Glory Hill DiariesJul 28, 2022 09:00AM ● By Maggie Barnes
“Girl, what is taking you so long?” It was beastly hot, the warmest day of the year so far, and I was trussed up like a Rose Parade float in an emerald green brocade dress. My hair was making a valiant effort to hang on to the four pounds of styling mousse I had shoveled into it. The half can of hairspray was doing what it could to help.
My sisters were visiting, and in order to understand the importance of that statement it helps to know that I am the baby of the family. When you are the caboose, those who came before you never stop thinking of you as the baby. And they worry about you in perpetuity. But I was grown and out on my own now, and hosting my sisters for the weekend provided the perfect chance to prove that their worry was for naught. I had a good job, a nice apartment, a passel of friends, even a boyfriend who actually remembered my birthday. As far as I was concerned, I was living on the highest part of the hog.
So dinner on me at the best restaurant in town was definitely in order. I had saved for months to afford the evening. I also decided to take the happening to the next level and reserve the only limousine I could find in our rural county.
The time for its arrival had come and gone and there was no sign of it. Terri and Joanne, similarly dolled up, were trying to find a breeze on the front steps, eager to get to the air conditioned restaurant. I tiptoed to my bedroom and called the limo company. (Make note here, children. This was the day of the anchored phone.)
“Where is the car?” I hissed into the phone, keeping an eye on my sweltering siblings outside.
“He isn’t there? Huh. Not sure what to tell you.” Her indifference came through the phone in waves.
“Well, I know what to tell you...if he isn’t here in five minutes, I suggest you find something cool to wear to Small Claims Court.”
“Maggie! Come on! We’re going to be late for our reservation.”
I was running out of time, and Miss Congeniality was dragging her feet.
“He’s ten minutes from you,” the dynamo reported.
When I got back into the hallway, Terri was halfway up the stairs, lifting the hem of her elegant skirt to make the climb. I forced a smile.
“Sorry! Just trying to do something with my hair in this humidity.” I charged down the steps toward her, forcing her to turn.
“Good grief, you look great. Let’s go, aren’t you dying to get somewhere cool?”
I bought another couple of minutes by “forgetting” my purse, but Terri and Joanne were on the verge of sisterly mutiny, and I had to start for the car.
Finally! It was long and sleek, not as spotless and gleaming as I’d hoped, but it was a limo and it was turning into the drive.
“Surprise!” I said with relief.
Of course they were delighted and, after I told them our reservations were actually for an hour later, we spent time taking photos. There was a bottle of champagne, as I had requested, and I asked the driver to go along the lakeshore road for the scenery. My spirits had lifted considerably.
The rest of the ride is fuzzy in my memory, so forgive me if I don’t get the chronology right. I think the first thing was asking for the air to be turned on and being informed that it was. The three of us exchanged sweaty glances. Joanne leaned toward the nearest vent.
“It’s blowing all right,” she said, straightening hastily. “Warm air.”
“Yeah, the air isn’t the greatest,” the driver tossed over his shoulder.
I reached for the button to lower the windows. At least we could have air movement.
Nope. The windows didn’t open.
“Yeah, we need to get that fixed, too.”
The thought was forming in my head that we were going to spend twenty-five minutes in this rolling oven.
That was the moment the base popped off of Joanne’s plastic glass and bubbly streamed down her silk dress. Terri and I did what we could with the tissue-like cocktail napkins at hand. My glass was the next to fail, revealing the design flaw from the plastic drinkware factory’s engineering department—a hole in the stem. Terri poured another round as Jo and I held our palms against the bottom of our glasses.
“Drink fast!” Terri barked as the limo took a sharp corner too fast and the three of us pitched over, streams of champagne flying sideways and wadded up napkins bouncing across our laps like lottery balls.
When our postures returned to upright, Joanne’s dress was puckering and had shortened by two inches. It had a slash of wetness across her legs that looked like she had been visited by a diaper-less baby. The curls I had worked so hard to achieve did not survive the collision with the back of the seat during our near accident, and Terri was trying to mop up the champagne in her ear with an equally damp napkin. My brocade dress was mottled like bad cheese. Our makeup was melting in shiny rivers down our faces. All we needed was Vincent Price and we could have remade House of Wax. (It was a movie, children, Google it.)
I was devastated. This special evening of reassuring them that I could take care of myself and entertain them properly...I had failed spectacularly. That was when I realized the limo had come to a halt. We were at an intersection about five miles from the restaurant. The car was nosing off the road, but still mostly in the right lane. The driver was outside the vehicle. After a moment, he walked the length of the limo, opened the back door, leaned in, and very quietly said, “Ladies, we’re out of gas.”
Terri, Joanne, and I looked at him, looked at each other, and exploded in laughter. We howled and flopped over on the bench seats. Terri poured the driver a glass of champagne and, wordlessly, he drank it, holding his hand over the bottom.
I can imagine what we looked like arriving at that fine dining establishment. Stained dresses, flat hair and streaked makeup, and still laughing. Turns out, it takes a while for someone to stop to help a limo. I’m sure they were expecting a gratuity, or at least a stock tip from the passengers. A gas can got us to the nearest station, and we were only five minutes late for our table.
The following Monday, I walked into the limo rental office and before I could get one word of my planned tirade out of my mouth, the saleslady handed me my money back. The driver had told her everything. And then quit the job. Apparently, it was all too much for him, too.
We still talk about that night. Joanne says that when the day comes and she is on her deathbed, I have only to whisper “limousine” in her ear and she will die laughing. I have been blessed to host my sisters many times since through the years. I’ve never tried for a limo again. It might all go perfectly, and I don’t want to risk ruining a perfect memory.