Monday, February 28, 2011

taken for a (boat) ride

This morning I interrupt my already busy day to go to the Motor Vehicle Registration place. It is packed. I take a number. It shows #202 and they are currently serving #166. My business is very important to them and they appreciate my patience. If I could please refrain from leaving the premises, it would be appreciated.

One hour, twenty minutes later.

Carol: (over the loudspeaker) Number 4, please?

Me: (closing my magazine and walking over) I need to renew the tags on one of my vehicles.

Carol: Okay. Where's your registration form?

Me: (holding it up) Right here. But I have a question. I alrady renewed my other car and my husband's motorcyle online earlier this month. But when I went to renew this car, I found that for the second year in a row, I didn't have a PIN number to renew this car online. So I had to come all the way here anyway. 

Carol:  (yawning) Mmm hmm.

Me: (handing over my registration info) The whole purpose of renewing your tags online is so you don't HAVE to come down here during work hours. I happily pay the extra $4.00 fee for the online thing, and yet I STILL have to come here.

Carol: (takes my paperwork and clicks away on her keyboard) Yes, there isn'a a PIN number associated with this vehicle, but I can't tell you why. You'd have to go through the department in...wait a minute.(Knits her brows together in confusion)

Me:  What?

Carol:  This registration says "Hubs Antisdel".  Who is Hubs?

Me: My husband. But I can still pay for the registration on his car can't I?

Carol: Yeah, yeah. I'm just... (leaning in to toward the computer screen.) He's the one with the boat, then?

Me: Beg your pardon?

Carol: The boat. That's his?

Me: We don't have a boat.

Carol: (shrugging) The computer says you do. 1982 Galaxy blue boat. See, you haven't paid the registration on it for the last two years. That's why they're forcing you to come down here.

Me: (wringing my magazine in my hands) We. Don't. Have. A. Boat.
Carol: (ignoring me) You owe $229.74 in taxes on the boat, and you have to pay it today with your other car's registration.

Me: I am not paying $229 for the registration on a boat that isn't MINE!

Carol: It's in the computer.

Me: (exasperated) The computer is wrong.

Carol: (smirking) Maybe your husband has a boat you don't know about? You can go call, you won't lose your place in line.

Several minutes later, Hubs has convinced his very concerned wife that no, he has never owned a 1982 Galaxy boat. Also, he is no way affiliated with a secret government agency, nor does he have ane extra wife stashed somewhere. While ending the conversation with Hubs, Carol motions for me to come back.

Me: (stuffing the phone in my purse and approaching the counter) Yes?

Carol: (smiles) It was a glitch. You don't have a boat.

Me: No kidding.

Carol: So you'll just need to pay for the Scion. $167.75.

Me: (handing her my credit card) So I've been down here for two hours because of a glitch that the state made two years in a row?

Carol: (unphased) It isn't this office that handles all that.  Oh, by the way, there's a 2.5% convencience charge for credit cards. Plus the $3.00 convencinece charge of using this annex to do your registration. So total, that's $7.30 additional for the convenience charges. Is that okay?

Me: (smoke emitting  from my ears) So I have to pay more for the CONVENIENCE of coming down here than I would have had to pay for doing this onlinefrom my home? But I couldn't do this online because the State had a "glitch." Can you at least comp me these charges since it isn't my fault for the mistake?

Carol: No.

Me: Awesome. Thanks so much.

Carol: (motioning toward my left arm) Hey, is that Khloe Kardashian on your magazine?

Me: No, it's Katy Perry.

Carol: Oh. She kind of looks like you.

Me: Thanks.

Carol: I always wonder how they get their chest up so high. It's probably a special bra or something.

Me: I gotta go.

***

I have no clever remarks about this experience today. I will instead just tell you that for lunch I got the hugest bucket of Dr. Pepper Chick Fil A had to offer, with a gigantic box of chicken nuggets and waffle fries.

That is all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

an ode to my valentine

It's Valentine's Day! After years of disappointments and anxiety about this holiday, I relish the calmness and security it now provides me. And that is, of course, all due to Hubs. 

Hubs, thank you. For loving me, for accepting me, and for...

1) Turning up the music when it's my fave song (even though you hate it).

2) Making a trip to the grocery store, just to buy my favorite soda.

3) Accepting that Mexican food has to be eaten at least twice a week, whether you like it or not.

