Sunday, September 18, 2005

I Couldn't Make This Up...

I remember when I was about fourteen, and I became addicted to old Monty Python skits. There was one skit that used to have me on the floor giggling. It was a skit where a man woke up and everything he did was a disaster. Finally, at the end of the day, he walks away from his house and the house explodes, ending the day. His day was my day today. For all you authors who are jonesing to be published and then have a "spectacular" book tour, remember my day.

9:30am: I'm checking out from my beautiful Atlanta Holiday Inn when the brother behind the counter decides that he wants to charge me a dollar for local calls. Now, I didn't make that many, just to the bookstore, but they add up. So I tell him that I'm a priority club member and he stares blankly. Finally, a manager decides that Holiday Inn will survive without ten dollars worth of calls. Good, it looks like I can make my 11:25am flight to Tampa. That booksigning begins at 4pm, plenty of time for me to land at 1pm and relax for two hours or so. May even get to check out the NFL before the signing. Frustration level: 2 out of 10 with one being relaxed and ten being ready to explode.

10am: Atlanta Hartsfield airport. I have reservations for my tickets, but haven't purchased them. I'm in line, but the line is really long and not moving. I estimate that I'll still be able to get my ticket by the 10:30am cut off. The iPod is on eleven and I'm chilling. Frustration level: 1

10:20am. I'm still ten people from getting to a ticket agent, one of which is having a long conversation with a customer about where she got her shoes. The agent is now taking off her shoes and showing them to the customer. Frustration level: 3

10:32am: I get to the ticket counter and the ticket agent interested in getting new shoes informs me that my flight is now full and I missed the hour cut off time. I tell her politely that if she'd not had a ten minute conversation about shoes, I would have made my flight. She's not amused. The next flight to Tampa leaves Atlanta at 3:30pm. Not a good thing when I'm supposed to be signing at 4pm. I ask her about the closest airport to Tampa. She then has a twenty minute conversation with another collegue about whether the miles they were looking at were actual miles or flight miles. I get booked on a flight to Orlando, about 80 miles from Tampa. Cool. I leave at 11:25am and land at 1pm, get in the hooptie, drive for about an hour and a half, and get into the hotel a little after 2:30pm. Cost of the ticket: $300 Frustration level: 5

11am: My boarding pass has the infamous SSSS, so I'm lucky enough to get picked for "special" security screening. After the security guard feels me up, I'm good to go. Frustration level: 3

11:30am: I'm on the plane, and it is full. The woman sitting in the middle seat suddenly decides that she just had to talk to me now. About anything that came into her head. Flying. Sitting. Drinking water. Eating peanuts. People. Luggage. Landing. Anything. Me? I like to put the iPod on eleven and zone out. Thanks, lady. Frustration level: 4

1pm: Okay, we land. I rush through the Orlando airport and damn, another airport shuttle. I don't know what it is about airports in the South, but they are addicted to shuttles. They get on my damn nerve. I'd rather stroll through the airport and get to the rental car agency asap without the middle man shuttle. Anyway, I get on and off the shuttle and walk five hundred miles to the rental car agency area. Except there's one problem. Hertz is no where to be found. I ask, and the kind woman from Alamo tells me Hertz doesn't have a station in the airport. They are off the airport. I have to take another god dang shuttle. A shuttle that as I turn to look, is just pulling away from the curb. I run like an OJ Simpson girlfriend out of the airport but miss the shuttle. Another will be around, the kind Hertz lady says. In ten minutes. Frustration level: 6

1:30pm: I'm on the Hertz shuttle bus, and wondering how long it will take to get to the Hertz club gold station. The bus driver holds a conversation with her Hertz friend (the one that told me another bus will be around) for ten minutes or so. I start thinking about how long it takes to drive eighty miles. I figure an hour or hour and a half with traffic. That puts me into Tampa around 3pm. Cutting it close, but I'll still have time to shower and get to the store on time. Frustration level: 5

1:48pm. I'm panicking like George Bush at a Nation of Islam convention. I'd originally reserved a Hertz car at Tampa, but unfortunately, I'm not IN Tampa. I'm in Orlando and I didn't have time to call Hertz to let them know of the change. Uh oh. Now the beautiful lady behind counter says that they may not have cars. Huh? She goes through her roster and finds a car. I pull out a credit card, hoping to be on my way. Uh oh number two. Card declined. What? I guess I forgot to monitor the balance on that card. I pull out another card. Whew, that one works. Camry in L29. Sign my contract and run to the car. 95 degrees outside, but I'm on my way. Rental car cost: $89. Frustration level: 7/2 It was a 7 at the beginning and 2 at the end.

