Monday, July 2, 2012

The Ambien Way

As I stepped out into the darkness of the night from the stifling closeness of the car, I had two things on my mind: Greg Brooks and a place to sleep.  I am paraphrasing the opening line of one of my favorite books because in the course of one day I became an Outsider, greasy hair and all.  The longest night of this year wasn't December 21st. It wasn't the night I fought off ghosts in Helensburgh, Scotland. It wasn't even the night I waited up for Greg to come home from drinking with new Scottish buds. It was the night the kids and I spent in the family truckster on Fripp Island, only ten feet from our beach house, but as homeless as it gets.  I could blame exhaustion or the aftereffects of Ambien (I have an argument for both), but the truth was my old pal, indecision, had returned. 

I had arranged a place for us to rest our heads for thirty-eight nights in a row without a hitch, but I slipped on July 1st.  My original plan was to leave Disney World around noon and drive toward Savannah where we would spend Sunday night in a cheap motel before returning to Fripp Island.  After picking up our dog, Ginger, at the Dempsey's Farm, we were to spend Monday night with our next-door neighbors so we could catch up with them and pick up some personal items stored at our rental house to take back home.  The flaw in the plan came when Emma cried to see Ginger and Greg was invited to jam in the Dempsey's Juke Joint.  Suddenly, we were headed straight for the Beaufort area.  

This is where I didn't think things through... Instead of calling a friend, neighbor or hotel about sleeping arrangements for one night as Greg suggested, I said, "We'll decide what to do when we get there.  Let's just get there."  Going with the flow is great unless there's a waterfall ahead.  

The elation of the reunion between kids and dog delayed any decision for at least an hour after arriving around 6:30 p.m.  (The Dempsey family had loved our dog for over a month and I can't express our gratitude.  What a treat for a dog to stay on a farm!)  After dinner, the kids played games and Greg played music.  I stood-by in complete indecision.  Where should we go?  Back to Beaufort to look for a pet-friendly motel or call our neighbors about arriving one night early?  Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock.  I had nothing.  My mind was mush and felt like the day we arrived in Inverness, Scotland after three consecutive nights of adjusting to Greenwich Mean time with the help of Ambien, a sedative/hypnotic my doctor had prescribed for insomnia.  How could such a tiny pill wreck so much havoc?  After the long train ride, I got lost in my mind and couldn't understand what the Scot was saying over the phone about which bus to take for Drumnadrochit.  Then, I was almost ran over twice as I wheeled my cumbersome luggage across the cobblestone streets.  My brain couldn't grasp simple directions nor remember "Look right, left, right" when crossing the street.  It was not a good feeling.    

Around eight o'clock, I texted our neighbors, Mary and Steve and waited.  I heard nothing.  I called their home and cell numbers around 8:30. I got no answer.  I listened to the live music and visited with friends while another hour went by...  I was so tired that I just wanted to go to our own home on Fripp, but it was rented.  (Darn, the need of income!)  When I glanced at the clock again, it was almost 10 o'clock!  

I gathered the kids and pup.  Greg, still juking, wanted to play music longer and assured me that he would sleep on a fellow musician's couch and not to worry about him.  He was so happy to be playing the drums and guitar again that I didn't argue.  Pulling out of the farm as lightning lit up a live oak like a Christmas tree, I had to commit: turn left and head to Beaufort or turn right and head to Fripp.  I turned right.

Driving over the one lane bridge that some jerk painted a yellow line down the middle*, I realized I hadn't been behind the wheel for over a month.  Luckily, I met no cars and managed to handle the bumps and bounces of Hunting Island without hitting a deer or raccoon.  As we crossed the Fripp Island bridge, the rain began to fall.  I was so relieved to pull into our neighbor's drive that I didn't care there were no lights on inside.  I ran through the rain to the front porch and rang the doorbell, then knocked, but got no answer.  I stood, undercover, staring at my home next door and could feel my own warm, dry bed under my body.  I closed my eyes and imagined curling up under my duvet and drifting off to sleep... Again, I weighed my options: drive this huge, loaded down vehicle back over four islands in the rain to find a dog-friendly motel at midnight with three exhausted kids OR sleep in my neighbor's driveway on a private, gated island 10 feet from property I own and 50 feet from a bathroom and pool where we could relax first thing in the morning? Well, what would you have done?  

Climbing back into the family truckster, dripping wet, I smiled at the kids just as thunder boomed overhead.  "How would y'all like to adventure sleep tonight?"

I saw panic strike my youngest's face as she said, "Are Mr. Steve and Miss Mary not here?  Where are we going to sleep?"

I tried to sell my rationalized decision.  "When I was a kid, we used to go camping all the time.  but almost every time we went, it would rain.  Then, our tent would start leaking and we always ended up sleeping in the car.  It was fun!  We called it adventure sleeping."  My kids stared at me like I'd grown two heads, but I continued,  "Look, we all have our own pillows and blankets.  Let's watch Harry Potter on my laptop while it's storming and go to sleep.  I'll bet Mr. Steve will pull up any minute and invite us inside, but if he doesn't, just think of the laugh Miss Mary will get when she hears we slept in her driveway!"  Finally, Emma smiled at the thought of Mary laughing at our silly predicament. 