4) Putting up with my blogs that recount stories about a guy you'd rather forget. Thank you for and understanding that my readers demand it, and so I provide it. And that really, they're pretty damn funny stories.

5) Never waiting until February 14th to tell/show/ me that I am your #1 priority.

6) Understanding when I greet both cats at the front door before I get to you.

7) Fixing my internet issues.

8) Being considerate at all hours of the day, expecting nothing in return.

9) Loving your mom.

10) Loving my mom.

11) Learning to like sushi.

12) Learning to like chick flicks.

13) Learning to like my flannel pajamas that reveal only hand and feet skin. Unless I wear socks.

14) Buying me a new red velvet cake because you polished off the last one while I was out of town.

15) Pretending my mood swings aren't that annoying.

16) Listening to me sing.

17) Answering my phone calls at work, knowing I'm going to be asking questions like, "Why do you think cats meow?" and "Where is that piece of paper I was carrying around yesterday?"

18) Being an emotional rock for me, even when you are feeling about as stable as Jell-O.

19) Pushing back your tears to attend to mine.

20) Understanding that Ibuprofen is my main food group at some point during every month...and dealing with everything else that goes along with that.

21) Vacuuming, dusting, tidying, cleaning the house 93% of the time, unacknowledged. Then practically throwing a parade in my honor when I do it the other 7% of the time.

22) Knowing how to fix a blown headlight.

23) Letting me win. Sometimes.

24) Putting the girls first.

25) Putting yourself last.


And lastly, happy birthday to the first kitty in our home, Cupcake. Two years ago when we adopted him, I was scared to death that I would never love him as much as a dog. I was way, way wrong.

If you need an amazing gift for your Valentine's Day, may I suggest adopting a pet? They will give you love and laughter for the rest of your life. And if you don't think cats are cute, just watch this...

Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I've got an axle to grind

Valentine's Day was never great for me before I met Hubs. It always seemed to be a huge disappointment, whether I was with a guy or not.

Of course, there were a few years when Valentine's Day sucked even more than usual.  Not surprisingly, those years were when I was with Ex. I don't know if he was genetically doomed to fail on V-day or if it was just a huge coincidence, but the guy had problems when it came to February 14th.

I already told you about one of our V-day train wrecks.. Now let me share another...

***

After the teeth incident, Ex and I are determined to have a better Valentine's Day than the year prior. Or at least I am. Ex doesn't really care one way or the other because "technically, we aren't together, Kim. Remember that."

Two days before the big day, I go out and buy a cute little red dress and brand new heels to wear for our date. In the back of my mind, I hear my mother warning, "Don't wear new shoes the day of an event. You need to break them in or you'll get blisters!"  But really, what does she know anyway? She'd probably tell me not to put the items on a credit card, either.

That evening I prepare like any other 21 year old girl. I skip three classes to make sure my hair is styled and shiny, my make-up expertly applied and legs shaved to perfection. I am ready to go.

At 7:00 sharp, my roommate's date knocks on the door. I usher him in, noting the huge bouquet of roses he's brought for her. Points for Cute Dark Haired Guy! R eappears from her room in a swirl of perfume and confidence, wishes me well and is out the door with her could-be future husband.

Finally, at 7:28, Ex breezes in. There's no need to knock when you're used to popping by at 2:00 am for a little snuggle, right?

I stand in the kitchen, leaning against a chair in my sexiest pose.

"Hey! Look what I have!" Ex grins and pulls a bottle of champagne out from behind his back.

"Wow, champagne! We're going to drink before we go to dinner?" I'm surprised to see champagne as an appetizer rather than a post-dinner toast. Oh well. I stick my chest out a little. "You look nice, Ex."

"Really?" He looks down at his shirt. "It's what I've been wearing all day, but thanks!" Clearly he does not realize I am fishing for a compliment.

"So what do you think of my dress?" I ask, trying to keep the edge out of my voice.

Ex crosses to the kitchen cabinet in search of glassware for the champagne. Finding none, he settles on two Pizza Shuttle plastic cups and pops the cork on the champagne bottle. He glances at me as his eyebrows knit together. "Haven't you always had that dress?"

"No," I sigh and rub my temple. "It's a brand new dress, and I bought it especially for tonight." I stop myself from berating him for not calling the last three nights. And technically, he did call last night at 3:00 am. Granted, it was to ask me the name of the middle Brady Bunch boy so he could win a bet, but a call's a call.

