I first met Toni King in the fall of 2010. My friend Carol Collinsworth called and asked if I wanted to work part time at the Shelby County Election Commission. The weather was getting cold so I decided to take time off sharpening scissors at beauty salons. Rather than honing beauty shears in the back of an un-heated ambulance, I’d be training polling officials to work on election day. In a heated building. Toni and I met on the first day of orientation.
She sat next to me, and it became obvious that this was not her first election. She knew the answers to questions put to us by a new management team that had been hired to re-vamp the training process. I was a quick learner. Toni helped me a lot. She liked to laugh. I like to laugh. We laughed together. Over the 4-5 weeks we worked together, we got to know each other better. Such a great lady, she never met a stranger. I like that in a woman.
Needless to say we became friends, working together in numerous classes training both experienced poll workers and others who didn’t know which end of a computer to plug in. We were on our feet for long periods of time. Some days we were scheduled to work together and other days we did not work on the same days. I always liked it when we were together because the time passed quickly. The election was over and after a few more days, the assignment was over. I went back to sharpening and she went back to caring for people.
The next election comes around and Carol calls to ask if I want to work. By this time the weather is good and I’m busy with appointments in beauty shops all over town. I decline. She asks if Vicki (my wife, love her to death) would be interested. Different position, but things work out and she takes the job. I tell her that she HAS to meet Toni King. Not even thinking that most people hear Tony instead of Toni, I ask her every day when she comes home if she’s met Toni King. No, not today, she says. “We were real busy.” Later that week she comes home and dogs me for not telling her that Toni King is a female. Yes, they met and got along just as well as Toni and I did.
Through another couple of elections, Toni and Vicki developed a deeper friendship. The conversations were relayed to me. I smiled. I laughed. Then I had my heart transplant and resulting spinal cord injury. I didn’t see Toni for over a year. I heard stories, and let me tell you, this woman has stories. A year after my transplant, Vicki and I were invited to work the turn-in tables on election night. It’s a 4 hour shift, depending on the scope of the election, and have worked it for the past 3 elections. We get paid, but we get to see people we haven’t seen in quite a while. Including Toni King.
Fast forward to the last election this past July. Vicki’s family was planning a reunion in the Highlands, NC. I would not be able to make that trip for a number of reasons: 1) We’d have travel 2 days each way for me to get there comfortably, 2) The main activity there is hiking, and 3) I had class on the Thursday night after they planned to leave. I would need somebody to take care of me in Vicki’s absence. Who could stop by twice a day to take care of me? Toni King! We talked about it that night and worked out a schedule. Toni King would take care of me while Vicki was out of town.
Now keep in mind that my wife in an angel. She loves me and takes care of me in ways you can’t imagine. We were now asking a friend to jump over that line and take care for me in the way that a mother takes care of a child. Toni came by the house Wednesday night and we went over things. The schedule. What I needed. What I didn’t need. What I’d probably say I needed that I really didn’t need. Everything that needed to be done 2 times a day before Vicki returned on Monday evening.
Toni King didn’t miss a beat. She comes by and takes charge of the situation. She is a business woman, and by that I mean that she takes care of business. She takes care of my dirty business. She was without a job, so she created one. She’s VERY good at what she does. Never was there an awkward moment. Now THAT is a true friend. She, too, is an angel.
I get 1 or 2 calls from her every day, checking up on me. She cares. But we do have our problems. I addressed one today. She brought in my oatmeal this morning with a cup of coffee and a glass of milk and asked what I had planned for today. I told her that I was going to the store to pick up some milk and that I may be going to hear some live music tonight. She made sure I was taken care of and then left to take her mother to church. I relaxed in bed, studied for a class then got up later to fix myself lunch. The jug of milk was (almost) empty.
Now I knew we were low on milk. I told her that I was going to the store to get some. She said that had I not told her that, she would have stopped by the store to get me some. When she called this afternoon, I told her how the cow ate the rabbit. Something like that. Toni King. The milk carton had so little milk in there that I would not have been able to take any medications with what was left. I throw OUT that much milk if that’s all that’s left. Toni could easily have poured the remainder in my milk glass this morning and I still would have thought she was rationing it. If I was dying of thirst, this much milk wouldn’t get the dust off my lips. I’ve had blacker coffee with this much milk in it. More milk has dripped out of a sealed jug than what was left in the carton. Let me tell you what this much milk in a carton means to white people, Toni King, it means that it’s empty.
She did not put up with me. I thought maybe you might . . . Right. She told me she was saving it for me and that the cow ate the cabbage and not the rabbit. Right back in my face. I like that in a woman. Last night she told me a story I’d not heard before. Seems the first time she met my wife, Vicki said to her, “My husband thinks you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread!” Toni said she smiled and after Vicki walked away, thought to herself, “Wonder who her husband is?” She soon found out. I’ll have to tell Vicki that story.
Well, it turns out that Toni King does not drink milk. Neither does Vicki, who has pulled the same trick in the past. This is her, busted out in the photo to the right. My ex-wife didn’t drink coffee, so she didn’t make a good cup of coffee. I’m both a milk drinker and a coffee drinker. I like my coffee in a mug and my milk in a glass. Coffee with a little cream. Skim milk. No skim milk in the coffee. I am a creamer snob. When I went into the hospital, they asked if I was OCD. I told them I was just a little bit. If you tell them that, they check off the whole box. Don’t mess with my coffee in a mug with a little cream. Or with my skim milk in a glass. Or with Toni King. Or with Vicki.
So I got my new jug of milk and my feelings out there. My feelings about milk, my feelings about Toni King, and my feelings about Vicki.