Off the Exit

Last night I drove, according to my tripometer, 442.7 miles from Sudbury, ON, back into the States to hand-off DJ to Bob and Trisha, who brought the boys Kyle and Lukie, along for the ride. I can’t help but feel like we were runners for the Underground Railroad, though I don’t remember tourism in Florida being against the law however dangerous it might be. Weedsport, NY, wasn’t a stop I remembered from my sixth grade history texts, either. But the books we used at my school were far from definitive.

Now I write to you from Auburn, NY, in the parking lot of the Days Inn. Last night, around 2:10am, I tooled into town only to discover that I hadn’t loaded the maps for this part of the state in my little GPS gizmo. Lost, I circled back to the gas station across from the Holiday Inn to ask for directions for the Days Inn. The clerk and customer very kindly gave me straightforward instructions detailing some tricky turns despite the hotel’s short distance from us. “You’ll have to take a sharp right—you might not even see the hotel until after that right because there are trees on either side,” the clerk told me.

“Thanks. I won’t drive too fast,” I promised.

And I didn’t. Within seconds, I was in the parking lot—of a Motel 8. It was late, I needed directions, and I already had a confirmation number. I had to go in.

“I know this is bad form, and that it’s late, and I’m sorry to have woken you up, but can you tell me how to get to the Days Inn?” I asked the desk attendant, a man in his late thirties whom I had clearly riled from sleep. He was thin, in an inactive sort of way, like how I imagine Marfan’s syndrome left Abraham Lincoln.

He explained over my apologies and in no time flat, I was where I needed to be. Four and a half hours later, I was awake again. Time to check in on my sister. Back in Sudbury, she had slept even less. She plans to stay in Canada through August with JC and his family. I’m worried about her.

On my way out of the hotel lobby I ran into another guest, Phyllis, who was up from Florida for an extended summer visit. She was leaving, too, but the rain held her inside. Phyllis had grown up around here—a quaint little town surrounded by sprawling pastures, befitting a place in New England or a Washington Irving short story—, but lived in Natick for a time with her husband, a native Bostonian now deceased, thirty years ago. “My how that mall has gotten bigger,” she remarked. We chatted a while more, asked where I was from, where I was headed and why. I told her. She seemed concerned with my driving seven or eight hours back; I didn’t explain that Michelle was on a bus bound for Syracuse, perhaps I ought to’ve to assuage her fears. I did explain that I wasn’t so foolish as to drive just then, in my sleepless condition, but that I would walk across the parking lot and into my car to camp out until I felt better.

So here I am, somewhere off exit 40 on I-90, in the parking lot of a hotel I’ve already checked-out of, hours later, using their amenities—including the sauna my car has turned into, despite its missing from their list of offerings. It’s time to grab some breakfast.

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