IMPRESSIONS: A country boy can survive – even in D.C.

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By Johnny Teglas

“George and Gwen Kellerman live in the small, quiet town of Twin Oaks, Ohio, with their two young children and pet dog. George has a strong sense of what is right and wrong, especially as it applies to himself and Gwen, but he still looks to her for validation.”

Sound like something out of our lives right here in Roane County?

Good people grounded in what really matters … family.

Actually, those were the first words out of one of my favorite old-time films: “The Out-of-Towners,” which was released with mixed reviews in 1970.

Nowadays, unless you’re a vampire, werewolf — or lover or both — or a fan of computer animation, blood and guts (more or less splashing in your face through 3-D), such a wholesome movie playing on life’s ups and downs, ins and outs, and unexpected comedic twists and turns … well … you might not catch on to why I enjoyed it so much.

Neil Simon’s script for the original hit, “The Out-of-Towners,” was, essentially, a one-joke skit stretched out to a feature-length film starring Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis as two suburbanites from Ohio who experience a nightmare of frustrating complications when they hit New York City.

The 1999 remake, with Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn in the lead roles, proved to be a dud in my book and many others’.

The original at least seemed grounded in some sense of reality as the couple fell victim to a believable, if overstated, series of tourist mishaps.

Martin was over the top with his slapstick silliness, even though I’ve always thought Goldie was cuter than cute. I prefer Martin’s innovative television role on SNL as one of the original “Wild and Crazy Guys.”

That’s material for another column someday down the line.

Back to the version I liked.

George and Gwendolyn, a couple from small-town USA, took an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City for George’s big meeting for a top business company.

George had a special night planned for Gwen before the big meeting the next morning. It consisted of a dinner and dessert for two, then dancing and finally back to their luxurious hotel suite at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

It seemed like the perfect getaway vacation ... until it took a turn for the worse.

Bad things started to arise: the plane was rerouted to Boston; they had to hop on a cattle-style crowded train to Grand Central; upon arrival, the entire New York City Transit Authority, the local cab company and the sanitation department were on strike; a heavy thunderstorm drenched George and Gwen; the hotel gave away their room; and George and Gwen got mugged twice and kidnapped (in a squad car nonetheless).

The comedy that followed paralleled real life in the “Teglas” world. What could go wrong went wrong.

Over the nearly 30 years The Boss and I have been married, we’ve learned to accept the fact that a certain fellow — Mr. Murphy — somehow has a permanent claim on our lives.

The !@#%#!-darned fellow probably sleeps in our attic.

It takes a lot of faith … and plenty of humor … to deal with his day-in, day-out visitations.

Hence, we reach my connection to the film described above.

Mr. and Mrs. Teglas, a middle-aged couple wildly in love and devoted to one another, headed off to the big city not long ago.

Johnny and Kimberly didn’t have as difficult a time getting there as George and Gwen.

As a matter of fact, our directions took us straight to the front of the fancy hotel she’d picked out. Besides, I was driving. The Metro did the rest.

We arrived at our actual destination less than a mile away from Washington, D.C.’s, FedEx Field (aka Redskins Stadium) with plenty of time to spare on Labor Day evening.

While we were disappointed when Boise State rallied from behind to edge out our beloved Hokies, we chalked it up to playing a big-time opponent on opening night.

We also pledged to become the biggest Oregon State fans ever and together claimed the Hokies would run the table for the rest of the season.

Then we stepped back onto life’s merry highway. Make that not-so-merry. Country folk trying to hang with a city crowd isn’t a recipe for success.

We found our way back to the Metro station. That was easy. Some 80,000 or so others were doing the same. At least we were sober — most of them were not.

After being pushed through the turnstiles by our reveling late night-early morning fellow sojourners, we finally stepped onto a train.

That’s when things got dicey.

For some strange reason, a shady D.C. guy (that’s the best way I can describe him) befriended us.

Trying to be friendly, we chatted. The hair on the back of my neck began to stiffen when he started asking too many personal questions.

“Where you all headed? Do you know how to get there? Do you need some help? You’re staying at what hotel? Do you know how to get there from the station? I’ll help if you want.”

Actually, his questions were innocent. But the provocative way in which he asked them were not.

The numerous texts and e-mails he seemed to punch into his mobile phone stuck in my craw.

The shady character actually got off the train once before we made our way back into D.C.

It was there that I really got to feeling nervous. He kept looking straight at us from his seat on the bench while punching more and more info into his cellular device.

Then, just as the train’s doors started to close, he darted back in and stood beside us.

“I’ll make sure you get there,” he promised.

Not good news in my mind. At worst, I figured a setup. At the least … extortion.

When we reached Metro Center, I grabbed Kimberly’s hand and practically dragged her off the train.

“What?” she tiredly asked.

“Trust me,” I said.

I explained my misgivings about our fellow traveler, and she concurred. Having him around at nearly 1:30 in the morning didn’t leave either of us with good vibes.

I just wish I’d been as cognitive of the consequences of my escape artistry.

Only two more trains were scheduled to head out of Metro Center. Unfortunately, the line we landed on was headed south.

When we realized my error, we stepped out at The Pentagon.

I had the good sense of half-pulling my quite-tired wife upstairs where a nice police officer explained we’d goofed up badly.

Our only alternative was to catch the last train to Pentagon City, where we could hail a cab.

That we did, in a typically Teglas roundabout way. We made it to Pentagon City a little before 2 a.m.

Another friendly officer of the law helped us with directions up and out of the station.

Unfortunately, we missed one of his “upstairs” directions that completely threw the two weary country bumpkins.

That’s when we found ourselves literally trapped inside a closed shopping mall.

Any other time and my darling wife would have been thrilled to no end to have at it in all those wonderful shops all by her lonesome.

But it was closing in on 2:30 in the morning, and all she wanted to do was find her bed. Luckily, I managed to find a young man pushing a floor-scrubbing machine. Unluckily, he could barely speak English.

I looked him square in the eye and repeatedly said “Out!”

That’s when he pointed up an unmoving escalator and in the direction of a huge glass door.

We trudged up the turned-off steps and toward the exit.

My heart lightened when I realized we were only a handful of strides from the Ritz-Carlton.

With much enthusiasm, I almost dragged my exhausted better half outside.

The cabbies loitering out front seemed surprised to see us.

“Arlington Gateway Westin,” I muttered.

A friendly fellow leaning on his cab looked at his watch and said, “Hop in.”

Ten minutes and $11.50 later, he pulled in front of our hotel. I paid the fare and slapped a fin in his hand with gratitude.

When we stepped out of the cab, I looked around. Coming up behind us were the folks we’d been riding on the trains. The Tech and Boise fans had made it home safely. The shady guy was nowhere to be seen. I think he missed his easy marks and had moved on.

I suspect Kimberly and Johnny were “The Out-of-Towners” in his eyes. But Divine Providence protected us from what he might have had in store.

Stay tuned next week for our trip through one of Washington’s most chaotic “mixing bowls.”

Let’s just say we whirled and twirled around until we finally catapulted out of the nation’s capital toward in Annapolis and one of our company’s newspaper offices.