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Jude McLean Author

#ss2021 Part 1

00:00 / 07:07

"Could we at least do the speed limit?" I hollered at the vehicle in front of me. I was driving through a state park on my way to meet up with my friends from work, and this oversized, fancy-schmancy slowpoke was holding up my afternoon of laughs. I mean, really, what does this driver think they're doing? Enjoying the damn scenery of a gorgeous place? The unmitigated gall. I went on singing along with Dusty Springfield to keep me in a light mood. However, when that vehicle turned on its signal to turn left, I rolled my eyes. I thought, "Oh terrific! This is going to turn out to be one of the coworkers that I don't know, and now I'm stuck with them for the afternoon, and I already want to slap them." Sure enough, we parked two spaces from each other. I glanced over only to see the driver giving me the gesture that I'm 'number one.' I burst into laughter. It was Glinda. She was driving a car I had not seen before. However, she had figured out I was the car behind her a good ten minutes earlier and decided to screw with me. She's hilarious. 


Two people charged from across the lawn with their arms open wide and smiles just as big. The four of us called out to one another, squealing like teenage girls at a One Direction concert. And that included the one man in our quartet. A big group hug was the first act of business and then individual hugs just to ensure that no drop of life was left in each other's bodies. All we were missing was two more people, and our group would be complete. The others who were invited … yeah, we weren't too concerned with them. 


It was ninety-four degrees with ninety-two percent humidity. Did we care? Nope. Thankfully, we got use of the pavilion, so there was no need to set up the tents that Brian had brought. Although, I honestly don't think that even a thunderstorm could have spoiled our collective good mood. 


We four sat around a picnic table piecing together how our story began, each with a drink in one hand and a brownie in the other. It had all happened over a single year. Yet, it felt like it had been a decade, and our memories weren't clear. So, in our usual style, it took each of us to put the puzzle together. 


So who were these people that I was so tickled to spend a day with? As you all know, I was a COVID-19 Contact Tracer. These were the coworkers who made my job bearable. Without them, I wouldn't have made it. That's what each of us says about our group. We all started the job the same day, and we each got the same promotion the same day. We didn't ask for or understand the promotion and were given minutes to decide whether or not to accept. I warily emailed these teammates I hardly knew. Each was just as clueless as I was, and, collectively, we decided to give it a go. From that moment, without intending it to be so, we were a unit. We formed our own club, "#SS2020." Every day the five of us would give each other support in whatever way we could. Most days, that meant allowing a lot of rages. It takes a particular group of people to tolerate the array of endless profanity and complaining that spewed from us. It got ugly, real ugly. Each of us had a wistful expression as we recalled how it all began.


A woman appeared in the parking lot with a dinosaur on a leash. I was the first to holler her name. "Sylvia! You're late, woman!" She laughed while we hugged each other close. The dinosaur approved and chose not to eat me. I should explain. Sylvia has a Burnese Mountain Dog named Takota. His name means "friend to everyone." He is hands down the most giant "dog" I have ever seen. He's beautiful but could drag me to Canada without effort. Sylvia got settled with a plate of food, Takota got a dish of water, and we continued our chat.


We had commenced our reminiscing when we heard a car door slam. Although we had never met the man who appeared carrying the most enormous chocolate chip cookie I had ever seen, we knew who he was in an instant, and we gave him the standing ovation he deserved. Our original supervisor, Andy. 


Andy entered the pavilion, ready to drop dead from the sweltering heat that smacked him the moment his car door opened. But he was all smiles with his friendly, blushing, cherub face. He got hugs from everyone once we were through cheering his name. I was thoughtful enough to relieve him of the heavy burden of that cookie. I mean, he had carried it all the way from the car. The poor guy deserved a break! 


After settling back down and cutting into that cookie, we got down to the real business. Gossip. No holds barred now. Andy joined in with awesome stories of his own. Who knew this sweet, caring guy was so much fun? He fell right into step with us even though we had not worked for him in eight months. "What were you guys talking about when I got here?" he asked. We went on to confess about our little side chat room. He nodded in approval of our ingenuity. He said that if he had known that they were going to offer the promotion to us, he would have fought against it. Us leaving him was the beginning of the end of his somewhat happy work life. All this time, we thought that he had nominated us for the job, but no, instead, he said he would have deliberately held us back to preserve his precious sanity. The selfish jerk. He wiped his brow of sweat and took a long sip of water, and proceeded to recap how his job changed. Everything went to hell for each of us. All this time, we had been missing our beloved supervisor. We had no idea he had been missing us just as much. Funny how things work like that.


We six laughed, gasped, blurted, groaned, grunted, and howled with every story we shared. Andy couldn't stay only but an hour or so. He left us with one final doozy of a story, thanked us for making his work life better, and left with an assurance that we had his number so we could get together again. And just like in the beginning, our time with him was shorter than we would have liked. 


The "Fab Five" were now left on our own to do as we pleased. No adult supervision and probably a hint of heatstroke, and we were off. The roaring laughter continued. 


To be continued ...

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