Friday, May 14, 2010

Socks and Pajamas

Nope we didn't adopt a pair of new cats with these names. Keep reading.

I had a feeling things weren't going to proceed very smoothly last Saturday, when I woke up at 8, blinked at the clock and realized I should have been at the airport ten minutes ago.

Scott has a learning disability that cripples the part of his brain that's in charge of boarding and takeoff times. I know this. I've known this for more than 15 years now, and yet I listened to him the night before when he said, "oh, we'll have plenty of time if we leave the house by 8:30" (to leave the Earth's surface at 9:20). In a lineless, security-wandless fairyland, sure. At RDU, it's right on time to shoot Ms. OCD into crisis mode.

But wait...there's more. As we dive into the car and sail toward the airport, my phone makes the dreaded dee-dee-dee sound I know so well. Battery is dead. I hear this sound at least once a day because of the age of my phone and my reluctance to stand around the AT&T store. Sure, I can amuse myself, poking at different phones and flipping through the various photos people have taken of themselves in line, but it's something I seem to forget about doing until something like this happens, when I don't have time to charge my phone, let alone trade it in.

And more? Oh yes. The minute I watch Scott drive away into the sunrise, I realize I have no photo i.d. None. It's in my jacket pocket. The jacket I didn't wear on this balmy May morning. And my now dead phone won't allow me to call to see if Scott can get it here before the plane takes off. Sigh.

The woman at the counter is so nice, it's almost scary. Do I have a Sam's card? Nope. Anything with my photo? A credit card? Nope. I put a photo of my dog on it instead (how was I supposed to know it was supposed to be used for i.d? I thought the picture was akin to having kittens on your checks.) I wasn't sure if I should be made nervous by the fact that they let me through with a social security card and an expired health insurance card, but I decided to just be glad I wasn't grounded and slipped through the line.

Now, I thrive on routine and organization. I know it doesn't look like it from a distance, but it's something I not only thrive upon, but require to survive. All of this rapid-fire chaos was making my brain rattle around in its casing. I thought I was being halfway normal, but even the wheelchair driver zooming me around was like, "Breathe, it'll be okay." Until she looked at the time. Then, she started running, making the world a rollercoaster of flickering butts from my point of view.

Well, I did make it, and though the trip was sprinkled with broken airconditioners, sweaty seat-mates and non-existant flights. Really. I was informed by my mom upon my arrival that the flight I had just exited did not exist. (If I had a spookier effect than itallics that I could use right now, I would.) It wasn't listed on the boards. The airline, when asked, knew nothing about it. My luggage even arrived on the carousel marked for some flight from Philadelphia. (Yes, I will sell my story to you, Twilight Zone 2000 producers. Email me.)

Finally settled into the hotel, and after a lovely mojito, mom decides it's pajama time while I parouse the hotel's instruction manual. I am probably the only person who reads these cover-to-cover upon arrival, but I like to know the layout of the place, what kind of things I can have sent to my room, where the pool and fitness center are in case I want to take a quick jog on the treadmill or do some bench presses, and what time my sleep will be interrupted by the cleaning crew in the a.m. since I'll forget to put the sign on the doorknob like I always do. There isn't a housekeeping employee out there who hasn't seen my look of confusion when I wake up in the midst of their keeping house. They usually don't notice I'm there till I sit up and say hell0, and I'm so used to this routine by now, I'm asleep before they can go "Oh my god I didn't see you there" and leave the room. Incidentally, this has contributed to my belief that I am invisible while asleep. Must plan more experiments. Anyway...

I notice that the included map does not highlight fire exits, and I am nerdy enough to demand knowledge of such things. I look at the door and think about getting up to check, but I decide to just ask mom if she noticed. Being used to my sky-high level of preparedness she says something about it being just a couple doors down. I decide if anything untoward happens I can just follow her and promptly forget about it. Not thirty minutes later, the fire alarm goes off. We both grab sweaters, I grab my shoes (high-tops as always, so there's no slipping them on quickly) and exit the room. Both of us have been in hotel fires (no, we don't start them, we just travel a lot), so a) we know the routine and b) we have a strong aversion to catching on fire.

