You know, I used to be a whole lot better at logistics than I seem to have been in the past few weeks. A week ago, I made a car rental reservation for my trip to the family cabin – my brother’s family cabin, in North Fork, just west of the western entrance to Yosemite. I was very excited to reserve a midsized SUV, which sported a picture of a Ford EcoSport. I was unable to ascertain from the website whether the car had 4 Wheel Drive, which I knew I needed because of the major weather belt which was tightening around the entire region. So I googled Ford EcoSport, and discovered to my pleasure, that indeed it did have 4 Wheel Drive. Ah, I sighed. “That’s accomplished.” I’d even felt pretty smug about reserving the car at the on-campus car rental office, located in the parking and housing office just at the end of campus. So convenient!

And then I went on about the rest of the week, which foamed with activities, such as publishing spring design assignments, meeting with colleagues, and planning my classes. Saturday I shopped, gathering the plumpest, most luscious looking 22 lb. turkey at the store, and had a conversation with the butcher because I’d thought I’d be bringing up a frozen bird in a cooler to the cabin. There wasn’t one big enough, so this 22 lb. monster was fresh, and I had considerable trepidation about carrying it in the car thawed. The butcher assured me, as did another fellow shopper, that my turkey would make it salmonella-free to my family. My office mate, Hannah, kindly brought me one of the prop coolers from the props storage, so that Tom and I could make the trip to North Fork.

Tuesday morning began with our wrap up THTR 130 class about collaboration, all the faculty collaborators there. We did exercise designed by Tina, the Costume Design Faculty member. The room was divided up and seven groups came up with seven scenes, which they discussed scenario, characters, setting, lighting and costuming the two characters from what the group was wearing, and final dramatic moment of the scene. The room was quite intense as they worked on their scenarios, huddled over the sheet, writing down their ideas, which were coming enthusiastically, ending after about twenty minutes by naming the scenes. At the end they took turns pitching their shows, freshmen actors, all of them, eager to perform in front of their classmates (in a technical production kind of way). The five faculty members sat in seats in the center, to listen to their pitches.

Here were two of my favorites:

A Quiet Ruckus – 14-year old Russell plays baseball near the barn, finds the dead body of Wrangler. Cue opening song – Finally a Friend!/Lights come up – there are movers and gobos…/3 mice and a raccoon scurry in. /Setting – unit set – Winter inside the barn of Russell’s family farm in the south– pretty realistic setting. /Winter – chilly fog intensifies as the 14 year old boy continues to lose his mind. Sound – 30’s style hoe-down music. Wrangler (the dead man) has a Johnny Cash voice. Basic sound effects – “Danny Elfman-esque” score– wintery soundscapes/Very lighting heavy show – heavy side lighting. Sirens flashing on the duo.

The Not-So-Nice-Pumpkin-Spice– Intern brings boss wrong coffee/Characters are Dean, the mean boss and Samm, the under-qualified intern/Setting – present day in NYC 23rd floor – big sleek black desk, two large windows, big black leather chair, white shag rug. 2 mac books/Low budget student film /Costumes from within group /Lighting – colors of the scenes – black and grays. Using fluorescents from above. Gloomy outside. Not too much warm light/Sound – elevator music in the background (cue played on one student’s Iphone to very appreciative laughter from all)/Shouts and honks from outside/Final scene – sounds are getting louder/Boss throws coffee onto the intern who drips in pumpkin spice as the lights fade to black.

You get the picture. It was a great exercise and we all left the classroom buoyed.

Later that afternoon, I extracted myself from a meeting at 4:15, rolling my red cooler with the big white handle, across campus to McCarthy Quad where the car rental office was. The empty cooler groaned its way across the varied brick and concrete sidewalks, tracing the tracks of thousands of fuller, though hardly less celebratory coolers from game days gone by. The plastic wheels rattling against the pavement was driving me nuts, and people were looking at me as I passed by as though I’d only missed the USC/UCLA rout by three days. I steamed into the office, with my little friend behind me to discover a sign. Uh oh.

The Car Rental Center employee did not come to work today. Please call 213-XXX-XXXX to follow up on your reservation.

There was a young Chinese student in the office on her phone and as I looked blankly at the empty desk, she kindly wagged her finger at the sign, then walked outside to join her friend.

I fumbled my phone out of my pocket and dialed the number, navigating the menu to reach a live person who chirped, “We have someone coming to pick you up.” So I wandered outside and encouraged the other young women to walk with me, again, behind my tethered turkey trolley to the corner of Figueroa and McCarthy Way, where within about ten minutes, an unmarked white van pulled up and a young man named Jamal recited our two cell phone numbers and assured he was with the company. We hopped in.

It was now about 5:00PM, and we arrived at the rental car place near DTLA. I retrieved my cooler from the back of the van. I checked in after the two young USC students got their car squared away. The store was very busy, with a festive air – off for Thanksgiving! I chatted briefly with a man about the drive to Yosemite, which was currently listed as 6 plus hours, and I knew that I’d be racing against the snow.

Finally a clean cut young man with hand held computer walked out to show me my car. The first car we look at was a large heavy looking grey Dodge 2019 Journey. I asked him, “Does it have 4WD?” He didn’t know, nor did the other man in the lot who we went over to talk to. While we were about 20 feet away from the car, another man came over and started to get into that car as my sales rep was showing me a much smaller mini SUV.
“This one is the same size as the other one.”
“But it’s patently not,” I said beginning to see how this was going and beginning to tear up a little that the turkey that weighs as much as my granddaughter was now in danger of not getting to North Fork, or anyone’s fork at this rate.

