THAT deployment was certainly interesting. What was supposed to be a short, two-week stint in New York City, volunteering with the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, turned into a month-long odyssey that technically isn’t over even as we speak.
If a movie script were to be penned on what I’ve been through in the last month, there wouldn’t be a producer alive who’d take on this project, as every one of them would say, “It’s too insane. No one would believe it.”
But – here’s a quick synopsis of what that movie script would look like:
February 12: Sherri, our Drama Queen star, skips off to New York/New Jersey…as she checks in, she informs everyone around her that she will ONLY be here for two weeks…period. Her last day will be February 26, as she wants to fly back home to Kansas City before embarking on another adventure in Austin, TX. Her boss in NY laughs evilly…but does our heroine pay attention to that? Do heroines in movies EVER pay attention to evil laughs or ominous music playing in the background? Heck, no.
This would be mistake #1.
February 24: While working long and hard days in the warehouse, our heroine dreams of her upcoming last day in NYC; she has plans on flying back to Kansas City for a few days, and then fly down to Austin, TX on March 2 – for a week - to participate in a project with the American Red Cross. She is tickled because she was invited personally to partake in this project; it is an honor, and she is duly humbled. Her boss in NYC, meanwhile, twirls his handlebar mustache and laughs when our heroine mentions going home in two days. Sherri has come down with a bit of a cold, but ignores the symptoms for the most part, and pops a few ibuprofen.
This would be mistake #2.
February 26: Kansas City – and the surrounding Midwest – is WALLOPED by a blizzard and several feet of snow. The airport is completely shut down. No one – and I mean, NO ONE – will be flying to Kansas City this day. Sherri takes a phone call from the evil boss at NYC, who laughs and says, “I TOLD you that you weren’t going home! And you aren’t going to Austin, either! I called Washington, DC and yanked you from the project! You’re doing far more valuable work HERE and I can’t let you go!”
Well. Technically, the evil boss was right. I WAS doing good work in NYC, and it would have been a shame to leave it when things were going so well – and we were so close to finishing this. Sherri sadly informs the family that she won’t be coming to KC for awhile, and bravely pops a few more ibuprofen for the ever-increasing cold symptoms. Her new goal is to fly to Florida on March 9th, where she will happily reunite with her always-patient Hubby and kids.
March 7: Sherri wakes up with full-blown sinus issues…to the point where the left ear is completely blocked. A quick visit to an urgent care center in Staten Island, and our heroine walks away with a bottle full of antibiotics and stern instructions to NOT fly on a plane for at least a week.
Drat. This means no flying to Florida on March 9th.
Sherri is desperate, as heroines in movies sometimes are. Thinking quickly, she looks up train schedules – and voila! There is a train that will take her from Newark, NJ as far south as Tampa, FL – and then a bus will finish up the journey south to Ft. Myers. This will only be a 27-hour trip, but hey – it alleviates having to fly on a plane – so Sherri is happy!
March 8th: Our heroine bids everyone at the warehouse in NYC good-bye...it was a good deployment, and a lot was accomplished. She even gets a hug from the Evil Boss, who says, through gritted teeth, "You're awesome." Hey. She'll take it.
March 9th: Our heroine boards a train in Newark, NJ. She was lucky and was able to book the last sleeper car available (for a steep price, mind you), but she has privacy and a couch/bed to lay down on…she passes the time watching DVD’s on her laptop, reading her Kindle, chatting up fellow travelers in the Dining Car, and sleeping.
My bed for the night...
Pretty much my view for 27+ hours...
March 10th: The train finally rolls into Tampa, Florida – with a few delays, it ended up being a 27-hour trip for just the TRAIN portion – and we still have a 3-hour bus ride ahead of us. Sherri and 30 other passengers board the chartered bus and begin the journey south.
2:30 pm: The bus stops in Bradenton, and 1-2 passengers get off with their bags. Another two passengers run off the bus so they can quickly steal a few puffs on a cigarette before it’s time to hit the road again.
3:00 pm: The bus stops in Sarasota…and the same scenario plays out. A few passengers get off for good, while the same two smokers run off the bus and steal a few puffs of nicotine.
