When (Wo)men Make Plans… – or – Emotional Whiplash In Paradise

I will never understand how some people seem to control their destiny.  From a young age they are sure of what they want to be and do when they grow up, they set out to accomplish those goals, and then live out the lives they imagined for themselves.  I think most people are more like me, though: Mr. Magoo-ing our way through life, drifting like a leaf on a stream, being bumped and jostled by rocks along the way, and ending up somewhere they never envisioned.

Never has this been more apparent for me than the past three months or so.  In July, I wrote out a five year plan for my life and business, had a conversation with some close friends about how Austin was my home and I had no intention of leaving it, went on a beach vacation with my family, and then – for better or worse – on the second to last day of vacation I just happened to check Facebook right when the manager of the Parrot Garden at Best Friends Animal Society happened to post a job opening in her department.

I’ve known Jacque, the Parrot Garden manager, for almost three years now.  She contacted me in early 2011 asking permission to give copies of my Bird Owner’s Manual out to their adopters.  Of course I said yes, and we’ve kept in touch ever since.  So when I saw that she was hiring, I didn’t even pause to think about it; I sent in an application.  Within an hour I heard back from HR, requesting an interview a few days later, and then after the phone interview I was asked to come out for a two week evaluation period, that just a little over a week later.  I had nine days to settle things with current clients, refer them out to colleagues, wrap things up with Dr. Bendall, and prepare for my trip.

The two week evaluation was a blast.  I knew that this was the job for me, and worth completely unending my entire life at the drop of a hat.  I was offered the job, and had almost, but not quite, two weeks to get back home, pack up my life, wrap up loose ends with my business and with Austin Parrot Society, and move up here.

The Move

Frantic doesn’t even begin to describe our moving process.  We were packing and loading the van literally up to the last minute, and when we ran out of space in the van, I ended up leaving several travel cages, playstands, garden supplies, plants, and worst of all, my beautiful Betta fish, Zephyr, behind.  I was bawling as we pulled away from our house.  But even worse, because we left several hours later than intended, our plan to have the cats and birds in their crates in the car (with the windows rolled down, of course) hauled behind the U-Haul did not go over well.  They were overheating before we even started moving.  So we made a pit stop at my parents’ house, brought them all inside, gave them showers, and waited until sundown to get back on the road.  To call me an emotional wreck would be putting it nicely.

The overnight trip through Texas was uneventful.  I guess the only noteworthy part was when we drove through the massive windfarm, where each windmill had a blinking red light on it, so there were blinking red lights against the black sky as far as the eye could see.  And then, right in front of us, a bright green meteorite exploded amidst all the red lights.  Surreal.  I wish I could’ve gotten pictures of it; it was truly something I’ll never forget.

Although our drive through Texas went smoothly, if there was anything that Chuck and I learned on this trip, it’s that we are apparently allergic to state borders.

We crossed the New Mexico border right after 5 am, and as the sun rose I had reached my limit.  I was about to pass out, completely drained from the emotional departure and the all night drive (actually, Chuck had driven for a few hours in the middle of the night, but I was still so tense from the day’s mishaps that I didn’t sleep at all).  So, just past the border, I pulled into a gas station to fill the tank, grab a drink, and let Chuck take over driving.  Unfortunately, there was an emaciated and limping pittie girl sitting right in front of the pumps, looking simultaneously pathetic and hopeful.  Not wanting to run her over, I took a shorter turn than I should have and ran over the curb with the back tire.  The tire instantly exploded.

Too sleep deprived and spent to think straight, Chuck saved the day by finding the number of the U-Haul roadside assistance, so I gave them a call, and a little under an hour later, someone showed up and saved our butts.  I will be forever grateful to that man, for not only showing up at the buttcrack of dawn to fix the U-Haul, but also for being cheerful, encouraging, and generally awesome while doing so.  He cheered us up, made us laugh, and got us back on the road feeling better than before the whole incident happened.

The northern half of New Mexico is indeed enchanted, as they claim.  Sadly, we didn’t get to go through my favorite part, which is basically everything from Santa Fe north, but I did love the scenery and probably would have loved it more under more desirable circumstances.  And while Chuck was driving, I finally reached the point of exhaustion where I was able to cat nap for about 45 minutes or so.

However, once again, we were just a few miles from the Arizona border when we stopped for gas at a station where a huge biker club was parked.  Their motorcycles were sprawled out across most of the parking lot, leaving very little room for us to maneuver the 20-ft U-Haul with the car in tow.  Chuck pulled up to the pump uneventfully, but when we were done and tried to pull out of the parking lot, we got stuck.  I got out to help direct Chuck as he tried to correct our trajectory, but he couldn’t hear me when I was yelling at him to stop, the car trailer jack-knifed, and one of the chains broke off the trailer.  It was Chuck’s turn to be nonplussed.  Fortunately, thanks to the catnap I was at the point of exhaustion where I was too irritated to give a fuck, so I grabbed a wrench, forced the bent O-ring open, jerry-rigged the chain back around so it would once again secure the car trailer to the U-Haul, put a new link in the chain through the O-ring, and forced that bitch back closed again.  I know it wasn’t that big of a deal, but at the time, and under those circumstances, I totally felt like a badass.

