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.

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