NO MORE A ROAD WARRIOR
Between Indianapolis and Phoenix
7:40 AM and I'm sitting at the bar, the only seat available in the crowded airport restaurant. My wake up call had come at Midnight on my body clock, 3:00 AM in Indianapolis.
"What'll you have to drink?" the bartender asks after putting out another gin to the guy sitting at my left and another beer to the guy two spaces down on the right.
"Coffee" I say watching the constant milling of people in and out of the tight space between tables and the shifting of spots at the bar.
The guy to my immediate right asks to be topped off on coffee as he holds a paperback in his left hand, his right hand working on an omelet.
I'm looking around and amazed at how young these travelers are, most of them are on business. After the years I've logged you can spot the road warriors from the tourists.
In that moment a switch that had begun to turn a few nights ago, completed its click.
The flight got in at 1:15 AM. For years I've used a particular car rental agency that offers something called a rapid rez so you bypass lines, go immediately to the garage get your car and on your way. A breakfast meeting awaited after what would be the usual first night of battle with hotel pillows and bed, heating system and the likely impossibility of opening a window for real air. Sleep would be a challenge, but the rapid rez would get me moving that way. Wrong! There was not a waiting car. A lot attendant broke the news the computers crashed and I'd have to go back to the terminal and wait in line. Guess she see could the color drain.
She said "I'll be over in a couple of minutes to help you."
No one is happy at the counter, especially the folks waiting in line. The clerks are doing the best they can, filling forms by long hand and swiping credit cards, but as the clock ticks and sleep disappears, the best laid plans are washing away as though being soaked by the cold rain outside.
The young lady arrives, takes my credit card and disappears to the office behind the counter. Several minutes later she reappears with temporary paperwork explaining the form that would need to be explained in turn to the gate keeper.
Loaded, seats adjusted, trying to figure out the heating and defrost controls, I roll up on the gate man who seems more perplexed than anything, but lifts the bar and I'm out into a driving rain at a temperature hovering above freezing.
It's funny but after you've been away from a place for a while you begin to doubt your directions. I thread the on and off ramps and follow the signs to the downtown trying to remember my old short cuts, but loosing confidence as I drive. That and the place continues to be built and changed for SuperBowls, and NCAA Final Fours and myriad conventions. My destination is a grand hotel I've been in more times than I could recall, but I couldn't recall where in the hell the entrance was.
The clock is running on me and chance of sleep is flying away as I circumnavigate the block a couple of times, cursing about what have they done with the entrance. Then I remember, though new buildings conspired against a clear vista.
The car has been sent to the valet garage and I've been given keys that must be swiped before the elevator will assign my floor. This is new and requires a juggling act of shoulder bag, plastic bag with water, suitcase and keys.
Ah, into the room, suits and shirts hung up, dob kit out and it looks like there may be a decent pillow on the bed. Still sleep time is being chewed up and that breakfast meeting is getting closer. Teeth are brushed and I reach for my mouth wash wondering the moment it hits my tongue why it had become like a gel. I didn't have time to riddle that before the taste slammed me in the head with a realization-I had just taken a big swig of shampoo. Have you tried to rinse out a mouthful of shampoo? I hope you never must. That is when the switch began to click down.
Now sitting here marveling at the youth of the road warriors, my nostrils assaulted by a few nights of dry hotel air, and damp chill of Indianapolis winter, my throat equally scratchy I knew definitively the road has passed me by. Even for vacation travel, I get a big sense of dread whenever I think about the packing, airports, the transfers, the hotels and what have you. I love to jump into the car and go explore, but it is the airports and the planes and not being in control that is the problem.
On this morning I'm listening to several weaves of conversation-missed connections, mechanical delays, scrambling to reschedule meetings, security clearance nightmares and etc. Been there and done that. I logged many thousands of miles at 36 thousand feet, all around this blue marble. There was a time I thought I could do it forever. On this morning, that seemed like a lifetime ago.
All I wanted now was to hug Lana, pet the cats, see the big Pacific and rolling Santa Lucia Mountains, smell fresh air, real air and be with others who also appreciate an eclectic little village, miles from roaring semis, hotel air and shampoo for mouth wash. Guess I should surrender my road warrior credentials.
There's a post script though, since life is not a fairy tale.
The light rain falling as we deplaned down the steps and walked across the runway felt good in this drought inflicted state. The snafu in this land of contentment was a baggage conveyor that broke down as several of us seemed eager to end our individual odysseys. Oh well, the video loop that kept playing over the bag less conveyor featured the scenic best of the coast, vineyards, hiking trails and at least, we were home.
And the soaking my bag got, waiting to take its turn in the tunnel seemed to have dissolved those road warrior credentials. Amen!
For many of us who were Ball State University students, the above was probably a staple of our diet. Pizza King was a local enterprise that etched itself into our history. This particular 8 inch personal creation is one of our favorites, eccentric though it may be. Hamburger with barbecue sauce.
It must be tasted to be appreciated.
Anyone who has visited Indianapolis will recognize this as the century old and venerable Shapiro's Deli. The number of lunches I enjoyed here, and even a few dinner breaks with my Mom is incalculable. After spending a day shooting video on this last trip, being outside in a chill, though locals said it was a "nice" day, I stopped in for a bowl of their warming Matza Ball soup.
There were a couple of other memory moments-below a plaque at the Indiana State Museum.
We would never visit the cemetery that mom did not want to pause at this sculpture. It was one of her favorite places. The title is Innocence. Over the years it has become one of those special places for me.
Now it is a place where I remember and in a very real
way, feel my mother's presence. Moment's like this can make the travel worthwhile.
See you down the trail.