Episode 134: The Girl in the Hotel Room

I was going to start this post with the way my trip this week started. Which was with me pulling out of my garage to head to the airport, only to discover that I had a flat tire. But I thought “there is no way my faithful readers are going to believe that this is the start of another story barely over a year after it was the start to the first”  (let alone that this is the 5th time in a year). So I decided not to start with that. Even though it is 100% true.

Instead, I want to start with another phenomenon that seems too bizarre to have happened twice. A Bomb Cyclone.

I am pretty much convinced that whoever coined this phrase, is trying to get as much play out of it as possible before the next new and never before heard of weather phenomenon takes it’s place.

Like a “Grenade Tornado”. Or maybe an “Uzi Hurricane”.

I can’t think of any other reason I had never, in all my years, heard of a Bomb Cyclone, until a month ago, let alone how one could never have occurred before the year 2019. And yet we have now (supposedly) had 2 in a month.

I saw all the signs on the highway on my way to DIA, flashing Blizzard Warnings and alerts to expect travel disruptions.

So I can’t say I was very surprised when I woke up yesterday morning to an email saying my 7pm flight had already been cancelled.

Since I was in the lovely Bay Area, where it was gorgeous, and sunny and in the 70’s and where all the trees are in bloom, I wasn’t even that upset about being stuck another night in that climate, as opposed to dealing with a blizzard back home.

I was a little less understanding this afternoon, however, when I landed at DIA a little after noon, to find less than an inch of snow on the ground and completely clear roads.

Evidently the biggest weather event that CO ended up experiencing yesterday was a 60 degree drop in temperature. From a balmy 80 degrees on Tuesday to a chilly 23 degrees on Wednesday.

But in Colorado that just means you throw on your North Face fleece with your shorts and flip-flops.

So I got to spend another night in CA thanks to the “Little Blizzard that Wasn’t”.

(Just a thought for the future: Could we maybe wait until we actually see a snowflake before we shut down the city?)

If it wasn’t for this fantastic overreaction, however, I wouldn’t have a story to share with you this week, so for that we should all be grateful.

Since my flight was cancelled, and I was rebooked on an early morning flight out of Oakland this morning, I found myself in need of a hotel.

I haven’t spent any time in Oakland, mainly because Oakland is not a place one spends any time. However, I do know that there are areas of Oakland you do not want to venture into. With that in mind, I was pretty adamant that my hotel needed to be very close to the airport.

Unfortunately, while on the phone with our travel agency trying to find such a hotel, the only one with an available room, was a Radisson about a mile from the airport.

I have never stayed in a Radisson before, and it definitely would not normally top my list of places to stay, but the pictures looked okay, it was near the airport, and in an area I knew was okay, so I took it.

Or so I thought. Oh, what a difference a mile can make.

I arrive at the hotel at a little after 9pm, and as soon as I pull into the parking lot, I realize the area and the hotel may not be quite as ideal as I had anticipated. I actually sit in my car for a few moments trying to decide if I actually want to check in. But after weighing my options,  I decide that this is still a (maybe marginally) safer option than sleeping in my rental car on the side of the road, so I decide to just bite the bullet and just get to my room.

Just to paint the picture for you, the hotel is a 1950’s style motor court hotel, with two floors of rooms, that all have exterior entrances that open off the exterior corridor, and all look down on the central courtyard and the pool.

Think of every hotel where the person who does not want to be found in every tv show and movie you have ever seen has been, and that was this hotel.

I check in, and get to my room as quickly as I can, and decide to just turn in early and try to get these few hours over with as quickly as possible, hoping that I don’t wake up in an episode of Law & Order.

In all fairness, the hotel interior had obviously been recently upgraded, and despite the retro, art-deco 70’s era decor they chose not really being my style, it was clean and comfortable.

And despite the fact that it smelled like spaghetti-O’s and had this continuous, low volume ticking that sounded like the timer on a homemade bomb, coming from somewhere I never did locate, my room was pretty decent.

So I decided to just get in my pj’s try to forget the outside and the area, and just pretend I was in any of my normal hotel rooms for the next few hours.

I had just got in my pj’s, arranged everything for a quick departure in the morning, and was just getting ready to climb into bed with my book, when there is a knock at the door, followed by a pause, and then a male voice saying “Maintenance”

Because of course there is. If I was writing the script for this tv crime drama, I couldn’t have written it any better.

Which is also the reason there is no way I am opening that door.

I hesitate a second trying to decide what to do, then try to put on my most intimidating  “I’m a Judo black belt, don’t mess with me” voice, walk close to the door and say:

“Umm, maintenance for what?”

No answer. I am actually just starting to think I actually had scared him off and turned to go back to bed, when there is another knock, followed by a brief pause, and then the voice announcing “Maintenance” again.

Seriously. This writer is obviously a pro, and is following the recipe for a successful crime drama to a T. I can almost hear the “this is not going to end well for her” music swelling in the background.

“What are you here to fix?”

Another pause.

“I am here to fix….. that thing that is broken. Someone call the front desk”

Oh, in that case! Please come on in! That thing, that evidently neither one of us knows is broken, definitely needs to be fixed.

“I didn’t call the front desk. There’s nothing broken here”

I stand there and wait for over a minute, but I must have sounded way more scary this time because there is nothing else from his side of the door, and I assume he is gone.

I am definitely not going to pull aside the curtains and look out the window that makes up the entire wall to the right of door, however. That is a sure fire way to make the creepy music hit a crescendo when the psycho’s face is in the window.

(Seriously. whoever thought an exterior wall made of glass was ever a good idea in a hotel??)

I double check to make sure the deadbolt is secure, drag the armchair in the corner in front of the door for good measure, and decide if ever there was a night that sleeping pills were invented for, this was it. At least then I can say I slept through any nefarious events that might occur in the course of the night.

Thankfully, the sleeping pill does it’s job and the rest of the night passes uneventfully (at least to my knowledge) and I am up and out and on my way to the airport bright and early this morning.

