We are gathered here today,
to remember our brother rat.
He died as he lived his life,
On the patio, and in the yard.
Place rat gently in the pooper scooper.
Please forgive his brother Chihuahua,
Who really just wanted a new fuzzy toy.
As we process to his resting place,
We commit him to his Creator.
Oh, Lord, bless this rat.
Unto You, we commit his soul.
Dump gently over the fence.
Notes: Yes, the Chihuahua did it again. I admit “brother” rat is an assumption because I really didn’t want to be examining a dead rat’s genitalia on a darkened patio. You have to say “resting place” and not “final resting place” because while the Chihuahua is inside the fence, there are other critters on the outside. Rest In Peace.
It takes two days to drive from Cedarville to Dallas (with an overnight stop), so this was still faster, but it’s interesting how long it took American to just say, “We’re not flying this plane back to Dallas.”
We were on American flight 1492 from Columbus (ha!) to Dallas, and the plane was in a bit late, but everything looked good.
Then, the new crew did a walk-around, and the Captain called Maintenance. Run-Roh. That’s never good.
The gate agent assured us it wasn’t a big deal, everything was fine, but the Captain didn’t want to board us while they were doing paperwork. So, just relax, everything’s going to work out.
A bit later, she said, it wasn’t a big problem but they weren’t sure if everyone or only some or nobody was flying to Dallas. Hmm. The non-problem seems to have worsened. What would cause a plane to hold less people?
I found all the texts I got while we were at the gate, attached below. Basically, every fifteen minutes, you got a text moving the flight out fifteen minutes. This is silly, especially if the flight has not arrived yet. If a flight arrives late, it will depart about forty-five minutes after it finishes unloading, unless they can’t get a slot to take off. Minimum.
Here’s the annoying part – all the systems (gate agent, app, text messages) are slightly out of sync. You can’t really depart at 3:15pm if it’s 3:17pm and the plane hasn’t arrived yet. I’m pretty sure the gate agent knew the flight was canceled before she finally announced it wasn’t officially canceled yet, but it wasn’t going to depart.
So, after looking at the plane just sitting at the gate for a couple of hours, and listening to ever more disturbing and cryptic announcements, I called the AAdvantage Gold Desk (one time being lifetime Gold helps) and asked for alternatives. I said I thought the flight I was on was about to be canceled. The only other American flight was sold out. The agent offered to just move us to Delta, but that meant a connection in Atlanta, which adds hours of travel. Still, it seemed better than a hotel at the airport and flying out the next day, so I took it.
It occurred to me later that either she moved us to another airline out of the goodness of her heart or she already knew the flight had been canceled. As far as the rest of the people at the gate knew, we were still leaving – or some of us were. We were safe, to a certain extent.
We got to see a small part of Hartsfield International Airport and discovered the seats are better on Delta. (We also got delayed out of Columbus after there was a ground stop in Atlanta, which cut into our connection time.)
We saw a few people from the gate on the Delta flight with us, so we weren’t alone. We were just first, and I didn’t have to stand in line at the gate to negotiate a switch.
I would love to know what was wrong with the plane, especially as it had just flown up from DFW.
Text updates are generally helpful because they will tell you your gate changed before the gate agent announced it, or before you look around and notice you’re alone. However, the sequence of texts for a cancellation is just sad.
Getting Ready to Go
Reminder: Flight AA1492 CMH-DFW on Jun22, 2:45 PM out of Gate B19. Check airport monitors for updates.
AA1492 ON TIME
Arrives DFW 4:20P Gate A10 Bag A15
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel
At the Airport, at the gate, no plane.
Flight AA1492, CMH-DFW on Jun22, departure time has changed. New time of departure is 3:10 PM. Check airport monitors for updates.
AA1492 Departs CMH 3:10P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 4:47P Gate A10 Bag Claim A15
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel
The Plane has just arrived, so we’re boarding 100+ people in ten minutes?
Flight AA1492, CMH-DFW on Jun22, departure time has changed. New time of departure is 3:25 PM. Check airport monitors for updates.
AA1492 Departs CMH 3:25P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 5:02P Gate A10 Bag Claim A15
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel
If we start boarding ten minutes ago, we might make this.
Flight AA1492, CMH-DFW on Jun22, departure time has changed. New time of departure is 3:45 PM. Check airport monitors for updates.
AA1492 Departs CMH 3:45P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 5:22P Gate A10 Bag Claim A15
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel
Thinking this is a doomed flight.
AA1492 Departs CMH 3:55P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 5:32P Gate A36 Bag Claim A29
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel
I called the Gold Desk.
Flight AA1492, CMH-DFW on Jun22, departure time has changed. New time of departure is 4:20 PM. Check airport monitors for updates.
AA1492 Departs CMH 4:20P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 5:57P Gate A36 Bag Claim A29
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel
On Hold with the Gold Desk
Flight AA1492, CMH-DFW on Jun22, departure time has changed. New time of departure is 4:35 PM. Check airport monitors for updates.
AA1492 Departs CMH 4:35P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 6:12P Gate A36 Bag Claim A29
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel
AA1492 Departs CMH 4:35P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 6:12P Gate C4 Bag Claim C4
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel
At this point, we were rebooked.
AA1492 Departs CMH 6:00P Gate B19
Arrives DFW 7:37P Gate C4 Bag Claim C4
WiFi avail onboard
Reply HELP for Help
Reply STOP to Cancel
Good thing we took the Delta flights. Look at that line forming.
AA1492 22Jun 6:00P CMH to DFW is
Please call 800-433-7300 for assistance.
Local rates apply outside U.S.
http://www.aa.com/PHONE for help
So, it’s O’Dark-Thirty, and I’m trying to find the rental car return in Peoria International Airport.
I’m poking along, trying not to miss the Avis sign, when a Parking Shuttle bus comes roaring up behind me. Good Lord, man, can’t you see I’m lost?
I realize I’m in the Hertz return area, and it looks like real parking after that, so it’s time to turn around. This is why I leave early for the airport.
I’m slowly making my way down the lot when the insane shuttle bus comes roaring up behind me, again. WTF? I’m lost. Go pick up someone who knows where they are.
One more U-Turn, and the shuttle is behind me again. Seriously?
