The chair-iots a comin#039; and it ain#039;t backin#039; up

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Wimpy in the Popeye cartoons was the world's biggest hamburger lover

If he didn't have the money to buy one, he would plead, "I'll gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today."

I can identify with Wimpy because I'm exactly the same way about a hotdog - but only if it comes from The Varsity in Atlanta.

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If I don't have money to buy one, I'll gladly pay you my life savings tomorrow for a hotdog today.

"Never pass up a chance to get a Varsity dog," that's my motto. Why, I'd walk across a bed of hot coals or teeter on an iceberg for a Varsity dog.

That's the reason I agreed to tag along on a 1,000-mile round trip to the foothills of North Carolina pulling a horse trailer to bring back a ton of slatted, wood bottomed chairs for the We Piddle Around Theater.

I didn't eat for two whole days so I could stuff myself with Varsity dogs. I didn't even drink water for fear it would fill an empty space that could be occupied by a dog.

My friends, Teacakes and Mama Dude, picked me up and I checked the clock. If we made good time, I would be downing a dog in three hours and 21 minutes.

The closer we got to Atlanta, the more my mouth watered. My stomach was growling and I was licking my chops in great anticipation.

Then I heard words that threw a dark cloud over me and my whole world.

"We can't stop at The Varsity," Mama Dude said. "I can't back up with the horse trailer."

Here I was salivating for a Varsity dog and a horse trailer and a wimpy driver who couldn't back up were keeping me away.

I didn't care if Mama Dude had to loop back around through Alabama and parts of Tennessee to get us headed back toward North Carolina, I was in smelling distance of the Varsity and I wanted a dog.

"Well, just pull over and stop on a side street and I'll run across," I pleaded.

But, no. Mama Dude wouldn't do that. She couldn't back up. Now, there are probably a lot things that Mama Dude can't do, but back up, she could if she would.

She wouldn't.

She zoomed by one exit and then the next and I fell on the floorboard and cried big, hotdog tears.

About three hours later she stopped at a place where she didn't have to back up and I got a salad with diet dressing. I started not to eat at all, but I had been running below empty for two days and I was beginning to hallucinate. I kept seeing hotdogs running through puddles of ketchup and mustard with a herd of French fries hot on their tails.

That night we spent a lot of time looking for a motel that "looped." We couldn't find one so we parked in the parking lot of a fancy shopping center and hoped we wouldn't get towed.

The next morning at the break of day, we were off to get the chair-iots.

As we passed the Continental

breakfast bar, I spied a basket of shiny, red apples.

I grabbed one for myself.

"Want one?" I asked Teacakes.

Not able to carry the apples and my overnight bag, I stuffed the two apples in my pocket.

"Think Mama Dude wants one?" I asked and stuffed another in my pocket. Then I noticed we were being watched by another guest.

Teacakes and I laughed all the way to the horse trailer, knowing we were being watched and bad-mouthed for snitching apples for the horses.

We made it to Troutman, loaded 110 chairs in the horse trailer and headed back to Georgia with hotdogs on my mind.

I didn't eat the apple. I would take up too much space. This time, I planned to throw a horse blanket over Mama Dude's head and take over the controls of the truck about a mile from The Varsity.

But, lo and behold, Mama Dude shifted into turbo gear and we went through Atlanta so fast that I was forced back in my seat by centrifugal force and couldn't move a finger.

I smelled it; I glimpsed it and I tried to say "V-a-r-s-i-t-y" but no sound would come. I breathed deeply and let the aroma of the dogs permeate my entire being and somewhere in the distance a voice said to me "I'll gladly back up tomorrow but no hotdog today."