This will be long, but there’s a bonafide miracle at the end of it.
Some of you have heard me tell this story. Some of you are new and don’t know me from Adam, other than that I am The Happy Narcissist, your virtual host and storyteller. Either way, here goes.
Our day began in a Hyatt Regency Hotel beside the Savannah River in Olde Savannah, Georgia, and it would end twenty hours later in another Hyatt Regency Hotel in Downtown Phoenix, Arizona, the one we call our “Honeymoon Hotel” because we spent our wedding night there forty two years ago this past May 17th.
At 2 a.m. in Savannah, my phone rang to wake us from our sweet slumber of about four hours after we’d gotten to bed late the night before from our first ever dinner cruise on “The Georgia Queen.”
The phone call was from American Airlines giving me my return call that I’d requested that they give me when the “next available agent” could take my call that I had attempted to place four hours before.
“Yes,” the agent said, we could fly out of Savannah instead of Atlanta at 6 p.m. like I’d booked us to do many months before.
However, all the flights for Saturday, the day we had booked, were full, but they could put us on a 7 a.m. flight on Sunday, but it would not be a direct flight to Phoenix. The Sunday flight would fly first to Philadelphia before flying to Phoenix.
Now I remembered why I had made our itinerary the way I did.
The good news was that I could pack all the rum I had purchased at the Richland Distillery, home of “The Finest Rum In America,” to take home to give our family and friends for souvenirs, as well as to enjoy ourselves, and NOT get arrested for trying to do something illegal, since, as the agent now assured me, “Prohibition had been lifted in this country close to a century ago.”
I thanked the airline agent, and we went back to bed . . . until Karen’s phone rang at 5 a.m. with the other call back from the airline that we had arranged on her phone number!
But we had to get up anyway because now we had to completely repack our suitcases to fit all the rum and other souvenirs that we had thoughtlessly purchased on our trip so that we each had two checked bags and two carry-on bags . . . which proved to be a real engineering challenge, but we did it!
Then we had to eat a light breakfast, get showered and dressed so that we could leave Savannah early enough to drive our rental car to the airport in Atlanta, drop it off, check our bags, especially the one with all the rum, then go through the always-long airport security and make it on board our plane for our 6 p.m. flight back to Phoenix.
But before we left Savannah, I owed my beautiful bride of almost forty two years the one thing every husband hates most in all the world, “shopping through the cute stores.”
But even THAT was fun, and with my eye on “The Most Perfect Husband In All The Universe” prize when our vacation was done, I gladly went shopping with Karen through the gift shops lining the cobblestoned River Street beside our hotel.
Had the Zoltar fortune telling machine in one of the cute shops told me what awaited in just a few short hours ahead of us, I’d have probably gone back to bed and just booked that flight to Philly that American Airlines had offered us at 2 in the morning. But I was too cheap to give Zoltar his two quarters fee and so continued ignorantly into our day.
Thus blissfully unaware of what the future holds for us all, Karen and I enjoyed a perfect mid-morning stroll along the very street in Savannah where 18th century sailing ships once docked to unload their cargoes, and the town’s merchants plied their trade, as did the busy barkeeps and harlots in this once bustling American colonial sea port, and some sailors were turned into pirates after they’d spent too long a night with pints of rum and wild women and awoke with a bad hangover back on the high seas aboard a ship flying The Jolly Roger, whilst back in town the Right Reverend John Wesley prayed for all these lost souls!
We left the hotel after our bell guy, Nino, with his beautiful RED dreadlocks packed our baggage into our car and I just casually mentiond, “I LOVE THE DREADS, Man . . . and IF I was a few years younger or just had more hair, I’d have me some too.”
“WAIT! WHAT?” Nino exclaimed. “YOU are NOW my ALL TIME FAVORITE guest!” You know the hotel tried to get me to cut my hair!”
NO!” I gasped. “HOW COULD THEY!” In a town as cool as this with the ghosts of pirates all around, HOW COULD THEY!”
“THAT’s what I told them too!” Nino explained. “And I wouldn’t do it neither. I guess they was too afraid to fire me, so they just finally let it go.”