Now, he’s honking his horn.
That’s it. I’m going to die.
So, I pull over and roll down the window.
He says, “Need help?”
Wait. What? He’s not a murderer?
“I’m trying to find Avis.”
The van roars off at quite an inappropriate speed for a parking lot, but it’s not like anybody else is here.
He leads me to Avis (in my defense, it was out of the way.)
I parked and he said, “Want a ride over?”
Now, I can see the terminal, and my FitBit thinks I need the steps, but I’ve got two computers and two suitcases, and he seems friendly, for a murderer.
“I’ll take you to drop your bags first, because the rental counters aren’t open yet. It’s easier to drop the bags, then drop the keys.
I was trying to get you to stop, because you looked lost, and you kept going. I was just following you, because I figured you needed help.”
So, trying to get me to stop so you can render aid just looks like stalking. Good to know.
So, a quick ride to the terminal, quick instructions on where everything is, and I’m good to go.
I’m back to being early, which is much better than being lost.
So, thank you, early morning shuttle driver, for taking pity on me, driving me around, and explaining the lay of the land.
Oh, and for not murdering me.
I’m in Peoria, Illinois on business for three weeks, and two-thirds of the trip is now behind me. So, I will update this as required for the last week. I had quite a head of steam up the first week, writing everything down, but after that, I either got complacent or I managed to lower my expectations to where they were being met.
Somewhere along the line, it became too long and bitchy for a Yelp review, so it was graduated to a blog post.
I had some trepidation about staying at a Quality Inn, but this is my first contracting assignment with this company and nobody told me the hotel limits, and I was originally told the travel desk didn’t do hotels. (Had I been more in practice, I would have stayed at a really expensive place and said, “Nobody said there were limits”, but I really need to be reimbursed, and I’d like to keep the job, if nothing else for my resume.) If you put “quality” in the name, you’re probably concerned about being considered low quality. I can never remember where on the food chain Quality is, I think it’s actually below Comfort. However, I think it’s above Sleep.
I checked in on Sunday, May 20th, after my flight to Peoria got canceled and I got rerouted to Bloomington, instead. So, that was an extra hour’s drive. At that point, any room would be good. I hoped.
The room is not bad. It’s not a suite, but it’s designed for long-term stays (I think.) There’s a dishwasher, a refrigerator and a microwave. There are (some) plates and glasses. Well, one less, because I dropped one. There are pots and pans – but nowhere to use them. There is a minimal amount of silverware.
All I really needed was a fridge, a decent-sized glass and an ice bucket. I drink soda in the room. I don’t cook.
I filled my ice bucket Sunday night. By Monday morning, I had a bag of water. I went to Walmart that evening to get some other stuff, and got myself a big-ass glass. So, I didn’t really use the ice bucket after that, which was good, since when I got back to the room, I still had a bag of water. On Saturday, I still had a bag of water. I began wondering how long this would go on. I will be impressed if it is still there after three weeks. (The bag was replaced either Monday or Tuesday of my second week. By that time, I had stopped looking – but I caught it in the corner of my eye as I was making coffee Wednesday morning.)
When I got back from work on Monday, I had a hand-written note from the maid on the bed. She hadn’t made the bed because I had left my gym shorts and t-shirt on it, and she can’t touch my stuff. Ma’am, if you’ve cleaned any lonely businessmen’s towels and sheets, you should not be afraid of shorts and a t-shirt.
My wife hates that I leave my t-shirt and shorts on the bed, but it’s an interesting test for me. I’ve had some maids fold them, some drape them on a chair, some toss them on a chair, and one folded them and put them on the pillow. One folded them and put them under the pillow. And then, one wrote me a note.
Tuesday evening, I realized I had a laundry order form but no laundry bag. I needed to send some shirts out since I refuse to iron, and I’m allergic to doing laundry. So, I went down to the front desk and got a laundry bag. It tore when I filled it, but I can’t pack like my wife.
Wednesday morning, I staggered down to the front desk first thing, before I forgot about it, since it was in by 9, back by 6. So, I arrive in shorts and a t-shirt, with a laundry bag in hand. The clerk said, “Checking Out?” Quite the leap. I guess hobos stay here.
After he took the laundry, I decided to grab some breakfast. The woman restocking the spread said I couldn’t be in there because I didn’t have shoes on. So, hobos can sleep here, they just can’t eat.
That night when I got back from work, no laundry. This did not really surprise me. At a hotel, it would surprise me. Here, not so much.
Thursday night, when there was no laundry and also no emergency medical shipment from my doctor, I went to the front desk. Since my room is at the very end of the hallway, this is an excellent way for me to get my steps in.
Now, I admit, I am having a senior moment on my room number – I’m off by 2 constantly. I didn’t know that was the issue, but I considered it.
The front desk guy recognized me – in fact, when I got two sodas from the little shop and told him the wrong number, I went back to correct it, and he already had.
“Did I get a package? And, have you seen my laundry?”
His manager asked my name. “Oh, I saw that. Just a minute.”
My friend said, “It had the wrong room, but we fixed it.” – uh, if you fixed it, why am I at the front desk asking for my stuff? The manager came back with a package and laundry. She then showed my friend how to charge the laundry to my room. I hope I am not the first customer to send out laundry. Given some of the outfits I’ve seen walking in the hall, I might be.
Saturday – a day to laze around a bit, after five days of being in the office by 8:30am or earlier. I went and got some breakfast (with my flip-flops on), went back, put up the Do Not Disturb sign, read all my email and took a shower.
I got out of the shower, and there was a letter under the door. “We respected your Do Not Disturb and won’t do your room.” The note was dated 10am. I found it at 9:45am. The letter said to contact the front desk for anything I needed. Uh, I need my room cleaned. Back to the front desk. There was an employee standing there, talking to the clerk, so I figured fast service, because guests outrank employees, right? So, after I heard the front desk clerk discussing the employee’s lack of a paycheck with her (well, maybe that’s why they take off early), I asked to have my room done. No problem. Just go find one of the maids and ask her. Hmm. The note said “front desk”, not “self-service”. So, I wandered the hall, found a cart, looked for an open door, and asked a maid. She looked down my end of the hall, saw no cart, got a pained look, and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll have it done.” Amazingly, when I got home later that day, the room was done. I guess they’re expecting everyone to go to early Mass tomorrow. I’d better be out of the room early.
