Just Drop Off the Key, Lee

I can be perfectly content living with day-to-day clutter: clothes in a basket, mail on the desk, odds and ends piled up on the kitchen counter- until it’s time to leave home. Somehow, getting on a plane is equated with finishing every piece of business, paying every bill, cleaning out the refrigerator and re-writing my will. It’s a hedge against never coming back, a gambit to keep the plane in the air, reassurance that the people who might have to come in and set my affairs in order will not be overly taxed. It’s not something I get anxious about; it’s just something I do. In some sense it’s an added bonus to travel- I get my ducks in a row. Rich, on the other hand, will walk out the door with things in worse shape, as a result of packing and grabbing what he needs, as long as he gets to the airport two hours ahead of time. I’ll risk missing the flight so long as I leave the place just so.

Last Thursday we were leaving for just a little 48 hour jaunt to St. Louis and the Missouri Botanical Gardens. It was, however, the first time I’d left the Chicago house and the cats since moving. Because my neighbor, who I don’t know very well, was going to be watching the cats and guinea pig and finches, it was all the more important that the house be spit-spot on. The neighbor and his wife are childless, extremely tidy and have a very cool but minimalist decor. They are not cluttered up with dead foxes and a lifetime of children’s art projects.

So I was watching the time and right on schedule, making sure the litter box was virtually sterile, a new, not-slimy bag of carrots was in the clean frig for Millie, plant debris was swept up (why are ficus deciduous even when they’re in the house, dammit?). The dish washer was running and I was finishing the last load of laundry, ready to flip it to the dryer before the ordered cab arrived. I was wiping the kitchen counters down one last time when McCloud started to "Yeeeooow!" loudly and repeatedly and then I heard- water running. Where there shouldn’t be water. I turned and saw what McCloud saw: water pouring through the ceiling of the entryway.

The washer tub overflowed. Something that happens in most households every once in a while as a sock goes on the lam. But in most houses the laundry is not on the THIRD floor. I screamed up the stairs, "The washing machine!" and Rich yelled, "WHAT?" and the phone rang to tell us that Yellow Cab would be there in 6 minutes.

I don’t think two people have soaked up that much water in five minutes, ever. Water was two inches deep in the laundry room, flowing out into the hallway onto that new expensive wool carpet, and pouring through Rich’s closet on the second floor, soaking all of his business suits. Down on the first floor the alarm system that we haven’t figured out was flashing some kind of red warning. Both cats sat in the hallway looking very concerned as their litter box floated around the laundry room. We emptied the linen closet and mopped up what we could. Yelled. Swore. Ordered each other around.

The cab honked repeatedly, we grabbed our bags, raced out the door and I shoved the keys through the neighbor’s mail slot. We both sat in the back of the cab, panting and shaking our heads. At the airport, Rich directed us to the hotsy-totsy exclusive security line for those that fly constantly. The line was still long and the people in front of us were muttering that "just anybody" thought they could get in line there and what was the point of being titanium if you couldn’t even get frisked without the riff-raff looking on. Some hapless fellow walked by and asked if it was the check-in line for Alaska Airlines and my better half decided to tell him that this was the line reserved for us special folks. I turned to shoot Rich the look, the mind-your-own-business-and-get-off-your-high-horse look and that was when I noticed that he was still wearing his pajamas. And his Yooper snow shoveling hat. And that he hadn’t shaved.

We got off to a rough start. I didn’t take my tripod, partly because I forgot anyway but also because you can’t take them through security and we weren’t checking luggage at that late point in the game. (Curiously, on the way back, I carried my new, very long, very bright, very pointy umbrella that I received for my new membership at the Gardens and security didn’t bat an eye. Obviously, they skipped the James Bond movies during TSA training.) Then the plane was delayed for two hours so we sat in the perks club, several chairs between us, and I glared silently at Rich in his pajamas. Finally, he got up and went into the men’s room and came out looking like a human being and life went on.

The exhibit was more than I had hoped for and the gardens are easily among the finest I have ever seen. At night, those regal glass herons standing, back-lit, in a pond of water lilies and ferns- oh, so fine.Herons_1

We went back the next day in the sunlight and that was icing on the cake. We went to an afternoon movie matinee at this elegant old-fashioned theatre that served wine and popcorn with real butter. We had a barbecue with Rich’s A-B colleague/friend. We got up yesterday and went to the Soulard Farmer’s Market, the oldest continuous farm market in the country. I bought spices and garlic there and when we pulled Rich’s bag out of the overhead after landing back here the entire plane instantly smelled like way too much garlic. Three giant heads of garlic got smashed in there and it was overpowering. People began looking around and sniffing, I looked at him and he looked at me, I smiled and once again eased four feet further away and pretended I didn’t know him.

We got home in time to watch THE GAMES. Now that OUR boys (How ABOUT those TIGERS!!??!) have brought it home, we’re cheering for the Cardinals because a) the Tigers can beat them and b) we see A-B World Series tickets in our future. I guess we don’t really need to discuss Saturday football. It’s enough to quietly savor certain victory and defeat.Chihuly2

19 responses to “Just Drop Off the Key, Lee

  1. OMG, that is hilarious, V. The part about the washer flooding as you were leaving.

    I have the same pre-leaving spaz of cleaning, making beds–making sure the house is immaculate so if I die in a car accident, I’m not embarrassed by the folks hanging out in my house, mourning me!

