OK, Babes – by Gilbert ‘Bud’ Schill


The Florida Keys may have a rat problem. Despite the absence of opposable thumbs, it seems that some rats down there may have learned how to use the telephone.

A few years ago, while heading north on the Overseas Highway (US 1), just above Grassy Key, Florida, I passed a sign reading:


followed by a phone number. I’m guessing that whoever posted this sign was in the pest control business and was trying to make the point that you should call his or her company if you believe you have a rat problem. Seemingly, this could have been accomplished by phrasing the sign this way:


(xxx) xxx-xxxx

But either the author, the sign-maker, or both came up a bit short in punctuation and/or proofreading. Or maybe there had been a question mark when the sign was hoisted, and it was “whited out” by some passing seagulls.

For sure, the elements can have their way with outdoor signs. For instance, there’s a sign on the side of an old brick hardware store near my former office in Richmond, Virginia, reading:




Most likely, the wind and rain played a role in editing the number of years Fred was running the business.

In contrast, there was a motel sign my family and I drove by many times on the way to and from Ft. Lauderdale, advertising the “Fire Chief Motel.” The sign was in mint condition, but the motel itself was a pile of charred rubble, having burned down years earlier, somehow sparing the sign.

Some signs just start out corny and stay that way, like another one in the Keys, recently pointed out in Southern Living magazine, reading, “Your Wife Is Hot, Better Get Your AC Fixed.” This rivals one I saw across the Gulf in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize, obviously targeting fishermen, advertising a “Wife Day Care Center.”

Getting back to the rats, they’re not the only animals in the Florida Keys that seem to be interested in phones. There’s a famous spot in Islamorada – Robbie’s Marina (advertised as the “No. 1 place to visit in the Keys”) – where dozens of tarpons come to the surface daily to greet the patrons. Every once in awhile, someone fumbles while taking a picture and the phone falls in the water, only to be swallowed by a tarpon. I’ve not seen this happen, but I’ve read that, after the phone-owner freaks out, the proprietor calms him or her down by explaining that within about fifteen minutes the tarpon will cough up the phone, and if there’s a good case on it, it will work fine – although sometimes it will be sporting a few new photos.

Cell phones are easy to lose. I misplace mine about three times a day and often have to dial from a land line to track it down. Occasionally, I find it in one of my pockets, or under a pillow, or in the possession of my grandson, who, by then, has placed several lengthy calls to Asia and South America.

Anyway, our dear friends Denise and Lenny flew down from Annapolis to Key West to stay with my wife Ginger and me at a house we were renting for a few weeks.

After picking them up at the airport, we pulled in the driveway, and while Lenny and I were discussing the two-toned (teal and robin’s egg blue) toilet someone in the neighborhood had left by the curb for the trash collectors, Denise realized her cell phone was missing. She figured she must have left it on the connecting flight from Baltimore to Charlotte. We asked if she remembered having it when she went through security in Charlotte. She said she didn’t think so, then panicked and frantically started calling her own cell number from the land line to see if anyone would pick up. “I’ve got a lot of really important business stuff on that phone.”

Instead of being either sympathetic or constructive, I offered the thoroughly stupid comment, “I’ll bet it’s in Oklahoma City.” I made this careless remark due to an incident in my then recent memory in which my departure from the Oklahoma City airport to Cincinnati had been substantially delayed because two security officers got into a fight over who was in charge of a particular security gate protocol. After each cussed out and then punched the other, a third officer yelled “Security!” before realizing she was calling Security on Security. This led to a small Security convention at the gate and a half-hour delay in our flight. But since this incident had nothing to do with cell phones, I had no excuse for mentioning Oklahoma City while poor Denise was trying so hard to sort out her predicament.

Not surprisingly, she paid no attention to me and delivered her standard brush-off phrase, “OK, Babes” – meaning, essentially, “You’re full of it. Now buzz off.” I had been subjected to that phrase from Denise, and eventually from Ginger, often simultaneously, many times over the years. This had become their standard put-down, sort of like, “Sit on it, Potsie,” as used repeatedly in the TV show “Happy Days.”

Having given up on me for genuine assistance, Denise called her daughter in Annapolis, who figured out how to use her laptop to track her mother’s missing cell phone. Not expecting a quick report, we declared cocktail hour.

The next morning, and to pass the time while awaiting news on the cell phone search, we went into town to visit the Hemingway House and then for lunch. We chose an outdoor restaurant that just happened to be across the street from a drag bar, which we hadn’t noticed was there. I think it may have been the Aqua on Duval Street, which, according to one reviewer, is “the best drag bar in the Keys.”

We watched with interest as a half dozen Girl Scouts, in full uniform, started setting up a table and chairs on the sidewalk just outside the bar, with signs offering Girl Scout Cookies® for sale. Two of the mothers were nearby, supervising.

The girls didn’t get a lot of takers until several of the drag performers appeared from behind them and, with microphones and a loud musical accompaniment, started lavishly hawking the cookies to everyone in sight, all to the delight of passers-by, and to the moms, and resulting in this little group of lasses making a fortune for their troop.

After lunch and the excitement of the Girl Scout encounter, we headed back up the road to the house we were renting. Denise was hoping for a report on the whereabouts of her cell phone. As we walked in the house, the land line was ringing. My suggestion that perhaps it was rats calling was met with silence and stares. The caller asked for Denise. Hoping for good news, we all listened intently to her end of the dialogue:


“Yes, it is.”

“Uh huh.”

“Uh huh.”

(Pumping her fist.)

“And you’re where?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me!”

“Seriously? That’s where you are?”

“That’s wonderful!”.

[Here she recited her address.]

“Got it.”

“Thank you again so very much.”

After she hung up, and using her cupped hands to un-cross her eyes, Denise informed us that the caller was an employee of a distant airport, notifying her that the missing cell phone had been located and was being shipped to Annapolis.

The distant airport was Will Rogers International.

In Oklahoma City.

All I could say was, “OK, Babes.”



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