on travel, thoughts, and the art of short fiction

Loca Loca

In IICD Massachusetts on December 3, 2007 at 10:59 am

YESTERDAY WAS ONE OF THOSE DAYS THAT WAS TOO CRAZY TO EVEN SEEM REAL. BUT IT WAS. AND I AM SO TIRED. BUT I WILL TELL THE STORY.

SO YESTERDAY WAS OUR FIRST OFFICIAL DAY OF FUNDRAISING. IT BEGAN SIMPLY ENOUGH. MAKIKO, ALEXANDRE, ANSELMO, TAMIKA AND I HAD A PLAN. THE PLAN WAS SIMPLE. WE WERE TO GO TO WILLIAMSTOWN FOR A FEW HOURS TO FUNDRAISE DOOR-TO-DOOR AND BUSINESS TO BUSINESS. WE HAD A PERMIT, BUT WE HAD TO STOP IN AND VERIFY OUR PERMIT WITH THE POLICE DEPARTMENT. WE WERE TOLD THAT WE COULDN’T INDEED FUNDRAISE IN WILLIAMSTOWN AND THAT WE NEEDED TO COME BACK ON MONDAY TO SPEAK WITH THE SECRETARY WHO WOULD FINGERPRINT US, TAKE OUR PICTURES AND DO A FULL CRIMINAL HISTORY BACKGROUND CHECK SO THAT WE COULD FUNDRAISE. CRESTFALLEN WE HAD TO COME UP WITH ANOTHER PLAN.

WE DECIDED TO DRIVE AND HOUR AND A HALF INTO MASS TOWARDS NORTHAMPTON WHERE WE FUNDRAISED BRIEFLY THE DAY BEFORE ON WORLD AIDS DAY. SO WE ARE DRIVING AND WE DON’T HAVE A COPY OF THE DIRECTIONS BECAUSE WE WEREN’T PLANNING TO GO THERE AND WE THOUGHT WE REMEMBERED THE WAY BUT TWO HOURS LATER WE WERE IN CONNECTICUT. WE TRY AGAIN, IT IS ANNOUNCED ON THE RADIO THAT THERE IS A SNOW ADVISORY IN EFFECT. WE BECOME NERVOUS.

WE CONTINUE TO DRIVE, I AM HUNGRY, I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM, THE GAS IS LOW. THERE ARE NO GAS STATIONS. WE ARE DRIVING THROUGH SMALL TOWN AFTER EVEN SMALLER TOWN ON A SUNDAY AND ALL OF THE RINKY DINK GAS STATIONS ARE CLOSED. THE GAS LIGHT BEGINS TO BLINK AND MAKE AN OMINOUS NOISE. WE ARE ALL PANICKING. I REALLY HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM AND JUST AS THE CAR BEGINS TO PUTTER, WE SEE A CITGO AND WE ARE SAVED FOR THE MOMENT.

WE GET GAS, WE PEE, WE GRAB SNACKS AND WE ARE ON OUR WAY. WE MAKE IT INTO NORTHAMPTON IN TIME TO FUNDRAISE FOR TWENTY MINUTES BECAUSE IT’S A SUNDAY AND EVERYTHING CLOSES EARLY. AFTER FUNDRAISING FOR TWENTY MINUTES AND MAKING TWO DOLLARS WE DECIDED TO TRY TO FUNDRAISE SOME FOOD BEFORE HEADING BACK HOME. WE GO FROM SHOP TO SHOP AND WE ARE DENIED FREE FOOD. WE GET TO A CHINESE RESTAURANT. I SAY THE SPIEL, THE MAN LISTENS INTENTLY. I THINK I’VE MADE A CONNECTION, WE ARE ALL ANTICIPATING THE BIG YES, WHEN SUDDENLY THE MAN BEGINS TO SCREAM. “WHAT WHAT WHAT YOU WANT???” TAMIKA COMES UP TO HELP ME FOR BACK UP. WE TRY TO EXPLAIN THAT WE ARE WITH A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION AND THAT WE WANT FREE DINER BECAUSE WE DON’T HAVE A FOOD BUDGET AND THAT WE WILL GIVE THEM A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE RECEIPT IN EXCHANGE FOR A MEAL. THE MAN GRUNTS AND HANDS US A TEN DOLLAR GIFT RECEIPT. WE ARE CONFUSED, THERE ARE FIVE OF US, BUT WE THANK HIM AND STEP OUTSIDE TO VIEW THE MENU TO SEE WHAT TEN DOLLARS WOULD GET FIVE PEOPLE…
EGGROLLS.
WE COULD GET FIVE EGGROLLS. WE GO BACK IN AND ORDER FIVE EGGROLLS, TWO VEGETARIAN AND THREE REGULAR. A LADY FILLS OUR ORDER AND WE WAIT FOR OUR FOOD. THEN THE MANAGER RETURNS. “CAN I HELP YOU??” “OH WE JUST CAME TO USE OUR GIFT RECEIPT” I TRY TO EXPLAIN. THE MAN BEGINS TO SCREAM ONCE AGAIN AND IS CAUSING A SCENE. CUSTOMERS BEGIN TO LOOK AT US. “WHAT I THOUGHT YOU WERE A NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION, YOU ARE USING THE CARD, I THOUGHT IT WAS FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION,” EVERYONE IN THE RESTAURANT IS LOOKING AT US LIKE WE’RE CROOKS. TAMIKA TRIES TO EXPLAIN AND THE MAN BECOMES EVEN MORE IRATE. “WE CAME IN TO ASK FOR A FOOD DONATION FOR US, SO WE COULD EAT DINNER” I KEPT REPEATING. FINALLY HE GOT IT. CALMED DOWN. AND TOLD US OUR ORDER WOULD BE OUT IN A MOMENT. EVERYONE IN THE SMALL RESTAURANT CONTINUED TO STARE AT US. WE GET OUR EGGROLLS AND BOUNCE!

