February 28, 2002

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if I wasn't seeing the big picture? Last week in the Outdoor Corner I wrote about being jinxed with hunting dogs. That was way too specific. This week I realized I must be just plain jinxed, overall. Never before in my life have I felt like Lady Luck had deserted me as she did last week. I'm not talking that she just looked the other way once or twice, I'm talking the entire darn weekend, which was supposed to be a shining success.

For more than a month I have been dreaming about my planned trip to Florida for the Inland Press Service Weekly Newspaper Conference. Believe it or not, it was not just the idea of going to Florida for the first time in my life, the conference looked interesting as well. Well, in a nutshell, my trip went to pot right from the get go. I think this sob story is more impressive if I do it in chronological order.

I won't even go into the whole week at work trying to get things done so that I would be able to take the two days off to attend the meeting. I don't want my nightmares to haunt anyone else's peaceful slumber.

Besides I was on my way to Florida, the tropical getaway where I would enjoy the warm weather, walk the beach and may even charter a boat and do some fishing on my afternoon off. Wrong. About 30 minutes into the drive I noticed a tickle in my throat. By the time I made it to the airport in Kansas City it was a full-blown sinus attach. That's right, going from freezing Missouri to warm and sunny Florida, I developed a cold that forced me to hide in my room covered in a layer of blankets with a chill.

I won't even go into the airport, I shrugged it off in the name of national security. Besides I was going to finally catch up on some shuteye on the plane. Boy was I wrong as we had "unexpected" turbulence the entire two hours. It was not bad enough to scare you just enough to wake you about 10 seconds into your nap.

Believe it or not, when we did arrive in Tampa, my luggage came right through on the first run. I nearly fell over. I came back to earth when I reached in the front pocket to get the shoulder strap for my bag and pulled my hand back out covered in goo. It seems my bag must have been handled a little roughly, as my shampoo bottle was broken and had spilled all over half my clothes.

Next was the car rental window. It was 1:00 a.m. local time so the two attendants were trying to close down the shop and head for home. Needless to say they weren't pleased to see me. That must have been why they gave me the wrong directions to the garage and I wandered around for an hour until I found my truck. Then there was the little shortcut they told me to take to get to the hotel.

When I finally arrived three hours later, that's right three hours later, the dark cloud hovering over me continued to grow.

I found out the reservation desk had not been totally truthful to me when they said it would be "no problem" finding me a room if I arrived a day earlier. Then I learned that Naples is quite the tourist trap in February and there was not a room to be found anywhere.

It's amazing what you can find to keep busy when driving around a new town for six hours trying not to pass out asleep as I waited for the cleaning service to show up at the hotel and fix up a room for me. In Florida there are no all-night diners, so I had to wait until 6:00 a.m. for Denny's to open. It was such a relief to finally have something to keep me awake. Plus I was hungry by this point too. However I guess I should have paid more attention to the huge help wanted sign on the restaurant's marquee. Maybe it is not too bright to eat at a place that is advertising to hire a "new manager, start today."

I'll stop there. I don't want you to use up that whole box of Kleenex on my behalf. Besides I'm writing this at the desk of my hotel (they actually did have a reservation for me on Thursday and Friday nights) and I am headed out either to buy a lottery ticket or maybe to hind a slot machine. My luck surely has to even out soon.

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