Eight years ago, when I started driving across the country in an 18 wheeler, I said that the best thing about this job was that America was my office. What glorious experience it is to see this great land, in all it's variations and seasons, crossing my windshield every day. May I add to that a little? Another deeply gratifying aspect of this line of work is the chance I have to meet Ricochet people who, in my decidedly objective and unbiased opinion, are the nicest, smartest, and coolest people around.
Take Ricochet Member Mike LaRoche, for example, who was gracious enough to allow me to interrupt his holiday schedule long enough for lunch and conversation. We met at a local truck stop, where we enjoyed splendid company, splendid conversation, splendid food, and a waitress with a sense of humor. As the old beer commercial used to say, "It doesn't get any better than this." Except that they weren't serving beer, of course. Mike was kind enough to be wearing his sunglasses when I walked into the restaurant, so I would recognize him from his photograph on Ricochet. Since he was the only guy in there wearing shades, and Stevie Wonder wasn't in town, I knew it was him. To make it easier to spot me in a crowd, I wore The Hat.
Mike is precariously close to his doctorate. I don't think I was able to talk him down from that one, so I listened instead, which was as profitable an endeavor as I've enjoyed in some time. If you ever have the pleasure of talking to him, get him started on the period between the first and second world war and then just enjoy the ride. This was a period in which Great Britain's power began to wane, causing no small amount of anxiety with the United States. As one power diminishes, another fills the vacuum which prompted me to ask for comparisons between then and now, with an American president who seems to be working in earnest toward a diminishment in American power and influence. Mike's response was fascinating, and not one that I can easily summarize here, so I'll let him handle that one if he wishes.
For every erudite observation Mike provided (and there were many), I attempted a funny anecdote from my past, which anecdote coincided with the reappearance of our very chirpy waitress who had eyebrows stuck in the "surprise" position. She was very focused on our well being. Obsessively focused. There are some restaurants, of course, where you couldn't get the attention of the wait staff with a flare gun and a bull horn. Such was not the case at this truck stop. Just as I would wind my way toward the punchline of some story or other, up pranced Our Lady of Perpetual Drink Refills to enquire as to our wellbeing. But it's tough to be cross with someone who checks on you at an interval of every other bite, yet does so with a smile that brightens the room. I began to feel sorry for her and so enquired as to how she was doing, and was there anything I could get for her? Well sir, that lightened up her mood even more, and we became old friends. When I asked if the dessert was good, she was honest to a fault, telling me with deep regret that there wasn't a thing on the dessert menu she herself would eat. She did, however, consent to take our picture.
As far as lunches go, it was wonderful. As far as meeting smart and friendly people, it was everything you'd expect from the Ricochet membership. Unfailing courtesy and civility, good humor and grace, and smart as a razor. It was time well spent and, as usual, I look forward to more occasions to talk and enjoy the company of some truly wonderful people.