Addenda: Several airport pickups this month re-collected my memory of another incident – this one in the “pure zany” category, another dark early morning, but non-hazardous; then another “zany” worked its way into the story. The pickup this month had its own quirk, as from a distance we discovered Annie’s 11:59 p.m. red-eye departure was actually for the night before she was headed to the airport for takeoff. These two additions are listed at the beginning of the post to save any pre-readers from searching through the entire catalog, but they are numbered in the sequence of appearance in the final compilation. In order of re-collection:
- Get Annie to the airport adventure #2, 2013.
Avoiding the daily airport fees for car rentals, Annie (as I have done) rented off-airport and close to her destination, one town from my home. My task was to lead her to the dropoff spot and then drive her to the airport for her early morning return flight. I mapquested for the rental return address, but didn’t zone in on the specific notch in the commercial route one town away. As I drove my lead car to the approximate destination, dim street lights and neons at 4 a.m. didn’t help much. I pulled up into one parking lot for an up-close look, whereupon 1) I spotted a car behind me continuing on the road, 2) discovered I had forgotten my cell phone, and 3) began instant pursuit. When the car turned right at the nearby traffic light, I decided all was lost without communication until she returned, so I headed back, pulled into another establishment to determine street number, and, re-oriented, found the real destination just one parking lot past the point of my original stop, with Annie walking toward me having just dropped the paperwork in the overnight slot, wondering where I had been. She thought I had pulled in one lot before to give her clearance for the lot ahead. We proceeded toward the airport, with me nerved up, daylight barely breaking, rain beginning to fall, and early morning traffic zooming along, so I asked Annie if she would take Logan Express and save me from the Southeast Speedway. The bus was revved up when I climbed on board asking for a thirty second grace for Annie to get her ticket – the driver balked impatience (they usually don’t) but I didn’t disembark until she was on board, and he pulled away just as another guy was running to the bus waving frantically, the driver ignoring my alert.
13a. Get Annie to the airport adventure #1, September, 1998.
Airport-bound to Houston from San Antonio in 95-degree heat, returning from a niece’s wedding, I rode in Mary’s family’s air-conditioned vehicle, with Annie in Tim’s nature-conditioned truck, our first destination being the old Houston Astrodome. Tim had acquired tickets for the last game of the season so we could see Sammy Sosa in his pursuit of Mark McGuire (Holy Steroids!) and the home run record and seventy homer plateau. Annie had to leave the game early for her flight home. I went with her to help find and hail a cab. She needed to retrieve her luggage, and hadn’t bookmarked where Tim had parked the truck. (The parking lot surrounding the stadium was perfectly symmetrical.) Whereupon, I on foot and the cab driver, with Annie in the back seat standing with her head out the window, did an Astrodome parking lot tour in search of a black Ford F150. I think the taxi got her to the airport on time.
Going for a Trifecta – another companion piece, to Family Camping Follies and Horseback Foibles.
Most of the individuals who were there were family, and have adjusted to my genetic trait to “take the scenic route,” a term and tendency inherited from my Father. My passengers know to be on high alert, lest I begin a conversation just before a decision junction. Only experiences with some quirky aspect are recounted, and some of the quirks qualify as extreme luck, some “Why, me?” on the beneficiary side. My late wife responded to my geographical dyslexia by telling me if I want to go left, go right, and I’ll get where I’m going. Sometimes lately I just let the vehicle make the decision. Or sometimes, I even consult a map. GPS and Waze are now my constant road companions.
Spoiler Alert! – may contain excess verbiage, moreso than usual.