The parts of Arizona we drove through were also fairly magical, and someday I’d like to go back and explore a few of those areas, but by this time I was so exhausted and in so much physical pain that I just wanted the whole thing to be over with.  Consequentially that drive felt like the longest stretch of the trip, even though in reality it was actually the shortest.  The U-Haul was carrying so much weight that I was having to really press into the gas pedal just to get it up to 55 mph, so my legs were completely swollen and sore.  I was so tired that I was physically in pain from head to toe, and nothing seemed real.  We were in a race against the sunset to try to get to Kanab before dark so that we didn’t have to unload the truck in pitch black, but it wasn’t to be.

Once again, we got to Page, which is just a few miles from the Utah border, and yet another mishap struck.  One of the roads to Kanab from Page was washed out a few months ago, so there was a detour sign posted to send folks to the other, un-washed-out highway.   Unfortunately, the creators of these roads weren’t all that creative, so both highways are named 89.  And also unfortunately, the people who set up the detour signs weren’t super good at posting clear, easy to follow directions.  So when we followed the detour signs from the 89 we were on to the 89 that was the detour, we accidentally ended up turning left on the 89 that was washed out instead of the 89 that wasn’t washed out.  We realized our mistake when we passed a flashing red sign that said “road closed”, but our talented road-smiths *also* aren’t very good about thinking to themselves, “Gee, we should probably create a safe place for trucks to be able to turn around, in case they accidentally head in the wrong direction.”  So we kept driving for a couple of miles, looking for a place to turn around, and finally found a place that *looked* wide enough.  Oh no.  It wasn’t.  And once again, we jack-knifed.  We were stuck.  The car and trailer were facing the wrong direction; the U-Haul was facing the right direction, but had no more road to drive on.  So we decided, hey, no way around but forward.  Those frail-looking sage bushes surely would be no match for a several ton U-Haul, right?  WRONG.  I drove over one.  It lifted the front tires right off the ground, and that thick desert sand sunk the back tires down almost to their axles.

At this point, I full on, straight up, lost my shit.  We had been awake for 40 hours, and driving for 26.  We had already encountered and overcome two major obstacles right around state borders.  I simply didn’t have the reserves to gracefully and intelligently tackle this third one.  I called the U-Haul roadside service number again, but this time the operator on the other end had difficulty understanding me through my panicked sobs.  I also called two of my future co-workers, incoherently babbling at them through sobs that I needed them to please come get my animals, because we were going to be stuck out there in the desert at night, and snakes would get into their crates and eat them.  *Of course* that’s completely absurd and irrational, but sleep deprivation and stress will do that to your ability to think and behave rationally.

Fortunately for us, a lovely couple lives right off the road right by that area where so many people before us had attempted to turn around like we had, and they saw us get stuck, and they drove up to us and asked us if we needed any help.  Chuck handled this one for me, since he was far more calm and stable than I was in that moment.  He explained what was going on to the couple, and they told us that trucks get stuck in the exact spot we did every single day, for the exact same reasons we did.  So they were used to helping hapless victims get unstuck.  Also, somehow another dude showed up in a truck, and between that dude and the couple who lived there, they got our U-Haul hitched up to the Mystery Dude’s truck.  I didn’t think it would work, honestly.  What’s one truck against several tons of U-Haul/car?  But let me tell you something: that Ford F150 slogan?  You know the one, “Built tough”?  Yeah, that’s not just advertising.  That’s legit.  Mystery Dude’s truck’s hitch was bending at a 45 degree angle like it was about to snap off, but it hauled our U-Haul right over that deceptively sturdy sage bush, out of the soft, deep sand, and back onto the road.  We thanked them all profusely – me through my sobs, which I could not for the life of me get under control – and got back on the road.

It was almost midnight when we pulled up to our house.  Too exhausted and sore to unload anything, we just grabbed the sofa cushions, some blankets, the animals, and all of our overnight bags.  I gave all the babies fresh food and water, set up litter boxes, and got ready for bed.  Are you familiar with the word “cankles”?  You know, where your calves go straight down to your feet because your ankles are the same width as your calves?  Well, I had “thankles”.  My feet, ankles, and knees were so swollen from the arduous drive and pressing that damn gas pedal to the floor for a full day that my thighs went down to my feet in a straight line.  No exaggeration.  I propped my legs up on some pillows, placed bags of frozen veggies over my knees and ankles, and promptly passed out.

When I woke up in the morning, I could’ve kissed our property managers for leaving us hand soap, toilet paper, paper towels, and epsom salts.   Never were such simple gestures of hospitality and thoughtfulness more greatly appreciated.

***01.29.13 EDIT***

I had intended to finish this blog, talking about settling into the the new job and new town, but got busy and forgot.  It’s been five months since we moved here now, so this entry is way after the fact, but whatever.  I’m just going to post it as-is and move on.  Maybe in a few months I’ll remember to post another entry.

P.S. I clearly suck at blogging, since I never freaking remember to actually do it.  🙂