adventures

Norfolk: Day 4 – Portsmouth and other disappointments

It’s just after 10am, and I am standing on the dock outside the newly renovated Waterside Marketplace waiting for the ferry to cross the Elizabeth River to Portsmouth. The weather app on my phone says its 65 degrees and cloudy, but the chilly ocean wind makes it feel colder than that.

The small paddleboat arrived around 10 past the hour, it dropped off about a half dozen people and let the three of us who were waiting on dock onboard. The inside had a rusted floor with benches along the sides. Apparently, there were more benches in the center of the boat at one point, but they were removed, possibly to make room for the three beaten up fare boxes. The bench wasn’t all that comfortable, but it didn’t matter since it was only a 10 minute ride across the river to High Street landing.

Portsmouth is a charming, quiet town that kind of reminded me of a cross between Federal Hill and Fells Point. Unfortunately for me, I was visiting on a Thursday morning so nearly everything was closed: The Naval Shipbuilding Museum (for refurbishment until “early 2017”), The Lightship Portsmouth (open weekends only), Virginia Sports Museum (permanently closed) and a half dozen “historic homes” (also open weekends only).

That left the Arts & Culture Center (which was “between exhibitions”), the Virginia Children’s Museum, the TCC (Tidewater Community College) Gallery and the exteriors of various buildings. Oh, and I could purchase cheap looking, neon colored t-shirts at the visitor’s center which is coincidentally where I had to go anyway to get the ferry back to Norfolk – and it was only 12:30 (it would have been noon if I hadn’t stopped for lunch at Jimmy Johns on High Street).

I arrived back at downtown Norfolk around 1:25 where it was a balmy 69 degrees with partly cloudy skies, and I was nowhere near ready to pack it in for the day so I walked over to Nauticus (though most of the parks were closed off due to construction of the various tents for next week’s Harborfest). I walked up the ticket counter and the somewhat disinterested cashier sold me a normal base ticket for $15 (included a movie and a limited tour of the attached battleship). I couldn’t decide if I wanted a snack or to just upstairs to see the exhibits on the 3rd floor first so I chose the latter.

The museum itself is hard to quantify. It has some exhibits that are geared towards kids (like the entry on port Norfolk, the touch a shark tank or the small “aquarium” area – which makes the former National Aquarium in DC look HUGE by comparison), but the majority of the labyrinthine museum space is ship life, Naval history, Naval recruiting and the nearby Naval base – not many of which would be of interest to the 3-12 set.

The exhibits are small, superficial and dated with broken or worn out “interactives” and little to no flow between the tightly packed exhibits – which you can’t really skip as there is only ONE path through the exhibit area (as I found out when one of the barely crowded rooms was too noisy for my tastes). The only place in the gallery that wasn’t claustrophobically small was the end where the theater, the NOAA exhibit and the stairway to the actual Hampton Roads Naval Museum\walkway to the USS Wisconsin (which were both on the second level). Though I didn’t partake in either this time as I fell asleep in the 3d movie and took that as a cue to head back to the hotel… at 3pm in the afternoon.

Not yet, first I stopped into their gift shop (my favorite part of their museum), and then I went into their café next door… but they were closed so I looked around thinking I might be able to take some snacks back to the room with me. Then a black man in black shirt hauling a large trash can behind him comes up behind me:

“Ya know,” he said. “We got a full menu.”

“Yeah, thanks, but it’s closed. There’s no-one back there.”

“What was that? I said look up there. We got a full menu up there,” he said pointing up to the large black and white sign hanging from the ceiling that I’d have to be blind to miss (I couldn’t read it with my crappy vision, but I couldn’t miss it when I came in).

“And it doesn’t do me any good if it’s CLOSED because there is NO-ONE back there.”

“’No-one back there?’ I work the café. I’D be the one ringing you up. Now, if you want to order something. Order it.”

With that said, I immediately turned around and decided to get dinner in the hotel and then get a start on my packing. It’s going to be another long day of traveling tomorrow – and my toes aren’t even remotely healed yet…

Categories: adventures, Advocacy\volunteer, Autism, entertainment, ferry, museums, Norfolk, sensory processing disorder, transportation, Virginia | Leave a comment

Norfolk: Day 1 – Travel and tribulation

It’s 10am as I’m sitting here, fighting sleep in the middle of a crowded terminal and writing this intro while waiting for my flight to begin boarding. I had less then 3 hours of sleep as my shoulder and gut bothered my for most of the night and I had to leave the condo no later than 8am to get to the airport in time to get through both the chaos at AA’s self-check-in area and the notoriously difficult TSA screening area. This is going to be a great day.

