Thursday, June 28, 2007

CC - The Dinner, Part Two

[Another side note: Did anyone notice how PALE I am in that last pic of C, K and I? Yikes! No sun and a flash at night are not a good combo for a fair skinned bottle red head. I will make a note and stay away from flashes from now on!]

Now where was I? Oh yes, we were at the Starbucks kiosk laughing and talking and talking and yawning and... wait, did I just say yawning? Oh dear, I think the night is coming to an end. I could tell that most of didn't want the night to end, but a few of the girls had long drives and flights that day and were starting to feel the pain of too much travel and too much fun in one day. We decided to head home; but first we had to walk back across the mall!

It's so funny to have a larger group of women together and everyone get along so well. As we walked, we strolled along in pairs, flowing easily from one to another, with pleasant conversations unfolding and no two alike.

(no, C and K are not holding hands. C just talks with her hands a lot and I caught her in an open-palmed gesture! lol!)

As I strolled along with my companion of the moment I was amazed at the ease in which the group interacted. We all have different backgrounds, different professions and parenting styles, different types of families and religious beliefs. We live in different parts of the country, maintain totally different lifestyles and yet we could enjoy each other's company like we were all best friends. I really just blows me away. It's amazing how growing up together has essentially bonded us for life. We are like, well, a family! :)

I had volunteered that night to drive K back to her dad's house across town (where she and her hubby and kiddos were staying for the night) so her husband had dropped her off at the mall earlier that evening. And, since N drove D, C and myself to the mall, she had to drive us all back to the hotel to pick up my car (from the valet, *rolls eyes*). R drove herself in and asked us all to walk with her to her car in the parking garage. It was late (after mall hours) and safety was most definitely an issue so we obliged. R parked her car on level LL1 (remember our mental notes? we were on LL2. this is important) so when we got to that level we all stepped out of the stairwell and into the garage. The doors closed behind us. Someone made a comment about the smell. It was a pretty typical parking garage smell, but silly me, all caught up in the nostalgia of the night said "it smells like a memory." Ok, I know it was a dumb thing to say, but it really did! I am not often in parking garages and every time I am it seems there is a special reason, so, it smelled like a memory to me. pppppbbbbttt! Don't make fun of me. N (my dear, sweet, understanding, beautiful friend) agreed with me - "like bowling alley hot dogs!" she said; ok, maybe we are both a bit strange... Anyway, R announced she was in ZONE H and we easily found her car. Hugs, more hugs, well wishes and she was on her way.

We turned around and headed back to the stairwell, only to find several people standing at the doors waiting for something. A man was on a cell phone speaking to someone in a foreign language and suddenly I realized that we were locked out. The only way to the other levels was that stairwell, or walking up (or down) the car ramps to the various levels. Doh! Thankfully, just before angst or panic set in a friendly mall employee (the person on the other end of the cell phone) came down the stairs and opened the door for us. Shew! We ascended the flight of stairs and popped out on our level, LL2. Instantly we realized that we didn't make a mental note of what ZONE we parked in, and the hunt for the car began. Surely it wouldn't be too hard to find, right? I mean, it was only a silver SUV! Um, are you familiar with that Seinfeld episode where the gang is trying to find Kramer's car in a mall parking garage? Um, yeah. The fish are dying!!

We parked over here, right?

Or maybe it was... over.... there?

C taking initiative: I'm pretty sure it was this way!......wasn't it?

Or...maybe not...

Ok, you guys stay here. I am going that way.

K gave up looking after about 5 minutes and stood by the stairwell talking on her cell phone. She didn't know what she was looking for anyway, having never even see the car. After walking over what seemed like every inch of that silly garage, we eventually found it. When we got back to the hotel we decided to drive D and C over to the nearest quickie mart to pick up some essentials (who really pays $6 for bottled water at a hotel anyway?). This little place right up the road was, um, interesting to say the least. Situated beneath an acrylic nail salon, the look on C's face when she entered the premises left no doubt that it had an oh-so-foul odor. Not the memory I had in mind! They emerged a few minutes later, slightly green in the face, but stocked up on water, diet Coke and gum.

N dropped us all at the hotel, more hugs and well wishes, and D and C went up to their room. K and I were left out front to get the car and suddenly faced with about 200 conference goers all trying to retrieve their vehicles at the same time. The valet guys were seriously in the weeds; one running to the key storage with a stack of tickets 2 inches thick and another returning minutes later with what seemed like hundreds of keys. The standing area in front of the hotel was not equipped to hold so many, so politely shoving your way through was necessary. After standing in line for almost 5 minutes, dealing with people pushing past me and shoving me almost into the guy I was standing behind, the line moved forward and I was next to the valet stand. Just as I was about to hand my ticket over, two very well dressed, wrinkly, pointed nosed witches cut in front of me. Now, normally I am a very nice, very forgiving person, but come on - it was obvious there was a line, they couldn't have missed me (I stood a good foot taller than both of them. Of course, when one makes a habit of looking down one's nose, perhaps the taller population gets overlooked -but it's only speculation.). Politely and quite loudly saying "excuse me!", I attempted to reach over their heads and give the guy my ticket. He was already in process of taking their money, so I gritted my teeth and waited. Again. When it was my turn, again, I handed the guy my ticket and he looked at me like I just handed over an eel. "What group are you with?" he asked. "I'm not with a group" I replied. Everyone else's tickets were hot pink. Mine was much bigger and white. He seemed confused; looking at me, and then down at the ticket, then at me, then the ticket. Good grief. "I parked earlier today. My friend is staying here." At me, at the ticket, at me, at the ticket.... He was trying to figure out how much to charge me. "It's $8.00, right?" I asked with a smile. DING! A light bulb went off. I paid my fee.

At that point I realized I had left a great deal of clothing, my make up and hair supplies in C's room and so I called them and ran up while K waited for the car. By the time I got back down stairs it was pulling in. K had developed a serious ear infection during dinner and by then was in a world of pain. My goal was to get her across town, as quickly as possible so she could rest. We jumped on the freeway and I glanced down at my gages. We were out of gas.

Now, if you are from a major metropolitan area, you know how tricky it can be to get off a freeway and back on to it in a short amount of time, especially if you are near any sort of major freeway intersection. The area we were in was the intersection of a major city loop and two major freeways. Off and on ramps are not in logical places, many streets do not run the way you need them too, and one wrong turn could put you in the wrong part of town or get you completely lost. And, gas stations are not always readily available, especially at 10:30 at night. We drove surface streets for several blocks and when it got to the point that I was about to turn around (because we were past our last chance to get back on the loop). I turned under the freeway and there, finally, was a gas station. Thank goodness it was well lit, because the surrounding area left much to be desired.

By the time I got back in the car K's ear was beet red and she was developing heat in her cheek and jaw. Infection! Yikes. We drove to her Dad's house as quickly as possible. She promised to go to urgent care in the morning and I bid her good night. I got back to the B&B just in time to hear Happy tell Kiddo a beautiful story about a kitty cat. Of course, my arrival did nothing to help Kiddo fall asleep so we were up for a while after G&H went to bed. I finally passed out, even with the Kiddo kicking me in the back.

More to come,

D :)

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