The time was 5:15 AM and Gutter Girl rolled over with disdain at the beeping iPhone in front of her. This time of the morning in general should be a criminal offense, or at least a criminal defense strategy seeing as though no rational thought can occur before the sun crests the horizon. After a weekend spent aimlessly wandering between Iowa and the Missouri border, I was in no mood to start off the week with a three hour drive to the Illinois border for leads. The promise of sales and coffee as well as the beeping of the (third?) snooze alarm screeching back at me shoved me out of bed and into the shower. The warm shower water washed over me and rinsed off the humid, stuffy veneer of the upstairs of the house off my skin and humanity began to creep in to my demeanor.
Half an hour later I was pulling into the mostly empty parking lot of the Kindercare and kissing my kids goodbye. Although I told the boys that she would see them later that night, I knew in my heart that it was a long shot that I would be home to see them except when I cracked their doors to watch their angelic faces sleeping in the glow of their night lights.
Coffee in hand, I pulled into traffic and set the cruise. Another hour into the journey as I pulled off to get a new coffee and eliminate the remains of her first one, the phone rang again. The office. As I considered the call, I prayed a silent prayer that it wasn't a cancellation and that I didn't wake up at the ungodly hour for no apparent reason. It was worse, the Monday morning customer complaint call, yup that sounds about right.
Taking it in stride, I resolved the issue with the wheels in her mind spinning as fast as the ones that touched the pavement. Apparently some of those wheels were spinning faster than others because in my rear view mirror where the spinning red and blue lights of the Jasper County Sheriff's cruiser. Glancing at my speedometer, I noticed that I was only going about 7 mph over the limit but I dutifully pulled over and dug my license and registration from the mass of paperwork in the glovebox. Officer Merriman approached with a gentle reminder that I was "going a little fast" and commented on how it looked like I had a mobile office in my vehicle. I shrugged. What was there to say besides, "Thank you for your obvious commentary Officer-I-am-not-going-to-give-you-a-ticket-but-just-pulled-you-over-to-make-your-life-suck-just-a-little-bit-more-this-morning-Merriman. He passed my information back through the window and reminded me that the speed limit is 55 not 62 and made his way back to his vehicle.
That done, I turned my vehicle off the main road onto the day's first "Level B Minimum Maintenance" county service road of the day. The town was called "Sebula" and the rickety front porches and neglected exteriors seemed to conjure to mind everything that the name implied. Pulling in to the front drive of the appointed house, even the feigned enthusiasm I had made myself feel earlier that day faded at the abandoned look of the home. The dance began
Doorbell pressed - - No answer
Screen door knocked - - No answer
Front door knocked - - No answer
Sounds about right.
Back in my vehicle, I laid her head on the steering wheel and relayed the news to the office, they tried the number given when the appointment was set and was informed that the husband got called in to work and would not be available...and they couldn't have called before the three hour drive to get to them eh? Sounds about right.
The drive to my second location was a winding back road covering 50 miles of driving but only traveled about 30 miles as the crow flies. Again, I tried to maintain some momentum and control over the day. I took in the beauty of the rolling fields and hills and sipped on a Monster to keep myself from nodding off. It worked to some degree, at least I didn't take out my car, any other cars, and a bare minimum of the shoulder of the turns and surrounding pastureland on any of the curves.
By some miracle, a posh little coffeeshop materialized on the riverside town. That's right folks we have reached the 3rd state border in as many days in my travels. Dying for some air-conditioning and and an iced coffee, she went in to the curiously crowded shop for 2:00 in the afternoon and wedged herself in a banquette of seating between a grossly overweight housewife drinking an ironic Diet Pepsi while scarfing crosscut potato chips that left grease on the paper plate where they were stacked, and an elderly woman discussing the merits of the current cast of Dancing With the Stars with her bored teenage grand-daughter. I didn't care I had free wifi and a skinny iced vanilla latte with extra whipped cream to keep me company.
Two hours, one more cancellation and one small sale later, I returned to the office. After chatting with the office manager on duty for a few minutes and set to work putting my paperwork together for followup calls and scheduling when a vehicle I didn't recognize pulled to the front door of the office complex. I looked up from where I was sitting at the front desk to find...Officer Merriman approaching the office door.
"Oh Shit!!" The voice in my head screamed, thinking that, somehow the state patrolman from earlier that day had changed his mind and was going to give me a ticket anyway. That sounds about right.
Instead his face was as surprised to see me behind the desk as I was to see his walking through. He smiled ironically and stated his business.
"I was sent over by the local patrol to collect some information, we understand you have a wired alarm system on the office that has been going off accidentally but we do not have any contact information for the owners or who to call in an actual emergency." I hoped he didn't hear me exhale heavily in relief.
I happily provided my and the owner's contact information and, as he turned to leave, he caught sight of the gutter cover display that was set up in the lobby of the office. He left and I returned to paperwork while explaining to the office manager where the officer and I had met earlier that day.
As if he heard us talking, the telltale beep of the outer door alert chimed and Officer Merriman made his way back inside. This time, the voice in my head used a bit more explicit language as he again entered the lobby. He had his hands raised in a "don't shoot" gesture which told me that my face must be betraying the fear and pounding that coursed through my veins.
"This is a personal question." he said. I looked at him quizzically as if to beckon him to continue. "I see you do gutter guards." he said and gestured to the display model. I instantly relaxed into my Gutter Girl persona and proceeded to ask leading questions into what he was looking for and transitioned this crazy encounter into a gutter guard and possibly siding lead. He left with an appointment card in hand and, once the outer door secured, I curtsied to the mock applause sent out by my staff. Yeah, now THAT sounds about right. Gutter Girl to the rescue!