So, we arrived at PHL approximately 20 minutes early. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, except that my layover has now gone from 2 hours and 40 minutes to just under 3 hours. Three hours at an airport is a long time so I stopped to get lunch in the food court between terminals B and C before heading over to the shuttle at gate C10.

I got off the half-full shuttle, walked up to the giant monitor above the “Information” desk and saw there was a flight to Norfolk leaving in less than 30 minutes from gate F29 so after some careful consideration, I decided to go for it. I get to the counter, speak with the middle-ages agent who looks at with a plastic airline smile and says:

“I’m sorry, the last passenger has already boarded, and the plane door is already shut.”

“So,” the gravity of the situation sinking in. “You’re not saying I’m too late?”

“Yes, but don’t worry. There’s another flight in only two hours. I’m sorry. Have a nice day.”

That’s the thing about people being “sorry” for me, it’s always bad news and their semi-sincere apologies never actually change the situation. However, I likes how she said “only two hours” as if pissing away time in an airport was easy and fun. It wasn’t.

I go back to the dining area near the entrance, put my bags on a chair and sit down at the table next to them. Less than a minute later, I’m approached by a blonde-haired young man in a bright yellow vest, probably going to tell me to “move along” or something.

“My name is Alex, and I work for the airport. And I have a, um, question for you. Are you coming in or out – arriving or departing today?”

“Both,” I replied cautiously.

“You mean like a layover, um, okay, thank you. Sorry for bothering you.”

What the hell just happened? I know he was fishing for a reason to toss me out of the airport, but his body language and anxious tone said otherwise. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was…. *facepalm*

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s TWO “missed connections” in less than ten minutes. Yeah, overthinking an awkward two-minute encounter with a super-hot airport employee I’ll never see again is definitely going to make the next hour and…ugh, forty-five minutes just fly by. It didn’t.

An hour later, I was sitting in the crowded terminal area when the gate opened and people stream out of the small plane parked outside said gate, down a set of narrow stairs and down a cattle shoot to the gate that I’m supposed to be traveling out of. That is not a good sign, and it was exactly what I was afraid would happen. Guess what, it did, and as a special bonus, I was too large for my seatbelt to fit correctly and my toes were scrunched up in the same under-the-seat-in-front-of-me area as my bag. I had friction blisters on my toes, and my vacation hadn’t even started yet. The good news was it was only an hour long flight. Yep, wait three to fly one.

I leave the plane, relieved that I’m exiting into the gate rather than down those narrow stairs, and pass through the windowed bridge linking the terminal to the main lobby (which resembles the pre-security seating area at MCO) – where I could see that it was pouring rain outside. It was almost 6pm so I stopped into the only restaurant in the building that was still open – a sports bar with more TVs than patrons despite the nearly full airplane I just got off of.

I finish my food and head downstairs to the Baggage Claim area where I eventually find an information counter. When I asked the clueless young woman in the beige Navy uniform where the ground transportation counter, she just looked at me blankly. Apparently, ORF doesn’t offer “shared ride services” so if I wanted to do anything besides pick up my luggage and take it to my rental car (duh, this is America – EVERYONE drives), I was like the Navy says “SOL.”

I take my hat out of my bag, flip the hood of my raincoat up and walked around on the median until someone asked if I “needed a cab.” It wasn’t my first choice of transit, but it beat walking around on an uncovered median for another 10-15 minutes as my vacation officially opened….

Categories: adventures, florida, flying, Norfolk, Orlando, Pennsylvania, Philadephia, transportation, Virginia | Leave a comment

Transit troubles

Note: These are some actual updates from my Facebook page of the same name about my day going to\getting back from seeing the new exhibit at Orlando Science Center (a traveling one at that). Some of said stats have been edited to fit a more detailed narrative timeline.

 

10:56am – Chased out of the apartment by the obnoxious noise the landscape crew was making with their mowers and whackers. I got everything together to go out… just in time to see them packing up as well. Maybe a little adventure will give this headache a chance to go away…

11:35am – Disembarked at Lynx Central Station and immediately traded my transfer pass for a Sunrail card as I figured (wrongly as it turned out) that an 11-minute train ride would be easier than a 25 minute bus ride… or it would have been except the last morning train left six minutes ago…and “mid-day” trains come at TWO HOUR INTERVALS?

11:55am – I am strongly considering opening my Lyft app and requesting a fricken ride. The only problem is the battery on my phone is running out so I shut it down for the remainder of the afternoon to conserve power.

12:25pm – I am hungry, and decide to go into the actual station itself to get something to eat. It turns out, the building itself is pretty bare bones with restrooms (complete with not-at-all-creepy “these restrooms are being monitored…” sign #eww), vending machines and a rack of schedules across from the entrance (which was closed due to maintenance).

