Thursday, June 23, 2011

One Last Tale About The Great Road Trip of 2011…

Probably my stories about one single little road trip are getting old. As Vince says, “You’ve milked this trip for – what? – three blogs already?”

Hey. Sometimes there isn’t a whole lot of usable material for a writer to work with and she needs to use the storyline she’s been given. Am I right?

I mean, does anyone really want to hear about how I accidentally punted Twinklebelle off the bed the other night? (And it WAS TOO an accident!)

Hmmm… Perhaps the Twinklebelle story has merit and would be worthy of a future blog…

No, but I promise – this will be the last story about our road trip and then I’ll shut up about it.Really, I swear. So sit back, relax, and read on…

When we last left our fearless travelers (aka The Motley Crew), our chauffeur was resting up in a frigid hotel room in anticipation of a three hour drive the next day from Connecticut to New York.

And, okay, so according to Mapquest, the drive was only 85.58 miles long and it should only have taken one hour and forty-three minutes to reach their destination. But our chauffeur, let’s call her “Wrong Way,” is not just any run-of-the-mill dumb blonde. If she’d learned anything from the trip thus far, it was that Mapquest is a big fat liar.

Before getting some shut eye, the phone in Wrong Way’s room rang. It was the General (her father). He ordered Wrong Way to meet up in the lobby of the hotel at 0800 hours for some chow before pulling out. Being a confirmed night owl, our Wrong Way knew enough to immediately set the alarm on her iPhone for 0700 to make sure she had ample time to prepare for the day and be ready and standing at attention in the lobby at the appointed time.

What Wrong Way neglected to consider was that it had been a very long time since the General had been in the military. And, by-the-by, he’d never technically been a general either.But Wrong Way remembered from decades of deep sea fishing excursions with the General (aw, heck, let’s let him keep the title, all right?), was that when the General meant 0800, he meant 0800 and not one minute later. Except on those deep sea fishing excursions it was more like 0600.

Anyway, Wrong Way was ready. Her bags were in a neat pile by the door and she was sitting in the chair by the telephone awaiting the General’s call. The only reason she didn’t have the bags stowed in the trunk of the car and wasn’t standing at attention in the lobby was that it was pouring rain outside.

Wrong Way had inadvertently relinquished the car keys the night before, and she didn’t want to haul her bags downstairs with nowhere to put them until the rain abated. And, most importantly, she didn’t want to get rained on and have frizzy hair for the drive. Because, God knows, frizzy hair can affect driver performance.(There’s probably even a clinical study proving that very theory. Maybe you could check the Pantene website or something.)

When the General called at 0810 to say that he and Mrs. General had overslept, Wrong Way was dumbfounded. That had never happened before! And Wrong Way was also a little miffed because she could have used a few extra winks herself. Nevertheless, she gamely awaited the next call. She texted a loving “Good Morning!” message to her husband, we’ll call him “Right Way” (because he never gets lost). She played Angry Birds on her cell phone. And when she couldn’t annihilate all those stinkin’ pigs in Level 12, she started playing a mean game of Euchre on her iPhone. Thank goodness for cell phones that do way more than simply make phone calls, eh?

Finally, around 0830, the call came and Wrong Way marched downstairs to eat some grub.And it was rather grub-like. But we won’t go into detail for any readers with sensitive tummies.

Once the Crew was on the road, Wrong Way was surprised to learn they were going to New York via a narrow scenic two-lane road instead of the freeway to the Taconic Parkway in New York, which Mapquest had indicated was the quickest route. Her brother, “No Name Domain” (“Do not talk about me in your blog!”), told her the best way was the Taconic. And Gladys Garmin, if she hadn’t been permanently silenced by Mrs. General, probably would have recommended the Taconic as well.

But our Crew was nothing if not adventurous. So off they went traveling at a supersonic 45 MPH. Sigh. It was a good thing Wrong Way had allotted those three hours for the drive, wasn’t it?

Despite the overcast day and sporadic rain showers, it was a picturesque and scenic drive.Which was rather the point, don’t you suppose? Life isn’t always about getting there as fast as possible; sometimes it’s about the experience along the way. So Wrong Way settled into her seat, grateful that it wasn’t a blistering hot day and the A/C wasn’t even required, and took in the sights. While paying attention to the road in front of her, of course.

