Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll is on the road with the BLUE STATE BLUES. She writes:

Though we have now been in Minnesota for almost two weeks, it would feel unfinished if I didn’t talk about the remainder of the journey from Arizona to Minnesota and make a few observations hither and yon.

Well, first of all, I can no longer count packing as one of my six meager skills. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. I went to Israel for 8 days in 1995 with a 3-day stopover in Paris, with one small rollerboard carry-on suitcase, a tote bag and fanny pack. My suitcase held but TWO pairs of shoes, ladies, low black heels, and neutral flats. I wore the walking shoes. Every item of clothing had to work with no fewer than four other items, no spilling allowed.

I thought I had really earned my spurs. Now I stand stripped of my epaulets. Spurs are the only thing I failed to pack. For this 40 day and 40 night trip (channeling both Noah and Moses), I have packed half my closet, most of my go bag, two five-lb. dumbbells, six pairs of shoes and my red cowboy boots, my medicine cabinet, and my office, including about 100 books. Ten from each of our 10 volumes. What if there were an urgent emergency book order? Loading and unloading at every stop requires two luggage carts, a small portable forklift, and a quantity of patience which I forgot to pack. Never again.

How is America doing on COVIDiocy? Though the masking and distancing is pretty consistent from state to state (I have yet to get to the Promised Land of Florida), the Blue States are definitely crazier. In New Mexico, there was tape on the floor everywhere in the hotel marking off The Sacred Six Feet. Two people were allowed in the elevator at a time.

But the worst idiocy was that Marriott had removed the cozy comforters from the beds – evidently from the sciencey fear that COVID cooties were more likely to congregate on a comforter. There was a thin sheet and an even more worthless seersucker bedspread you could read through. I doubled up my sheets and added a jacket and two bath towels. It was in the 40’s in Tucumcari, rainy and overcast. It’s a cunning little virus that can fly 5.9 feet, fall helplessly to the floor at the six foot marker and just lie there in wait until after 10:00 p.m. when it goes out to bars. We got our comforters back in Edmond, Lincoln, and Sioux Falls, Marriotts all. And all Red States. Heck, maybe some hotel maid just forgot them in Tucumcari. I was too tired to pursue the matter with the management.

When we got to Minnesota, they told us at the front desk that in an extended stay, they no longer clean the rooms daily automatically “because of COVID.” Sure. We noticed that no restaurants are putting out salt and pepper shakers either, though ketchup is COVID-resistant. Also, I cannot say if this is COVID-related, but I believe that hotels are putting trick full-length mirrors in their rooms so that you look much fatter than you really are. This is obviously a cost-saving ploy to discourage patrons from exuberant waffle consumption at the breakfast buffet. Either that, or I really AM that fat. Either way, I now avoid mirrors.

On our way to Edmond, OK, we went through a little part of the Texas Panhandle and when we got petrol, nobody in the convenience store except the clerk was wearing a mask. I tried to avoid doing the potty dance outside the Ladies’ Room – I had ingested MUCH black coffee – when a large man emerged. I told him he was a fine-looking man but a dreadful lady, and he apologized and said that the Men’s Room was occupied when he got there.

We took off and Max, the famous novelist and world-class napper, crashed out for a bit. Sometimes when Max wakes up out of a deep sleep, he is not at his most alert or conversational. He was still groggy and wanted to stop for a cola (not Coke) and we pulled into little Garrison’s Convenience Store in Shamrock, Texas. The cashier, a nice lady named Karen, waited while Max gathered a few items and placed them on the counter. She toted them up and said, “That’ll be eight dollars and 25 cents, sir.” He gave her the quarter and waited for his change. Perhaps he made a brief time travel back to 1932, when Mama assured me, EVERYTHING was a nickel.

“Uh, sir, were you thinking of giving me a bill as well?” “Oh, sorry, of course,” said he, and handed her a twenty. Then, on impulse, he saw a chocolate truffle in a brand he enjoys and threw that in. “That’s 53 cents sir,” she said. He came up with exact change. We left. While putting on our seatbelts and preparing for takeoff, out sprinted Karen with his truffle. She probably thought it was nice that the short, plump old lady with the Pandemic Platinum hair was taking her addled husband for an outing.

Some days are just like that. I can make fun of Max only because I have had days like that, too. How well I remember one trip to Billings for a gig in 2008. I remember it because the lawyers I was entertaining were all down for Obama, which surprised the heck out of me – MONTANA? I took that as a very unfavorable omen. Which turned out to be right.

I had stopped in Alexandria to see Mom and Daddy and we had a great time. She wanted to go out to the Mall and when I tried to get back into my car, I had no key. Uh-oh. But this was Alexandria. We went to the Mall Lost & Found and there it was! Someone had found it in the parking lot and turned it in.

The next morning, I started across North Dakota for Montana. It was a lovely drive on a clear fall day. I stopped to gas up mid-way and paid with a credit card at the pump. I went in, used the Ladies’ Room, and had a little bite to eat and paid in cash. The convenience store/restaurant also had a little gift shop and, on an impulse (or divine intervention), I bought several cute children’s books for the delightful children who were neighbors of my parents. I decided to pay with the credit card again. No credit card. What evil vortex had I fallen into?

I raced out by the gas pumps, feeling pretty sure it was hopeless. Nope. With a sinking heart – counting my precious remaining cash – I inquired at the counter of the gas station. Had any walking saint turned in a Marriott Visa? Why, yes, they had! A lady had found it on the floor of the Ladies’ Room. It had fallen out of the back pocket of my jeans.

North Dakotans turned out to be just as honest and good as Minnesotans. Who knew? Had I not bought the books, I never would have realized my credit card was gone. The takeaway lesson learned was NOT “Don’t put your card in a pocket of jeans you will ultimately have occasion to pull down,” but to “Always buy as many extravagant gifts for others as you can!”

I do remember just sitting in my car, a little shaky, questioning whether I was still even capable of taking care of myself without adult supervision. Thirteen gaffe-laden years later, it is still an open question.