Bucking the Universe – Part 3

September 13, 2018 12:40 PM

So far in my story, (read part 1 here and part 2 here)I have survived a claustrophobic flight in a small airplane to Philadelphia and I discovered that the swim spa I was convinced would work, would not. Dennis and I spent a lot of extra time trying out more expensive pools at the sales showroom, which meant we did not get to tour a defunct prison, try a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich or visit a Wa-Wa (a gas station/convenience store recommended to me by a nun I met on the shuttle to the rental car office.)

After a grabbing a hamburger at a drive thru, Dennis and I made our way back to the airport to drop off the rental car. Traffic wasn’t terrible, we breezed through security lines with our TSA PreCheck and our flight was still on time.  The weather was now partly cloudy and warm. Still good weather for flying. The day had been long, and disappointing in many ways, but it was almost over. All I had to do was fly home in a nice large plane, with normal sized aisles and bathrooms. I even had my aisle seat assigned. No extra leg room, which meant a bit more tight quarters than I’m comfortable with, but it’s only a 90 minute flight. I’d be fine.

I was concerned our flight could be delayed, because I know east coast airports are very busy and sometimes have more delays than we see in Milwaukee. I continued to check the status throughout the afternoon and it was not. This was great news. It was crucial that we leave on time, because I had the pet sitter scheduled to pick up the dogs from the kennel about the time we would be taking off.

Officially, I was paying for two nights of boarding at the kennel, because the dogs were being picked up 1/2 hour before they closed, so they charged me for an extra night whether I picked them up that day or the next morning. This was fine with me. It was a bit more expensive, but it also offered a buffer if my flight should be delayed. I could leave the dogs there an extra night and get them in the morning if our flight was late. We were supposed to leave around 5:10 PM, the pet sitter was scheduled to the pick them up around 5:30. Should there be a delay, surely, I’d know it in advance to her picking them up.

We were due to arrive back in Milwaukee around 6:50 PM, which meant we’d be home no later 7:30. The pet sitter was going to bring the dogs home from the kennel and give them dinner. This arrangement meant that the dogs would be alone for about an hour between the time the pet sitter left and we returned home. I knew that Sammy would probably bark the entire time. Not the greatest, but I figured the cats could deal with the barking for an hour, so the dogs didn’t have to spend another night in the kennel.

The time came to board our plane about twenty minutes before it was scheduled to take off. As we settled in, I noticed there were two babies sitting behind us with their parents. One was a toddler age, in the window seat, Mom sat in the middle seat and Dad was on the aisle. Mom and Dad were juggling the infant between them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-baby by any means.  I understand that families have to fly with babies and I understand babies cry. It was just unfortunate that I happened to be seated in front of babies on the one trip where I didn’t have my noise-canceling head phones. No matter how limited carry on space is, I will never, ever fly without them again.

While we waited to take off, the Mom of the babies realized that the lady across the aisle from her husband was traveling to the same funeral they were. Which she and the lady discussed at great length. Very loudly. Around this time, I also noticed that it was getting a bit cloudier outside. I started to get a little nervous. A storm could mess up my entire plan with the pet sitter, and the short window I had to contact to her to tell her to leave the dogs at the kennel instead of picking them up was rapidly ticking away.

The time to take off came and went. It got cloudier outside. The baby started to cry forcing the mom to talk even louder so the lady across the aisle to could hear her. I kept expecting Mom to change seats with Dad, who was on the aisle, so she could more easily talk to her new-found friend. It never happened.

At 5:20, ten minutes after we were supposed to take off, the captain came on over the intercom saying there was some rain in the area and our take off would be delayed for a short while.

I panicked. My carefully orchestrated schedule did not allow for a delay that I found out ten minutes after we were supposed to take off! Dennis and I quickly discussed our options. I decided that since it was so close to when the dogs would be picked up, I’d call the kennel and tell them they had to stay another night. I’d text the pet sitter once I reached the kennel.