Knowing full well what it’s like to have people wanting to fire me just for being my own natural self, my soul was knit to Nino’s soul from the moment he told me this dreadful story!
“Here, let me get you something,” Nino said, and he came back with a “Comment Card” for me to fill out and send to Hyatt Hotels International when I got home. “Would you please fill this out and tell Hyatt what you just told me?”
“AH HELL YES I WILL, my dread brother!” I assured Nino. “GLADLY, I WILL.”
By the way, I’m almost finished and near the ending of this miraculous story in case you’re wondering. So just keep reading, because we’re on the home stretch now.
The drive up I-75 from Savannah to Atlanta went smoothly the first three hours. It did make us glad that we’d driven the beautiful back roads from Americus to Savannah on Thursday though. If you’ve seen one interstate highway, you’ve pretty much seen them all.
It was on the outskirts of Atlanta where things got real interesting and not in a good way neither!
We had left Savannah in plenty of time to do everything that needed to be done. We SHOULD have gotten to the Atlanta airport at 3 or 3:30 in the afternoon, having left Savannah at 11:15 that morning for the approximately four hour drive.
However, THE MOTHER OF ALL TRAFFIC JAMS on I-75 just outside Atlanta suddenly caused my phone’s GPS guy to either lose his mind or to start using drugs or most likely BOTH!
Karen was riding “shotgun” and following along on an old fashioned paper folding map of the State of Georgia that she’d gotten from the Americus Garden Inn where we’d spent four nights because that’s what she’s always liked to do on car trips when she was young.
When first things started getting screwy with my phone’s GPS guy, he would periodically announce, “There’s a small traffic accident in about a quarter of a mile ahead, but stay on Interstate 75 because it is still the quickest route to your destination,” which I had set for the American Airlines terminal at the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport just south of Atlanta, Georgia.
Well, we’d drive a quarter of a mile, then a half a mile, then an entire mile . . . and NOTHING!
The GPS guy made this announcement three or four times over the course of the next twenty minutes.
At first it freaked me out because: (1) I’m easily freaked out; and also especially, because (2) my biggest fear on the drive we were making was that we would run into a traffic jam that would throw us off our schedule and endanger our actually getting on board our plane.
AND THEN WHAT?
My mind reeled at the parade of horribles that I imagined would occur if we missed our flight.
After the second time our GPS guy “cried wolf,” we just figured that he’d had too much to drink the night before and we laughed about it
After we rounded a bend and climbed a slight rise, we could see ahead as far as the eye could see what looked like a scene from a disaster movie where a whole city tries to evacuate on the sole interstate out of town.
“TAKE THE NEXT EXIT,” our GPS guy now screamed! “HEAD FOR THE HILLS OR KISS YOUR ASS GOODBYE!” he advised or words to that effect. “TAKE STATE ROUTE 41 NORTH. It might get you to the airport or it might take you to Illinois. Hell I don’t know. I’m as freaked out as YOU ARE now, and I don’t know what I’m saying!”
The GPS guy didn’t really say all the stuff that’s typed in lower case above, but he may as well have for all the gibberish directions he gave us from then on, issuing travel directions, then changing his mind and sending us several times directly back toward the black hole on I-75!
“WHAT’S THE MAP SAY,” I screamed at Karen, now imitating the GPS guy’s scared little girl’s shrieking voice.
“Don’t yell. I’m right here.” Karen said in her usual cool, calm, and collected manner of speaking that really annoys the hell out of me.
“Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true . . .” sang the GPS guy like he was “HAL” in the movie “2001, A Space Odyssey.”
“I think we should take State Route 20 west until it intersects with State Route 41 which this map shows will lead us right to the airport.” advised Karen.
“OK. We’ll do it . . . BUT I just hope that YOU are right.” I nonchalantly added the “just hope that YOU are right” part in case we later had to play the blame game if we wound up camped out for the night in the airport.
The next hour or so driving through some of the most beautiful countryside in all America could have been my favorite part of our trip, but it went by for me in a high speed blur of terror. Karen was increasingly nervous too I could tell, so nervous, in fact, that she didn’t even protest my too frequent resort to the profanities that my G.I . Dad had taught all us kids in our youth.
