My Equinox Thanksgiving Day drive, 2019

In the past, my Equinox Thanksgiving Day turkey drive started at some ungodly hour of the morning – maybe 1:30 a.m., as I would get up that morning, drive to the Empire State Plaza, and be the 20th person in line to take foods to those in need.

A couple of years ago, I was designated as a “target driver,” where I could drive to various long-distance locations that were in need of a turkey dinner, the stuffing, potatoes, gravy and dessert.  So this year, I already knew I had deliveries scheduled for Cherry Plain.

Awesome.  I’m going to Cherry Plain.

Where’s Cherry Plain?

No, seriously … where is Cherry Plain?

Apparently Cherry Plain (not to be confused with Cherry Valley, which is near Cooperstown) is near the towns of Berlin and Stephentown in Rensselaer County.  It’s so far east, you could probably take ten steps and end up in Vermont.

But people need turkey dinners.  And with a full tank of gas in my 2013 Chevrolet Cruze “Dracourage,” combined with Christmas music on my SiriusXM car stereo – this year I went with the Hallmark Channel, which meant that inbetween the Christmas classics, I received messages of holiday encouragement from Candace Cameron Bure and Lacey Chabert, who i think are the only two actors in every Halllmark Christmas movie) – I loaded up the car with seventeen turkey dinners.

And off I go.

By the way, to get to Cherry Plain from Albany, there’s about 20 miles of winding, undulating mountainous roadway.  Thankfully there wasn’t pouring rain or heavy snow, as I really had my driving skills hyperfocused on not landing in a ditch.  That, and avoiding the pickup truck behind me who kept trying to lay on the chrome horn like he was auditioning for the remake of the Spielberg TV movie Duel.  Ugh.

Eventually, however, I made it to State Route 22.  First house.

As a delivery driver, I receive little cards that have the person’s location and special driving instructions – things like “knock on back door” or “beware of slobbering St. Bernard,” those kinds of notes.  This one had detailed directions on how to find her home – and then at the end, it said, “I’ll come out and get the food.  I have crutches.”

Wait – you’re coming outside to get the food and you are using crutches?

That’s not fair.  You shouldn’t have to bring in all these dinners.  Let’s see how things go when I get to your home.

I called the recipient and let her know that I had arrived.

She was overjoyed.  And as she told me about how this was a ray of sunshine in what was a miserable year for her, I did the one thing that was appropriate.  I listened.  I let her talk.  I felt bad for what had been an awful journey for her, but I knew that these dinners would at least make the day less of a struggle.

I carefully packed each frozen turkey dinner and each box of fixings into special totes, to make it easier for transfer.  The woman was still overjoyed and happy that I had arrived with the food, and her two service dogs couldn’t stop licking my fingers and rubbing against my legs as I brought the food inside her house.

Okay.  Next stop.

Recipient #2 wasn’t home.  Now here’s the problem.  If a turkey dinner recipient isn’t home, you do NOT leave the food on the porch.  These meals are designed for quick cooking and eating.  They’re not designed to be left on a front porch.

Thankfully, this recipient’s neighbors were more than happy to take his meals and keep them cold – and would give them to him when he returned.  “He’s probably out hunting,” one of the neighbors said.

“That’s fine.  If he doesn’t bag any birds today, at least he’ll have some bagged birds tonight,” I smiled.

Recipient #3 received the final four meals, and all was well.  Now to head home.

As is my usual tactic, I called the Equinox dispatch to let them know that all meals were safely delivered.  They were happy.

I then said, “If you’re in need of other deliveries today, I can help out.”

Now normally, they’d tell me, “Oh, we’re fine, have a happy Thanksgiving and thanks for all your help.”

Today … “We’re actually short on emergency drivers.  If you want to, we can give you some more meals in the afternoon.”

You know what?

I just went from “target driver” to “emergency driver” faster than the snap of a wishbone.

Here’s how this works.

Equinox normally makes about 9,000 turkey dinners for the holiday drive.  This year, however, there were more than 11,000 requests for meals.  And the Equinox turkey hotline was still operational, as some people were still calling for meals in need.  It didn’t matter the reason, the only requirement was that if you needed a turkey dinner and you lived in the Capital Region, you received turkey dinners for yourself and for your family.

So in addition to my Cherry Plain deliveries, I took four turkey dinners to a small home in Guilderland, and then two more turkey dinners to a family in Rotterdam.

Turkey day is done.

Now I can go on Date Night and spend Thanksgiving with her family.

Trust me, this has become my Thanksgiving tradition for ages.  And this whole operation isn’t just me shuttling victuals to those in need.  These dinners have to be prepared.  That takes volunteers.  They have to be boxed up.  That takes volunteers.  They have to be served at the walk-in Thanksgiving buffet at the First Presbyterian Church in Albany.  That takes volunteers.  The leftovers have to be turned into stock for turkey soups.  That takes volunteers.  The food comes from various grocery stores, restaurants, and other organizations.  That takes donations and volunteers.

This is the holiday tradition – not just of receiving the meals, but of preparing and distributing them.  It’s important.  No one should go hungry on Thanksgiving Day, the day of gathering with family and friends.

And in some small way, as some small part of the overall process, I’m glad I helped out this year.  Just like I’m glad I helped out in other years.