Eventually, they came to a fork in the road. We’re not sure which was “less traveled,” but it didn’t matter anyway, because the road on the right, the very one they needed to take, was blocked off with sawhorses. A handwritten sign was stapled to the barricade that said “Road Closed.” That’s all. No explanation. No apology. No suggestions for an alternate route. Nothin’.

This completely flummoxed Wrong Way. The General (who had actually been a scout in the army), was a little taken aback, himself. They sat in the unmoving car in the middle of the road for approximately 45 minutes hoping that someone would materialize in front of them and remove the sawhorses so they could take the road they needed to take.

Nobody arrived. And it wasn’t really 45 minutes either. You know how some people exaggerate by now, don’t you?

So our Crew took the road to the left. There was no road or route sign to indicate where this road might lead. For all Wrong Way knew, it could have led them straight into Wisconsin or someplace they totally didn’t want to go. Had Wrong Way been on her own, she probably would have driven the hour back to their hotel and started over following her Mapquest directions, which is what she wanted to do in the first place.

But she gamely soldiered on. Eventually they arrived in a tiny town somewhere inConnecticut. Or maybe it was in Massachusetts or New York or some other New England state since they’re all bunched up there on the East Coast and they all pretty much look the same. The General marched out of the car and asked a local Good Samaritan for directions.

Thank goodness Wrong Way wasn’t given this assignment. She can never remember the Good Samaritan’s directions after he’s given them to her and usually has to ask 4 or 5 other Good Samaritans the same question until she finally remembers to write down the instructions. And she still gets lost. Sometimes Good Samaritans have even been known to chase after her car yelling, “NO! I SAID TAKE A RIGHT!”

Surprisingly, the road the Crew was on eventually met up with the other road that had been blocked off by the sawhorses. This never happens in Wrong Way’s world. So the General must have good luck or something. Either that, or he was a really good scout back in the day.

After following a truck filled with freshly cut hunks of trees for twenty-three agonizingly slow miles, they realized that two days after a torrential storm where large trees had been uprooted was probably not the best time to take a scenic two-lane route in an area virtually filled with trees.

Eventually, they found their way out of Connecticut and into New York and arrived at No Name Domain’s house where his dog, we’ll call him “Sparky” (“Do not talk about me in your blog!”) barked a ferocious greeting that either meant, “Hi! Welcome to our house – we’re ever so glad you’re here!!” or, “Hi! Welcome to our house – it’s feeding time and I’m ever so hungry!” It was kind of hard to understand Sparky and Wrong Way was a little fatigued from her journey. But for sure she heard him add, “Perhaps I’ll save that little Mrs. General for a snack later.”

Sparky doesn’t get many visitors.

And, okay, so maybe I’m just kidding about Sparky. He’s really a very nice dog. But he should have given me permission to write about him in my blog.

So, anyway, there you have it. Our crew arrived safely and had a very enjoyable visit with the No Name Domains. Beer and wine may even have been involved.

And a Zombie movie was promised for their later evening entertainment, but instead they watched re-runs of “Modern Family.” Probably the Zombie movie would’ve been just a little too much excitement for our Crew. Or, maybe No Name Domain figured that just as the zombies started chowing down on human flesh (which would be within the first 30 seconds of the flick), Mrs. General would probably say, “Oh, we’re not going to have to listen to this the entire time, are we?”

That, my friends, is Mrs. General-Code for “Turn it off!”

So “Modern Family” was a far better choice for their evening entertainment.

So I thank you for following along with our Motley Crew on their travels. Wrong Way especially wants to thank you for allowing her to write about her experiences. This will save virtually thousands of dollars in therapy – psychiatric or retail. (Doesn’t matter.)

The End.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

…And Later That Night…

Once we arrived at my uncle’s place in Connecticut, we greeted him, used the “facilities” and, standing by the stairs, talked for a moment about the drive, the weather and the abysmal state of The Ohio State University football program.

I could have done without that last topic of conversation.

Crack detective that I am, I observed that the air conditioner was not running. And I immediately began to sweat. Within seconds, my scalp was drenched and droplets of perspiration had formed on my forehead. Another few seconds and they were threatening to slide down my face and land in my eyes and do that burning/blinding thing that sweat droplets do.

Have I mentioned that I don’t like to sweat? This would be one reason why. Also, wiping sweat from one’s forehead requires movement, which makes one sweat all the more.

