Sunday, February 03, 2008

My Final Tourist Tale

We are back in the Water Winter Wonderland, safe and sound, after a wonderful vacation. Some things I'll miss -- the sunshine; the flora; our kids; Epcot; fresh seafood. Other things -- spoiled, whiny children and their bored, resentful parents; $150 princesses; alligators; timeshare salespeople -- I'm pretty much over.

But I have to relate to you our return to Michigan.

We had a smooth, uneventful flight to Flint landing around 9:00 in the evening. We had parked, not in the long-term airport parking lot, but at a nearby franchise motel (which is a story all its own -- all I will say is eccccch) where we'd spent the night before our flight out, which provided cheaper parking. We caught a cab to the motel. We unlocked the Jeep and packed our stuff inside. We put the key in the ignition. Nothing. The engine was dead.

We were still on a high from our trip, so we took this unexpected glitch in stride, proceeding to the motel office to summon help. We explained our situation to the young blonde woman at the desk.

"Can you help us get a jump for our car?" we asked.

There was a very long pause. Evidently problem-solving skills aren't a job requirement for front-line employees of this particular motel chain.

"Um...I could, like, get our maintenance man, but he's, like, at the airport right now. I don't know, like, when he'll be back." More silence.

We asked if there was a list of emergency contacts behind the desk that might include the number for a towing company.

"Um...we don't have anything like that."

"Well...can you call AAA for us then?" asked Fellow Traveler.

"How do you spell that?" (I am not making this up.)

"How about if you give us the phone book so we can look up a towing service ourselves," I suggested, with a certain amount of impatience.

"Oh." I was handed a phone book.

"Is there a service station around here?" Fellow Traveler persisted.

"Oh...there's, like, um, next door."

"Do they have road service?"

"Um...I don't know. Do you know what the name of it is?"

"No, we don't know the name of it, because we don't live here."

"Yeah. Well, like, I wouldn't know that." Of course you wouldn't, sweetie.

After several more minutes of this surreal exchange, the maintenance man finally appeared and was dispatched to help us. We found ourselves talking with a grizzled little old man who was extremely drunk, and extremely irritated with us for not having called the motel to have him, rather than a taxi, pick us up at the airport. Thank God for small favors, I thought.

The man gave our Jeep a watery-eyed visual assessment. "I don't think I got room to get in there and give ya a jump," he slurred. "But maybe I can drive between the building and the cars."

We'd parked perpendicular to a wing of the motel. There was just barely enough space between the building and the end of the sidewalk to accomodate a vehicle.

We watched nervously as the man steered the motel courtesy van though this narrow passageway, just barely missing the other parked cars. Then we heard a clunk; he'd knocked off his side view mirror.

The maintenance man emerged unsteadily from the vehicle. "I'm afraid I'm gonna tear off my mirror," he announced, evidently unaware that that is what'd he'd just done. "But I work for tips, so I'll try to help you out." He rooted through his van and came out with a set of jumper cables. After attaching them to his battery (Fellow Traveler had stationed herself at the front of the vehicles to make sure that he didn't barbecue us all by cross-wiring the cables), he waded through the wet snow, live wires in hand. "Look!" he chuckled. "They're sparking!" Please don't breathe on them, I thought.

Fellow Traveler gently encouraged him to get out of the snow and get the cables attached to our vehicle. And, Gott sei dank, the Jeep promptly started. We gave the man a generous tip, which along with the cab fare officially doubled the amount of money we had thought we were saving by parking in this lot.

But it was still a good vacation.

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