Part I: Southbound

You may have noticed my recent absence from the social media scene.  I had scheduled some Facebook posts and some tweets.  It was a skeleton crew of updates so to speak.  No Google, no WordPress.  Bare necessities.

This is because I was about to die.  When death is on the horizon, you can only have so many things on the agenda before it just gets down right creepy.

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Did you see Melanie Jo Moore posted that ridiculously funny e-card on Facebook about pre-gaming before going to the bar?

Yes, but you did hear she is dead?  I mean, how weird is that?  She’s dead so it’s like she’s updating her Facebook from the grave. 

Have you read my blog post about my bigger than life fear of flying?  Did I ever mention that I canceled a trip to Ireland because I couldn’t stop having panic attacks?  I lost all of my money on the airfare, yet was so excited that I had quietly slipped off in the shadows before the Grim Reaper could catch me.

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Over the years, I had been able to take a few plane rides with the help of a sedative.  However, the Ireland trip did something to me that I can’t seem to reverse.  Was it the thought of being suspended over the ocean for eight to ten hours?  Was it the year in advance planning that gave me too much time to ponder my demise?  I’m not sure.  Whatever it was, I have transitioned from hysterical to full blown nutcase.

My office manager approached me in December with a flyer.  ORLANDO!  NORTH AMERICAN VETERINARY CONFERENCE!  HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH!

“Ha.  No.  I cannot get on an airplane.”

We went back and forth all that day about the conference.  She offered driving which at first I considered, but then realized with my history of car sickness this was probably not an option.  Fourteen hours on the road and not enough barf bags seemed like a trip down Ill Planned Road to me.  Coworkers watched in amazement as I kept declining the chance to get out of frigid Virginia.  Then, my OM (office manager) let it go.  I sighed with relief.

A relief that was temporary for I found out later that she was still going by herself to Orlando.

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A giant tourist trap, where yes you know well in advance that Mickey Mouse is going to rob you blind … but what about a city’s criminals?  Orlando, a giant city of bad guys waiting to take advantage of her.  Guilt is a powerful feeling.

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As I told the beau about the guilt I was now harboring in the deepest of my soul, I could see the expression changing on his face.  He knew that I was thinking about going.  If something happened to her while she was there alone I would never be able to live with myself.  The beau, bless his soul, suffered through the madness of my Ireland decline.  He tried consoling me when there was obviously no way to put out the crazed fears that were running rampant through my brain.  He said he would support me whichever decision I made.

I decided to go.

The OM had already booked her flight before my change of heart.  Her departing and return flights both had one stop.  I searched and found non-stop flights.  Less time in the air, less times I’d have to re-dose my sedatives, less chance I’d wander off in some strange airport while under the influence.  The OM was sad that I wasn’t going to be on the same flight with her, but historically I am less amped up when I do this alone.  I guess I only have to worry about me dying.

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Friday, January 17th … the eve of what was certainly the end of me.

I packed my suitcase slowly.  I spent most of that day preparing for what would happen if I didn’t come back.  Bills were made out with sticky notes on when they needed to be mailed.  The Crockpot sat in the fridge, stuffed full of chicken and dumplings that would last the beau for days.  There were two huge containers of chocolate chip cookies and butterscotch scones.  The house was clean and all laundry was done.  As I placed another shirt into my baggage, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye in the living room.  It was just the beau, but I hadn’t heard him pull up to the house or come in.  It startled me just enough to push me right over the edge.

I sobbed over the bathroom sink and popped a sedative.  An hour later, I was trying to make dinner and still could not control the emotional demon that was taking over my body.  I popped another sedative.  When that seemed to get me nowhere, I pulled out the trusty bottle of gin.  That seemed to put a damper on things briefly.

When we tucked in for bed, the crazy train pulled into the station again.  All aboard because this ride doesn’t stop until you have passed out from your cocktail of lorazepam and Tanqueray.

The next morning, I took deep and slow breaths.  I embraced the quietness of the house and the darkness outside.  Relax, I told myself.  I showered, dressed and put my bags in the car.  I came in and found the dog.  I hugged Cody and the tears started to roll down my face.  I may never see this meathead ever again.

I tiptoed into our bedroom and hugged the beau, my body convulsing now in the spasm like way that us lunatics do.  I got into my car and searched for a radio station, driving as quickly as I could before I changed my mind and came home.

I found a radio program on one of those stations that has NPR and Old Prairie Companion that happened to offer just what I needed.  It was a show hosted by Steven Colbert that featured short stories.  I love having someone read to me.  You think I would have outgrown such a trait.  Several stories came and went during that hour drive, and before I knew it I was at the airport.

Time to drug up.

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Unfortunately, the crying returned before the drugs could kick in.  I found the SouthWest line and slowly tugged my suitcase behind me.  I lifted it up on the scale and the attendant printed out a label for it.

