Cleveland Road Rage: Vol. 1 First of all, hello again Happy Robots! I feel I've been away too long. I went to Cleveland for my brother's wedding on the first weekend of May, and I've been recovering ever since.
A little bit of history. I lived in Cleveland from second to twelfth grades, then lived there again for four months right before I moved to Los Angeles. So yeah, I've got a bit of the Midwest Girl in me. I know where ‘the lake' is. I've walked to school in subfreezing blizzards with my legs only covered with knitted leg warmers (remember those relics of the early eighties?). I know about the Browns---which became the Baltimore Ravens while the name The Browns and the team colors (orange and well, brown) stayed in Cleveland because they were an important part of Cleveland culture. I knew the Tribe when they had Brook Jacobi and Cory Snyder. And yes, Omar Vizquel is the greatest fielding short stop of all time. I know where Hopkins airport, the Terminal Tower, Little Italy, Cedar Hill, and Cain Park are. I've even been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it's kind of stupid (I overheard a fellow attendee ask if Alice Cooper was a man or a woman).
As interesting as Cleveland is, I think I made a good life decision when I moved to New York City at age eighteen to go to school. I know the story of the Ohio girl who moves to New York and never goes back is a total cliché and pretty decent musical, but it's my cliché and my decent musical.
So I went back to Cleveland for my brother's wedding. After living in LA for a year and a half, I was back in Cleveland. A year and a half isn't that long really. Besides, in LA, it actually takes you three years to age the one year you would age everywhere else. Okay, I just made that up, but it's a good theory.
So back to Cleveland. . .Ohio. Drew Carey is west side. I'm east side. Back to Cleveland. I took a red-eye, leaving LA at 11:30pm Thursday night and arriving at 6:00 am on Friday morning. I tried to sleep, but I couldn't. The plane was crowded, and I got hooked into watching Something's Gotta Give with no sound.
6am Friday morning. Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. As I stepped off the plane, I was hit by a gust of cold wind. . . inside the gate. Then, I noticed that there was no sun. Feeling the onslaught of cold weather depression coupled with sleep deprivation and memories of Keanu Reeves playing a doctor, I hiked through the concourse. Would it have killed them to put in a moving sidewalk? Yes, I realize walking is good for me, but there's gotta be a better way to design an airport. Maybe there could be volunteers holding plastic cups of water out to you like in marathons.
I finally made it to the concrete island in a sea of concrete outside the terminal and stood under a metal sign that said, ‘Rental Car Shuttle Buses'. All around me, there was gray---gray concrete, gray buildings, gray sky, and no rental car shuttle buses. I felt isolated, alienated, and very Californian; then not one, not two, but threeee rental car shuttle buses showed up. I was saved! Or was I?
I climbed up onto the empty bus and collapsed into a seat. The bus driver was a bubbly older woman in her late fifties with dyed blonde hair, dark roots, and sunglasses. I'm going to call her Dora although I never learned her name.
"GOOD MORNING, HONEY! HOW ARE YOU?" Dora asked a little too loudly but in a chipper manner.
"I just got off a red-eye from LA where it's 3 am right now." I answered in a grumbly voice with eyes half closed.
Then Bozo came on. Bozo was big, bald and soooo from the midwest.
"G'MORNIN!!!!!" He bellowed.
Welcome to Cleveland, Sunshine Jen! I so totally wanted to go back to LA.
"G'MORNIN CLYDE!" Dora bellowed back. Okay, so Bozo's real name is Clyde. Fine, Clyde, fine.
Why are they yelling? They don't have to be so loud. Didn't they ever learn inside voices? Why isn't this bus moving? It's not as if there are two hundred people running for one bus. No, there is one person on one bus, and there are two other buses ready for the crowds. I might be sleep deprived, but I can do some math. We finally started to move.
"I need Budget." I told Dora.
"They're all in the same building, honey" Dora said as if I should know that, but I don't know that because I don't fly into Cleveland every day of the week.
Then, Clyde aka Bozo on one side of me and Dora aka Whatever-Her-Name-Is on the other side of me started to talk to each other. I tried to pretend that they were just like the movie with no sound, but my mental powers of pretending were not strong enough. I had found hell on earth. It was the rental car shuttle bus in Cleveland.
