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Travel

Wanna Get Away

I’ve gotten away a lot and we’re not halfway through the year. But, let me share the first one made me want to go back. Back from where I came. Poor planning and a stint with more than a few adults in the van. It made a woman want to become a man, when it came to using the restroom. You see… no matter the advantages of being a woman. There’s a huge disadvantage when you bring up the bathroom thing.

My suggestion always has a Plan B. Plan C is also an option. However, a backup plan is a must. Second, never put your total trust in other’s when it comes to reservations. These were my thoughts as I sat in the now stuffy, twelve-passenger van with my husband and the band.

I asked him at least twenty times, “Where’s the Airbnb?”

His response, “Memphis.”

“Where in Memphis?” I asked.

“It’s nice, really nice. Stop worrying about it. We got this.”

That’s where he, or let me back up, I went wrong. I love him to death, but trusting him or his friends with a reservation. Mmmmm.., not so much.

It was eight of us and after we stopped and ate, they, those driving and the front seat driver felt it was a good time to check-in our Airbnb. It was after midnight. My Spidey senses were tingling. Because the only place I’ve ever felt comfortable checking in after midnight was a hotel. This wasn’t that and they, those who made this reservation, had to get the key at the door.

Did I say my Spidey senses were tingling? Well, they were at attention as we made our last turn into the neighborhood. Let’s leave off the neigh. It as straight up hood. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one feeling this way, ‘cause the couple behind us eyes were wide as saucers. They confirmed the terror with this statement. “Is this the house?”

I laughed inside ‘cause I was fighting back tears and thankful I didn’t bring any running gear. But, since this was a short and cold trip there was no need. Plus I wanted to just have a carry on. “Yeah…”

We pulled into the gravel driveway and our leader said, “It’s really beautiful inside.”

Expressions are louder than words. The house looked well-kept, built in the seventies and recently remodeled. I couldn’t say the same about the surrounding homes. They were rundown. It was a big city with big city problems. However… it was now apparent, we were the one with the problem.

The booking agent, her husband and our fearless leader were fiddling with the lock. It was 30 degrees out and every time they came inside the van, we were reminded by the gust of wind that followed them. After 40 minutes, they decided to call the Airbnb management. That was after no responses from the owner. I mean… it’s almost 1AM. I can’t guarantee I’d respond to someone after midnight.

The natives became restless. I was tempted to call an Uber and get a hotel. Alone! Only problem, the timing was bad. If I checked in now, I would have to check out at 11AM. Anther problem — would the let me check-in? The reservation wasn’t booked before midnight. I ran scenarios over and over and my gut told me, it’s not going to work.

My husband nudged me, “Are you ok?”

My inner me or alter ego is screaming, “Hell no! I asked you 20 plus times about this reservation and it’s no good.”

“I’m good,” I respond.

“The code’s not working to get the key, ” he says.

I’ve figured this out already. “Really? So… what’s the plan?”

He looks out the window, then down at his watch. “I believe we’re going to Shoney’s.”

Another hour has fled. It’s now 2AM. “Shoney’s? There’s a Shoney’s here?” I thought they shut those down years ago; I thought they shut down heart attack station, Church’s, yes, there was one down the road.

“Oh,” I said, only because I had no other words. I was beyond tired.

After a few moments, the leader confirmed we’d definitely be going to Shoney’s and regrouping. There we could all stretch out and get some food while they waited for a response from Airbnb. Apparently, they were working on another location. “Halleluiah.” My alter ego said as she did a backflip.

We pulled into the Shoney’s. It was near the Church’s and the parking lot had a few orange cones to warn us of the upcoming potholes. At Shoney’s, I ran into the restroom first to relieve myself and brush my teeth. It felt like they had a heavy film. You know the one you get when you haven’t brushed your teeth since the previous morning. That one.

They cheered after the mint-flavored, Crest hit them. But, once I sat down, I was back at disappointment. There were no menus. Let me digress… there were menus, but not for breakfast. My husband says, “Are you ready to eat? They have a buffet?”

For a New Yorker, it amazes me how excited he gets over buffets. It must be his mother’s Southern heritage that kicks in; She’d call KFC the chicken shack. I would never stop laughing when I realized what she was referring to. Now, here we were at Shoney’s. Not only was he excited, so were two of the guys.

The buffet had what I expected, no healthy fare. It was grits, sausage, bacon, more bacon, fried French toast… just imagine Burger King and lots of butter. Their version of fruit was fried apples and canned fruit.

