The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.
–William Shakespeare, All’s Well that Ends Well
“Well, at least no one was hurt.”
I said or heard that sentiment four times over the past 48 hours–roughly four times more than I’ve said or heard it in as many years.
I did, indeed, make use of my new-found time off to fly out to see Restaurant Gal Son. As luck would have it, my plane landed at precisely the same moment that winter blew into South Central Ohio–complete with tornado watches, 50 mph winds, and driving rain. I know Restaurant Gal Son was thrilled that, earlier in the day–when the sun was shining and the temperature hovered around a balmy 70 degrees–he had offered to pick me up.
We hardly spoke during the hour-long drive to campus, which allowed Restaurant Gal Son to focus on “following the red tail lights in front of me, ’cause I can’t see a damned thing!” When this white-knuckle ride was over, we were more than ready for a libation or two. We laughed and said, “Hey, at least we got here in one piece.” Cheers to no one getting hurt.
The next morning dawned, alternating between sun and sleet, and the winds remained in full force. It was so windy, power lines and trees were down all over the tri-county area, tractor trailers were being tossed about the Interstate, and no amount of layering of fleece, wool, or anything else could keep the cold from penetrating to your core.
No time to fret about the weather, however, because the boy and I had to get to class for–of all things–a field trip. That his professor could not stop belly laughing at how Restaurant Gal Son was a full 10 minutes early to class–“Is my watch broken? Was there a time change I didn’t know about?”–was no reason to think he didn’t routinely get to class early to “help the professor set up.” Ha!
The field trip took us to a landscape architect’s home office–an incredible structure tucked neatly in the middle of a heavily wooded setting. Unfortunately, the gale force winds still raged, and 20 minutes into her presentation, we were all startled by a tremendous crashing sound that could only mean one thing–tree down. Big tree down.
“Oh no, my car!” cried the landscape architect, as she abruptly halted her presentation and rushed out the front door to assess the damage. The professor and other students and I all stared at each other for a second, before we, too, went outside to see what Mother Nature had wrought.
Amazingly, the car was barely scathed, despite the hulking limbs scattered in pieces all around it.
“Well, it’s not so bad,” shouted the landscape architect over the howling wind. “And no one was hurt by it, right?”
Back inside we all went, and the landscape architect continued her lecture, while smaller limbs and branches rained down upon the house and property. Restaurant Gal Son and I beat it out of there as fast as we could without being overt wusses just as soon as the class ended. We had one goal–get back to town, away from all tall trees.
Later that day, we made the obligatory pilgrimage to Super Wal-Mart, where we charged three figures’ worth of food, household products and unnecessary impulse-buy items to a credit card that helps me garner points for airline flights that are never available. On the way home, we had to take a different route through the tiny college town because of the annual Christmas festival in the town square.
The detour landed us at an intersection at precisely the same time a local resident–her attention God knows where–ran a stop sign and plowed into our car.
Yes, the accident was totally her fault. Yes, we had a witness who gave a statement to the police who promptly came to the scene. But a car I’ve had for six years and nursed through more recalls than oil changes, one that I just plunked $800 into to keep in decent shape so Restaurant Gal Son could get back and forth at holidays, was now spewing smoke and dripping mysterious fluids as the front grill clanked to the pavement.
And as I called Mr. Restaurant Gal to tell him about this latest incident, he asked, “Is everyone okay?” I reassured him: “We’re all fine. No one was hurt.”
After we managed to get the banged up car to a local service shop, Restaurant Gal Son, his girlfriend and I feasted upon nachos at an uptown bar. We then walked over to a the university’s new ice arena, one of absolute pro quality, and watched Restaurant Gal Son’s school play an incredible hockey game, one they won handily.
Our bizarre day, it seemed, was finally taming itself.
Later, back at Restaurant Gal Son’s apartment, I hung out for the requisite amount of time before freeing everyone from this mom’s company, thereby allowing them to head to parties, salsa dancing, and anything else that my presence was likely keeping them from doing. By midnight, I was only too happy to call it a night as theirs was just beginning.