4:00 pm: The bus pulls off the road to a small gas station in Port Charlotte. The two smokers run off the bus – but THIS time, they take their duffel bags; it is obvious this is their final stop and they won’t be returning. Good for them – I wasn’t sure if their nicotine-starved bodies could handle much more. However, a curious thing happens…the bus driver gets off here, as well, and walks away. The bus passengers see him leaning against the side of the gas station/convenience store walls…and he looks in no hurry to get back on the bus. Curious. Perhaps he just needs a 5-minute break.
Five minutes turns to ten…then twenty…and the bus driver shows no interest in getting back on the bus. He is still standing there…just watching us…while we watch him. By now, grumblings are beginning on the bus, and questions are being raised, such as, “WHAT is he DOING??!!” as well as, “WHY is he just STANDING there??!!”
Our heroine is beginning to think she's being punk’d. She thought about driving the bus herself the rest of the way to Ft Myers, but she really didn’t want a charge/conviction of “stolen bus” on her pristine record. Besides – it was a really, really long bus – she'd probably wreck it trying to turn a corner.
She'd have called Hubby to come and get her at this point, but her luggage – and her purse – were locked down below the bus in the luggage hold.
What happened next, she can only blame on the fact that she wasn't feeling well. Or perhaps it was the drugs. Or perhaps it was just the plain fact that she had been trying, since February 26th, to see her family - whom she missed very much - and she'd pretty much reached the end of her patience.
I - oops, I mean "she" - burst into tears.
Yup. A full-blown crying attack, with little bits of whine thrown in for good measure.
"I just want to see my family," our heroine sniffed...as she explained to a group of high-school cheerleaders sitting around her. They had enough time that she could tell them the whole story of why she was sitting on a bus, on the side of the road, in Port Charlotte, to begin with.
They were probably thinking, "Great. First we get abandoned by our driver, and we now have Crazy Crying Lady onboard. God help us all."
After twenty-five minutes, the cheerleaders' chaperone has had ENOUGH - of our heroine, of the errant bus driver, whatever - and makes her way to the front of the bus and begins laying on the horn.
Well. This certainly gets the attention of not only the bus driver, but every person in a 5-mile radius of the gas station. The passengers all swivel their heads over to the bus driver to see his reaction to this, and he graces them with a…shrug. A SHRUG???!!
Our honker decides that a longer honk is needed, so she does just that…lays on the horn for a good full 2-minutes…which is now starting to irritate the innocent people in the parking lot of the gas station. They all look like they’re going to start dialing 9-1-1 on the errant bus in the parking lot.
The passengers all look back at the bus driver to see what HIS next move will be. The first honk had been met with a shrug; what will the second – and longer – honk be met with? Now that they're gathering the attention of others?
The bus driver begins stalking furiously back over to the bus.
When he climbed back onboard, the Honker Lady and he got into what can only be described as…um…a loud discussion. Yes. A very passionate discussion. Ahem.
“WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM???!!!” Honker Lady yells.
“I’m MAD!” Bus Driver Guy says. Duh. “I’m mad because every time I stop this bus, people run off to smoke.”
“It’s YOUR bus!!!!” Honker Lady shrieks. “YOU are in charge! If you didn’t like it, you should have SAID something! Rather than being passive-aggressive, and taking it out on the REST of us! And for your information, the smokers are now OFF the bus, you idiot!!!”
And she was right. The smokers were LONG gone.
Mr. Bus Driver looks around sheepishly, sits meekly back in his seat, and the bus was finally moving again.
So…two weeks…two days…and 29 hours later…give or take a few days/hours here or there…our heroine's deployment finally ended.
6:00 pm: When we pulled into the parking lot, I looked out through the bus windows and saw my daughter. Who saw me at the same time.
And we both burst into tears.
It must run in the family.
Bless those cheerleaders' hearts, though. They saw the tears on BOTH ends, and quickly yelled for everyone onboard to make room - that there was going to be a glorious reunion in a minute, and I was to get off FIRST.
What a ride. Literally.
And why isn't this over yet? Why are there no closing credits???
Because I'm now stuck in Florida. Yes. I was supposed to fly back to KC yesterday, but the sinus issues/ear problems are STILL here - so no flying until I get this resolved.
And if you even THINK I'll take another train or bus to Kansas City - you can think again.
Sometimes, the Heroine learns and doesn't repeat the mistakes she makes in the first part of the movie. And those, my dear readers, are the Heroines who live to see another day.