Monday, April 15, 2013

Stories I Probably Shouldn't Tell My Scouts: Vol. 1

It all started simply enough. Jeanne and I wanted to go see Heather. Heather was from California, so it wasn't like we'd get the opportunity to see her often. We had met her in Germany when our paths from various exchange programs happened to cross. Some of her friends were coming from Germany for a week long visit and she was going to meet them for a weekend. Since she was coming all that way, we figured we could make the drive from Maine to see her.  We packed up and left around noon on Friday and began the seven hour drive to the City.

Or so we thought.

The first lesson I learned from this experience is that I really need to review the planned travel route before I get in the car.  I was relying on Jeanne to navigate the route while I drove, and somewhere along the way we took a wrong exit and were heading west on I-84 (I think).  I-84 goes no where near New York City.  We figured this out about the time that we should have been coming into the city, but were out in the middle of nowhere.  We reoriented ourselves, got headed in the right direction, and then stopped for dinner.  It was pushing 7:00 PM, and we were worried that if we didn't get to our hostel by 8:00, they might give our rooms away (we were good Christian teenagers and were trying to find separate accomodations that we could afford).  Jeanne got on the phone and called the hostel to let them know we were running behind but that we were on our way.

Second lesson: hostels don't operate like hotels.  "Oh, I gave those rooms away hours ago."

"That's just fantastic.  Now what do we do?"

Are you surprised that he really didn't care?  In retrospect, neither am I.  But I was pretty upset about it at the time.

We discussed our options.  We could drive six hours back to Maine, or we could press on two more hours to New York and find other accommodations when we got there.  Feeling the wear of a long drive already, I figured it would be easier for me to go to two hours than to go six, so onward we pressed.

Four hours later, I wasn't really talking to Jeanne.  And I was promising myself that I would never, ever put a map in her hands again (I probably don't give her enough credit for the fact that navigating New York City with a state level map isn't very efficient).  We crossed the Tapanzee bridge once...maybe even twice.  Everything was starting to blur together at that point.

Somehow we managed to find ourselves in New Jersey at about 1:00 AM.  I had been driving for almost 13 hours at this point and pulled off at the first place I saw that looked like it had rooms available.  We pulled into the parking lot, walked into the lobby, and I zoned out while Jeanne approached the glass to pay for our room.

Yes, you read that correctly. She approached the glass.  I had zoned out enough that this didn't register as abnormal to me.  However, when I started reading the posted rates, there was one word that jumped out at me and told me that I had strayed far beyond my life's experience.

That word was: "Hourly"

I began to wonder what kind of place I had brought us to.  I looked down the street to the right.  Discount liquor store.  I looked the building to the left.  Strip club.

While the realization of what all these elements added up to formed in my brain, Jeanne finished paying and got our room key.  I decided I had better be too tired to care.  Off to our room we went.  We happened to be enter our room at the same time as another couple and I received a knowing wink from the gentleman as he disappeared through his door.

So much for avoiding the appearance of evil.

I entered our room and collapsed on the bed.  It felt good to close my eyes and I wanted to stop thinking for a minute.  My reprieve was brief, but helpful.  Until I opened my eyes and found I was looking at myself.  In the mirror.  On the ceiling.

It was too much for me, and I slept on the floor that night.

As soon as we woke up, we headed out of the city in search for a true hotel.  The rest of the weekend proceeded as planned and without any real adventure (unless you count the dash light going out on the drive home--I drove back to Maine checking my speedometer with the help of a cigarette lighter).

I remember I called home at one point because, being 17 years old, I had no idea what I was doing and I desperately wanted guidance from my dad.  I told him about the drive down, the motel, and described everything right up to the mirrored ceiling.  Uproarious laughter and "Looks like you've got it under control."  Thanks dad.

In case you're wondering--No, I've never been to New York City since then.


  1. Ben sorry but I couldn't stop laughing! Great story!!

  2. I love your dad!

    And... You know... That's the single biggest lesson I learned coming into my adulthood:

    We're all just winging it.

    Age just gets us more accustomed to that belly clenching "Wait. What??" so we can appear calm.

    He was right.
    You totally had things under control.
    Don't get angry at life's lessons, laugh, and keep going.
    You got this.