Let’s All Laugh At Me!

Monday, October 2nd, 2006, 3:02 pm

With all the bad news poker-wise the last few days, how about I tell a funny story to cheer you up? The story involves me suffering and being generally miserable, so how could it fail to put a smile on your lips?

Took off from Aruba around 4PM yesterday, and we landed in Charlotte around eight. After switching planes, I figured we’d land in Pittsburgh around 10:30 and I’d get home around midnight. I was hungry, as the only thing I’d eaten since 7AM was a turkey sandwich and some vanilla cookies. Figured I’d stop at the Wendy’s by my flat, have them fill up a sack with fast food, and have my own private welcome-home party.

The flight from Charlotte took less than an hour. Flew right over Downtown, and that’s when I felt home. Didn’t even get nervous during the landing. I’m getting better. My suitcase was one of the last to come down, and I fairly danced as I went outside to take the shuttle to the parking lot. It was already leaving, but the driver saw me and stopped, and I wrestled my suitcase on board.

“Where are you parked?” he asked.

“Thirteen,” I said. Because that’s where I parked. When I left my car two Friday’s ago I looked up at the lightpole I parked next to and read aloud the sign affixed to it. “13-F.”

The bus driver said, “Shelter 13?” I said, “Uh, yeah.” Well, the shelter where travelers wait for the shuttle to arrive, they match up with that section of the lot, right?

And thus started the nightmare.

My suitcase was blocking the aisle, and when the driver arrived at Shelter 13 I decided to get off there and just walk to my car. I could see lightpoles with 13 on them, so what the hell? I got off and started walking.

I should say that, after 10 consecutive days of 90-degree weather, it was a crisp 48 in Pittsburgh. Did I say crisp? I should say damp. Every car in the lot glistened with dew. And I was dressed in a white T-shirt and shorts.

I walked around…and I didn’t see a pole marked “13-F”. They only went up to “13-D”. Plus…the shelter next to the #13 section of the lot was marked #4. The #13 shelter corresponded to section #15. Confused yet? I was.

I walked around and around. And around. And around. And around. I couldn’t find my car. What’s worse, my mind was starting to play tricks on me. I was utterly exhausted. I was freezing. I had a horrible cold for five days in Aruba and it’s still hanging around. I looked and looked but couldn’t find 13-F.

To say that I was pissed does not come close to describing the anger, nay, rage that began to consume me. I wanted to go home. I’d managed to get myself to Aruba and back, and now I couldn’t find my goddam car? This was fan-frickin’-tastic.

I lugged my luggage across the road and tried the section near shelter 13. Maybe I’d made a mistake and it’d been shelter 13 I waited at, not section 13 where I parked. And here’s where Fate decided to give me a sucker punch. Guess what my seat assignment was on my flight from Charlotte to Pittsburgh. You guessed it–13F.

I was totally fried. I couldn’t think straight. I was cold. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I’d been sick all week and operating at DefCon 5 for ten days straight. I tried to think back to that Friday morning…and drew a blank. 13-F, was that just stuck in my head because of the flight? That was possible…I mean, in my mind’s eye I saw where I parked, I remembered walking the shelter to call the shuttle…but reality didn’t jibe with my memory.

I walked, and I walked, and I walked, until I recognized the hopelessness of it all. I called my brother at his house, because that’s where he sleeps at 11:30 at night. I told him my predicament, and he said he’d come to the airport and either help me find the car or give me a ride home. I felt like the Biggest Jackass In The Goddam World. I mean, sure, I had a lot on my mind that Friday morning. I was already feeling sick. I was about to travel 4,000 miles, and I’m afraid to fly. I had a lot of hard work ahead of me. I was under a lot of stress. But I thought I’d kept it all together, I had everything under control. Except for where I parked my car.

Ryan showed a half-hour later, and we started cruising up and down the aisles. I warmed up a bit, and we were able to cover more ground in five minutes than I had in an hour. We checked section 13, went across the road, and checked section 15. It was then that Ryan saw, about 75 yards away, that there were OTHER lots labeled #13. 13-E. 13-G.

Yeah, 13-F.

We drove over there, went up, went down, and there it was. Right where I’d left it, right where I remembered it. Right by the pole marked 13-F. So my memory hadn’t left me. That would’ve been so much comfort, if it hadn’t been 12:30AM, and I was freezing and thirsty.

The distance between the section 13 I was looking in and the section 13 where my car was is about…150 yards. You have to go across a road, hang a left, and then you take a dogleg around a turn in that road. It’s not in the line of sight. Whoever designed the numbering system went to the Sick Bastard School of Nomenclature. Oh, and the shelter I waited in that distant Friday morn? Number 11. That seems logical, yeah, it all makes sense.

So, the time it took me to fly from Charlotte to Pittsburgh? One hour. The time it took me to go from the baggage carousel to my driver’s seat? An hour and forty-five minutes. Awesome. And then, to add misery to misery, on my drive home I somehow whiffed on the exit that takes me straight home (my brain was close to shutdown). No biggie, I’ll just go up the road a mile and take the next one, only add another five minutes to my trip. Whoops, forgot, that exit was closed the week before I left. Had to go another fifteen minutes out of my way to get home. Fantastic.

Staggered upstairs, dumped my bags on the floor, and made a hot, comforting bowl of chicken soup. Didn’t get to bed till 3AM, just too wired. Too tired. Too fried. Now I’m looking at the couch and thinking that a mid-afternoon nap sounds just about right. Embarassment and rage tuckers a guy out. I’ll post lots more about the trip later. For now, nap.

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