Smile and Nod

Smile and Nod: The Orange Juice Principle

Russ Pitts | 14 Apr 2008 17:00
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The line at the DMV was short, and moving quickly. Take a moment to let that sink in. I'll wait.

It was a Friday, near lunch time, and it should have been packed and running at glacier speeds. I thought I'd stumbled into some alternate-dimension DMV where the normal laws of government physics did not apply, where fast equaled slow, dog equaled cat and bunnies grew on trees, but the novelty license plates on the wall reassured me that yes, I was still in a North Carolina DMV and the steady stream of satisfied customers out the door testified to the rapidity with which business was being conducted. It didn't make sense, but it was happening.

The bad news was obvious: No matter how quickly I'd be in and out, I'd still be declaring permanent residence in the Deep South. But the good news was even if I somehow wasn't able to get North Carolina plates for my truck (this is called foreshadowing), I could at least buy one that said "I'd rather be sittin' on the porch." Because I would be. (And this is irony.)

There were three people ahead of me when I got in line. After less than a minute, there was only one. A minute later, I was next. The place was being run like a license plate sweatshop. People were rolling out almost as quickly as they rolled in. License plates were being dispensed in a luminescent metal blur by the octogenarian attendants on staff, rolling a dozen deep. These weren't your normal, everyday volunteer retirees, one tapioca pudding away from brain lock at the nursing home. No, these guys were Zen plate slinging masters, in their element, making it happen, making the world a better place one vehicle registration at a time, running citizens through the mill like cheese through the lactose intolerant. By the time I was signaled to approach the bench, my whole perception of the acronym DMV had changed; I'd become a Believer. And then it was my turn.


This is the story of how I almost bought a boat, but didn't. How I tackled a storm of projects I'd been putting off for years, all for the purpose of spending the weekend in the Atlantic Ocean, the wind at my back, my troubles left on the shore behind me. Almost. Remember that word. It's very important. This story actually begins several years before that Friday in the DMV, when I woke up one bright, sunny Saturday morning and almost got a glass of orange juice. Almost.

I had big plans that day. I don't remember quite what they were, because, due to The Orange Juice Incident, I never got around to making them happen. But they were big plans. Monumental. And I was looking forward to heading out into the world to revel in them. But first, I needed a glass of orange juice.

Here, dear reader, is where everything went topsy-turvy. If I were in a Behind the Music special, the voice over would say "and then, everything started to fall apart." I grabbed a glass from the cupboard, held it in my trembling hand, opened the refrigerator and ... there was no orange juice. I had run out. This was devastating.

Being an industrious fellow, I devised a workaround. There was a can of orange juice concentrate in the freezer. I could simply make more orange juice, pour some into a glass, and then drink it. Problem solved. New problem discovered: The orange juice pitcher, having been emptied of juice the previous morning, had not been cleansed, and had been left on the counter. It was now slightly disgusting. It was not fit for containing orange juice. It had to be cleaned.

Rolling up my sleeves, I set out to do just that. I would surmount this obstacle, proving no minor setback could dissuade me. I then turned my attention to the kitchen sink, wherein the washing was about to commence, and again, the bottom fell out. The sink was full of dirty dishes. Completely full. As in, turning-the-tap-caused-no-discernible-flow-of-water-to-come-out because-the-tap-was-hidden-under-a-mound-of-sticky-plates, full. At this point I almost cried.

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