A Different Kind of Conversion

Last year, I bought a used six-seater golf cart to keep at the beach house for the purpose of hauling stuff out to the beach. It’s carrying capacity has been pushed to the limit, and that limit is two surfboards, a large cooler, five beach chairs, and five people. And while I love that my golf cart is vital to our beach enjoyment, that’s not the vehicle’s best feature. My favorite thing about the golf cart is that it’s the vehicle I can freely plaster with every funny bumper sticker I come across.

I have one proclaiming the title of my friend Hollis Gillespie’s book,Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch. It’s on the top of the windshield, and when my sister’s kids are in town, we fold the windshield down so they can’t see the bad word. I have a Darth Vader sticker asking “Who’s Your Daddy?” I have one posing the question “What Would Scooby Doo?”

But my favorite is one I found several years ago at the Orlando Margaritaville with a line I’ve heard Jimmy Buffett say many times, one I think is profound. It says, “There’s a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning.”

My son said to me in regards to that bumper sticker, “It’s like in the Simpsons movie when everyone thought they were going to die. The people in the church ran to the bar, and the people in the bar ran to the church.”

And that reminded about the story of my uncle Wierdie, my mom’s brother. His name is Ed, short for Edward. Years ago, his siblings kindly changed “Edward” to “Edweird,” which got shortened to “Wierdie,” and the name stuck.

Wierdie is sixty-two years old, and he’s never been married. He’s a former military sharpshooter who lives on ten very secure acres south of Griffin, Georgia, with his dog, Sambo, who happens to love turnips. In fact, Wierdie rewards his dog’s good behavior by saying, “Sam, go dig yourself a turnip.” And Sambo runs to the garden, digs himself up a turnip, and eats the whole thing.

Sambo also loves beer. In the late afternoon, Wierdie pours a beer into his dog’s dish, then pops the top on his own beer, and the two watch the sun go down together over a couple of cold ones.

But Sambo hasn’t always been Wierdie’s drinking buddy. He used to have a crowd of friends at his favorite bar, Doug’s, until Doug sold the place and the new owners closed the bar.

Doug sold the place to a church. So Wierdie’s bar, his home away from home — his sanctuary, if you will — has been converted into a place where he doesn’t feel quite at home.

He was invited to attend, of course, but he didn’t exactly want to be converted, just like he didn’t want his bar to be converted. Before, Doug listened with a sympathetic ear. Now, it’s a stranger telling everyone else what to do. Before, the place was open every day of the week. Now, the doors are open only on Sundays and Wednesdays. The bar itself has been replaced with a pulpit. Barstools are now pews. The pool table’s been replaced by a communion table.

The theme song from the old show Cheers expressed this truth about human nature: “You wanna go where everyone knows your name.” That’s exactly the reason why Wierdie loved Doug’s. And since no one at the church really wants to know his name, his real name, and never bothered to ask how in the world he came to be called “Wierdie,” he now drinks with his dog.

Jimmy Buffett is right about there being a thin line between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Because even though the bar is now a church, and everything about the place has changed, there’s one thing that has stayed the same. The sign out front still reads, “A spirit-filled place.”

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