"Cheers!" Ex thursts a glass of the bubbling liquid into my hand. He downs three cups in the time I'm able to get one down. I immediately feel buzzed from starving myself all day to look skinny in this dress. Ex is quite tipsy, too, but I suspect he won't drive unless he feels comfortable.

I'm ushered to his SUV and we head down the road. I ask several times where we're going, but he won't provide an answer. Five minutes later, we pull into a rather expensive (on a college budget, anyway) restaurant that I've always loved.

"Ex, this is great!" I exclaim, grasping his forearm. "I can't believe you're taking me here! This is SO sweet of you!" I kick myself for being such a downer earlier. Perhaps Ex has finally turned a corner.

"Well," he squirms in his seat and won't meet my gaze. "We're going to go Dutch, right? I mean, it's cheaper to split the bill in half than have one of us pay the entire bill, right?" He looks at lap.

"Oh." I awkwardly fiddle with a crease in my dress. "I just thought this was your gift for Valentine's Day. But yeah, it's fine, I can pay for my part."  No point in ruining the night.  He did pay for the champagne after all.

Dinner is relatively drama free. There's only one moment of awkardness when I lean in for a kiss while we're awaiting our table and am denied. But I'm used to that.

After our stomachs are full, the waiter brings the check and I dig in my purse for my debit card, careful not to make a big deal out of the splitting of the check. As I lay the card on the table, I notice Ex has only laid down $5.00 cash and a sheet of paper.

"Babe, $5.00 isn't going to cover your part of the meal," I explain. "What are you doing?"

"Oh, no it's okay." Ex turns the piece of paper over, revealing a large font that scream $25.00 GIFT CERTIFICATE. "Mom gave me this gift certificate for Christmas, so I figure now's a good time to use it. This way I was able to have a few extra drinks. Cool, huh?" He smiles.

I immediatley place my steak knife under a napkin where I won't be tempted to grab it and cut off his manhood. Ex could have easily let me use the gift certificate, or at least SPLIT it with me. Instead, he's using it all for himself. Suddenly, I find myself immediately reverting back to excuses for him. To be fair, it is his Mom's gift to him, so maybe he should be allowed to use it as he wants. 

Plus, I work at a waitressing job that pays more money than Ex, and really, I am capable of paying for my own meal. This is the 21st centrury. Men don't always have to pick up the check. Maybe I'm being too hard on him. Maybe this is the best he can do. He did bring me to this restaurant knowing I loved it. I should cut him a break.

"Okay, so what's next?" I ask, averting my eyes frm the gift certificate. Perhaps the answer to my question will redeem my faith in him.

Ex plays with his ear. "I thought we'd go drive by the Campanile on campus. Just a romantic drive, ya know?" He looks up slowly to see my reaction.

"That would be fantastic!" I exclaim, a smile once again on my face. "Let's go!"

A quick five minute drive finds us at the Campanile, easily the highest point of the University. At night, it's lit up and beautiful. The perfect romantic spot. The night air is chilly and hovering below 40 degrees. Ex suggests we walk over to the Campanile to look at it more closely.

"I don't have a coat," I say. "I'll freeze!"

"Nah, I'll keep you warm. Besides, we'll just go quickly."

Then it hits me. He's totally going to ask me to be his exclusive girlfriend again. Finally, after a year and a half of ups and downs and lefts and rights, he's come to his senses. We're finally going to be a couple again.

I all but leap out of the SUV and run to the center of the Campanile. Ex lazily trails behind me, looking up at the stars and examining the tall structure.

He walks through the entrance and admires the text on the walls, telling the history of the landmark. After a beat, he approaches me, gives me a kiss and slap on the butt and says, "Pretty cool, yeah? Let's head over to the Hawk, they have $2.00 draws tonight."

So much for romanticism.

Back inside the SUV, Ex's eyes shift. This might not be good.

"Hey! Wanna do something crazy?" Usually this question is followed by the suggestion of something ife-threatening that I would never in a million years agree to.

I sigh. "I don't know, what do you want to do?" A nice make-out session in the car would work for me.

Ex tightens his hands around the wheel. "Let's drive down this friggin' hill."  His eyes gleam.

Okay, first of all, Campanile sits atop a very, very large hill. That's why it's called CAMPANILE HILL. An attempt to drive down it would be an almost 90 degree drop. No thank you. Second of all, it's illegal. I don't feel like spending the night in jail. This not having been my first illegal rodeo with Ex, I appeal to the only thing that can stop him. His love for his car.