2:20pm. The ride from Orlando to Tampa is a straight shot on I-4. Nothing strange about the route, which is great. Because I don't get Florida. I've traveled to forty five states over and over, but I never can get a handle on Florida. The one thing you'll notice when you drive in Florida is that there are no motorcycle helmet laws in Florida. Look, even Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson wore helmets, so to watch folks ride without helmets at 90mph is like a freak of nature. Anyway, I digress. It's 98 outside, but it's cool in my car. The Avis rental I had in Atlanta was a Chevy POS (but only cost me $1.98 because I received a $50 coupon when I told the guy in DC that my car needed a jump) but the Camry rides like a Deuce and a Quarter. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on and even though I hate Jon Gruden with a purple passion (die hard Raider fan), it's good to listen to the NFL if I can't watch it. I'm feeling good. Frustration level: 1

2:55pm: Entering Tampa city limits. I'm mentally singing Blur right now. But where's the airport. Oh, just ahead. My Holiday Inn is supposed to next to the airport. But the signs keep point toward the airport, but it doesn't seem to be getting closer. Doesn't matter. I've got to run into it soon. Frustation level: 2

3:05pm: I'm on a frontage road right next to the airport, and unlike 99% of the airports in the world, there are no signs pointing to the hotels. None. Also, Florida has decided to put as many confusing signs at this airport junction as possible. I do what I know to do when I'm lost. I flag down a cabbie. The first cabbie rolls down his window as though I asked him to turn his head and cough. "Where's the airport Holiday Inn?" I ask innocently. "There's no Holiday Inn," he sneers. He drives away. Doubt creeps into my head. No Holiday Inn? My Powerbook says different. Cabbie #2 suggests that I get on 275 south and I'll run into some hotels. Great. I'm on my way! Frustration level: 5

3:14pm: Okay, there's 275 South toward St. Petersberg. I CAN see hotels across the way, so if I get on 275, I can get off closer to the hotels. I'm on 275 South. Hey, where's the exit? Where's the fucking exit? You know how Tampa is sometimes called Tampa Bay? Well, that's because there's a Bay between the cities of Tampa and St. Pete. I'm now on a bridge heading toward St. Pete and there's no turn around. You just have to drive fourteen miles to St. Pete and then turn around. Frustration level: 10

3:23pm: I've turned around and now I'm heading back to Tampa. The first hotel I see is a Clarion Hotel. Initially, I think about going there to see if they know where the Holiday Inn is, but now I don't have time. "Do you have any rooms?" I ask. The Clarion hotel employee answers me in German. She training. On me. Who needs to get to book signing at 4pm. She doesn't care. She taps out my room info using some sort of German Morse code. Finally, I get my key. Cost: 109.00 Frustration level: 7

3:40pm: I throw cash at her like I'm George Bush meeting a Louisiana Congressman, and soon I'm in my hotel room, stripping, ironing, and showering all at the same time. Dressed, I call the bookstore to tell them that I'm going to be a bit late, but don't worry, I'll be there. A kind sounding college student answers the phone but seems remarkably uninformed. No time for that. I gotta get on the road. Frustration level: 6

3:55pm. The road out of the hotel leads to the 275. I expect there to be a "275 South to the left, 275 North, keep straight" sign on the ramp. I get on the ramp. I get a sinking feeling. This muthafucka gets me BACK on that damn bridge of no turnaround to St. Pete, and now I have ANOTHER fourteen mile trip to St. Pete to look forward to. Fuck. Double fuck. Frustration level: 11

4:10pm: I'm back pointed the right way and heading toward Tampa and the bookstore. The one thing I do love is Florida traffic. Everyone thinks they are Mark Martin, so the traffic flows quickly. I'm zooming at an 80mph clip. Gotta love that. What's that up ahead? Remember I told you that I was listening to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game a while back? Well, it's let out and 500,000 cars have now gotten on the highway. I'm in a parking lot. Frustration level: 14

4:25pm: I'm off the highway and only theoretically four miles to my destination. I think of things I'm going to say to make sure folks are not angry about waiting. All the while, I'm looking for something that will dry the sweat on my forehead. I'm FLYING down the street, looking for 56th street. I'm at 17th. Frustration level: 8

4:35pm: I make the turn onto 56th Street and squint trying to find the street numbers and my bookstore. Finally, I find it. There are cars out front so I'm happy. I jump out of my car and run to the door, and still try to keep my composure. I open the darkened doors and...there's no one there. No one except for a kind little college student who is reading her text book. "Hi, I'm Lawrence Ross and I'm supposed to have a booksigning today." She looks at me like the Clarion hotel trainee. She picks up the phone and calls the owner, who I thought would be at the store to greet me. She hands me the phone. "Hi Lawrence!" she says cheerfully. "I thought we were on for OCTOBER 19th, not today." I stand stunned. I hand the phone to the kind college student and sit down. She gets back on the phone and says that the owner would love for me to sign stock. I mindlessly signed ten books and walk out into the 99 degree/99 humidity heat. Frustration level: Off the charts.

I fumble for my keys and make my way back to my hotel, being careful not to make that St. Pete bridge trip again. So after around $500 spent, a day of aggrevation and frustration, I sit in a Clarion hotel with a slow internet connection. Welcome to the glamour life of an author. I need a drink.


Tammee said...

Have a 40 on me... :(

Lawrence said...

LOL. Twenty years ago, I would have...