“Simple. There’s no way on earth we’re going to get out of here tonight. We’d have more luck playing pickup sticks with our butt-cheeks than we will getting a flight out of here before daybreak.”
~ Del, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Two am this morning. I’m grounded, sitting in an “Upgraded King Suite” in WhoKnowsWhere, Texas, working on a bottle of Boone’s, and putting my 200 dollar internet connection to good use. And wondering, how, did I get here?
It all started off fairly innocently. On Wednesday I polished off another 24 hour shift on my current rotation (ER, more on that later), indulged in a (short, very, very short) power nap, and headed for my first interview requiring serious travel (flight + hotel + car).
Things were going swimmingly. I made it to the hotel just in time to splash my face and suck down a 24 oz resident rocket before the meet ‘n greet. It was the best informal gathering I’d attended thus far. The residents and applicants were genuinely friendly, warm, open, and funny. The food was fab and the night lasted until after midnight. A (n honestly, not just unfailingly pleasant) good time was unanimously had by all.
When I did get back to the hotel I was too wired to fall asleep until three am or so. Another power nap then up at 4:45 to prep for Interview Day. I forgot tights so I was back to the suit, which was severely wrinkled and inexplicably coated in fuzz balls. I steamed the suit while I showered and did my best to defuzz it with a Lady Bic. Good enough. 30 minutes of plucking neglected (uni) brow lines, addressing the stress pimple situation, hasty mascara, and deodorant later (Wait, did actually I remember the deodorant? Crap.), on to the complimentary breakfast.
24 more ounces of coffee (for starters), a Make Your Own Waffle (How much do I LOVE Make Your Own Waffles? Enough to almost be late for Step 2 CK), off to Interview Day. It was great. At least, I thought everyone I interviewed with was great. They were friendly, honest, interested, and best of all, had actually, obviously read my CV and PS. They were bringing up stuff that even I didn’t remember. I really appreciated that part. I just hope my coffee/sleep deprivation shakes, twitchy, compensatory smile and occasionally stutter-y responses weren’t as bad/scary as I suspect they were. (It was twitchy and compensatory vs. comatose. I choose to err on the side of coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.) The day was so good I decided to stay for the community tour in case I can’t make it back for a second look.
Unfortunately, the tour took longer than I’d expected so I arrived back at the airport and turned in my car a half hour past the YouGetToPayForTwoDaysNow cut off point. And so it began……
Hertz Representative: “That will be $187.50 ma’am.”
Me: “WHAT??? The reservation said like $90!!”
Hertz Representative: (calmly, obviously totally used to this kind of reaction) “Well, technically ma’am you’ve had the car for two days now, you bought the insurance (Well YEAH, with my luck), and we added in a charge for gas (It was a bright yellow smart/clown car for God’s sake, I used a quarter of tank!).
Me: (dying inside a little bit, handing over my credit card, and summoning my last reserves of unfailing pleasantry) “Ok…(weakly) Thank….you….”
I headed for the airline counter, bent but not broken, excited at the prospect of home, my bed, my Beebo and Miss Kitty waiting anxiously for my return, and (at the very least) 16 hours of sleep.
I get checked in and 15 minutes later hear the announcement. Flight. Canceled. I get re-checked in to another flight, and repeat the same process about five more times, until at 10 pm the last flight out was canceled. At which point the attendant informed that I was certainly not welcome to sleep at their airport and I had better work on a getting a hotel room which they were certainly not going to pay for. Cancellations due to weather are not their fault, more my fault for being dinghus enough to travel this time of year. Because I have a lot of choice in that.
Right, so I start calling around to hotels to find that there is some sort of Big Important Convention AND a Big Important Texas football game (Football, it turns out, is kind of a big deal in Texas. Who knew?) this weekend. So there are like two rooms left in the four county area. Of course they are both some sort of King Sized Presidential Suites and the cheapest one is 200 bucks. Oh, and btw, they certainly do not offer shuttle service. Awesome.
I wait outside in the “cold” (Sorry Texas people, after 11+ years in the Upper Middle States, 37 degrees is not cold. Or, combined with a whiff of fog, a reasonable rationale for cancelling air traffic) for 45 minutes until the cab backfires it’s way into the parking lot. The cabbie was nice enough to mention they don’t accept credit cards and I’d better have cash to pay. I check my wallet to find a reassuring number of five dollar bills (whew) and say that’s fine, but just to be sure, how much will it be? Ohhhhhh, 30 or so. 30 DOLLARS???! I scramble to count my money again and ask where the (H*ll!) is this hotel exactly? Ohhhhhh in WhoKnowsWhere, its a little bit of drive. You don’t say. I tell him exactly how much money I have (barely enough) and leave it up to him to decide his speed, and therefore tip.