I also want to take a moment to thank the airlines and air traffic control, that were so concerned for my safety, that instead of allowing me to fly in a non-blizzard, they allowed me to have a night in Hotel California instead.

 

I Think My Dog Is Broken

My dog broke her leg a couple of weeks ago.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like it should be story worthy to most people, but it is my dog after all.

As anyone who has read any of my posts knows, we have a lot of steps in our yard. These steps are made of stone. Stone steps and ice don’t always mix that well.

Thanks to the “Colorado Cyclone” that occurred here a few weeks ago, the stone steps in my yard got very icy.

Now, I always make sure to keep the steps in my front yard, going to my front door salted and clear of ice.

Mostly, because I am accident prone enough without having any help from icy steps.

However, I do not take such great care with the steps to my back door. Which is where my dog goes out to do her business and chase her balls.

So, my best guess is when she tore out of the house and down the stairs after her ball, on this particular morning, as she is prone to do, she hit that ice and broke her ankle.

But I’m really just guessing, as I did not realize anything was wrong until she came back in the house and was one leg short on the ground.

She has come in in this 3 legged position before, usually when she has picked up a rock or one of the annoying little pine cones we have in our yard in her paw. So my first thought was to grab the leg and check for debris.

No debris.

Well, I’m sure she just stepped on something and it’ll be fine. She’ll walk it off.

And she did seem to over the rest of the afternoon.

But the next morning when I came down the stairs and looked at her leg, she had a golf ball growing on the inside of her ankle.

I used to be an ortho nurse, albeit a human one, so I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to find myself at the vet later that day.

Sure enough, that is where we ended up.

After x-rays and aspirations and palpitations, it was decided we needed to make an appointment to see the doggie orthopod the next day.

Sigh.

The next day we find ourselves at the doggie orthopod, where after more palpitations, a review of the x-rays and a CT scan, it is determined she did indeed break her ankle.

Which is how we find ourselves going home  in a hard splint and with strict instructions to keep her quiet and limit activity.

For any of you fortunate enough to have met my dog, you know that she was chasing squirrels the day the quiet gene was passed out, so quiet is not in her vocabulary.

I am already tired thinking about how fun this is going to be for the next several weeks.

When we get home, I also realize we have another problem.

Remember those steps in my yard?

Those all of a sudden become much more challenging with a broken ankle and arthritis in one of her front paws already.

I also realized that throwing my 80 pound dog on my back to get her up the stairs would probably lead to many more broken limbs.

We somehow make it, albeit slowly, up the stairs and to the door, but I realize we are going to need a better long term solution.

So I go to my life- hack partner, Amazon, to see what I can find.

Obviously, my dog is not the first one to have the combination of injury and steps, because I found this handy dandy “dog sling” that looks like the perfect solution, and quickly order it with Prime 2-day shipping.

I know I don’t need to remind you, my faithful readers, of all the fun I have with deliveries at my house, so I know you will not be surprised at all that this did not go as planned.

The package was scheduled to be delivered on Sunday with Amazon Prime shipping service. I get all the alerts that the package is out for delivery, the truck is in my area, and then that they are 5 stops away. Great!

And then I get the alert that my package has been delivered.

Hmm. That’s odd. I didn’t hear the truck or have anyone at the door.

Regardless, I go check outside the front door.

Nope.

I then open the tracking alert and see the delivery note “Handed to resident”

Imagine my surprise since I am the resident and I was not handed any package.

I call Amazon. They have no way to contact their drivers on the road (evidently cell phones are foreign concept to them) so they can’t ask him to come back and try again, or even tell me where he might have delivered it. The best they can do is re-order and re-ship in another 2 days.

Really?

I check with my immediate neighbors, but none of them were handed any package either, so I decide re-order and re-ship is my best option.

I mean it’s not like we really need this sling or anything.

Eventually, 3 days later ( I mean why would I expect it to be delivered on time this time??) it is delivered.

The same day that the person the first one was delivered to, finally decides they really should bring it to the person who actually ordered it.

At least now we have a back up sling. Which in my world, is not really a bad idea.

So, back to the dog, who, for as high strung and neurotic as she is, did a pretty good job of leaving her cast alone.

At first.

After about 6 days, however, I came down the stairs in the morning to find the top half of her cast shredded.

Which involved an emergent call to the vet and them squeezing us into their already packed Saturday schedule for a cast change.

The cast has rubbed at her ankle, so the on-call vet decides to forgo the hard cast and just put her in a soft wrap.

Which does not thrill her actual treating vet when we follow up with him 3 days later, since he really wanted her in a hard cast for at least 4 weeks.

Her swelling is going down and she seems to be doing okay in the soft cast, so he decides she can keep this regimen for the remaining 2 1/2 weeks and call it good.

Obviously, he is not well acquainted with our family.

Fast forward about 4 days later, to the next Saturday.

(Yes, just like with kids, these things always happen on a Saturday when your regular doctor is not available.)

Again, I come down the stairs in the morning (yes, I’m starting to get PTSD about that journey) and start to put on the nylon boot she has to wear over her cast before going outside, and stop.

What is that smell????

Yup, sure enough, on closer inspection, her soft cast is emitting a not very pleasant odor.

You have got to be kidding me.

Queue another call to the vet on a Saturday morning to be squeezed into their schedule.

It is about 8:45 and they want to know if I can be there before 9:30 when the vet goes into surgery for the day.

I am still in my pjs, haven’t finished my coffee, and it’s about a 20 minute drive. Not to mention the additional time it takes to get down the steps and in the car with the doggie sling now.

Sure, no problem. I’ll be there.

So, off we go again. I am considering asking them if we can just take up residence in one of the kennels for the next couple weeks.

This time, after taking the princess to the back for the bandage change, she and the vet come trotting back, this time with no bandage whatsoever on her leg.

I’m sure this is not in line with the treatment plan.

“So, it appears that she peed on her cast, and now has a “pee burn” on her ankle,(sure enough, there’s a good size sore on the front of her ankle)  so I can’t replace her cast”

Only my dog found a way to pee on her cast. Better yet, she found a way to pee on her cast while it was in the nylon boot that was always on when she was outside.