I sort of wondered why my uncle didn’t have the central air on, but like anyone a generation ahead of me, he’s old. I thought maybe he no longer had working sweat glands and, therefore, he wasn’t warm. I couldn’t imagine it, though. It had to be close to 90 degrees inside and the humidity outside was enough to kill a person. Or at least kill a person who hates being soggy.

Thankfully, we quickly left the oven-like atmosphere and walked outside into the stifling humidity. Great. Now I literally understood what “out of the frying pan and into the fire” meant. Well, okay, not literally – but close enough.

We were on our way to visit my aunt, who is in a nursing home. And my uncle, who has macular degeneration like my dad and has a hard time seeing road signs and such, handed me his car keys. So once again I donned my imaginary chauffeur’s cap and climbed behind the wheel of yet another strange car.

Apparently God has a plan to get me over my fear of driving and getting lost, eh?!

Fortunately, my uncle gave great directions to the nursing facility and we arrived with nary an “uh oh” or an “oops.” I started thinking that perhaps I was actually going to lick this directionally challenged thing.

Ah, silly, silly me.

After visiting with my aunt, we called my cousin who lives in town and was meeting us for dinner to tell her we were on our way. I’m not sure how long the drive should have taken – maybe 10 minutes or so? It had only taken us about that long to reach the nursing facility and I knew the pizza place we were headed to was close to my uncle’s.

But we got lost. It was probably my fault because I got cocky. I actually remembered the lefts and rights to get back to the highway. This is truly an accomplishment because usually once I arrive somewhere, I immediately forget how I got there and can’t get back out unless someone has left bread crumbs for me to follow.

So the first part of the journey was no problem. But once we reached the freeway, I was at the mercy of my uncle since I had no idea where we were or where we were going. He started out okay – told me which lane I needed to be in and we were clicking along just fine.

By now, it was Friday evening rush hour and all four lanes were packed. Since I deal with that sort of traffic in Columbus – and totally “get” the Friday night rush thing, I was calm, cool and collected.

Well, except for the “cool” part. It had been extremely warm in the nursing home, which made me wonder if people in Connecticut have a thing against central air or something. But when I saw my aunt’s 100-year-old roommate lying in bed swaddled from head to toe under a blanket AND a quilt, I figured that maybe the senior citizen non-working sweat gland idea had merit.

Also, the A/C in my uncle’s car didn’t seem to be working very well. The fan was blowing like crazy, but it wasn’t actually cooling me down. Since I was concentrating on the road, I tried to ignore the fact that my back, resting against the cloth seat, was starting to sweat.

Eventually, he told me I was looking for a particular route number, which I spied up ahead and to the left. Naturally, we were in the far right-hand lane. So I started inching my way over, hoping I could cross three lanes of traffic before I reached the exit. Once he realized that I was on the move he said, “No – stay in this lane! We want to get off at the next exit.” So I inched back to my original position thinking that perhaps the sign was on the left, but the exit was on the right.


The exit was, indeed, on the left. Acknowledging his error, my uncle told me to take the next exit on the right hoping we could backtrack. Not so much. Thus, we began an odyssey of getting off exits and back on exits and making left turns and then right turns and then back to the left again. We may have even spun in circles a few times, I’m not sure. I do know that I made two illegal U-turns. But I would have welcomed the appearance of a cop intent on issuing me a citation. I would’ve offered to pay double the fine if only he would escort us to the blasted pizza place.

But was there a single officer in blue around to lend assistance to the desperate? Of course not. When we finally (somehow) found the correct interstate, it turned out we were traveling north when we were supposed to be traveling south.

You cannot even imagine the thoughts going through my brain by this point. They were not pretty.

Somehow we eventually found our way to a part of town my uncle recognized and, even though my faith was shaken, I followed his lead. Mostly because I had no choice. And – voila! – we finally reached the pizza parlor parking lot and I spied my cousin. The tears of frustration that I’d managed to curb nearly spilled out in relief. Except that by this point I was so sweaty, I was completely dehydrated and my tear ducts were devoid of any sort of moisture whatsoever.

Once out of the car, I nearly fell to my knees and kissed the ground, but I thought that might’ve been just a little too dramatic – even for me. And I didn’t want to make my uncle feel any worse than he already did. So I restrained myself.

But instead of leading us into the cool restaurant – my cousin told me that the A/C was out and it was hot in there.

What,” I croaked. “You have got to be kidding me!”

