Yes, I’m back from Pittsburgh (great city—great visit!) and only slightly worse for wear!
How so, you ask? I’ll tell you the story of our overnight en route home… I know, it’s only 630 miles from St. Louis, but we are old and odd, and we like to take some of the off-ramps into old, small towns to poke around in a bit of history. You have no idea how much fun some of the town squares and historic courthouses can be. Okay, not fun as in lots of laughs, but really interesting and worthwhile. Anyhoo…
From the minute we left Pittsburgh we were surrounded by rain, fog and gray skies. We didn’t feel as if we had any right to complain, because for five days straight we had been uber-blessed with gorgeous sunshine-y days, blue skies, and incredibly mild temperatures (for November.) Remember, I’m the weather wimp, and I was just wearing a light jacket the whole time. (Yes—I did have my winter coat in the car, just in case.)
So we covered about 430 miles, and decided to save the last 200 for the next day. We pulled into the lot of a nice hotel. Same chain we had stayed at for the previous four nights, so we might as well rack up some more member points, right? (Can’t stay with the kids in P’burgh—allergic to the grandcats.)
We unpack, go to dinner, come back to the room, watch a little CNN, go to bed. We both fall asleep instantly, but an hour later I hear this heinous alarm, and I think it’s the hotel clock-radio, so I yell hubby’s name. No answer. I yell it again. Still no answer.
I’ve always said he sleeps like the dead, but come ON! I yell his name a third time, panic rising, because how could he not hear this, and not hear me yelling his name unless he really WAS DEAD? I’m reaching for a light switch (strange room, where the hell’s the light?) and finally get my fingers around it and see HE’S NOT IN THE BED! My heart is now pounding so hard, I think they’ll need the paramedics for me!
At this point, CoTU comes out of the bathroom, covering his ears, and motioning for me to do the same. (Once an engineer, always an engineer.) “You’re ALIVE!” I shout, but he’s got his fingers in his ears, and doesn’t understand my panic, or that I thought that if we were depending on the paramedics in this little town, we might be a touch disappointed. Also a touch dead.
Now, the sleep is wearing off (noise at that level will do that to you) and we’re both trying to kill the clock-radio. We simultaneously realize that it’s the fire alarm, not the clock-radio, duh, and people are in the hall, heading for the exits. We pull our clothes on over our jammies, put on our jackets and shoes and head out with the rest of the ‘guests’.
We smell smoke, but no one seems to know what’s going on. Firefighters arrive, and begin poking around the place, but there’s no obvious fire. Finally one of the hotel guests, a portly gray-haired woman in sweats and sneakers points out that the ground alongside the front door of the hotel seems to be smoking. I might mention here that the aforementioned woman had no professional training for this work whatsoever. (Or so she said.)
After another twenty minutes or so of poking and testing, it’s decided that an errant cigarette discarded carelessly has smoldered in the dirt. The resulting smoke got sucked into the air system of the hotel, and set off the fire alarm. A hundred or more people are standing outside at 12:30 a.m. in their jammies, in the mist and drizzle, wondering whether they will get to go back to their beds and their belongings, or will wind up on a cot in the high school gym with a Red Cross blanket and a Styrofoam cup of coffee.
That might be more of a small-town view than we bargained for.