A lesson to remember on Valentine’s Day

Published 4:00 am Saturday, February 9, 2019

Gentlemen, read carefully the sad but true account below. It could save your hide this Valentine’s Day.

Coca-Cola Mike and I and our wives had just hit Atlanta heading to Gatlinburg, Tennessee when, unexpectedly, the highway forked. Faced with a quick decision, Coca-Cola veered left as Glory hollered from the back seat.

“Mike, go to the right.”

Too late. We were on the wrong road, and for the next hour we found ourselves weaving through a confusing Atlanta maze trying to get back. To make it worse, Coca-Cola got a bit upset with Glory for trying to be the good backseat driver she is, and a little fuss ensued.

Then silence. It was one of those “I’m not talking to you anymore this trip” kind of silences. I was riding shotgun and hesitant even to say anything myself, because it surely would have been the wrong thing. I knew I was only half a breath from having the amazin’ blonde mad at me simply for being best friends with Coca-Cola.

So, we drove through the dark, December night, taking in all the scenes from Atlanta into North Carolina. I guess it was fitting. It was December, and we were enjoying a splendid silent night.

But about the time we got to Cherokee, North Carolina, Coca-Cola had to pull over to get gas. The two of us and the amazin’ blonde got out and headed to the bathroom, but I noticed that Glory stayed in the truck.

Once in the bathroom, I had to break one of the rules of male etiquette. I had to have a little talk with Coca-Cola right there by the sink.

“Coca-Cola,” I said. “Please go back out there and apologize to Glory.”

The emphasis was profoundly on the word “please.”

“Oh no,” he snapped back, as if he knew my plea was coming. “I’m not apologizing. I was in the right. She needs to apologize.”

Now, you would think that, after forty years of marriage, my good and foolish friend would have learned that in marriage, the man in the fight is never in the right. When you’re wrong, you’re wrong; and when you’re right, you’re wrong, too. That’s just the way the universe turns. Take heed, gentlemen: The sooner you learn that lesson the better your world will turn.

I tried to do a little damage control by getting back to the truck before Coca-Cola did, leaning my head in the window where the girls were, and saying, “Ah, ladies, Coca-Cola and me—you know we are sorry and that we love you two.”

In return I got a snappy, “We don’t wanna hear it” response.

I want to tell you that the lifting of the silence that night was as slow as a heavy fog lifting on a winter morning. Coca-Cola told me later that Glory didn’t tell him “Good night” or anything when they went to bed, just climbed so far in on her side of the bed that he said he was afraid she was going to fall off. We both chuckled at that, since the girls were not around.

By morning, things were back to a good normal, and nobody brought up the cold war subject. I tend to get loose-lipped sometimes, but even I knew to let the white flag wave quietly on that one.

I was a little surprised when – a couple of weeks after our trip – Coca-Cola re-posted a nine-year-old picture of Glory and him on Facebook. It was a nice picture of the two, and they were huddled like two lovebirds in a snow storm. Under the picture, Coca-Cola Mike wrote, simply: “That’s my girl!”

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I have to say that pictorial love-fest threw me back. I just had to smile, shake my head, and say, “All of a sudden that sorry fella decides he wants to get romantic!” I even couldn’t resist a reply along that line, writing,

“Coca-Cola, we sure could’ve used just a little of that sweet love-talk up at Cherokee.”

I will close the curtain on this curious scene, except to say this: Should you ever get up to Cherokee, North Carolina, I want you to look for a small marble monument that is erected just on the outskirts of town, engraved with these ominous words as a warning to every man who passes by: “Coca-Cola Mike once took his brave stand in this very spot – but let there be no doubt: He took a brave love-fall here, too.”