Yet Another Journal

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» Sunday, August 20, 2017
The Great American Eclipse 2017, Part 1: Bug Out
"As we say when approaching a tall piece of cheddar, better start from the top." . . . . . Father Mouse, Twas the Night Before Christmas

Back in March when we were at Atomicon, some talk emerged about the upcoming eclipse, so when I made reservations for next year, on a whim I put in a reservation for the Monday night of the eclipse. Now I didn't think I had a chance in hell of getting two days off during end of fiscal year, but if I did I thought we could just toss a change of clothes in a suitcase, take the fids to the vet, and go up early Monday morning, watch the eclipse with everyone and have dinner, then leave the next morning. After all, we had gone to the eclipse panel at Anachrocon, received free glasses, and it sounded incredible. We'd had a partial eclipse here in 1991—I remember going out to the parking deck at work and seeing "the crescents"; the leaves of the tree growing out of the deck of the bar near our parking lot acted like a pinhole camera and reflected the crescent sun on the concrete parking lot—but neither James nor I had ever seen a total eclipse.

I put in a leave slip and, to my surprise, got the leave. James also was allowed to take two days' vacation.

Then the news stories started popping up. This wasn't going to just be a "teaching moment" for schools while people rushed outside at work with eclipse glasses enjoy the show. Expeditions were being planned. Rabun County, up in northeastern Georgia in the longest part of totality, was planning a big "do." James commented that he wished we'd made reservations for Sunday night, too, because the closer the event came, the more concerned he was that we might start out Monday morning and find ourselves in a traffic jam, since the vet didn't open until 7:30. So about mid-July I hunted online and found a room for us Sunday night. (I won't mention the name of the lodgings due to what happened later on.)

We were very excited about this coming up. And then came last week's Cold. If it had been a mild sore throat and a little runny nose, I wouldn't have cared. But the pain in my throat was tremendous. Swallowing was more painful than when I had the mumps. I don't go to the doctor twice within four days for nothing, and to be told your throat wasn't irritated on Monday and end up with "a fever blister" on my throat by Thursday was frustrating. I couldn't sleep, I felt so bad I couldn't even read, I had work I wanted to finish and at least one purchase order that's pretty much blown up in my face. And I had a trip to plan with a fuzzy head and a ringing ear and a runny nose and a sore throat that felt like strep.

Nevertheless, everything got packed from all the medicines to the charge cords for the cell phones.

Saturday night when we got home from Ron's birthday dinner we noticed there were messages on the answering machine that we hadn't listened to. Most were from Kaiser, but one was from the vet—they were having employee appreciation day on Sunday and would be closed! Well, they would be closed after 9 a.m., anyway. We would have to be there early, but we were planning to do that anyway.

Needless to say, neither of us got a lot of sleep, but I think I clocked in at two or so hours. We tossed suitcases, C-PAP, food to share, the charger for the power chair, and the power chair in the truck, then I woke Snowy up, and before he could protest, plucked him from his nighttime perch and put him into the carry box (where, of course, he promptly began courting the cute bird in the mirror). The cage went into a big trash bag to load in the truck, and once Tucker and Snowy were aboard as well, we were on our way.

The vet's office was deserted when we got there, and I was quite upset. But there was a car parked next to us, and it turned out it was one of the vet techs waiting for someone to show up with the keys. Soon Dr. Mike and more staff arrived, and I used one of the exam rooms to transfer Snowy back into his cage—Snowy is a seasoned traveler and sang through the entire journey—and fill his water dishes and food dish. Tucker wildly sniffed around the small room until Dr. Mike entered and squatted down to meet him and then he went wagging into his arms. Not at all like Miss Willow who was Daddy's little girl only and had to be bodily removed, crying the whole time.

And then they were gone and we were on our way after breakfast at Panera. By that time we needed it!

We had an uneventful ride. Stopped to top off the tank of the car in Dawsonville just in case there was traffic in Helen. Discovered that the new Appalachian Parkway was open; you don't even need to go through the town of Cleveland anymore; you come out on Helen Highway at the Catholic church.

We reached our hotel well before the check-in time of four o'clock, but did stop by to see if early check-in was a possibility. The place was very, very busy and the clerk distracted, but he said to check back with him about two. In the meantime, it was almost lunchtime. We knew the Spiveys were about 20 minutes behind us because Terry had messaged us, but was anyone else actually in Helen and did they want the shareable stuff we had brought and what was everyone doing for lunch?