"Seriously, that's a BIG drop," I say. "Remember what happened at the pond? You don't want that again." I'm referring to the time Ex decided to drive down a big hill near the man made pond at his house. His car had come thisclose to rolling into the water. If it had, the vehicle, his baby, would have been totaled.

"Ah, that was just a mistake in judgement! This hill isn't even that steep!" Clearly his mind is made up. He puts the car in gear. "Put your seatbelt on, and I'll show you that I know how to handle this hill. It's all about geometry, Kim."

"You failed geometry, Ex."

"But I know my car, and I know what she can handle. Hang on! HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! WOOOOOOOO!"

The Rodeo lurches forward and my stomach heaves as the vehicle hops the curb and begins its descent down the steep slope. I hope there are no uber-romantic couples laid out on the grass in a make-out section, because we'll kill them.

My hands grip the handle above the window and I silently pray to anyone who is listening that my parents not be told I died in a freak Isuzu Rodeo Hill Challenge. 

Forty heart pounding seconds later, Ex slows the SUV down. The vehicle jump the curb at the bottom of the hill and lands safely on the street below the tower. We are alive.

Ex is ecstatic. He slams his fist into the steering wheel in celebration. "I TOLD you, Kim. It's all about knowing what your car is capa-"

POP! POP!

"What the hell was that?" Shear panic crosses Ex's face as the steering wheel begins to violently shake. "The steering just...I can't steer the car! What is going on?"

The SUV heaves a resistant sigh as Ex uses all his strength to steer it to the side of the road. I instinctively search for my wallet, trying to remember if I have my AAA card with me.

Three minutes later, Ex has completed his expert analysis of the problem. "I don't know what it is," he says, dejected. "I think I popped something in the axle by the front tire. It's detached or something. I can't drive it."

I roll my eyes. "Well, what are we going to do? I just looked and my AAA card is expired. I didn't renew this year."

"Why wouldn't you renew that? You lock your keys in the car all the time, Kim." I let his comment slide, knowing he's just upset and acting out. This isn't the first time something like this has happened. I have to be the calm one or we'll get nowhere fast.

"Look, we'll call a tow truck, okay? That's all we can do."

Just then, as if on cue, a campus police car pulls along side the Rodeo. Ex rolls down the window and explains that something on his truck has broken and he's on a first date with his Valentine. Feeling sorry for my liar of a non-boyfriend, the policemen calls the cheapest tow truck he knows. He also asks if we need a ride.

"No, we've got friends that can pick us up, but thanks!"  I, of course, know Ex turned down the ride for fear the police officer would get a whiff of Ex's champagne breath and send him straight to jail.

Twenty minutes later, the Rodeo is loaded up and headed back to Ex's apartment. The two of us stand outside, scrolling through our phones to find a ride. My roommate doesn't answer. My co-workers don't answer. No one on Ex's end is picking up, either.

We are stranded.

"Well, look, I know where Scottie is," Ex reassures. "He's at the Hawk dancing, which is where we wanted to go anyway. We can just walk there and have him give us a ride home after they close."

I look at my non-boyfriend, amazed at the words coming out of his mouth. "Ex, it's only 10:30! The Hawk doesn't close until 2:00! I don't want to go drink at a BAR on Valentine's Day. I thought we were going to rent a movie and just hang out!"

"What else are we going to do, Kim? Walk home? We're at least 5 miles away from your apartment." He scoffs. "You'll never make it in those shoes." I don't know whether to be more surprised that Ex is suggesting we walk home, or that he's actually mad at me for wearing attractive footwear on a VALENTINE'S DAY DATE. 

He kicks at the dirt beneath his feet, searching for something to convince me to go with his plan.

"How about this?" he offers. "We'll go to the Hawk and try to convince Scottie to take us home. If he won't, we'll have ONE drink, and then we'll call SafeRide and they'll take us back to your place. Deal?" 

I can tell I don't have a choice. But I am fed up. I square my shoulders and look at Ex in the eyes like a parent talking to a misbehaved child.

"Fine. And thanks so much for getting us into this," I can feel my eyes blazing. "If you hadn't insisted we go down that damn hill, we'd be home by now. I really appreciate your ever-present display of maturity."

Ex isn't even phased by my tantrum. He shrugs. "Hey, I've told you a hundred times, if you think you can find a guy who's going to love you and treat you better than me, go for it. Excuse me for trying to have an adventure with you."

