Cooped Up – Friday Fictioneers

This week marks Rochelle Wisoff-Fields‘s third anniversary with the Friday Fictioneers. Congratulations, Rochelle! Hats off to her leadership and dedication she has given to this group. I enjoyed this community and have watched it grow, not only in number, but in the strength of its writing. I want to say thanks to everyone for making it such a great part of my writing journey. September marked three years with this group, and I was having so much fun I didn’t even realize it. Yay!

As allowed, I re-running a story. The timing couldn’t be better as I have a busy couple of days ahead. I promise I will get to reading stories. However, it may have to wait until the weekend. It’s kind of nice to come back to a story and think, “Yeah, I liked this story.” It’s a nice feeling. I just changed one word, even though I’m over the 100-word limit.

copyright-ron-pruitt
PHOTO PROMPT © Ron Pruitt

(105 words)

Cooped Up 

Sweat, soap, aftershave, and a piercing, spicy floral pervaded the air. I slid my way down the aisle, each step unveiling a nod, a smile, or a distant gaze.

The promise of a sixteen-hour journey influenced my choice of a traveling companion.  I sat next to an elderly lady with her head in a book, hoping I might pass the time with sleep. Directly across from me sat a man with a cage hidden under a towel. Wisps of feathers escaped onto the grimy floor.

Cluck. Cluck. He shook the cage and offered me a toothy grin. Am I the only one who’s hearing this?

********************

My original story can be found here.

For more stories from the Fictioneers, click here. 

Survival Tips for “Hotels on a Budget”

I’m guest posting at Long Awkward Pause with some Survival Tips for “Hotels on a Budget.” Come on over!

With spring break and summer vacations around the corner, you might be surprised to learn that you are not the only one on a budget. It turns out hotels are on a tight budget, too. If camping is not your style, then following these tips will ensure a pleasant stay at any hotel on a budget.

Consider these amenities:

Pillows

A cramped sleeping space can be compensated with a fluffy pillow. In the case that you have extra guests or the pillow is too flat, an additional pillow will solve the problem, easing your way into restful sleep. Logic tells you to simply ask for another pillow.

Precious.
Precious.

Be prepared for this scenario:

Guest: Would it possible to get an extra pillow?

Clerk: No.

And don’t ask again. It’s important for the hotel staff to be on your side for the reminder of your stay. Just be happy you…

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A Christmas Journey: Ghost of the Past

Just because you reserve a U-Haul doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed. In fact, to U-Haul it means diddly. Even if you explain that you’re moving 1,000 miles across three states in the middle of winter. They shrugged. So much for planning.

The year was 2,001, two days before Christmas, Mr. Bumble and I arrived at the U-Haul center in Colorado, heading to our new home in Reno, Nevada. We combined our holiday visit with a big move. We were going to be there anyway, so decided to visit and move all at once. I don’t recommend this, by the way. I confirmed our reservation for a small, ten-foot truck. My confirmation apparently drove off the property. Apparently, moving is a popular pastime two days before Christmas.

Our only other option was the only truck left, just the one. It was their 26-foot Jumbo Hauler, big enough to move four plus bedrooms. Considering we also needed to attach our pick-up truck and haul it too, well, it then became a monster, at least 40 feet in length.

L'Enfant
L’Enfant

vs.

The Mother Lode, but even longer than this
The Mother Lode, with our U-Haul truck even longer

DAY ONE – Two days before Christmas

We got off to a late start, hassling with the truck trailer. I had our two cats in my car to keep me company. Mr. Bumble was a bit nervous, I could tell, but didn’t let on to anyone else. We had already moved cross-country twice. This was nothing. We prepared ourselves with walkie-talkies. It would be an adventure.

I drove behind my husband. On our walkie-talkies we conversed:

Me:   Trying to lose me?

Him:  Says I’m going only 40.

Me:  Uh…try 80. 

