Hello internet, how are you? I'm fine, thanks for asking.
Today I got the annual email saying "request your holiday days off NOW, before they're gone!" Which got me to thinking about the holidays and what we're going to do... but mostly, about how much traffic there is going to be on the New Jersey Turnpike.
But, whatever, I told myself. Nothing can be as bad as two years ago.
Twas the morning before the night before Christmas of 2004, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Joel had departed early in the morn, off to Vermont to sit by the fire and eat popped corn.
I was nestled all snug in my bed, with visions of sugar overdoses dancing in my head.
When out in the hall there arose such a clatter, I knew in my sleep exactly what what the matter.
It was the sound that Max makes when he's not feeling quite well, the warning he gives before all goes to hell.
Into the hall I flew like a flash, thinking "Not on the rug, Max! Don't be such an ass!"
Hack, hack, cough cough, the fat kitty said, and before I could reach out, vomit sprang from his head.
Off he ran down the stairs and into the bathroom, while I spotted up cat puke with my face filled with gloom.
And what to my wondering eyes should appear, just as I'd found the carpet cleaner and was in the clear?
Another pile here and yet another there, Max had even puked on my neatly folded underwear.
As I stood bewildered in my rumpled nightgown, I heard more hacking commence, two floors down.
Max was very sick, of that much I was sure, and I could only wonder what on earth could be the cure?
As I closed him in the bathroom with a towel and bowl of water, I marched off to work, feeling as if I were on my way to a slaughter.
I'll just call the vet, it will all be all right, a Merry Christmas indeed, but we'll have a fine night.
Two years ago, Joel and I decided to do holidays with our separate families. Joel left for the high hills of Vermont early in the morning of December 23rd, but I was scheduled to work a half day, since I had just started my job three weeks before and totally got screwed with holiday time off.
Max is not a healthy cat, and him throwing up is nothing new. But the way he was acting on this morning, I knew that something was seriously wrong. He wouldn't stop barfing, and in between he was lying in the bathtub, panting. He was hot to the touch and looked about as miserable as a cat can look. He was not exactly in the shape I'd like to make a 200-mile drive home to New Jersey, but I had to go to work, since I was the only one scheduled in that day. I locked Max in the bathroom and went off to work, where I immediately called the vet and scheduled an emergency appointment. They told me it would cost $50 extra since it was such short notice, but they didn't say anything about it being Christmas Eve-eve, and for that I was grateful. Four hours later, I trudged back home in the pouring rain and started loading up the car for the trip home for the holidays.
I was not particularly looking forward to getting Max into his carrier. Have you ever seen footage of people who are, for whatever reason, trying to wrangle a greased pig? They're diving on to the pig, the pig is squealing and running as fast as his pig legs can carry him, then they manage to grab him and he flails and squirms and breaks free, and it starts all over again? That's what it's like trying to get Max into his carrier. It doesn't help that, most of the time, Madison is sitting in the carrier because HE never gets to go ANYWHERE, insert whining here. Oh, and have I mentioned that Max was vomiting quite a bit? Good times! So I did what anyone would do in this situation, and I made myself a sandwich for the road. Then I ate some chips and had a Diet Coke and looked out the window to see if it was still raining. It was. I decided to save the best for last, leaving Max in the bathroom while I packed up the last few bags.
As I walked out of the house with my purse and my sandwich, I instinctively turned the lock on the inside of the door and slammed it behind me. As it was closing, my stomach sank and I turned in slow motion... but it was too late. I had my lunch in one hand, and my purse in the other, and I'd left my keys on the kitchen table.
Thankfully, the little baby Jesus* was feeling gracious (or I was just stupid) and I hadn't locked my car. So, I got into the passenger seat and began digging through my purse, praying that I had my cell phone somewhere in there.
Have I mentioned that I am a nervous traveler? Well, I am. I get irrationally nervous whenever I'm traveling, especially by plane. It's really quite counterproductive, because my nerves cause me to forget things (like cell phones, wallets, cell phone chargers, the address of the hotel I'm staying at, KEYS TO THE HOUSE I LIVE IN), which in turn makes me even more nervous.
(Don't you just want to take a trip with me now? )
Luckily, I had my cell phone on me. I called Joel, who had been driving north for approximately 6 hours at this point.
Me: OMG I locked myself out of teh house!!!1 Where r u?? Can u come let me in??
Joel: I am in New Hampshire.
Me: Oh, $@%&. I was hoping maybe you hit a lot of traffic or something and were still close by.
So I did the next logical thing that a person would do, I knocked on the door of our neighbor two doors down, who we'll call Mr. Old Man, or MOM. MOM is the prototype for a certain Baltimore breed, he is always home, except for when he's carted away in an ambulance, which happens approximately every other week. He has lived in his house since he was born, which is a long time, since he is approximately 177 years old. He has a handicapped parking spot, which makes me angry at him, even though I should probably be sympathetic or something instead. MOM's favorite hobbies include watching TV with his door open, standing in front of his open door spying on the neighborhood, going to the hospital, and gabbing with anyone who will talk to him.