I made the call, cupping my hand over my free ear to block the crying/loud talking behind me. When I reached the kennel, they told me I was too late. The pet sitter had picked up the dogs already. Okay, no problem, I can deal with this. I’ll have to ask the pet sitter to bring them back.  I confirmed with the kennel that the dogs could  have their room back, if I needed it, and I told them I would let them know in five minutes whether the dogs would be back. Then I called the pet sitter to discuss options. Around this time, the toddler started whining and crying which meant Mom needed to talk even louder to her new friend.

The pet sitter was already at our home with the dogs when I called her. We discussed options of her staying the night or bringing them back. Since she had other plans early the morning the next day, I opted to have her bring them back to kennel. At this point it started to rain. Torrents of rain, all at once. It literally went from a couple of rain drops to a deluge.

I called the kennel to confirm the dogs would be returning and they told me they now could not take them. What? I just called. I paid for two nights. What do you mean you can’t take them? I never did get an answer why and I didn’t have time to dig into at that point. I hung up and called the pet sitter again, and told her the dogs had to stay home. I was completely at a loss of what to do. Other than something happening to the people in my life, having my animals not cared for is my worst case scenario when traveling.

I have a really awesome pet sitter. She worked it out that she would spend the night if we needed her to, and would leave very early in the morning. I was so relieved. How wonderful to have someone to rely on like that who isn’t family. I promised her I would text her as soon as I knew anything since we were still hoping to fly home at some point that night. The dogs would be alone, worst case, for three or four hours that night until she returned. As long as we could get home by early morning, all would be fine.

The rain continued. And the winds came up. Hard enough to shake the plane. Afternoon showers don’t last long, right? They move through in twenty minutes or so? Wrong. This afternoon shower hung over Philadelphia for hours. We were watching the radar on our phone. One little storm cell, surrounded by many big storm cells, just sat, swirling around Philadelphia, not moving.

In addition to the rain and the wind, came the thunder and lightning. I wondered what happens if a plane gets struck by lightning? I decided not to ask Dennis. It didn’t really matter because I was stuck on the plane, no matter what. At some point in the storm, they made us taxi to a far part of the runway. I suppose to get out of the way of flights still trying to get in? I’m not sure. But I know we were in no-man’s land, and that’s not a good place to be when you’re stuck on a plane. I tried to count my blessings. At least the plane I was stuck on wasn’t the tiny one from earlier in the day. And the bathrooms were still working. I’ve heard horror stories about passengers being stuck on the tarmac with no bathrooms.

I have to say, after the initial crying for maybe ten minutes, the babies were really good.  They were quiet and seemed happy. Way happier than I was, by far. The Mom, however, continued her across the seat and aisle conversation with her new BFF for most of the three hours were stuck there. It was very unfortunate that the plane was not serving alcohol. We got water. Water does not help to calm nerves or sooth annoyances. I will never, ever, travel without my noise-cancelling head phones again. Did I say that already?

As we sat, with the plane rocking in the wind, Dennis and I began discussing worst-case scenarios. We’ve both been in situations where we’ve waited out a weather delay, only to find out the flight crew has been working too long, and the flight gets cancelled anyway because the crew can’t fly anymore that day. This doesn’t happen that often for early morning flights, but it’s a lot more common for evening ones, like ours.

We started researching driving home (assuming they ever let us off the plane). It’s thirteen hours from Philadelphia to Milwaukee, driving straight through. Assuming we didn’t sleep, and didn’t stop except for gas, that would put us home mid-morning (leaving an hour or so to get the rental car and leave the plane). Except it had already been a long day, we were both up at 4 AM. We’d need to sleep a few hours. This would put us home early afternoon. Not good, but it was the best we could do. We booked a rental car as our back-up plan and waited.

