What is a Drop-in?


This past Sunday, my mate, a wonderful wife and mother of about 5’2″, announced that we would be dropping in for a drop-in after church to celebrate some kid’s First Communion. The kid turned out to be the child of a friend, which if I had paid attention the day before when I was first informed of this drop-in thing, I would have known. Later that afternoon I was informed there would be no supper at our house because nobody wanted any due to the fact that my mate was full from the drop-in. I informed her that the assumption that everyone was full because she was might possibly be false and should I make something, and if so, what ingredients might I drop in the pot, that were not encumbered for a future planned meal. And that brings me to today’s topic: drop-ins.

According to the USDA, Americans consumed 24.1 billion pounds of beef in 2014 from 30.1 million head of cattle. Nobody really can seem to figure out the percentage of Americans who are vegetarians. The estimates range from 1.9% to 13% depending on who’s asking Americans if they eat meat. Let’s say it’s 2%, that means about 312 million Americans shared that 24.1 billion pounds of beef, which means each of us ate about 77 lbs of beef.

A few of our pups and I indicated by verbal expression, grimacing, sulking, fits, self-mutilation, and other forms of communication that we were not on-board for giving up Sunday afternoon for a drop-in. “But it is only a drop-in, you jerk,” you say. Ah, but you are not privy to some important facts.

“How long will we be there?” one of the pups asked me.

“As long as your mother keeps talking,” I replied.

“You jerk!” you shout.

My neighbor, who served in some war and was honorably discharged and who is a vegetarian, sometimes, ironically, makes beef jerky. He flavors different batches different ways and cooks it at 200 degrees Fahrenheit in his oven. It takes him all day. He gives most of it to my family. It is the best jerky I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.

“A drop-in,” I explained, “is an event that is scheduled to run from a certain start time to a finish time and you stop by briefly to offer your sympathies or congratulations or whatever some time of your choosing during that span, snack a little, and leave. You don’t stay long.”

Boy was I wrong!

We arrived at the kid’s house at the scheduled start time so that we could be back home to maximize the amount of time free into a single contiguous block. We ate, and we talked, and we played some games or something. Then we did that again and again.

77 lbs of beef means that each of us eats 308 quarter pound hamburgers each year.

People arrive at a drop-in at different times and leave at different times. They all don’t arrive when it starts and they don’t all stay until it ends. If they all arrived at the start and stayed until it ended, you couldn’t call it a drop-in: you’d call it a “party” or a “cookout” (if the main course was cooked and eaten outside, which, in this case, it was) or maybe you’d call it a “prom”. I don’t care what you’d call it, but you wouldn’t call it a drop-in.

After my neighbor cooks his jerky, he puts it in separate baggies according to flavor, then he puts the baggies in a tin with a lid on it, maybe a tin left over from Christmas, and then he knocks on our door with his offering and we briefly discuss his jerky. I tell him how thankful I am for the gift and gush over the delightful flavor and ask him how he makes it. Then he leaves and we don’t see him again (except occasionally over the fence, at which time I wave a stick of jerky at him and smile happily) until he makes more jerky, or we offer him some baked goods as thanks for having served in the military to guarantee our right to choose to eat meat or not and make jerky even if we don’t and give it to neighbors. He always smiles and waves back. He was in the marines.

So we arrived at the scheduled start time for the drop-in. So did everyone else who was invited, except one couple who were late because they went to a later Mass (we’re all Catholic), but who got there as near the start time as they could without skipping out before the last hymn. Then, they too joined in the eating, talking, and playing at some games or other or not. We watched some older kid shoot tennis balls over the house with this home-made compressed air cannon he brought. Why he brought a cannon to a First Communion drop-in is a bit of a mystery to me. The only reason for bringing it would be to show it off, but since the event was a drop-in, he wouldn’t be there long enough to get it all out and show people before he and they left. In order to show it off, he’d have to arrive at the start time and stay until the end time and schedule numerous demonstrations in order to give everyone a chance to comment on how impressively high the tennis balls went. The compressed air cannon would have been a clue to me that this was either not your typicall drop-in or not a drop-in at all, but the kid didn’t get the cannon out until long after we should have left, by which time the fact that we were still there, eating, talking, and playing at some game or other, had already clued me in to the unorthodoxy of this particular drop-in.

My friend smoked meat outside and we ate on his deck or anywhere else in the house or yard we wanted to. The meat he smoked was not beef, nor did he cook it long enough to make jerky. It was shredded pork, which was served with our choice of one of two sauces (or both, or none, as we saw fit, thanks to my neighbor) to pour onto our pork or not. We spent quite a while eating the pork and sundry sides (chips, potato salad, cole slaw), on buns or not, with or without sauces, all of us together at the same time, and then talking extensively about pork bar-b-cue, imagining adventures road-tripping around the state visiting bar-b-que places, and watching the pups and kits and cubs play at some game or other. Everyone went back for seconds so we could do it all again, but we subconsciously staggered our returns for seconds so that the eating, talking, and watching could go on and on and on again and again. Some people went back for thirds. No one seemed to be leaving as the afternoon wore on and the drop-in dragged on and on with no one dropping in or dropping out, even long after everyone had ceased eating and we were all just talking and watching. I was mostly just listening and waiting.

Finally, at some point after about three hours, my eldest daughter pointed out that she needed to get home to finish some homework she had due the next morning. “That,” I said excitedly in reply, “is just the thing I needed!” I immediately found my mate and intimated in a less than subtle and more or less direct way, but in no more than a raised whisper, that our eldest daughter needed to get home to finish some homework she had due the next morning and that since the event was a drop-in we could leave at any time. To my surprise, my mate zinged me with her ocular tazer powers. However, she could not deny that, though she clearly had more talking to do, in this particular case leaving was necessary and not entirely my idea, and so she quickly turned off the tazers, and I stopped convulsing under her gaze.

We did not take any food home with us. All the other guests left when we did.

When my neighbor brings us jerky, he is just “dropping by” to give us a little gift he can’t eat because he is vegan for health reasons. I do not know if the beef counts as part of his 77 lbs or mine, or if it is split equally. In any case, he shouldn’t get even a quarter pound hamburger of the 24.1 billion lbs of beef anyway because he is a vegetarian and is throwing off the numbers by buying and cooking beef. But I’m glad he does it. And I’m glad he understands that “drop by”, unlike “drop in”, does not mean “visit for hours.”

When we arrived home, I rushed through the chores I had to finish and my daughter rushed through her homework. Some time in the midst of that I brought up that it had been several hours since we’d eaten and asked what my mate what her weekly meal plan had on it for Sunday night. That’s when she informed me that she was still full and that therefore everyone else was also still full and we were not going to have any supper. I replied that I thought that maybe some of our appetites might operate independently of hers and would she like me to make something just in case and could she please tell me what ingredients were not a part of any upcoming meals in the meal plan which only she was privy to. I walked away having heard words but feeling that somehow I was no closer to food or how to acquire any. I was outvoted by everyone: they all said they really weren’t hungry because they were full from the drop-in, so I guess my mate was right about that. Shortly thereafter I had picked up with my chores when my mate came out and stacked leftovers from the fridge on the counter and informed me I should feed there. Everyone else trickled in and we all ate something, maybe except her.

I learned two things from my experiences on Sunday:

  • I am confused about what a drop-in is
  • Even though I think I might be getting hungry, no one else is

Next time I’m invited to a drop-in after church, I think I’ll decline with the excuse that I have to stay home and make jerky instead.

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