Gotta give her points for style.

We head home again with strict instructions that she needs to stay quiet since she is now without a cast, walking on an ankle that is still broken.

I decide not to review the fact that she missed the quiet gene, but do consider asking if they’ll just send her home and keep me in the kennel at least.

Or can they send me home with enough sedative to last the next 2 weeks? Whether that will go to the dog or me I can figure out later.

Today we were back for the follow up with our regular guy again. I was prepared for his eye rolling. And he literally threw his treatment plan in the trash while we were there.

At least he’s learning that the best laid plans rarely go as planned in our house.

And we are still without a cast until the custom made brace he had ordered to help her transition back to activity  (2 weeks from now when the cast was supposed to have come off) comes in.

Maybe we’ll have better luck with that.

 

 

Things Seem a Bit Foggy…

This week was a quick trip to Salt Lake City for dinner with a client.

At first I was excited, because I can actually get a quick direct flight from right here in COS without having to drive all the way to Denver!

Alas, when I looked at my two daily options, one put me into SLC way too early for my 6pm dinner, and one put me in too late.

But I wasn’t really in favor of spending 1/4 of my exactly 24 hour round trip on the road back and forth to Denver.

So instead I booked connecting flights with my dear friends on United out of COS. I did make sure the connections were in Denver, however, just in case my United friends continued their near perfect streak of travel issues. At least I would be within driving distance of home.

My trip to SLC was relatively uneventful. My super long 17 minute flight from Colorado Springs to Denver was a little bumpy, but who had time to really care.

I had just enough time on my 50 min layover to get some water and be ready for boarding.

My actual time in SLC, while with very few hours actually awake, was pretty nice. It was a beautiful evening in the bowl, and a pleasant dinner with good company.

I set my alarm before drifting off for 6am to make sure I had time to get to the airport and get the ever important coffee, before my 8:25am flight.

Except.

Having got my coffee, and starting to become pleasantly awake, I walk up to my gate just in time to hear them announce that we are on a “ground hold” from Denver flight control, due to “freezing fog” in Denver.

Wait. What?

Freezing fog? Is that really a thing?

I have traveled a lot for a lot of years. How have I never heard of frozen fog at any other time, on any other trip? Not to mention my slightly more than a few years on this planet. I’m quite sure I have never heard of freezing fog at any point during this time.

I make a note to consult with my super smart 3rd grade friend, Christopher, who I happen to know, through his mom, is studying weather.

They continue to say that at that point, the delay is only set for 30 min, and everyone should be good on their connections, so I decide to finish enjoying my coffee.

As the coffee continues to clear the un-frozen fog in my brain, however, I realize I am hearing the ongoing boarding announcements for the Delta flight to Denver, that is also scheduled to leave at 8:25.

Something is wrong with this picture. Both flights are heading to Denver?

Check.

Both are scheduled to leave at 8:25?

Check.

But somehow, the Delta flight is actually boarding and not delayed, while us lucky United passengers are sitting here at the gate and at least 30 min delayed.

Curiouser and curiouser.

I decide not to get too worked up yet. Maybe the Delta crew just haven’t gotten the message, and all those people will actually just sit on the plane during their ground hold, instead of in the slightly more comfortable terminal.

But I just continue to watch as the Delta plane is loaded, the doors closed, and it pushes off the gate.

Sure enough, it takes off merrily on it’s way to Denver as planned.

What kind of weather is this that only affects one airline and not another?!?

I bite my tongue, and take a deep breath, and decide as long as we leave at 9 and my connection is intact, all will be well in the end.

But of course we don’t.

At 9, instead of coming on to announce we will be starting the boarding process, they come on to announce that we are now on another delay for at least another hour, because instead of the Denver fog un-freezing, it is actually getting more frozen. And now I will definitely miss my connection

Now I can’t help myself. I must inquire.

So I walk up to my United agents and ask if they can explain what I obviously missed in 3rd grade weather, about this frozen fog that can affect one airline and not another.

Of course they missed that day in 3rd grade too, and have no answer for me, except that since United has the largest fleet, they are often the most affected by weather issues.

But not to worry! They have already rebooked my connection to the 3:45pm flight to COS.

I literally can not form a response to this, despite being fully loaded with coffee, except to  give them my tilted head, scrunched up eye look.

I take another deep breath and decide continuing the conversation is going to be pointless, so instead I head back to my seat, while I pull up the Delta app on my phone. Sure enough, their 8:25 flight is en route to Denver and still on track to touch down in about 20 minutes time. I also see that they have another flight heading to Denver at 9:59, that is also, miraculously, showing on time.

So I make my way over to the Delta desk directly across the terminal from my United desk.

“I was just curious, if this was accurate, and if your 8:25 flight actually took off to Denver with no issues?”

“Yes”

“And your 9:59 flight is still on time and not delayed?”

“Um, yes I think so. Let me check. Yes. It’s on time”

“Hmmm. I’m just a little confused, because I’m on that United flight right there, that was also supposed to take off at 8:25 to Denver, but was delayed due to weather. So, I’m not really sure how the weather isn’t affecting your planes”

“Yeah, I heard those announcements, and I was wondering what that was about.” Then she looks at me. “But, um, sometimes, it’s the type of aircraft that is affected or not”

I just give her my “I don’t really know what to say to that” look and move on.

“Ok, so are there any seats still left on your 9:59 flight?”

She consults her computer. “It looks like there are 4 seats left”

“Great, thanks! I’ll be right back”

I turn and walk back across the hall to my United friends, wait for them to finish finding solutions for the other un-connected passengers, and when it is finally my turn, I ask them to push my ticket to Delta, so I can travel with an airline that appears impervious to weather.

“But that will only get you to Denver. You won’t have your connection to Colorado Springs”

“I’m pretty sure I can manage” is all I say. I don’t say that even if the United flight did manage to take off at 10, I wasn’t exactly planning on sitting around DIA until 4pm waiting for a 17 min flight.