12:47pm – I just finished lunch at their tiny in-station café. No menu, no tables and the cashier tried to rip me off, but it filled 15 minutes so whatever. Yeah, meanwhile, I am sitting here realizing how noisy it is out here: birds, buses coming\going, station announcements and guys with leaf blowers (because someone hates me today).

-1:13pm – Only fifteen minutes to go. ^_^

-1:28pm – After watching two Amtrak and one southbound Sunrail train zoom past me, the Northbound train to Orlando Health finally arrives.

-3:38pm – On my way back from Orlando science center. I was there to see their temporary exhibit #AstronautOSC. I haven’t decided if it is worth writing a review of or not. I like space stuff, but this exhibition was kind of #meh.

-5:04pm – Got on at the wrong bus at the transfer so the driver rudely threw me off at the last stop. He did begrudgingly let me back on 15 minutes later with a condescending lecture about it being “YOUR responsibility to make sure you get on the right bus.”

Sorry, I keep forgetting I CHOSE to have a brand-new car totaled by a teenager I never saw coming. The best part, the state rewarded my pain and suffering by revoking MY license forcing me to deal with assholes like this. 😡

-5:21pm – Thanks to that blunder, I arrived at The Florida Mall about 40 minutes later than I planned. I have less than 20 minutes to get dinner on the opposite side of the mall before my transfer pass expires (as he refused to issue me a new one). Fortunately, it’s a food court, so it shouldn’t be too hard.

6:20pm – On my way back now, I had to use my last remaining ones as my transfer pass expired just as I was leaving the food court… but I still haven’t decided if I’m doing a full write-up my visit to OSC. Fortunately, I have just over a half-hour to make up my mind…

Categories: adventures, Autism, florida, LYNX bus, Orlando, sensory processing disorder, Sunrail, transportation | Leave a comment

Opinion: “Wasted space at Disney”

Theme park Tourist recently posted (reposted from 2015) a story about the 5 biggest (in their opinion, not mine) “Wastes of Space” at WDW with a clickbait-y “literally” just for good measure. Of course, they cover the basics: Odyssey Restaurant (I’ll throw in Tomorrowland Terrace), Tomorrowland Speedway, The Outpost (which I always assumed was more “Australian” than “African,” but I digress), the abandoned Wonders of Life pavilion and Chester & Hester’s Dinorama (1000x YES!!!).

I agree that Dinorama is largely useless, but I’m not sold on their idea to tear it out and put in another thrill ride (since it covers roughly the same footprint as the nearby Dinosaur attraction). My suggestion would be to take out that and the Theatre of the Wild (and while their “Finding Nemo” show IS popular also takes up a HUGE amount of space in Dinoland USA) and replace it with an Australian themed exhibit (I’d say Antarctica, but that’s already taken).

Seriously, I haven’t been to The Boneyard so I cannot comment on it either way, but Dinosaur regularly has a wait of 45-60 minutes and “Finding Nemo” is usually packed. When was the last time you saw an actual line for either of the two carnival rides, eating at the trailer “diner” or anyone playing their noisy games. I can’t stand being in that area because it’s too frenetic and noisy, but the biggest nail in that area’s coffin is the ONE store in the land sells toys\apparel themed to Cars, Toy Story and even Star Wars (seriously)… but nada for The Good DINOSAUR (in a land themed to dinosaurs).

That brings us back to World Showcase. Yeah, Frozen Ever After is fun, and I love walking through the various pavilions… but what exactly does The Outpost do besides take up space? I don’t know if they have enough space there for a full pavilion or not but, surely, they can do better than leather bracelets, frozen colas and a bunch of drums for kids to bang.

I have a lot more thoughts, but it’s after midnight as I’m typing this. I may or may not get to posting the remainder of this reaction later this week.

 

Categories: adventures, disney world, editorials, florida, news, Orlando | Leave a comment

Valuable information

Great news – the receptionist said the insurance company declined my doctor’s visit this afternoon. You know what it means when the doctor can’t help you: I’M CURED…or not. The truth was, I had zero interest in or need to see said doctor – especially on such a cold, miserable and rainy day.

In fact, I spent the entire morning on the phone with the insurance company making sure I wasn’t wasting my time going out to this appointment and then calling the primary physician to confirm it with their office to recall the insurance company… and at that point I was going through with this regardless.

Keep in mind, I can’t just hop in a car and drive there. Unfortunately, I had to anyway just so the driver can literally pass right by me without stopping and report me to the app as a no-show. I was literally exactly where I said I was standing, and with waiting for a new driver (who the app assigned 5-stars on my behalf) very nearly made me late for my appointment.

