Monday, January 06, 2020

Where I am

I attended the American Historical Association annual meeting this past weekend and my plan was to stay in town for at least two, probably three nights. Staying at the event site makes it a lot easier to network, and it's a whole lot less tiring.

This time, I thought I'd save a few bucks by staying at an adjacent hotel (Mistake #1)

The place was certainly ok, and the fact there was construction outside, and scaffolding all over the building didn't bother me. This is midtown. If you aren't hearing jackhammers you aren't actually here.

So in I checked.

Only to find out that my paid-in-advance hotel room (no refunds) was in a wing of nine floors served by two elevators.

One of which wasn't working.

Waits of 15-20 minutes were the norm. I was lucky to be on the ninth floor, I almost always got a spot in the elevator going down.

But dear god it was a pain.

And their in-hotel market was staffed by people who hated their job. I feel for them, I really do. But when you can't get a breakfast sandwich heated up, it's not a good start to the day.

(Fortunately I quickly found a good cafe nearby)

I wasn't sure about staying over for the Monday sessions, so I'd only reserved two nights, not three.

Saturday afternoon I checked the bulletin for Monday sessions and there were six I wanted to attend in the two available slots.

Well clearly I needed the third night.

And being a lazy sot, I figured I'd keep this room, even though the elevators were miserable.
So I went on and found the hotel. The rate was surprisingly low. And honest to god, I thought it was cause people didn't want to deal with the elevator and had checked out ahead of schedule. (Mistake #2/Delusion #1)

I didn't realize I'd booked myself into a similarly named hotel at 111th and Central Park West until I actually read the confirming email. And yes, of course I'd prepaid. That's how you save money (Delusion #2.)

I dithered most of Sunday about whether to just go home and take the loss or tough it out.

By the end of the day, Saturday I was tired, I just wanted a shower, to sleep and hit the conference the next day. I knew I'd be dragging my suitcase around but oh well. (Mistake #3)

I flagged a cab and up CPW we went. Found the hotel, doorman was nice, $5 for hauling my suitcase in, and here we are. Lobby is clean enough.

Desk clerk tells me there will be an incidentals hold on my card in case I break something. I wondered what the hell he thought I'd be breaking in a hotel room that would run $75.

I wasn't planning on sitting on the ironing board or hanging on the chandelier.

Narrator: she's done both of those things in the past

And then when I get my room key there are instructions on how to use the shower. Now, I know you might be thinking they were just being kind -- after all, I DID need a shower at that point -- but no. These instructions are included as part of the check-in process for everyone.

So I go to the room. And friends, this is the room that inspired Catskills comedians to write the joke "the room was so small I had to step out to change my mind."

My dorm room at college was bigger. And not by inches.

But ok, small is ok.
Except I soon realize it could double as a sauna. And not cause it's small, it's the steam.
From the radiator.
The only window has an AC unit so of course it can't be opened.

I turn on the AC.
The radiator now thinks the room is a bit nippy and redoubles its steam output.

I turn the AC to high.
The radiator considers this a challenge.

I'm not sure which of us is going to run out of steam first.

As I mop my brow,  I realize there is no desk, no chair. Literally no place to set up my laptop, or sit, to work unless it's on the bed.

Which doesn't have a mattress.
It has what I think is foam padding.
Or maybe a futon.
But NOT a mattress.

I sit on the bed. I mull my options. I sweat.

And then I realize, the freestanding closet, something Grandmama might call a chifforobe, has a GIANT mirror, easily six feet tall and two feet wide on the exterior side of the door.

Facing the "bed"
And me.

I open the door to the beast, and note the ironing board is so small you can only do collars and cuffs on it. And that's if you have a place to set it.

And when I step back, the door slooowly swings closed. There's no way to prop it open (no chair, remember?)

I realize this creates what will seem like a selfie movie. No escape. Watching myself sleep. Watching myself getting out of bed. Watching myself do anything before coffee or that (still much needed) shower.

And that friends, was too much.

I get on my laptop, throw financial prudence to the wind, book a room at the Midtown Hilton, where the conference is being held, and prepay for a room for one night (since I had not yet learned my lesson.)

Back to the lobby, check out.
Total stay: 17 minutes
No refund of course.
The desk clerk went to the room to make sure I hadn't broken anything, or maybe stolen that doll house ironing board. Or the chifforobe!