We finally got ahold of Juanita. She and David and Keith Tarpley were eating at the Huddle House; she said everywhere else was packed. We were exhausted and joined them for lunch, and it was such a relief to have someone to talk to. We were both hot and frazzled and worried about the stuff in the back of the truck.

(Originally the plan was to take the car and the Rollator. We were just going to drive to the hotel, watch the eclipse, probably drive somewhere to dinner, and then hang around till next morning. We weren't expecting the crowd of 100,000 people it said on the news! So we wouldn't have had to worry about the stuff in back in the truck bed; it would have been in the hatchback. Changes have consequences.)

After eating, though, we had nothing to do, so basically we went back to our hotel and sat in the lobby with our stuff where it was air conditioned and comfortable and read and waited. People came in and asked about early check-in and kept being told the 4 p.m. story, but a couple of times they were told it was because the lower level was cleaned first and they were on the upper level. Eventually, about 2:30 we got into our room.

This was not one of the best hotels in Helen, and I knew that going in. It was an older property, and it was rather like the inexpensive motels we always stayed at when I was a kid: basic two beds, a dresser with a TV, a desk and a chair, and the sink in an alcove with the toilet and tub in another room. It was a bit down-at-the-heels but looked clean (much better than the place we stayed at in Kentucky in 2012, coming home from Michigan), and I stacked everything on the desk or dresser so we could flop down on the beds and relax until it was time to find out what folks were doing for dinner. I put the air conditioner on "afterburner" and once the stuffy air started to disperse I lost the claustrophobic feeling I got when we walked in the door. We both lay down to nap, but James was restless and we weren't lying down long. So we were talking and he made a joke about fleabag hotels and I looked down next to the pillows I'd been napping on and...

There was something moving.

Yes, there was some type of insect in my bed, very tiny, like a sesame seed. You can imagine what I thought! Bedbugs are always in the news these days. I got the tiny insect on a tissue and looked it up on line and it looked like a couple of pictures on the internet (but didn't look like most of the pictures on the internet). I was suddenly ill. There were no more rooms in town; I called around. If we didn't stay we would have to go home. So I marched down to the office with the little insect still crawling around in the Kleenex and showed it to the manager in private. He said he'd never seen one like it before—but then of course that's what you'd expect him to say—but that it probably came in on one of the cleaning carts. He said that he would send someone down to spray the room while we were out to supper. And I went back to the room not wanting to sit on anything and thanking God I had not put any of our luggage on the bed.

So we heard from Juanita and they were getting up a party to go to Bigg Daddy's. We said we'd drive down there and reserve tables. It was very crowded and very hot and very loud (they had live music), but we were seated fairly quickly and did have a good dinner. (Unfortunately I didn't finish my wings because by that point I was so tired and so unhappy and so freaked out, and we brought them back to the hotel and then forgot them the next morning.) Then we went back to the other hotel (the one everyone else was at and where we would be on Monday night) to hang with everyone for a while. They'd also had to wait until four to check in, and we weren't the only ones feeling exhausted.

By now I was very unsettled and slightly panicky. All the tensions of work and the annoyances of the cold and the fear from it being hard to swallow and breathe, and the heat, and the tumult of planning and packing were just sitting on my shoulders. I needed to talk to someone and quite badly, and when Juanita got back from calling Jessie (Jessie is on a five-month internship at Disney) I asked her if we could talk, and we went into the breakfast room, which was quite dim and cool and pleasant...and I talked and cried a lot and she counseled and reassured. I felt so bad about burdening on someone, but she was so sweet and said it was okay; that she could sense that I was very tense lately and that I wasn't looking like my old self. And here I thought I was doing the best Court Jester act I could. We talked a long time and then James wandered in looking for me and the conversation became more general.

We headed back to our hotel about 9:30, still puzzling over what to do about the insect occurrence. I searched the beds again looking for signs of bedbugs and found none of them (trust me, I checked on line to see what all of them were). I don't know where the original insect came from; we found no more, but I was still crawly. Instead of us sleeping on the bed (we each took one of the double beds), I pulled two blankets from the drawer and I slept in one like a sleeping bag in just my underwear. (They evidently don't use Downy or Snuggle in their laundry; these felt like Army blankets!) James didn't feel comfortable just doing underwear and also wore a shirt. But nothing else touched the beds except our bodies and those particular clothes.

(Neither of us found any bites the next morning, nor were we itchy. So I hope that's a good sign, but I'm still scared to death.)

...to be continued...

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