There were also real eggs and biscuits along gravy that goes biscuits. But, there were also tins of yellow stuff. It looked like oil, but yellow. I couldn’t figure out what it was. Until I asked the waitress.

“Can I get some butter.”

“Yes sweetie. Tthere’s actually some at the buffet.”

“Really? Where?” I asked.

“It’s melted.”

It then occurs to me, the stuff I didn’t recognize.

“I can bring you some cold butter.”

“Please, ” I respond.

Time passes. I’m better. I’ve had coffee and a few of those fried sticks. Then, we were given the announcement: the original reservation canceled and we have to find another.

If this trip couldn’t get more challenging.

Backstory: they are here for a Blues competition. There are hundreds of bands. Cancellations are not in our favor ‘cause we need a house or condo to accommodate nine people. Another significant other was to fly in in a few hours.

Mind you, we were now looking like nomads going from place to place. I forgot to mention our trip to Walmart. We were there an hour prior to settling in at Shoney’s. Why didn’t I go with that little voice in my head and book that hotel just in case? I should’ve… but, there was no need crying over my chocolate milk. But, as I noticed the stress on her face. She was back on the phone with Airbnb. She’d gone to another spot in the place by the window.

After a few minutes, she spilled the news. “We got another place guys!”

It was now 9AM. Twelve hours faded like magic. At 9PM, my plane landed, and we were not settled yet. They cheered. I tried to force a smile.

“But,” she continued. “We can’t check in until 11AM.”

We all looked at our watches… it was another two hours. My husband’s brother said, “That’s not so bad. We can get more food.”

Why? I’m thinking… I need all this to end. And off they went, along with the Airbnb girl. She hadn’t eaten, her nerves were on 20 after not getting the first reservation. I wanted to say,  “Maybe we checked in too late,” but I didn’t want to add another wrinkle to her forehead. She looked overwhelmed and once she fixed herself a breakfast bowl full of grits, cheese, and crumbled bacon, she collapsed in her seat and inhaled some hot tea smothered in Dixie crystals.

Twenty packs dissolved in that small cup. She was satisfied. My alter ego shook from her sugar high.

At 10:20, she got the green light. Her eyes lit up after looking at her Android, “Hey guys, I just got a text. The house is ready.”

Everyone cheered including me. We all rushed to the van. However, I worried again about the neighborhood. Would it be the same? We traveled pass the original place in the opposite direction. Lights were now on and the sun was out. My eyes burned from lack of sleep. We went through another side of town and under an overpass. It as a more historic neighborhood. We slowed.

The navigation said, “A little further up.” I looked around, all the homes were historic and beautiful. “Did we hit the jackpot?”

“That’s it,” he confirmed. “Turn here.”

The house was gorgeous. Five bedrooms, two baths and a humongous kitchen. There was a dining room along with a family room and fireplace. Everything was remodeled and it had wooden floors. A two-story gem. We found a room upstairs along with the rest of the group. The leaders claimed the only room downstairs. My head finally hit the pillows.

Wanna Get Away –––

Is more like… wanna go back home and nestle in between my two cats.

Gaining one hour has never been so blissful. The advantages of going to another time zone. Four hours passed and I was again refreshed to take on the City of Blues. We did that, enjoyed food, sights and sounds. I had to leave early due to another upcoming trip.

Hence, it is essential to arrive two hours ahead of time. More if allowed, I prefer two minimum. My spouse, meh. If he arrives an hour and a half ahead, he’s good. So, the initial arrival was an adventure. Then there’s the departure.

Let me say, before I digress. Cheap flights are cheap for a reason. Hence why my dad, a retired Navy aviation mechanic, vows never to fly again. I’ve known him to fly once in my lifetime and that was to come to my college graduation.

I arrived early…

That’s what I did. However, I did the thing they tell you never to do in the Navy. Assume. Why? Because it makes an ass out of you and me. I waltzed over to the self check-in kiosk. My husband at my heels and attempted to sign-in. I flew American. So of course, I’m checking in for my flight there also.

After putting in my card a couple times it says, “We can’t locate your flight.” Now, I didn’t really want to go back to work on Friday. But, I know I had a flight. Spidey senses start acting up.

“What’s wrong?” my husband asks.

Everything, I’m thinking. Something is wrong with this dumb machine. “I’m not sure.” I look at him. He looks stress, ‘cause the crew is waiting outside in the van. “It’s saying it can’t find my flight.”

I give him my backpack to hold while I search my phone to confirm my flight details. After scrolling, I find the mistake. I screwed up.

