Blitz: n. a jaunt to a desired distant location where one will see a person, landmark, or event and return home within 24-48 hours.
It was a blitz. From wheels up as I left until wheels down as I came back home, I had roughly 26 hours. In that time, I would meet Mr. Charming for dinner, we would grab a show, we would have drinks after, and I would catch a flight home in the morning.
Doesn’t that sound so romantic and spontaneous and joyful? I would like to tell you otherwise, but I can’t. Because it really was all of those things, actually.
(I’m finding singleness to be one wild adventure.)
The flight was a piece of cake, but scoring the hotel room was quite another. I had booked it through an online guarantor of great deals, but they can’t promise great service. And it turns out, the whole hotel smelled like a broken toilet. I felt a little bit like I was maybe a guest in The Shining, but I was determined to stick by my rule: I was traveling alone on a blitz trip, so I only needed a bed to sleep in for just this one night.
(I may need to amend this rule later. There should be something to do with not-smelling-like-sewage.)
By the time I got into my hotel room, I had just enough time to set everything down and freshen up. Translate: scatter my things on every flat surface and coax my hair to adapt and obey to the new environment and its humidity.
I emptied my bag of all the things I didn’t need, applied a fresh coat of mascara and lip gloss, and jetted on out the door. MapQuest would guide me to the our dinner destination, and it wasn’t until I was on the toll road that I realized the error.
In taking out ‘all the things I didn’t need’, I left my wallet on the bed in the hotel room. (Dear Tricia: Wallets are Necessary.)
And here I was, traveling miles upon miles on a toll road, accumulating a few dollars in a debt I couldn’t pay. I couldn’t get off the turnpike without encountering a toll booth.
I had zero cash, and my cell phone was flashing with extremely low battery power. We were right on the verge of too many variables. If the rental car had been low on gas, well, that might have pushed me right over the edge.
I spied a toll booth ahead, and I tried to gauge whether it was the kind that is staffed by a person or the kind that is monitored by a camera. Admittedly, I was sketching a plan of escape with promises to somehow make it right with the kings and queens of tolls and transportation.
The toll booth was staffed with a person. There was no way out of this without direct eye contact.
I handed her my ticket and began my appeal. “I’m so sorry – I am in from out of town just for tonight, and I left my wallet on the bed in the hotel.”
She glared at me. Some might call it the Stink Eye. “And so you have no ID at all with you.” Not a question, but a statement. Even a judgment against my character and upbringing.
“I have nothing. I’m sorry. Is there anything I can do?”
“You can pull over while I call the state trooper. And I’ll tell you right now, it will be more than an hour before he arrives. And he’s going to be nasty. They get real nasty to drivers without ID.”
She picked up her walkie-talkie and traced her finger down a chart of phone numbers. State Troopers. Center for Pet Control. The FBI. The CIA. I have no doubt.
“How much is the toll?”
“The toll is $1.25.” (Good grief. I’m going to spend the night in prison over 5 quarters.)
I threw a Hail Mary Pass. “Listen, please – what’s your name?”
“Betsy.” A felt a flicker of hope, since I’ve never met a Betsy with a cold heart.
“Betsy, please, can’t you try to help me? Is there anything you can do? I’m only here for tonight – you said it will take an hour for them to come, and this one hour is why I am in town at all. Please. Please?”
“Ma’am, I am required by the state to report any drivers without toll or identification.”
“I’m sure that’s true. And I respect that. I just wonder if there’s anything I can do, any way you could help me, Betsy.”
She heaved a great sigh of indignation.
“Are you coming back through here tonight?”
“No. I can take another way.”
“Well, then I can’t help you. If you were coming back through, I could have you pay the difference later tonight.”
It seemed like ‘no’ was the right answer. I had guessed incorrectly.
“Well, I mean, I can come back this way… I… I can…”
My voice and hopes were fading. I pictured episodes of Orange is the New Black and wondered if had what it took to make it through one night in the slammer.
She disappeared from the window and walked to the other end of the booth. I awaited my fate and prepared my manicure for handcuffs.
When she came back, she handed me an envelope with her toll booth number. “You’re lucky I have my purse with me tonight, dear. I paid your toll.”
I squealed. I didn’t even care if it showed how much I wasn’t made for prison. “You did?! Really?!”
“Really.” She smiled this most genuine smile, the one I suspected was hiding in there all along. Because she’s a Betsy. “Just send the money back in that envelope and enjoiy your evening, ma’am.”
Way to help a sister out, Betsy.
I all but blew kisses to her as I sailed off the turnpike by the skin of my teeth. I could have kissed her, but I didn’t want to further puncture her stone facade. Plus, I had dinner reservations to keep.
Six minutes later, I walked into the restaurant feeling windblown and scattered. Mr. Charming scooped me into a hug that seemed to simultaneously gather my pieces and sweep all my mess under the rug.
We sat down to dinner and I told him my brush with crime. He smiled his Casanova smile as he slid a twenty across the table.
“Silly girl. Make sure this gets you home safely tonight.”