I finally learned what the deal with the A/C in Connecticut was all about. They’d had a severe storm the night before, which caused lots of uprooted trees, downed power lines and electric outages all over the city.

Ohhh. NOW I get it. And, fortunately, she led us to another part of town to a restaurant that (a) was open and, more importantly, (b) had electricity with blessed cooled air. I never wanted to leave. And I most especially didn’t want to have to get behind the wheel and drive to our next destination – even if it was a hotel where I could rest my weary little head.

Fortunately, my cousin led the caravan back to her dad’s place where we switched back to my parents’ car. Then, despite my dad’s insistence that he knew the route, she led us to a hotel that had just regained power. We didn’t get lost even once. Whew.

Once inside my room, I set the A/C on the coldest setting. I took a cold shower. I yanked all the covers off the bed. I shivered all night long.

And I didn’t care one tiny little bit.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Traveling Across Pennsylvania Is Not For Sissies

So I cried last night after I finished writing my blog about Father’s Day. I think I was really sad for all those “kids” out there whose parents are no longer with us. And I know that while my parents, who are in their mid-80s, still travel and deliver Meals On Wheels to other senior citizens and certainly don’t act their age, I can tell the aging process is quickly catching up to them.

You’d think I know how life works by now, wouldn’t you? But I still get sad when I think about the inevitable. It’s gonna happen to us all and I just don’t want to deal with it, I guess.

Then this morning I spoke with a friend I’ve known since our freshman year at Ohio State. We were talking about something completely unrelated when he said, “Jane, you’re really sensitive.” Uh, no kidding.

He said he thought it was a good thing and that he hoped I wasn’t offended. How could I be? It's the truth. I assured him I wasn’t, but I begged to differ on it being a good thing. At least sometimes. Like when I’m sitting in a crowded movie theater and a sad scene comes on the screen and I’m desperately trying to stifle the urge to bawl like a baby with those really loud snuffling and hiccupping sounds.

It’s just too embarrassing, I tell you. Besides, I hate when my mascara runs.

So I’ve decided to cheer myself up by writing about my trip to Cape Cod last week. Well, at least the highlights. If I wrote about the entire trip, this would be a book instead of a blog.

Now, if you read my previous blog about my upcoming trip to the Cape (here), I mentioned how I had Gladys Garmin all loaded up with the addresses we were visiting in Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. I also had the same addresses entered into my iPhone. AND I had a Mapquest printout with all our stops.

Yeah, just ask me how much of any of that we used? Go ahead – ask me.

The answer? Ohhhh…not much. Not much at all.

I tried, though. I plugged in the Garmin before leaving my parents’ house. When Gladys started in on our Left and Right turns, my mother called from the backseat, “Oh, we’re not going to have to listen to that the entire time, are we?”

That, my friends, is Mom-Code for “Turn it off!”

So I turned it off. I mean, for the most part, I knew how to get out of Alliance. And once we hit Pennsylvania, we were on the same road for a l-o-n-g time. Pennsylvania is really wide and it seems even wider when you have to get from one side to the other.

But, hey, I figured Dad would just have to guide me the rest of the way once we neared the New York border. I also figured he’s been driving that route for years. Decades, even. And he did a good job. Except that Dad doesn’t realize the extent of my “directionally challenged” problem. I’m way more comfortable knowing that we’ll be on this road for this many miles and then our next mark is this. It just helps me. You’d understand if you’d ever made the mistake of driving along a highway trying to get to your destination only to find out you’d missed the exit about 30 miles back. Yeah, that happened to me once years ago and I vowed it would never happen again. So I want my markers.

For the most part, we were good except when Dad would suddenly say, “Oh, you need to take this exit!” Probably I annoyed a few drivers as I yanked the steering wheel over to the right and, with smoking tires, screeched in front of a line of other vehicles to take the exit.

Okay, that didn’t really happen. Or at least I’m not going to admit that it might have happened. Once or twice.

I thought it was amusing later when both my mom and dad told me I was a good driver. And that I was very calm and in control. Boy, did I have them fooled!

Our first day was our longest day of driving and it was pretty monotonous. We ate a quick breakfast around 6AM and then dad bought himself and mom one donut each, which they consumed around 10AM. Mom said she wouldn’t be hungry for lunch. Now, you probably don’t know my mom’s eating habits, but let me just say that you could set your clock by the woman. She eats breakfast, lunch and dinner on a precise schedule. And if she’s off schedule for any reason (like driving across Pennsylvania), she can get, well, a little cranky. Apparently, the tiniest drop in blood sugar is not a good thing for mom.