Another $5 to the doorman for hailing a cab.

And here I am now, at the midtown Hilton, where they promptly billed me AGAIN for the room cause the payment I made to hadn't yet processed.

At least they didn't hand me directions on how to shower.

And of course, when I tote up the cost of this adventure I would have saved money by just booking the damn Hilton in the first place. 

Have the travel gods had fun with you recently?
Do tell!


nightsmusic said...

Oh my crow, this is funny!! I'm sorry, I know it's not funny to you, but really...I haven't traveled in a long time so can't really remember the disasters (I thought they were at the time anyway) that I've been through.

I'm so sorry you had to go through this. I hope you got that nice, hot shower though.

Amy Johnson said...

A laugh per line! Janet, sorry for the price you had to pay for me to have such a good laugh, but thanks for writing and sharing this.

AJ: I missed commenting yesterday. Thinking of you. Stay safe.

Theresa said...

What miserable hotel experiences! I don't have anything to match them, but I understand how exhausting AHA can be. What were your favorite sessions? I've been avidly following the Twitter hashtag to follow live tweeting.

KMK said...

You win, of course! But since you asked, here’s the week of three hotel stays that could only happen in my life. Last Sunday, I stay over alone a few blocks from the radio station where I work Downtown, so I can get a few hours of sleep that aren’t on a Metro North train. Monday night, my husband and I round up the kid for a stayover at a place with a pool near our suburban home because we haven’t been in the same room for the better part of a week thanks to holiday freelance season. Then Friday, the said husband has outpatient surgery in the City (he’s fine, thank heaven!) and all three of us stay at yet another hotel close by. We go home Saturday morning, Saturday night I’m on the train…and back for my usual morning drive shift Sunday. Finally home now…and not answering the phone unless it’s about the book!

CynthiaMc said...

My condolences.

The travel gods don't mess with us because we don't go anywhere (after spending the first years traveling the globe, we're happy where we are).

The joy of living in Central Florida is everyone comes to you.

Steve Forti said...

A trip to Carkoon sounds nice by comparison, no?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"Have the travel gods had fun with you recently?"

All gods both big G and small g have been very kind to me recently and forever. I kind of wish I had a funny-fodder story to tell. And yet glad I don't.

KariV said...

What a story!!!! I cannot top that and since I normally travel with two under-fives in tow, boy I am happy our traveling has not come close to that adventurous.

That being said, I've also learned the hard way to be overly prepared and overly cautious. I remember the first time hubby and I traveled after being married. Being young and fancy free (and free checked bags!!! Thanks Army) we decided we couldn't be bothered with carry-ons and checked EVERYTHING!!!! Cue mischievous travel gods.

Our flight was promptly delayed, rerouted, and rescheduled due to a nasty hurricane. Somehow we ended up in Cleveland when we needed to be in Michigan. Our bags stayed in Texas. We literally had NOTHING but wallets and cell phones and as poor, newly-married 21 year-olds, those weren't worth very much.

Boy did I learn. Now when I travel, I bring the children's entire wardrobe in carry-ons as well as three changes of clothes for hubby and myself. Occasionally I have room for the kitchen sink. And yes I'd rather haul all that and two toddlers through an airport than get caught with my pants down again.

Lennon Faris said...

Ha ha! Um, I mean, so sorry.

I hate spending money on hotels (where did the money go??), so there is no one to blame but myself for my own hotel experience. When I had a work conference a few hours away, I found one for 50 bucks a night.

I shoulda known, pulling into the grassy parking lot. I was one of two tenants in a 2 story, double wing hotel. (I counted the cars). Or maybe I should've known from the MANNEQUINS watching me from all the lobby windows. Lots of them, all in different poses to watch you as you walked to the door, then the front desk.

In my room, the plugs were coming out of the sockets. Out my window, there was an empty, cracked pool in the center courtyard. The hotel wing facing my room had all dark windows, peeling paint. The only other tenant was in the room beside me (I heard them cough once), with a door between us. I made sure it was locked. But given that I could see light through a big crack in my back door that led to the decrepit pool, I wasn't sure how good these locks were.

Finally I cuddled up in the middle of my bed and turned off the light. Something started tapping on my ceiling from upstairs. It wasn't a drip. When I'd click on my light, it would stop, like someone was watching me. This happened 3 times. When I video-recorded it, it finally stopped. I never found out what it was.

