Like most people in our community, I’ve had my circle of friends for a long time, and we’ve managed to do that by adhering to two very basic principals: understanding that quality time is more important than quantity time; and making the effort to see each other, in person, once a month.
So when it became obvious that dinners at our favorite local restaurants were going to be out during the corona crisis, we decided to get together in a new, fun way: Corona Tailgate Talks. That’s where you and your friends converge on the house with the largest driveway and spread out eight feet away by sitting in a chair next to your vehicle (or in the trunk) and chat for two hours. No snack-sharing, no hugging, just chit-chat by your car.
Since Terra has a massive driveway and a very understanding husband, we chose her place as the meeting spot, and since I live right nearby, I had the bright idea that instead of taking up unnecessary room with my oversized truck, I would just pop over on our Polaris Ranger, a six- seater ATV that my parents purchased for the express purpose of making sure all their dogs had a seat when we go out on the trails.
The Ranger has been a good ATV to my family. Besides giving the dogs plenty of room to spread out, it’s also the vehicle my mom likes to use to chase down trespassers in her pajamas because it’s quick and corners well. But after an incident, we won’t get into, we’ve been having issues keeping the roof latches closed. If a good windstorm hits, then that six-foot by eight-foot plastic top goes flying into the hay fields. Mom and I added a bungee cord to the most problematic latch to help keep it in place.
So Saturday, I take off for Terra’s for Tailgate Talk, a maybe a two-mile ride at the most. The sun is shining, the grass is green, and all is right with the world. Right up until I hear a clang, a loud “pop,” and a WOOSH. And just like that, my apparently not-secured-enough Ranger roof was gone.
After the initial, “What the heck just happened here!?!” passed my consciousness, I pulled a U-turn, and saw the roof laying in the road. I gave a little thanks that I live in a place where the traffic is so low that you can safely be on the side of the road for 15 minutes as you try and figure out how to get a Ranger roof back on top of said Ranger: a) all by yourself, and b) how to keep it on because your apparently cheap bungee cord gave out.
And so for 15 minutes, I lifted, pushed, prodded, and generally cussed that roof back on top of the Ranger, and I would like to take this opportunity to tell everyone who passed me on the road and did not stop to ask if they could help: you did the right thing. You followed social distancing recommendations, and I applaud you. Also, I’m sure I looked very sketchy trying to get leverage from the ditch-side of the road while also keeping an eye on my purse (yes, I take my big purse on ATV rides. Yes, I think ATV makers need to add clippy purse hooks to all their machines so mine doesn’t fly off during rides. It’s one of my Hollow Princess initiatives).
But what to do now? Well, I used what was left of that sad-looking bungee cord to secure the back end, but the front clip was one big wind gust away from flying off again. Smarter people who recognize they could just reschedule for the next Tailgate Talk would have turned back, driving slowly and carefully home and calling Ron’s ATV service for an appointment next week.
Not being one of those people, I put on one of the gloves I found in the console, grabbed the closest clamp, and held on tight as I drove the Terra’s. It’s not the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, but when you’re as close to your destination as you are to home, might as well go to the Tailgate: I could figure out how I was going to get back home without losing the roof later.
So I went to Tailgate Talk, and it was delightful. We talked, we laughed, we recorded a Happy Birthday message, and since my friends don’t freely watch trashy TV, I got to give them a 10 minute “Tiger King” synopsis from eight-feet away and in the safety of my Ranger.
When it was time to go, my wonderful buddies watched in amused amazement as I hooked the ends of a massive Mr.-T-style gold chain I found hidden in the Ranger to the front and middle clips, wrapped the ends around my hand, and me and my purse took off for home (and my friends took the picture to prove it). Just another good visit with my best buddies and another story for my future book.
Now I told you that story to remind you of this; this stay-at-home thing is going to be long, longer than some of you want to admit, and opportunities are going to arise to get outside your comfort zone, get outside your box, and get creative. Take a live painting class with Art By Karen; try yoga with Courtney Miler in your home. Try out something you’ve never done but you’ve always wanted to, while you have the time and opportunities are high.
But you’ll also have the chance to get creative when it comes to keeping your relationships up with people not in your house. Plan your Tailgate Talks. Have your group Netflix nights. Check in with each other on your group texts and chats as often as you can. Use the gift of time we’ve been given to enrich the relationships you can cultivate, in whatever ways you can while staying safe. Because we humans are inherently social creatures, and if there’s anything that will keep us sane through all this, it’s continued contact with people who are experiencing it right along beside you.
And by “beside you,” I mean; at least six feet away. And by “experiencing,” I mean; in a vehicle or ATV whose roof is not flying off in the wind. Be safe, be creative, and whatever you do do?
Spend the money on the good bungee cords.