Tuesday, December 30, 2008

120 Minutes

The day before we left for Shreveport, I asked Gloria about preparation. "These trips always seem to go badly," I said. "Isn't there some way I could prepare more thoroughly? Isn't there something like a Scared Straight program for son-in-laws?"

There is not.

Here's what happened in the first two hours after we arrived in Shreveport:
1. Gloria's father had shingles. It was a very bad case of the shingles, and he was contagious. The shingles are related to chickenpox, and if you've never had chickenpox, you can catch chicken pox from someone who has shingles.

After a call to my mom, it was established in short order that I had never had chickenpox and had also never had the vaccine (it wasn't around when I was a kid). Gloria had chickenpox as a kid, and Eli 7.5 already had the vaccine, so they were safe.

I was advised not to shake my father-in-law's hand and to watch what surfaces I touched in the house. No problem, because we were only there about ten hours a day.

2. We received a semi-incoherent call from our petsitter, letting us know that she had sent her assistant to feed Gracie and Furious George.

This was putting the character of a summer intern into the movie Jaws instead of Quint.

This is not to say that George isn't lovable. He's incredibly warm and very affectionate, unless he doesn't know you, in which case he will kill you and drag your body into a closet to consume you at his leisure.

George actually drove her from the house. She couldn't even get up the stairs.

"So who in the world do we get to take care of George if Maggie blacklists him?" Gloria asked.

"I don't know," I said. "A beekeeper?"

3. We reached the parking garage of the hotel (a casino hotel, because all the hotels in town were booked, incredibly, for the Independence Bown) and started unloading our luggage. I pulled out my backpack, and I heard a "clink."

"I just heard a 'clink' ," I said, and kept unloading bags.

"Do you know what it was?" she asked.

Right at that moment, I realized my wedding ring had fallen off.

"Um, that would be my wedding ring," I said, looking down the fifteen degree slope of the parking garage, "now rolling downhill at high speed."

Here's how bad this trip was: on day three, I found a screwdriver in my backpack, and I assumed that I had sent it to myself from the future in case I wanted to stab myself.

Monday night, Gloria was trying to open a bottle of wine with the corkscrew from a Swiss Army Knife. She could get the corkscrew into the cork, and screw it in, but the cork wouldn't come out. She kept trying, more from the frustration of not being able to do it than anything else. "This is begining to have disturbing similarities to the story of the monkey putting his hand in the coconut to get the rice," I said. "If you see any islanders coming toward you with clubs, for God's sake, just drop the bottle."

We drove home today, a six hour drive that felt like it took six weeks. I drove through dozens of those faceless East Texas towns, full of abandoned buildings, machines rusting in front yards, and piles of burning trash. In every town, we saw hand-painted signs talking about Jesus or yard sales. "Just once," I said to Gloria, "I'd like to see a hand-painted sign that said 'SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE.' That would really kick this drive up a few notches."

Maybe next year.

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