To the agents credit, he pushed the ticket to Delta without much more to-do, except to say that he has never really been able to figure out the way they manage weather delays either. I just give him a smile, thank him for my Delta voucher, and head to my Delta gate to check in.

5 min later, I have a boarding pass, and another 5 min after, we are actually boarding the plane. While the United crew is still sitting at their gate.

Besides being a bit more bumpy than normal upon approach to DIA, our hour long flight flew by, and I land to what appears to be a sunny, 45 degree day in Denver.

I hop on the train to the main terminal, call an Uber as I ride up the escalator, and walk out to Arie waiting for me at the curb.

Arie is a tiny Asian grandpa, who seems genuinely excited when he sees he has to drive me to Colorado Springs. I assume it’s the triple digit fare that helps with this.

As soon as we leave the airport, Arie literally drives his Prius like there are monsters chasing us, and we make it from DIA to COS airport in an hour and 30 min flat. That might actually be a record, even for me, who has had a speeding ticket or two.  I could take driving lessons from Arie, I think.

And at 3:45 I had had my lunch, unpacked and was sitting comfortably in my house.

Cats aren’t the Only Ones with 9 lives

I almost died this week.

You’re probably wondering how I can be emotionally recovered enough to be writing about that, just a day or two later. But the truth is, this is not my first near death experience.

I seem to have regular, periodic episodes that allow me to evaluate my life as it flashes before my eyes and see how I’m doing so far.

Some of these episodes may, admittedly,  be of my own doing. I seem to have this occasional cerebral hiccup that  allows me to believe my skills and abilities are far above where they are in reality. Some are due to the choices of others or the Fates. Either way, they do manage to keep life exciting.

Like the time I was trampled by a horse.

Or the time I was hit by a car.

Or that time I almost rolled backwards over the edge of Pikes Peak. Good times!

Or that one time I tried CrossFit. (Seriously people. Who invented that torture??)

I also know that my frequent traveling increases my potential for danger. While I understand that flying is stastically safer than driving in my car, let’s face it. When you’re hurtling through the air at hundreds of miles per hour, thousands of feet off the ground, it doesn’t take much to throw things off.

Even with that delicate balance, in all the hundreds of flights I have taken in the past few years, I have never been in danger, and have escaped with nary a scratch (if we don’t count the head injuries from the monstrous backpacks people carry).

I’m afraid I can’t say the same about the airports, however.

Like the time that the escalator handrail decided to eat my sweater, that I happened to be wearing at the time. The handrail tried to pull my sweater back down, as the rest of me continued to follow the step under my feet up.

That could have ended badly.

Or the time that I nearly got crushed by the automatic train door. I barely escaped, but my bag wasn’t so lucky,

The airport was the scene for this week’s near death encounter too.

For any of you unfamiliar with the Denver airport, to get from any of the terminals to the main terminal, you have to take a train. And to get to this train you have to go down a set of escalators.

There is one escalator that takes you halfway down, then you make a U-turn to get on the second escalator that will take you to the bottom.

This means the second escalator is slightly offset and below the top one. This will be important in a second.

I had successfully made it down the first escalator, made my U- turn, and was about halfway down the second, when the incident occurred.

Someone who was still on the top escalator- and who evidently skipped or slept through the day momentum and gravity and falling objects was explained in physics class- either failed to see the need to secure their metal water bottle to their bag or their person, or decided that was a good time to juggle this metal water bottle and missed the grab.

The water bottle took a swan dive over the side of the top escalator and arced through the air to miss my head by inches, and land on the step right behind me on the bottom escalator.

Did I mention this water bottle was metal?

So when it failed to give me a much more serious head injury than any I’ve received from gargantuan backbacks, it nearly succeeded in taking me out with a heart attack at the sound of metal hitting metal right behind me.

At least, had it succeeded in ending my life, I would have been glad I hadn’t seen it coming.

I retrieved the water bottle, and had a very educational lesson on physics ready to deliver to the owner when they retrieved it at the bottom. However, the owner decided they weren’t interested in either the lecture or the water bottle, and never came forward.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to try to make sure I get all I can out of the few lives I have remaining.

 

 

 

 

 

Escape Room: Bathroom Edition

Thanks to my last trip of the year delivering on the story front, here’s an early Christmas gift for all of you.

Last night I was in Sioux Falls to close out one part of the projects we have been working on there. To celebrate we went out for a team dinner and a little pre-holiday cheer.

One of our team mates found a super cool, rehabbed warehouse with a craft fair/market type decor for us to patron.
Since we were a larger group, they sat us in their basement area with one other larger group.

Shortly after we sat down, I decided to visit the lady’s room before we got too far into the wine drinking and noshing. I scoped out the downstairs dining room, and in the back corner I spied a heavy-duty metal door, that looked like an outdoor exit door, but that clearly had a “restroom” sign over it.

So off to the far back corner I headed.

I pushed open the door and found myself in another industrial type area that was like a cross of a church basement and outside alleyway on the inside.

Interesting.

I immediately found the men’s room just to the right, but didn’t see a women’s room anywhere in the vicinity. There was an open area just past the men’s room, and several hallways going in multiple directions. I walked around the open area, peeked down the closest hallways, and tried a couple of doors, but didn’t find anything that appeared to be a women’s room.

Since there didn’t seem to be any other human being in sight, and the men’s room was a single-seater, I decided that bathroom had just become unisex, and would do just fine for what I needed.

So I locked myself in, completed my to-do’s, and prepared to head back to join my group.

Except when I pulled on the door I came through, it didn’t move.

Huh.

I did a quick look around to make sure this was the door I came through, and there wasn’t another twin somewhere nearby.

Nope. This was the door.

I pulled again, thinking maybe I just needed to apply a little more muscle.

Nothing. This door was clearly locked.

Did this fun, funky, warehouse/market restaurant throw in a free escape room experience to the first lucky guest who decided to use the restroom?

I mean, I guess that could be cool, but having not been prepared for this, I wasn’t sure that was how I wanted to spend my evening.

