With that point of etiquette out of the way, Andy moved on to an equally important topic. “Now Scot, the problem is that everybody out there is either bored or tired. Bored or tired. So bored or so tired. So you’ve got to say, ‘Scot, I’m not going to be bored.’ Now Scot, do you know how not to be bored?” I admitted that from time to time boredom was a problem. “Then speak to everyone,” Andy counseled. “Use their name. When I’m in a diner, I always try to read the waitress’s name tag. Then I say, ‘Carol, could I please have some more dessert?’ And then when I pay, I say, ‘Here Carol, here’s the money.’ That way she always says, ‘Thank you.’ And then you know what I say?” I shook my head. He looked at me reprovingly. “I say, ‘Welcome.’” Ah ― but of course. “So when you don’t want to be bored, always say their name,” he instructed.
“But Andy, how does that keep you from being bored?”
“I haven’t figured that out yet,” he said, “but it does.”
Maybe I was being a trifle argumentative. Or maybe we had exhausted the topic. My third eye couldn’t quite tell. At any rate, Andy was silent for a few miles.
“Do you believe we’re descended from the apes?” he asked of a sudden. I said the theory sounded logical to me. “But did you ever think what it would be like if we had descended from cats?” I allowed that I hadn’t given the possibility much thought. “Well, there would be no slums, because cats are clean. And everyone would be neat, because cats love to wash. And there wouldn’t be any swimming or water-skiing, because cats hate the water.” He took both hands off the wheel. One sneaked up on the other and then pounced. This was to illustrate the next point: “And we’d all be quick, because cats are quick.” Hands back on the wheel, he looked at me; I nodded.
“Now, what are some things you can think of?” he demanded. Tremulous, I suggested that perhaps, had we come from cats rather than from apes, the little girl who flushed poor Henry down the toilet would be doing time for murder one (or at least felineous assault). From the look on Andy’s face, I knew I had missed the point. I had trouble with the whole concept, I said apologetically, for if the cats of my acquaintance could serve as our prototypes, we’d worship the refrigerator as a god.
Andy slowed for a tollbooth at the end of the Maine Turnpike. “Now, you watch, Scot,” he said. He thrust $1.15 and the ticket out the window, and the guy working in the booth muttered something that was probably meant as a thank-you. Andy waited. Nothing more was forthcoming. The car behind us beeped, and Andy drove off in disgust. “See, he was bored,” he said. “He didn’t say, ‘Thank you.’ That’s why I didn’t say, ‘Welcome.’ But I’ll probably never see him again, so it will be okay.” Through New Hampshire we chatted about subjects multifarious and weird, then he pulled off at his exit. “I’ll give you a ride to 128. You’ll have an easier time of it there.”
He dropped me off. “Thanks a lot for the lift,” I yelled as he began to drive away. “I really appreciate it.”
“Welcome,” he called back.