Warning: This is an Epic Long Saga of a Day Gone Awry

by Lisa Rosen on October 10, 2011

I  sort of accidentally went off the grid last week.  Didn’t mean to–thing were . . . beyond my control.

We knew all along that Thursday was going to be complicated.  I woke up filled with dread at the thought of how long it would be before I got to sleep again.  Things went downhill from there.

We were still in New York–Lee got up, packed up his things, and headed off to his meeting, suitcase in tow.  i got dressed and mostly packed, and went out to breakfast.  It was lovely.  I had a little extra time before my flight, so I lingered over tea and a croissant, engrossed in a novel.  Then I ambled through the West Village, watching the neighborhood slowly coming to life on a beautiful fall morning.

I got back to the apartment with exactly ten minutes to throw the rest of my things in my suitcase and flag down a cab.

But I couldn’t unlock the door.

Reader, I tried.  I turned the key to the right and the left.  I pulled and I pushed.  I wiggled the knob.  I used finesse, alternating with brute force.  All to no avail.

I texted the landlord.  I called.  I texted Lee.  I panicked.  I might have kicked the door.  I texted the landlord again; I left him a mildly hysterical message, and tried to figure out whether I could break in through a window.*

Finally, after half an hour of helpless panic, I just . . . left.  I walked out to the street and flagged down a cab and went to the airport.  I had my purse, which contained a credit card, my driver’s license, and my iPhone.  As I knew from my experience in May, you don’t really need much more than that, so I decided that catching my flight was the first priority.  So that’s what I did.

Lee (bless his heart) got someone from his office to go to our house, find the spare car key, and meet me at the airport so I could get in our car when my flight landed.  He also spent his lunch break going back to the apartment to meet the landlord and gather up my things.  He put my laptop and phone charger in his luggage, and shipped the rest home via Fed-Ex.

Um, stress much?  Yes.  Walking away without my computer left me feeling naked.

So I got home, threw together a back-up bathroom bag, grabbed the second bag that I had packed the weekend before, plus Lee’s pre packed bag, and headed right back out the door.  Picked Delaney up at school, then picked up her two bags at our friend Lisa’s house (thanks for letting her stay, Lisa!), and headed for Tennessee.

Whiplash much?  Yes–Manhattan to Tennessee, in just a few hours.  We arrived in Jonesborough, in northeastern Tennessee, around eight.  Just a bit of backstory:  Lee and Delaney go to Jonesborough every October for the National Storytelling Festival.  This tiny little town, for one weekend, fills to capacity, so they stay in the extra, not-usually-rented-out room at a bed and breakfast right in town.  So they desperately wanted to go; it was just the New York –>Raleigh –>Jonesborough logistic that was tricky.  That would be how I got driving duty.  Lee’s plan was to stay in New York till his meeting ended that evening, and fly directly to Tennessee.  i would drop Delaney off at the B&B, then wander off to seek my own lodging, somewhere far enough away from Jonesborough to have rooms available.  Lee will get in by around midnight, so I don’t mind leaving Delaney to wait for him–she knows everyone at the inn–they’re all repeat visitors–and is perfectly happy.

Which is how I came to be calling a B&B in Roan Mountain, Tennessee (which i had already booked and paid for, just for the record–I’m not quite disorganized enough to leave that to chance, although you may think I’m that bad by the end of this blog post), at 8:30, just to let the proprietor know that I was on my way.

“Fine,”  she said.  “I’ll leave a key under the mat.  Just let yourself in and lock the door behind you.”

Well, okay.  Not what I expected, but hey–I’m adventurous, right?  It’s good that I am, because I’m truly going off the grid now–my phone battery is almost dead, and I am truly heading into the hinterlands.

I arrive an hour later, in the dark.  I open the trunk to get my suitcase out, and realize there are still two suitcases in the trunk.  Uh-oh.  Great, loud, pit-of-my-stomach uh-oh.  I have Lee’s suitcase in the car.  I am the worst wife ever.  I cannot believe my own stupid spaciness.  I dither for a moment, torn.  It’s dark.  I am alone in front of a dark house, far from home, and I am exhausted.  I can only imagine how distressed my neat and tidy, always showered and properly dressed husband is going to be.  But i’m so tired.  i find the key under the mat, let myself in (with a certain amount of struggling with the lock–is it possible that the problem this morning was actually user error???), and find my tiny little bedroom in the back of the house.  There are no people.  There is a car in the driveway, but no other evidence of human habitation.  It was a little dusty, a little chilly, and more than a little creepy.  I called Lee, who was waiting to change planes.

He had shoved all his dirty clothes in my suitcase (the one that was now in the capable hands of Fed-Ex).  He had no clothes with him except the suit he was wearing.  He just couldn’t wrap his brain around how I could’ve forgotten to leave his suitcase.  Neither, frankly, could I.

But I was just too exhausted to risk driving two more hours on those dark, twisty mountain roads.  I couldn’t do it.  I promised him I’d be there at the crack of dawn, then I locked myself in my little room and went to bed.

After a handful of hours of broken, anxious sleep, I got up with the alarm at 6:30, threw on yesterday’s clothes, and tiptoed out of the room.  STILL NO PEOPLE.  The house is as quiet as a tomb.  The car in the driveway is gone, and there’s a box of Cheerios on the kitchen table.  I haven’t heard so much as a creak or a peep.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a quiet, empty house.

So I crept out to my car in the dark, started it up, and backed down the long, dark driveway.  When I put it in gear to pull out on the road, I saw an orange warning light glowing on the control panel.  Low tire pressure.

You’ve got to be kidding.

So in the cold dark of a country morning, I learned how to use a tire pressure gauge (first I had to find it), and then I put air in the tires (of course, first I had to find an air machine.  Then I had to get quarters.  Then when the machine turned off after only three tires, I had to get more quarters).

But ultimately, Lee got his suitcase.  I got my phone charger and my laptop.  Fed-Ex delivered my errant bag to our house.  Everyone had a lovely weekend in Tennessee.  Everything worked out, as it always does, even though, in the moment, it seems like my head may explode from the stress.

*This is just one problem with a basically window-less apartment–it’s pretty much impossible to break in.

ETA:  When I got home last night and opened the suitcase that Fed-Ex had thoughtfully delivered, the first thing I saw was a pair of shoes.  THEY ARE NOT MINE.  Everything else in the bag is mine, but the shoes?  No idea.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Amelia October 12, 2011 at 8:30 am

Although I hate that my good friend had a stressful and long day, I am actually encouraged that things like this happen to other people.
My saga isn’t nearly as interesting or harrowing, but upon completion of Cycle NC on Saturday (we only rode the last 3 days) we didn’t have a place to stay. I had made a reservation in Buxton in Aug, but NC12 wasn’t fixed and the ferries were full. I didn’t think much of it on Friday, when I finally let the reservation go; I figured there’d be lots of places to stay in October at the beach. I was wrong. We could not find a single room. I had a mild hissy fit and then we proceeded to plan B which involved driving to Wilmington. The good news is that we were there by midnight and had a lovely 2 days in the Port City!

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