That was the worst hotel ever.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Wow! And ouch. Wow. I may never leave my home again. And if I do to attend a conference, I will stay at the hotel where the conference is being held. Lesson learned. Thank you, your Majesty.

Melissa said...

A few years ago, my husband and I (and two of our three children) were heading to Puerto Rico for a cruise. Our flight out of JFK was delayed because of a missing flight attendant, but we were relaxed until we realized we'd miscalculated our arrival time. We got to San Juan with only 20 minutes before the ship was scheduled to leave. Ran through the airport, grabbed our luggage, hailed a cab, and begged the driver to get us to the port as quickly as possible. The date: Jan 6th AKA The Day of Epiphany--a huge holiday in PR. Roads were closed and traffic was stopped. We could see the port, but couldn't find a way there. When the driver finally got through the gate, we told her "Estamos Celebrity," by which we meant "We are on Celebrity Cruises." She drove straight past Celebrity. After our repeating "Estamos Celebrity" a half dozen times (accompanied by vast amounts of pointing), she dropped us off at the correct dock. We piled out of the car and made it on board just in time. It was only then I realized that the driver thought we we telling her that we were celebrities and she needed to treat us accordingly. Que vergüenza.

Claire Bobrow said...

That is one heck of a nightmare hotel story. Ye gods! (But also very funny - please don't hate me.)

We stayed home for the holidays and had only our own ant invasion and sticky toilet handles to complain about.
But there was that one time, back in 1979...

We went to visit my eldest brother in NYC at Christmas-time. He booked our entire family into a hotel just off of Washington Square Park, based on the name alone: The Hotel Earle*.
Earle was my dad's name and my brother thought that was hilarious. Unfortunately he didn't go inside the hotel and look around first. Let's just say...yikes. My parents did not have fancy or picky taste in accommodations, but they came this close to checking us out of there. If only they had! I still recall the shower curtain held up by coat hangers and the, ahem, ladies and their "boyfriends" populating the lobby area. The only bright spot was a nearby diner on 6th Avenue that had amazing blueberry blintzes (The Waverly?).

*The Hotel Earle is now the very upscale and boutique-y Washington Square Hotel, lol.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Oh, my... What a weekend. I'm not cheap (leave huge tips for waiters/waitresses), but I'm frugal. It torments me to waste money.

Lennon - I'm shuddering.

Dena Pawling said...

My last hotel experience was in January 2018 [pretty much exactly two years ago]. I was under federal subpoena to testify before a grand jury regarding loan modification scams. It was pouring down rain and, despite multiple travel advisories to STAY HOME YOU IDIOTS, I drove 100 miles to San Diego. This took four hours, but I considered myself lucky in that both me and my car made it without a scratch.

The feds paid for my mileage and hotel, so I was somewhat skeptical as to the quality of the hotel, but it was what I'd call mid-range. Thankfully, no mirror on the closet door and no shower instructions. However, my room had NO HEAT. I was too tired from the stress of the drive to say anything, so I just showered [with nice hot water] and went to bed. Question: why do hotels have these skimpy "blankets" [term used loosely]. You'd think if the heat was out, they could at least provide you with an actual BLANKET.

Anyway, testimony took all day the following day, but I made it home okay. Next time I stay in a hotel, I'm bringing a space heater and a heavy blanket.

I learned the next day that the rain had caused massive mudslides in the Santa Barbara burn area and several people died.

Welcome home Janet!

Timothy Lowe said...

Too funny!

This story is several years old, but I'll never forget it. Decided to pop in on the parental units in Key West, toting a 6 month-old and a 3 year-old. Flights from Rochester included two connections (Chicago and Miami). Total traveling time? 24 hours.

Wife being a cost-cutter, we decided to forego luggage and carry everything on. With two carry-ons per ticketed customer (this included the 3yo), we thought we could manage. Here I am in Chicago airport, lugging a double stroller, a car seat, a carry-on with a jumbo pack of diapers (diapers purchased in Key West were deemed 'too expensive'), an electronic breast pump weighing more than a Labrador, forty pound of formula (we were supplementing), a jumper (the plastic jump-jump kind, not the outfit), and two kids who about as happy as a house cat who'd just been hit by a fire hose. Suddenly my three year old starts complaining of stomach pains. I thought, 'Oh, God, please not now.'

