One of the gifts of advancing in years is the ability to accept who and what you are. Assuming you haven’t already, at this late date you probably aren’t going to win an Oscar, Pulitzer, or Olympic medal of any kind. And you will most likely continue to be short or tall, fat or thin, athletic or klutzy. Some of these realizations can be difficult to swallow but for the most part we embrace our gifts and shortcomings and just keep dancing.
Still, even though we have been who we are our whole lives, certain situations can force realizations that pop up and surprise us, perhaps flying in the face of who we thought ourselves, or at least pretended to be.
Anyone who has had any experience with me will tell you I am a planner. To the point that if given my druthers I’d probably have a schedule for most of every day I have left, and if pressed could probably whip one up for you too. I even have plans for back up plans. Just in case things don’t go, you know, according to plan. I pride myself on being both prepared for life and flexible enough to roll with contingencies. I have life experience, a few bucks in cash, a charged cell phone and a credit card on me at almost all times, all of which give me the illusion of control, or at least options in a given situation.
A few weeks ago my significant other and I embarked on a road trip. It was five lovely days away. On our way back we were a couple hours north of home. We’d already been driving for six or seven hours and were predictably anxious to be out of his truck. The weather was cloudy and had even sprinkled off and on.
A side note, one of the surprising things about living in Vegas is that unlike the east, whether you are driving north or south, east or west, there are very limited numbers of roads to take to get anywhere there. So, if something goes wrong on one of those roads, you are not going to be having a good day.
Along our chosen route there were vast expanses of a whole lot of nothing, interspersed with tiny towns whose existence may have once had different purposes, but now pretty much exist as a place to gas up your car or take a bathroom break. We were rolling through one of the last one of them before home when traffic came to a stop. Like, dead stop. I noticed a couple of 18 wheelers had pulled to the side of the road and decided to ask what if anything they might know about the situation. There were conflicting reports. One was that there had been an accident including fatalities blocking the way, another was that heavy rains had flooded the road with water and debris, and a third that a fire in a hazardous materials depot made the area unsafe to pass through. Whatever the actual reason or reasons were, what remained unclear was how long it would take for the road to reopen.
Being a planner I started to think about how this situation could potentially impact us. There were at least 20 cars ahead of us and a few behind. I looked around the town and did a rough calculation regarding the options for feeding and housing stranded motorists. The news was not good. We talked about it for a few minutes and I said I thought we better book ourselves somewhere or risk having to sleep in the truck. From my limited view I saw a place that billed itself as a casino ‘resort’ and a Motel 6. I’m no fan of a budget motel but being a chain at least there certainly would be some sort of standard so figured that would be the better choice. We pulled into the parking lot and I could see six people already in line. It was a sizeable place and surely not that many people would plan to stay there on a Sunday night but still I was nervous. Once inside I heard the clerk say they were almost out of non-smoking rooms. The idea of having to suffer not only a night in a Motel 6, but also a smoking room was almost too much to bear, so while in line I jumped on my phone and began the process of making a reservation online. BOOM, WINNING!!!
The clerk was quite surprised when I rattled off my reservation confirmation number when I finally reached him. Because it was within two days of my 60th birthday he graciously offered me the Senior Discount (Thanks???). I politely accepted and just smiled when he informed me that the cost for wifi was the same amount as the discount except the wifi fee had to be paid in cash. Alrighty then.
Got the bags, man and dog out of the truck and headed up to the room. The no doubt uncharacteristically full motel was bustling with a “We’re all stuck on this boat together” vibe. I held my breath and unlocked the door. The room reminded me of something between a college dorm and prison cell. The two beds were low to the ground, and there was a strong scent of disinfectant cleaner. The sound of the TV in the next room was so clear I thought the one in our room was on.
It was in that moment that a not so pleasant truth about myself reared it’s ugly head. I am a princess. A princess who does not enjoy paper thin walls, bad beds, rough sheets, pillows of questionable filling, strong chemical smells, and general lack of hotel amenities. But wait, there’s more…
Not only did I not want to spend any more time in this room than was absolutely necessary, it had been quite a few hours since breakfast and was time to find something to eat. I went on my trusty Yelp app and the restaurant pickings were as slim as those in the lodging category. The most highly rated place was closed; it had some sustained damage from the storm. Next door was a sandwich shop so we wandered in there.
I cannot say why but from the moment we walked in I knew I couldn’t stay. Something about the plastic utensils, Styrofoam plates and ok, lack of alcohol, just backed me right up. And really, sandwiches??? I DON’T EAT BREAD. I could feel anxiety rising and my breath coming in gasps. Oh great, this dump is where I’m gonna have a meltdown leading to a catatonic state???
Fortunately I am blessed with a partner who not only can read me like a book, but also accepts my quirks. He silently took my elbow and guided me back toward the door, all while shooing aside the crazed restaurant employee who was insisting we stay. I managed to blurt out, “I NEED ALCOHOL!” and bolted outside.
Our remaining option was a quaint little bistro called “The Happy Burro Chili and Beer”. Hmm, I wonder what they serve there? We went in and again, I can’t say why, but I was fine. This place was lively with fellow strand-ees and had a party atmosphere going on. I got us a couple of beers and bowls of chili and settled in. We laughed about the situation and I started to feel like I just might survive the night. Barely. There was still no news about when the road might reopen or possible alternative routes, since every available road reported some level of water damage. I still can’t understand how it is that roads are built in a desert and things like possible floods are not factored into the equation, but what do I know?
Anyway, we ingested our cold, delicious beer and warm, not hot, but passable chili (festively served in Styrofoam bowls!), and headed back to the ‘6’, where I passed a reasonably quiet night aided in no small part by the beer and half a Xanax I always travel with for just such occasions.
The morning dawned with more rain and no hope for the road going south opening in our lifetime. A decision had to be made to either buy a house in the town (ha!), or take a five-hour circuitous meander home. Guess which one I voted for? As it turned out the new route was a lovely one and with some good music, improved humor and love of a good man and little dog, we made it home just fine.
So yeah, I’m not proud of my negative thoughts, princess attitude and completely inappropriate near meltdown. I know absolutely that I am no better or more valuable a human being than anyone else in that or any other town, just, it would appear, a whole lot luckier in many ways. It was also not lost on me that in spite of my luck, skill and superior planning abilities, there are going to be times where life throws you a curveball and the best you can do is to humbly roll with it and not freak out. Let’s hope I remember that valuable lesson should a similar situation befall me again.