- Driver’s License. Back in the day, Texans could acquire a driver’s license at 14! Progress towards my licensing (see https://youreallyhadtobethere.com/2014/01/ for a more colorful recounting), began with Driver’s Ed as a school subject, a three-week session, alternative to our daily gym classes. I was nervous and self-conscious in a car with three other students, the instructor, and the dual-brake car. I did well after the instructor told me to keep my field of vision within sight of the front of the car, not two miles down the road. From there on, I liked the class so much I repeated it, after hitting the car on test #1, unique among the fifty students taking the test that day. This, combined with my hitting the garage door when our stick-shift vehicle lurched in our driveway, led my Dad to acquire the family’s first automatic transmission vehicle, and take upon himself the task of remedial driver training. He taught me safe, sweeping right turns, and conservative, lane-cutting left turns, but I didn’t practice that in exam #2, and with just one do-over was licensed with a cumulative average of 41.
- Round Trip #1, Massachusetts to Texas, 1964. Over the course of my college “commute, ” I made eight round trips, six by bus, one by train, and one by air (due to a Christmas holiday illness). The first of many road trips was my junior year in college. Word came from Texas that the upcoming manager of the refinery where my Father worked was about to move from the Boston area. I met his family, including seven children, three of whom were around my age. The oldest was a junior at Emmanuel College in Boston, and recruited two classmates, one with a car, for a southern Easter experience (still, my only Easter trip since leaving home). The second day of the road trip, I was the leadoff driver. Forty-five minutes into the drive, somewhere down on I-81, newly completed with speed limits posted at 80 mph, the owner asked me to pull over, because she sensed a tire problem. I walked around the car, and almost stumbled down the curved embankment. There was no tire problem, but I was road-mesmerized. Her next request was an order – “into the back seat!” In later years, my wife would do the early driving, I would need a nap within the first forty-five minutes, then I would be okay until at least midnight.
- ROTC Exercise, junior year, Fort Devens, MA, 1964. Road fatigue is one thing, sense of direction is another, this quirk revealed when I was point person for a weekend drill. After getting the unit lost on a night march, at the drill review, the Major announced the drill showed some students didn’t know how to read maps. He asked me which side of the road the objective was on. I answered, “left.” He said “No, it was on the right.” I would have been correct, because the last turn was to the left, but I had forgotten about the first of three turns, which changed everything. It’s all in perspective. I now can hold a three turn sequence in my head, but that is my limit.
I’m embarrassed to admit that, when a similar situation occurred during my only reserve-unit summer camp after active duty, I did not identify the probable source of the misdirection. I had driven ahead to Camp Drum, New York, looked at the map for our boondock bridge-building exercise, and relayed directions to the officer in leading the company’s drive to the objective. It is highly probable that he followed the directions as given.
- El Paso to hometown, Texas, thence to Massachusetts, objective – engagement, 1965. After my nine-week officer school, a college classmate from Connecticut, heading to an assignment in Korea, loaned me his car for the year he was deployed. I drove home, 750 miles across the state, passing dry ravines seen in old western movies, with twenty or thirty miles between gas stations, seeing only two or three cars in those intervals. At five hundred miles, I stopped overnight at a base in San Antonio. Spent one night at home, then said Merry Christmas, Bye Mom and Dad, and headed north to see my girl friend for Christmas. While rounding a dark hill in Mississippi, I detected late night fatigue while flashing my bright lights at an oncoming truck, so I stopped at the next motel I found. (I believe this was Meridian, soon to become an American history watershed.) Somewhere farther north, I picked up a hitchhiker who was going a long distance from somewhere to work on a chicken farm in Pennsylvania or New York. He knew the roads, and re-directed me from the interstate to Route 40 in New Jersey, where driving would be easier and he could point me toward my destination. Figuring I might remember the route through NYC from my bus trips, I tunneled into the city, proceeded unsurely, then saw a Greyhound labeled “Boston” and found I-95 easily. I made only one bad turn in Maureen’s home town, but eventually found her driveway, then was disappointed when she did not come out to greet me after such an arduous journey. She said I had told her I would be arriving in a maroon Corvair, so she figured the black Corvair that pulled into the driveway must be her brother’s friend’s. I guess I hadn’t told her I had flunked the army’s color-blindness test. The rest of the story is the proposal – maybe a future post, maybe not.