We drive (for what seems like a really long time, on several different interstates) until we arrive at the hotel, which is in some sort of industrial area with a disheartening lack of any retail outlets that would potentially have an ATM. I check in and ask the desk clerk if (hoping against hope) there’s an ATM in the hotel. Certainly not. But there is a gas station about two miles up the road past that row of factories, across from that giant Tejano club. Awesome.
I hastily chuck my bags at my enormous King sized bed and head out for a nice refreshing midnight hike in heels. It’s dark out. Really dark. Because I’m walking by a bunch of deserted (?) factories and other such friendly-looking facilities, down a lonely road in a strange town. I can start to hear the Tejano music blaring out of the club ahead and I spy groups of dark figures milling around in the parking lot. Now, having lived in a place where occasional mailbox vandalism by naughty teens is the extent of crime, a place where I have never locked my door (at this point I’m not even super sure where my house key is at), I am admittedly not the most danger conscious of individuals. But even I was a little freaked out by this situation and I immediately dialed Nurse J, wholly prepared to just pretend like I was talking to her while I ran the club crowd gauntlet if I didn’t actually manage to get her on the phone.
Luckily I did get her and she talked me through (and afterwords down from) the entire, potentially pants wetting experience. I got my cash, and at the last minute grabbed a bottle of Boone’s (I feel I earned a bit of self-medication by this point, plus I could always whack somebody over the head with it if it came to that. That’s right relatively big, scary city, bring it). I hiked through a field to make a wider berth around the club on the way back (Mental note: add “New Shoes” to the list of unexpectedly incurred expenses on the Trip From Hell) and unrepentantly clomped a trail of mud through the hotel on the way back to my room.
So there I was. At 2 am in my wrinkled, mildly fuzzy suit, on my giant bed, swigging Boone’s, catching up (b*tching) on Facebook in WhoKnowsWhere, Texas.
But wait. Oh no, the adventure doesn’t end there.
I had scheduled a pick up by the Shady Cab Corp at 5:30 to make it back to the airport for my 7:30 flight. The cab was actually a few minutes early, but that was okay, because the cabbie was using the time to enjoy a nice (unbelievably pungent) cigarillo. In the cab. With no windows open. I’m just guessing that it was nice, because he seemed unconcerned about putting it out when I got in the back seat. In fact, it was so nice he lit up another one as soon as the first was finished, and he was kind enough to share some quality second-hand niceness with me by still, not cracking a window. I’m guessing because it was “cold.” Like 32 degrees cold. I believe in Texas if it gets any colder, smokers not only stop cracking windows, they break out a pack of sled dogs in addition to a pack of their cancer sticks of choice. After 36 seconds of marinating in the Cheech and Chong-esque haze, I was really glad I had gotten up at 4:15 for that (apparently completely futile) shower. P.S. What’s that? You don’t have change? Naturally. Seeing as how you only accept cash, why would you? You know what? I don’t even care, enjoy that eight dollar tip now.
I checked in at the airport and found all flights were running on schedule (not a huge surprise considering that the fog had completely lifted approximately five minutes after I had booked my hotel the night before). I whiled away the time before the flight trading awesome HowISpentMyBonusNightInWhoKnowsWhereton stories with fellow bedraggled, inconvenienced travelers.
The flights home were completely uneventful and actually rather pleasant aside from the sense of What Now dread I couldn’t seem to shake. We arrived at BigMiddleStatesAirport and I flipped up the window to see snow. Lots and lots of snow. On the ground and in the air, falling at an alarming rate. GAHH!! I KNEW it!!
Yes, fate had arranged one last surprise. I had flown directly into the first big snow storm of the year and I still had a three hour drive home. To make this part of a long story short, five hours at an exhilarating 40 mph or less, three unintentional cookies in a McDonald’s parking lot, and two mild coronary events later, I am home.
My house is still standing (for which I am truly thankful), my trusty pet sitter/bf left me a bottle of Shiraz and a giant bag of peanut butter M&M’s (Thank you baby!) after reading my frantic FB posts, and I don’t have another interview for five whole days.
Is it Match Day yet?