I have no reply. He has a point. He is usually really good to me. He did try to make this night nice. And I did have an adventure with him.  He could have chosen to go out with any number of girls tonight, and he did pick me. That has to say something about how much he cares about me. But I'm still mad.

For the next twenty minutes, we walk in silence. I almost laugh at the sound of my heels on the pavement. When I was convincing myself I could handle a little "new shoe pain" this afternoon, a mile walk to a bar was certainly not what I was anticipating. I silently score one point for my Mom and her infinite wisdom.

As we finally approach The Hawk, the music blaring from the building gives me an instant pit in my stomach. Or is that the steak from dinner rolling around due to my hour of unanticipated exercise?

Ex immediately finds his friend Scottie, who is having a wonderful time and refuses to leave. The bouncer allows me to come in without paying the $7.00 cover as long as I stand against the wall and don't try and dance. I assume the pool of blood gathering at my feet aided him in his decision to let me stay.

Miraculously, Ex's roommate eventually tires and agrees to take us and his two new female friends home around midnight. The five of us pile into the too-small car that smells like evergreen air freshner.

From the laughs and singing going on around me, it's clear that everyone but me is having a great time. This includesEx, who managed to find a few beers in the bar and finds this entire scenario hilarious.

"So are you two, like, dating?" Bimbo #1 asks, turning around in the front seat.

I don't answer and stare straight ahead.

"Don't mind her," Ex pipes in. "She's had a kind of rough night."

"But are you two on a date?" Bimbo #2 presses.

"Uh, yeah, kind of," Ex replies. "We were out for Valentine's Day, but she isn't my girlfriend right now." He seems to think this clears everything up.

Bimbo #1 pauses, and in two seconds puts together the pieces of a puzzle I've taken over a year to solve. "So you're just boink buddies, then?"

The car is silent.

"Oh look, we're here!" Ex is out of the car and in the apartment before I've even managed to get my seatbelt off.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Ex." I whisper, wondering how in the world this Valentine's Day turned out to be worse than last year...and how many more I'd have to endure before I called it a day.

(Thankfully, Hubs was just a mere five years around the corner, ready to provide me unconditional love and happiness for the rest of my life.)

(And for the record, Hubs never once split the check with me when we were dating.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Come on, ride the train.

Remember a few weeks ago when I told you about this amazing opportunity for me to win a contest for Amtrak? And remember how how I asked you to vote even though you only had one day to do it?

Then remember how you all awesomely voted for me and I WON??? No really. For real, I won.

I got the "You Won Our Contest!" email last week and completely thought it was bogus.  I mean, who sends an EMAIL telling someone they won a nationwide contest?  I was convinced it was some spammer fishing for my social security number. So like the paranoid delusional freak I am, I called the number attached to the email.  Here's how the convo went:

Riiiing.

Amtrak Guy:  This is John.

Me: (clearing my throat) Hi, John. My name is Kim and you just sent me an email saying I'd won the Amtrak contest.

John:  Yes!  You did! Aren't you excited?

Me: Kind of. I just don't want to get TOO excited when I find out you're not really an Amtrak person and you just found my name and email on the internet.

John: (laughing) I totally understand. Trust me, I work for Amtrak, and you did win. Sorry for the email, we just find that's the best way to reach people.

Me: So...I really won?  Like the WHOLE thing, or I'm just a finalist?

John:  No, you won. The grand prize. I just need you to fill out that form I sent you and we'll send you your $1500 in Amtrak vouchers.

Me: EEEEEKKKKK!! THAT IS SO EXCITING! I'm sending it RIGHT NOW!

****

So fast forward four hours. I sent the forms into Amtrak and was feeling great. I posted on Facebook that I was the big winner and was just about to post it on my blog.

Then I got an email from someone else that was NOT with Amtrak.  It basically said this:

Kim,

Congrats on becoming a finalist in the Perfect Day Aboard Amtrak contest! You are receiving this email because you are being considered for the grand prize.  Our XYZ Company is in charge with distributing the prizes.

Please fill out the below forms to be considered for our grand prize. If you are chosen you will be notified no later than February 2, 2011. Thank you and congratulations! 

***

WHAT? I go to all the trouble to be CERTAIN I am the winner, I'm told I am, and then I get told that I'm just a finalist? How is this possible?  What if I don't win after all? I just told a buttload of Facebook friend that I won. I don't want to take that back.

