An American (Florida) Legend and Two American (Florida) Girls

There are three facts that are crucial to this story:

  1. I loved Tom Petty
  2. I lived in Gainesville (briefly)
  3. The story makes my friend Blair laugh.  EVERY SINGLE TIME.

It’s 1985 and I’m 20 years old.  I had just completed my first year at FSU.  My parents had recently divorced, my Mom had sold our house in Sarasota and moved back to Norway.  There was simply no money for me to continue at FSU, so I dropped out to establish myself as financially independent (still hasn’t happened).  To top if off, my boyfriend had just left Tallahassee to attend graduate school in North Carolina.  I was homeless, broke and heartbroken.

At the same time, one of my best friends from high school, Lynne, needed a roommate.  She was living in Gainesville and attending school.  Off to Gainesville I went.

I got a job as the morning hostess at a hotel restaurant for $3.35 an hour.  My day began at 5:30 am, and consisted of me groggily greeting well-heeled hotel guests and showing them to their tables.  At that time in the morning, I wasn’t capable of much else.

But, there was one more thing.  I took the room service orders.

One morning, I got a call and the guest told me his order in what sounded like a sleep-deprived voice.  “Yeah… I’d like…a.. BLT.”

The 52 year-old Kari would have said, “Sure, we’ll get right on it.”  The 20 year-old Kari said, “I’m sorry, but that’s not on the menu.”  The caller’s response… “you got bacon, don’t ya?”

BIG GIANT IMPORTANT NOTE: This is the point in the story when Blair can’t contain herself, and dissolves into laughter.  Since Blair is truly one of the funniest people on the planet, this accomplishment makes me almost unreasonably happy.

He went on to list the rest of the BLT’s ingredients (things like toast), essentially arguing the lack of logic in my response.   I asked the caller to hold on, and I ran to the kitchen to ask the chef to make the BLT.  The chef’s reply?  NO!  I marched back to the phone, and heard myself tell this poor guest “I’m sorry, but a BLT isn’t on the menu.”  I interrupted myself, embarrassed by the idiocy of it all and told him, “I’ll figure out.”

I asked for his room number and last name, so I could enter the order into the computer.  I thanked Mr. Teddy and told him we’d get right on it.  But the computer rejected the name, so I called the front desk to see if I got the number or the name wrong.  The front desk person apathetically relayed the information.  “T. Petty.”

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

I can’t remember if I actually screamed, or did an introvert version of a scream (you know, the silent kind).  Tom Petty!  In the same building!  My mind was swirling with excitement, but I knew I had to take control of the situation so no one else would steal my opportunity to meet him.  Instead of the normal process of giving the order to a member of the wait staff, I grabbed a busboy, and told him he was delivering the order, and that I would follow behind with the check.  He went along with the plan (this was before I learned the invaluable skill of carrying large trays).

Up to the top floor we went, and to my disappointment, the door was answered by a woman who I presumed to be his wife.  (Of course I knew his marital status).  I wanted to meet him, so I said, “I’m really sorry to ask, but, can I get an autograph?”

She looked slightly annoyed, but told me, “You’re lucky I’m in a good mood, otherwise I’d tell you to fuck off.” She led Roderick and me into the room, and disappeared behind the door to the bedroom.  She emerged with a paper torn from a hotel pad, which read, “Hi Kari!  (smiley face) Tom Petty.”

Over the next few days, I continued to accompany Roderick on every order.  His wife and I became friendly, and she told me they were in town visiting family, etc. etc.  I never did catch a glimpse of him, but I was elated nonetheless.

Back to Blair.  I’ve known her since the 7th grade.  Blair is one of those people who could read a toaster manual aloud and it would be funny.  And for some reason, the punchline of “you got bacon, don’t ya?” kills her EVERY SINGLE TIME.

That is why the story lives on.  Because it is about two of the great loves of my life.

I could pick two dozen songs for this story, but I’ll pick just two. One is the first Tom Petty song I every heard.  The other, is an anthem dedicated to my girl Blair.

Thank you, Tom Petty.  This American girl will never forget you.  And Happy Birthday Blair Henderson.  This one’s for you.

 

 

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