- Maureen with Nana, visiting me at Army Base in Virginia, winter, 1966. Maureen’s Uncle Al had attended William and Mary University on a baseball scholarship. He married a southern belle, Indie Lee, and lived within an hour of my base. (Uncle Al had had a tryout with the Detroit Tigers, and said he learned more from Hall-of-Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane in five minutes than he had in his previous career.) It was convenient to have Nana visiting her son on this road trip, the majority of the 640 miles at 35 mph on I-95 because of icing conditions. Returning with Maureen and Nana on a subsequent road trip, Nana’s recording of numbers she spotted on passing trucks introduced me to her strategy for playing the dogs, the subject of a future post.
- Virginia Army Base to Connecticut and Massachusetts, objective – marriage, 1966. My Guardian Angel came through, big time. I scheduled my departure for midnight, intending to meet Maureen in Connecticut to deliver the borrowed Corvair to my classmate’s Father’s house, and continue to her home town for the wedding that week. I pre-slept only fitfully, and took off as scheduled. Somewhere around Baltimore, smart move, I pulled over to nap. Unsmartly, I set an alarm for forty-five minutes. Sometime around daybreak, on the Jersey Turnpike, I dozed, veered to the right, hit the curb, and bounced off a guard rail and back onto the road, maybe fifty yards short of an unguarded overpass entry ramp. Luckily, the road was deserted. I stopped at the next rest stop, called police and coffee’d up. The damage was insignificant to the railing, but the right rear passenger door had a scrape maybe the length of the door. I was a couple of hours late to meet Maureen, and the friend’s Father, an attorney, rejected my offer of a check to pay for the damage.
The only road woe in Massachusetts preceding the wedding happened when my Dad was picking up his Mother (my MawMaw) and my sister at the airport, with me at shotgun; leaving the Callahan tunnel and heading for the family’s quarters in Marshfield, I was unsure of a turn while we were stopped at Kneeland Street in Boston and scanning the map, as a policeman was signaling and whistling us to hurry and turn, and Dad was reinforcing the order; I panicked under the pressure, wadded up the map and threw it out the window. Without the aid of cell phones, or maps, we somehow made it to Marshfield, but I don’t remember the number of extra turns involved.
Safe travels accompanied us from there to Maureen’s home, the wedding, the honeymoon in Canada, and the return to Virginia. But I found it disconcerting a while later, reading the Army Times on my night shift on the base, to read that a high school classmate, a really “good guy,” fell asleep driving back to Texas from West Point, went off the road in Alabama, and did not survive. His first name and middle initial were the same as mine. I still picture the reaper on site in New Jersey, receiving a signal, “wrong guy.”
- Business Trip to San Francisco, and Second Honeymoon, 1974. Maureen’s siblings agreed to board our three youngsters, and she joined me for four days preceding the business trip. San Fran was the greatest city for a first-timer visit. The first couple of days were magnificent. On the third day, we met up with a well-meaning older couple, the wife a longtime friend of Maureen’s Mother. They naturally wanted to show us around, and said the next day they would take us two hours inland to visit their children in steamy and dusty Sacramento. Crash go the chariots. As we baked for hours in intense desert heat, and the hostess was turning to the back seat and telling us how we needed to get away from the kids for a while, Maureen was sensing my extreme angst and calming me down. On the return to San Francisco later, the husband said he was running out of gas, and we might have to stay with them in Oakland. I replied we could take the BART. When we stopped for dinner, nature called and, in the course of responding, I called the sister-in-laws, said we had been captured by the Symbionese Liberation Army (a contemporary news item), and couldn’t get away for another day, and they agreed we could have one day of grace. I returned to the table relaxed, and Maureen was puzzled by my regained poise. After we were dropped off, I told her she had one more day, and she checked in with me to the St. Francis Hotel. I had not reported I would be bringing my wife, so they had to find an available room, and we wound up in the penthouse.
