Thursday, January 12, 2006

Seeing Stars
Long, long, ago ... you could step outside and see the stars. Perhaps you still can. But that means you live far enough away from the lights of the city, that you can still make out the sky the way it was meant to be viewed by man. Staring out into the far reaches of space, with nothing but air and cold space seperating you and a distant planet.

As I sped down the highway sipping my tea, I jerked the wheel narrowly avoiding certain death as my eyes wandered to the sky and back to the road again. It was going to be a LONG day. I had started my day at 9:00AM that morning. My venture to the "buy and sell shop" only put me ahead by $50 and I was about $6.00 short of what I needed to get home. But, I had pulled together about all the money I was going to get and wished for the best. It was now going on 11:00PM and I was traveling cross-country only stopping for gas, and buying that with my "Health Savings". I was short the amount needed for three nights in a hotel, so the first night I would be driving straight to my training job. That meant that by the time I arrived to get the job done, I was all ready up for 24 hours.

I have pulled "all nighters" in my time. But this one was pretty bad. This was an all nighter, an all dayer, and another late night. Just about a full 36 hours of driving, standing and talking, and eventually seeking rest.

By the time class was over, I was starting to get a bad case of "un-rest". At some point at around 36 hours of being awake and active your brain begins to melt away. The continous feeding of aspirin and caffiene probably only aggravate the onset. For me, the effect is hearing strange noises that aren't really there. Almost like you can pick up a radio station but you just can't make out the words. Also, your legs feel like giant spongy hotdogs, and they begin to stop working causing almost a wobbling drunken stupor. I hopped in my car and drove straight to my hotel. Yet, my hotel was an hour away ... and with traffic it was almost two hours away. I needed sleep bad.

I just couldn't wait to get into that disgusting dirty bed at the Motel 6. I was craving it! I popped into the lobby, waited in line, and laid down my "Internet Registration", which had given me a savings of near $14!! The clerk (after doing all the paperwork stuff) softly laid my credit card down and asked, "do you have another form of payment sir?". I think my response was something to the effect of "you have got to be fucking kidding!". He was not. I had some issues now. Sure, I had enough for one night in a hotel, but that would be all the cash I had. And then I wouldn't have gas for the ride home.

I ran across the street to a payphone and called the bank that hosts my Health Savings account. I'm not sure how happy they would be that I was blowing the money on gas and hotel rooms, but they didn't seem to care. "Your balance here shows as $147.00 sir". Moments later I got my wife from my cell phone.

Me: Guess who's sleeping in his car tonight?
Her: You're kidding? What happened?
Me: I don't know. They won't take my card. I called the bank, they can't explain why it's being declined. Good night. If you need to get a hold of me, you can call my cell phone. But you will have to talk fast because I just ran out of cell minutes.
Her: Okay *sigh* Bye!

It was getting cold fast as the sun had set several hours ago, and it was going on 8:00PM. The area around my hotel was not the best place to be in town after dark. My best bet would be to find some place warm that I could literally *hide* for the night. There was a Wal-Mart nearby and I we beginning to devise a plot to hide myself behind bedding. Nobody would look back there, and I would definitely stay warm and comfortable. But I had to move fast. My brain was on the verge of a mental callapse and I was becoming emotionally unstable.

About the time I was starting the car, my wife called.

Her: Go buy phone minutes and call me back. We are going to wire you some money.
Me: Okay!

My wife was moments away from saving the day. With that, I ran into a Target and picked up a phone card. There was an ATM machine there, so I went ahead and inserted my credit card and although I didn't know my PIN number, I asked for a balance. It spit out a receipt stating "$72" was my present balance. Hrm ... that is exactly HALF of what the credit card company is telling me that I have. That can't be a coincidence. So I buy my phone card (with my Health Savings card -and it worked), I charge up my minutes, and I call her back.

Her: Where are you right now?
Me: I ... I don't know. I'm in a Target ... somewhere.
Her: That doesn't help me.
Me: I have the phone number to this store, but I don't see the address on this receipt.
Her: Whats the phone number?

It seems that you can locate Western Union locations by using the phone number of a residence or business ... and there was a Western Union about a block away. Thankfully, my brother in law had overheard what was transpiring and decided to help us out with a quick loan. Driving down the street a ways I located this grocery called "Weis". It was a lot like the local grocers back in my home town that are now owned by independents and are usually pretty dirty. This one was very dirty, and seemed to attract a lot of drunks. But, it was a Western Union hotspot, and I was about to get some money!

