MOST PEOPLE LOOK FORWARD to every day that follows a Monday. So far, this week, I've been looking back to Monday nostalgically.
I had a trip planned to visit my parents in Wildwood Crest on Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday was therefore best spent in deep labor to clear the decks. I did this with gusto. I managed to lay out and send to their editors three sets of proofs, leaving my inbox entirely clear. I like leaving as few loose ends for my coworkers as possible, especially in this case for my immediate supervisor, who was still recovering from the pile of work she accumulated during her extended Labor Day vacation.
I got home in good time and watched the Manning Bowl with some ice cream. My departure time on Tuesday was after the morning rush, so I didn't need to awaken as early as usual. I rode out the slow unwinding of the Giants until late in the fourth quarter, then hit the hay.
The next morning, I hit the gym for a leisurely workout and 30 minutes on the treadmill, packed what few items I would need for an overnight stay, got my Atlantic City casino cards and some of my bankroll ready, gassed up on the newly cheap petrol now available in the area, and got rolling down the Garden State Parkway.
It was around Exit 74 that it dawned on me that I had brought neither contact lenses for Wednesday nor my glasses. To my credit, I merely issued an "Uh-oh" and kept driving. What could I do? To turn around at that point would shift my arrival time toward 5 or 6 in the afternoon, and possibly enmesh me in whatever commuting snarl develops on the lower half of the Parkway. I decided to visit whatever drugstore I could find, buy contact solution and a case in which I could store the lenses I was now wearing, and hope for the best.
This forced me to consider scratching my poker trip on Wednesday afternoon. My original plan was to leave Wildwood Crest around 2:00 or 3:00, get seated at the Borgata or Tropicana poker room, play for a few hours, eat, then head home after the evening rush. Now, with only one set of lenses to last me 2 days (I wear daily disposable contacts), I couldn't take the chance that ambient smoke, protein buildups, or allergies might make them unusable by the time I hit the road after gambling. So I was now leaning toward an early Wednesday departure. Vexing but not fatal.
When I drove over the bridge between the Jersey mainland and the Wildwoods, I splashed through a giant puddle outside a gas station. I noticed, when I stopped at a drugstore to get my eye supplies, that the drying water was leaving a schmutzy residue all over my car. Fearing that this was some sort of fucked-up petro-acid that would eat my finish, I found a car wash and got the basics. (You can see this was becoming an expensive overnight trip already!)
I finally got to my parents' motel by, oddly enough, my predicted time of 3:00, despite all the delays. This was the same place they stayed when I made this post around a year ago, and the gorgeous blue skies and sea wind were calming and helped me unwind from the minor hassles I had faced to get there.
But they weren't done yet. Dinner was, unfortunately, better for the company than for the fare. We went to an Italian place that claimed a multi-decade heritage in the area. I have to say it was among the worst Italian food I have ever had. I got eggplant parmigiana with meatballs. The sauce was made with whole tomatoes and chopped onions, which I spent much of the meal extracting from the layers of eggplant, and the meatballs were garlicky and also floating in the same sauce. I use no onions in my sauce aside from any caramelized ones might have clung to the meatballs, and I have a very low tolerance for garlic aside from the salt one might use on garlic bread. The eggplant itself was only partly done. I gave no indication to my parents of how little I thought of this favorite destination of theirs, but I will lobby against it next time I go down there.
Bedtime followed soon after we returned to the motel. I have had mixed results with the fold-out beds in this property. Up until last year, I had no problem with the mattress. In 2005, however, I woke up sore and stiff from where the bars of the couch had poked me. I got the bed unfolded, gingerly placed my contacts in the solution-filled storage gadget I had bought, and dropped off to sleep.