So I send in the forms to the prize place and sit back and wait for the phone to ring. I expect someone to call and tell me I am not in fact the grand prize winner, but I do receive a really, really neat Amtrak keychain that I can treasure for years to come.

After sulking for two days, I finally receive the email stating that I am, in fact, the winner.  And it's posted here, all official and everything.

And so, I'd like to thank each and every one of you who voted for my story. Thanks to those that told their friends, nieces, nephews, cousins, second cousins, distant cousins, ex-husbands, ex-boyfriends and clergyman and asked them to vote for me. I truly appreciate your efforts, and I'll be sure to tell you where Hubs and I decide to take the girls with our winnings.  Right now we're thinking a nice long train ride to see the spelndors of Colorado this summer.

For those of you that might have missed it, below is the story I wrote about a hypothetical trip to San Diego on Amtrak. Enjoy and thanks again!


The Tradition Begins

My digital watch reads 10:20 pm. I quickly glance at the four Amtrak tickets in my hand, convinced we've missed the train. It's already come and gone, I know it. Naturally I'm met with relief when I see our departure is 10:45 pm, just like the last four times I've looked. I just want this vacation to be perfect.

I quickly count the bags at my feet. A plain black suitcase for me and Brad, a bright pink roller-bag for Makayla and a totally impractical fur leopard duffel that Taylor insisted she'd use "every single day!" if I bought it. Which I did.

"Daddy, she's over there!" I hear Makayla shout as she exits the restrooms, Taylor lagging behind. Brad appears from the men's side, typing on his phone. He looks frazzled. We so need this trip. The girls get to me first, their eyes entirely too bright and shiny for 10:30 at night. The sugar has definitely kicked in.

"Mommy, the train is almost here!" Taylor shouts, unaware that the marble floor amplifies her every word.

"Yes, sweetie, I know," I reply, picking up her bag and holding it out. "Hold your bag, okay? "It's TRAIN TIME!"

Makayla is already sprinting toward the exit door. I silently wonder if there's a Children Olympics she can qualify for.

"Makayla, wait!" Brad's zips up his coat to run after her. "You've got to wait for the announcement to go outside." He sighs and runs a hand through his hair as he chases after her. I smile warmly at my husband. I know he's stressed about work.

With the current economy,and the architecture industry suffering in Kansas City, he can't help but worry. When I had initially brought up the idea of a vacation, he immediately grew tense. How much was air fare from Kansas City to San Diego? Could we afford that? Couldn't we just drive? His points were valid  but I knew the best way to combat all the anxiety of last year was a restful vacation to California. Flying was out of the question. Delayed flights, horrific cost, boring scenery and no true family time. Driving was an option, if screaming kids and potty breaks every two minutes was considered relaxing. No, we needed a hassle-free way to travel. With delicious food, stunning scenery, comfy beds, unlimited bathroom breaks and a few stiff cocktails, Amtrak was the way to go.

"All those on train 3758, time to board!" A portly gentlemen with silvery gray hair announces, breaking my train of thought. Pun intended.

A bolt of excitement zips through the air as people hurry to grab their bags, count heads and locate tickets. I have already done this. Several times.

Six minutes later, we're on the platform as a bright light cuts through the darkness on the tracks. The girls squeal with delight and begin to dance, forgetting all about the bitter cold. Inside I'm squealing, too. I feel the train before I see it. The sharp, metallic rhythm of the wheels match my heart beat, vibrating my feet and humming in my ears. And then I see it. The glow of the platform lights illuminate the train's shiny metal body, and I find myself unable to stop grinning.

"This is going to be a great vacation," Brad's breathes into my ear. I can tell he is smiling.

"I know," I say, turning to him. "Would it be totally inappropriate if I jump up and down like the girls right now?"

He shrugs. "Go for it. I'm sure the Amtrak employees are used to it." Suddenly his face softens.

"What's wrong?" I ask, disturbed that work is creeping into his brain. "It's time to be happy and relax, right? San Diego! Sunshine and surf, remember?" I badly imitate a surfer.

"Nothing's wrong," he replies, his normally confident voice slightly shaking. "I just remembered that my Grandpa Larkin worked on Amtrak most of his life." He swallows hard. "Grandpa was always so proud of what he did. I bet he'd be proud that this is how we're taking our vacation this year."

