We were exhausted upon arriving in Oklahoma City. It was almost 10:00 pm, we’d been in the car for over 12 hours, and the only thing we wanted to do was check into our room and go to sleep. (oh, and drink a beer…or two.) We finally came to our freeway exit, and Mike moved over, slowed down and exited. As we waited for the light at the end of the exit ramp to turn green, we noticed a police officer behind us. As the light turned green and we began moving, the officer turned on his lovely red and blue lights. Because what would a road trip be without a run-in with the law, am I right? Mike pulled off of the service drive on to a small dark side street and put the van in park.
Ok, so I knew we weren’t doing anything seriously wrong. I certainly knew we weren’t transporting drugs or weapons or anything, but the mere presence of a police officer always seems to make my butt pucker. I instantly got all nervous. Then I got more nervous thinking about how I probably looked too nervous, and that got me even more nervous. I warned Mike to keep his hands on the wheel, to not make any sudden movements and to not resist arrest. Mike gave me one of his, “Stop it crazy lady” looks. By the time the officer got to my window, (MY window. Why? I was the passenger. The innocent victim!) I may as well have been holding a sign that read: Arrest me now, I have cocaine in my butt.
I rolled down my window, and Officer Oklahoma said hello. He asked for our paperwork and then asked how old the kids were. When I answered, “Two and a half and seven months.” He said, “Two and a half?!?!? Oh… he looked younger from the back window.”
Now, if you’ve met me more than twice, you probably know that I’m a freak about car seat safety. Not that I’m a freak about having the most expensive car seat on the market, because I don’t believe that matters at all. They all have to pass the same safety tests and are held to the same standards regardless of their pricing. No, I am a freak about rear facing as long as you can, installing the seat tightly so there is little to no movement, having the baby in the seat with straight and snug straps and a chest clip that is at armpit level – not belly button level. I check our seats every day. I tighten and adjust our seats Every. Single. Day. I re-install at least once a month.
So when Officer Okie thought my kids were younger than they were, I immediately thought something about my car seat installation was so horribly remiss that it was noticeable from the rear window, at night, to an officer who barely looked old enough to be out of his own five point harness. My stomach dropped to my toes. The rest of our conversation went something like this:
Officer Okie: “Huh. (Long pause) Well, the reason I pulled you over tonight was for not signaling in enough time back there at the exit. In the state of Oklahoma, you need to signal at least 100 feet before you turn.”
Mike and I: “Oh. Ok.” (Blink. Blink.)
Officer Okie: “Let me run your paperwork and I’ll be right back.”
Us: “Oh. Ok.” (Blink, Blink)
Me: (Butt pucker. Fake smile. Butt Pucker. Secret relief that nothing was wrong with my car seat installations, yet wondering what the hell he had been talking about to begin with.)
The officer came back quickly and gave us a warning, but no ticket. We chatted for awhile about moving to Michigan from Las Vegas and he was nice enough to tell us where our hotel was. He bid us a good evening, I mentally thanked him for not taking me away to jail and we drove the remaining 1 block to our hotel room. We were relieved but annoyed, ready more than ever for a hot shower and a cozy bed. I practically ran into the hotel lobby to check in.
At the counter, stood a young man named *Mario, who greeted we with a strange smile. While warm and welcoming, his smile also looked…apologetic? I just knew something was up. I said hello and gave him my name, whipping out my little notebook just in case he needed the confirmation number.
Mario drew his breath in through his teeth, “Shhh… yeah… I am SO sorry. We are running computer maintenance right now. I can’t check you in until it is done.”
Ha. Why not? This type of thing is exactly my luck.
I’ve been in situations like this at work. When I’ve had to deliver really bad news to a patient and it was due to circumstances completely out of my control. I’ve had patients make me feel like total garbage for being the messenger, and I decided that I was not going to do that to poor Mario. I shoved aside the urge to cry, ignored my aching back, sweaty hair, frazzled and exhausted brain and plastered on a warm smile.