Thankfully he just needed to poop. Speaking of poop, on our way back into Chicago, my wife tapped me on the shoulder. 'She's just blown out her diaper, and it's our last one.'

Thankfully, my wife is as friendly as she is frugal, and women with babies on planes tend to understand one another. She bummed a butt-rag from a woman at the airplane lavatory and off we went.

A happy enough ending, but it was our last trip to Key West.

Donnaeve said...


Not recently - BUT. We had an overseas trip to the Ukraine (back when it was safe) for a two week mission trip. Our flight plans were managed by the church - it was a big group of us going. Our supposedly "booked" seats? There were none. As is common, the airlines overbooked - and everyone showed up. Therefore - no seat assignments. We (husband and I) and two others watched the rest of our group take off.

BONUS - we were given first class seats on the next flight out.
PENALTY - As I enjoyed stretching my legs out in my lovely sleeping pod, a drink, and delish food, a question came to mind. But wait, wasn't our luggage on . . .

Bingo. Our luggage flew out on the original flight, landed in Heathrow - never to be seen again. We landed in the Ukraine with NOTHING but the clothes on our backs. Fortunately, we had our money, passport, etc. We ended up wearing clothes donated to the church there. My husband looked stunning in a pair of women's capris - the only pants he could find to fit him.

Fearless Reider said...

Do homecoming disasters count? We came home last night to a dead boiler (did I mention we live in Minnesota?). We declined to shell out the big bucks for an emergency service call, so we're toughing it out 'til Tuesday. Unfortunately, the boiler also provides our hot water, so my usual chill-chasing strategy of a scalding hot shower followed immediately by the donning of many fleeces is off the table. But it's good motivation to trot over to the toasty college library half a block away and get some writing done. Now, if I can just find a way to sneak into one of the dorms for a hot shower... and nobody will mind if I wash my dishes in the restroom sink, will they?

Janet, you made a good call, despite the price. Pretty sure that mirrored door was a one-way portal to a place you don't want to be. I'm reading everyone's travel stories with just a touch of schadenfreude. Staying frosty here with no trouble at all!

Emma said...

I have a feeling I might have stayed at that hotel myself. This past July I went to my first ThrillerFest. I couldn't really afford the Grand Hyatt rooms, so I booked a room at a hotel near 50th street and Broadway (pre paid). Got there, was told there was a $42/night incidentals charge. I said, what incidentals? They said, we give you a bottle of water and you can watch TV.

I took my $42 bottle of water and waited for the elevator. And waited. And waited. My room, in July, was 90 degrees, no AC, no way to open window. I tried calling the front desk, phone didn't work. I grabbed my stuff and took the elevator back downstairs. They told me they could give me another room, but not for another hour. I waited. I waited. I got another room. The keycard machine went down so they told me I had to wait outside the room for a hotel employee to let me in.

I waited, nobody showed up. I grabbed a cleaning lady and she let me in. (btw, I could have been anybody, asking to get into anybody's room). The new room had AC, but the phone didn't work, the TV didn't work, and the iron didn't work so I couldn't press my conference dresses.

I took my $42 bottle of water and threw caution to wind (re: no keycard to get back with) by leaving the hotel and wandering around midtown until it was time to go to happy hour at Thriller Fest.

That night someone tried to break into my room in the middle of the night and I hid in the bathroom while calling the front desk.

Since my dresses were wrinkled and there was no iron, I just wore my usual band tee shirts to the conference.

I did save money, and now I have a story. But... damn.

Craig F said...

My last trip to Budapest started fine and didn't get bad until it was time to come home. That was the day that the Boeing 737s were yanked out of the sky.

The trip over took almost 55 hours because of all of the connecting flights. The trip back took five days with all of the layovers taking place in the airport itself. You had to hang out just in case a flight was found. It was seriously ridiculous. Luckily I already had beard to hide the not being able to get clean for several days.

Linda Shantz said...

The travel gods like to mess with me by pre-empting my trips altogether, in the form of farm help bailing on me last minute. Last time that meant eating a $600 plane ticket to California...because it would have been too sensible to get travel insurance, right?

Timothy Lowe said...

Fearless Reider this is my nightmare!

I thought about installing one of those fancy-pants new thermostats so I can monitor on my phone while away -- at least I could have a neighbor shut my water off if the temp drops (actually, I'm going back to shutting the water off when I leave based on your story).