I take a long look at our girls giggling with excitement, and then back to my husband. "You know," I say, squeezing his hand. "I bet he would. Now let's go have a ball."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

the bus doesn't stop here

Sometimes in life, you have moments you wish you could just forget ever happened. For me, a vast majority of those moments occurred somewhere between the years of 1999-2005.

The college years.

(Yes, it took me six years to graduate. No, I'm not a doctor. Shut up.)

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that I was in a coke and meth induced haze for the early parts of the millennium.  Not at all. Never touched the stuff. I was mostly just really tired from staying up late all night studying...or drinking.

As a college co-ed fresh out of high school, I was a bit on the sheltered side. I grew up in a good ol' corn fed, God fearing home where R-rated movies were a rarity and church was a requirement every Sunday. Therefore, the transition from the "rules of this house" to "my house rules!" was a bit unexpected for me.

So I went a little nuts.

One way I took advantage of the sudden slack in structure was clubbing. On campus in 2000, the place to be was a little club called Flanigans. Every underage co-ed in the university could be found in this club after midnight on a Thursday, grinding with total strangers.  
Flanigan's was known for good DJ's, a packed dance floor, and 20:1 odds that even the ugliest among us could leave with a minimum of two phone numbers. And maybe syphilis.

Anyways...

My friends and I adored this club. But as afore mentioned, we were not 21. On a decent night, you could convince frat boys with laughable fake ID's to swipe you a drink from the bar. However, many times authority figures in dark hats and glasses would show up and card anyone they suspected was underage. Then you went to jail. No bueno.

As a remedy to the underage issue, my friends and I came up with an amazing master plan. Drinking before we left. Normally it'd be a beer or shot per person to loosen the nerves and head out the door.

But on one particular night my sophomore year, a few things went a bit...wrong.

It was Thursday, and my friend Erin and I got in our Flanigan's best. We were free from our boyfriend's from the night, and ready to live it up with the girls.


(For a small sampling of what I MAY have worn, read this. I'm actually thinking that this was one of the night's I chose to wear one of my halter tops as a skirt.)

(No, I'm not kidding.)

(But that's neither here nor there.)

Erin and I stopped at her friend Brooke's house prior to leaving for the night. No one wanted to be the DD, so I volunteered to "lightly drink" and drive everyone myself. The bar was less than a mile away, anyway.

(DISCLAIMER: I do NOT condone drinking and driving in any capacity. I was once a very young and ridiculous college student and thought I was invincible. I no longer think this.)

As we all stood around chatting, Brooke brilliantly decided to break out the drink of champions - Captain Morgan and Pepsi.

(I'm trying not to vomit at the thought of this right now.)

Each girl classily took turns drinking two gulps of Cap'n per half-sip of Pepsi. It was very easy to convince ourselves that we could down multiple ounces of hard liquor with no effects. During those years I usually only drank beer. I simply failed to realize that two shots of Captain was not equal to two bottles of beer.

(We hadn't covered that in chemistry yet, okay?)

(As if I took chemistry.)

At around 11:00, it was time to head out. I felt a little woozy but ignored it. It was my job to get these girls to the bar safely; I needed to focus. The three of us stumbled into my forest green Nissan Sentra, laughing at the fun night that was surely in front of us.

As I veered into the Flanigan's parking lot, I noticed my vision beginning to blur slightly. But no matter, we were there and looked way hot. Time to have a good time.

"OH SHIT!" Erin exclaimed from the back seat.

"Erin, you don't have to call your boyfriend," I reminded, glaring at her in the rear view mirror. "It's girls night, remember?"

"No no!" she shrieked back, hurriedly digging through her purse. "I forgot my ID! It's back at the dorm."

I groaned audibly. Yes I had gotten us here alive, but my vision was getting closer to double by the second. My arms were beginning to feel like they didn't even belong to my body.

"Wait!" Erin called out happily, holding something up. "I have my Bus Pass! Will that get me in if I smile?"

It was clear we had to go back. I put the car in gear and headed back to our dorm.

Two minutes later, I dropped the girls off at the front of the door and waited for them to return.

I felt weird.

Hmm, that tree next to the dorm...had there always been two of them? I swear it was just one. And those two red cars parked ahead...they were EXACTLY THE SAME! Slowly I realized that I may have crossed the border line from loopy to totally boozed out. To test my theory, I crossed my eyes and found everything returned to normal.

Did you hear that? CROSSING MY EYES made the world seem NORMAL.

