Christmas Vacation 2: The Party

Because I am completely unimaginative, I will use the same subject line I did at this time last year. As I had then, this year I also venture to Lumberton NC to attend the now-Annual Christmas party this past Saturday.

First, the departure. I am excited to learn that Megabus has now made available a route straight from Durham to Fayetteville. This means that, unlike last year when I had to get a neighbor to drive me to Raleigh where I connected with Greyhound, I am able to launch straight from home.

I almost don’t even manage to get out of here in the first place, though. Uber, I still love you as a service, but I have to wonder about the drivers you’ve hired of late. I know that the Megabus is scheduled to leave at 11:25, and I would have to stand in the near-freezing rain to wait, so I admittedly opt to push it about as close as I can and leave at 11. The Uber driver I get though is unable to understand English or, I gather, follow the GPS. I try in vain a couple of times to explain the somewhat complex instructions for locating my apartment and finally hang up. Pondering what to do and prepared to call Durham’s Best Taxi, another taxi happens to pull up in front of me and ask if I need a ride. I’ve seen this guy before as he regularly cruises the neighborhood, and so I don’t hesitate to jump in and hope I still have time to get to that Megabus stop. And because I was unable to properly cancel my Uber, they still billed me $4, I guess their base fare.

Oh man is it cold at this stop! The wind is cutting, and the rain isn’t absolutely pouring but it’s certainly hard enough to make even checking my iPhone impractical. A couple of other families stand nearby, kids milling around and probably trying to keep themselves warm as well. The vehicle mercifully arrives, and a woman lets me stand with her so that I will know when we can board.

I guess the vehicles can be designed differently, as this one has virtually no seat pitch. I sit with my knees almost under my chin, well ok maybe not quite that drastic but close, and try to figure out a way to balance my Braille display on my lap so I can read.

“Excuse me, sir” I hear a voice ask: “where are you getting off?”

I tell her, and discover that she is an older woman from Connecticut who is coming to visit her mom for a month. She has some kind of physical issue who’s origins she is not even certain of, and thus is unable to walk easily.

“I usually use an electric wheelchair,” she tells me: “but they’ve taken it and put it somewhere else. Having to use my walker now, which kind of hurts me.”

We talk about potential careers, and she says she once worked in customer service, but wants now to use her cooking abilities to start a food truck. MMM!

She has offered to help me sort things in Fayetteville in the event that I arrive and my pick-up ride isn’t there, but as it turns out, my ride is indeed waiting. She, as well as the woman on the bus, expresses some concern about the area of town in which the bus disembarks, noting that it’s “real ghetto”. I am just relieved to not have to wait in the cold again.

We speed toward Lumberton as I make conversation with the driver and a front-seat passenger who is also a friend. Both of us blind folks opt to remain in the car during the quick grocery stop, sitting for only about 7 minutes while some additional supplies are acquired.

The party is much the same as it had been the year before and the one before that. I meet my cousin and his wife there, as well as another couple from smalltown NC not far away from Charlotte, who had also been there the previous two years. But, a friend from my university days has made an appearance for the first time in a while. And the most exciting find: my other long-lost “cousin” also shows up with his very kind girlfriend, who impresses us all by her willingness to just jump right in and make herself at home among this disparate, sometimes crazy group.

I am given two tins of cookies, as well as a gift that I still have wrapped because I want something to tear into on Christmas. Just a little of that childhood sentimentality, for old time’s sakes.

The evening’s highlight is the gift exchange. I brought an umbrella, easy to tell what it is even though wrapped, but hey a useful device! Especially considering that we’ve turned into Seattle lately. I don’t know who takes it, but it is plucked near last. I initially get a $25 Starbucks gift card (OO, nice!) but am not surprised in the least when someone opts to “steal” it. On my next draw, I got some sort of ringholder. Funny.

We also consume delicious nachos with cheese and meat, pasta sallad, and the requisite sausage ball that I have every time I go to this particular residence. We laugh as the NFL’s Washington Redskins amazingly knock off the Philadelphia Eagles, ending the Eagles’ hopes of making the playoffs.

After more chattering and ingestion of punch mixed with OJ, lemonade, Southern Comfort, and perhaps something else, I slunk off to bed.

And that’s pretty much the crux of the happenings at this year’s party. Most everyone had already departed long before I do, but I stay with my friend and watch our Carolina Panthers keep their playoff chances, which should by rights have been long gone, alive with a win over the Cleveland Browns 17-13. We have to defeat the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday starting at 4:25 in order to win the woeful NFC South, and extend our season with the worst record in NFL history of any team that has managed to do so.

I guess I’ll check in on that one while down in Louisiana, as I will be from this Friday till next Tuesday. Those will of course be my next series of posts. I’m guessing more will happen than I can even contain in two entries. We shall see, though. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, and happy holidays.

EDIT: Oh, and I also don’t have to await a ride when I arrive on the Megabus in Durham, as the individual I’ve designated as my favorite cabbie happens to be there. I guess she positions herself near arriving transit vehicles like that and Amtrak to see if she can get a fare. Makes me happy, again.

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