I quickly considered calling my crew and asking someone to rescue me. But contrary to current culture of having your phone permanently affixed to one of your appendages, I actually don’t bring my phone to the bathroom with me on a regular basis. One, because I don’t think any restroom activity needs to be recorded for posterity or social media sharing. And two, I don’t feel the need to discuss holiday plans, dinner recipes or any other vital life matters in the echoing confines of a bathroom stall.

So I had no way to contact anyone on the other side of that door.

Then I spent a few minutes wondering how long it would take for my group to realize I was gone and come looking for me. As much as I like to think I am an essential component of any party or good time, and that my incredible wit and captivating conversational skills are key to any get together, I quickly realized that the entire meal could be completed and it may not be until everyone was looking to depart back to the hotel that they realized their driver was missing.

Well. I guess it was up to me to find a way out of this unexpected situation.

Luckily, I had just watched the new Lara Croft, Tomb Raider on the plane the week before, so I felt well prepared to tackle this challenge!

First, I gave the door one more good shake, jiggling it on its hinges as much as possible. You know, just in case the industrial lock on it was defective and I could pop it by sheer force.

I know you are as shocked as I was that that didn’t work.

So I turned to survey my surroundings.

I know this building used to be some sort of warehouse, and we are in the basement, so I decide, logically, that there may at least be some sort of outside exit down here somewhere. If I could at least get outside, I was sure I could find my way back to the front entrance.

I also know that the staircase we came down, and the front entrance, were to the right of where I was standing now.

So I decide to start with the hallway furthest to the right.

At the very least I’m hoping I’ll find a fire alarm I can pull and invite lots of people to my little escape adventure.

I walk past the men’s room, into that open, rec room type area, and head towards the hall on the right.

Just a couple of steps down the hall, there is a door labeled “Public Staircase” on the left. I pause in front of the door to consider this option. At the very least it looks like it could lead outside. Provided it isn’t locked.

I am just about to test it, when I clearly hear the sounds of people dining and restaurant white noise coming from further down the hall.

I decide to go a little further, on the off-chance there is access back to the restaurant.

I walk literally about 5 more steps, where the hall takes another little jog to the right, and sure enough, a pair of swinging double doors appear in front of me.

The door on the right is propped open, through which I can clearly see wait staff trekking back and forth and further in the distance, a table full of diners.

Wait. What?

How did I miss the part where I got to use my shirt as a makeshift tourniquet? Or use my hair pin to secure a jungle vine so I could swing across the big ravine? Or where I cling by my fingernails to a sheer cliff while the ground beneath me tilts and disintegrates?

Did I really watch the Lara Croft training video for nothing??

Because here I was at an exit, less than 50 feet and one right turn from where I started.

I let the restaurant know in my Yelp review that their escape room experience could use some work. But the food got rave reviews.

 

 

 

Flight of the Bumble-Hornet

I know I have been remiss in writing in a while. I could offer you up a bunch of excuses, but I hope this story will be enough for you to forgive me.

Most of you know that I live in an area where up close encounters with our wildlife  can happen often. I’m sure we will all remember what happened when a bat decided to come and pay a visit.

This story involves yet another winged critter.

A few weeks ago, I decided to enjoy one of our few and last beautiful fall days, and spend some time reading on my deck.

(What happened to fall BTW?? Did it forget it is supposed to make an appearance between summer and winter??)

Anyway, back to the deck.

I am an avid reader. And like any avid reader of the 21st century, especially one who travels frequently, my library is conveniently stored on my easily packable iPad.

So I am sitting on my deck, reading my book, on my iPad.

When a hornet decides it really likes something about my hair in this particular moment, and takes up doing laps around my ears.

I absent-mindedly try to flick him away a few times, but he is having none of it, and quickly resumes his laps.

We have a special name in our house for hornets, thanks to my dog, who loves gobbling them up in mid-air, like they are the tastiest snacks ever offered.

So we call them Scooby Snacks.

However, on this particular day, my trusty canine companion is more interested in working on her tan, then feasting on Scooby Snacks. Despite my cries for help, she refuses to come to my rescue, so I am left to fight on my own.

I make a few more vigorous attempts to encourage this pesky winged bugger to find another arena to continue his workout, but he refuses to leave.

So I put my iPad on the arm of my chair, and jump up to confront my foe face to face.

And give my iPad just enough of nudge with my thigh as I get up to knock it off the chair to the floor.

Where it slides under the deck rail. And falls the 10 feet to the walk below.

I had been considerate enough to leave my case open, and it was considerate enough to fall face up, so I could watch my screen shatter on impact from my perch 10 ft above.

Sigh.

I go down and rescue my iPad- which is miraculously still working- not that it matters much, since I can’t see anything through the millions of fine lines criss-crossing my screen.

Immediately my thoughts go to the fact that I am leaving the next day for a 2 day work trip, followed immediately by a trip to California to meet a friend for the weekend. Which meant a lot of plane time. And a lot of reading time. Which was going to be hard to do with my shattered library.

Luckily, I had purchased the protection plan when I bought this iPad a mere 5 months prior, because I have lived with myself long enough to know this protection would come in handy, with or without the help of hornets.

So I head out to the big box store that supposedly offers the Best place to Buy electronics and the like, and where I had purchased my iPad and this protection plan.

After waiting in line to talk to one of the Geeks behind the counter, I am informed that even though they sell iPads and the protection plans, they actually do not honor or provide any service when this protection is actually needed. They don’t even offer replacement on these insured products.

To take advantage of this protection, I would actually have to go to our local Apple store.

Now, I don’t know what it is like at your local Apple store, but I have been to ours enough times to know that this is never an “in and out” excursion. In fact you can pretty much plan on sacrificing hours and hours of your life that you will never get back, waiting for assistance at the big store of the Fruit.

I am not happy about this change to my afternoon plans.

I log onto my handy-dandy Apple app, in the hopes of making an appointment and minimizing my wasted time.

Only to find that the next available appointment is Friday afternoon.

It is currently Saturday afternoon. I will be in California by Friday.