“How much does it weigh?”

“Forty-one pounds.”

“Gosh, I won’t be able to bring much back from the conference.”

“You’ll have to get a second bag for when you come back.”

If I come back, hell if I get there at all.

I made my way to the security gates.  A little girl, donning a Minnie Mouse shirt, asked her parents, “Why is that lady crying?”

Because we are all about to go down in a blaze of glory, little girl.

Before I knew it, we were boarding the plane.  I pulled my tablet and my headphones out of my carry-on and prepared myself to pretend this wasn’t happening.  I had been so excited when I learned that SouthWest now featured Dish Network channels during their flight.  I scanned through the available channels and found Law and Order.  Sadly, it was a non-Stabler episode, but a girl can’t be too picky, right?

By the time I made it to Florida, I realized that the television option had been a mistake.  My motion sickness was so extreme, I’m not sure how I didn’t vomit continuously through the two hours of travel.  Queasy and borderline insane, I made my way to baggage pickup.  I watched and watched, but never saw my bag.  I repeatedly checked the overhead sign to make sure I was indeed at the right carousel and I was.  I looked around and confirmed other flight members also waiting.

Don’t panic, don’t panic.

After fifteen minutes of hard core staring at luggage going round and round (which only added to the spinning the motion sickness had given me), I overheard someone say, “There was a mistake!  Our baggage is on twelve!”

Sure as shit, there was my lonely luggage whipping circles two lanes over.

I found the convention shuttle and loaded up.  I sent a text to the OM.  We would meet at the convention center, I would register and we would head to our hotel room at the Fairfield Inn so I could dump off my nearly fifty pound suitcase.  There was nothing super exceptional about the shuttle ride other than I was not sitting in the front seat, so the car sick feeling was not improving.

Dropped off at the Gaylord hotel, I wheeled to the convention center.  Dragging the suitcase up some short flights of stairs was becoming frustrating, especially when looking at all the happy shiny faces of people who were having a super good time.  My shoes were not comfortable and I was sure that I was getting sweaty.  100% sure of that, matter of fact.

Finally!  Registration.  I signed in and received yet another giant bag to carry around with me.  Now, where was that office manager?

I shoot her a text with the facts.  I was all registered and ready for her arrival so I could ditch all these bags.

Funny, because she sent me back a text that she was at registration.

I look around.  There are a ton of people standing around but she is nowhere in sight.  I pride myself on being a Photo Hunt champion.  I can pick things out of an assorted lineup any day of the week.  The OM is not here.

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I text back and confirm she means the conference registration, not the hotel registration.

Yes, she’s at the conference registration.  She’s at the bottom of the steps.  I wheel over to the steps.  Nowhere.

I feel myself starting to get janked up again.  My adrenaline had been cranking out like a pot about to boil over, enough to override my sedative.  And now this!

A few more text back and forth, we decide that there are too many people in this building.  We agree to head outside to the conference shuttle stops that are down the long hall with all the windows.

Outside, we both report we are there.  I cannot find the OM.  I text the beau and tell him I have made the worse mistake of my whole entire life.  What was I thinking?  I did not offer the information that I was now sitting on a bench, sobbing as a crowd of tourist walked past me.  He knew though.  Back at home in Virginia, he started to plan just what would be needed for him to get to Florida and bring me home if this continued to escalate.  He waited patiently.

I’m miserably trying to control my tears without taking my sunglasses off.  As I wipe my nose for the fifteen hundredth time in the last sixteen hours, two women approach me.  “Do you mind taking our picture?”

Really, God?  Really?

The minutes pass on and I start to consider how much it may cost to get a rental car and drive home.  The OM and I devise a plan.  I was to take a taxi to the Fairfield Inn and she would meet me there.  Luckily for me, the taxi driver was on a rant that day and wanted to tell me all about how he was sure that 911 was a government setup.  Would he have supplied this opinion to me if he realized that I was sure I was going to die on a plane?

FINALLY!  The OM and I are reunited.  She hugs me in a giant and sympathetic embrace.  We go up to our room and I peel off everything that has been weighing me down.  An hour later, I have settled down and the beau has stopped planning an emergency evacuation plan.  I get it together and we head back to the conference, which we learned is held in two separate convention centers, the Gaylord and the Marriott  … which is why we could not find one another.  Now, time to survive the next four days of continuing education so I can probably die on my return flight.

Come back next Monday for the second part of this tale … Northbound!

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6 thoughts on “Part I: Southbound

  1. I’m guessing you made it back safely, too, since you are posting! And, I gotta admit, this was one post where I was totally finding glee in your struggles! I would have a harder time dealing with it on my own, I’m so afraid of being lost and left behind that the flight never even bothers me!

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