Hooters vs. the Ground Round
"Do you need a cab?" I asked the young couple who had just gotten off the evening train.
I have voiced this question probably more than 10,000 times over my hacking career. As queries go, it's as concise and unambiguous as they come. Hence my bafflement when the man and woman looked through me, as if I was a nettlesome street person angling for a handout.
"Sorry, let me try that again," I said, hoping that "take two" might do the trick. These folks certainly looked as if they needed a ride; they had disembarked Amtrak with the classic tourist demeanor that said: Where are we? Did we get off at the right station? This is Essex Junction? I thought we were going to Burlington.
"Do you need a taxi into town?" I spoke at half-speed. "I am a cabdriver."
They turned their attention toward the stationmaster, who was standing next to me, and he nodded, essentially vouching for my bona fides. "Actually, we do need a ride," the guy said. "We're taking a morning flight. Is there a hotel close to the airport?"
I glanced down at their single, smallish piece of luggage. "Yup," I replied. "There's a place maybe a quarter-mile from the airport. With that little bag, you can easily walk over in the morning."
As we sauntered to my waiting taxi, I noticed what a cute couple they made. The woman had an adorable, round face with a perfect halo of an Afro. She brought to mind a less Amazonian version of Pam Grier from her "Foxy Brown" days. Her partner wore a cool black shirt; he had the two-day stubble, and - having finally acknowledged my existence - the friendly, engaging disposition of a regular guy.
As we got rolling, the two of them held hands in the back seat. "Sorry, dude, about ignoring you at the train station," the guy said. "We, like, just moved here from New York City, and people approach you constantly at Penn Station with all kinds of hustles. Same thing when we lived in Caracas last year."
"No problem," I said. "I grew up in the city, so I understand completely. However, I think I can safely assure you that if someone in Vermont tells you he's a cabdriver, he's probably a cabdriver. You know, not a serial murderer posing as a cabdriver."
The two of them laughed, and then the woman asked about restaurants near the hotel. I said, "You got two interesting choices: Hooters or the Ground Round."
"Ouch," the woman said with a delightful chuckle. "I can't believe they have a Hooters in Vermont."
"Well, there are no strip clubs in town, so maybe Hooters isn't that outrageous. Apparently, they have great french fries. Or so I'm told."
As we turned onto Industrial Avenue, I warily kept an eye on my speedometer. This wide-open road has a 30 mph limit, and the Williston police often set up shop along the many side roads, speed guns at the ready.
Suddenly the man edged forward in his seat and said, "Dude, do you ever feel like traveling?"
"If you're talking about wanderlust, not so much lately. When I was younger I traveled quite a bit, but now all I want to do is stay put in Vermont. I guess you guys have moved around some. I mean, Venezuela, New York City - that's quite the itinerary. Where did you say you're now living?"
"A month ago we moved up to Brattleboro," replied the man. "We got, like, burnt out on the city lifestyle - the clubbing, the noise, the crowds. All of that stuff just doesn't mean so much anymore. Things are so much simpler in Vermont. And we kinda like that. You know what I mean?"
"Oh, I know just what you mean. That's what brought me up here as well. That's all you can ask for in life, isn't it? A place that fits your temperament, that feels like home."
"You said it, dude." The two of them sat there smiling, enjoying the ride, gazing out at the last gasp of a purple sunset. The Green Mountains may prove to be their long-term home, I mused, but if I had to bet, I'd wager their wayfaring days are far from over.
The hotel came into view, and we pulled into the parking lot. The woman said, "Did you see the name of this place, honey? It's the Ho-Hum. Isn't that, like, perfect?"
"Yup," I interjected. "Folks here like it so much, there's another Ho-Hum Motel across town on Route 7."
The vacancy sign was up, so the two paid their fare and got out of the cab. As the woman walked toward the office door, the man turned and said to me, "Hooters or the Ground Round. Man, that is one tough choice. Those Hooters' french fries sound tasty, though."
"Brother," I said with a laugh, "you don't need any french fries."
EMAIL THE AUTHOR // LETTER TO THE EDITOR