In the hallway, lights are flashing and the fireproof doors are closing to encapsulate the hall into managable segments, should the fire be on our floor. We don't see smoke, and I have the worst sense of direction ever so I immediately dart in the opposite direction of the fire exit mom had seen. I'm darting down the hall, touching doorknobs carefully before opening (I think I learned that handy tip from Mr. T between Saturday morning cartoons. You can touch his jewelry the same way to acertain if he is on fire.) and for some reason, we can't find any stairs, just lots of people poking their heads out of their rooms asking what the alarm is about. Finally, waaaaaayyyy at the end of the hall, we find a thin little door and behind it, a very creepy stairwell. We take the stairs as fast as we can and finally there's a door leading outside, just four little steps away. Four of the freakin' cockroachiest stairs I've ever seen leading to the cockroachiest landing ever. Seriously, the floor is carpeted with dead roaches. Dead is better than live (Ow! My karma!) but I'm standing in my socks and for a few seconds I have to seriously consider whether my life is really worth having to walk across the cockroach valley of death in my socks. If my mom had not been standing behind me, I may not have done it, but I plow through, squealing all the way, out the door and...

into the middle of Royal Street. Seriously. There's no handle on the outside of the door and here are Socks and Pajamas standing in the middle of Friday night bar traffic, no less confused and out of place than if we'd been randomly teleported there. For several minutes we stand slackjawed and frozen. Then I see several black suited CIA looking guys with Hotel Omni Royal logos on their nametags shouting into walkie talkies that some drunk just broke the fire alarm box for the hotel. Which for some reason is located in the bar next door, apparently within brawling range.

The second we realize our lives aren't, and never were, in danger, we start feeling darn silly as people in eveningwear shove us aside, mom in her full-length romance-novel nightgown, me standing in my roachy-ass socks holding my shoes on the tips of my fingers like I'm trying to display them to the crowd. Mom, in particular, has a lot more dignity to lose than I do, and her expression rapidly changes from amusement to horror. I'm not a shy person, I can deal with a little public humiliation. She practically invented modesty, so for her sake, I try to escort her back to our room as quickly as possible knowing that the poor girl will likely be sleeping fully clothed from now on.
Did I say try? After hopscotching over the many wet spots and mysterious stains on the flagstones of Royal Street (I handled my socks with plastic bags over my hands when we got back that night.) and halfway up the steps leading into the hotel lobby, I notice that the Jazz band playing at the top of the stairs didn't seem to have bothered to evacuate when we did. Then I notice that they're coming toward us followed by a parade. I kid you not. Apparently, there was a huge wedding going on in the hotel and the alarm gave them an excuse to pack up and lead the bridal parade into the streets. There are trumpets and clarinets and hundreds (seriously) of people waving napkins and umbrellas and they all have us trapped in the middle of the stairs so we can't move in any direction at all while mom desperately tries to hide behind me. I hold up my shoes proudly and smile at the passing crowd because what else can you do?

Poor mom. She was blanched white (she's much darker skinned than I am, for those who know me and know that I would have to blanch clear) and embarassed beyond belief, worried that we'd ruined the girl's wedding. I assured her that we were hardly the weirdest thing they'd seen in New Orleans and even if they did notice, I'm sure they just leaned over to the person next to them and whispered, "Ol' Socks and Pajamas over there must be from his side of the family" and never gave it a second thought.

So, we didn't burn to ashes and had a bit of an adventure. Not a bad way to start a vacation. I don't know if mom will ever fully recover, but that's what red wine and hurricanes are for, and we were in the right place for it.

1 comment:

Laura Bray said...

Okay-this story tops my travel story today! My mom and I have been in 3 hotel fires! I'm not kidding. All of them actual fires, but none life threatening. Just bathroom waste baskets catching fire etc. We're pretty sure we were witches in a past life or something. LOL! Remind us never to go on vacation with your mom or the whole city could go down!