So, even though she said she wasn’t going to be hungry for lunch, by around noon she started announcing that she was getting hungry. And, wouldn’t you know, we were driving along a part of Pennsylvania that wasn’t well populated. Meanwhile, I was starting to get a little hungry myself, so I was definitely on the lookout for a place to stop for nourishment.

Finally, we spotted a sign for Subway at the next exit. I must have cut off at least half a dozen drivers so I could take the exit. We found the Subway, raced out of the car and sprinted inside for sustenance.

Yeah. Like 80-somethings “sprint.” Or 50-somethings, for that matter.

But once we were inside – get this! – Mom changed her mind again and stated that she wasn’t that hungry and she didn’t want a sub. Um. Okay… Not having a lot of other choices, I pointed her toward the racks of snack foods and suggested she might be able to find some crackers or something less filling than a sandwich.

I then asked Dad if he wanted to split a 6” sub and he said yes. Told me to order whatever I wanted. So I ordered a grilled chicken with lettuce and tomato. Basic, huh? I asked the lady behind the counter if she could cut the sub in half. She said, “You want this 6” sub cut in half?” Um, yeah. Is that not allowed or something? But she did as I asked and I paid for it. I handed it to my dad and said I’d be back after I made a pit stop.

When I walked back to the table, Mom and Dad were already settled in their chairs. Mom had opened a bag of crackers and had also spread the Subway paper on the table between the two of them. One 3” half of the sub was in front of Dad and the other was in front of her. And then she looked at me and said, “What are you going to eat, Jane?”


I was completely taken aback and wasn’t sure how to respond. Apparently I could have used a blinking neon sign over Mom’s head for clues: Not Hungry…Hungry…Not Hungry…Hungry.

Probably I should have just gone back up to the counter and ordered another sub, but I wasn’t quick enough. Because Mom then handed me her 3” half of sub and told me to go up to the counter and ask them to cut it in half so we could split it.

Really? My lunch, after six hours of driving, was to be an inch and a half of grilled chicken? Yikes.

But it was easier to just do it than to argue. And the look on the clerk’s face behind the Subway counter was priceless!

Ah well. I figured it was a good day to start a diet.

So we finished lunch, and managed to get to our destination in Connecticut without further mishaps or food emergencies.

But, believe me, I was hungry by dinnertime. Which was delayed by an hour due to our getting lost during Friday night rush hour traffic somewhere in Connecticut.

(It wasn’t my fault.)

But that’s a story for another time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day 2011

Yesterday was Father’s Day and we spent the day with Vince’s dad and Vince’s sons and the rest of the clan. It was a houseful of men; some fathers, some sons, some both. The women were in a decided minority, but as I was expected to neither cook for nor serve the houseful of men, it was all good.

I’m not sure why this is, but Father’s Day generally involves the manly act of cooking meat on a grill. Fortunately, no one has ever accused me of being especially manly and I have no need to impress anyone with my burger flipping abilities. Besides, since the time I attempted to cook a steak on a gas grill when I nearly singed off my eyebrows, my involvement with the ol’ Weber has been pretty much non-existent.

So, with my eyebrows still firmly attached, I thoroughly enjoyed the day. Which was rather nice, considering it wasn’t “Jane’s Day.” No one gave me a card or a present. And that didn’t even bother me, although I confess that I love receiving cards and presents. Guess I’ll just have to wait until Jane’s Day, eh? Probably Hallmark is working on a new line of cards for that national holiday as we speak.

Why, no, I’m not delusional. Why do you ask?

No, but seriously. I did feel a little bad that I wasn’t able to spend Father’s Day with my own dad since he’s up at the Cape now. Instead, I called him. I sent him a card. And I attempted to find him a pair of slippers that he’s looking for. Apparently, they no longer make the same kind of men’s slippers like the ratty ones my dad has worn for decades. Go figure.

Shopping for my dad is a lesson in futility. I mean, this is my dad we’re talking about. He doesn’t need anything and there is nothing he says he wants. He’s not into electronic gadgets. He gets his books from the library. He already has a drawer full of socks. And he rarely wears ties anymore.
So I was pretty excited to have an actual goal in mind. Slippers? No problem.

