I got a call last night from my friend Gary. I’ve known Gary since I was 19 and I applied for a job in his balloon shop. I worked for him for years and to this day it is still the best job I ever had. Gary is actually one of my featured advertisements this month so if you live in the Twin Cities and you need balloons click on the little image of balloons on my sidebar.

Gary is one of my dearest friends, I’d do just about anything for him, no questions asked.

I wouldn’t need to ask any questions because he’d blurt it all out before I had a chance to ask.

Gary and I are about as opposite as possible. He is originally from New Jersey and full blooded Italian. He is a bleeding heart liberal and he has no children. And yet we agree on most everything. Gary taught me how to swear.

So getting back to my story. Gary calls me up last night and asks me if I can do him a favor.

“Sure, what is it?”

“Well, it’s going to take about 40 minutes of your time and you are going to have to drive.” He says.

“Am I supposed to guess?”

No, but I am going to have to listen to a story before he tells me what he wants me to do.

“I’m out at the Mall of America.” he says

Gary doesn’t shop at anything but co-ops so I deduce that he is out there for work. He must have had a decorating job out at the mall.

“Did the van break down?” I ask.

“No, but your close.” he says

It’s right before dinner, I haven’t fixed anything to eat yet and I am already going to lose 40 minutes, I’m thinking to myself. Get on with the story, please.

So Gary goes on to explain the decorating job he had out at Ikea. Ikea is across the parking lot from the Mall of America. He brought along one of his employees to help him with the decorating job. They drove two vehicles since the employee had to leave early to get to a class or something. I stop paying attention after a while.

“Why are you at the Mall?”

“Ikea is closing early for this event” (some corporate thing catered by Famous Daves he informs me). Thankfully Gary is a vegetarian so I don’t have to listen to what he thinks about Famous Daves.

I still don’t know what he wants me to do but I’m pretty sure I can guess.

“The van broke down and you want me to come pick you up. Right?”

“Well, not exactly.”

he pauses.

“What the hell do you want me to do?”

“As you know I am seven miles from your house.”

I don’t know exactly how far away the Mall of America is from my house but Gary makes deliveries all over the Twin Cities so I assume he is correct.


“How far do you think my house is from yours?” he asks me.

I have never clocked it on my odometer but I do know that I can get to his house in less than one song on the radio.

“One mile” I say, rather confidently.

“Actually, it’s 1.2 miles” he corrects me.

“Close enough. What the fuck do you want me to do?” I’m not irritated, yet, this is typical Gary.

“Well, you see, I was fiddling with this tank (helium tank), which I am glad I brought because one of the balloons popped and if I didn’t have the tank I would have had to go back to blow another balloon. So it was really fortunate that I had the spare tank in the van.”

I’ve tuned out again.

“Seriously Gar, we’ve been on the phone for five minutes, are you going to tell me what you need?” I ask while interrupting.

“Well let me finish my story.”


“I was trying to get the regulator on the tank and must have set my keys down in the Rav (his other vehicle which his employee was driving). I must have forgotten I put them there and since she had to leave to get to class (I’m making this part up, I really don’t remember why she had to leave, it could have been another job she had to get to) she took off before we were finished. ”

“Okay, so you don’t have keys to the van. You need me to go to your house, grab the spare set of keys and bring them out to you?” I’m pretty sure I have nailed it.

“Yes, the keys are on …”

“Gary, I know where your damn keys are, this is not the first time this has happened. I’m on my way.” I say as I try to hang up.

“Wait, wait”


He feels the need to describe the key I am to get from his house. I know which key but now he is making me wonder. I drive Gary’s vehicles for decorating jobs and deliveries whenever he goes back to New Jersey to visit his mother. This is an easy task.

“Okay, I’m on my way. Should I meet you at Ikea or the mall?”

“Oh, you know, you may as well pick me up at the mall and then we can drive over there together.”

Ikea is literally across the parking lot.

“Okay, I’ll call you right before I get there.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea, bring your cell phone and call right before you get here so I can be at the entrance.”

This statement scares me. This means that Gary is going to walk around the mall while he waits for me. Gary likes to talk to strangers which means this little rescue mission could take longer than 40 minutes. Who am I kidding, it’s going to take at least an hour and a half because once I do find him and take him to Ikea he is going to have to retell the story of how he lost his keys which will remind him of some other story which I will have to listen to patiently.

I tell the kids I’m leaving to rescue Gary. My son, who now works for Gary, knows all too well what this means.

“Does this mean I’m going to have to make dinner and help Maddie with her homework?”

“Probably, I’ve got my phone.” I say as I walk out the door. “I’ll miss you two.”


I’ve deleted half of this post because it was already too long. Gary isn’t the only one who can’t tell a short story. He did talk to strangers. He met an Israeli woman who was selling hand lotion or nail files. He told me all about her. She is a student here but travels back to Israel several times a year. She is a beautiful woman who happens to be 26. She was trying to get rid of the last of her stock so she could go back to Israel for a while. He did not ask her out.