“Oh, no problem! How long do you think it will take?” I crossed my toes and prayed he would say three minutes.
“It usually takes 30 minutes and it started like, 15 minutes ago. So… did you guys eat yet? You could go eat and come back!”
“Um, yeah we ate, (Hours ago Buddy. And the idea of going to a restaurant at 10:20 pm with my two grubby and exhausted children sounds about as appealing as sleeping in the lobby bathroom. Less appealing actually.) but do you know where a beer store is?”
I can find the silver lining folks. I am an optimist.
“Oh yeah!” Mario was excited for me. “Go right and straight down to the stop sign, then turn right, then go left at the light and there’s a beer store on the right.”
“Ok, I’ll go to the store and when we get back, everything should be good to go.” I went outside and told Mike the plan. He rolled his eyes and we headed off to the beer store. The trip only took a few minutes so we decided to wait in the hotel parking lot for another 10 minutes before going in. You know, just to make sure we gave extra time. We decided to discuss how far 100 feet is and how in the Hell you would judge that while driving. We also wondered just how bored cops in Oklahoma City were.
When I walked back into the lobby, I thought for certain I’d be walking back out with our room key. Mario’s wide eyes and nervous smile instantly told me that that wasn’t going to happen.
“Still not done…um…it should be any minute…” He clicked the mouse repeatedly, to no avail.
“That’s ok, I’ll wait for a little while.” So, Mario and I chatted. We discussed his one and only trip to Las Vegas when he was 17 and how he never left his hotel. We discussed moving across the country. We discussed how inconvenient computers are sometimes. After ten minutes I asked if there was any way to just get us into a room and do the computer work later. There was not. I said I’d be back. I went back to the van. Mike looked at me hopefully, and I shook my head no. Mike looked like he was three seconds away from throwing himself into traffic.
Truman was out of his seat and “driving” on Mike’s lap in the van. Grant was fussy and needed to eat. The dog needed to go out and the cat had given up yowling through his drug induced haze hours before. Mike turned off the car and let Truman “drive” some more while he walked the dog. I pulled Grant out of his seat and fed him. We waited. Mike decided to go in and see if he could get anywhere with Mario. He returned to the van moments later looking like his head may explode. It was now 11:00. I tried to smooth things over with Mike and reminded him that it wasn’t poor Mario’s fault, but at that point it didn’t matter who was at fault. We were still sitting in a van when we could have been sleeping in a bed.
At 11:15 I went in again. Mario had a huge smile on his face and no longer looked afraid for his life. He had two room keys sitting on the counter waiting for me. I paid our $10 pet fee and practically ran out of the lobby. We spewed the contents of the van into the room and repeated the entire dog/cat/kid set up circus. I think I managed to drink half of a beer before passing out.
We woke up the next morning and decided to take our time. We went to the lobby for breakfast and we were pleasantly surprised again by the selection of food! After arguing with Truman about juice, threatening him repeatedly with a highchair instead of a “big” chair if he didn’t stop running around, and prying Grant’s dagger-like fingernails out of my face and neck; I finally sat down to eat some scrambled eggs and a waffle. Approximately three minutes later, Grant began trying to shove my scrambled eggs into his mouth. I had tried – unsuccessfully – to feed the child solids for a month. He clamped his mouth shut and refused to try anything I had offered. I was excited to see him finally showing interest! I fed him little bites and he was doing well. As I was finishing my waffle, Grant grabbed my plate and in one quick motion whipped it off of the table onto the floor. Of course, the plate didn’t just topple easily to the floor. After all, we’re talking about me. My tiny son is working on becoming a major league baseball pitcher. The plate flew wildly through the air, flinging food all over me, Grant and of course, the floor. I handed Grant off to Mike and with a very warm face, scooped eggs off of my lap and cleaned the floor. I washed my hands and turned into the breakfast police, all but ordering everyone back to the room. I was done with breakfast. I was done with Oklahoma. It was time to get back on the road.
*Mario’s name may or may not be Mario.