This is less than ideal.

I call the Apple store, in the hopes they will take pity on me with my sad tale and find a way to work me in.

Not only does the phone ring endlessly, until I am finally punted over to the national Apple hotline, when this agent attempts to call the local store for me, even she has to wait approximately 30 minutes to get through.
And the manager she speaks with basically laughs at her when she asks about the possibility of getting me in that day.

It is about 4:30 in the afternoon. The store is open until 9. Yet the manager tells us they are basically sending people away because they are on a 5 hour wait for a service appointment.

I guess I’m glad I called before I drove all the way up there.

I am told my “best” option is to show up 30 min prior to store opening the following day, wait in line until they open, and hope that I am one of the first ones there so I can be first on their walk in list.

All for them to literally take my busted iPad and hand me a new one.

What happened to the good old days when you could walk in, grab the product off the shelves and walk up to the counter to complete the transaction??

While I begged to disagree about this being any sort of “best” option, I realized my options were greatly limited if I wanted my mobile library to accompany me on my trip.

So guess where I found myself at 10:30 the next morning?

That’s right.

Standing in line outside the Fruit store.

Luckily, I was the second one in line. The guy in front of me had longer legs and walked from his car one step faster than I walked from mine. He may not have known we were racing, but I did.

I was amazed that in that 30 minutes, the line grew to 50+ people behind me.

I guess I’m not the only one who needs to purchase those protection plans.

I will say that the Fruit vendors were very efficient and I was in the door and with a tech at 11 sharp and out the door with my new iPad at 11:30.

So when I headed out later that day, I did so with my library on my back. Despite the Scooby Snacks best efforts.

Lost In Paradise

We just got back from an amazing week on the beaches in Belize. One of those vacations that you don’t want to end. Sun, sand and sea. Can’t think of a much better combo.

But of course, even Paradise has stories.

On our first full day, after spending the morning soaking up as many sun rays as possible, we decided to take the paddle boards out for a spin. We get the paddle boards in the water, get on our feet and start slowly paddling out to sea. We had just cleared the end of the pier, enjoying the starfish the size of dinner plates hanging out on the bottom of the ocean, when yours truly tries to adjust her footing…. and promptly loses her balance and finds herself swimming with the starfish.

I break the surface, flailing like a fish out of water, recover my paddle board, finish hacking half the Pacific out of lungs and start towing my board back in so I can get back on top of it, since the view was better than from underneath.

I go a couple feet when I realize my sunglasses, that I had just pushed up on my head prior to deciding to take a swim, are no longer there.

Of course.

I do a quick look around to see if any of those starfish are sporting a new pair of shades, but no luck.

J-man, who was still comfortably on his board starts paddling around in circles close to where I tumbled to see if he can locate them. Even with the crystal clear water he wasn’t having much luck, so I towed my board back to shore,  grabbed a snorkel mask instead and decided to extend my swim and see if I could enjoy some tropical fish who hopefully had found my glasses.

Finally, after about 10 minutes, of J-man scouting from his perch, and me swimming around with my face in the water, he finally located them.

And patiently paddled in place until I decided to come up from below and could actually hear him trying to tell me that I was heading in the wrong direction and the sunglasses were right in front of him.

The important thing is the sunglasses were rescued.

Fast forward to our last evening on the island. We walked back to our cabana after dinner, which was the very last one on the end of the island.

Believe me when I tell you that it gets dark on the island at night. Which is great for watching the stars from the hammock. But not so great for what was coming next.

The wind had been picking up through dinner and we were watching lightening over the water on our walk back, so I decided I would collect all our various swim gear and towels we had hanging out on the deck to dry.

I collect everything hanging in various places, and realize half of one of my bathing suits was missing.

Luckily, using the flashlight on my phone, I quickly find it. Bobbing in place in the water, about 10 feet from our cabana.

We have an overwater cabana, with a ladder directly into the water.

Except the bathing suit is bobbing on the “bad side” of the cabana. Remember I said we were on the end? One side was clearer and swimmable.

The other side was seaweed laden and not so clear.

And it is dark.

But the suit is bobbing not too far from shore, and J-man is like “you can totally just wade out and get it.”

But I can’t see without my flashlight.

So I decide to wade out with my phone in my hand and try to reach it.

I make my way down to the edge of the water, where there is a water break I have to climb over with lots of seaweed jammed up against it.

I take one step over the water break and into the water,

And sink up to my knees in muck.

It literally sucked one of my flip flops off my foot (thank goodness I hadn’t taken those off) and I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to extract the other from the salty quicksand.

As I’m trying to extract my one foot without putting my other back in the muck and not losing my balance and dropping my phone in, my child is laughing from the deck.

Very helpful.

I finally get free of the sink hole and safely back on shore.

Justin says “Just go around the other side and wade under the cabana to it”

Except it’s dark. And I’m definitely not doing that with my phone in hand. I’m not real keen on going for a night swim and  running into one of the stingrays, nurse sharks or barracuda’s  we’ve been sharing the water with, when I can’t see a thing.

I didn’t like that bathing suit that much anyway.

And now I am covered from toe to hip in nasty, black muck.

So much for bed, I need a decontaminator.

I finally go to bed, assuming my bathing suit bottom with peacefully float out to sea over night to it’s forever resting place.

Except it doesn’t.

It’s still bobbing there in the morning.

I can’t just leave it there to be the welcoming sight to the next guest walking up the ramp to their cabana.

And if I don’t retrieve it, that means one of the workers is going to have to.

And although they are probably much better equipped with long poles and the such, my conscience gets the better of me and I find myself ready to wade back in.

The good news is, Justin was right. It was relatively easy going in from the other side and wading under the cabana.

Especially in the daylight, when I could watch for predators.

The good news is the bathing suit bottom was rescued.

And I leave the island with everything I arrived with.

And a great tan.

 

Shrimp on the Barbie?

Is there a better summer tradition than cooking outside on a beautiful summer day and enjoying your dinner in the open air?