Saturday afternoon, there was some loud noise outside my window, and I’m by a parking lot (a lovely view, by the way.) I thought I had caught an illicit pool party – pool parties are verboten (in writing.) No, it was a tailgate party – with multiple tents and people in those fold-up chairs and everything. Well, at least it wasn’t a pool party.
The pool party (it’s not a pool party!) went on until just after 11:30pm when I heard a baby start crying. I guess if I would have smacked the kid sooner, it would have quieted down.
Monday was Memorial Day, so I was actually off work. I still got up early, so I wouldn’t block the maids’ progress. I had breakfast and went back to the room. No maid. I went out to Walmart for sodas, stopped for lunch and went back to the room. No maid. I went to Best Buy, bought an Amazon Fire stick, came back to the room about 12:30pm and was in the middle of installing and configuring it on their TV, when … a knock at the door. “Would you like your room cleaned?” Sure. Ten minutes in the lobby, clean room. Five minutes later, I don’t have to watch cable any more.
I finally decided to do my laundry, even though I’m allergic since there was a bunch of stuff I hadn’t sent out. Everyplace fun I would have gone to visit was closed for Memorial Day and the minor league team is on the road on the weekends the entire time I’m here, so I might as well do chores. The machines in the hotel are $1.75 each which seemed reasonable, so I went to the front desk for some change, since I didn’t see a change machine. One of my well-known clerks was there, so this should be easy – “Hi! How can I help you?” “Hi. I need some quarters for laundry.” Some rummaging around and, “We don’t have any quarters.” How is this possible?
So, off to find a laundromat, since I didn’t see the point of going out and getting change and coming back. Of course, it was almost 4pm, so everyone was closed or closing. All except one laundry about four miles away. I didn’t have the heart to ask the front desk for a laundry bag, so I just put everything in my small suitcase. The machines were more expensive, but they had quarters and a change machine.
Tuesday or Wednesday, one of the maids actually replaced my ice bucket. I didn’t notice which day, since I just load the ice directly into my big-ass cup. I was making coffee on Thursday morning, and I noticed a nicely folded, dry bag hanging out of the ice bucket.
Thursday evening, I realized that I had to send some shirts out again to get me through until I go home. So, I asked at the front desk for a laundry bag, since there was none in the room. (Dear hotel people, if you have a guest dumb enough to pay your laundry prices once, he will do it again. Give him another bag!) The woman at the front desk happily gave me a laundry bag, and as I walked off, I noticed there was no order form in the bag. So, I asked for an order form. (How can you use one without the other?) She was on the phone, and said, “Just a second, I have to print one out.” WTF? Don’t you have forms with the bags? The forms don’t come from the laundry? Apparently not. So, she printed me a form while she dealt with the call, and now she has an extra form, since the template they use prints two on a page and she had to cut them in half. I packed up my shirts, filled in the form, and double-checked I got the room number right.
Friday morning, I dropped them off at the front desk on my way to the office. I had to wait for the clerk to finish some very important task before I could drop them off, so I waited. Most places, I would just put the bag on the counter and wave on my way out the door. A lot of places, I would have just left the damn shirts on my bed, but here I probably would have had dirty shirts and another note on an unmade bed when I got home. So, I waited. He finally said, ‘Dropping off laundry?” No, I’m a hobo, and I’m checking out. I got home from work, and no laundry. This did not surprise me. I went out to dinner, and on the way past the desk coming back, asked if my shirts were back. “Oh, yes.” Shirts handed over. I guess nobody at the desk has a key to my room.
Saturday morning, I got up late (for me) but early enough to be out of the room before the maids rejected me again. I went to the buffet for breakfast, and decided to have a waffle. They have one of those cool “fill, flip” waffle makers. So, I get the cup of batter, open the machine, pour in the batter, close it and give it a spin. That’s when the hostess (an older maid promoted to buffet duty) informed me that the machine was being used. Excuse me? She said a young girl was using it. Hmm. Then, why was it empty? “I’m so sorry. It’s just the machine was empty.” “Well, she was using it. She only wanted 3/4 of a waffle, so she only filled three corners.” How was she using it? Telepathically? 3/4 of a waffle still requires batter and there was no batter. I apologized another three or four times, because it takes two minutes to make a waffle.
I got my (now tainted) waffle out of the formerly empty (yes, I’m bitter about this) machine and put it on a table, so I could go get some coffee. I came back, and some guy was putting his stuff on my table. Our eyes met, and we both looked confused. He finally said, “Is this your table?” I said yes, and he apologized profusely. He thought my waffle was his daughter’s waffle. Uh, Sparky, your daughter only eats 3/4 waffles. This is a full one. Get with the program.
I feel bad for stealing the waffle iron. The empty waffle iron. He feels bad for stealing my table. The table with food on it. Eventually, I said we should all just go back to our beds and start over. His daughter, the one with no damn batter in the damn machine, is still pouting.
I got back to my room. No maid. There is some altercation outside my window, though. Lots of loud voices, and what sounded like arguing. I looked through the curtains, and there were all the maids. It must be break time.
I decided to take a drive down the World’s Most Beautiful Drive, which is about ten minutes from the hotel. It is very nice, and the river views are impressive. On the way back, I stopped at Hardee’s for a snack (really, for the bathroom, but I’m polite enough to buy something.) I managed to get to Hardee’s just as they were changing from breakfast to lunch, so five chicken strips took almost fifteen minutes to make. I should have had biscuits. Got back to the hotel. No maid.
Started writing a note to answer one last question from work, since my boss will be out next week. 12:45pm, bright and early, a knock at the door. “Would you like your room cleaned?” I managed to not say, “No, ma’am, I prefer filth.” So, I went out to the lobby, and ten minutes later, I had a clean room. There was even blue water in the toilet, but I think she just did that out of spite.
Why did I get up early? Oh, yes, so I would be out of the maid’s way.
Maybe my expectations are too great. Maybe I’m just out of practice on business travel. This place actually has some good Yelp reviews. I now assume those writers are comparing it to boondocking or boot camp.
Week three begins.