Hope the weather stays moderate for you in the meantime! We lost a boiler one week before having an open house in 2007. The new one wasn't cheap, and the buyer ultimately ended up with a shiny new boiler.

Good luck staying warm. Gyms are great places to shower during plumbing and hot water emergencies.

Adele said...

My friend and I went down to Seattle for a writing conference. Being impoverished, we scoured the ads (this was pre-Internet) until we found a hotel in our price range. Somebody I knew had stayed there some years before; it looked OK in the picture, it wasn't in a terrible part of town, though it was on a busy road, but so are most hotels. Well. We got there:
Clue #1: there were armed guards stationed in every hallway. I'm not kidding. The hotel refused to say why; they just said it was part of the normal routine. Ummmm. OK.
Clue #2: the room was spacious, but it did have a few irregular holes in the walls. Big holes, about man-shoulder-height. Looked like somebody had punched out the wall and management just hadn't got round to fixing it yet.
Clue #3: the room was FILTHY. So dirty that when we climbed gingerly into our beds, we decided to put our shoes on the table. Because it felt like whatever was on the floor might melt the soles.
Yes, we survived just fine. No, the hotel is not still there.

Karen McCoy said...

Oh wow, that radiator. (Percolating flash fiction ideas.) And if you had booked the Hilton, you wouldn't have a story to tell. So I suppose there's that.

Donna Lost luggage is one of my worst fears. Though Fearless Reider's experience is right up there too. And Dena Pawling, I think I will join you in hauling around a blanket like a Hitchhiker's Guide beach towel.

My story comes from my Honeymoon, around 10 years back. We booked a beach-side room on the California coast. They must have had a master web designer, because the hotel we arrived at did not look at all like it did online. (Yes, it was the same hotel.) They gave us a key, where we proceeded to go to a room, and try to unlock it--only to hear some rando dude on the other side ask, "Who is it?" (Right key, but they told us the wrong room number.)

The correct room had a pellet furnace that had been left on, which made the space hotter than Hades. So, for some air, we opened the sliding door (no window screen, no problem) that gave us our pre-paid ocean view. Since it was nighttime, an over-sized raccoon proceeded to do acrobatic moves across our porch, after which I immediately slid the door immediately back closed again. No complaints after that.

Karen McCoy said...

Adele Armed guards, holes and filth are definitely worse than what I experienced. But it also goes to show that internet can also deceive...

Irene Troy said...

Oh Janet! Even your shark teeth weren't enough to scar the hotel gods into granting you a better experience.

I travel -- a lot -- for my work. Someday I may sit down and write a book about my hotel/motel/BNB experiences. It would become a humor bestseller. There's the time the bed collapsed in the middle of the night. No, I don't weigh 900lb and no, this was not some dump. It was a four star hotel in a major city. Paid by my client, but still... Then there's the motel where the doors didn't lock. The middle of a city known for its crime. Thankfully, I had my German Shepherd along on that trip. She loves everyone, but looks fierce. The motel owner told me that someone broke the locks and he wasn't paying to have them repaired. How about the time the room looked fine until I pulled back the cover on the bed and found blood - everywhere. Then there's the visit to our nation's capital for a conference. Nice hotel, but I needed to switch hotels during a snow storm. [Change of venue for a second conference] I learned that they sometimes use tanks with snow-plows attached to plow the streets. It took the cab an hour to travel 8 blocks due to snow. The last isn't about hotels, but...come on, TANKS? What they can't afford snow plows? Yep, travel is fun!

Panda in Chief said...

Last night I dreamed I was at the airport and had forgotten my passport.

I hope your tale will be a reminder to me when I am tempted to economize when I go to a conference. I don't have a particular horror story, so I will tell you a fun hotel story:

Last year my friends and I (known heretofore as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pandas) went to Calgary to see the twin panda cubs, since they had moved there from Toronto. My friends had gotten to the hotel the night before, and as I was checking to see what room they were in, I noticed one of those lobby displays: a 6 ft tall cutout out of one of the panda cubs. I jokingly said to the desk clerk, "could we have that in our suite?" We all laughed, and I went up to the suite.
15 minutes later, there was a knock at the door, and one of the hotel employees was standing there with the 6 ft. tall panda, asking where we wanted it. The pandas spent the weekend with us (I have pictures if anyone wants to see them)

A big thanks to the Homewood Suites at the Calgary airport for service above and beyond the call of hospitality.