To be fair, it wasn’t his fault I was an hour late leaving the apartment for my errands. For instance, I couldn’t find the deposit slips for the bank, and the line inside was at probably 15-20 minutes so I had to use the ATM outside which worked reasonably well and got me on my way relatively quickly. I had a disgusting lunch, checked the times for the trolley to Sand Lake Road and opened my transportation app. I already gave you the non-story there so I’ll just say that I arrived with less than six minutes to spare before my appointment.

“New or returning patient,” the receptionist said barely looking up as I entered. I couldn’t tell if the receptionist was bored, uninterested or both. “Here, give me your insurance card and fill these forms out. You’re lucky we aren’t busy right now, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to help you” (an ironic bit of foreshadowing).

As I said above, I have no “need” to see this doctor and filling out the four page packet made that painfully clear to even the most uninterested reader (seriously, it’s like that nurse when I had my EKG in October said “if you aren’t having heart trouble, why the hell are you getting an EKG?” “I don’t know. I didn’t schedule it.”)

Finally, after 45 minutes, she calls “Mr. Twaaaygeer” up to the counter and tells him that he will not be seeing a doctor today. He, sorry I lack permission from the insurance company because I lack a Primary Care Physician – “You’re supposed ‘Primary’ has never heard of you, and your last visit there was with a Nurse Prac back in OCTOBER and the doctor who sent you down here doesn’t count – only a PRIMARY can make a referral. You need to make sure you get all your things in order BEFORE you make an appointment!”

“Thanks for the lecture. I wasn’t the one who made this appointment, the doctor I saw earlier this month did. I knew this was a huge waste of time. Congratulations, I’ve just proven RIGHT!”

“No, you haven’t. You have gained valuable information and now have explicit instructions on EXACTLY what you have to do to move forward with your care. See your primary, get a referral THEN come back, we’ll save the paperwork you just gave me to your file. Have a nice day, and we look forward to seeing you again, Mr. Twaaaygeer.”

Disappointed AND humiliated – burn! But, hey, at least, she cares what kind of day I’m having, even if its in the least sincere tone possible.

It’s just over a half-mile from the hospital to the Dunkin Donuts on Sand Lake Road where I usually stop on my way back from appointments like this as it’s roughly halfway between the hospital and the trolley stop I need to take back to the apartment. It’s a long walk (“35 minutes” according to Google Maps), and I spent the duration of it trying to convince myself I was in a better mood than I obviously was, and when I got to the plaza it was in, I stopped in front of a menu board on the sidewalk contemplating if I should take a sandwich home for dinner (as it was already after 4pm) when I hear:

“Hi, I’d like to talk to you about investing with Primerica!”

Great, as if I wasn’t already feeling bad enough, he effectively has me cornered. He’s standing less than a foot away from me and making direct eye contact with me so I can’t escape. He’s caught me looking at the menu board so I can’t say I “don’t have time” and, frankly I have ZEROS excuses to give him on why I can’t listen to his sales pitch. Literally none are coming to my head – I love when I do that. I need my brain to work, and it doesn’t.

Yep, once again, my “flight” response is triggered with no escape routes (why can’t it ever kick in when there IS one) so my brain just shuts down instead. It’s a perfect defense mechanism as it leaves me utter defenseless. When I finally get away, I’m too anxious to order coffee (what if he’s waiting outside the store?) which I guess is good as coffee\donuts are bad for me.

I continue on Sand Lake Road to the trolley stop on I-Drive. The rain has mostly stopped, but the sky is still dark and cloudy making it feel later it really was (the relatively cold wind wasn’t helping). Fortunately, said trolley arrived within three minutes of me arriving at the stop.

I decide maybe getting some food would make me feel better so I hopped off the trolley near a chain restaurant and proceeded to prove my theory wrong. I also used my return fare for the trolley so I had to take the balance out of my server’s tip (which I really didn’t want to do). At least, I have lunch for tomorrow.

I leave the restaurant to find the last vestiges of sunlight burning in my eyes. It was a hopeful sign (kind of like a blindingly bright rainbow), and I hope it foretells good days to come… as the rain is coming down again as I’m typing this.

Categories: adventures, Autism, florida, Health, healthcare, insurance, Orlando, sensory processing disorder, Williamsburg | Leave a comment

Misadventures in Sanford

10:19am – A later start then I would have liked, but I am ready to go out and take photos today. I never did post those pictures from Epcot International Festival of the Arts as they’re still on my phone…the one I forgot to plug in before I got in the shower. Eh, whatever, I’ll be back before it dies anyway.