Since the house next to us was vacant at the time, and I knew the neighbors on the other side were already gone for the holidays, and the rest of our block is made up of white trash folks of varying degrees of Scary (the Scariest kicked out one of their residents, who I think is the brother of one of the other residents on the block, and then he proceeded to sleep on their front steps for over a week. And then he got tired of them kicking him every time they came in or out, and he moved to sleeping on the church steps across the street... that is, until he was arrested for Something Mysterious in a big to-do in front of said church and was never seen again), I decided MOM was probably my safest bet.
For what? I don't know. But I knocked on his door. And sure enough, he was home.
Me: Um, hi. I live two houses down. I think we met when I moved in or something. Um, I like sort of locked myself out of the house.
Me: Do you have a phone I can use? And maybe a phone book? Do you know a locksmith? Can you pick a lock? Can you make it stop raining? Do you want half of this sandwich I made myself before I got locked out?
MOM: I'll go get a phone book.
While he was gone, I got a good look around his living room, which was exactly what you would expect: shag brown carpeting, a TV from the 60s playing Jeopardy, and LOTS of brick-a-brack. I quickly realized that waiting alone and wet in my car would be much preferable to waiting in awkward silence with MOM, so I shut his door, got into my car, called 411, and got the number for a locksmith. Why did I not do this in the first place? Your guess is as good as mine. I'm going with Travel Nerves.
When I called 411, they wanted to know which listing I needed, and the only locksmith I could think of was this company called Pop-A-Lock, who have a van that I often see parked nearby. Their slogan is "Free if Child Locked in Car!" So, I called them. Hey, maybe they were also "Free If Barfing Cat Locked in House!"
The Pop-A-Lock operator said they would be there in approximately 30 minutes. THIRTY MINUTES! But I have to be at my emergency vet appointment in 15 minutes! Dios mio. But I said OK, because really? Was I going to argue?
Just then, I saw MOM's face appear in his window. He had a phone book in his hand. I rolled down the window and yelled "Oh, thanks! But I got someone! I'm fine!" He gave me a look that said he was sick and tired of all the damn crazy people on this block, and shut his door.
I sat in my car and called every person I knew in an attempt to pass the time, and take my mind of the fact that I really had to pee. You know how you always wait until right before you leave on a long trip to pee, so that you won't have to pee again 15 minutes after you leave? BAD IDEA.
Then I ate my sandwich.
And drank my Diet Coke.
And REALLY had to pee. But not quite enough to go back to MOM's house and ask to use the bathroom.
I called Joel again. He was still in New Hampshire.
I called the vet and told them I wasn't going to make it to my 1pm Emergency Appointment.
I looked at Madison sitting in the window, and wished I had trained him to pass me my keys through the mail slot, instead of wasting all my time training Max to stand on his hind legs for a treat.
I called Pop-A-Lock again to see where the hell they were. They told me that someone would be there in 45 minutes to an hour.
I still really had to pee.
Two hours after I'd first called them, Pop-A-Lock showed up. But they refused to pop my damn lock**, because it was "raining" too hard. So I sat in my car some more.
The rain didn't let up.
Finally, they popped the lock. It took less than thirty seconds, but yet it cost me $55. MOM watched through his screen window. I wrote a check and ran to the bathroom. I shoved Max into his carrier, grabbed the last two bags, and sped to the vet.
When I got to the vet's office, I was informed that the vet has just started a surgery. I would have to wait for her to be done.
I waited. Max slept. Madison cried.
An hour and a half later, the vet saw us. She poked and prodded Max, and told me she thought he might have ingested something that was making him sick. I told her that was highly probable, as I found him snuggled up with a half-eaten purple string that he had pulled out of my hoodie sweatshirt last night. She said that was bad, and I said that I knew... that was one of my favorite sweatshirts, and now Max had ruined it.
The vet said there were two options:
- Wait and see what happens (Cost: Free)
- Do an xray to see if there IS a foreign object in Max's intestines, and then do surgery to remove it (Cost: $98,233,487,234.99)
Since I didn't actually have $98,233,487,234.99, and they weren't accepting IOU's for first-born children, I chose option number 1. I was sent off with some nausea pills, and Max got a shot of fluids since he'd been barfing all day and was dehydrated. For these, and the emergency visit, the cost was a mere $400, which seemed like a bargain. Except for that my cat was still sick.
I collected my cats, who were none to pleased after spending over two hours in the vet's office, and my much lighter wallet, and we got in the car to start on our way to New Jersey.
I had originally planned to be on the road no later than 1pm, in order to avoid the worst of the holiday traffic. At this point, it was 4:45. I got to the freeway at exactly 5pm, and hit rush hour traffic.
The drive to my mom's house is just over 200 miles, and takes about 3 hours and 15 minutes on a good day, with no major traffic and one stop to pee/get gas. On this day, it took just over six hours. Max cried for every single second of those six hours. I cried for a few of them, too.
But we made it, and now I can rest easy knowing that no matter how bad the traffic and how stressful the holiday, nothing can be worse than that day.
*I just like the little baby Jesus best.
**This is not a euphamism for ANYTHING, you sick, sick people.