Monday, August 8, 2011

Sleeping in the Grand Marquis. The car, not the hotel.

There are times in life where I find myself in a moment of clarity (trust me, it doesn't happen too often) and I will look around and think "What the fuck are you doing?" Happened quite a few times in Vegas, usually when I found myself wandering through the casino floor at 3am without any pants on - but that is a story for another time. (A time which is coming soon, don't you worry.)

Last week (which was admittedly, a doozy) it also happened at Boston's Logan Airport. I was just back from Vegas, where I had not slept more than a few hours at a time for days on end. I was exhausted, dehydrated from all of the disgusting recirculated air, and probably on the brink of scurvy from vitamin deficiency. I had driven through the night to pick up the kids, and now I was bringing them back to Boston for our trip home. The kids and I had a 6 am flight, so I had planned it all out in my mind: day at the museum, dinner with friends, return rental car, sleep at airport hotel, catch 6 am flight. As I sat in the Museum of Science that afternoon I pulled up a travel site on my phone and made a reservation for that night. It took a few tries - something was wonky with their search engine, or maybe with my phone reception, but whatever it was I finally worked it out, got a confirmation number, and we went off to dinner.

After dinner, as darkness fell on the streets of Boston, we said goodbye to our friends and drove off towards Logan to return the rental car. Before getting on the highway, I pulled over to get the address of the hotel I had reserved, thinking we would check in, drop our bags, and then return the car - that way I wouldn't have to schlep 3 suitcases and 4 carry-ons all over creation. I pulled up my email to find the information, and discovered that......there was no confirmation email.


I called the website on which I had made the reservation, and was cheerfully informed that while I did get the screen that said I was confirmed, and had a booking number, I did not actually have a reservation. I looked at the clock. 8:45pm. I had to return the car, and would have to straighten this all out afterwards. Big airport, lots of hotels to choose from, no problem  but what a pain in the ass. We stopped for gas, returned the car, got our bags out, hopped on the shuttle to the airport, and went inside to the booth that had phones for all the airport hotels. I scanned the list and started calling all of the properties that I thought we could afford. No answer. Busy. No answer. Sold out. Sold out. $359 a night. Sold out.

Oh. Fuck.

To my credit, I did not collapse in sobs on the floor. Instead, we went up to the ticketing counter to try to check our bags for the flight the next morning - my thinking being if I could just get rid of these damn bags, I would have less to keep track of, and we could just hop on an airport hotel shuttle bus and go crash for a few hours. Every motel in Boston could not be sold out. That would be ridiculous. Then I checked the time.

It was 10pm.

The ticketing counter was closed.

I sat down and put my head in my hands.

That's when Lucy piped up: "Mommy, where are we going tonight?"

Because, you see, it wasn't just me sitting on my suitcase in the airport at 10 pm. I had my kids with me. And mommy had no fucking idea where we were going that night. I calculated times in my head. IF I could find a hotel room now, and IF the hotel had a shuttle, it would be, what, 30 minutes before we could get a room? An hour to get them to bed? And then wake them up again at 4? I needed a hotel close by. Preferably IN the airport.

I looked up and saw "HOTEL" with an arrow. It was like a miracle.

"We are going to the Hotel!" I said it cheerfully, even though I knew that walking up to the desk of this fancy hotel without a reservation would cost me dearly. And considering that we had - at best - 6 hours before we would have to leave the room and go back to the airport for our flight, I was pretty horrified by this turn of events.

So we dragged all of our belongings along the skybridge, through the parking garage, and into the hotel. Down long carpeted corridors, past endless conference rooms on that dizzying floral hotel carpet. Up an elevator. Down an elevator. At last we arrived at the front desk, where there was quite a crowd of people waiting to check in.

I knew it before the guy behind the desk said a word.
Sold out.

We trudged back upstairs and collapsed on the couches. The kids were remarkably cheerful. I contemplated trying to get them to sleep right there, but realistically it wasn't going to happen - we'd get tossed out shortly. "SO!" I said brightly "How do you feel about sleeping in the car?"

"Mom." Max looked at me like I was insane. "We don't have a car."
"No problem" I assured him.

We made our way back to the airport, stopping to use the bathroom and brush our teeth before "bed". We walked out the sliding doors and I headed straight for the rental agency bus parked at the curb. "Do you have cars available?"

Half an hour later, I pulled an enormous Grand Marquis into the cell lot and cut the engine. There were only a few spaces left, it was well lit and although the sign said "Maximum 30 minutes" I figured it was so busy no one would notice.

The kids were already asleep, wrapped in blankets, heads rested on pillows, full bottles of water and a basket full of snacks on the floor. I sat and stared out the windshield and felt like an absolute failure. My children - who trusted me to take care of them, to provide for them, to plan and prepare for them - were sleeping in a car, in a parking lot, and in a few hours I would have to wake them up and drive back to the airport. As I dozed off I sent a little message out to the universe: "Please don't let us get woken up by a cop shining his flashlight in here and tapping on the window." Because while it was funny in high school, I had a feeling my kids wouldn't find it amusing tonight.

(***Special thanks to the team at the Boston Logan Alamo/National office - you guys were awesome!***)

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