Will MacPhail said...

Was John Candy and/or Steve Martin involved in this story in any way?

Katja said...

So sorry for chuckling at this but this is SO funny - I guess your writing helps make it come across rather humourous, so please forgive that!

I even had to tell Fiancé, "You NEED to read the blog today!" which just proves it - he's got nothing to do with writing but he knows there is only one blog in the world, so I don't need to specify which one ;).

Maybe my worst 'hotel' room was the one in a Bed & Breakfast in Mile End in east London. The only window was the one facing the neighbouring room: the kitchen. Thank goodness there was a functioning curtain!

Fresh air was supplied through several holes in the grey brickwork that was missing plaster. It was the outer wall.

But the travel devils really came to get me on numerous occasions. One of which was the Brazilian jungle. I was floating on the River Amazonas with non-German speaking and non-English speaking people.
Problem: I had just 'collapsed' during my attempt at swinging on a liana. With
a high temperature on the float, they used their hands and feet to explain to me that I should follow the man in the black clothing.

I did. He took me to the emergency rooms of the hospital in Manaus, right in the middle of the Amazonas. I not speak a single vord in Portuguese except for zat I don't speak Portuguese. They took blood and stuff and then I found ONE word the black clothes did also seem to understand.

I asked 3 times: "Malaria? Malaria? Malaria?"
Black clothes shook his head 3 times and then dropped me off in the darkness by a small river. A wooden boat appeared from the jungle, two shadows inside. I thought they could just take me anywhere and the world wouldn't know what had happened to me.

But they were good people! They took me back to my resort in the jungle where I stayed in a wooden hut until I was better.

P.S. I should take back that there is only one blog in the world, of course! There are at least TWO! ;)
And today you should check out Mister Colin's - he has REVIEWED my book, yay!

*inserts smiley with hearts on its eyes and dances*

Jenn Griffin said...

Germany, 1992 - hubby & I visited Air Force friends stationed abroad... We borrowed one of their cars and took off on our own for a few days.

On a Sunday we found (lost) ourselves in what looked like the middle of nowhere, late for our estimated arrival in the next town on our itinerary. Grassy fields as far as the eye could see--beautiful--but unpopulated. At the intersection of Bum Duck and Ship's Creek streets stood a telephone booth. So we stopped. I, with my less-than-fluent German-speaking skills, proceed to call hotels near our destination. "No room," was the response. Repeatedly.

Finally I asked if there was some event occurring that would explain why no rooms were available. The nice man on the phone explained that on Sundays, which is a day of rest, you can not make a hotel reservation! You can check in on a Sunday if you already have a room waiting, but you can't book a room.

Well, I about lost it. I told him we were lost in the middle of nowhere and now with no place to stay, assuming we figured out how to get where we were headed. When I shared our location, he took pity on us and told us how to get to his hotel. He would let us stay. I'm pretty sure we got the "stupid Americans" rate, but I was so grateful to lay down my stressed-out self, I'd have kissed his feet if asked.

Another tidbit: the no-parking decree that hangs on the building covers not only the space in front of the sign, but extends all the way to the curb. We went to look at the church tower. It was lovely. When we came back down, the car was gone. In its place was a tour bus. "Where is our car?" I asked--again, in my limited German.

Took a street car to the impound lot. Paid a no-parking fine, a failure to know the rules fine, and the towing fee. About $400 American.

And to spread the joy, since the car had US military tags, the Base was informed of the infraction. Our friend was reprimanded by his CO.

Finally, we busted a headlight on said car. It was an American-made Honda Accord. The German-made Accords used different headlights. We had to order a headlight from US and have it shipped overseas. That was another $400. In 1992, that was a hefty hit to our funds!

Other than that, it was a great trip!

KDJames said...

*snort* Janet, this story is hilarious. I mean, infuriating. But hilarious. Really, one for the history books. (sorry, couldn't resist)

All the rest of you have me laughing and shuddering in turns.

Let's see . . . what's my worst travel story . . .

