Monday, September 5, 2011

Goodnight, Irene

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are beginning our final descent into Newark. Please bring your tray tables and seat backs into their upright and locked position." Nothing like a restful nights sleep to leave you raring to face a new day! Or nothing like a fitful few hours of rest on a red-eye to make you realize it's going to be a long long haul.

After working our way through the confusing maze that is the Newark airport dodging hoards of angry travelers ("My ENTIRE family is in Seattle! I need to get to Seattle!) we picked up C's bag (YAY! It made it!), found the rental car company (after asking for directions 3 times), used the grossest airport restroom ever, and C discovered that it wasn't just an off color joke, New Jersey really does stink, we were on our way!

Now those that know me know I am, shall we say, directionally challenged so the thought of navigating out of Newark, in to the New York City area and back out was making me a little nervous. I was also concerned that if they were shutting down the airports, the mass transit systems and evacuating areas it was going to be me and a few thousand of my closest friends on the road. I am thrilled to say that wasn't the case at all. C and I got turned around twice. Once on an off ramp that had been reconfigured since the map program was written and once at an unmarked fork in the road. Both times we figured out pretty quickly we were going the wrong way, got it righted and back on the road!

The only two times we ran in to heavy traffic were in small towns in Vermont where they were holding street fairs downtown and since there was only one road through town we were all on it. The weather was lovely, a little muggy but clear and dry otherwise. We made exceptional time, especially since I didn't speed AT ALL because that would be WRONG no matter how smooth the roads were or that you could do 80 and not even be the fastest car on the road. Allegedly.

I know that I have said this many many times before but I am so grateful to have the kid I have. I know that there are a lot of parents and kids out there that when facing a 6-7 hour road trip on top of a red-eye flight would be dreading the time in the car. C and I actually had a good time. We were both a little punchy from being tired so the corny jokes were flying. As well as a few stories and just some nice time together to end the summer. As we passed through towns and places that I had heard of I would announce them, "Oh we are in the Catskills! Let's go put someone in the corner!" "Adirondack Highway, we should get some chairs!" "Look, it's Clifton!" "Schuyler, that's pronounced Skyler my home ec teacher's last name was Schuyler...." And then we got to Poughkeepsie. When I read it off the sign C said, "I"m sure that's not how it's really pronounced." I told him it was, I wasn't making it up. But he was pretty convinced there were too many letters for that to be right. Then we decided that really most of the streets and towns had more letters than they really needed. When we passed through a town (whose name I can't remember) that was something like Kousinawackinshi I told C I wasn't even going to try to figure out how to say that, he deadpanned,"I'm sure they pronounce it Kevin."

We made it in to Burlington dropped off C's bag in his dorm room, which was already full of classmates and headed over to the storage place to pick up the rest of his belongings. And guess what? Dave was no where to be found. I called Dave, C and I walked around the storage place just in case he was helping someone else...we didn't find Dave but we found a photography set up with lights, a table, white gauzy curtains and a variety of undressed mannequins...then we decided to just go back and wait quietly out front.

I texted Brent who advised me to breath deeply. I clenched my jaw and I waited. Finally Dave showed up and dug out all of C's things and we were on the road again. After grabbing a quick bite to eat and heading back to the dorm to unpack we discovered that while Dave was hauling out the bottom box he bumped the edge and opened the laundry soap. Good news is we had thought to pack it in a plastic trash bag in the spring, bad news is it was still starting to leak. We unpacked the box in the parking lot of the dorm and only lost the soap and trash bags. One shoe and the towels got a little soapy and we left a little puddle of soap in the parking lot. Not bad...

C and I unpacked, mostly, and got his room partially set up. Not an easy trick when you have half a dozen kids in there playing video games and eating pizza. Poor C would have much rather been hanging out by that point instead of still working but he soldiered on! So off to Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is not my favorite place ever. I hate crowds like that. I am not a fan of the stuff the aisles full of merchandise marketing method either. It's too much stuff and too many people and it makes me itch. Add to that move in weekend for all of the colleges and an impending storm that could possibly shut down the East Coast for a week. It was like a little slice of hell. But we made it. Tired, cranky, toasty oats, but we made it. I dropped C back off at the dorms and went to settle in to the hotel to wait out the storm.

As you all know Burlington was spared by Irene. Sunday was a rainy windy day but nothing bad at all. No flooding. No long term power outages. I had spent two hours on the phone with Continental after dropping C off so I had a flight out Tuesday and there was nothing to do but wait. But watching the news I couldn't help but be struck by the damage the rest of Vermont had suffered. The roads we drove on Saturday to get to school weren't there any more. Washed away completely. There were towns that you could only reach by helicopter. It was a moment of deep gratitude for me that we were safe and dry and with power.

Now you will remember that I told you at the beginning of this two parter that this story started back in the spring right? Now here is what I meant. As we were leaving the storage place on Saturday C overheard Dave telling someone that he would in fact be open on Sunday as he was delivering things to kids moving in on those days so he changed his normal schedule. My first reaction was anger. The whole reason I had ended up flying out with C was because he WASN'T going to be open on Sunday! I had called ahead, I had planned ahead...grrr....then in the space of about a minute I realized that it was a blessing that he had been so confused earlier in the summer.

If Dave had said he would be open that Sunday we would have planned for C to go back alone on the red eye Saturday night. His flight would have been cancelled. If we had thought to move him up a day when the storm hit the radar we would have put him on the red eye Friday night that he and I took. Which would have left him stranded in Newark with no way to get to Burlington. As it was he had me with him. We found ways around the obstacles. We had an extra adventure tacked on to our summer and he made it to school in time. And because I was in Burlington I knew that he was in the safest place in Vermont he could be, while back home all of Vermont was lumped together in the news reports on the flooding and devastation. Brent and I had the peace of mind knowing he was safe.

Sometimes the bad stuff really is the good stuff after all.

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