We started to get hungry but we hadn’t pack our usual snacks in our carry on because of the limited space.  Stupid, stupid, stupid. I did find a still wrapped blueberry muffin that was only kind of crushed that I bought in the Milwaukee airport that morning. We considered selling it to the other hungry passengers on the plane to pay for the rental car.

At the 2:25 minute mark, which was well past the time we should have been home, the Captain come on the intercom and said we were taxing back to the gate. We figured that was it. The flight is cancelled and we’re driving home.

Once we reached the gate, the Captain came on the intercom again and said that we still couldn’t deplane because the lightning was too bad to bring the bridges in to get us off. We’d have to wait until it died down. Oh, goody. I resisted the urge to Google what happens if a plane gets struck by lightning.

After another fifteen minutes or so, they finally decided we could deplane. As we got to the gate area, I noticed the Captain was at the check in kiosk talking to a customer service agent for the airlines. We stopped, and Dennis asked him how much longer he had in his shift before he wouldn’t be able to fly. Finally, we caught a break! He and the rest of the flight crew had just come on for this flight. They had thirteen hours left in their shift! Hooray!

We thought it was unlikely the storm would last for ten or eleven hours, which is what it would take before this crew couldn’t fly anymore. We canceled the rental car and I hung out close to the gate and listened for news, while Dennis ran to the closest fast food place and got us hamburgers. Really bad, cold airport hamburgers. They were a very poor substitute for the Philly Cheesesteak I’d been hoping for.

After only about twenty minutes at the gate, the crew said there was a break in the storm and they were going to try get us out. We quickly boarded and the crew did all the safety procedures super quick. No one wanted to lose the window to fly.

I composed a text to the pet sitter telling her we had taken off and she didn’t need to spend the night and I sat, with my finger on the send button, until I felt the wheels leave the ground. Given how the day had gone, I didn’t trust that we were really, and truly leaving Philadelphia until that point. Once I felt the wheels lift, I clicked send and turned my phone off.

Thankfully, the rest of the flight was smooth. If there were bumps flying up and over the storms, I didn’t feel them. I was too happy to be in the air and too anxious to get home to my animals.

We got home that night about 10:30, a little over three hours from when we planned. It seemed longer. Probably due to the stress. Sammy was barking and probably had been for quite some time, based on how the cats were acting. Everyone was back to normal the next morning, though, thankfully.

I debated calling the kennel to find out what the hell happened. Why, when I paid for two nights, did I lose my room because I chose to have my dogs picked up early? However, by Monday, when the kennel was open again, I calmed down and decided to let it go. My kennel is affiliated with my vet, and I like my vet. I also like the manager of the kennel who has gone out of her way help me in the past when my dogs stay there. I will never again tell them I am picking my dogs up in the afternoon, however. If I pay for two nights, I’ll tell them I’m picking them up the morning of the third day, even if I plan to get them earlier. Fool me once, and all that.

So, after all this, am I getting a pool? Maybe. I’m still not sure, and I’m waiting for a few weeks to see if the Universe cares to weigh in on the decision. This time, if it does, I’ll listen.

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I had these exact head phones at home, charged and ready to go. Why, oh why, didn’t I bring them?

1:42 PM

 

Bucking the Universe – Part 2

September 10, 2018 10:44 am

In my last post, Bucking the Universe – Part 1, I talked about the decision Dennis and I made to fly in and out of Philadelphia on the same day, against my better judgement, to try a swim spa that I’ve wanted to buy for our home.

When we last left off in the story, I thought the worst of the trip was over. Claustrophobic me had just completed my first (and last!) flight in a small, 50 seat airplane. Not without challenges, I might add, but I did make it.

Philadelphia weather was perfect when we landed. A little on the warm, muggy side, but sunny and calm, perfect flying weather. On the shuttle ride to the car rental counter, I had a lovely conversation with two nuns, one of which was proclaiming the virtues of Wa-Wa.