At that moment, I felt a bubble in my stomach and a rush of saliva up my throat. Oh no. I knew that feeling. I was going to be sick. No way was I going to vomit in my own car.

If only there was a way to get rid of the gross tasting saliva in my mouth, I'd feel better. It tasted like Captain Morgan and felt hot on my tongue. I had to do something. My head swam as I leaned forward and ever so slowly, spit the liquid ONTO MY LAP.

There. Done. Better.

Minutes later, Erin and Brooke came back to the car, driver's license in hand.

"Everything good? You okay to drive still?" Brooke asked, probably not even caring about the answer.

"Yep! Just fine!" I confirmed, grateful for the darkness covering my spit spot.

I threw the car in gear, crossed my eyes again, and headed back to the bar.


By the time we arrived the second time, Erin was beyond hammered. Brooke managed to pull her out of the car, but her legs swiftly turned to Jell-O as she rambled about loving KU basketball, no matter how they played this year.

The line into Flanigan's was out the door. We would have to wait. So there we all stood, half-clothed and leaning against each other, trying to look sober. Rumor was, if the bouncers could tell you were drunk, they wouldn't let you in.

But we weren't drunk, right?

Finally we made it to Mr. Clean bouncer-man and his shiny bald head. He requested Brooke's ID and she showed it with only the slightest of wobbles and a slight wink. In she went. Erin was next.

It might have been the glazed look in her eyes, or perhaps the gurgles coming out of her mouth, but the bouncer looked at Erin, leveling her with his eyes.

"I'm ready to come in!" she announced loudly, handing the wall her ID.

He shook his head. "No, no way. You really think you're coming in here."  It wasn't a question.

"C'mon! I'mmot drenk! I've hud a fwew dreenks, butm' fine. I promi-"

"Sweetie, you aren't coming in," he said again. "You can't even stand. Your friend is holding you up."

Was I?  I hadn't even noticed.

"We'll take her, thanks man," a familiar voice came from behind me. It was J, Erin's boyfriend. I have never been go glad to see another human being in my entire life.

Like a wonderful and concerned best fiend, I swiftly deposited Erin into J's arms, wished her well and bid her adieu. It was time for me to go in. The bouncer did not look happy. Maybe he could see that I normally wasn't cross-eyed. 

"KIM!" a voice shouted from the back of the line. "KIM! What's going on? What the hell are you doing?"

It was my boyfriend. Well, kind of. It was actually the guy I had been dating for the last two years who still refused to call me his girlfriend while he was in college. But in his defense, he assured me I was the only one he was currently sleeping with.

Despite my anger at him for a multitude of things he'd done lately, I knew I needed help. I couldn't get myself home and I was getting drunker by the second.

I smiled and mumbled "Mrpmmdhf" to the bartender and headed to the back of the line, tripping over my own shoes as I approached Ex.

"Hi, Ex," I slurred. "Imso completely wursted and I dorn wanna be hur ennamore."

He laughed heartily at me, as per usual. So sweet.

"Look at her Dan! She's gone!" he laughed again,elbowing his friend. "Ya know, I really shouldn't even hang out with you tonight, Kim, remember? You promised you could be without me. I'm here with Dan. I told you I wanted to meet some other people tonight, and I want you to do the same-"

"I don full good," I managed to get out.

"Okay, we'll go," he sighed at me, straightening his button down shirt and winking at the girl in front of him. Then, to Dan, "We can come back tomorrow when she's not here. We can have fun tomorrow."

And with that, he ushered me to his car. It was too far. With what strength I had left, I wobbled a few feet and got sick. All over the side of the building.

 When I finally came up for air, I wondered if I even had any stomach lining left. Apparently this was having fun.

***

The next morning I awoke in Ex's dorm room. I felt like a freight train had driven through my head. Hobbling 6 floors up to my room, I opened the door and found Erin lying on our floor.

"Please, please let's never do this again," she whispered, looking at me through swollen slits in her eyes and burying her head in a pillow.

"Agreed. I don't even know what happened last night."  I laid on the bed and pulled the covers over my head.  "I think I spit on myself."

"Really!!???" Erin replied. "I think I tried to give the bouncer my bus pass."

"Let's forget this ever happened and never, ever drink Pepsi again." I said.

***

To this day, if I even come near a Captain Morgan bottle, my stomach lurches. On a side note, I think I look super hot with my eyes crossed and a pool of saliva in my lap.

Erin no longer rides the bus.