Tuesday, August 23, 2011

GPS = Got Played, Sucker

Yesterday was my kids' first day of school. I wasn't home for their triumphant return to the hallowed halls of education, however.

Yesterday morning dawned with me passed out in a bed at the Marriott in Portland, Oregon. A bed I had climbed into around 4am.
Nice bed. Wish I had been in it for more than two hours. But you see, there were $6 steaks and $10 pitchers and naked women that smelled like unicorns, and something called "Stripperaoke".

So I had been up late. What can I say? Priorities.

Because we had an 8:45am flight, we had to be up and at 'em early. So when the buzzer went off at 6am I fumbled around, found a button that silenced the alarm, and hit the shower. There were two girls asleep in the next bed, and another couple on the sleeper sofa. I figured if I got in the shower first, I would have the best shot at getting to a Starbucks before we left for the airport.

I pulled on some sweatpants and a tshirt, completely forgoing a bra (all the better to avoid a delay at security!) and stuffed everything into my bag, then headed downstairs to get the car from where it had been parked down the block. Dawn was breaking, and one by one, rollergirls were emerging from their rooms. Limping, silent and bleary eyed, covered in bruises and still sort of drunk, they assembled in the lobby slowly, standing up gingerly only to get a cup of coffee from one of the thermoses on the counter. I watched them through the plate glass windows as I walked along the sidewalk in front of the hotel, sprawled out across sofas and squatting on suitcases. One girl was talking up the front desk staff.

I parked the car in front of the hotel and  tossed the keys to one of my passengers as I headed towards the elevator to get my bags and make sure my roommates were out of bed."Good Morning" I whispered as I pushed open the door, trying to speak softly so as not to alarm or startle anyone in the still-dark suite. People were just starting to rally, so I gave everyone the heads up that one of the other cars was about to leave, and I headed back down to start putting bags in the trunk. When I got back to the loading zone where I had left the car, I found the doors open, the tailgate up, trash blowing out of the backseat, suitcases on their side, and one small, Conversed foot sticking out of the back door:

Clearly this was going to be more difficult than I had anticipated. As I approached the open tailgate, the first car full of teammates drove off to the airport. The girls in that car liked to get checked in early, and have some time to eat - so after surveying their bleary-eyed fellow travelers, they made the decision to hit the road and let everyone else work their shit out and get to the airport in their own time - or not.

And to be honest, it wasn't looking good for my car. Our flight left in two hours, the gas gauge was on empty, two of the girls were still in bed, another one was passed out in the backseat, and I had no idea where the airport was. I also had no idea when rush hour was, but I had a feeling we were about to get royally screwed.

Typing "PDX" into the navigation system on my phone, I was relieved to find that we only had about 15 minutes of driving. We were the last car to hit the road, but the GPS wasn't making any sense. It kept "recalculating" and sending us in different directions, and after a few minutes of driving in circles trying to follow the GPS map, I found myself behind another car carrying our teammates, heading over the bridge towards the airport. The GPS warned me that I had a left-hand turn coming up, so I slowed down to a crawl, turned on my blinker, and started to turn left, following the rental car in front of me. Which was when I realized that we were turning onto a one-way, multi-lane street - heading the wrong way. I swerved out of the turn and back onto the road, and headed to the next light, while the car I had been following, the one carrying my teammates, continued into the oncoming traffic.

I watched in horror, but quickly had to turn back to the road in front of me and follow signs through the road construction to the highway. I was suddenly concerned that perhaps no one was going to make it to the airport on time. Between traffic, road construction, and a homicidal navigation system, it was looking pretty bleak. Which was when I got the text from the car that had left first, all organized and put together and early:

"GPS sent us to the wrong airport. 45 minutes away. Stuck in traffic. Hold the plane."

It took us a few minutes to process. The wrong airport. Rush hour traffic. I panicked. "What if we are going to the wrong airport too? Oh my god, someone please make sure we are going to the right airport." everyone was reading the passing signs, and suddenly one of the girls pointed - "That sign says PDX - we're in the right place." I took a deep breath, but I didn't feel any better. I dropped everyone off and went to return the car, asking Jersey to print out my boarding pass for me since I just had a carry on bag anyway, and I needed a minute to myself.

The woman checking in the cars scanned my windshield, then put down her scanner on the hood of the car and put her hands on her hips. "What's your name?"

I froze, and looked up from the backseat, where I had methodically been going through pockets and bins to make sure we had removed all of our belongings. I had just found a ziplock with something that smelled suspiciously like a pot cookie and contemplated eating it, but now I was sure I was about to be arrested for contraband baked goods, and had lost my appetite. I threw the baggie under the seat.

"What? Why? What's wrong?"

"This is the THIRD CAR that has been returned this morning under this name. Am I on Candid Camera or something?"

"Oh, no. Sorry. I reserved 4 cars for our team under my name. There is actually one more on it's way back here.....sometime."

She looked relieved. "So I'm not crazy?"

"Well, I'm no mental health professional, but I can tell you this - you are going to have 4 cars returned with the same renter's name on each car." Now that I knew I wasn't about to get frisked, I was busy digging the ziplock out from under the seat where it was lodged in the track. That cookie was mine.

"Okay." She was tapping away on her scanner. "It won't let me check your car back in."

I yanked the bag free and eyed her warily. "Why not?"

"I don't know." She was cheerful, and smiled as she handed me a slip of paper. "Just bring this downstairs."

I threw away the trash and the cookie, and headed off to the rental desk in a sour mood. They fixed whatever was broken, processed the return, and I walked towards the terminal and the security checkpoint. I was so paranoid that my hands would smell like pot cookie, I could barely meet the TSA agent's eyes. I grabbed a sandwich and some magazines and walked slowly to the gate, where they had begun boarding. As we stood in line, the girls in the misguided car came running through the airport, carrying their shoes, dragging their bags, jackets and scarves trailing behind them, tearful and breathless. We hugged and cheered and everyone got on the plane. Or almost everyone.

When we landed safely 6 hours later, we found out that two of our skaters had fallen asleep at the airport and missed their flight.

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