My cellphone alarm woke me up at 6:00 a.m. Immediately I knew something was wrong. The room was spinning. I knew it was the vertigo. In rolling to turn off the alarm, I nearly tumbled out of bed. Moving in itself was a stiff, awkward endeavor. When I got up to hit the john, I found myself veering to the right, walking into the wall twice. The vertigo seemed centered on that side. Hoping my parents wouldn't see me in this debilitated state, I took care of business, then wheeled back to the bed. I could feel the room whirling even as I sat there. Had I contorted myself into some imbalance-inducing position due to this shitty sofa bed? No way to determine. I had told my parents, when they brought up my coming down for a visit, that I would have preferred to stay in Atlantic City or somewhere along the highways leading to it, to avoid the beaten-with-soap feeling I got the last time I subjected myself to that sort of abuse. But they encouraged me to try it again, because they had a different room booked this time, and the motel had done extensive renovations that might have eliminated the poorer couches.
None of this was helping me now. I gave the exercises I had done in November a try — what else could I do? — and went back to sleep for another hour and a half.
Upon awakening, I noticed the symptoms had diminished but not entirely disappeared. I walked to the bathroom again — this time without colliding with the walls — and successfully inserted my lenses. No real problem seeing through them or tolerating them in my eyes. Had I slept with them in, I would be clawing at my sockets at this point, so I was happy to have taken some time to grab the supplies.
With the added attraction of the vertigo, however, I decided finally to rule out the poker trip. I did actually stop at the Borgata on the way home to marvel at its expanded, enormous poker room, but in an act of discipline and self-interest that would boggle some of the more impulsive members of my poker circle, I threw not a single chip in anger. This joint would be open when next I returned, rested, fully supplied, and intact in body.
Breakfast with my dad (my mom was still stacking zzzz's, having slept fitfully due to painful sciatica) went well, as did the hour or so I spent with both parents before my departure. I wished silently that I had had the motel's French toast for dinner the previous night instead of the subpar Italian grub. I made my goodbyes and headed home without incident or delay. My contacts held firm through an end-of-journey pit stop at Paramus Park and Barnes & Noble, and I finally extracted these journeyman slivers of plastic upon reaching my apartment. It's good to see that, if all else fails, this plan is viable and I won't go blind as a result.
Thursday had another gentle surprise for me. While getting my ass in gear for work this morning, I could not find my transit passes or my work IDs. I have two of each. Normally I keep them in my work bag when I am home, and in my pants or shirt pocket while at work. After 20 minutes of increasingly frantic searching, I came to the possible conclusion that I left them in one of the shirts I brought to the dry cleaners on Tuesday before heading south. I had written my phone number on the back of the transit passes, along with reward promises, but when I called the cleaners this morning they reported no returned items of that nature. They also said, however, that items identifiable as belonging to a specific customer would return attached to the order, so I might have a shot at retrieving them when the job came back. As of this evening, however, they are not back, so I will have to wait until Saturday to determine if I need to dig deep for a new round of ID and passes.
Cutting short a vacation because of visual and balance issues is one thing, irritating (if, in the first case, self inflicted) but not damaging. The first was resolvable upon return home, and the second was shown in the past to fade with time and the exercises I did during the 2005 incident. I was not eager to lay out more cash for new transit passes. Granted, I could buy shorter-term passes and not be on the hook for a full month's worth, but still, it's cash I would much rather save for the future. Paying the reward I had posted on the original passes (I figured I needed to give the finder an incentive not to use them or sell them) would set me back $30, still less than what new passes will cost. So I am very much rooting for a nice surprise this coming Saturday.
Ultimately, however, these are minor issues. I still have my overall health. No lives were lost, nor were more important IDs, like my driver's license, or a credit card. It took me 7 years of travel in and out of the city to lose any of the passes I use on NJ Transit or to get into the office. Most folks lose at least one MetroCard every couple of years. If after 3 years of eating in a college commissary didn't steel me to the occasional shitty meal, then I've clearly been very sheltered. I did get to see my parents and the shore. I fully realize that having these as my biggest problems is a vain boast in light of the grinding poverty, rampant disease, and grievous social injustice facing millions of people across the world. It's just having these things happen one after another without pause that gets to be a drag. I did pull myself out of the morass of negativity over the course of the evening, though, and writing about it has helped vent it. With any luck, I can make this Friday much brighter, address the result of the lost ID/passes this Saturday one way or the other, welcome my parents home from the shore, and enjoy their irreplaceable selves on Sunday for dinner. I have a ton of good in my life, and I can take lessons and survive these bumps in the road.