What’s a Wa-Wa, you may ask? I know I did. A Wa-Wa, according to the nun, is a convenience store/gas station where you can, and I quote, “Get your entire life there.” Wow. That’s quite a claim. I decided Dennis and I were going to have to fit a Wa-Wa visit in our short time in Philly.

Once we landed, we had about five hours before we needed to be back at the airport for our flight home. The pool showroom is twenty minutes from the airport. I expected the visit to be brief, no more than a half hour or forty-five minutes tops. Just enough time to change, try the pool I was sure would work, change back and be on our way.

I thought we might even have enough to time to check out a defunct prison nearby for forty-five minutes or so. (Some people would make a beeline for the Liberty Bell, but not me. Old defunct prison’s are more my style. Alcatraz is my favorite part of visiting San Francisco.)

I figured we’d grab an authentic Philly Cheesesteak on the way to the prison. On the way back to airport, we could stop at a Wa-Wa and gas up the car before dropping it off. According to the nun, there were many of them in the area. Our schedule was tight, but not impossible.

The car rental place was very busy, and it took a bit longer than we expected, However, they gave us free soft, authentic Philly Pretzels while we waiting, so all was good. Once we got the car, the next stop was the pool showroom. And I use the word “showroom” very loosely.

The entrance of the showroom was very nice and professional with a receptionist who called the salesman we’ve been working with for the past three months. He gave us a tour of the pools they had set up and available to try. I was expecting a normal pool showroom, where each pool is setup next to another pool in a large open area. Not in this case. Not even close.

The “showroom” was, in essence, a working warehouse, where they installed pools in various locations. They had, at most, two pools in the same location. The locations of the pools, while they were in the same general area, were connected with rickety, narrow, wooden construction-site style stairs. In some cases, we had to cross the warehouse floor to get to the next pool.

It wasn’t what I expected, but I didn’t care because I was only trying the one pool. The moderately-priced pool that was advertised to be perfect for the “casual swimmer.” I’m fifty-two, and I haven’t done any serious swimming, or any other kind of exercise for that matter, for six years. I figured I’d be lucky if I could keep up with the swim current at it lowest setting.

After changing in a tiny little bathroom, which seemed huge at that point after the whole Lilliputian bathroom I dealt with on the plane, I donned my swim suit, my flip-flops and headed out to try my pool. Note, that I refer to the pool as “my pool” at this point. I was already sold on it. I almost bought it sight unseen, but Dennis thought I should try it first. So, as far as I was concerned, testing it out was just doing my due diligence for a few minutes before I could go tour my prison.

After changing, Dennis and I followed the salesman up one rickety flight of stairs and down another to get to my pool. Stairs are not great for my bad knee, which is one of the main reasons I want the pool, so I can strengthen it. Stairs in flip-flops are even worse on my bad knee. But it didn’t matter, I reasoned. I’m only using the stairs once. I’ll try the pool out, and be done. Bring on the cheesesteak and the prison.

I make my way up another set of rickety stairs to get into my pool, and once I’m in, I notice that it feels much roomier that the other pools I’ve tried. Good sign. I ask the salesman to turn the pool current to low. (I know from past experiences in testing out swim spa pools that if you start the current too high, it spits you back into the end of the pool.)

I put on my hideous black swim cap, don my swim goggles, and take the plunge, literally, and start swimming. I promptly touch the front of the pool, where the machine that generates the current is located, with my fingertips. I’m out swimming the speed of the current.

Okay, the low setting is too low for me. I ask the salesman to turn up the current a bit (he assured us prior to visiting, that this pool had a fully configurable current, not just a “low or high” setting.) He switches the current to high and informs us any further configuration for current speed needs to be done manually by moving two plastic discs in the pool. Which he can only accomplish by climbing up his own set of rickety stairs, plunging his arm almost to his shoulder into the pool, and spinning the flat plastic discs.

I’m leery of the sales guy at this point. As far as I’m concerned, he blatantly lied to us about the variable swim current. But, okay. I’m here. I’ll try it. If moving these discs changes the resistance, fine. I can move the discs.