Sunday, I got up early. I didn’t mean to do so, I just woke up at 7:30am and couldn’t go back to sleep. So, then was the question – throw a t-shirt and shorts (and flip-flops! don’t forget the flip-flops!) on, and grab something from the free buffet, or shower, dress, and go out.
I’m not saying I’m tired of the gravy from a huge can or still traumatized by Le Incident De Waffle, but I decided to go out. I had laundry to do, so instead of discovering the front desk was still out of quarters, I figured I would get breakfast and hit the laundromat.
So, I went out, had breakfast, went down the street, did the load of laundry, came back, spent an hour and a half on the phone with my wife, booked a cruise for this evening, checked my work email, looked at the time, and it was ten to two. You know who hasn’t come into my life today? The maid. I just checked and she’s six doors down the hall, at least.
This means the first week was an anomaly – or all the maids that liked to work early didn’t get paid and quit.
So, when I was leaving for dinner and had heard most of the maids leaving (and having another loud discussion in the hallway), I saw what looked like a supervisor, and mentioned my room had not been done. She asked one of the other staff who had my hallway, and I just wandered off, as I had a cruise to catch.
I spent the evening on the Spirit of Peoria, with a buffet dinner and the music of Kenny Rogers. It was great fun.
When I got back, lo and behold, my room had been cleaned. My assumption is twofold, one, that a supervisor did it and two, there will be hell to pay tomorrow.
My travel bag used to be pretty simple. Laptop, charger. Done. If I was going overseas, I needed a wall adapter. Lately, the list has started growing. What’s interesting is how much of the technology is duplicated – laptops and phones have cameras and GPS units, for example. This current trip has added a number of things out of boredom, but if you’re going to travel on business, boredom is a good possibility.
Now, we have:
- Wall adapter and USB cable
- Wall adapter and USB cable
- Macbook Air
- Power cord
- Work Dell laptop (actually, in its own bag)
- Power cord
Photography (mainly because my backpack is also my camera bag)
- Nikon D5300 camera
- Fisheye lens
- 50mm fixed lens (added this trip)
- 18-140mm zoom lens
- 55-300mm zoom lens
- USB charger for Garmin vivosmart3 (“Fitbit”)
- CPAP (actually in suitcase)
- Glucose Meter
- Blood Testing Strips
- Alcohol wipes
- Garmin Etrex 10 GPS
- Bushnell Backtrack GPS
- Bad Elf GPS adapter for iPad
- Power strip (for CPAP or other needs)
- Amazon Fire Stick (added this trip)
- USB cord and wall adapter
- Bracketron Window Mount (for iPhone camera & GPS use) (added this trip)
I really need an additional USB cable to leave in the car. Next trip.
What have I learned from this?
- My back hurts. I may know why.
- Don’t get a GPS from the car rental company when you can use a Bracketron and your own phone, especially if you have a long USB cable for charging. Plus, when you buy the mount, you get the opportunity to sign up as a Uber driver!
- You can never have too many GPS units.
- You can never have too many lenses.
- You can never have too many USB cables.
- A Fire Stick, Chromecast or Roku is pretty useful now because almost all hotel TVs have HDMI adapters, even the hotels (<cough>Quality Inn<cough>) with crappy cable packages.
- Best Buy is a bad place to be when you’re bored.
So, I’m in Peoria, Illinois for three weeks on a work project and I’ve been up here before, so rather than travel back and forth on the weekends, I decided to just stay up here the whole time.
Flights to Peoria from DFW can be painful – you can connect through O’Hare (no, thank you!) or to fly back and forth non-stop on a commuter plane, you would lose half of Friday, which as a contractor is a very bad idea ($$$) and you would have to lose half of Sunday coming back. So, what’s the point?
(My flight up here was canceled, so I had to fly to Bloomington-Normal instead, change my rental car, and drive an extra hour to get to the hotel. I was not the only one on the plane who had done so. This may have been a warning.)
Besides, I was up here 20+ years ago on another project and had a good time with happy memories, so what’s not to like in Peoria?
As I sit in my hotel room, waiting for the maids to arrive, so I can vacate and then come back to binge-watch Netflix, I realize how much has changed in the 20+ years.
- I was single back then, so it really didn’t matter where I was at any given time. I had visitation with my son on first, third and fifth weekends, but that was easy to arrange. I’m married now, so now I actually have a reason to be in Dallas – my dogs and my perpetually injured wife (just kidding, my love!)
- I was home on the weekends back then. I really never stayed in Peoria over the weekend, so I didn’t have to find something to do. I did go on a river cruise yesterday, which was fabulous, and I might go again today, because everything else is closed.
- I had someone from Caterpillar to hang out with last time. Mike was always happy to hang in the evenings and there may have been drinking involved. (The drinking may be why I am still blanking on his last name.) I’ve had two drinks this week, and one of them was on the airplane up here.
- I was staying in a really nice hotel in the middle of downtown that was walking distance from my office. Now, I’m working at a plant so far out of town it doesn’t have an address, just an intersection. I’m in a Quality Inn & Suites (more later) on the outskirts of town which let’s just say is not the level of service to which I have become accustomed on business trips.
- I was working for a really small company that tended to turn a blind eye to “interesting” expenses (until someone rented a U-Haul to help his girlfriend move.) Now, I’m really concerned about reimbursement and toeing the line (which in many cases has not been defined), which tends to put a damper on fun.
- I’m older. Let’s just say I’m not as adventurous as I used to be. Back then, I had any number of co-workers to call to help me get out of jail. Now, I would have to call my wife, and she would probably just hang up on me, so she could call her sisters.
- I picked a very bad weekend to start trying to hang out in Peoria – it’s Memorial Day. You would think that would mean more things to do, but the Peoria Chiefs minor league baseball team is out of town until Tuesday (and out of town next weekend!) and the Caterpillar Museum is closed on Sundays and holidays. There is nothing scheduled at the Civic Center – and that’s 3/4ths of the TripAdvisor top four things to do. The other is a scenic drive, part of which I saw from the boat yesterday.
- The one great memory I had of Peoria was surviving the Flood of ’93 and flying in from Dallas on a Super-80 that had about eight other people on it. I realized this week that during the Flood of ’93, I was actually in Des Moines.
This is the story of a bonsai plant, so by definition, it is a short story.