WE ARE DRIVING AND IT BEGINS TO SNOW. THE ROAD IS SLICK. WE ARE SLIDING. I’M DRIVING A RENTAL CAR. I CAN’T FIGURE OUT HOW TO HEAT THE WINDSHIELD. ICE IS FORMING ON THE WINDSHIELD. I CAN’T SEE PROPERLY. WE ARE SLIPPING. THE WINTER STORM ADVISORY IS ON EVERY STATION. I FINALLY FIGURE OUT HOW TO USE THE BRIGHTS AND TAMIKA FIGURES OUT HOW TO DEFROST THE WINDSHIELD. WE ARE DRIVING. GOOD MUSIC IS PLAYING. WE ARE SINGING AND LAUGHING AND JOKING.

I NARROWLY MISS HITTING A SMALL UNIDENTIFIABLE ANIMAL. BUT ALL IS WELL. AS WE GET CLOSER TO OUR MOUNTAIN, WE DECIDE THAT WE WILL DRIVE THE CAR 1/2 MILE UP THE HILL (AS WE HAVE BEEN ADVISED NOT TO DO IN THE SNOW) BECAUSE WE ALL WANTED TO GRAB OUR LAPTOPS AND GO INTO TOWN TO CHECK THE INTERNET. IT TAKES 20 MINUTES TO WALK UP AND DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. THE CAR WAS HANDLING WELL. IT SOUNDED LIKE A GOOD IDEA. I BEGIN TO DRIVE UP THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN. ALL IS WELL. SUDDENLY AS SOON AS I ANNOUNCE THAT DRIVING UP THE MOUNTAIN IS EASY THE CAR SPINS OUT.
PANIC!!!!!!
THE CAR, THE RENTAL CAR WITH THE FIVE OF US IN IT IS SLIDING BACKWARDS DOWN A VERY STEEP AND WINDY MOUNTAIN SIDE. IT SPUN OUT AND STOPPED. WE WERE ALL SILENT. I TRIED TO DRIVE BACK UP BUT I WAS STUCK.
EVERYONE JUMPS OUT EXCEPT ME. MIND YOU OUR TWO MEN WERE FROM BRAZIL AND MOZAMBIQUE AND HAD NO EXPERIENCE DRIVING IN THE SNOW, YET THEY WERE MEN, AND MEN ALWAYS THINK THEY KNOW WHAT TO DO IN THESE SITUATIONS. SO THUS BEGAN THE TWO-HOUR TANGO THAT BECAME OUR STRUGGLE UP AND DOWN THE MOUNTAIN.

OUR FIRST TACTIC WAS TO GET THE CAR UP. I TRIED NEUTRAL, I TRIED ONE AND TWO. NOTHING! PEOPLE WERE SCREAMING IN PORTUGUESE AND ENGLISH AND I WAS BEHIND THE WHEEL PANICKING. I WAS TOLD TO TURN MY WHEELS TO THE RIGHT AND TO THE LEFT BUT THE BACK WHEELS WEREN’T WORKING AT ALL.