This lovely summer tradition becomes even more lovely when it’s 90+ degrees outside, and turning on your oven turns your kitchen into a sauna.

My tank of a grill started dying at the end of last year, after many years of loyal service, and a couple of weekends ago, it became evident that it was time to trade up to that shiny new model.

However, for those of you who know where I live, I had two strict requirements in buying this new model:

  1. It must be delivered. I live on a hill and have 28 steps and probably 100 ft up from the street to my front door.
  2. It needed to include assembly. Ok, that one is really just because I’m lazy and would rather be drinking wine then spending 4+ hours putting a grill together.

So after shopping around, I found a grill that met both criteria. They would ship it to my house, and were running a special that included FREE assembly.

SCORE!

The order was placed, the grill was en route and the assembly crew were standing by to get to work.

Time for me to kick back with that wine.

Except. Of course it can’t be that easy.

It starts with the assembly crew texting and asking if there is anyway they can come a day earlier because they are already here, and don’t want to drive back down from Denver again the next day.

Fair enough.

But I don’t actually have the grill yet. It is due to be delivered that day. And I am usually on the end of the delivery route (probably because of those 28 steps) and often don’t see the delivery guys until 8pm or later.

The assembly crew says they’ll “kill some time” until about 7:30 in the hopes that it will show up prior to that.

Ok. I’m not going to complain about having my grill assembled 12 hours early.

7:15, and the crew are texting again. Any sign of the grill?  They are going to run out of daylight.

Nope. Nada.

7:28 and the big brown truck rounds the corner and starts up the hill.

How’s that for timing?! I text the crew and let them know we came in just under the deadline, and they are on the road, heading my way, before the text has time to finish loading.

Now. I have lived on my hill for over a year now. And I do a lot of online shopping. So I have had lots of experience with these delivery guys getting very creative in finding any excuse to not carry even a 5 pound package up to my front door.

And this grill is slightly more than 5 pounds.

So I venture out to my deck, just in case my fill in delivery guy decides he really would rather not get his workout in for the day.

Sure enough, he’s backing his truck right up to my garage. Clearly with the idea of dumping the box there and hightailing it home to his couch and his (I’m sure) well deserved beer.

He throws open the back door and looks up to see me watching from the deck.

Let me just segue for a second here, to say that I MAY  have had a conversation or two with the Boys in Brown and their supervisors about the need to actually deliver my packages to my front door.

So I am fairly well known around the Big Brown House.

I am quite sure they have a large picture of my smiling face in their break room .

Whether or not it has a dart or several hanging from it, is still up to debate.

Regardless, this particular driver was ready with his excuse as soon as he saw me.

“This is a big box! There’s no way I’m going to be able to get that up to you!”

Smile. “I thought that might be the case, so I came out to see if you needed help getting up here”

He blinks up at me. He obviously wasn’t prepared for that.

“Do you have someone up there that can help me carry it up?”

Now it’s my turn to blink at him, while I decide how best to respond to that one.

I decide to stick with the “catch more flies with honey” approach:

Smile. “Yeah.can help you.”

The blinking lasts several more seconds this time. Obviously this option had never occurred to him.

“Um. This thing weighs 130 pounds. That’s as much as I weigh. I’m not sure we’ll be able to manage that,” as he glances back and forth from the box to me.

That honey is getting thicker by the minute and the smile is frozen on my face.

“Let me get my shoes on. I think we can handle it. I’ll be right down”

I meet him at the back of the truck where he seems slightly less than excited to see me.

And on top of that, the box literally looks like it has survived a game of Russian Roulette. Barely.  The top is literally flapping open, one whole corner is missing, and the rest of it is barely holding together.

“What on earth happened to the box?”

“Yeah, I’m not sure. I didn’t load it on the truck this morning. It has been riding around in the back all day… ” He fades off in trying to find an explanation as he tries to worry the start to a roll of packing tape. Obviously in the hopes of binding it up enough to survive the trek up the hill .

In hind sight, that would probably have been the time to inspect the innards of the box.

But I was still stuck in his lack of confidence, so I overlooked that obvious option.

He gets it bound up, pushes it to the edge of truck, where I balance it while he jumps out.

He gives it one last try; “Are you sure about this?”

“Yup. We’ve got this. I’m tougher than I look”  (who knew I’d have a career in cheerleading after all?)

We grab the box between us and head toward the stairs.

Guess who gets stuck going backwards, up the stairs?

Yup. Your’s truly. Balancing my half of the 130 pounds, while I am looking down and behind me to make sure I hit all 28 of the steps. Which, by the way, aren’t all just up in a straight line.

But we make it.

Piece of cake.

At least he had the decency to be a little impressed.

“You’re stronger than I thought”

Smile. “Well why else go to the gym but for moments like these…”

So we drop the box at the front door, and 10 minutes later, the assembly crew join it there. Smooth sailing from here on out…

If only.

They  tell me it should take them about 30 min, and start unpacking the box.

2 minutes later they are knocking on the door.

I go out to have them holding up the base of the grill with one very large dent along the back edge.

“We can go ahead and put it together if you want, and you can call the company to send you a replacement part, then we can came back and swap it out at no charge. Up to you”

I just had my weeks workout in 10 min. Wine is calling my name.

“Sure. Just go ahead. I’ll call them.”

Great.

No sooner had I closed the door, than they were knocking again.

This time they had several bent and dented pieces to show me. Along with a completely broken off hinge on the lid.

“We can’t even put this together like this”

I mean. I only have myself to blame. What did I expect from a box like that?

So there sits my grill. In front of my front door. In it’s broken and taped up box.

Waiting for the Boys in Brown to return and make the trek back down the hill. With me balancing my half of the 130 pounds, I’m sure…

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Woman who Lived Without a Shoe

This week was a 3 day trip to a couple of our countries fair cities, which included a day of 3 time zones, 2 flights and 5 hours in a car. And that was just Day 3.

With all my flights this week, I got to experience TSA at a super small airport with no Pre-Check. So of course my bag was selected for special screening.