11:20am – I was starving when I got off the bus across the highway from the Sunrail station (the closest the driver would drop me off as she INSISTED Sunrail doesn’t operate on weekends) so I stopped at the McDonalds adjacent to said station. I’d already missed the 11am train so I had a bit of time to fill anyway.

-1:06pm – I arrive at Sanford Sunrail Station, the expansive parking lot is empty and there are no buses or cabs in sight. I put the zoo’s address into Google Maps and let the friendly GPS lady (whom I can barely hear) guide me.

-2:01pm – Google sent me Rand Yard Rd, which is a one-lane service road for the distributor on the corner and after traipsing through several acres of scrub grass I found myself in some kind of landfill\processing center (looked deserted, but it was a weekend). The latter was fenced off (10 feet from the connection street Google wanted me on) but no, I was the correct route so I was forced to backtrack all the way back to the main road and follow their DRIVING directions to the zoo.

-2:53pm – Finally arrived, with slightly under 2 hours to see everything. I haven’t even gone into their iconic pink\red gate yet, and I’m already exhausted.

-4:09pm – This very well could be a post of its own, but I’ll put in here anyway. No, I’m not going into a tirade about their tiny cages stacked on top of each other. No, my complaint here is that after I left the zoo, I asked the worker at “Admissions” window (couldn’t find “Guest Services”) to call a cab for me.

She looks at me like I’m stupid: “Duh, just open your Uber app, and they’ll…okay, fine, I’ll see if I can do that for you.” She disappears behind the wall for a moment and comes back to give me a sticky note with a phone number on it: “You can call them whenever you’re ready.”

“I don’t have the reception or the battery life for it,” I said showing her my phone with its 22% power that’s supposed to last until I get back.

“Nah, you can do it,” she said with a shrug. “After all, YOU’RE the one who wants it.” Yes, she actually thinks she’s doing me a favor. But at least she pretends to “believe” in me.

I go over to the parking area and do MY due duty as a cab wanting citizen. “I’d like to or… I said I’d like a cab to… I SAID ‘I’D LIKE A CAB TO…’“

Like I said, a huge fucking favor. People are staring at me because I am literally screaming at the top of my phone, and he STILL “can’t hear” me, but, hey, the girl at the “Admissions” window said I “could do it” so why disappoint her?

Finally, I get far enough away from the kiddie rides that he can finally hear me, and at 4:25pm, a black minivan (they sent a minivan for ONE person?) finally pulls up to the curb outside the gate.

-4:48pm – Cab driver conveniently “missed” the station saying ‘’don’t worry, we take the entrance around back.’’ Nice try, I saw the back of the station, there is no “entrance” there. Any other lies you’d like to throw at me?

-6:05pm – Arrive at the Sandlake Station. I spent the next ten minutes waiting on the only bus serving the station on weekends before stupidly deciding to get dinner at the Denny’s adjacent to the station (I should have used the dwindling natural light to find the next regular bus stop). Don’t get me wrong, I was hungry and the food was good, but service was definitely of the turn & burn variety (even though there were only five other patrons in the entire restaurant).

-6:47pm – It is pitch black outside, save for half lit store signs across the street and the blinding glare of the speeding cars. Oh yeah, perfect conditions for finding a bus stop in an unfamiliar area – especially since I now have an extremely expensive brick in my jacket pocket.

-7:39pm – After waiting at the unlit stop for approximately 15 minutes (my only source of time is a dead phone), the bus I wanted finally arrives. I take a seat and fight sleep for the next hour.

-8:49pm – Arrive safely back at the apartment. I’m glad I’m out of quarters since my feet will probably need all day tomorrow to recover from that “shorter route” Google Maps suggested (that ADDED an hour of walking to my trip). Don’t expect any updates from me before noon.

Categories: adventures, florida, photography, Sanford, Sunrail, Zoo\Botanical Gardens | Leave a comment

Review: Epcot’s inaugural International Festival of the Arts

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First off, today is Saturday. I never go anywhere NEAR the parks on a Saturday unless I absolutely have to…or unless I’m super bored and the event only happens on weekends like the inaugural Epcot International Festival of the Arts.

Theme Park Tourist couldn’t recommend it highly enough – even going so far as to suggest making it a multi-day event for art\food lovers. I wouldn’t that far, but I do see it’s appeal… as a way to draw attendance to the park between the phenomenally popular Flower & Garden Show and the overpriced pub crawl know as Food & Wine Festival. Nothing wrong with that – Busch Gardens hosts its own Food & Wine Festival during their slow season.