NEW TACTIC.
DOWN THE HILL. TAMIKA BEGAN TO CONTROL THE SITUATION. THE MEN WERE MAKING NO SENSE. I PUT THE CAR IN REVERSE AS DIRECTED AND BEGAN TO BACK THE CAR SLOWLY. ANSELMO AND ALEXANDRE GUIDED THE BACK OF THE CAR. PROGRESS WAS GAINED AND THEN LOST. THE WHEELS SPUN AND SCREECHED. THEN, ANSELMO, HAD THE BRIGHT IDEA TO GATHER TALL WEEDS FROM THE FOREST TO PUT UNDER ALL FOUR WHEELS TO PROVIDE TRACTION. EVERYONE LEAVES ME AND RUNS INTO THE WOODS TO GATHER WEEDS.

THE TIRES HAVE BEEN SURROUNDED BY WEEDS AND STILL THEY DON’T WORK. SUDDENLY I HEAR TAMIKA SAY. WE CAN’T HAVE HER DRIVE ANYMORE BECAUSE THE CAR WILL SLIDE DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. WHAT I SAY?? ARE YOU ALL TRYING TO KILL ME? I’M IN THE CAR, YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE ME SLIDE DOWN THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN.
NO DON’T WORRY THEY ALL SAY. WE’LL SUPPORT THE CAR, JUST CUT THE WHEELS THIS WAY AND BACK UP SLOWLY AND WE’LL DIRECT THE CAR. I REFUSE.
I’M THE ONLY ONE WHO CAN DRIVE THOUGH SO EVENTUALLY I HAD NO CHOICE BUT TO COMPLY WITH THEIR PLAN.
WE TANGO, UP AND DOWN, BACK AND FORTH AND FINALLY. I AM ABLE TO GET UNSTUCK AND TOGETHER, I AM DRIVING AS EVERYONE IS PUSHING THE CAR. WE MAKE IT DOWN THE HILL AND PARK THE HEINOUS VEHICLE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE ROAD OFF OF ROUTE 43.

NOW WE HAVE THE FUN TASK OF CLIMBING BACK UP THE SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN. IN THE SNOW AND ICE. WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY EXHAUSTED.

WE MAKE IT THOUGH AND HEAD TO THE CAFETERIA FOR DINNER. DINNER AT EIGHT! WE TAKE OUT THE EGGROLLS THAT WE WERE ABLE TO FUNDRAISE AND IT TURNS OUT THERE WERE NO VEGETARIAN ROLLS AT ALL. I FOUND THIS OUT AS I BIT INTO MINE. THE FIRST FEW BITES WERE FINE. THEN SUDDENLY I HIT PORK. PINK NASTY PORK, A VEGETARIANS NIGHTMARE. SO THE WORST PART COMES NEXT. WE HAVE A WOMAN ON THE MOUNTAIN WHOM I WILL REFER TO AS C SHE’S OUR RESIDENT CRAZY AND SHE’S ALSO A STRICT VEGETARIAN. SHE WANDERS OVER TO OUR TABLE. “OH YOU HAVE FOOD”. YES BUT THERE IS MEAT IN IT I SAY. SHE DOESN’T HEAR OR UNDERSTAND ME AND TAKES ONE. “NO C, THERE IS MEAT IN THE EGGROLL, DON’T …” I’TS TOO LATE SHE HAS TAKEN A BITE AND TO MY HORROR SHE CLOSES HER EYES, SWAYS FROM RIGHT TO LEFT AND SAYS MMMMMM…
IT’S TOO MUCH; I CAN’T CONTAIN MYSELF AND BEGIN TO SQUEAL AND SHRIEK WITH LAUGHTER. MAKIKO AND TAMIKA ARE KICKING ME FROM UNDER THE TABLE. IT’S NO USE. I AM OUT OF CONTROL.
“WHAT IS IT? WHAT’S THE MATTER?? IT’S THE MOON YOU ARE CRAZY BECAUSE OF THE MOON,” SHE SAYS BEFORE GRABBING ANOTHER EGGROLL.

I REMOVED MYSELF FROM THE ROOM QUICKLY BEFORE I WET MY PANTS AND STUMBLED HOME IN THE SNOW, COLD, WET, HUNGRY AND EXTREMELY AMUSED.

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