Monday, May 7, 2018
My Mom and I have had our differences over the years, but last week was Mother’s Day, and she’s still my mother, so I decided my wife and I should send her a small gift. I dislike flowers, partly because of the markup, partly because it’s so predictable, but mostly because of their short shelf life. So, I decided a plant would be a more lasting gift.
Since everything in the universe is online these days, I just pointed my browser at 1-800-Flowers and looked for their Mother’s Day plant suggestions.
Mom’s in a condo, so there’s not a lot of extra space for gardening, and one of the suggestions was a bonsai azalea. That sounded a bit exotic, nice and small, still very pretty, and within my price range. So, I ordered that for Mom, a doggie bouquet for my wife (from our Chihuahua) and called it done.
I was proud of myself – even with the Mother’s Day rush in full tilt, I had gotten the order placed in time enough where my wife’s gift would arrive Thursday, Mom’s on Friday, both before Mother’s Day with room for error and minimal excess delivery charges. Yea, me!
Thursday, May 10, 2018
A flower bouquet arrived at our door. The enclosed card said it was for my wife from our Chihuahua, Rocky, and specifically said it was only from him and not our other dogs. Quite funny, even though that’s the third time I’ve put that on a card. Everybody in my house is happy.
Friday, May 11, 2018
I got a note on a different subject from Mom, replied to her, and in her reply to my reply, she thanked us for the beautiful plant. So, both gifts are delivered, Mother’s Day is coming up, everything is done. Yea, me!
For a normal person, this would be the end of the blog post. Sigh.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Mother’s Day. My brother was taking Mom out to brunch with some of his friends and their Moms, so we had lunch with my in-laws. Everybody’s covered. Life is good.
After I got home, I received an apology email with a $20 credit from 1-800-Flowers for letting me down. Hmm. As far as I knew, everything was delivered. I actually saw one gift arrive and got a thank you note for the other. So, I figured it was a systems error from the insanity of Mother’s Day at a nationwide florist, and forgot about it.
Monday, May 14, 2018
I got an email notice that my Mom’s gift would be delivered on Tuesday. So, that explains the apology note, since they had completely missed Mother’s Day. Wait. Why did I get a thank you note on Friday? There are a number of medical conditions running in my family, but clairvoyance is not one of them.
Maybe they just sent a placeholder bouquet until the real gift arrived, but they never mentioned that in the note.
I was confused. This is not the first time I have been confused about gifts.
Maybe I should ask my Mom. I sent her a quick, “Hey, I got a really strange email” note.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
(Happy Birthday, Ellie!)
Mom replied to my note. In fact, we had a stream of notes that day. I will attempt to summarize.
She had received a box on Friday with a tray, some pebbles for drainage, care instructions and a six-inch azalea in full bloom. However, there was no bonsai plant.
I started having flashbacks to my first long train ride with my son, when he was six or so. By the time we were an hour out of San Antonio, he had gone through everything I had brought along (snacks, books, coloring books) for the twelve-hour trip. So, I said, “Why not just look out the window at the scenery for a while?” He said, “There isn’t any scenery, just rocks and cows.”
There is no bonsai, just a small flower bush.
So, Mom had called 1-800-Flowers. (Mom and my wife call people. I use chat and email. My wife and I have a long-running debate about which is more effective.)
After a discussion with the (probably off-shore) customer support line, the 1-800-Flowers representative had agreed to send another plant for delivery on Saturday.
Hmm. That would explain the $20 credit.
The plant did not arrive Saturday, so Mom called back – and amazingly got the same customer sales representative (thank you, Evelyn, for helping Mom). They were becoming close. The delivery was assured for Sunday.
Nothing arrived Sunday, so Mom called back. Same customer service representative, who now recognized my Mom’s voice. (You would think they would have CallerID so they could swap repeat customers.) Monday, for sure.
That explained the delivery notice for Monday that I received for a gift that had been delivered Friday.
I was beginning to have visions of a bonsai forest on my Mom’s balcony.
So, I emailed Mom the picture of the bonsai azalea from the website, to show what I had chosen. Surely, that will clear everything up.
To her credit, she only called in the first place because she wanted to receive what I had selected. It never occurred to her that I would actually select a bonsai azalea. I’m not really sure what that says about what she thinks about my taste.
To her further credit, she does not consider a miniature azalea to be a bonsai plant. I checked Wikipedia a while ago, and it says that bonsai is a cultivation method, which means (I believe) that technically any full-size plant could be raised as a bonsai plant, given the time and patience. Speaking of patience, I’m not sure I have the energy to explain to Mom how to update the Wikipedia page to her definition. Maybe she can call Evelyn to have it corrected.
So, Mom now has two bonsai azaleas, whether they are bonsai or not. I have a good name for my next band (“Ladies and gentlemen …. Bonsai Azaleas!”)
I received another apology with another $20 credit from 1-800-Flowers.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
The Popcorn Factory sent me an email that said they were having a sale on popcorn tins. My grandkids love popcorn. It’s a sale. I like cheap popcorn. So, I was about to hit the order button, when I realized that 1-800-Flowers owns The Popcorn Factory. So, I used one of the apology credits to send my grandkids some really cheap popcorn.
As in, the math after it’s all over. So, I spent $39.99 on a bonsai azalea to attempt to make my Mom happy. Instead, Mom got two bonsai azaleas, a personal quest that kept her busy over the lulls in Mother’s Day weekend, and a new friend in the Philippines. I got $40 in credits. The kids got popcorn. My wife got a flower arrangement from a Chihuahua. I got a really strange blog post, even for me.
I never saw Mother’s Day as an investment opportunity, but so it goes.
I may have to use the other $20 to get my Mom some miniature tools so she can keep her azaleas small. There is nothing more embarrassing than a large bonsai azalea.
Next year, I will just toss a small plant at her and say it is a kamikaze azalea.
So, this is probably a contender for the ultimate White People Problem, but my car wouldn’t start, so I had to call for help. I am the first to admit I’m not mechanically-minded, so in times of crises, like warning lights turning on or off on the dash, or cars not starting, I find a professional.