The problem (and you knew I’d have one) is Disney is trying too hard to make what little they’re offering sound like a lot more than what it is (kind of Hollywood Studios). I’ve been to arts festivals in Miami (Beaux Arts), Harrisburg (Kipona), Baltimore (Artscape), Tampa (Gasperilla Festival of the Arts) and, yes, even Shamokin has one (Anthracite Heritage Festival of the Arts) and none of them were like this.

It’s like the people planning this had never been to an arts festival.

I get this is mainly about drawing people into the park so they can spend their money in DISNEY’S stores and restaurants (so no blocking paths leading to attractions or restaurants) so even though they also advertise this as a “culinary festival,” those tasty “seminars” were tucked safely behind Disney’s trademark paywall.

To be fair, this was one of the weak complaints TPT made of the event: Little food, big prices and long lines. At Artscape, I couldn’t walk 50 feet without running into a food vendor, here the closest thing to fest food was the existing Funnel Cake House at the American pavilion (and, yes, it had a line too). In fact, there were times where I completely forgot I was walking through an “Arts Festival” rather than an overcast day at Epcot.

As I was walking through the various “Art areas,” I noticed they were dominated by house booths with house merchandise. Don’t get me wrong, ALL of the festivals above had their own merch tents – Artscape had several of them spread throughout their festival – but they had other vendors there. Some of them varied in price\quality (see early years of Heritage Fest), but they weren’t all house booths.

Normally, I’d give them some slack for being an inaugural event, but this is DISNEY and I know they can do better than this. Well, there’s always next year…

Categories: adventures, art, disney world, editorials, entertainment, festivals, florida, news, Orlando, ramblings, retail | Leave a comment

Holiday week in review

Dec 21st – My flight from Orlando to Baltimore was frustratingly delayed over an hour for unknown reasons so it was already dark by the time we landed at Baltimore-Washington International. I’m used to BWI, but I was completely unprepared for cold, wind… or the 35-cent increase in Light Rail fares. Due to my relatively late arrival in HVTC (7:30pm), mom decided she would pick me the next morning so I had an awful dinner at Panera Bread and could barely find my hotel in the scarcely lit side street surrounding the mall, let alone feel my ears\nose\fingers.

Dec 22nd – Overnight in Hunt Valley. Nothing exciting to report here except that I was going to post Hanukkah memes, but couldn’t find enough that weren’t juvenile or anti-Semitic. I’m all for humor (which is why I compile these meme posts to begin with), but NOT at the expense of others.

We got back to Shamokin barely in time to meet my aunt (yes, THAT one, and while I wasn’t looking forward to it, it went relatively well) and her boyfriend at a popular pizza place in the next town over. I say “barely” because mom turned down the wrong street and got completely lost so we had to ask Siri how to get back. However, I can say with certainty that “the best pizza in town” isn’t.

Dec 24th – Normally, we spend Christmas Eve going to my parent’s friends the Nye’s house for a special holiday themed “open house” at 5:30 for dinner (featuring “Uncle Paulie” in the world’s least convincing Santa outfit) before heading over to the Candlelight Service (7pm). THIS year, instead of doing that we went to my brother’s house in Nazareth for a Christmas Eve dinner with his family (wife, and two young children). It was loud, hectic and crowded, but I got some nice pictures.

Since said dinner wasn’t until at least 5pm, mom decided it was safer to stay overnight. I was downstairs in the basement on an uncomfortable air mattress with sheets that were too small to actually be of any use. Fortunately, the ticking of the clock 3 feet away from said mattress was loud enough to keep me awake until the heat kicked on around 2am.

Dec 25th – Did I mention, the kids “slept in” until 6am? Slackers. By the time I admitted defeat and headed upstairs around 7:15am, the living and sitting rooms were a complete war zone. Toys, wrapping paper, boxes, unopen able plastic containers. On the plus side, my “gift,” a plastic card for a gas station (your brother has no license and no car and you get him a gift certificate to a gas station?) was waiting for me in a tiny box in an otherwise untouched stack of gifts on the other side of the sofa. Breakfast was at 9am and was good. As soon as we finished, we packed our stuff in mom’s van and drove 5.3 miles to my OTHER brother’s house in Bethlehem.

It was 11am by the time we arrived, and my sister-in-law had just put out the last of her Christmas brunch. My mom chastised me “how can you say you are trying to ‘lose weight’ when you had not one but TWO breakfasts in two hours?” The conversation at the table I shared with my mom, brother, SIL and her parents quickly went from light and humorous to dark and slightly disturbing (dead pets, bird attacks, death camps and Donald Trump. I pitied my SIL for trying to keep the conversation as light as possible. After less than an hour there, we left and made the roughly 90-minute commute back to the middle of nowhere, where we could contemplate our nothing lives. At least, I don’t need a password for my mom’s wifi…

Dec 26th – Before today, I would have assumed this would be a separate post. You see today is the day BOTH my brothers came to Shamokin and brought their kids with them…but we weren’t here to celebrate Christmas. We were here to work, cleaning up the garage, my dad’s den and what’s left of the basement. We got the den passable – in that one is actually able to pass through it without killing themselves.