Snug as a bug in a car on the driveway...
Anabel claimed the third row seat while Emma and Ginger shared the middle row.  Wyatt and I reclined our bucket seats back and I placed the laptop playing, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on the console between us.  By the time Hagrid announced, "You're a wizard, Harry," my three children and one dog were sound asleep.  I twisted and turned in my seat, listening to the storm and the movie, and stared at my house.  It amazed me how one day of indecision can affect my outlook on life. Greg and I had navigated the British rail system, flown from Los Angeles to London, and driven thousands of miles across North America, but the one word that haunted me that night was FAILURE. I have difficulty with negative nighttime thoughts in a snug bed; As the steering wheel gouged into my side, I was racked with contrary judgements of my every move.  

The main thought that plagued my mind was: What would Greg say when he learned about this?  Suddenly, I was no longer indecisive.  Greg must never learn of this night's debacle; I would never hear the end of it, if he did.  I passed well over an hour thinking how to convince the kids not to mention this episode to anyone, especially their dad, without asking them to outright lie about it.

The rain stopped around one in the morning.  The kids were still snoozing while Ginger and I took a bathroom break.  I let myself into the deserted Cabana Club with my Fripp Club member card and stretched out on a lounge chair as a rain drop hit my head and my phone buzzed.  It was a text from Greg:

"Hey.  I'm iny way there're." (Damn it!  I couldn't hide my folly if he showed up!)

"What?  Don't come here."

"Tom is bringing me there."

In total panic... "No!"

"What? Eth?"  I think his fingers grew bigger with each beer.  Drunk or not, the jig was up.  I decided to come clean:

"Kids asleep in car.  Steve not here.  Go to Tom's."


"I'll get you in the a.m."

"Call me."

So I called him and explained my night of poor decision-making.  Surprisingly, he wasn't mad; just a little embarrassed.  He had bragged on what a seasoned traveler I was and how, thanks to my great planning, we had seamlessly traversed all of Great Britain.  In less than one day, I had gone from the bonus high of organizing a free Disney trip to homeless and sleeping in the car in someone's driveway.  This was definitely a humbling evening.  

After five more sleepless hours and one more bathroom break, I figured it was time for breakfast and started the car.  The kids soon roused and we headed to pick up Greg and grab a good southern breakfast.  Staying awake all night really made me hungry!  By seven, we were tucked into the Blackstone Cafe in historic Beaufort with our mouths watering from the smell of bacon and the thought of creamy, buttery grits.  As I placed my napkin in my lap, I realized my wedding rings were not on my finger.  I vaguely remembered taking them off sometime during the night and stuffing them in my pocket. (Thank you, Humidity, for the swollen fingers!)  Reaching in my pocket, I felt my wedding band, but no solitaire.  My mind raced and my appetite vanished.  Where could my diamond be?  Not wanting to alarm Greg, or ruin his returned good humor about last night, I shuffled my food around my plate while everyone else ate and bided my time.  

I created a diversion when we reached the car by letting Ginger out.  (Nothing like a loose dog in a downtown area to buy you some time.)  My stealth search of the car revealed no ring.  There were only two places I had visited where the ring could be: the Cabana Club's bathroom or the lounge chair.  I drove like a mad woman on no sleep (not a stretch) for the nineteen miles back to Fripp.  Greg kept asking me what was wrong and I just blamed exhaustion.  How could I tell him that my stupid decision had caused me to lose my engagement ring that once belonged to his mother?

Pulling back into Steve's driveway, I faked an upset stomach and ran the 50 feet to the Cabana Club.  I shamelessly crawled the bathroom floor.  Nothing, but germs.  When I went to check the lounge chair, the pool crew was cleaning the area so I told them my story.  The kind lady-in-charge promised they would keep an eye out and assured me they were an honest bunch.  Fighting tears, I returned to the car to retrace my steps, but felt it was hopeless.  My mind was foggy, but I closed my eyes and tried to picture the moment I had removed my rings.  I climbed into the car and reclined the seat as I had the night before... I put my hand in my pocket, pretended something slipped, and reached into the seat crevasse behind me and... pulled out my diamond ring!  Greg and the kids found me beside the car on my hands and knees thanking God for His protection as in the old adage, God protects fools and children.  Most assuredly, I was a fool that night.  

The ironic part of the whole fiasco was: our neighbor's door was unlocked the whole time!  This year has been about our family turning doorknobs on other planets, but I never thought to try the one next door.  Steve had unexpectedly slept at his son's house due to the storm, but came home early to prepare for our and his grandkids' arrival.  He smiled as he asked me, "Why didn't you just open the door?"   Everyone, especially Mary, got a belly laugh at my expense, but I didn't mind.  I had my ring, my family and a great story.  What more could a person want?

Neighbor's Driveway where we slept.
Can you spot our yellow house next door?

*Thank you, Bill, for the use of your perfect description of the Harbor Island Bridge.

1 comment:

  1. This is hilarious! What a story with lots of twists and turns. I am so glad that you found your wedding ring, too. You were creating memories! A camp out in the car with Harry Potter doesn't sound like a bad way to spend a rainy night to me. :)

    Thanks so much for linking up with us for "Finding the Funny"! I hope you stop by the first Wednesday of February, too!


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