My car is a 2017 Ford Fusion that we got specifically so I would have something to drive to the office, and then (as you may recall) my office got eliminated. So, it hasn’t gotten nearly the usage we expected. In fact, the insurance company kept calling me to tell me their tracking device (that gave me a policy discount) obviously needed replacement because it wasn’t sending any data.
So, the Fusion has been resting quietly in the driveway. For some time.
It rested so long, that when I finally needed it, I couldn’t get into the car.
What I mean is that the automated key clicker-thingie wouldn’t open the door, so I couldn’t get into it the easy way, and at that point, I didn’t know that there’s a secret old-school key hidden in the automated key clicker-thingie, so I was stuck.
Eventually, I found the secret manual key documented on YouTube, but I was afraid I was pushing too hard on the secret manual key (to pry off the secret manual cover), so I gave up.
That was a couple of weeks ago. We’ve been to Ohio and back. Actually, we’ve been a lot of places, but since Virginia is usually with me, we just take her car (which used to be my car.)
So, I’m not really sure when I drove it last, but it’s been a while. I could estimate it, but my attorney has advised against it.
Hey, I lost my job, I’ve been looking for a new one, I was accepted as a SCORE volunteer mentor, we’ve been on a couple of trips, the Spousal Unit had surgery. I’ve been busy.
Let’s just say it’s been a while.
So, I assumed the battery was dead. When the automated key clicker-thingie didn’t work, that confirmed my assumption to me. That is the extent of my automotive debugging skills. It was time to consult a professional.
It occurs to me that if we had driven it to Ohio, my son (who is not a mechanic, but is amazing with tools) probably could have fixed it, but if we could have driven it to Ohio, there wouldn’t have been anything to fix.
So, I called AAA. Well, I filled in the online form. Then, I remembered the last time I had a dead battery, the mechanic sold me a new one, so I canceled the call. Then, I called Ford Roadside Assistance, since their new battery would be under my warranty. I hoped.
I’m not really sure why I have AAA when Roadside Assistance comes with our cars, but so it goes. Call both, have them race to the house. I’m pretty sure some mechanics work for both, anyway.
Ford Roadside Assistance is great. The 800-number texts you for the address, so you don’t have to read the address to a voice-recognition system. The operator can figure out much of your life from the last eight digits of the VIN. They text you a URL where you can track the tow truck from when it is dispatched until your injured car arrives at the dealer.
They dispatched someone to tow my car in, which seemed like overkill, but having just been to the ER and then admitted overnight for a vertigo attack, I’m used to overkill.
When the mechanic called to verify the address, he said he’d just jump it first, since it sounded like a dead battery. (Dead battery, you say? Maybe I should be a mechanic!)
So, this should be simple.
However, it’s my life. Simple, it is not.
The mechanic was a lovely gentleman who managed to get the secret key to remove the secret cover, and got the driver’s door open. When I told him I was afraid it would break, he laughed in that not-at-all-condescending mechanic laugh, and told me I couldn’t break it.
Sir, may I remind you that you are standing in front of a broken car to which I have done nothing?
(I didn’t say that, because I still needed him on my side.)
With the door open at last, we could try to start the car, which didn’t work, as expected. I was afraid he was going to show me a secret way to use the secret key when the push button didn’t work, but either there isn’t one, or he spared me.
So, once in the car, we popped the hood.
He said, “This car has not run in a long time.”
So, I admitted it may have been a short while since last usage.
He said, “You know how I can tell? Look at those nuts in here.”
It really helps if you’re familiar with the Southern/Texan African-American accent, because the soft lilt of horror is what makes this conversation the fun ordeal it was.
I looked where he was pointing. These were not “nuts and bolts” nuts. These were pecans.
“They’ve been chewing on some of these wires. Something was livin‘ in here.”
“I don’t know if this will jump. I can’t tell if any of these wires have been chewed through.”
“See where these are chewed?”
“If this jumps at all, you’re very lucky.”
“This is a new car.”
So, now I’m ashamed, and I started quietly removing the half-chewed pecans and empty shells from the platform in front of the battery. I’m beginning to understand why there didn’t seem to be as many squirrels in the yard this winter.
He attached the jumper cables, and the car started right up.
“You got very lucky.”
“This is a new car.”
More shame duly noted.
So, he ran it until there was enough of a charge for the “Check Engine” light to come on, and then he decided towing it would be the best course of action.
I think he really just wanted to give the car some quality time away from me.
It’s at the dealer now. If he’s a character witness, I may never see the Fusion again.
On the other hand, I drove it from the driveway to the front of the house, so he could drive it onto the flatbed. (In his not-at-all-condescending voice, he said, “I’ll take it from here” as I pulled up next to the flatbed.) So, when the dealer asks the last time I drove it, I can just say, “Today.”
On the Walk of Shame back from the car, my flip-flop strap broke. Yes, I blew out my flip-flop, without even stepping on a pop-top.
So, now I can’t walk or drive.
At least, there’s Uber.
*** Update ***
The “rodent” chewed through the windshield washer fluid reservoir. It is called a “reservoir” because you can’t, in good faith, charge $337 for a plastic jug. Rodent damage is not covered by the warranty.
Worse news? Apparently, the squirrel in question needs braces.
The investigation continues. For $74. So, if they’re charging, you know they’ll be finding. More updates as available.
*** Update #2 ***
He chewed through the coolant reservoir, as well. So, we’re past $700 now, but at least if I see a stoned squirrel, I will have the suspect.
So, I spent the night in the hospital last night, just so I could be reminded than Bono doesn’t know how to count to four in Spanish.
I’m in a place called Vertigo.
In the beginning, on Tuesday evening, we went to see Noel Gallagher (I’m pretty sure Noel couldn’t count in Spanish unless he learned the expletives first) down at the Majestic. Pretty good show, but as we were driving home, I felt a little dizzy. As I was driving, I decided mentioning this would not be a good idea.
Had this been a concert in my college days, I would have suspected various fumes in the concert hall, but you can’t smoke anymore and I didn’t have my usual drink, so that wasn’t it.
Had dinner, felt a bit better, made it home, everything seemed to have passed.
Murphy woke me up just before six to visit the yard, and I couldn’t walk straight. I was staggering around the bedroom, and I needed to find something to hold onto just to walk a straight line.
