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The Volunteer

Posted by Mike on 6/18/2009 to Random Thoughts

It was the weekend of the Springfield High School 25th reunion.  The Friday-Saturday festivities were over, but a group of 10 once-close friends who hadn’t seen each other for years were winding down some casual conversation and libation in the hotel bar.   Most of the reunion’s attendees had already dispersed for the evening, but these ten old friends were extending the reunion a bit longer.


Finally, Tina announced she was going to call it a night as she had to catch a flight at 7 in the morning to fly back home.  Eric, George, and Abbie looked at their watches and echoed the sentiment that they had early flights to catch, too.  Everyone rose from their seats around the table, and exchanged final toasts, handshakes, kisses and hugs, with polite admonitions to one another to keep in touch. 


As they all moved out of the bar, five people in the group said good-bye and took off to the parking lot for their drives home.  However, Barry, who also still lived in the area, lingered behind.  He walked slowly across the lobby with the group staying in the hotel.


 “So, how are you guys going to get to the airport?” he asked. 


“Catch a cab,” responded George, with a shrug.


 “Me, too,” said Abbie, as the other out-of-town guests nodded


“A cab?  No, no,” said Barry.  “Let me take you.  No problem.”


“You don’t need to do that, Barry”, said Abbie with a smile.  “Too early. Thanks but that’s way too much to ask of you.”


“My pleasure, “ insisted Barry.  “Some final moments together before another 25 years goes by…All of you can relax in the luxury accommodations of my new car.”


“Are you sure?  You’d need to pick us up at like 4:30 in the morning…”


“Absolutely,” said Barry with enthusiasm.  “Anything for the class of 83.”


So the plans were set.  Goodnights and see-you-laters were repeated, and the four hotel guests headed for the elevator, while Barry waved and headed home.



Barry arrived back at the hotel at 4:42 in the morning. There was a bit of toe-tapping and tenseness in that he was late, but the general feeling was that traffic should not be too bad on a Sunday morning.   He packed his four friends and their luggage into his brand new Ford Explorer SUV, and after about 10 minutes, they finally hit the road on the way to the airport. 


Immediately, Barry turned on his car stereo to a decibel level that rattled their bones.    Thumping, thumping, thumping.    “Uh, can you turn that down a bit?” Eric pleaded, his head painfully throbbing from the long night of alcohol.


Barry turned to Eric, scowling incredulously.  “What?  You don’t like my music?”  He shook his head, somewhat insulted.  “Rap Dog keeps me alert.” Anyway, driver’s preference.  You should know that.”


Eric sighed, and dropped his face into left hand, stroking his forehead while he took a sip of coffee.


“Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed…” whispered Tina under her breath, but still loud enough that Barry heard it.


Abbie glanced forward at Eric, and then to Barry.  “Well, it is a bit loud.  Can’t we just talk a little instead?”


Barry’s jaw tightened, agitated.  Clearly irritated, he sat silent.  His face reddened.


“Barry…’  Abbie leaned forward and said softly.  “Please?”


Muttering an obscenity, Barry reached for the console and punched a button to shut the stereo off.   “Satisfied?” he said, gesturing with his hand as if to hold the sudden silence.


There was no conversation for the next several minutes.  And each second that passed by echoed the tension louder. Finally, George leaned forward from the back seat.  “So, how long do you think it will take to get to the airport?”


“Oh, so I’m not driving fast enough for you?” Barry asked sarcastically.


“Well, it’s just that we left about 20 minutes later than planned.”


Barry’s attitude became increasingly condescending.  “Hey, I have my own life, too, you know.  Anyway, you don’t really need to be at the airport 2 hours ahead of time; they just tell you that.  4.30, 4:45, 5:00, whatever.  It wouldn’t make a difference; you’ll all catch your flights.”


George sat back in his seat, shaking his head in frustration.   Barry watched George through the rear view mirror and his reaction didn’t please Barry at all.


His foot now pushed on the accelerator with reckless aggression.  Although there weren’t a lot of cars on the freeway at that time, there were enough that Barry began to weave back and forth between lanes every 15 seconds or so to move through traffic.  A dizzy, hectic pace.


“Too fast, Barry.  Slow down,” Tina intoned, nervously.


Barry’s clenched his teeth and began to drive even faster.


“Slow it down, Barry.”  George demanded. “I’d like to make it to the 30threunion if I can.”


Barry swerved again, causing Eric to spill his coffee in the front seat beside him.


“God damn it,” Barry exclaimed.   “God damn you!”


Cutting off a car in the right lane, Barry jerked the wheel to the right, and pulled over to the side of the freeway.  Braking the car with a jolt, he drummed the steering wheel angrily several times, and then turned to the guests in his car.


“You high and mighty people leave Springfield and go off to seek your fortune elsewhere, and then come back, look down on me, and treat me like I am your servant or something.  You don’t thank me for getting up at an ungodly hour to take you to the airport.  You don’t show any appreciation or respect. All you do it complain.”


“We didn’t ask you—“ Eric began before Barry cut him off.


“That’s right.  I volunteered to take you.  But since you people seem to have forgotten what friendship is and don’t appreciate my help at all, that’s it.  Get out.  Get out of the car now!  Find another way to the airport.  It is no longer my responsibility.”


“F—king jerk!” said George, his voice rising along with the veins in his neck. “I don’t believe this!”


“Asshole ingrates!” responded Barry.  “Out!”


And with that, the four guests stormed out of the car and grabbed their luggage from the back.  Barry could see them talking to one another in hushed voices in an animated fashion as he watched them through the window.  He remained in his seat, both hands firmly clutching the steering wheel, until he heard the hatchback door close shut.  He then beeped his car horn and turned to the four, offering a quick wave good-bye.  Then, with a squeal of his wheels, he was gone.


“Volunteerism,” sighed Tina, reaching into her purse for a cell phone.  “Gotta love it.”


Mike Lee