"So how's Laura Lynn?" Clyde asked.
"She's okay. I'm gonna see her in the hospital later today."
"That's great. What exactly happened? I've been hearing some stuff that's been conflicting with other stuff I've heard. You were there, right? You saw her, right?"
"Oh yeah. I saw her right after they pulled her out. Her chair was pushed back five feet, and the entire front of the bus was smashed."
Clyde whistled in awe.
"Yeah, they said it was amazing she survived. But she's a tough one you know. She was bleeding in her kidneys. Her legs were broken and you could see the bones sticking up through the skin. They had to amputate one of her legs."
The very graphic anatomy descriptions continued on and on and on and on.
"How did it happen?" Clyde asked.
"She hit a truck. She looked back to talk to a passenger and the truck was parked and she hit it." Dora said this as she kept looking back to talk with Clyde. Oh no, I could die on some service road near the airport.
"I heard she had seniority." Clyde said.
"She had seniority and I'm second after her."
Welcome to the heartland. Your luck runs out real fast here.
The humanist in me felt for Laura Lynn and hoped it all worked out for her. The survivalist in me longed for the 405 during rush hour---and many of those drivers are armed. The diva in me resolved not to throw up, and the dramatist in me really wanted a monologue. The good sister in me reminded me that I loved my brother and his soon-to-be-supercool wife, and that all you need is love, all you need is love, love, love is all you need.
We finally arrived at the Rental Car building. I thanked the gods and promised to offer sacrifices at the earliest time possible.
At the Budget counter, Tony the rental guy was explaining the gas charge and filling the tank to an Italian couple. I noticed that all of the other rental counters were empty, but something in me said, ‘stay the course, Jen, don't jump ship' while another part of brain kept replaying images of leg amputations.
When I finally got to Tony the rental guy, I had to vent. I had to testify. I had to tell Tony that I was not from Cleveland, that I was from a warm, sunny beautiful place and sure we have earthquakes and smog and traffic and mudslides and wild fires and a Govenator but it's really a nice place, and I just got off a red eye and watching Diane Keaton with no sound and I just listened to a tale of bus crashes and leg amputations with loud people and all I want to do is see my family and thank you for listening because I know none of this is your fault.
Tony the rental guy listened to my story and told me he would talk to his manager even though there was nothing they could really do. He then upgraded my rental. That made me smile---for the first time in Cleveland.
My smile got bigger as I walked out into the parking lot and discovered that my rental car was a bright red sporty Alero. I see red! I see red! I see red! There are more colors in Cleveland than gray.
I cruised that Alero out onto the freeway, then realized that I was driving a bright red sports car faster than everyone else. I slowed it down a bit as I approached downtown Cleveland and hit stop-and-go traffic over the Cuyahoga River (it means crooked river, and yes it burned back in the sixties). Stop-and-go traffic. LA has stop-and-go traffic. It was just like home. Wait, it's suppose to be home. Was Cleveland home? Or was LA home?
Interior Sporty Red Alero. Saturday night. With boyfriend Colm (fresh off the plane), I drove out to dinner at my mother's house in Painesville. Yes, there really is a place called Painesville in Northeast Ohio.
I think we all have places that we visited a long time ago then don't visit for awhile, so our memory plays with the distance. It wasn't' really that far or was it farther? You drove there. It took awhile. But what is awhile? Thirty minutes? An hour? A day? Forever?
We drove on and on forEVver along Interstate 90, a long, flat, boring road. I reassured myself and amused Colm with ‘we'll only be thirty minutes late and Mom won't mind'. I repeated that phrase like a mantra every five minutes.
Colm turned off the radio, sat back, and sighed contently. In all his travels, he had never been to Cleveland, so the greyness, the flatness, and even ‘the lake' were all novelties to him. He was fascinated that I had come from such a place.
We arrived at Mom's house, and right on cue, one of the large dogs bounded up to us and promptly ran away. Dinner was quite nice, but little did we know that the thunder we heard would impact our drive back to the hotel in Beachwood.