Years, and four children later, we returned to SanFran for another business trip, with our two youngest, who had been promised a Disney trip, but quickly accepted this alternative when they climbed into a cable car within ten minutes of check-in at the base of one of the lines. Our gracious hosts were still there, and Maureen and the kids visited with them, returning their graciosity, while I was in my meetings.
- Air and Road Trip #1 – Home to Disney Florida to Louisiana to Texas, 1977. Back in the day of Northeast Airlines (or was it Eastern?), we could fly to New Orleans or Houston and pay just $5 per ticket for a Disney World stopover. We took the four oldest, with Mother-in-Law Irene and baby Tim scheduled to meet up with us in New Orleans, visit my sister Christine and her family, then continue home for a Texas reunion. Five-year-old Christopher’s escalator accident (the camping experience in the last post mentioned the trip for his deposition) required adjustments to this journey, but Christopher was able to participate in all activities except getting his bandaged arm wet in the pool, and Nurse Irene managed the medical treatments on the continuation. I had been to New Orleans on a recent business trip, and wanted my wife to have a brief respite, so I volunteered to keep eight of the nine cousins (four of mine and four of Christine’s) while she, her Mother, my oldest (nine-year-old Mary), and hostess Christine went for breakfast. They returned excited about their Breakfast at Brennan’s, and Mary helping with the flambeau. I had told Maureen about tipping for good service, but gasped when she said she thought I said twenty-five percent. Christine’s house survived their outing, with just watermelon, popsicle, and popcorn evidence appearing in all the expected places. The memorable photo from the Texas reunion shows Momma, Irene, and two other Mothers-in-Law attending the gaggle of kids, including bandaged Christopher, as they took swings at the ritual piñata.
- Air and Road Trip #2 – a confluence of interests and adjustments, 1979. I was attending an eight-day IBM class in Dallas. Maureen’s sister Elaine and her husband Bill lived near New Orleans, and their daughter Katie was newborn, and our godchild. The plan was for me to drive to Katie’s Christening the weekend between class days. Tuesday night, I called Maureen to see how things were going, and sensed her bond with her only sister had her wanting to be there for the Christening. Wednesday night, I called from dinner with college friends, and she said she was leaving with the kids at five a.m. Thursday morning. I tried to discourage, suggesting if she went ahead with the drive, leaving one-year-old Tim and bringing Samantha the dog would make the trip easier.
Her first objective was Uncle Al’s in Virginia, 640 miles; then my brother Bob’s at his new house near Atlanta – 450 miles; then 450 more miles to Metairie, Louisiana. I called Thursday night and she had arrived at Uncle Al’s an hour before I thought she would. Likewise, she made good time to Atlanta, reporting a daily forty-five minute discord among the five kids on board, with ten-year-old Mary managing the situation effectively. I think she arrived in Metairie within an hour of my arrival from Dallas on Saturday, maybe on the earlier side. Three days, 1540 miles, five kids, ten and under, on board. I returned to Dallas to finish the class, then back to Metairie to help with the trip home, and, with me helping, somehow the return trip took four days.
- Maureen’s Birthday, 1982 – a couple of surprises. I surprised Maureen on her birthday, taking the day off to take her to lunch. When I arrived at the parish rectory where she worked, a friend of hers told her she was taking advantage of a $99 fare to Los Angeles to visit a friend. Maureen’s sister Elaine was now living in LA (Bill working in a refinery) and her second daughter, just four months old, had a fever and was in the hospital. The sister bond and the $99 dollar fare trumped the lunch, and the drive was to the airport so Maureen could help with older sister Katie. The memorable event was Maureen taking Katie for a walk around the large suburban apartment complex, where all units look the same, without recording the apartment number, and continually asking two-year-old Katie which was her apartment, with Katie responding, over and over, I think it’s that one. It was a few hours before they were resettled into the apartment.
