I was recently headed back to Columbia from the coast by way of that most gnarly and annoying of South Carolina thoroughfares, I-26.
What a mess it’s become. Orange cones have popped up like wild onions. Your car must straddle a divide between smooth pavement and that make-room-off-to-the-right construction lane that prompts your tires to sound like they’re running across roll bars. Not to mention 18-wheelers bearing down on you with those shipping containers that have names you can’t pronounce. Or, the bumper-to-bumper congestion of what’s come to be known as switchover-day traffic – excited folks going to the beach with every kind of beach tool and toy strapped onto their autos and, on the other hand (and headed the other way), those sunburnt folks exhausted by the inherent irritants of a family vacation and just wanting to get back home where they belong.
Anyhoo, taking a break from riding up the road the other Sunday afternoon, I stopped at an official Rest Area. As I was muddling around in the car searching for enough change to buy a Coke from a selection of coin-operated machines imprisoned by metal bars — otherwise known as the Soda Pop Penitentiary — I realized, first, that the machines were not so “coin” operated anymore since the darn things require real money — like dollar bills. And second, that all kinds of folks were not joining me at the vending area but instead were having picnics at picnic tables.
Really? Was I in the middle of the makings of a PG-rated film, or could it possibly be that I was witnessing the return to favor of the roadside family picnic?
I studied the situation at the rest stop a little more closely. There seemed to be no logical reason for all these people gathered at picnic tables. No family-reunion-at-the-rest-stop kind of deal, you know, with everyone wearing the same bright blue T-shirt saying CAMERON FAMILY REUNION — JUNE 22, 2014 — I-26 REST STOP — MILE MARKER 152. Nope, families in all sorts of array and disarray were pulling woven baskets and plastic coolers out of their car trunks, ambling over to picnic tables and spreading out picnic fare.
Now, I did not check to see how carefully prepared these picnics were — I mean, homemade vittles wrapped in wax paper and small brown bags versus the store-bought stuff in spiffy see-though containers.
And I did not check to see if what these folks were putting out on the concrete tables was standard, circa 1950s and 60s (what cholesterol level?) picnic fare – fried chicken, potato salad, deviled eggs and the like. Or if, in today’s tiresome era of being ever mindful of what we’re eating, picnic fare had gone green, so to speak. (Green as in things that are good for you, or at least not bad for you, but either way, don’t taste worth a dang.)
But as I made my way back to my car with my Coke in hand — even feeling a little sheepish that I didn’t have my own supply of homemade sweet tea on hand – I decided that maybe it didn’t matter what these families were eating.
And maybe, as in the way of all family picnics past and present, it didn’t matter that they were being buzzed by a particularly tenacious yellow jacket, or that one of the children stepped in some fire ants, or even that something in the cooler busted loose and spilled all over something else.
What mattered is these folks seemed to be having fun gathered together around a table — eating some food, chatting it up and just being family while the summertime traffic rolled by on the gnarly old interstate.
Accepting Applications for Shakespeare’s Kidz!
Students ages 10-16 are invited to join South Carolina Shakespeare’s new youth company, with classes running September 20th-December 11th followed by a final performance. Contact Katie Mixon with questions about scholarships and applications: PKatieMixon@gmail.com.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
Brew Pub Site Available
3520 Augusta Road, West Columbia. Click for more information.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Wing Zone is now hiring for experienced delivery drivers, cooks & cashiers. Apply in person @ 132 Assembly St. or call 803-933-9464.
Free Times is looking for a highly organized, detail-oriented self-starter to assist in gathering material from advertisers, coordinating between the sales and production departments, and handling routine clerical tasks. Must be proficient on a Mac, able to conduct business via phone, email, text, Dropbox, social media platforms and face to face while under deadline in a fast-paced, sometimes distracting work environment. The position requires the ability to multitask, excellent oral and written communication skills, and solid experience in quickly learning new computer programs. This is a full time position with benefits. Send a cover letter, resume and salary expectation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com