Screwdriver Parties

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Pulling into my driveway late one afternoon, my eyes fell upon a dark sedan sitting idly.  Unable to recognize a face through the tinted windows and noting a New Jersey plate, a state from which I knew no one, a slight feeling of unease ensued. And then as if in slow motion, a window went down and a familiar voice I had not heard in over ten years bellowed, “Kathy, it’s me, Jim Cappello!” I drove all the way from NJ to visit you.  Look in the trunk!”

My old boss Jim Cappello whom I had worked with for over ten years at a publishing company in midtown Manhattan. Now eighty three years old and long retired, he had driven over two hours, on a whim to visit me at my home in Connecticut.  It was the pretzels, he said. The pretzels made him do it.

He explained he was at his supermarket in New Jersey saw a bag of pretzels which reminded him of me and, the screwdriver parties.  Every Friday at 5:30PM, in our small office on the 12th floor of the Chanin Building, we had a screwdriver party. Jim and I who sold the display advertising and Barbara and Irene the Classified Department.

I can still hear his voice now,  “Irene, get the ice, Barbara open the pretzels, Kathy go down and buy the O.J!” and Jim, well Jim always was in charge of the vodka. He was the perennial salesman. Outgoing, tenacious, social and charming.  He loved a party. Our own little madmen ritual in that tiny office on the twelfth floor.

“Look in the trunk!” He said again. I gazed down at two brown paper bags, one filled with a giant bag of pretzels and a container of orange juice, the other, a bottle of vodka.  “Let’s have a screwdriver!  For old times.”

We sat in my kitchen, Jim and I, and talked of our lives since the magazine closed. He shared how his beloved wife of fifty years had died three months before and how lost he felt in the weeks that followed.  I told him of the difficulty I experience in leaving my life in New York City behind for a small CT town in the suburbs.

We telephoned the classified girls, Barbara and Irene, who as luck with have it were both home.  As each picked up the phone I would announce “Do you recognize this voice?” And then hand the phone to Jim who would bellow “Irene! Barbara! It’s Jim Cappello!  I am at Kathy’s house. We’re having a screwdriver party! For old times.”

But it was not those Friday parties that bound the four of us together but rather the cadence of life, the highs and the lows as we worked side by side in that tiny office as the years ticked past.

The last thing we did together before he left was to walk down to the bus stop where my two sons, whom he had never met, were due home from school. As we walked back up to the house I wondered…was it the pretzels he had seen in the supermarket that prompted his visit or rather the need for comfort often found in days past?  The reason was unimportant.  It was a great day.