Ode To Joy

Wendy’s baked potato with shredded cheddar cheese. Plays a prominent role in my story.

Getting behind in posts again. This one was written for the Chatham Memoir Group prompt to write a story with a joyful, or happy ending.

Ode To Joy

It’s a Friday night.  My wife, Barb, asks, “What time is it?”

I look at my watch and reply, “11:45.” As in 11:45 PM.

“I’d really like a baked potato.  Would you like one too?  Do you think you can make it to Wendy’s before it closes?”

The answer to Barb’s question comes in the form of screeching tires as I zoom out of the driveway and leave a trail of burning rubber smoke as I race to get to Wendy’s before they close at midnight.  I’m exaggerating a bit here.  The car in this memoir is the 1981 Buick Skylark I wrote about previously.  The four cylinder, four speed stick shift model was an engineering marvel that was designed and built as the antithesis to the word “cool”.  The only rubber that would be left on the road for this car was if one of the wheels fell off.  But I did race, rather chug, over to the Wendy’s and arrived with 7 minutes to spare to get our baked potatoes.  The look on the faces of the crew members, who had begun to clean up before closing, was priceless, dripping with disgust.  I was happy to have parked the Buick in a well-lit area, or I may have been waylaid by a Wendy’s employee.

It was the Summer of 1984, Barb was pregnant with our first child and the pregnancy made her a real night owl.  The Stop & Shop near us was open 24 hours, it is amazing how few people are shopping at 4:00 AM.  Barb mostly shopped there alone I did tag along a couple of times.  The Pathmark grocery store was also open 24 hours, but it was quite the opposite of the Stop & Shop.  We made one 4:00 AM shopping trip there and felt like we had walked onto the set of a Fellini movie.  People were just around hanging around, talking in the aisles, not shopping.  There were a group of teenagers playing in the seasonal goods department, playing basketball with beach balls.  I never saw anyone dribble an inflatable ball so deftly, even to this day. I think they were all there to enjoy the air-conditioned store on a sticky summer night.

The craving of the Wendy’s baked potato with butter and shredded cheddar cheese also began that summer.  We became regulars at the one on Dixwell Avenue in Hamden, close to our home, and I made several visits in the minutes before closing.  The crew at the store began to expect my frantic entrance and began to greet me with smiles and ask how Barb was doing.  I think if Edward Hopper were still alive, he would have made another Nighthawks painting set in a Wendy’s.  

Through that summer into the fall the baked potato cravings led us to many Wendy’s along the I-95 and I-91 corridors in Connecticut.  On a mid-September trip to visit Barb’s parents in Vermont, a baked potato craving led us to a Wendy’s in Enfield, CT, right off the highway.  After satisfying the craving, we resumed our journey to Vermont, unaware of the drama yet to unfold.  Arriving at the home of Barb’s parents, we were just settling in to relax when she realized her purse must still be in the car and asked if I could get it.  The purse was not in the car!  We must have left it at the Wendy’s in Connecticut!  Using directory assistance, I got the restaurant number and spoke to the store manager.  He said they did find a purse and asked me to describe it.  It was Barb’s purse!  Happy, I hung up the phone and said I would drive back to get it.  My father-in-law cheerfully said he would go with me.  I managed to disguise my scream as a cough. I looked at my wife and she saw my entire repertoire of facial expressions: shock, horror, fear, despair, resignation.  I croaked out a weak, “OK.”  Four hours in the car with my father-in-law, I felt like I was going on a mission that I had small chance of returning from. 

The story has a happy ending.  The purse was, indeed, my wife’s.  The round-trip ride with Barb’s Dad was surprisingly uneventful.   The happiest ending was the arrival of our son Geoff 5 weeks later, on Halloween night. A true Ode to Joy!

Ernie Stricsek

Chatham Memoir Group

May 4, 2023

7 thoughts on “Ode To Joy

  1. Thank you Neil! Yes, there are 3 Wendy’s, one in Orleans, one in Hyannis and one in Yarmouth. May towns on the Cape have an aversion to franchise stores and restaurants, bit that is ok because there are a ton of great locally owned shops and restaurants.

    Liked by 1 person

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