The longer Pastor Walter Mitty crawled along in the heavy traffic just south of Great America the more irritable he became.
He glanced at the clock on the dash of his ’96 Corolla. “An hour and forty-five minutes,” he muttered. Usually he was passing the Grand Avenue exit to Gurnee just 50 minutes after leaving Poplar Park. “Stupid road construction. Every summer. Stupid drivers. Look at that guy in the Beamer. Weaving in and out. He’s going to save, what, 30 seconds?”
He decided to tune in the NPR station in Racine to get his mind off the traffic, which he couldn’t do anything about anyway. The report sent him even deeper into a funk. The piece on the radio was about Obama’s changes in campaign strategy.
“I had such high hopes for the guy,” Mitty thought, “but now he’s not going to accept public campaign financing, he’s caved on offshore drilling and he seems to be getting testy, like McCain is getting to him.”
Just when traffic seemed to be picking up, a semi with the words Miller High Life painted on the back swerved into his lane, making him and 10 drivers behind him slam their brakes. Mitty was about to lay on his horn when he remembered the TV commercial in which the Miller distributor takes all the High Life beer from a luxury box at a ball park because the occupants don’t know what inning it is.
The construction ended as he crossed the state line into Packer-land and the NPR station switched to a story about a local teacher who had competed in a 50K walk in Moscow. With only a couple laps to go, he pulled a hamstring but decided to limp on and finish the race. The 70,000 Russian fans saw what had happened and began shouting in unison “America, America” as the athlete hobbled to the finish in 48th place. “Wow,” he thought. “Those fans really had a good perspective on what athletic competition is all about.” He felt his spirit begin to rise.
It was, however, when he pulled off the interstate at the Highway 50 exit near Kenosha that his mood really began to change. There on the big sign outside the Shell station was the good news: $3.79 a gallon. Mitty was exultant as he did a quick calculation in his mind. “I’m going to save 25 cents a gallon compared to what I’m paying in Cook County.” He had just saved $3.
The sight of corn in the fields and the first peek of the blue of Lake Michigan just north of Port Washington raised his spirits even further, so he wasn’t prepared for the foul mood his brother was in when he pulled into Herman and Sue’s driveway.
“What’s wrong?” he asked when he noticed the smoke coming out of his brother’s ears.
“Stupid city,” Herman fumed. “They assessed my bungalow at $110,000. You know what that’s going to do to my taxes?”
Mitty took out his mental calculator again. In Poplar Park a three bedroom brick bungalow with a fireplace would be appraised at about $320,000 and the taxes would come in somewhere around $5,000.
“Two thousand dollars. Can you believe that, Walt? Two thousand dollars for property taxes.”
Pastor Walt fancied himself as an empathic person, but he was having trouble sympathizing with his brother, especially since it dawned on him that the gas he pumped in Kenosha cost 75 cents more than what he was paying last year. So much for saving $3.
“Enough of my problems,” said Herman after hugging his brother. “Sue and the kids are in the backyard and the brats are on the Weber.” More hugs and the feast began. Funny how a couple bratwursts, a slice of watermelon and a cold one with family can change your perspective on life.
He happened to look at the beer bottle he was holding as he thought about a teacher with a penchant for walking. The glass was clear, and it said High Life on the label.