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THOMPSON: When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade

December 31, 2018 - 12:00 PM

OPINION


Just before Christmas, my wife, Bonnie, decided to throw a special luncheon for Lorraine Peterson, a friend and employee who was retiring after 25 years with the company. She reasoned it would be an all-afternoon event…with wine and beer, sandwiches, gourmet chips and dip, fruits and vegetables and a cake…a surprise for her friend and loyal member of the team.

She asked if I would help make the sandwiches…New York Deli-Style…overstuffed with ham and cheese, roast beef or egg salad…she wanted Lorraine to leave knowing she was appreciated, she said. “Absolutely,” I answered, and we went about making the next day…Friday, Dec. 21…special.

So, we made more than two dozen sandwiches laden with five pounds of meat or egg salad, cheese, lettuce, mustard and mayonnaise…the works. We loaded cases of beverages, the sandwiches…and the rest of the food in the trunk of her car.

We had one final stop before arriving at the office at 11:30 A.M….pick up a huge carrot cake inscribed with “We’ll Miss You” from the Save On Foods bakery in Vernon. Lorraine deserved a bouquet of flowers, as well, Bonnie decided, so with cake and flowers in hand, we walked through the store’s parking lot…smiles on our faces…content in our ability to pull off a surprise going-away party for Lorraine.

Bonnie, pressed the trunk release…and after deciding she would rather hold the cake and flowers for the ten-minute drive to the office…she tossed her purse with her keys attached into the trunk. I closed the trunk.

Bonnie tried the door handle on the passenger side…nothing…then I tried the driver’s side door…nothing. We were locked out. There’s a certain slow-motion sequence that plays out when you have something like this happen. We’ve all done it…and there’s that terrible feeling of, “Oh, no…I can’t believe I did that.”

The great thing about being older is that you’ve faced tough situations…worse than getting locked out of your car. Most of us know how to make lemonade when life hands us lemons. I smiled at Bonnie and said, “At least it’s not snowing or raining!”

“Let’s call a locksmith or BCAA,” I suggested, adding, “Use your phone…I left mine at the house.”

“Mine…is in the trunk…in my purse,” Bonnie said, her smile not as bright as a moment before. The lemonade was starting to taste a little less sweet all of a sudden.

Bonnie borrowed a phone, and as amazing as it sounds, BCAA had a tow truck there…driven by Mike…who had at least one of every device ever made for entering a locked car. I smiled…and gave Bonnie a wink. She smiled and sighed in relief.

I should explain at this point that we have two sets of keys for Bonnie’s car…and one set was at our home in Florida…roughly 3,114 miles away…and of little use. I explain that because that was Mike’s first question before assembling a balloon device that slightly spread the driver’s side door from it’s frame.

Mike then inserted another thin metal device with a string and after fishing for the door latch…which had no knob…he showed the dexterity of a skilled surgeon…and opened the driver’s side door. The alarm went off, of course, but we were in the car.

Now, I should explain further, that this particular car - the pinnacle of German automotive engineering - had some safeguards that left Bonnie and me wondering, “Why?” For example, we soon found out that the trunk release inside the car didn’t work. A call to the car dealer in Kelowna gave us the answer…since we broke into our car and the alarm went off…virtually all electronics, including the trunk release, were now disabled.

“Surely, there’s a way to remove a back seat and enter the trunk,” I questioned. I learned that German engineering doesn’t extend to removable back seats like, say, a Kia or Toyota or Ford. The dealer said without the key...remember, one was in the trunk and one in Florida...we would have to tow the car to Kelowna. Already late for Lorraine’s surprise luncheon, I acquiesced, and told the service manger at the dealer that the car was on its way.

Just before hanging up, the service manager said, “Oh, by the way…we should be able to put it on a computer and open it. But sometimes, it doesn’t work.” There was a pregnant pause.

“In that case, we’ll have to order a special replacement part,” the service manager explained. “It comes from Toronto and with Christmas…it could be next Wednesday before we get it.”

My lemonade was getting turning more bitter by the moment.

Meanwhile, Bonnie called her office manager, told her to order pizza, then meet her in the Save On Foods parking lot to pick up the cake and flowers. At least we had something. We then borrowed our daughter’s car…fortunately she has a business in the mall…and we were on our way to the surprise party…which was increasingly surprising.

At the party…an hour late…Bonnie turned to me and said, if the dealer opens the car, we should pick it up as soon as possible and take the food in the trunk to the Upper Room Mission Society in Vernon, an organization that offers three meals a day to the community’s underprivileged. All the office staff said that was a great idea…if they could get the trunk open.

A couple hours later, someone from the dealership called - a lilt in their voice - and said, “We were able to open it…your wife’s purse, keys and a whole bunch of food are saved.” When we arrived at the dealership, I asked,"How much do we owe you?" The service manager smiled and said, "Merry Christmas."

We drove back from Kelowna and just as people were gathering in the parking lot for dinner at the Upper Room Mission Society building, we opened the trunk and asked if anyone wanted a sandwich. We looked each person in the eye and wished them a Merry Christmas. Every person - each and every one - said thank you, and returned sincerely our wishes for a Merry Christmas.

It was cold…-1 Celsius…as we pulled out of the parking lot and headed home. Neither Lorraine nor the rest of Bonnie’s office staff tasted the sandwiches made with love that morning. But you know what, no one seemed to mind. There were smiles on everyone’s faces…in the office…later in the Mission’s parking lot...and even later on the ride home. Lemonade never tasted so good.

— Don Thompson, an American awaiting Canadian citizenship, lives in Vernon and in Florida. In a career that spans more than 40 years, Don has been a working journalist, a speechwriter and the CEO of an advertising and public relations firm. A passionate and compassionate man, he loves the written word as much as fine dinners with great wines. His essays are a blend of news reporting and opinion.


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