Here’s the definition of being old: my first thought was not, “I’m walking like a drunk.” My thought was, “This is like being on a cruise ship in rough seas.”
On the bright side, we learned on a ship in rough seas, the rule is, “One hand for you, one hand for the ship.” That helped getting around – even if we don’t have handrails all over the house. (Note to self: Handrails around the house.)
An hour later, Murphy woke me up again, and I was staggering again. Perhaps worse.
At this point, I was a bit freaked out. I didn’t have chest pains, so it probably wasn’t a heart attack. I could yell at Murphy without slurring my speech, so it probably wasn’t a stroke, unless yelling at the dogs is a learned reflex. What else is there?
After I woke up and explained to Virginia what was going on, she diagnosed the flu. This is because I religiously refuse to get a flu shot, so she is desperately hoping I will learn my lesson. Not by dying from flu (probably), but suffering a bit. OK, a lot. So, I could break a leg during flu season, and she would look at the protruding bone, and say, “See? Flu.”
Off to our family doctor. Of course, my doctor was out of town this week, so off to his Nurse Practitioner. We sat in the waiting room for a bit, while Virginia did my annual paperwork, which is six pages of crap without a “no changes” option. Rachael Ray was on the TV, making some eggplant dish, and it sounded like a compound butter or something. I was having trouble concentrating, actually. It’s just the third time she said “eggplant” in two minutes, I felt a twinge in the belly. I like eggplant, but the word has always disturbed me.
So, after another “eggplant”, she had a byproduct from the recipe you could “slather on toast.”
That’s the evacuation word!
So, I puked into a handy trash can. Of course, I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before, so it wasn’t very productive, but apparently, some of my beer belly is actually phlegm.
Note for the future: if the service at the doctor’s office seems particularly slow, puke into a trash can. I was taken into an exam room almost immediately.
I like the Nurse Practitioner. She did a lot of checks in a very short time, was one of the first people to admit she couldn’t get test results as quickly as she would like, but she wanted tests to prove her non-diagnosis was correct.
She wanted tests, but knew she couldn’t get results as quickly as … the Emergency Room.
That’s where I had thought about going in the first place, so next time, I’ll eliminate the middle man.
I actually thought the Nurse Practitioner did a fab job, I just don’t like “probably nothing”, “just in case” and “life and death” in the same paragraph.
She wanted the tests to prove I wasn’t having the stroke she was pretty sure I wasn’t having.
Just working out the logic in that sentence will make some people start staggering.
Virginia asked if it could be the flu, with just a bit too much relish in her voice, and was told there was no possible way it was the flu. Ha!
Off to the ER. Luckily, it’s only one building over from my doctor’s office – but still the longest wheel-chair ride I’ve been pushed on.
I’m pretty sure I heard whimpering from behind me on the uphill parts of the ride.
The ER did some early checks just to make me think everything was progressing because this was an emergency, and then they sent me to the waiting room to remind me I’m not really that important. Or dying (hopefully.)
After the mandatory wait period (and a nap in the waiting room), I was taken back to a room. We had to wait for Virginia to come back from the vending machines before we went back. I wonder if she had gone for snacks earlier, the wait would have been shorter.
First, the mandatory question list, many of which were in the doctor’s list and the ER check-in list.
Then, an EKG – just like the one I’d had in the doctor’s office two hours before. Next, we wait for results.
At this point, I needed a potty break, so one of the nurses helped me stagger down the hall and back.
Then, off for a CAT scan. I would have mentioned I had three dog scans before I left the house, but I was too tired.
I always wonder about tests where the administrators all have to leave the room, and they’re pointing something at your head, or rolling your head in a tube.
Still, CAT scans are very pleasant compared to an MRI. Well, except for the contrast dye they put through an IV, so you feel like you wet your pants.
So, you wait for the CAT scan to get scheduled, then wait to get it done, and then you wait for the results.
After the results came back negative for a stroke, I figured I was ready to go home. The last time I was dizzy with a good CAT scan, I was freed.
Unfortunately, I needed another potty break. This time, the nurse just pointed me down the hall, but I knew where it was, so that was fine. Hands on the wall all the way down.
However, while staggering back to my room, I passed the nurses’ station where the doctor was talking to someone. She saw my graceful ballet steps, and decided she really wanted an MRI, after all.
So, time to sit and wait for scheduling again.
In the meantime, I learned an interesting side effect if I sat up too quickly.
I puked again.
This time, there were puke bags available, so I didn’t need to use the trash can. However, the official hospital puke bags have measurements on the side, so while you’re puking, the patient in you is thinking, “Please stop! This is gross!” and the competitor in you is thinking, “Come on! You can do 500ml easy!”
After that incident, I was given anti-nausea drugs. Afterwards? Really?
Off to the MRI, my least-favorite test of all, and that includes my eighth-grade Spanish final.
For those who have never had the pleasure, an MRI is a large tube that you are slid into so they can take photos or sound images or police sketches – I’m not really sure what comes out, except it always takes a half-hour and you’re strapped down, you can’t move and you have a panic button. Any time you’re given a panic button, it means it is so bad, somebody needed one, and it wasn’t installed yet. I assume that person died of fright. Lovely.
The MRI guys all have the same soothing speech: “This is the panic button. Press it, and I’ll get you right out. Even if you’re just a couple of minutes from the end. Of course, if you come out early … we have to start from the beginning.” So, basically, your one way out is a really bad option. Fun.
They have headphones with music to drown out the noise of the machine. The headphones are the equivalent of your wife whispering to you as the Blue Angels fly over your head. Three feet over your head. And your wife is in the next county.
The good thing about the music is you spend so much time trying to figure out what bloody song is playing, that the time does pass rather quickly.
I assume they don’t turn the music up since loud noises can hurt your ears. Wait.
This was my third MRI. My first was on my knee, and I didn’t understand my wife’s fear and hatred of them – but then I realized I had gone in feet first. My second was the last time I was having dizzy spells, and that was quite different, as in worse, but is was an OpenMRI (code for “chubby or claustrophobic patients”), and it was delayed a while because the patient before me was having panic attacks. Maybe they didn’t explain about the panic button.
This was an old-school MRI – and when I was wheeled into the room, I noticed a couple of braces in the machine. Hmm.
