Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Adventures In Texas



Over the Thanksgiving holidays my wife and I visited her family in Texas, a trip which requires about twelve hours of driving. Although this was not the first time we had made the journey, it was certainly the most eventful.

While on a Texas state highway, I had someone pull out in front of me with apparent disregard for our close proximity. This, in and of itself, was not unusual as you don’t drive 700 miles without becoming accustomed to being cut off. What was unique was the fact that this individual was sitting astride a poorly-maintained Yardman riding mower, a vehicle with a top speed comparable to a brisk walk. Oblivious to the oncoming traffic, he meandered across both lanes until he reached the median and appeared to have forgotten his purpose.

This remained a point of highway conversation until the journey home when we found ourselves bumper to bumper on Interstate 30. I was riding behind a large Ford Dually in the far left lane when it violently swerved into the adjacent lane to avoid an overstuffed recliner resting in our path. The armchair was fully reclined, neutrally colored, and facing oncoming traffic. I, too, swerved into the adjacent lane just about the time my sphincter muscle consumed the rear seam of my jeans.

With all this excitement we found several occasions to stop, stretch our legs, and reflect upon our existence. During one such hiatus, I found myself in a gas station restroom that was on the cutting edge of latrine/urinal hybrid technology. While a lesser petroleum dispensary would simply have purchased a Kohler and gone about their lives, the fine folks at this establishment decided to reassign some sheet metal and pipe to create a “Lurinal.”
The Lurinal
The “Lurinal” did feature a type of automatic flushing mechanism in the form of a suspended length of pipe that dripped water into the basin of the apparatus. It was unclear whether the leakage was intentional or the result of poor craftsmanship, but either way all body fluids were moved toward the drain. Its width suggested that it could be utilized by more than one person, but it was not long enough to allow tandem pissing without a marked degree of social discomfort. While the service station technically resided in Texas, it was close enough to the Arkansas border to explain the copious use of stainless-steel bathroom fixtures.

Traveling aside, I and several other male family members had an opportunity to spend a few hours at an indoor rock climbing facility. The building was about three stories tall and contained several climbing areas of varying difficulty. So, after donning my rented shoes and unflattering crotch-harness, I found myself clinging to a wall some twenty-five feet in the air as my atrophied muscles constantly reminded me that I had chosen computer science as a career.

Despite this, I found a small sense of accomplishment in being able to ring the bell mounted at the apex of the facility. This physical triumph was quickly diminished as my companions and I watched an employee laterally traverse the entire rock formation, without a harness, and while wearing a weighted vest. From that point on, it became somewhat difficult to celebrate summiting the beginner tower while Flex McNimble recreates Cliffhanger in your peripheral vision.

Our hotel was well-maintained and staffed by attentive and friendly employees who always went out of their way to insure your stay was as comfortable as possible. The one exception was the breakfast, which was served off a menu in the lobby restaurant instead of being presented buffet style. The choices were essentially the same (pancakes, cereal, toast) but they were “made to order” by the resident chef.

The first morning I requested a waffle and bacon only to have the cook appear at our table and, in what became a familiar ritual, explain why that entrée was unavailable. In my case, the waffle maker had sustained a rather serious injury during a routine cleaning and was no longer functional. This table-side visit became so commonplace, my wife and I would snicker as she appeared, menu in hand, to explain to other crestfallen guest why their order could not be fulfilled. To her credit, she had a gentle table-side manner but the sheer volume of unavailable meals suggested either laziness or espionage.

Part of our morning routine was speculating as to how she was explaining the lack of oatmeal or unavailability of the blueberry scones:

  • “I am so sorry Mrs. Jones, but there was a violent insurrection in central Florida last week and as such we are unable to offer fresh squeezed orange juice.”
  • “I apologize Mr. Franks, but an unnervingly-specific electrical fire has rendered the omelet griddle inoperable while leaving the rest of the kitchen intact.”
  • “This is embarrassing, but a disgruntled maid urinated in our bagel oven so we are unable to offer that selection until the health department can be onsite to re-certify it.
They could have saved time and just asked whether we wanted Frosted Flakes or Raisin Bran, but I suppose the pageantry was necessary to maintain appearances.

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