At precisely 4:05 a.m., I awoke to the sound of a piercing siren that made the walls of my hotel room vibrate. I groggily wondered if the alarm clock had gone mad or if the emergency broadcast system on TV wasn’t kidding around. Then it dawned on my fuzzy brain–fire alarm! I grabbed my cell phone, pulled my fleece on over my PJs,s and slung my purse over my shoulder, fully prepared to find out this was a false alarm.
But when I opened my hotel room door, I couldn’t see beyond more than a few inches, the cloud was so thick in the hallway. I heard, but could not see, others crying out, “Where are the kids? Are they out of their rooms?”
“Get out! Get out now!” bellowed another guest. At first, I couldn’t make out an exit sign. But I remembered that the end of the hallway was to my right, and I took off running in that direction, wondering why the smoke burned my lungs but didn’t smell like smoke. I located the exit I knew had to be there, scampered down the stairs, following a couple of girls wrapped in blankets. When we pushed open the door to the outside, the cold wind never felt so wonderful.
The only thing I could think to do was call Restaurant Gal Son. He was sound asleep, but answered, “Yeah, uh, huh?”
“Hey, I am so sorry to wake you up, but I think there’s a fire in the hotel. There was smoke in my hallway and I just now got outside. It was scary as hell!”
That woke him up.
“Do you want me to come down there?” he asked.
“No, not yet. Let me find out what’s going on. I’ll call you back.”
I then walked around to the front of the hotel and huddled near the front door. The rest of the hotel guests were now filing out of the four-story structure in droves. “Did you see the smoke? Can you believe this?” everyone muttered to one another. I leaned my head against the door jam and closed my eyes, wondering how the hell this latest insanity would play out.
Luckily, an hour later, it played out pretty well. The “smoke” turned out to be the chemicals from two fire extinguishers let loose by two kids apparently too drunk to think twice about doing something so stupid. Thank God no one was hurt in the immediate panic and uncertainty.
We were all finally allowed back in our rooms, and I slept until 10 a.m. I then went for an hour walk all over the campus, bundled up against the cold, Nano earphones firmly plugged into my ears. The only evidence left over from the night before was a thick powder on the carpet in the hallway outside my room.
Brunch with the boy and his girlfriend was fine, buying a slew of of university-labeled fleece was fun, and the comped night when I checked out of the hotel was a nice surprise. Restaurant Gal Son borrowed a car to get me back to the airport, and we drove traffic-free back roads to get there in record time.
As always, the goodbyes were the hardest hugs to give and receive.
The agent was calling my section of the plane as I arrived at my gate. I showed my boarding pass and walked on board, only to find someone in my upgraded seat. He, as did I, had a boarding pass to stake the claim for this narrow perch. Unfortunately, he had perched there first.
“Wait here for the gate agent,” motioned the flight attendant toward the front galley. Oh brother, did I have ANY seat on this packed flight? I wondered. Which was precisely the same moment I heard the captain welcoming everyone aboard a flight to a city I had no intention of visiting.
I have flown since I was a four-year-old unaccompanied minor back in the days when no one cared about kids traveling alone. I have flown to here, there, and everywhere, every year for many, many years. I have never gotten on the wrong plane. Not once. Until this time.
The co-captain had to escort me off the plane “for security purposes, Ma’am.” People stared at me like I was a criminal. It was, in a very minor way, humiliating. But it also was, in a big way, no big deal. Because I ultimately got on the right plane and arrived home safely with my bags in hand, my ancient cat and Mr. Restaurant Gal glad to have me back.
Nope, no one was hurt in any of the first few calamities, although I feel as though we have experienced our quota of close-calls for a while. As for getting on the wrong flight, I always wondered what kind of idiots ended up on planes they shouldn’t be on. Now I have been one of those idiots.
But the wild weather and crazy happenings over the last few days have also made me look forward to the relative “calm” of starting a new job in a new restaurant.
Which, I am happy to report, begins tomorrow for me at precisely 10 a.m.
All is well.