The Travel Curse, Part 2

Part 2

West Palm Beach, 2006

I am going to West Palm Beach on business. It’s January in Baltimore, so a trip to Florida sounds mighty nice.

The night before the trip I start to feel a little off.  The next morning I am death on toast.  I question my ability to get out of bed, much less to the airport and on a plane.  I call the airline and book myself on a later flight, go back to bed, and pray for deliverance.

I have a meeting and a presentation that I don’t feel like I can cancel. I get up a few hours later and haul my germs to urgent care.  Here I am given antibiotics.  With meds, I am ready to face the trip.

My re-booking has scored me the last seat on the plane.  Middle seat, back row, next to a mother and a baby.  The mother apologizes to me for having to sit next to a baby.  I apologize to her because I don’t want to give her kid Ebola.  I spend most of the flight coughing into my coat.

We land in Florida and I step out into the swampy warmth.  I claim my bags, which are extra heavy this time because of the presentation:  Winter coat, laptop bag, purse, suitcase, LCD projector.  I lug it all to the rental car lot.  The attendant points to a row of cars and says, “Pick whichever one you want.  Keys are in the ignition.”  My fever is rendering me slow and thickheaded, and I am grateful that I will soon be sitting in an air-conditioned car.

A white Saturn is calling my name.  I load everything into the car. Winter coat, laptop bag, purse, suitcase, LCD projector. As I’m shifting the car into reverse, I see something in my peripheral vision that makes me hit the brakes.

Ants.  The entire car is crawling with ants.  I jam the car into park and pluck my belongings out with lightning speed. Winter coat, laptop bag, purse, suitcase, LCD projector. I load everything into a new car (that I inspect thoroughly), and drive to the exit booth.  The attendant takes my paperwork and gives it the lazy-eyed once-over.  “I thought you’d want to know,” I tell him, “that white Saturn back there is chock full of ants.”  He doesn’t bother to look up.  “Uh huh.”  He hands the paper back to me and I pull away. I briefly consider writing a letter to Alamo Rental Car about the ants, but figure that I’m lucky it wasn’t an alligator.

I have popped some DayQuil and am feeling a little more human.  During a meeting with the franchisee, I spot an occasional ant climbing up my pants.  I casually flick each to the carpet when no one’s looking.

The DayQuil is wearing off, and all I want to do is crawl into my hotel bed and die.  The kind franchisee, however, wants to take me out to dinner to thank me for the visit.  I don’t feel like I can say no, so I suck it up.  Lovely Italian restaurant.  I’m so sick I can’t taste anything and am hunched over the table like Quasimodo.  The only thing keeping me from passing out under the table is raw willpower.

The franchisee asks where I’m staying.  I tell him which Marriot, and he counters with a different offer.  “Stay at the other Marriott!  It’s closer, nicer, and more comfortable.”  The chance to be in bed even 15 minutes sooner is tantalizing.  I follow him to the new Marriott (he leads in his car so I won’t get lost).  He waves goodbye, I park and unload. Winter coat, laptop bag, purse, suitcase, LCD projector and haul it all to the front desk.  Hotel is sold out.  Return like a pack mule to the rental car.

I follow the GPS to the Marriott where I have a reservation, thankful to be 10 minutes from sweet relief.  I unpack the car. Winter coat, laptop bag, purse, suitcase, LCD projector.

At the front desk, I am told that there is no reservation for me.  I am crestfallen and delirious. The attendant digs a bit, and tells me that I’m at the Marriott across the street.  My gaze follows her pointed finger to the window, where sure enough, there is a third Marriott.  I repack the car. Winter coat, laptop bag, purse, suitcase, LCD projector.

By the third hotel, I have finally smartened up and leave my crap in the car.  I stagger in, wondering if they’ll let me sleep in the bushes if they can’t find my reservation.  The desk lady welcomes me with a smile and hands me my room keys.  I would kiss her if it weren’t for the ants and the lung rot I am carrying.  I get to the room, flick a few ants off my suitcase, and fall face-first onto the bed.  Time for sleep.

While changing into pajamas, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I have an angry-looking rash all over my chest, neck, and back.  I know that the urgent care office is long since closed for the night, and I have no desire to venture back into the Florida night in search of a 24-hour clinic.  I figure that since I’m not having trouble breathing, I’ll probably live through the night.  I decide to risk it and call urgent care in the morning.

In the morning the rash is still with me.  I call my urgent care and explain that I look like an Easter egg.  The nurse, in a concerned voice, says, “Stop taking the antibiotic.  Are you close to an emergency room?” I am stumped.  The nurse fills the silence, “Or a CVS or something.  Are you close to a place that sells Benadryl?”

I’m unsure how my condition has gone from ER to drug store so fast, but I like the sound of “Walgreens” better than “hospital.”  I swing by the store on my way to the presentation, successfully thwarting an anaphylactic seizure.  After the presentation I head out on the highway to Orlando, where I will meet my cousin for dinner.

The toll road looks the fastest, and I want to get away from West Palm Beach before the ants find me again.  When I reach the end of the toll road, I see large signs looming over the tollbooths:  Cash Only,  $11.  I have $7.  I pull up to the booth and smile at the attendant.  “What do I do if I don’t have the cash?  Is there really nothing else you can take?”  She does not smile back.  Two weeks later, I receive a ticket in the mail from the state of Florida for 20 bucks.

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5 Responses to The Travel Curse, Part 2

  1. Melissa Perlman says:

    I remember you telling me about this trip….what a friggin nightmare. You have way more fortitude than I do!

  2. Dad says:

    Was this the trip that you got rear-ended?

  3. Aphro says:

    Yikes! Glad you made it out of there minus the ants and the gators. Your willpower amazes me. I never would have made it past the antibiotic rash. 😦

  4. Dad says:

    For the future: trip to Orlando with all the school kids who got on in Atlanta, pear juice, moving to California without air conditioning, and not stopping in Bristol on a trip back from CA.

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