I can explain.
The broken promises. The long silences. The unannounced trips.
Okay, I think I advised the other day about the trip. I certainly did give warning that I was preparing for a move. Said move went well, by the way, and I am settling into my new apartment quite nicely. It did take me a week to get my internet up and running, which is another reason I have been incommunicado.
July has been a busy month for me, but I bring back from my adventures not one, not two, but THREE new reviews coming out this week. The first two are of audiobooks I enjoyed on my Boston-D.C.; the third is of a hardback book I have been working since Christmas and finally finished after my electronics had been packed away.
Some tales from the trail:
I Think I’m Getting Kidnapped
It is the day before my drive to D.C. I am already wound up. While standing in line, waiting for whatever I need to complete yet another pre-trip frantic errand, a voice behind me announces “Hey, do you like novels?”
Why would he know that?
Perhaps because “stranger danger” was drilled into me as a kid, more likely because of the things I read and watch, I am a little wary of overly interested strangers. The person I encountered was nice enough, and was promoting a new e-book. No harm done.
I leave the store and begin to walk back to my car, not being followed. When I arrive at my car, there is an idling vehicle pulled up alongside mine. With cars parked in front of and behind mine, I am effectively stuck. Somewhat inconvenient, but again, no harm done.
Then the driver of the idling car looks up and calls me by my first name. My blood runs cold.
“Yes?” I say.
“I’m your ride.”
“No you’re not.”
He is silent. I move to the back of my car. He is not moving.
“This is my car,” I say.
He looks at me, puzzled.
“I need you to move,” I say.
He rolls forward and I hop into my car, not sure why this person knows my name. Then, in my rear-view mirror, I see a woman my age, of similar appearance, coming out of the apartment building I parked in front of. She got into the car that had been boxing mine in.
I had not fended off a kidnapping. I had only managed to scare the living daylights out of myself and an unsuspecting Uber driver.
I Crash a Wedding
The next day, I dropped True-Crime Cat off at the vet for boarding, fought back tears at seeing her little green eyes disappear behind the counter, and set off driving for D.C. From Boston to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, I enjoyed the audiobook of Ann Rule’s Small Sacrifices.
This was my first road trip and, as is to be expected, newbie mistakes began piling up.
I grew up in Texas, where toll booths are few and far between. As such, it did not occur to me to prepare for all the tolls, and I did not have cash to pay the toll booth attendant as I drove south from I-84 to the Jersey Turnpike. Consequently, with plenty of July-Fourth-Weekend traffic piling up behind me, the very patient toll attendant filled out an invoice for me to pay NY State by mail. (Which I did, of course)
I then promptly got lost in New Jersey, because I unintentionally set my navigating app to to avoid tolls, which led me parallel to the Turnpike, down a country road full of stop lights. This was probably why I had trouble focusing on the first three hours of Robert Graysmith’s hefty true-crime classic Zodiac.
After finally pulling over somewhere south of Princeton and re-calibrating Siri, I had only lost two hours to waiting at traffic lights. The sun was beginning to sink low as I headed south to Delaware, surrounded by trees.
“The young couple were alone in their car, surrounded by trees,” crooned the narrator of Zodiac, “It was already evening.”
Not an actual quote, but close enough. And that is when I began hitting myself for my choice of audiobooks. I had promised myself I wouldn’t do Zodiac books on my solo drive. I promised myself.
Somewhere south of Baltimore, I realized it was time to find a ladies’ room. Seeing an exit up ahead, I prepare to get off I-95. The “NSA-EMPLOYEES ONLY” sign and the cop with the rifle blockading the exit tipped me off that I would not be making a pit stop here.
So I drove on. The next exit is “NASA-EMPLOYEES ONLY.”
I am beginning to get desperate.
Why didn’t I stop in Baltimore? I ask myself.
Then, finally “NASA Greenbelt-State Park.” Where there’s a park, there’s a park ranger. Where there’s a ranger, there’s a HQ.
I pull off the highway at last. Right at the exit is a rustic structure set in a wooded area, surrounded by cars.
Oh, good, they must have lots of services here if it’s this crowded.
I find a parking spot and look up. It is a veterans’ association lodge, and there is obviously a party going on. But I am desperate.
I run to a couple taking a smoke break outside and explain the emergency.
“Is there any chance I could use the ladies’ room?”
“Oh sure, go on in, sweetie. We won’t tell anyone.”
I enter. There is a wedding cake. I wouldn’t dream of doing this on any other day. By some miracle, though, it was a casual wedding, and I came wearing the dress code.
On my way out, thanking God and the American Legion, the couple I met at the door invite me to stay for drinks. I politely decline.
I make it back to my car and close the door. Between putting the key in the ignition and turning it, I begin laughing and put my forehead against the wheel. I am ready to be done driving. After another hour, and twelve in total, I make it to my hotel.
And that is the story of how I became a wedding crasher.
P.S. Wherever you are, happy newlyweds, I wish you every happiness in the world.
P.S.S.: Come back tomorrow for my review of Small Sacrifices. Reviews of the Graysmith Zodiac audiobook coming Friday. Next week, I address the hard-copy book I finished this month, Kenneth D. Ackerman’s Trotsky in New York 1917: A Radical on the Eve of Revolution, a tale of spies, suspicious Russian political operatives, and sassy backtalk.