We were in college when my soon-to-be husband and his younger brother and I borrowed a friend's panel van to drive from Minneapolis to Chicago, where my older sister lived, because she and her DH had some old used furniture she said we could have. FREE! We were poor, and foolish, so we set out one Friday late afternoon/early evening in this decrepit heap of a van. It was winter. Our "friend" -- I'll call him Jackson -- warned us that the van had a few minor problems but that it'd probably get us there and back.

It only had two seats, so one of us had to sit on the center console thingy (I think the engine was under there?), no seat belt. We took turns. The first problem presented itself when the driver's door flew open going around a curve on I-94 headed out of downtown. We were determined and this was not going to stop us. We found a cord in back, seems like it was clothesline, and tied it to the door handle and wrapped it around the driver's seat. So now we had one working door.

It got dark and the temp dropped quickly, down near 10*F, I believe. We quickly realized the heat didn't work. We had winter coats and gloves, of course, but none of us were dressed for NO heat. Soon after that realization, we noticed there was a 6-inch diameter hole in the floor in front of the passenger seat. It had started to snow and there was a little pile of wind-blown snow accumulating between my feet. There was a wind chill *inside* the van. We were shivering SO HARD we could barely speak.

We did manage this exchange, repeatedly:

DH: G-g-goddamn Jackson.
BIL: F-f-fucking Jackson.
Me: G-goddamn f-fucking Jackson.

It's not the coldest I've ever been, but it's the longest amount of time I've ever spent being that cold. Minnesotans generally know when to come in from the cold. We stopped three times just to try to get warm. I finally ordered a cup of coffee for the first (and last) time ever, just to hold it between my hands. What should have been a 7 hour drive took about 9 hours, but we made it, well after midnight. No cell phones back then, so my sister was frantic.

On the way home two days later, it was bright and sunny, a balmy 36 degrees. I had bought a pair of battery-powered heated socks, even though it turned out I didn't need them. We were maybe an hour into the trip, I was sitting on the engine console, when I noticed it felt really warm. Jackson had told us the temperature gauge was broken, so just ignore it, and the radiator had a slow leak so be sure to add water before we set out, which we did. The console got warmer, to the point it was uncomfortable. We were all shedding newly-purchased unneeded layers of clothing. Suddenly I felt a small explosion under my "seat." The engine had overheated and blown up.

We pulled over, on the shoulder of the interstate, van dead beyond repair. Luckily, we were close to a small town. The guys hiked to a place where they rented a U-Haul, paying extra for a one-way-trip fee. We loaded up the old worn furniture and drove the rest of the way home in pissed-off comfort. We got home and left a message for Jackson that his van was near exit 43 (or something) on I-94 in Wisconsin and that he was going to need a tow truck. We didn't speak much to Jackson after that.

Most expensive furniture we ever owned.

Janet Reid said...

most expensive furniture we've ever owned
It's 1:16am and I am laughing so hard I think I woke the dog next door.

KDJames said...

My work here is done.

Stacy said...

Oh, yeah.

I drove back to Indiana from an internship in Los Angeles, alone. I had just finished grad school, so I wasn't exactly floating in cash. Drove for 12 hours, found a cheap motel in the middle of the desert called (something like) The Needle Inn. (Or was it Needful Things? I don't recall.) Went in to get a room, and the woman "helping" me was straight out of a Stephen King novel, or perhaps a David Lynch film. I got the key, went into the room, only to discover there was no deadbolt or one of those newfangled, metal-latch locks you pretty much only find in hotel rooms. Just a regular lock on the knob. So, reasoning I would hear it if anyone tried to get in (even though I am partially deaf), I piled all my stuff against the door, brushed my teeth in the stained sink, and tried to sleep.

I didn't. It was one of the few times in my life I couldn't. I couldn't stop thinking about the puny lock that would NOT stop any serial killers who were surely lurking outside or in other rooms.

The next morning, in my haste to leave, I almost backed into a row of Harley Davidsons that would have gone down like dominoes if I had--and would have invited the wrath of the bikers who drove them. As the hotel receded in the distance, I felt like a woman escaping a horror film.

From now on, it's the Hilton, no matter how much it hurts financially.

AJ Blythe said...

Late to the party, but so glad I made it. I've been laughing so hard The Hub came to see what was so funny.

Stacy said...

Oh, I forgot about the hotel in Chicago where the shower in the room had a see-through glass panel between it and the room--and the shower curtain was on the bedroom side of the panel.

The designers were obviously never betrayed in their trust falls as children.