Last Friday I took some time off from my labor of love to begin my holiday weekend early. For many, an extra day off was in order. Maybe it was needed for that long drive to the mountains or the beach, or possibly for a short trip to spend time with friends and family, or even just to kick-start the Labor Day weekend – time to pause for the last official vacation week of the summer and prepare for fall (and some much-needed cooler weather!). For me, it was definitely the latter. And while I do live near the beach, I chose a drive down memory lane… and a road less traveled. My wife and our Boston terrier, Baylee, took off mid-day for a BlackBerry-free 90-minute drive to Kingstree, SC to stock up on my favorite bar-b-que. No worries about sending and receiving e-mails on this trip. Connectivity was not an option on Friday afternoon (or any afternoon for that matter). I relaxed in the passenger seat as Sue drove down Highway 41 towards Andrews. This would be a 3-4 hour escape from e-mail, the Internet and the phone calls that typically occupy a large part of a normal working day for me. As we drove down 41, the smell of tall pines filled the air and the green landscape was our only visual for miles (and miles).
After 45 minutes we veered to the left onto State Road 377 and drove 20—30 minutes to the great metropolis of Salters, SC and our first stop – Cooper’s Country Store. I love Cooper’s. It’s a real step back in time, but it’s a place where I feel comfortable. As a young boy, I used to visit Cooper’s on weekend hunting trips with my brothers and cousins. As I walked in and looked around, it seemed nothing had changed for decades. The cured hams were still hanging in a separate room (with its own screen door). There must have been 15-20 hams hanging in that room – a sight I hadn’t seen in years. Customers can still buy a small 10oz Coke in a bottle, a bucket of lard or even a small bottle of MD 20-20 (Ouch!). It was time to visit the butcher.
I stood in line for the butcher (who’d been there since the dawn of time) and waited for him to take my order while he took orders for two other customers standing behind me. I think this is where multi-tasking began! He was fast, friendly and seemed to be a very happy person. He smiled as handed out all three orders in the same sequence they were ordered and thanked all three of us simultaneously, telling us to “come back soon.” I strolled around Cooper’s store for another 10 minutes and then it was time to check out. Russell Cooper, the owner, was settling up at the cash register with the gentleman ahead of me. It was a cashless and credit card-free transaction – instead, he retrieved a large ledger book and turned to the page where (apparently) all 2011 transactions for this customer were documented.
The customer signed the ticket, and off he went as I watched this modern day transaction in complete amazement. George and I exchanged small talk when I decided to casually slip in my grandfather’s last name. That was all he needed. He told me a couple of way-back-when stories about his family and my family while the other customers listened in and presumably waited for me to shove off. I totally enjoyed – treasured – the exchange. Cooper’s is a real step back in time. I needed that!
Sue and Baylee were ready to leave for our final destination – Brown’s Bar-B-Que in Kingstree – so off we went. We drove another 30 minutes or so and arrived at Brown’s to pick up our order. The waitress politely bagged it up and offered me Styrofoam cup of water with ice for Baylee. Baylee was a happy girl! I checked the bag and everything was in order, so it was time to head home. It had been nearly four hours when I realized I had not received a single call or an e-mail. It’s amazing how calming it is to completely shut down for a few hours. I found it to be relaxing and therapeutic. A great day was had by all!
Once we crossed the Jamestown Bridge just outside Mt Pleasant my phone started buzzing and blinking. I realized that in just a matter of seconds I had a full signal, multiple e-mails, several missed calls and voice mails to remind me that people were waiting to hear from me. It never stops – unless you decide you want it to. I was a long way from Cooper’s, but I wanted the ride back to continue. I needed more peace and quiet. At that moment, I re-discovered the OFF button on my Blackberry and really enjoyed the rest of my Friday and the entire Labor Day holiday. I hope you did too!