Yeah, right.

You think women are tough to buy for? Please. Anything shiny or sparkly – and we’re good.
When you shop for the menfolk, you have to remember numbers for both pant length and pant width. Their shirts come with collar widths and sleeve lengths. Come on – that’s four numbers to remember if you’re just trying to buy a pair of pants and a nice shirt for him! Believe me, there is no way you can possibly guess that something will fit just by looking at it. So I’d need a cheat sheet before stepping foot in the men’s department.

Oh, and most importantly, you have to remember that to some men “polyester” is not a dirty word. Apparently, wrinkle-free is a major selling point. Any article of clothing that requires dry cleaning or ironing is not going into the shopping bag. Or, if a woman foolishly purchases something because (a) the numbers are all correct and (b) it looks nice – but she fails to recognize that ironing or dry cleaning will be required – then back to the store it will go.

Actually, now that I think about it, this is probably a good thing. I, for one, cannot remember the last time I ironed something for myself, let alone for anyone of the male persuasion. I’m not even sure my iron still works…and I’m not all that anxious to find out.

Donna Reed, I’m not.

So, sadly, my dad didn’t have a gift from me to open on Father’s Day. But since I did spend last weekend driving my parents to Cape Cod, Dad probably thought that was present enough. And I did buy a Boston Cream Pie – his favorite – to celebrate Father’s Day a bit early.

The thing about dads is that they don’t really need an armful of gifts to know that their children love them. They just need to know that their kids are doing well and are trying their hardest. Whether it’s learning to ride a bike, or learning their lessons in school. Whether it’s excelling at their jobs, or excelling in their own roles as parents, dads everywhere just want the best for their children. They hope that the lessons they taught their kids have somehow been taken to heart. Unselfishly, they want their children to have a better life than they’ve had – even if their life has been a pretty good one.

And they’re happy even when their kids give them yet another tie or pair of socks for Father’s Day.
So to all the dads out there – I hope you had a wonderful Father’s Day. I hope you were able to spend the day with your children – young and old alike. I hope you didn’t singe off your eyebrows while you were manning the grill. And I really hope nobody gave you non-polyester pants that need to be ironed or dry cleaned.

To all of you who no longer have your dads here to wish a Happy Father’s Day, my heart goes out to you. I know you'd give anything to have the chance once again to buy your dad a Father's Day gift - even if they are impossible-to-find slippers.

But I'm guessing that that there are a whole lot of dads in heaven who are probably standing around a grill in wrinkle-free pants – and they’re sending their love back to you. They know how much you miss them and that you wish they were still here so you could spend the day with them. And they know you’re doing your best and that you’ve taken all the lessons they taught to heart.

Someday you’ll meet again and you’ll be able to tell them how you feel. But I suspect they already know.

And to all of you who have your dads here on this earth and you can still wrap your arms around him, I hope you take the opportunity as often as possible. Life, if you haven’t heard, is short. And you don’t want to regret lost opportunities.

And, finally, to my own dad – I hope you know how much I love you. Have you been the perfect dad? Well, mostly. But, um, I'm still a little fuzzy on that whole "compound interest" thing. And I always forget which direction you tighten a bolt. But mostly I think you're the best father this daughter could ever have asked for. I'm so blessed to be able to call you my dad.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. And...don't worry. I'm still lookin' for those slippers!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Great Road Trip of 2011

I’m leaving tonight to begin The Great Road Trip of 2011. Well, okay, that may be a tad overblown, since it’s not like I’m driving cross country and plan to stop in each of the 48 contiguous states to check out the biggest ball of twine or the Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue or something.

Instead, I am driving to Cape Cod with my parents so they can spend the summer there. We have several stops to make and I’ll be driving a little over 900 miles, though, so it’s not like it’s a quick little jaunt. One I’ve (safely) deposited my folks at their cottage, I will fly from Boston back to good ol’ Central Ohio.

Fortunately, I’ve reached a level of maturity (I think) where I don’t require the stereo to be loud enough to break the sound barrier. Nor do I need the internal vehicle temperature to be sub-zero. Because, believe me, neither of those scenarios will be tolerated. A little music and A/C might be nice, but I suppose the eight to 10 hours of radio silence will be a good time to reflect on my life and try to figure out why I’m not stinkin’ rich so I could afford to hire a real chauffeur to drive us to the northeast. And perhaps the sauna-like conditions will provide some health benefits, too. Like maybe I can sweat off a couple of pounds. Hydration is overrated.