    E has learned that within an hour of leaving the house for a trip, no jokes, teasing or puttering around is allowed.

    Beautiful photos!

  2. I want to go to the Missouri Botanical Gardens! And I didn’t even know that Missouri HAD botanical gardens. Very cool pictures.

    Add me to the list of people who can’t leave without obsessively cleaning and sterilizing, for the exact same reasons that you named. Is it possible that I am not as unique an individual as I imagine myself to be?

  3. Gah, what a nightmare. I too like to leave the house just so–another idiosyncasy that we share. I am often to be found cleaning the toilet two minutes before we have to leave. I wouldn’t have been able to get into the taxi though without having a nervous breakdown. (I almost did when our pipe broke last Christmas–and I wasn’t going anywhere) What gorgeous photos!! I love them.

  4. You didn’t get a picture of Rich in his pyjamas at the airport!? I’m so disappointed.

  5. Well, you made me REALLY afraid to fly now. You even re-write your will? My feet stay on the ground.

    Afterall, with the Tigers in the World Series and the Wolverines undefeated, can life get any better?

    And I promise to go easy on our mutual green-and-white leaning blogging buddy. Sometimes I do get carried away with my partisan snipes. If she’s reading this, sorry.

  6. OH, what fun (for us). Well, I guess you eventually had fun, too. Those glass herons really are dynamite.

    If you wash Rich’s pajamas (rather than tossing), stand by to see if there’s more flood. It would be much nicer to catch the flow at once rather than two inches later.

  7. An inauspicious beginning preceded a wonderful weekend for you!

    I love the creative ways in which Chihuly displays his magical art glass! Were any of his chandeliers on view?

    Mum’s the word regarding the SPARTAN loss to Ohio State. I’m assuming that we share a healthy disdain for those nuts.

    No hard feelings, Dave. May I borrow a match?

  8. Love that top pic with the blue glass herons. Sounds like a great place to see someday.

  9. I cused a major flood like that a few months after we moved into our house. Not fun at all.

    Birthday party preparation time is when I go nuts over the clutter. We had a party nd I am so relieved to be able to embrace my clutter again.

  10. Oh, at first I thought the guy asking about Alaska Airlines was the one in pajamas, snow scooping hat and unshaven….. my first thought was that here was a character for that Learning Chanel show about the problem people that show up at Southwest Airlines; like the man who wanted an icepack because the ticket agent stepped on his INVISIBLE wife’s foot. But then I saw that you were refering to Rich? So now I just wonder where the picture of him in this get up is….

    I waved towards St. Louis on Saturday morning. I was in Clay City, Illinois…. about 120 miles from St. Louis. Another 50th Anniversary. Two cousins there that were not able to attend in June. Two cousins who were there in June did not get to come this time. So, again… nine first cousins together. A renewal of vows or, as my dad put it, a RE-INACTMENT. A sixteen hour drive to and from with copious snoring from the passenger seats…. now I feel dead.

  11. Oh wow! Leaking washer, pajama-clad husband, and odiferous garlic? Sounds like a fantastic weekend once you got to St. Louis! The gardens look gorgeous.

  12. Hey, watch what you say about my Cards. Did you go through the Climatron? I love the way they tucked the glass pieces everywhere. It was like you were on an adventure discovering new plant species. Just gorgeous!

  13. Once you actually got to St. Louis, it sounds wonderful. But what a nightmare getting there. It almost sounds too farfetched to be true.

    We can laugh, and maybe you will too in time to come.

    Go, Tigers!

  14. heh. did you end up buying saffron?? And yes I agree Go Tigers!!! I am not a bandwagon fan, I went and supported them when those stands were empty!!!
    And what can I say…go blue!!!

  15. I want the Cardinals to win too but I hate da mets. Except for Julio Franco. Detroit sure played well and that last game was really fun to watch.

    These photos are beautiful!!! I didn’t know I wanted to go there; I didn’t even know such a beauty was there to go to. Thanks for sharing and the laughs too.

    I set my will out on my desk too. Us funny ducks.

  16. You tell such a great story. I too wish there were photos of Rich in his pajamas at the airport. That would have been quite a sight. I clean like mad before we take a trip. It’s about wanting people to think I’m neat and clean, when I’m really not. Sometimes I think Roger and I live like we’re still college students. Oh, that mess, I didn’t see it for the past three months.

    Those photos are absolutely gorgeous. The colors leap off the screen.

  17. Yowza! You do know how to make travel an adventure.
    Pajamas at the airport… too funny.

  18. Lord girl..you make my AR/OC boss sound laid back 🙂 And I know that Rich soooooooooooooooo did not wear his pajamas on the plane but you threw that in there for comic relief.

  19. I envy you that Chihuly exhibit – but not the laundry flood. Photos of Rich in the PJ’s would be been a nice complement to the post, Vicki. I also clean up before we leave town, even if no one is coming into the house. For our 10 day trip, I had 2 friends sharing the cat duties, so the house had to be spic and span before I left. That meant I started the trip tired…..LOL

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