My brother in law Scott phoned me, and went off to set up the transfer. All there was to do now is to wait. Funny thing about sleep deprovation ... your body tends to want to shut down on you when you stop using it and slow down for a minute. So perhaps I should have found a place to sit for a while. As if it my legs suddenly took control of themselves, I found myself buckling sideways. Trying to regain my posture, I lunched to grab a hold of something and stumbled backwards over a couple of bags of dog food. Then I just came crashing down face first, throwing arms out, and taking a blow to my elbos. It hurt. Now I was on the floor laying over a bag of dog food, and my backpack had slid up my back striking a blow to my head. I stood up, snapped up my glasses, and looked around. A couple of clerks gave me a dirty look and went on about their ways. I probably looked like a drunk.

Just under an hour later, I was walking out of the grocery, with $200 cash in my wallet. I would get a hotel. I would sleep. Life was good.

On the way back home, I couldn't see any stars. Just rain, and a lot of fog. But just about 100 miles from home the clouds cleared, I drove away from the lights of a small city, and the stars emerged again. It's as if things just become clear when you leave home, and drive 400 miles away from it. And what was clear to me was that I missed my family desperately.

It's good to be home.

Historic Comments
Glad to hear you got there and back without freezing. Hopefully the phone will soon be ringing off the hook with classes near you.
Spuzz | 01.14.06 - 7:00 am | #

I love you man!
Jason heckathorn | Homepage | 01.17.06 - 9:24 pm | #

I know the feeling. Except in my case it is the opposite. I grew up in Oklahoma and because of the weather patterns thunderstorms were common. I now live in Arizona and it does not rain much here. During monsoon season here in Arizona I like going out and watching the storms roll in. My wife thinks I am crazy but I guess the storms remind of home.
Dennis | Homepage | 01.20.06 - 10:55 am | #

Friday, January 06, 2006

Friday Deadlines
It's now Friday. The time: 5:16PM. The plan was to be on my way back from the bank at this point having deposited what was owed to me, and counting out a couple of large bills to finance my trip to Maryland.

Instead, I have been left empty handed with not so much as a phone call from the accounting controller who said "give a call on Thursday and Friday and I might have your check".

I have $147.23 to my name in the form of a Health Savings Account. This is a special account that is to be used for medical, dental, or pharmacuticals. I will be traveling across the country with it to buy gas, and one nights hotel stay. Just one night though, and that's the problem. I have two more nights stay unaccounted for. I have all ready figured that I can try to sleep a couple hours Sunday night, and then drive all night into Maryland -arriving to my class a bit sleepy, but ready to teach. Yet, I am still left with one night that I have planned on spending in my car. If it were summer, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. But it's cold as hell outside right now, and it's a little colder where I am headed. Unless I leave the engine running all night, I am going to freeze to death. Plus I will be ... filthy. I will have to do the old "cup o' shower" in a fast food restroom.

I have racked my brain for options, and I keep coming up dry. At one point I thought maybe I could stay at a campground, with electric. Then I could stay warm at night with an electric heater, and maybe even catch a hot bath in the morning. Sadly, camp grounds don't open until March ... on account of it being so fucking cold. I checked out bed and breakfast joints in the area, but those cost more than a hotel ... on account of the luxurious clean sheets and hot meals (who needs those). I thought that the YMCA also had "rooms" available which consisted of a cot, and a shared bath. But I guess I made that up, because I couldn't find any.

In the morning I will be running up to the local "buy and sell" movie shop to sell off a few DVD's from the collection.

How about I end on a quote that nobody will appreciate?

In the Nanny From Hell episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, the nanny tells Larry David, "So basically I'm a homeless person ... except I don't stink!". Man, that was a funny episode. I hope I don't have to sell that season of episodes away. I haven't watched them all yet!

Next episode: How to survive three days away from home, buying only fuel!

Historic Comments
The cheapest place to stay is a Hostel, check for them in your area online.
Anonymous | 01.06.06 - 9:46 pm | #

You were right about Hostels. Killer concept. I think I caught something about them on a show on the Discovery channel a ways back. I found one outside of town near a State park. It was about an hour drive, but hell, for $20 it was well worth it! That place had a 'self serve kitchen', lockers, and even Internet access. Only problems is, they will only book "large groups" until January 20th. What's that about?

All the other Hostels I could find were in Baltimore. Which I wouldn't mind driving to, but it literally takes nearly three hours to get in and out of because of DC traffic.

I will be looking for Hostels for anywhere else I go. They seem like a good idea. And hell, as noisey as some of my neighbors have been in Hotels, I don't realy mind "bunkin" with strangers.


Oh, and here is a nice URL for anyone interested in Hostels:
Ray Dios Haque | 01.06.06 - 11:27 pm | #