“…this was the most awkward Wednesday he ever remembered.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Let me tell you about our Wednesday.
The morning started off normally (well, as normal as you can get in the Nef household). Dad headed off to work in the minivan, Connor and Landon went to school (Landon using crutches – he’s been having knee troubles). Lauren was called to jury duty downtown, so mom and I drove her over first thing in the morning to drop her off at the Hall of Justice. It’s not a great part of town, but we weren’t worried. She’d be sitting around inside waiting most of the time, so we told her “Call us when you are done!”
It was just mom and I left at home. Oh we’ll work on our Halloween costumes today. Today will be perfect to get them ready, we said. Ha.
So around noon we get a text from Landon: “I keep getting ridiculously light headed, I think it’s because of my knee. I feel like I’m going to pass out.”
“Time to call the doctor I guess,” says mom. We set up an appointment for 2:00, and pick him up from school early to head over.
My brother Landon is 16 years old, but that apparently still places him under Pediatric care, so, entering the hospital, we are directed to what appears to be more a kindergarten classroom than a waiting room: highly colored like a fingerpainting gone wrong, populated with miniature furniture, and filled with workers sporting pastels and high voices. My brother, all 6-feet of him, sits down on a couch next to the Hungry Caterpillar table, across from a wall laden with Dr. Seuss quotes, a real gem from which reads:
In my world, everyone’s a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies!
The doctor calls him in and assesses the situation and tells us he will probably need x-rays and an MRI, and says she will set up an appointment with an orthopedic doctor right away.
I guess she meant that literally, because she comes back and tells us she set up the appointment for 2:45 at the main hospital across town. It’s 2:25. We jump in the car and make a mad dash over.
It’s at that point we realize my brother Connor has no idea that Landon left early from school, and that we would be unable to drive him home. “It’s fine,” says Landon. “I will just text our friend Preston, and he can let Connor know.” (Connor’s cell phone is broken). And, we somehow forgot the minor detail that we locked all doors to the house and that Connor did not have a key.
We arrive at the huge hospital and can see that the parking lot is mayhem. “I’ll park the car while you two go in,” I say. So Mom and Landon hop out of the car, and I venture forth among the thousands of car to find a parking spot. I am in the middle of extricating myself from a car-jammed contest for a spot in the boonies of the lot when I receive a phone call from Lauren (along with about 6 text messages).
“THE COURT CASE WAS RESOLVED THEY DON’T NEED ME. PLEASE COME GET ME!”
“Uh…we’re at the hospital. Don’t know if we can. Hold tight – sorry…call you back in 5 minutes” I said, almost dropping the phone from surprise that I had stumbled across a person pulling out of a spot in time for me to nab it.
After parking the car, I run inside the hospital (passing a middle-aged, masked Spiderman in a wheelchair singing, “Spiderman! Spiderman! Spiderman broke his leg!”), and tell Mom that Lauren needs to be picked up. “Should I go get her? But I don’t know how to get to the right freeway from this hospital!”
“No, I’ll go get her,” says Mom, “You stay here with Landon and talk to the Orthopedic Doctor.” She hands me the credit card and heads out to the parking lot.
Unfortunately for this plan, my mom did not know where the car was parked, so she starts wandering around to try and find it. Stress levels are rising, which isn’t helped by Dad’s call.
“Hi honey. Sorry to bother you, but could you come pick me up? The van died while I was out on business.”
“Where are you at?” asks Mom.
“Oh, in the Harley Davidson store parking lot.”
Now understand that this van is one of the quirkiest cars on the planet – the windshield wipers will choose for themselves appropriate times to turn on (usually when it’s sunny), the locks buzz when you get past 25 mph, one of the doors is perpetually unlocked…you get the idea. Every few months or so, some new tic pops up. The latest is that the key likes to get stuck in the ignition.
So my dad had been practicing the sales aspect of his new job – he had just finished talking to a potential client and got into the car parked next to the Harley Davidson store to head off to another place when he turned the key in the ignition and nothing happened. I mean, the radio turned on…but not the engine. He goes to try it again, and the same thing happens.
Third time’s the charm (or the jinx), and the car not only doesn’t turn on, but now the key is jammed and won’t turn. At all. Dudes in black leather and tats polishing their Harley motorcycles watched as a middle aged man in oxford shirt and slacks struggled with the Chrysler Town and Country minivan. One dude was nice enough to aid dad in pushing the van into a parking spot in the Harley lot.
Meanwhile, to keep herself busy, Lauren is texting Mom throughout the phone call with dad.
