Don’t Do As We Did

“Look at it this way,” I told my husband.  “We’re probably the only people on the road who aren’t dead drunk.  That’s good, isn’t it?”

Well, depends on your definition of good.  Lightning split the skies open, the highways were slick and shiny, and he and I looked like two moles peering into the darkness as we crept forward in our rental car.  It was either that, we decided, or spend the night in Dallas, since the airline had canceled our flight.  We wanted to get home.

Sure, we’d been traveling for 24 hours and we were a little jumpy and extremely jet-lagged.  But we could do it, right?  It was only 200 miles.  Of course.  We could do it.

That’s when I began to notice some strange things about being jet-lagged.  It makes you extremely stupid and slow-witted.  It also messes with your physiological perceptions.  I kept seeing things that weren’t exactly there.  Like that tunnel, for instance, that had turned out to be a building in the distance.  My field of vision was crowded with indecipherable lights and reflections.  It was interesting — kind of like being in a hall of mirrors with fireworks going off — but not exactly the frame of mind you want when you’re some kind of co-pilot to someone who looks as bad as you do.

“We could sing,” I said to my husband.  “That would keep us awake.”

“We’re not going to sing,” he said.  “We’re not in that bad a shape.”

Boy, what a grump.  I read him newspaper headlines from my Iphone, instead.  The Iranians were holding an election.  Some white supremacist had gone cuckoo in D.C.    Everybody thought the state legislature in New York might possibly be the worst in the country.  (Worse than the Texas Legislature?  My God.)

I call our daughter, who’s in California, to report on our alleged progress.  She reads me the riot act.  We have no business on the road in our condition.

“I think we’re OK,” I say weakly.

“No, you’re not,” she insists.  “You need to get a motel room.”

“She says we need to get off the road,” I tell my husband.

“We’re fine,” he says.

We go into a store to buy some canned Starbucks drinks.  Both of us can hardly stand up, I note.  Maybe we’d be better off driving if we were dead drunk.  Jetlag carries its own dangers.  We check into a motel.  We sleep for six hours.

It isn’t till the next day, when we credit ourselves as being so much better that we get a stronger sense of our own limitations.  We take the rental car back to the Austin airport.  I’ve forgotten to fill it up with gas and my husband becomes apoplectic at the thought of paying $7 a gallon as a penalty.

So we trudge back to the car to look for gas, following another driver who waves us through the bar.  We try to follow him after he goes through, but the bar crashes down on the roof of our car.  We keep driving — gas!  Gas! — for another hundred yards.  That’s when we realize we have two flat tires.  The tire spikes, presumably, had come up when the bar came down.  We climb out of the car and walk back to the rental agency.  We are treated quite kindly, given the circumstances.  This is what happens when people feel sorry for you.

Then, feeling fortunate not to have been arrested, we search for our own car in the airport parking lot for 20 minutes.  Turns out, we were looking on the wrong level.

You know what?  Don’t do anything when you’re jet-lagged.  You’ve dropped a mountain of IQ points, your judgment sucks, your formerly mild temperament flares, you’re an idiot, you can hardly put a sentence together.  Do everybody a favor and just go to bed.  You’ll save a lot of money and car tires and humiliation that way.  Next time, I’ll know.

(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)

8 comments… add one
  • That’s a horrifying tale, and a sad way to end a trip. Your post on Venice made me want to go. This one makes me think I might better stay put.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    No, I think the lesson is to go — but don’t be as dumb as we were.

  • You probably didn’t think it was funny at the time, but it was very funny in the telling, so I guess you’ve recovered your sense of humour, if not the car. It didn’t feel to me sad — though perhaps it was a wee bit expensive.

    I’ve flown across the Atlantic a lot of times, but only once tried to drive a car straight from the airport. I won’t do it again, either.

    Posted in “health”?

  • Cindy A Link

    Been there. All I can say is, DO NOT think that if you schedule a red-eye flight that you will sleep all the way. Only in an ideal world, which this is not!

  • I love travelling; it’s the getting there and, even worse, the getting home that I hate. It’s the same every time, even if we do everything right, then the airline or the travel agents or the customs guys or somebody will put the kybosh on it. When we went to Greece, the airline lost our luggage, the travel agent put us in a hotel at the end of the runway (I swear, we could see the pilots as they took off past our balcony!) When we spent six weeks in Europe, the airlines cancelled one of our flights, and Home Security made us take our luggage off the plane and go through security checks, even though we were travelling on to Canada on the same plane – which we missed. And when we came back from Sint Maarten last year, Homeland Security did the same thing to us in Philadelphia, and we ended up spending the night in the airport because the airline had closed their ticket desks so we could not catch another plane. And these incidents all took place before the airlines dropped the pretense of treating us like humans, as they have done in the past six months or so, and shown that they really are in the business of transporting cattle.
    Welcome home, anyway Ruth. As the old joke has it, “apart from all that, we hope you enjoyed the play, Mrs Lincoln!”

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Duchess — Yes, my sense of humor, if not my timing, is intact.  The stories that age best, I’ve found, are the ones that were excruciating to live through.  Yes, “health,” as long as the quotation marks are included.

    Cindy — I once slept all the way home on a transatlantic flight.  I was so zoned out that my husband finally had to nudge me, thinking I was dead.

    Tessa — You’re probably suspect for being a Canadian.  I find I often have those Mrs. Lincoln days.  And yes — the play was swell.


  • Robin Link

    Once again our experiences coincide!  When we returned from Paris in May, we landed at the same time the Cowboy’s training facility collasped in a storm.   Over the next 4 hours, all flights to Austin were delayed and eventfully cancelled.  Also being of unsound mind but very motivated to get home to our own bed, we too rented a car, and totally contrary to  my usual choice of a smaller, cheaper car, I let Hertz talk me into an SUV and pre-paid gas.  I must have been in an altered state.  The storm was still raging and it took us 1.5 hr on the road just to get out of Fort Worth.  Lou’s contacts were killing him, so he had to take them out and I had to drive the whole way.  I should not have been driving but Lou worked hard talking and playing music to keep me semi-alert.  By Pflugerville, I was literally slapping my face to stay awake.  You were smart to check into a motel!  The car rental ended up costing us $250 but we did make it back to Austin by midnight.  And collapsed into our own bed.

  • ruthpennebaker Link

    Wouldn’t you think that — at our advanced age — we’d be a little smarter?

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