Eying a large black Chevy Tahoe, I said, “I’ll take that one. That looks like it has 4 Wheel Drive.”

Rep: I’m sorry, but that is reserved for someone for tomorrow.

Me: But what about the Ford EcoSport I reserved for today? Atypically petulant now Scuffing the bottom of my faux-fur-tufted snow boots on the asphalt of the lot for effect. What effect, I’m not sure because it seemed to be having none on the two stressed-out employees.

Rep: We’re in Los Angeles. We rarely have a need for cars with 4 Wheel Drive. And the website says “or similar.”

Me: (I must have missed that fine print.) And yet, here we are, in need of one. Not proud of my attitude, and turning immediately penitent. Softly: Can we please ask about the Tahoe?

The Rep and I walked back into the store where the manager was busy checking out another customer. He informed my customer service agent(loudly so I could also hear and looking back and forth between me and him) that “All the reservations for our customers have been confirmed with them.” (“That’s the way we do it at this fine establishment, lady!” implicit.)

Churlishly, now, I leaned over the counter to my rep: “Tell me, what good is it to be a “Plus” customer?”

Rep: Trying desperately to please a customer who can only be pleased in a way not available to him. “I can still rent you the Nissan Sport that’s outside.”
Me: “But we’ve already established that it wouldn’t be safe to drive it in the snow, right?”
He shrugged.

I felt the hot tears of disappointment resulting from poor customer service beginning to spurt, and I turned from the counter, weakly, over my shoulder, “Never mind. I’ll figure it out.”

Then I toted my turkey cooler out to the sidewalk and plopped myself down right in the middle of the sidewalk in view of the side window of the car rental manager to try to find another rental company on my phone. I was breathing hard, not thinking clearly, angry, upset that I wouldn’t get to see my granddaughter who’d earlier squealed “Nana!” on the phone in her most exuberant voice.

I called Midway, which it turned out was directly across the street from where I was perched on the cooler.

“Hold, please.” The very friendly man came back a moment later. “We have a Ford Mustang.”

“Is that a 4WD?” I asked, imbecilically.

“No, it’s a sports car.”

I stabbed at the Uber app on my phone, and waited three minutes for Hugo to arrive in his Silver Toyota to take me home. I figured going to home base was the smartest thing right now.

Once in my apartment, the sobs erupted, I’m embarrassed to say perhaps worse crying even than when I lost my husband a year ago. Heaving and hiccoughing, I couldn’t think even where to begin. As a planner of the Type A variety, I was absolutely stymied by suddenly not having any plan at all along with the responsibility of the 22 lb. turkey for my entire family snowed in up at the cabin. I envisioned my 4-year-old granddaughter gnawing on the forearm of her baby sister while the adults sat around eating the last of the cheese balls and looking forlorn.

So I texted my son.

Oops. I guess the secret is out. Anyway, soon my phone rang, while I was in the middle of maniacally dialing the rental company again. It was Chris. He said the magic words.

Think further along the line.

Honestly, sometimes he is Yoda-like. Right! If they don’t have 4 WD in Los Angeles, they might have one in Fresno. Then the collaborative exercise began. Through my tears, I opened my laptop, booking a hotel room in Fresno, because by now it was 7:00PM, and there was no way I was going to get to North Fork by the end of Tuesday as originally planned. Chris remembered that his wife’s father was flying into Fresno on Wednesday morning and driving out. In an SUV. We quickly arranged for me to accompany him to North Fork. He graciously said he’d love the company, though if he’d seen me at that moment, I’m not so sure he would have felt that way. So I ate some food, and packed my cart with Tom in the Trolley.

Tom the Turkey in his cooler with all the gear to go in my non-existant rental car….
Tom tucked into his turkey trolley.

The drive to Fresno was about 4.5 hours, and I listened to podcasts, munched on potato chips and stopped once at one of those roadside food courts with the central bathrooms bereft of toilet paper, to pick up another sack of ice to ice down Tom and the other perishable food. I arrived at the very nice Holiday Inn Express in Fresno at midnight on the nose, and after checking Tom, checked in, just as the rain began to come down with increasing ferocity. I fell into the downy white bed and slept hard.

This morning, Dan will pick me up and we’ll go on to put Tom on our forks in North Fork. Picture Norman Rockwell-esque scene, lots of heavy side lighting, steam rising from the golden turkey, the tinkle of children laughing and the fire crackling in the stove. Fade to black.

10 thoughts

  1. You saying so much has happened is an understatement!!!! What a story!! Bless your heart! Hope you have an easier part of your journey today…Hope you, Dan and Tom arrive safely (with you and Dan safely warm and Tom still safely chilled!)

  2. AAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHH – I Hate it when s**t like that happens!! And your “breakdown” was totally warranted. God love Chris, and Whitney’s Dad; hope you are now ensconced in said cabin, Tom safely delivered. (Oh, and – Happy Thanksgiving!)

  3. Fabulous Story! My dad lives about 25 minutes away (he moved further from me) but that is where we are going on the rainy Thanksgiving! Only family coming are those who live within a 30 min drive. What an adventure you are having! Hope all is well and so glad there was a solution to the misery! Love you my friend. Happy Family Thanksgiving.

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