She had eaten a sandwich from a place neighboring the Bail Bonds shop across the street between juror interview sessions, but with the evening coming on, Lauren was getting hungrier and hungrier and more and more nervous about the type of crowd frequenting that particular neighborhood. One man did drop a good line to her in passing on the street, “If you were a McDonald’s burger, you would be a McGorgeous.” Needless to say, she was flattered.
But in light of her having to wait for an undefined length of time, she had decided to take advantage of her moment of solitude before the county jailhouse, and texted so to mom:
“I am just going to wander around aimlessly.” -send-
“I will contemplate the meaning of the little complexities in life.” -send-
“I will climb a tree to seek enlightenment.” -send-
“When you next see me, I will have a beard and inner peace.” -send-
In the meantime, mom is a little overwhelmed (to say the least) what with talking to dad while trying to find the car, and hearing incessant binging in her ear from Lauren’s barrage of texts. She eventually finds the car, texts Lauren that she’s coming (“Oh, okay, never mind then,” texts Lauren. “I will save my metaphysical journey for later”), and saves dad from an evening with Hell’s Angels (the key still stuck in the ignition of the comatose van).
Meanwhile back at the ranch, I mean the hospital, Landon gets his x-rays done and is fortunately told he doesn’t need an MRI – “just physical therapy” says the doctor. He has tendonitis. We get out of the appointment and Landon checks his phone and sees a message from Connor over Facebook. “Hey guys, I’m at home, where are you?” That’s when it hit me…how did he get into the house?
The good news: Connor easily broke into the house and was fine.
The bad news: Connor easily broke into the house and was fine.
“I am now working out to Lord of the Rings music,” says Connor.
Eventually, Mom, Dad, and Lauren reunite with Landon and I at the hospital and we head home. We are all starving by this point, but unfortunately we hadn’t been able to go grocery shopping for many days. Looking into our cupboards, we decide a nice mexican rice sounds good: 8 cups rice, 2 giant cans diced tomatoes, some seasoning, 4 cans of beans (we are a big family after all). It would be tasty and we have the ingredients, and you only have to toss them together in a pot and let them cook. What could go wrong, right?
After maybe 5 minutes on the stove, we notice that the whole giant pot is smoking worse than a chimney. “Wait – it can’t be burning! We just turned it on!” But sure enough the entire pot’s already boiling and the house is filling with acrid smoke similar to burning plastic. We turn off the stove, and take the pot off the burner and put it on a cork pad. But it burns the cork pad!
10 minutes later, and despite Lauren’s stirring, the pot from hell is still boiling in the backyard, far from all heat sources. “Doesn’t this defy the laws of thermodynamics or something?” we say.
We are all a little apprehensive about eating it. “The rice is inedible, guys,” says Mom.
“No, it will be fine,” says Lauren. “I will eat it!” When it finally cools off, we venture a taste. “Yeah, it kind of tastes like charcoal with taco seasoning,” says Lauren.
“Ew…it’s got…ew…a sort of plasticky, metal taste to it. Like chemicals. Ick. How is that even possible?” says Mom.
So we abandon the pot to the elements in the backyard while we cook up the favorite Styrofoam noodle meal reminiscent of food – Top Ramen. Oh yeah baby. Love the Ramen.
But, with spoons in hand, the three dudes of the family go out to the back patio and gather around the pot of the nuclear waste that would have been our dinner, and have started munching away.
“Hey,” says Landon. “It tastes like the Mountainhouse freeze-dried food we take on our campouts!”
“Yeah,” says Connor. “This would be gourmet stuff at our scout hike!”
“It’s really not that bad,” says Dad.
And so they continue to eat, standing around the pot on the ground, shovelling into their mouths the rice they said tasted like a friendly combination of “food, campfire smoke, dirt, and plastic.” (Why you would want to ingest anything that tasted like dirt is beyond me. But they seemed quite content about it).
The boys in the end ate so much of the charcoal rice that they were not hungry for the substitute entree. So we girls chucked the rest of the rice away (so they wouldn’t eat any more and die of some new disease), and chowed down on Top Ramen while we watched the baseball game.
It was a weird day. But a good day nevertheless. How is that? Maybe it’s because, despite the crazy, we all laughed so much together.
Or maybe it’s because we don’t judge days by events but by the stories we create as a family.
Or maybe it was because that Top Ramen dinner tasted so dang good!
In any case, we ended our day together. And that’s what matters.
…and the fact that the Giants won the game.
They are starting to put ads on our blog. We do not approve these and are not getting any residuals whatsoever, so I apologize for the content. I’ll see what I can do about it.