Virginia had asked if they had an OpenMRI, and was told “No”, but was assured I would fit. She was talking about the claustrophobic group – the chubby group is just a bonus.
So, I lay back on the platform, and was asked if I wanted to listen to music. Sure. On go the headphones.
Warm blanket? Yes, please.
Pillow under my knees? Yes, please.
I have learned that if someone in a hospital offers you something, just accept it. There’s a reason it’s an option.
Why is he being so nice?
Ah, the braces.
So, the operator started putting the head cage in place. “Clarice?”
So, let me get this straight. You’re putting me in a tube for a half-hour where I can’t move, you’ve wrapped in a blanket like an Irish burrito and now you’re going to lock my head down. Where is this panic button of which you spoke?
Placing the cage was one thing. Screwing it down was just excessive. The OpenMRI people just took my word when I said I wouldn’t run. They didn’t screw my head down.
I survived by trying to calculate how far (and fast) Virginia would have run when she saw the cage coming down.
The music starts. “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Really? The first line is:
“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”
Interesting way to start a half-hour sliding around in a loud tube.
Plus, in the middle of it, I had contrast dye pushed down my IV. Lovely. At least it was just a warm sensation, not like the CAT scan “wet your pants” dye.
I had asked for Classic Rock. This was a bad choice. Last time, I asked for Adele, not because I particularly love Adele, but because she has a lot of five minute songs, so it was easy to predict how far along I was.
Eventually, the rack slid me out. I didn’t believe it at first, since there were other times where it would back out slightly and then plunge me further into the tube. I could see out the other end (as promised), once I learned to squint around the cage.
Mainly, I kept my eyes shut. A non-metallic rosary would have been appreciated.
Still, I slid out, my head was freed, and I was told they had “gotten a lot of good pictures.” Well, that’s good, especially if that means I don’t have to start over.
Back to my room, where I realized I had forgotten my glasses and seasick patch. They took the patch off, since it has aluminum in it, and it could “heat up” in an MRI.
When they mentioned the tiny circular patch could “heat up”, I understood why they had asked if I had a penile implant. Ouch.
After the missing items were recovered, Virginia said I was being admitted.
So, family doctor to ER to hospital. A medical double-play.
Now, I’m waiting for results and a new room assignment.
The MRI results? No stroke.
In the hospital room, I had yet another questionnaire to complete. So, this time, when asked if I had any chronic pain, I just pointed at Virginia and asked, “Besides her?” The nurse laughed so hard, I got a three-minute break. (I can’t believe I’m the first husband to say that. It’s such a great setup line.)
It was a nice room, but I now had a PulseOx monitor on one hand, and an IV in the other arm. So, potty breaks require assistance just to unplug everything.
The nursing staff was great. They got my nighttime drugs, got me ice chips, got me pretty much anything I needed. It may have helped that I was in a staging room and at that point, I was the only patient in the area.
I even got a CPAP so Virginia didn’t have to retrieve one from home. A CPAP is great, not only because it keeps me alive, but because it is an obvious signal (the mask) that you’re trying to sleep. It doesn’t matter, because you’re going to get poked when you get poked, but still.
At this point, Virginia went home to tend to the dogs and get some sleep.
(Of course, when she stayed in the hospital overnight after her shoulder surgery, I went to walk the dogs, and went back to stay with her. She just stayed home. I’m a giver. It’s what I do.)
I woke up at one point, rolled over, and ten minutes later, alarms went off. Loud alarms. Why is it illegal to sleep on my left side? Apparently, I had slept on my IV and cut off the flow. Oops. Right side sleeping only.
I slept well, considering, until someone came in to draw blood.
Back to sleep, until someone else needed more blood.
Don’t they have blood in a hospital? Why do they need so much of mine?
I finally gave up on sleep about 7am, which was good, since the day nurse came in to check on me and introduce herself.
She showed me the menu for breakfast. The diabetic menu. I didn’t know I was diabetic, but I was starving. The omelet was very good. The sausage sucked. The toast was one whole slice, because, diabetes. The apple slices had more carbs than anything, because, tasty. The iced tea was in the same size cup my dentist uses when he asks me to rinse.
Still, very tasty, given it was my first food in 30-something hours.
Virginia arrived in time for physical therapy.
I changed clothes. This was the longest either of us had been in a hospital without wearing a gown.
I guess “Well, he’s just here for tests”, followed by “Well, he’s just being observed” means no gown required. Maybe they were selling all my blood to buy more gowns, and the new supplies hadn’t arrived yet. Maybe I have cooties, but it wasn’t on my chart.
With the physical therapist, I got to answer more questions and I got to walk with a belt around me, held by the therapist. Not awkward at all. She said I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was.
With the occupational therapist, I got to hang my head over the side of the bed so she could move my head around and see if she could determine where the issue was. (I think she was secretly disappointed I didn’t puke, since she had warned about it.)
The fun part of the occupational therapy session was the explanation of the condition I might have – BPPV (Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.)
Here’s the short version, and this is from memory, but I’m not making this up: there are three concentric circles in the inner ear which have hairs in them (probably cilia, but who’s counting?) On the hairs are crystals. The hairs move as you do, and the crystals help keep you in balance. I was thinking “cheap gyroscope.”
To hear someone with a beautiful Southern lilt say, “If the crystals fall off the hairs, due to injury or accident, you will have balance issues, and that’s vertigo.”
Crystals falling off hairs?
Is this like having your chakras out of alignment?
Is this just bullshit because I can’t handle the truth?
Existential thought, which meant I missed some of her lecture:
How drunk was our Creator?
“Let’s see. We could just have a small bone balancing on another one, or We could have a bunch of hairs in a circle of goo with crystals balancing on them in both ears, so you have to check two places.”
“Oh, and if one of the crystals falls, you can turn the patient’s head from side to side and see if his eyes start beading.”
Even Virginia could see my eyes whipping around.
After she left, we had lunch. The person on the phone has hearing problems because my turkey was tuna salad. She probably has bad crystals or something.
So, I’m in a place called Vertigo.
I’m home now. I never wore a gown. I’m learning to stop standing up quickly.
I’m trying to rebalance my crystals.
Next week, I see my doctor, and remind him the interesting stuff always happens when he’s out of town. Then, I will ask him for a crystal referral.