their department has closed and apologize for 15 minutes, muting them and swearing.   Or someone that calls about something that happened two years ago they need straightening out at 4:59:59 on a Friday.   Or someone who’s next payment is due; sometime next fall,  needs to make one before he/she gets a late charge.

“Hurro,” I hear this voice.  “Hurro!” It sounds like hello but in a weird fake Asian accent.

“hello?”  I answer.

“I gotta bag pipe stuck in my rear!” then I hear this horrible awful like noise in my ear; it is loud.   I hear a crazy laugh.   “You need egg row.”  Then that squeaky bag pipe.   It was Annie.   She did it all the time she claimed to do it to save me from getting a call and give me a ‘spot’ of over time.    I never claimed the over time and it just slowed me down because she would occasionally  have someone else call and act like a customer.

I hung up on her and logged out, texting Elm-Tree who was waiting outside for me.   The first thing I noticed was Annie’s fire truck.   I was hoping that she would not try to follow me.   As soon as I go out the fire truck rolls up, Elme riding shot gun and Annie in the driver’s seat; with a set of bag pipes up her rear.

It was nearing St.Patrick’s Day and Annie liked getting in the Spirt of things early.   She blew the horn on the truck loud and long, then screamed into the microphone, “Slam over here, SLAM!”  I could see her she was right there in a fire truck dressed in her furry out fit;  a 5 foot 2 slightly over weight cat.     A cat dressed as a cat; driving a fire truck with the lights and sirens  going; it wasn’t like I couldn’t see her she was waving the gloved paws of her mascot outfit  around ;waving like some deranged clown.

How did Elm-Tree know Annie or vise versa?  I worked with Elm-Tree long before I had Annie and I had not seen Elm-Tree in all of this time.    “Hi,” Elm-Tree yelled over the sirens and the horn Annie was still blowing through the microphone.   She also had her Granda Pa Jones CD going full blast.   Plus every time she moved her bag pipes went off.

“I didn’t know you knew Annie.   I knew Annie back in the day when she used to be Tony. We met up earlier today when I had six hours to kill waiting for you to get out so I have been hanging out with Annie.   She said she had to come here to get her Slam after work then  we put two and two together and here we are.   THIS  IS GREAT!”   Elm-Tree explained excitedly.

“When Annie used to be Tony?” yelled over the music.   Tony was my daughter; now referred to forever an always as Great Aunt Jodie Slamma Jr. Great Great, had been a young girl.   Tony was her imaginary dog, a Dalmatian dog who my daughter claimed was the dog from this show from the 70’s called ‘Emergency.’   The dog on that show was a hound dog or something but not a Dalmatian.

Annie looked at me like I was an idiot.   “Yes when I was Tony,” Annie replied.   Even though she was dressed in a cat costume I could still her eye expressions.

I threw my hands in the air.   “What about Annie Swanka?” I asked.

“Annie who?” Annie asked again looking at me as if I were nuts.

“The poop factory Annie Swanka and the gold tickets and the crazy cat lady?
I asked remembering that whole painful time in my recent past.

“No clue what you are talking about.” Annie said. Even though it was her who told us this whole story about Annie Swanka and the poop factory and how she; Annie had come to be.

I let it drop and figured Annie made the whole thing up about being Tony.   She always had to horn in on my friends and my good times and now here she was horning in on an outing I had with a friend I had not seen in quite sometime.

“Remember when I wore those suction cups on my feet?” Annie said as if she read my doubtful mind.

“And you were walking around on the ceiling?” Elm-Tree continued, “And your slam called the security to come with their ladder and get you down?”

“My mother slapped Slam right in the face for that when she told her.   Remember that Slam?” Annie laughed her crazy laugh and reached over and slapped me in the face.

“So where are me going?” Annie asked.

“Well I wanted to take Elm-Tree to that one store.”  I suggested.

“We already went there,” Annie said.

I sighed so we just went home.    Annie blaring her siren and running every red light and going around cars that pulled over just for her.   The ten minute ride took three.  because Annie was driving a 150 all the way, her bag pipes still squeaking and Grandpa Jones blaring through the huge speakers Annie had put all around her truck singing about his good old mountain dew.

Elm-Tree the Mighty Oak as Annie called her, stayed for quite a while, talking about the past, drinking moose made and enjoying themselves.   Duh-Wayne and Spam showed up and quickly warmed up to Elm-Tree, when they found out that she was friends with Currie.

Of course, Duh-Wayne began talking about his brain child, his Nascart and the museum he and Annie were building dedicated to classic shopping carts and that was when Elm-Tree announced she loved shopping carts as a matter of fact she was a shopping cart expert.   She had an original shopping cart from America’s First Supermarket.   A bag lady in Long Island had one and Elm-Tree paid a pretty penny for it back in the day.

“It has King Kullen right on it.”

That was definitely the kind of cart Annie and Duh-Wayne needed for their museum.  Elm-Tree was the kind of friend a pair of Nascart owners needed for their newest project.    Elm-Tree the mighty oak became part of the circle.



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