I plunge in again and start swimming. And I touch the current generator at the front of the pool again. The current is still too slow. Turn ‘er up again, I say. Which he does. I try it again and still hit the front of the pool. How is this possible? I’m not in shape. I’m no where near in shape. I had to decide whether there was room for me turn around in a micro aisle of the plane a few hours earlier. There is no way I’m going to out swim a current that is meant for a casual swimmer.

But I did. At top speed, with the resistance disc’s fully opened, I swam comfortably in the current. If I pushed myself, which is kind of the point of getting a swim spa, I out swam the current and hit the front of the pool. I’m not sure who the company considers a “casual swimmer” if not an out-of-shape, fifty-two year old woman who considers exercise walking the dog to the corner and back.

Obviously, the pool I was sold on, my pool, the one in my price range, wasn’t going to work. I was disappointed and relieved that Dennis was wise enough to insist I try it before we bought it.

Now what do we do? Give up on the idea all together? Try other pools that cost more than I want to spend? Since we were there, Dennis and I decided to try the other pools they had available.

I tried out a total of six pools. Which meant I did flights of rickety wooden stairs five times that day in slippery, wet flip-flops. (Two pools were in the same area). In addition to the wooden stairs, there were the stairs I navigated up and down into the pools. And the time spent swimming in the pools – a minimum of three or four minutes each to make sure I could stay in the current while I swam.

I should mention at this point, that getting in these pools is a bit tricky. They aren’t like getting into an in-ground pool where you just jump in, or even an above ground pool where there’s a ladder to climb in and out of it. Nope. These swim spa’s resemble really large bathtubs — each one came up to my neck or higher. They require steps to lead up to them and there is one seat, about four feet down in the pool to step on to enter it. Traversing the top step on the outside of the pool to the seat four feet below inside the pool, requires a certain amount of grace and finesse’. Of which I possess neither.

I finally figured out that the safest way for me to get in the pool was to sit and balance myself on the 9″ ledge of the pool and swing my legs into the water, one at a time, until I was sitting with my feet dangling into the pool, at which time, I could drop down into the water. This was not the fluid one-step movement that you might expect it to be. This was a multi-step process for me, with stops at each step to make sure I was still balancing my way-larger-than-9-inch butt on the tiny railing.

At one point in this choreographed sequence, I was sitting, straddling the 9 inch ledge with one leg on the top of the stairs and the other dangling in the pool while in my swimming suit, hideous black swim cap and goggles. It was at this point, when several male warehouse workers passed us, brown bags in hand, while they went to lunch. They glanced over at me, and to their credit they were kind enough not to laugh. But I’m sure they wanted to. I was a sight to see.

Let me point out that three months ago, when I first tested a swim spa, I was self-conscious and I wore a full length cover up the entire time I was in the showroom, right up to the point where I entered the pool. I put it back on immediately after I came back out.

However, after three months of hauling my ass and thighs in and out of all these pools, I’ve become desensitized to the point that I can sit in my swimming suit, straddling the thin ledge of a pool, and not be freaked out by two random warehouse workers looking at me. I actually thought it was kind of funny, in that bizarre, you-can’t-make-shit-like-this-up category. I bet they had a good laugh over lunch.

During another test swim, another warehouse worker approached our salesman and asked if we were done testing one of the pools. Apparently, he wanted to go for a swim on his lunch. Ack! I despise public pools. That’s another reason I want to get a swim spa. Up to that point, I’d been comforting myself with the thought that there aren’t that many people that try out these swim spas so they’re not really public pools. Especially considering one has to  to fly to Philly to try them. I didn’t consider that the workers at the warehouse/showroom used them themselves. Cue the germaphobe paranoia.

I tried one more pool after that, and I called it quits for the day.  At that point, we’d been there for a little over two hours. I was tired, hungry and my knee was sore. The prison idea was shot. Not enough time left to fit that in. I thought my Philly cheesesteak and Wa-Wa were still a go.