Our destination is known in the family as simply “the cottage.” It was built by my grandparents back in the ‘50s and has since been passed on to my parents. I’ve been there nearly every year of my life. In fact, there have only been maybe two or three times I can recall not making the trip.

I was driven there as a kid with my parents back in the day when my siblings and I had Buckeye Market paper grocery bags that served as our “luggage.” I’ve also driven up there with my parents when I was old enough to ditch the paper bag and could afford to buy my very own suitcase. As a young adult, I drove up there with my sister and with friends at various times for a week of sun and fun. And, most astonishingly, I’ve even driven up there all by myself. And I can proudly say that I didn’t end up in Nova Scotia.

So, after all that, driving it now shouldn’t be a big deal – right? Uh, no, the correct answer I'm looking for here is "wrong."

It is a big deal because, first of all, it has been quite some time since I’ve actually driven there. Personally, I find the skies much friendlier, particularly when someone else besides me is the pilot and/or the navigator.

I mean, you know about my directionally challenged affliction, don’t you? If you don’t, read here. Or, heck, just take my word for it – I nearly get lost trying to find my way out of my own neighborhood. And the older I get, the worse it gets.

Plus, it’s not like we’re going from Point A to Point B. First I have to drive to my parents’ place in Alliance. This is about the only leg of the trip that doesn’t concern me. Been driving this route since I was barely old enough to vote (and that is a LOT of Presidents ago). I don’t even need Mapquest or Gladys Garmin to help me along on this portion of the journey, thank goodness.

However, we’ll leave Alliance and head to Connecticut to visit relatives. We plan to spend the night there before driving to New York State to visit my brother and his wife for a couple days. After that, we’ll make a detour in Massachusetts to visit an uncle before finally ending up at “the cottage.”

I’m not even sure Mapquest will allow that many stops. If they do, I imagine the detailed instructions would be the size of the…well, I was going to say “phone book” – but it has been a while since I’ve actually seen a phone book – so I don’t know how thick they are anymore.

Nevertheless, I’ve been preparing for the trip by studying maps. I’ve Googled and Mapquested and GPS-ed the trip to death. This, in hindsight, may have been a mistake. Why? Because I’ve been given a multitude of options and routes. And now I’m even more confused.

And in the end, we will take the route that my dad has been taking for, oh, about 40 years now. Do I take comfort in this? Of course not. I am not a driver who can afford to take things for granted. Like I never assume that my co-pilot is actually paying attention to road signs. The worst thing I could hear is, “Oh. I think we were supposed to take that exit we just passed.”

No...on second thought, I take that back. The worst thing I could hear is, “Uh. I think we’re lost. Do you know where we are?”

My universal response in that situation? “Are. You. KIDDING. Me??

I’m not one of those people blessed with internal compasses who can reconfigure the route in their heads. Consequently, I’ve driven many a country road not knowing where the heck I was going or how to get back to where I started.

So I need a piece of paper in my hand and a Route or Exit number in my head so I’m comforted. At this point, I’d even be okay with Gladys Garmin telling me she is recalculating for the gajillionth time.

But I think I’m ready. I’ve shared all our destinations with Gladys. And I’ve printed out what Mapquest has to offer (And, yes, the printout is indeed the size of a small phone book.) I’ve also entered the route into my iPhone GPS. (Although this is usually a mistake as Gladys and iPhone rarely agree.) And, finally, I’ll have to rely on Dad to keep an eye on the road – and the exits.

So I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with my parents. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get so confident in my navigational skills that I’ll schedule another trip sometime soon to see that big ball of twine – or the Jimmy Carter Peanut Statue.

Or…maybe not. Probably I’ll still prefer to fly the friendly skies.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Magical Appearance of Jinx-the-Cat

What a beautiful warm, sunny day we’re having here in Central Ohio on this, the first day of June. I should be grateful. I mean, we’re not experiencing any sort of catastrophic weather conditions, which in my world translates to a slightly overcast day with a few sprinkles.

Nor is the real world experiencing any real catastrophic weather conditions at this very moment. In Central Ohio, anyway.