The supervisor who opened my bag to look for the dangers lurking within, rifled through all my stuff and commented that I had “numerous” toiletries, (all under the requisite 3.6 oz, might I point out) but that she would let it fly (yes, that is a pun), but she wanted to give me a heads up as “other airports may not be as accommodating”

Since she was being nice, and didn’t make me go back and check my bag, I decided not to point out that I have flown through many, many, many airports, and that I pack the same way every week, and have never had an issue elsewhere. Instead I just said “thanks for the tip” and moved on.

Speaking of packing, I know I dispelled the myth a few months back, that just because I am a frequent traveler does not mean that I am a great or efficient packer. However, I may have had the ultimate example of the lack of my packing expertise a few weeks back.

It was just a quick overnight trip, and I was scheduled on the last flight out that night. And that flight was delayed for 3 hours out of Denver.

I know, I know. You’ve heard this story before. Bear with me. There’s a twist you aren’t expecting coming, I promise.

I have a routine when I pack, and I found I really can’t vary from that routine, without there being a negative consequence. I pack for each day individually, and make sure I have everything I need for that day before moving on to the next.

Since this was just a one day trip, I’m not sure how I managed to mess it up as royally as I did, but it happened.

As the meme I found earlier this week said, my brain browser often has multiple tabs open, and frequently one or more of those tabs may freeze up and stop responding.
That is what must have happened to my packing tab on this particular day. I just didn’t realize it was frozen until it was too late.

I finally arrive at my hotel, 3 hours late, and as I always do,  proceed to open my suitcase, and take out my clothes for the next morning, to allow for as much “de-rumpling” time as possible. I hang my dress and jacket up and then pull out one shoe, and …..

Wait a minute. Why is there only one shoe?

Indeed. Upon further inspection of my bag, it held only one shoe.

Please don’t ask me how this happened. I still can’t tell you. I would have actually felt better if there had been no shoes in the bag, and I had forgotten them altogether. But how I managed to pack one shoe and not the other remains a mystery.

So now I am faced with the dilemma of how I am going to resolve this shoe problem before my meeting at 8am the next morning. It is now almost midnight, so there is no way anything is going to be open now.

As much as I could use the exercise, I know there is no way I have the stamina to hop around on one foot all day.

I consider going barefoot and saying I’ve embraced a simpler lifestyle, want to be in tune with the earth and all that, but I’m not sure I can pull that off in a suit jacket.

And there is no way the boots I wore on the plane are going to work with my dress and fall into the business dress code.

But what shoe store is going to be open before 8am in the morning?

I’m a little afraid I’m going to have to get two cast shoes from the 24-hour Walgreens and try to pass them off as the latest fashion trend. (C’mon, I know you already want a pair)

So this is how I find myself googling for “shoe stores” at almost midnight, to see if there is anything that might open early.

Luckily I find that the local Target is open at 7am!

So, instead of sleeping in an extra 30 min or so to make up for not getting to bed until midnight, I find myself setting my alarm even earlier, so I can be waiting at the Target when they open their doors at 7am.

I manage to find a pair of shoes that are actually presentable (I’ve even worn them again since!), check out (they were literally still turning on the self checkout scanners) and make it back to pick up my co-worker, to get to our meeting on time.

Mission accomplished!

I will, however, be sure that I am refreshing that packing tab to make sure it is fully loaded prior to zipping up my suitcase moving forward.

 

Cloudy with a chance of Candy Canes

**Warning**: I am about to leak an international secret that may not be suitable for small children and more than a few adults.

Santa Claus summers in Sioux Falls, SD.

I know this because I saw him at the airport today.

Oh, he thought he was being clever in his cargo shorts and Hawaiian shirt. But there is no camouflaging that snow-white hair, that beard and those rosy cheeks.

I suppose, from the North Pole, Sioux Falls is a reasonable southern destination. Maybe he’s a fisherman.

I should have risked making the naughty list and blowing his cover to try to get some of his Christmas luck before embarking on my trip back to Denver.

Now, I will admit. I may have incured some bad travel karma earlier in the day, when I was listening to my team mates tell their travel woes while trying to connect through Minneapolis last night. Evidently there were thunderstorms in the area that caused them to suffer long delays and resulted in them not arriving until the wee hours of the morning. I may have been silently gloating about my hour long direct flight from Denver to Sioux Falls and back.

I won’t be doing that again.

It was, indeed, slightly over an hour for us to reach the DIA air space this afternoon. The flight crew came on to announce we were making our final approach and would be at our gate in 10 short minutes.

And then, 5 min later, we are suddenly banking sharply right and ascending towards the clouds again.

Our pilot comes on to let us know we are needing to circle around and approach from the other direction, due to a “weather anomaly”.

Hmmm.

Ok, so I may have been craning to look out my window for Santa’s sleigh….

Our circling around, became at least 3 circles and about an extra 45 min in the air watching DIA from every direction down below us.

Now, I have flown A LOT, and have never once even come close to getting air sick. But whatever that “weather anomaly” was, made me think I may lose the lunch I didn’t have at least a couple times in those endless circles.

We finally land, pretty close to the Colorado/Kansas line, and drive approximately another 4 hours on the runway, just to come within view of the terminal.

Which is as close as we got. The pilot comes on to inform us that all airport traffic is on “hold” due to the weather in the area. Even the ground crews have been pulled off the tarmac.

Fantastic. I, for one, am a big fan of being delayed when you can actually see your gate right in front of you.

We finally are cleared to approach…  and are told we will be deplaning via jet bridge.  Onto the tarmac that 10 minutes earlier, it wasn’t safe for the ground crew to be on.

Oh. And by the way. Would those of you who checked your bags at the gate (because our plane was too small to have overhead bins larger than the average glove box), just stand to one side, on this tarmac, to wait for your bags.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t mind acting as an additional human lightening rod for the Denver airport. It’s not like my hair was frizzy enough today already.

I will say this, though. Lightening and stormy weather do make the ground crew move a lot faster in retrieving and delivering our bags!

I really think I deserved for it to rain at least one candy cane after all that.