Right. The speedometer was broken. It’s bad enough when you’re in a different car and it feels foreign. In this colossus, my husband’s whole equilibrium was screwy and out of whack. The truck swerved and whipped around like nobody’s business.

I tried to assure him. “It’s only another 800 miles.” Okay, that wasn’t quite the right thing to say.

If only we would have consulted our handy U-Haul manual, we would have been reassured with tips like this one.

Handy U-Haul Manual Tip #1:

A “disturbance” is improper handling, oversteering or other deviation of the truck from its intended path, due to one or more causes (improper loading, steering inputs, excessive speed, crosswinds, passing vehicles, rough roads, tire blowout, trailer sway or whipping, etc.).

Does a broken speedometer qualify as a disturbance, U-Haul?

A broken speedometer provides you with the unwanted side effect of existing in an alternate reality, one you do not want. Things are not what they seem, and the experience of not knowing, yeah, that’s a disturbance all right. Thank you, U-Haul.

The driving experience intensified when the roads turned to black ice and the snow fell, ever so delicate at first. I got an occasional meow from my cat sitting on my lap. My husband gripped his steering wheel for dear life. He didn’t know up from down, or left from right, wrestling with the truck monster, swerving like a maniacal serpent through treacherous mountain roads. When we did stop off the road, he looked increasingly clammy and startled, dizzy from hyperventilating.

If only we consulted our manual, we would have known this tip.

Handy U-Haul Manual #2:

AVOID crashes by slowing down. Reduce your speed from what you would normally drive your car under similar road conditions. Drive defensively – anticipate stops, brake early and never follow closely.

Duh. Sure, this is good advice if you have brakes. It became obvious that the brakes were not at full strength. No brakes, no slowing, no stopping. Just panicking and sweating, profuse sweating.

We stopped somewhere in Wyoming for the night. While I was in the lobby checking into our motel, my Bumble husband flew through the parking lot toward the lobby entrance, and ripped off the overhang. The overhang lay littered in pieces all over the parking lot, while my husband was nowhere. He blasted through like a tornado.

If only this tip would have been relevant.

Handy U-Haul Manual #3:  

U-Haul trucks are taller than passenger cars. If you don’t know the overhead clearance, get out of the truck and make certain that you are clear of any obstruction. Do not guess.

I stared at the hotel clerk, “Did he just rip that thing off?”

Then, in a most southern accent, “Yes. I do believe he did.”

Oh, man. I shuffled off calmly, without another word. Maybe they would think it was the wind.

DAY TWO – Christmas Eve

The snow fall picked up, followed by more black ice, counter-steering, and wrestling with the truck beast. I had moments when I considered abandoning ship altogether. We don’t need that junk we’re hauling, I’d tell myself. We can probably pick that stuff up at flea market. We could get our photos and our precious belongings, and save ourselves.

No late trucks
But then, thought of our warning, and our late fee…

When we reached Nevada it was dark, with at least a couple of feet of snow on the ground. We were starving and stopped at a casino for a Christmas Eve breakfast; pancakes, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy. It was fabulous. Nothing ever tasted so good.

We began to relax when just half-way through our meal, we heard sirens and perceived what looked to be flashes of blue and red. Merry Christmas. We knew. We made our way outside and saw at least two cops cars and people gesturing wildly, yelling and cursing.

Handy U-Haul Manual #4:

Always set the parking brake when parking. Move the shift selector firmly into park and then firmly set the parking brake.

This tip also did not apply. My husband parked the truck on a very slight, ever so slight, hill. I know what you’re thinking. He attempted to park away from all the other cars, plus as you can imagine, there was nowhere to park this thing. While we ate our delicious meal in the casino, cars had parked it front of the truck. The parking brake, yes, it was engaged, gave in, and the truck nose-dived into a pack of cars. Like dominoes they toppled with at least seven cars smashing into one another. Quite simply, we had ruined their Christmas.

The next day, we made it to our destination and spent Christmas with our family. All’s well that ends well, yes?