I would be grateful, but I’m a little tired and grouchy. Or, if you ask Vince, he’d likely say that I’m a lot tired and grouchy. To wit: when he said, “Good morning, sunshine!” in a way-too-cheerful voice this morning, I opened one unfocused, bloodshot eye and growled at him. He probably thought, Uh oh. It’s obviously a five-alarm caffeine emergency. Gotta get on that – stat!

I should have had an inkling about what sort of morning I was going to have when we didn’t head upstairs to bed until nearly 1AM. I’m not even sure why we stayed up so late – it’s not like we had an urgent agenda that kept us up. And, no, watching reruns of The Office does not count as “urgent.”

So I knew that even if I dropped off immediately and slept soundly until my alarm rang this morning, I was still going to be dealing with a less-than-full quota of REM sleep.

Plus, it has been a little too warm in our bedroom lately despite running the A/C on full blast. Vince has deduced it is because we keep the door closed so Twinks and Jinx, our adorable yet far-too-energetic kittens, stay out of the bedroom and don’t startle us awake with midnight pounces. Last night Vince apparently decided to leave the bedroom door open a crack to see if the cool air would circulate upstairs a little better. But (and this is key), he neglected to inform me of his decision.

Did the kittens take full advantage of that cracked door? Pshaw! Of course they did.

Sometime in the middle of the night, I was awakened by a furry head bumping against my hand, which in cat language means “PET ME NOW!” Still half asleep, I complied. But then in some deep recess of my brain, it occurred to me that Jinx should not have been in the bedroom let alone on the bed requiring petting. And then it occurred to me that if one cat was around, the other one must be in the vicinity. But I didn’t sense Twinks in the room, which was puzzling.

So, as Jinx took full advantage of my sleepy state and reveled in all the attention she was getting, I started to awaken more fully. Not what I wanted to do at, it turns out, 3:30 in the morning.

Because I didn’t want Jinx to wake up Vince, I eventually picked her up and walked over to the bedroom door intending to shoo her out. Except that the door was tightly closed.

So I opened the door and placed her gently on the floor and then quickly shut the door again. Only now I was wide awake. How, I wondered, did Jinky-Jinx manage to get inside our room when the bedroom door was tightly closed? Do we have some sort of cat-sized hole in the wall that somehow escaped our notice? Did she learn to magically teleport herself through closed doors?

Then I started thinking that if she can do the disappearing and reappearing trick like that Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland, I’m going to fully exploit her talent in a get-rich-quick scheme of the highest magnitude. Hey, she’s cute and all, but it’s about time she earned her keep. Friskies ain’t cheap, you know.

Yeah…three-thirty in the morning is clearly not a good time to try to think, well, clearly.

I almost shook Vince awake to discuss the situation, but I knew one of us needed to be relatively cheerful in the morning. Eventually I dropped back into sleep only to be rudely awakened a short time later by the alarm.

Yippee, I thought. It’s time to get up after an oh-so restful night.

But once I poured some Visine into my bloodshot eyes and had my caffeine transfusion, I was semi-awake and able to communicate with my loving and patient husband.

He admitted that he was awake the entire time Jinx was in the room, but only pretended to be asleep. Why? Maybe he was worried I’d shoo Jinx over to his side of the bed so he’d have to deal with her. Or perhaps he thought pretend-sleep was preferable to engaging in a conversation with me about our magical cat.

Turns out while I blithely snoozed away earlier, he was awaked when little Miss Motocross – Twinks – first entered the bedroom. As she zipped around the room exploring such fascinating things as tassels on the decorative pillows, the jingly bell on her collar alerted Vince that there was a cat in the bedroom. The second jingly bell told him that Jinx had followed her sister into the No-Felines-Allowed Zone. He managed to snag Twinklebelle and put her out of the bedroom, but Jinx escaped his grasp. So he shut the bedroom door with Jinx still inside the room.

Thus, the mystery was solved and my hastily devised get-rich-quick scheme disappeared in a puff of smoke once I realized that Jinx does not have “Beam me up, Scotty” abilities.

Drat. Foiled again.

So, instead of lounging around all day on a bed full of decorative pillows covered with tassels and counting my riches, I had to get up and go to work. And do I get to indulge in a much-needed after-work nap? Nooo. Instead, I have to stop by the store and pick up yet another bag of Friskies.

And tonight? Well, tonight I think we’ll be so tired we’ll sleep through any sort of catastrophic situation – weather- or feline-related. But just to be safe, I think we’ll make sure the bedroom door is tightly closed.