I did find a pool I really liked. It’s quite a bit more than the original pool I went there for, but it’s considerably less than the pools I’ve looked at in Wisconsin. So maybe we could still make the swim pool idea work.

After Dennis and I got changed, and were ready to leave, the salesman led us into a room where he insisted on pricing out the exact pool we wanted. Fine, I suppose, although I didn’t intend to buy anything on spot.

The salesman was very focused on colors. What color lining did I want? What color edging? And he talked a lot, without saying anything. And I was getting annoyed with him. Finally, I told him as politely as I could manage, considering I was hungry (didn’t have anything except for 1/2 of the Philly pretzel from the car rental place all day), tired and I really wanted to get out of there, that I wasn’t buying today, so just put in any color combination for the quote and I would figure it out later.

Which he did. And then he offered to take a thousand off, but any more he’d have to talk to his sales manager. Aha! Now I understood. We’re dickering. Apparently, you can dicker on the price of a pool. I didn’t know that. I’m a good dickerer. Dennis and I have the routine down. He’s the “good” guy and wants to do the sale, and I’m the “bad” guy who won’t budge on the dollars.

We dickered for a few minutes, and got another couple thousand off the pool. Am I ready to sign? the salesman asked. No. But I’m ready for my cheesesteak.

We left the warehouse/showroom, with directions to a cheesesteak place the receptionist recommended and a quote on the pool. However, when we got to the car, and googled how long it would take to get to the restaurant, and we noticed how the time to get to the airport was increasing as it grew later in the afternoon, we realized the cheesesteak wasn’t going to happen either. We needed enough time to drop off the car at the rental place and take the shuttle back to the airport, so we opted for a drive through hamburger at a chain restaurant. There were no Wa-Wa’s that we could find in the area, so Dennis topped off the tank at the nearest station near the car rental place.

No moderately priced pool. No prison visit. No Philly cheesesteak. No Wa-wa. At least we were going home and I’d see my animals and sleep in my own bed tonight.  The weather was still warm and mostly clear. Our flight was on time. Things could be worse.

And they would be.

To be continued

12:03 PM

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I never did get my Philly Cheesesteak. That might not be such a bad thing considering I didn’t get my moderately priced pool, either.

 

 

 

 

One Step Closer

July 28, 2018 8:49 AM

I did something earlier this week that I never thought I’d do voluntarily. I booked a trip to New Jersey.

Not that I have anything against New Jersey, per se’; okay, I really hate Newark, but there are parts of New Jersey that are very nice. I used to work for a company who had its headquarters in New Jersey, in the same general area where the Real Housewives of NJ is filmed, and I’ve traveled there plenty of times on business.

Dennis works for the same company, and several times we were on the same business trip. This allowed us to extend our time there to do some sight-seeing when the work was done. We spent a weekend in New York once, and visited the top of the World Trade Center on August 10, 2001.

We’ve been to Ocean City, where I bought a cool hat that Dennis has since procured as his lawn-mowing hat, and we went to Atlantic City twice. Once was a planned trip and the other was impromptu when we found out our flight was delayed for an unknown amount of time. (In my experinece this happens a lot in Newark). Dennis and I had already checked our luggage, so we rented a car with only the clothes on our back and drove to Atlantic City for the night and caught a flight back to Milwaukee late the next night.

It was fun to be spontaneous and see where the road took us so to speak. In this case, however, the road took us to a really seedy, not-so-clean Days Inn in a scary part of town. It was the first (and last) time I slept in a motel with bars on the windows. We saw drug dealers on the corner when we pulled into our motel. I know they were drug dealers because I saw a guy hand off a packet of something and take money in exchange. There were also prostitutes hanging around the exterior of motel, at least I assume they were prostitutes. I didn’t get official confirmation on that one. In spite of the unexpected environment we found ourselves in for the night, it was still a fun experience and one I’m glad we did. As a bonus, our luggage, which traveled to Milwaukee without us, was still there waiting at the airport for us in airline storage.