My cussing would occur between my intermittent prayers of, “Please, Lord Jesus, please help us to make it to the airport on time for us to do everything that we have to do and still get on board our plane that takes off at 6 p.m. tonight!”
I then added silently in my mind, “We both know, Lord Jesus, that I DESERVE THIS for not even being able to pray without profanity, but Karen doesn’t deserve for us to miss our flight and have to sleep on the floor of the terminal like we’re HOBOS!” I really stetched out the vowel sounds in the last word of my deperate beseeching of the Almighty like maybe it might get more attention if I cried, “hoooooooe-boooooooes!”
“Desperadooooooooooo.” the GPS guy was now singing and probably also making fun of my plaintive thoughts, which he could probably read, “YOU’re NOT gonna make it . . .”
“SHUT THE HELL UP!” I cursed at my iPhone. To my credit, in all my cussing, I never crossed the “F” line, whether out of fear of Karen or just the last shred of my once-vibrant faith. I just didn’t cross THAT particular line. It’s not much in the way of sanctimony, but it was all I had that evening.
I was driving that rental car like I was unhinged and it was fully insured, both of which were true. I don’t even know what speeds we reached on empty straightaways. I’m sure I did a 100 m.p.h. on those empty stretches, but don’t tell anyone, please. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal. Surprisingly, Karen never once told me to slow down like she always does when we’re driving somewhere.
Sometimes, I even wished that a sheriff’s deputy would just stop me and end the misery of us not knowing if we were going to make our flight by arresting me and providing us with nice and cozy cots to sleep on in jail . . . but no law enforcement bothered to stop the crazy old man in the rental car with Florida license plates. I don’t know why they didn’t. We saw three or four of them, and each time we did I suddenly slowed from 60 to 35 in full view of anyone with eyes to see. What were they all blind? They HAD to have seen me do that. Maybe Jesus distracted them in those moments.
At one overly long red light that made me cuss some more at about 5:10 p.m. just after we took a bathroom break that we really couldn’t afford to take at a Shell gas station in Fayetteville, Georgia, with bulletproof glass separating the two cashiers from the customers and wherein we should’ve gotten mugged but somehow didn’t, I gave in and I prayed, “This is all in Your Hands now, Lord Jesus. I’ve done all I can. I have somehow made us so late that we are probably going to miss our flight home. I can’t do no more, Lord Jesus, and I can’t see how even You can pull a miracle out of Your Holy Hat, but let Your Will be done, Lord. Do what You will, Father. In Jesus Name, we pray.”
“Amen,” said Karen.
“Amen,” said the GPS guy.
Somehow, between me both faithlessly cussing and just as faithfully begging Jesus to help us make it to the airport in time, all of the following managed to occur:
1) we checked our luggage, especially the one filled with all the rum;
2) I managed to “always stay in the left lane” like the young baggage checker who was possibly an angel told me to do lest I drive off the campus of the airport and never find my way back and, therefore, I successfully returned the rental car to the lot in the next state over;
3) I rode the high speed rail back to where Karen was waiting in the same spot where the kindly old baggage handler who was also possibly an angel had left her to wait for me and who periodically was checking on her and kept sweetly referring to her as “Mommy” and to me as “Daddy;”
4) I did my version of sprinting across a HUGE airport terminal like the good “O.J.” used to do on the T.V. commercials when I was a boy . . . but this simile is likely lost on anyone under 60 years of age;
5) I then pushed Karen in a handicap wheel chair on account of her bad knee which got us through the airport’s Security Checks in record time, a trick we intend to use again the next time we fly IF we ever do;
6) AND we then actually wound up first in line for the boarding of our American Airlines Flight #778 that had somehow been miraculously delayed to 7 p.m. from the originally scheduled 6 p.m.!
How’d He do that? How in Heaven’s Name did The Good Lord do that?
We don’t know . . . but the one thing that we do know for sure is that He DID pull it off!
The Good Lord pulled a Holy Rabbit out His Holy Hat! He sure as hell DID!
Indeed . . . the Lord HAD MERCY!
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