The reason only ONE of the three areas was tackled was our mom decided since my eldest was coming in around 11am, we would meet him at a REAL pizza place along with my aunt and her boyfriend (who was able to come in because it was “slow” in his shop), my other brother came in with his family at quarter-til-12 so we weren’t out of there until almost 2pm.

After this, we were ready to work…until my middle brother got an important call on his cell which left us in limbo for almost a full hour. Finally, we get to go outside and open a mysterious chest in the garage (dad wanted “all 5 boys” present for it, but my 3yo nephew and his older sister went home with their mom after lunch). Good news, there was stuff inside it; bad news, it was boring stuff so my SIL took my remaining nephew home while the three girls stayed behind and played Clue in the living room with gramma while the three of us tackled the desk\cabinets\miscellaneous stacks of paper between them (dating back to 1973). The girls definitely won the night…

 

Categories: adventures, Baltimore, coal region, family, florida, flying, Harrisburg, holidays, light rail, Orlando, Pennsylvania, transportation, weather | Leave a comment

Running out of Ikeas

Woke up, checked out of Saratoga Springs, and my mom drive me to Costco on Waterbridge Boulevard…just to find out that it’s a “Business Costco” now and doesn’t carry food (“except,” as their greeter pointed out, “for restaurant, food truck or vending machine routes” – none of which do ME any good).

I told her that we should’ve gone back to the condo and dropped off my luggage first so we had space to put stuff in, but nooo “oh, what are you talking about?” (waving towards the full trunk with both of our luggage in it).

“I’m talking about the fact that there is no more room back there for groceries and whatever else you end up getting.”

“There is PLENTY of room for stuff in this car. Now just get in the car, we still have to check out and find this Costco.”

Apparently, a 2015 Honda Civic and a 2009 Chrysler Town & Country have the exact same storage capacity. How did I not know that?

Come out of the store nearly an hour later and – surprise – there’s no room in the trunk so we have to cram everything into the back seat so it doesn’t fall over or roll under the front seat. Once again, it’s my turn to “navigate.”

Get back to the apartment, unload the car, mom opens my freezer and declares: “Oh my God, it’s EMPTY. Get in the car, I am taking you to a ‘real’ Costco, and we’re not coming back until you fill this fridge up…”

I get in her rental car, buckle my seat belt (safety first) and as soon as she gets in the car she asks:

“I’m starving. Where’s a restaurant we can eat at?”

“You mean like the immediate area, on I-Drive or near the mall?”

“The mall – and it has to be something GOOD. I don’t care where we go, but no fast food or food courts – I want a REAL meal.”

I’ve been to the Mall at Millennia exactly three times so I’m obviously an expert on this. Did I mention, it’s 2:38 in the afternoon?

“Let’s see there’s a Cheesesteak Factory inside the mall.”

“Eh, no.”

“There’s also a Johnny Rockets.”

“I said ‘no fast food.’ Maybe, I’ll just get meatballs at Ikea…”

Ikea? I thought this was a FOOD run.

“Oh, yeah,” she continued. “That means you have 8 minutes to figure out which furniture you want.”

I don’t recall even asking for furniture. Oh right, SHE said I “need” a “pull out sofa” for my “guest room.” I lived in Baltimore for SIX YEARS without one, and not one of my zero “guests” complained about it.

So we go up the stairs to the café, and walk around the side to the entrance just to find out that side is “closed” and we pretty have to go all the back around. I look at the menu hanging behind them, I want the Swedish meatballs, but not the mashed potatoes as a side (so I never liked mashed potatoes, sue me). I ask the young woman behind the counter if the sides are “set” and before I can ask the second part of the question she answers “yes.”

Not happy with her answer but faced with no other choice, I order a bland chicken tender meal (which is apparently part of their “Kid’s menu,” but that doesn’t make me feel better about it). I had to wait for a new batch so at least it was hot, and as I picked up my tray, I saw a sign advertising different sides for your meal.

After finishing our meal and bussing our own table (not sure why that surprised me), mom circles around the cashier lines and heads towards the exit to the showroom. She walks ten feet into said showroom, looks around bewilderedly saying:

“What the…? Why are we in the Children’s section? Why is this arrow pointing away from the furniture?”

“Because this is the ‘exit,’ the ‘entrance’ is back that way.”

“No, it’s not. That’s the way we came in.”

“I know.”