Some of my favorite memories of New Jersey is the food. They have, hands down, the best Italian food anywhere. And the New York Pizza. Ohmygod. There was a little pizza place that delivered to the hotel I always stayed in. I’m hoping it’s still there (and that I can remember the name.) While it’s tempting to book a trip to New Jersey just for the food, that is not the reason I am going.

Nor am I going to Atlantic City this time, although, it was tempting to tack an extra day on trip and stop there for a night (with a reservation in a nice casino hotel, of course). The reason I am going to New Jersey is the next step on my quest for the swim spa.

Dennis needs to go to New Jersey for a couple of nights in July for his job. The main swim spa manufacturer I’m interested in has its main show room in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is not far from New Jersey. I’m basically, piggy-backing on Dennis’ trip so I can visit the swim spa store.

Instead of flying out the evening before he needs to be there, Dennis and I will fly out the morning before he needs to be there. We will drive to Philadelphia and I will try out all the varieties of Endless Pools that are in our price range. I have the sensible, secure one-piece suit all ready for the test swims. (Click here to read about what happens when you use a swim spa in a tankini).

After we try the pools, I’m hoping we can find a place to get an authentic Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. (Please leave me your recommendations for good places in the comments). Dennis and I are planning to drive to northern New Jersey that afternoon, in time to have an Italian meal that night. And another Italian meal the next night. (Okay, so maybe the trip is a little about food).

During the day, I am planning to enjoy eight plus hours of uninterrupted writing time in the hotel.  That just doesn’t happen here at home very often. And I’m hoping to find that New York pizza place again and have them deliver pizza for lunch at the hotel. (I’m going to need that swim spa to get installed pronto with all the weight I’m going to gain on this trip!)

While we will have a car, and I could drop Dennis off at the office in the morning and keep the car myself during the day, I don’t think I will do that. I drove in New Jersey once, up into the Catskills in NY, to an outlet mall with a girlfriend from work. This was before google maps and GPS’s on our phones and in our cars, and I managed to get us horribly lost on the way home. Instead of ending up in northern New Jersey where our hotel was, we ended up in Newark, circling the George Washington Bridge for an hour. I finally decided to drive away from the George Washington Bridge because I knew I didn’t want to cross into New York. However, I had no idea where I was going, and we didn’t bring a map. All we had were some handwritten instructions to the outlet mall given to us by a co-worker.

Driving west, away from New York, landed us in a super bad part of Newark. We saw a guy running full-bore down the street being chased by another guy. We were afraid they had guns and we’d get caught in the cross-fire. It was 11:00 at night, and we were the only car around so I ignored all speed limits and stop signs in that neighborhood. I was too afraid to stop and I figured if there was a cop around, he had more important things to do than to pull me over for a traffic violation.

Eventually, I got my bearings and we started to go north, toward the hotel. Gradually, the neighborhoods got less scary. When it felt safe enough, we stopped at a convenience store and bought a map which guided us back to the vicinity of the hotel. We ended up having to call the front desk at the hotel to have them talk us in the last few miles.  It took us forty-five minutes to drive to the outlet mall and three and half hours to get back to the hotel.

I suppose with technology, driving in New Jersey this time wouldn’t result in the adventure it did the last time I drove there. But I’m not taking any chances. Dennis can have the car and if I get stir-crazy in the hotel, I’ll Uber to a Starbucks. Or an Italian restaurant for lunch.

I never liked traveling to New Jersey for work, but then again, I never much liked traveling anywhere for work. I’m looking forward to going back to New Jersey, this time as a tourist. I always seem to come back with a story whenever I visit there. Who knows what adventure I’ll find this time around?

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Whenever I drive out of the Newark airport the theme song from The Soprano’s always runs through my head.

9:41 am