- Air and Road Trip #3 – Home to Family Reunion in Missouri, 1984. The quirk on this trip was the travel plan. Susie was the newborn, so she flew with Maureen and sixteen-year-old Mary (who by now had “graduated” from road camping trips), while I drove with the other six children. This was our first out-of-home-state reunion, but some of my siblings were now living in Pittsburg, Denver, and elsewhere, so the organizers triangulated. I believe it was on this drive that I saw one of the most spectacular scenes I can remember, possibly only five or ten seconds – a herd of wild horses following their leader at a furious pace, riders on the range, not in the sky, wheeling left at the fence just before the road. The return trip home was quirkier, because Maureen opted for the road trip, and fourteen-year-old Dan took her seat on the plane – meaning, he and Mary would be responsible for Susie. We and they may have been somewhat apprehensive, and we didn’t tell them that the last two passengers to board the flight were handcuffed to each other.
- Cotton Bowl, 1985. By now our family topped out at seven children. Having grown up in Texas, I had always thought the football bowl games were too much hoopla, and never anticipated being there in person. That changed when, watching in Massachusetts, Doug Flutie threw the “Hail Mary” pass that was airlifted over two defenders into Gerard Phelan’s arms, defeating Miami 47-45, while all of New England rose in unison from our couches. One of our family strategies had been taking the kids for one-on-one time to some special event of their choosing, and it was eight-year-old Tim’s turn, so I planned on ordering three tickets for our flight and game. Mary, Dan, and Chris lobbied mightily for this unusual opportunity, and they won. Maureen decided we couldn’t leave Susie at six-months with relatives, so she made the cut. That left nine-year-old Annie and two-year-old Sarah with relatives on the sideline, a rejection Annie still remembers. My Mom and Dad planned to visit longtime friends in Dallas and babysit Susie, and the rest of us would stay with the Dallas couple we doubled with to Senior Prom. Somehow I wound up with another ticket, and Dad attended his only Cotton Bowl. At the game, Flutie was only so-so, but the team beat U. of Houston 45-28. As the game ended, sleet started falling, and we were the coldest we had ever been in Texas. (Tim was also catalyst for two other sporting event quirks, summarized at the end of this post. ***)
- My Birthday, 1990 – another birthday day off, another Guardian Angel assignment. My birthday coincided with Ash Wednesday, and I took a wintry day off, not sure what my objective was. Bob, my sales partner at IBM, an authentic “great guy” who taught ESL and organized food drives for refugees from Southeast Asia, had had cancer surgery the previous week, and reported from the recovery room that all had gone well. One of my colleagues told me Tuesday before leaving work that Bob had caught an infection and was back in the hospital. I dropped kids off at school on Wednesday, and, on driving home, came upon a ‘T’ intersection, with a car about to turn left onto my street. When I braked, my car ice-skidded toward the car about to turn. I could see the driver and a car seat in the front next to her. My car continued its skid, slowly coming to a stop just as it touched the car with a slight tap. When back at work the next day, I learned that Bob had died on Ash Wednesday. I picture him standing there on the way to his “promotion,” hands waving “STOP!”
I still have trouble processing subsequent events. Maureen and I attended Bob’s wake, and a few months later, Maureen was diagnosed with the same condition Bob had suffered. My youngest sister in Texas had the same malady, and both fought for five years before their “promotions.” They must be Guardian Angels now for someone as lucky as I have been.
