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Running On Fumes

This post is supposed to be a clever and well-thought-out summary of my day trip to another state which consisted of a lot of speed-walking, flying, conference room meeting, and driving through a city of four million with one other individual. Between the two of us, we had $18.00 in cash and a couple of company-provided credit cards (which in my mind are a joke, since we have to pay the bills with our own hard-earned money and then spend untold amounts of time and mental effort submitting expense reports via the expense reporting system whose password requirements rival the mathematics segment of the SAT). We also had no earthly idea how to navigate the numerous highway loops, and our professional relationship turned to friendship as we commiserated over the fact that the locals always fail to explain to tourists that when the identifying road signs change directions with absolutely no warning or posted logical reason, it doesn't mean anything other than OH YEAH, YOU'RE ON A LOOP. Hey, locals: you might want to mention this to the schmucky Midwestern visitors to your sprawling metropolis. It would help prevent a lot of roadway angst, and that can only benefit us all.

I have a lot more clever and well-thought-out things to say about "day trips" and how they are not only NOT ANY EASIER than longer trips, but arguably MORE DIFFICULT than longer trips, but the thoughts are all bouncing around inside my brain, which has been inundated with way too much madness since my return. My mother-in-law called John out of the blue and invited Bryce over for the afternoon (hey, this has nothing to do with the fact that her favorite daughter is moving away next week and she's angry as hell about it - she's obviously just being selfless and helpful, so you stop it with your evil suggestions), and dropped him off just as I was arriving home from my 13-hour "day trip" (which, now that I think about it, in business hours, was technically closer to being a "day and a half" trip).

As I pulled up to my usual parking spot in the driveway --oops, but no! That's not what happened, is it? No. No, the mother-in-law was parked there, in her VERY FAVORITE spot, my spot, because the spot directly behind John's car would be way too logical - what if John decides to go run an errand -- or worse, flee the country -- right when she's there? Why, he'd never be able to back out of the driveway if she were parked behind him. No bother! She can just park in Kristen's spot and Kristen can find a lovely oil-stained place on the street when she arrives back at her OWN HOUSE after traveling all day and not eating or seeing her kids since the night before. And Kristen will definitely want to spend an hour discussing the logistics of all of the upcoming family birthday parties as SOON as she walks in from the airport and stumbles all over herself pulling her ridiculously heavy laptop bag out of the front seat, over the cumbersome console, and out the door, tripping over the curb that she parked next to since HER NORMAL SMOOTH DRIVEWAY SPOT WAS TAKEN, because saying hi to her kids and her husband definitely won't be on the list of things she'll want to do - nope, talking about unplanned birthday parties so that her mother-in-law can update her all-important agenda book was exactly the thing she'd been hoping she could answer unending questions about while still in her uncomfortable work clothes and while her dry, torn contacts further irritate her eyes.

What added to the experience was the fact that this day, the travel day, the mother-in-law stopping by to drill me after 13 hours of running, was the day we'd scheduled a tile restoration in the master bathroom. I walked in to a contractor coming in and out of our front door at seemingly random intervals; Bryce wildly running around the house with an open individual portion of Teddy Grahams; Quinn alternating between playing hide-and-seek (with no one), smashing Goldfish crackers into the rug, and punching the air an inch away from people's legs and arms (to express dissatisfaction in the lack of hide-and-seek cooperation); and John avoiding all of it in his upstairs office praying for the gods to enlighten him with a legitimate excuse to stay up there for the next two hours. The contractor was cleaning up his materials: "Oh, and you won't be able to use the bathroom until Sunday - you'll want to leave the fan on and put a towel under the door if you have trouble sleeping in that room right next to all the poisonous fumes." Then it hit me. It couldn't have hit me before because my brain was no longer capable of transmitting all of the stimuli after 13 hours of travel survival, but once the contractor pointed out the whole needing to shove a towel under the door so we could avoid the poisonous fumes thing, THEN I got it. The house smelled like nail polish. Like an entire nail polish factory, really. Every time I took a breath to answer another god-forsaken birthday party question in my most polite and patient voice, the nail polish smell emanating from the chemical-covered tiles in our bathroom burned my throat and eyes, the kids got louder and ran in more random directions, and John's developmentally disabled and excitable sister (who accompanies his mom most of the time) used what we around here call an outside voice to talk (I mean "shout," as is her innocent way that, while innocent, also makes me edgy) about a subject completely unrelated to any of the other ten million stimulants in the immediate environment.

The whole scene was utter and complete chaos. So, pretty much par for the course around here, I guess. At work the next day, I was informed that the next few months will entail several more business trips. No more than a week at a time! they say with the same nonchalant tone of voice they used to convince me about the joys and ease of a "day trip." Normally after such a harrowing experience, I'd be more suspicious of their cheerful promises, but I have slept under a fuming cloud of poison recently, so who knows what's what anymore?

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