Road Trip! (Friday July 25, part 3)

We encountered our the first of the two enemies as soon as we left I-76 in Pennsylvania.  It was Mapquest.

H had obtained trip directions from Mapquest before we started on our road trip.  I’ve never been fond of Mapquest; I use Google maps instead.  But, I thought to myself, H is an experienced traveler.  If she uses Mapquest, there must be a reason.

The route that Mapquest had us take from the Pennsylvania Ren Faire site back to my home town involved leaving I-76 to get on a local route, US-222, to I-78, to I-287.  I had my doubts about this route.  I would have taken I-76 to the New Jersey Turnpike.  It would take longer, but it would keep us on highways all the way, so H’s efficient driving would do us the most good.  Also, we’d never be too far from a rest stop.

I decided not to bring this up.  I’d made enough poor judgment calls on this trip.  I didn’t want to be like the Chevy Chase character in the “Vacation” movies, who never learned from his mistakes and kept getting everyone into trouble.  H trusted Mapquest, so I went along.

This was a mistake.

The Mapquest directions proved to be confusing when confronted with the actual roads.  It was hard to know what was a “left spur” versus a “left fork”, and there was a long stretch when we weren’t sure which road we were on.

Part of the road turned out to be “very local,” in the sense that there were frequent traffic lights.  There were portions when the traffic was just plain slow.

H was teetering on the edge.  Every delay made it more and more likely that she would not be present at the opening of the Connecticut Ren Faire that evening.  Finally, she called and left a message on the answering machine of the Ren Faire office: she wouldn’t be there at the 6PM opening, but she’d be there for her first performance at 7:30PM.

The need to call irritated her.  She began to curse at the traffic.  Every time she (or I; she let me drive on the local roads where efficiency didn’t matter) had to step on the brake pedal, she treated it as another personal offense against her.

Now, before I continue to mock H (and I will!) there are some serious things I have to acknowledge in her defense:

– She was drinking coffee to keep alert on the road.  The consequence of this is that her bladder was sending “I’ve got to pee” signals almost constantly.  We stopped as often as she felt she could, but every stop meant another delay.  She didn’t want to stop, so she was in continuous pain.

– “The show must go on” was burning in her blood.  Not only was it a force of habit and of professional pride, but there was a practical side: the entertainment directors of Ren Faires are not known for accepting excuses. Although it was the final weekend of the Connecticut Ren Faire, it would not be unheard of for her pay for the entire Faire to be docked for missing a performance.  It was even possible that the word would get out and that she’d find it difficult to get Ren-Faire employment in the future.

– Even when she got to the CT Faire site, she wasn’t clear on how she’d get into the trailer.  She needed those stage props to do her show.  She’d tried calling fellow performers at the Faire, but couldn’t get in touch with anyone.

– The one-day 12-hour road trip had turned into a two-day 20-hour adventure. She didn’t know how much I’d paid for the trailer hitch and gas and food, but she had some idea.  She’d paid for some of the gas refills and for the hotel room, but I (with my false sense of machismo) slid my credit card through whenever I could.  She was feeling guilty about how much I was giving her, in time and money and energy.  She knew that she could never repay me for all I did.

I tried to assure that it was OK.  I was having fun, in a vague sort of way that makes credit-card companies happy (though I omitted the latter clause when I said that to her).  I acknowledged that she couldn’t pay me back, but I told her that she could pay it forward: someday someone she knew would be in trouble, and she’d help them out.

If you’re thinking that she could pay me back in some way that involved radiant fruits of passion, shame on you!

Underlying all of this:

– H was seriously hurt when her former partner abandoned in Texas.  She trusted him, and he abused that trust.  Like many people who’ve had experiences like this, she felt that it was her fault somehow.

Her friends, including me, offered her the facts: Nothing she ever did justified stealing from her or abandoning her 1500 miles from home with no way to get back.  A little investigation revealed that her former partner had a pattern of stealing from his partners and abandoning them.

But those were matters of mere fact.  They had nothing to do with how she felt.

In the months during her personal, professional, and financial recovery, her feeling of self-blame had died down.  Now, with the multiple pressures of guilt, obligation, time, and an overactive bladder, that feeling surfaced again.

I sympathized with her.  However, that sympathy was sorely tested when we encountered our final enemy on the trip.

Next: Friday, July 25 (part 4)

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