- On the Lewis and Clark Trail, 2000. Good thing I wasn’t their navigator. I was navigator on this part of the road trip. After visiting my two Jackson Hole children now living near the Tetons, then Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, friend Maureen and I “proceeded on” to nearby Lewis and Clark sites. The particular destination was Camp Fortunate, where in a significant crossroads of American history, the Expedition found Sacajawea’s brother Cameawait in charge of the Shoshone tribe when they needed to negotiate for horses for the Rocky Mountain crossing. Maureen was at the wheel, and I was at the map. We were reversing the original path, heading west to east over the Lemhi Pass to find the Camp. Unforunately, and characteristically, I missed the preferred turn east. Rather than backtrack, I found another route over the pass, and I took over the wheel. Maybe we didn’t notice the broken lines indicating a dirt road, fifteen miles climbing, then ten miles descending, mostly one-lane, with occasional pullover cutouts. We passed only about three farms and two vehicles on the ascent. The incline was steep and sandy, the sun was heading for a rest, and the gas tank was bottoming out, and I was almost standing on the accelerator as the car barely inched toward the crest, voicing “no problem!” The downhill ten miles was a great relief, and we “enjoyed” the sunset view of the lake now covering Camp Fortunate. Luckily, we were about ten miles from a highway and commercial crossroads before the tank went dry. The experience was much more exciting than the re-telling – shades of the “Cadillac Mountain” descent in the last camping post.
- The Brothers Five, 2010. My godfather in Louisiana passed away while I was in Texas for some family event. Five of us decided to attend his services – the four oldest, and the youngest, twenty-one years my junior. Tommy drove his eight passenger van, and we travelled comfortably. The memorable event was his comment – “I’ve never been in a vehicle with all four of you!” That gave a “priceless” quality to an otherwise somber trip.
- “St. Anne’s” First Miracle – Thanks, Mom! A week or two after Mom died (see https://youreallyhadtobethere.com/2014/10/16/death-and-consequences/ for the description of our celebrations), the siblings re-convened to clear her apartment. Oldest brother Roy managed a “draft” of Mom’s left-behinds, and twelve siblings celebrated together one more time.
I was staying with sister Christine. Knowing my directional proclivities, brother-in-law David took me on a trial run to the highway which would bring me to the airport. Next morning, circa four a.m., I set my GPS and headed NORTH for the landmarked route. GPS kept asking me to use the toll road; I resisted, thinking I would resort to memory and find familiar “can’t miss” road signs, and not knowing how to process “EZpass only” without one. Eventually, GPS blared “GO SOUTH to the toll road” – Oops! – I had surpassed my destination, and quick adjustments were required. I instinctively veered off the highway, whereupon an oncoming projectile buzzed past me on the left at fifty or sixty mph, and another answered my swerve by buzzing me on the right.
I re-directed south and somehow found a familiar to-the-airport road, thoroughly stirred and shaken, and worried about missing the flight. I somewhat bullied my way through security, and rushed to the gate carrying my sneakers, belt, and carry-on, ten minutes or less before takeoff, admonished by the gate keeper, who “but for the grace of God” could have been St. Peter, that I should arrive early, barking back, “I’m lucky to be alive!” Thanks, Mom!
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Post-GPS, I am now trying to remember which way I turn into a destination so I can turn the other way on return, and trying to stop conversing within three miles of a decision point on a journey, but often I resume the conversation at the half-mile mark.
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** Tim was also beneficiary (?) for another football and a basketball “It’s my turn” adventure.
Patriots Game: Three $26 dollar end-zone tickets (Tim, brother Chris, and me) become a $250 outing. Problem: Zero degree temperature, 20 mph wind in our face, sun shining from behind but blocked by tarp protecting players’ vision. Extra expenses due to purchases of new coats, gloves, face masks, thermals.
Celtics Game: Foursome (Tim, mother Maureen, sister Mary, and me) arriving early to park in lot next to stadium. Problem: Car ahead of us gets last parking spot. I say disembark and I’ll go find parking, while officer shrill-whistles move along, and passengers half-in and half-out. I say get in, then I say get out, officer keeps whistling, and I finally move on, running over Tim’s foot. Oops! Luckily, no big damage, and Mary takes him to first aid station, where he has up close view of giants leaving training room for the second half.