“What the hell!” I say.

“Ma’am. Do you need some assistance?” an agent asks.

“No. Apparently, I’m at the wrong airline.” I look at Greg.

“What airline is it?”

“Frontier. Who’s ever heard of Frontier?” I say as I look up at the signs. It’s up ahead. I look back at Greg and he has a funny look.

“Yeah,” he responds. “I see it. Do you have time to check-in?”

I look down at my watch. “It’s plenty of time. You can go. I’m good.”

“You sure?” he asks handing me my backpack as the look of relief coves his face.

“Yeah! I got this.”

We hug and he belts for the door.

As he leaves, I head to the counter. There are no self-check kiosks. As I attempt to walk to the counter, I’m stopped. “Ma’am, are you trying to check-in with Frontier?”

“Yes.” I said.

“Well, they won’t be here for another 30 minutes.”

I shook my head. “Okay,” I finally manage to say. But… what kinda buffoonery is this?! Almost an hour and a half before they start check-in. As I waited in the already forming line, I noticed some signage about luggage. But I didn’t pay much attention. It was about check-in luggage, I thought. I take my place in the long line to be greeted by the non-stop talker.

The one you’re praying doesn’t sit by you. Yeah, she was that person. But, the good part has happened yet. After 15 minutes, it’s my turn in line. The attendant notices my backpack and small carry-on and responds. “Ma’am, that’ll be $55.”

“$55? For what?” At that moment, I realized I wasn’t using my inside voice.

The young woman looked at me, as to say, ‘are you finished?

“Ma’am, you can purchase it online for much less.”

Why would I need to go online? I’m at the counter now. I look back at the forever growing line and I’m almost down to the one-hour mark. I’m thinking…how good a nice cold drink would be now.

“Ok. I’ll look and come back.” Here it is I thought I was saving money, only to find out otherwise. It was less. $13. Who charges for carry-ons? As I grudgingly paid for the fees. How absurd.

I go back in line and am quickly ushered through. I believe she felt sorry for me, ‘cause she made sure I had TSA preferential boarding. Yet, that wasn’t the kicker. It was just the punt.

The moment when you wished you listened to that little voice in your head and opted for a staycation. 30 minutes into the flight, the plane felt as if it dropped 1,000 feet and shook violently. There was no warning. As you choke on your heart and fingers go numb from gripping the seat in front of you. Passengers around you have the same horror written on their faces. “Is this how we’re going to go? Can we get a warning? Time to put on the oxygen mask?”

I forgot to say my travel prayer…. damn! I say it. Then, the pilot comes over the announcement. “We ran into a little turbulence. Please stay in your seats for the next few minutes.”

That would’ve been something to say prior to meeting the turbulence head on. Now, that I almost lost my popcorn I ate prior to getting on this roller-coaster ride. To say I was elated to get home and in my house would be a repeat. I told my father the story and he just laughed. But, when I told my husband. He responded, “I didn’t want to tell you. But Frontier use to be ValuJet, and you know they had a lot of problems in the past.”

“Why didn’t you?” I asked.

“I didn’t want to scare you. So, I said a prayer.”

Thanks a lot. I would’ve opted for staying a few more days versus making that flight with that knowledge.

There’s nothing wrong with vacations or staycations. However, plan accordingly and if you get that gut feeling… act on it. Plan B and Plan C can be the difference between a good night sleep or no sleep at all.


If you like this post, you may like: Going Home

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by K.E. Mullins

K.E. Mullins is retired from the Navy and currently works as a Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) Instructor in Gainesville, Florida. She graduated from National University with a MBA in Finance and University of Central Florida with a Major in Marketing. Ms. Mullins is a Jacksonville, Florida native and has enjoyed reading and writing since her early childhood. She began her writing career while in the Navy by venturing into poetry.

Her first poetry piece, “My One Last Cent,” was published in a literary journal, “Amistad” in 2007 at Howard University. Currently, Ms. Mullins has self-published a book of poetry, “Thinking Aloud: Dimensions of free-verse” and her fiction novels, “The Friends and Family Connection: Get Unplugged” and “In the Company of Strangers (TEAM ICE)”, and “Murder: Another Name for Revenge”, the last book in her series all are available for purchase on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.

She was chosen this summer to be one of eight participants in Lip Service true stories sponsored by Miami Book Fair with the theme, “Cravings with Consequences” in front of a live audience. In addition to writing poetry, Kimberley has done spoken word venues in Urban Grind, Atlanta, GA, Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C., and the Thomas Center, Gainesville, FL.


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