The Apology

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There's probably no way to tell a lot of controller stories without some indelicate language and this is one of them. Please leave if you're thinking this is suitable for all readers.

Roddy came to Chicago to visit once and as was our wont, met me after my shift at the local controller's establishment. It was called the Cracker Barrel, and what it made up for by preceding the highway food joint sharing the name, it utterly gave away in style, decor, and sanitation. It was a dive. But in Aurora, if you wanted to drink with your coworkers or if you were a woman desirous of disreputable company, the Cracker Barrel was the place to go.

After we'd been there for a bit, Roddy, who'd been working the crowd, came over to me with a likely candidate on his arm and introduced her to me. I'm a little hard of hearing in noisy environments so when he said, “Glenda,” I heard “Linda,”—a natural enough mistake given my wife's name is Linda.

Unbeknownst to me, Glenda didn't care much for controllers (she was there, no doubt unwillingly, with friends) and me mangling her name just poured gasoline on the fire. She shot back most vociferously and unpleasantly, “it's Glenda!

I did my best to reassure her that I'd certainly meant no offense and explained that was a disability and not disrespect. She grudgingly accepted that and they proceeded with their dance as Roddy continued to cast his net, er, spell. But her attitude generally rubbed me the wrong way and I wound up firing a few shots across her bow about her hyper-sensitivity. In fact, it might be fair to say I sort of picked at the wound the whole evening.

He later told me that she intensely disliked all controllers and I hadn't helped much. He said he'd had to resort to every ounce of charm he could muster to convince her that he was different and not like them at all. And ultimately, he was successful—not in getting her to come home with him—but to agree to talk on the morrow. That represented two major paradigm shifts—hers, of course, but his, as well, since in most cases he would have moved on to more likely opportunities. Pickings must have been slim that night.

The next day, he called me at work (I had a day shift) to alert me that Glenda had consented to come to our house (a not insignificant concession, as it was some 25 miles from Aurora) and that I needed to be on my best behavior (in order for him to be able to consummate the encounter). I assured him I would do my best for my buddy, but the more I thought about it the more it irritated me that she had such a crappy attitude about controllers in the first place and about me in the second. After all, I was kind of an innocent bystander (this time).

On the way home I hatched a plan. Rather than describe it I'll play it for you. But first, let me say that in those days, there was hardly anything I wouldn't say or do. I frequently engaged in outrageous behavior, most of which is embarrassing for me to now recall. I'm no longer that way, although I'm still a bit beyond the pale compared to regular society.

When I got to the house she wasn't there yet, but arrived within a half hour. Roddy greeted her at the door, introduced her to the real Linda (I should add “long suffering” at this point—she put up with a lot as we engaged in our dramas and still does), and brought her down to the rec room where I was waiting. I was fully prepared.

“I owe you an apology,” I said to her.

Roddy silently went, “huuhhh?” and said to himself, “oh, man, my buddy's going to do the right thing and grease the skids for me. I'm in.”

I continued, “you have to understand—Roddy and I haven't seen each other for a long time, so last night when we got out together, we had some drinks…”

(She was really buying it at this point), I continued, “and got so fucked up&hellip”

You could see the color start to rise in her face…

“…we forgot how to talk around cunt.”

She made a cartoon dash for the door, leaving a swirl of dust in her wake, and we never saw her again.

Roddy turned to me, and with more foresight than he thought he possessed said, “Peterson, I hate you right now, but I think in about twenty years this is going to be a pretty good story.”

His prescience was spot on—it's the funniest story we share to this day and he never tires of telling it.

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Last updated: 20 January 2011