Epilogue

Months later, my brother-in-law, lawyer extraordinaire, settled the case against U-Haul out of court. With our police report identifying the truck’s faulty brakes, we were not held liable. If you’re reading this and your car was totaled that night, I’m really sorry.

The brakes were deemed life-threatening. We’re actually quite lucky we didn’t crash or drive off a cliff.

After our saga, whenever we saw a U-Haul truck on the road or passed by a U-Haul center, we yelled, “Fuck you, U-Haul.” It made us feel better. As time passed, when we encountered U-Haul we simply flipped them off. Now it’s more of a second-nature, knee-jerk reaction. Oh, did I just give U-Haul the finger? Oh, I guess I did. Well, how about that? U-Haul haunts me to this day.

Are you surprised I found this picture? I'm not.
Are you surprised I found this picture? I’m not.

If you are thinking about moving over the winter, I have one word of advice: Don’t. Just wait until spring. There’s a reason animals hibernate during the winter.

And, Merry Christmas! I wish you a wonderful holiday. If you are traveling, please travel safe.

photo credits all via photopin cc: Genista; wrenoud; smenzelRob Blatt ; as_much

Reference: U-Haul Instruction Manual

The Inexcusable Bumble: The Late Check-In

Late Check-In

When you fly, there’s not only getting on the plane, there’s getting to the airport. Often, a friend or family drives you there, and there’s always the question, “When do we need to leave?”

Let’s see, “When’s your flight?” And, then you factor in the suggested allotted time necessary to stand in the check-in line if you don’t have your boarding pass, the security check line, maybe a tram/train line, and finally, the get-on-your-plane line.

Even if you don’t quite get to the airport at the time suggested, everything is cool if you make your flight. You may have a panic attack, but long as you make it, it’s as good as being there on time, right?

Unless…unless, the airline attendant slaps the yellow sticker on your luggage that says, “Late Check-In.”

Late Check-In

This is what happened to my sister when she went to the airport on her way to visit me.

When my sister plugged in her confirmation number into the computer, a siren blasted announcing to everyone, “Late Check-In. This luggage may not arrive with flight.”

What? Huh?!

“Is it going to make it?” my sister asked, in a state of shock.

“We’ll see,” said the airline attendant smugly. Then, rubbing it in a tad more, “Check-in is an hour before your flight.”

This is the official, “YOU ARE LATE.” Everyone knows it, too, because you got the yellow tag and your luggage might not even make it. The folks you’re visiting, or whatever the may case be,  they’ll know it, too. They’ll see the big yellow, “Late Check-In” tag on your bag.

If this isn’t bad enough, no one at the airport really cares why you’re late. This is the inexcusable bumble. You could have been behind a twenty-car pile up or maybe you hit your snooze button one too many times. It doesn’t really matter. You’re late, you bumble. You could have had a flat tire. You loser. You could have been held at gun point. You’re late, you slacker.

The airline attendant put the sticker on my sister’s luggage without any hesitation. It was a big bag, so a carry-on was out of the question. If a carry-on was possible, you would contemplate whether you could live without your toothpaste, mouthwash, perfume, contact solution, moisturizer, shampoo, and anything else that violates the three-ounce liquid rule.

The ultimate test is the security check line. If you’re running late, it’s the longest you’ve ever seen it, moving at a snail’s pace. In my sister’s case the line was longer than she had hoped with a man trying to push his way through. The  guy behind my sister let the desperate man in front of him.

Now, he turns to my sister, “Can you help me out? I’m gonna miss my flight.”

My sister, still thinking about her late luggage asks, “When’s your flight?”

“10:40.”

“Mine, too,” she says. “We’re in the same boat.”

The guy behind them pipes up, “What time is it? I’m on that flight.”

And then a chorus of, “We’re late!”

Now they must wait to be late.

I am happy to report my sister made her flight, along with her luggage. Of course, her flight was delayed and arrived late.