“Fine, you lead,” she said shoving the cart towards me exasperatedly.

Somehow, I suspect that was goal from the onset.

Anyway, Ikea sofas come in three styles: Ugly, uncomfortable or both. Oh, and you can choose any of a half dozen garish slip covers to make it look like a Swedish hipster threw up all over your living room.

I wasn’t sure if I should tell this part or not. I’m not even sure HOW to tell this part…but I’ll start by saying that Ikea is a big store with rows and rows of every unpronounceable furniture and textiles running along both sides of their bright white corridors.

As much as I tried to focus on JUST sofas or just TV stands, it was just too much of too much. Hundreds of sofa, loveseats, futons, and chaises sometimes rows of them hanging on the wall. Suddenly my mom appeared directly behind me and asked me if I decided on a new sofa yet.

“No”

“What do mean ‘no?’ You’ve been farting around in here for the past twenty minutes.”

“I mean ‘no,’” I said. My voice broke. It’s a reaction to stress, and I do anything to avoid that happening in public so of course my mom alleviates it the only way she knows how:

“What the hell is WRONG with you? Why the fuck are you talking like that? God, do you know how embarrassing that is?”

No, why don’t you draw attention to it so all the other shoppers can stare at me too. Not like that would make the situation harder – especially since she refuses to take a squeaky “I don’t know” as a serious answer.

“You CHOSE to talk like…um, whatever the hell THAT is, for a REASON. That means you can chose to STOP doing it.”

Um, no. The only way to “stop” talking like that is to keep talking until my body or brain or whatever is in charge of that sort of thing decides to sort it out. Yelling at me in public over it does not move it along any faster.

Finally, she throws her hands up in the air and storms off exasperatedly. After a minute or two of chattering to myself my voice returned to “normal” (which I’m told is like that of a GIRL 25 years my junior).

It was already after 4pm when we left Ikea. Fortunately, the next stop was only a five-minute drive away. Even better – it was a “real” Costco. Aside from a medical-office sized cup of some bland so- I mean “Sparkling Water” and a cracker with salmon dip – there was nothing remarkable about the experience.

We leave the second Costco, and it’s pitch black and raining. Just as well, I wasn’t planning on going to the parks tonight anyway…

Categories: adventures, Autism, family, florida, holidays, Orlando, sensory processing disorder | 1 Comment

A pre-holiday cleaning

I was going to fly back to Pennsylvania this past weekend…actually Baltimore since it’s a direct flight and it gives me a chance to see the 2nd to last home game of 2016 for the Baltimore Blast (playing the Central Florida Tropics, no less).

Unfortunately, just as I was about to make said plans, I found I had a dentist’s appointment today so that threw everything off. 😦

My day was perfect – except the appointment itself as they had new hygenist on staff who dismissed my objection to the Ultrasonic cleaning (it HURTS my ears).

“You’re here for a cleaning and that’s what this does – it cleans your teeth – using sound waves. That’s the best way to clean molars and your molars need it. Besides, YOU’RE the one who said he wanted outta here ‘as quickly as possible’ and sound waves are extremely efficient as they travel through your teeth.”

But the worst part (my perspective anyway) was when she mocked me for asking her to not pat my shoulder “sympathetically” when asking questions, she knew it impossible for me to answer.

“What am I supposed to do,” rolling her chair into the counter while shaking her hands in the air melodramatically. “Treat you from 50 feet away? I’m a friendly person – and I have to clean your teeth and there is no way to do that without touching you in any way.”

Then she begins my least favorite part of these visits: the scaling and “depth of tissue” measurements (jabbing my gums with the scalpel in several locations until we get blood and then schedule me for another quarterly cleaning because we got blood during the cleaning). The plus side is she offered me a “numbing gel” so I “wouldn’t feel anything” for the duration of the visit.

I wasn’t sure what to say since this was the first time they offered this to me for a hygienist visit – even during the Prophylactic Scaling. However, when I stopped her during the jabby portion and asked why I was feeling that when she assured me I “wouldn’t feel anything,” she pulls her mask down and replies:

“Because you hemmed and hawed ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know’ (I said no such thing) so I gave you only a little bit and it did take the sting out of the procedure” (actually, it just felt like I had Chap Stick on my gums).

Finally, she takes the bib off, lifts the chair and hands me a poorly photocopies “Medical History” form. She shrugs, gives me a vague “we need a new copy for our records” and sends me out to reception again.

The bill seemed higher than I previously remembered, and while I wasn’t impressed with my visit – any appointment that I’m not physically assaulted is technically a good one.

Categories: adventures, Autism, dentistry, florida, Health, Orlando, sensory processing disorder | Leave a comment

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