After the call on Tuesday night that I was done with my rehab assignment in the minors and to report to LA for a Wednesday afternoon game, I did what I do best in situations like that. I went to bed. It was past 10PM west coast time. The hotel room had already been paid for. And did they actually expect me to take a midnight flight to LA, arrive in some hotel room at 3 AM and then be ready for a 1 PM game? Well, yes, they did expect that from me. But sometimes, sports fans, it's what we expect from ourselves that matters the most, especially when we're sleepy. I was sleepy on Tuesday evening, so I went to bed.
I was up early on Wednesday. You must give me credit for not sleeping late. By 7 AM, I was shaving my armpits and humming Streisand songs (both parts of the "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" duet). By 7:20 (also in the AM timeframe), I was sitting in the Days Inn lobby (there's no Ritz Carlton for AAA players, even fading superstars like me, since there's usually no Ritz Carlton in the little cities where AAA players play) signing autographs for the staff of 2 when my taxi arrived to take me (or is it bring me?) to the airport.
Now I don't know Tucson at all. It's hot and dry. There. That about imparts to you my knowledge of this city. Don't ask me for directions anywhere, which is what the cabbie did. "Which way should we go to the airport?" That was her question. I told her I didn't know. The best way. The right way. The fastest way. You're the cab driver. You're supposed to know. She had already pulled out of the parking lot and started driving, so I couldn't jump out and call for a different cab. Instead, I signed loudly and shut my mouth.
5 minutes passed. 10 minutes. 15 minutes. At some point, I realized no signs mentioned the airport and the Days Inn where I'd slept and shaved and hummed not too long before was two blocks away. "Um," I said in my strong man-voice, "you don't know where you're going, do you?"
It appears that the driver was a substitute for her dad who needed the morning to "sleep in" after a late night riding a mechanical bull. "His back is kinda stiff," the girl said. When I write "girl," I mean it. Maybe she was 17. Maybe not. I'd say she reminded me of my own daughters, only I wouldn't hand the keys to the family business over to them at 15, 16 or 17, mechanical bull or not. I told her she should pull over at a gas station and ask for directions. I had a 9:45 AM flight (arrival at 11:10; I'd get to the ballpark by noon) and now it was 7:45. Plenty of time to make it to the airport, but I didn't want to sit in a cab with the windows open, my hair blowing everywhere but the part of my head that's quickly going bald. She pulled into a Lukoil! (I added the ! - it just seems that there's one logo that could use a !, remember the band Wham!?) She asked directions. She listened intently. I did not. Not my job. I was busy licking the undersides of my fingers and flattening out my hair over my bared scalp. We pulled away.
5 minutes pass. 10 minutes. I don't wait for 15. "You still lost?" I asked. She slowly nodded, not being able to talk because she was, I just realized, crying her eyes out. "Sorry," I said. "I meant we."
I sat back and thought. Cell phone. I had one (only one, since I don't have a girlfriend, thus there is no need to hide any calls from my lovely wife, Vanessa, who doesn't go through my bags looking for "something suspicious" and doesn't scroll through the phone numbers programmed into my cell [since I don't expect myself to memorize any] looking for evidence that I called some "Gina" or "Lola" or "Marla" or some other groupie one-night-stand name that ends with an A). I'm completely lost. Let me review all the stuff before the ( and )...
Okay. Back on track.
I whip out my cell (phone, not the microscopic thing that contains nuclei and cytoplasm and protoplasm) and called my super agent, Jack Perry.
Me: I'm lost.
Jack: Never get into a taxi that doesn't have GPS.
Me: I did.
Jack: In the future, don't.
Thus, we were basically done. I edited out the part where he said I should have flown out the night before like I was supposed to.
I called Vanessa.
Me: (hitting a pre-programmed number, since I don't memorize phone numbers)
Me: You're not Vanessa.
The line went dead. There was no instant dial tone like in the movies. Just silence on the other end for a handful of seconds.
I rifled through my carry on bag and pulled out a cheat sheet I'd made (actually, a cheat sheet I'd had made for me) of phone numbers. You know, the In Case Of Emergency Call... kind of thing. There, in three letters, was the name that I knew could help.
Mom: Where are you?
Mom: Why aren't you in Los Angeles?
Me: I was sleepy.
Mom: I was sleepy when I went into labor with you, but I didn't go to bed until after I'd pushed you out.
Me: This is different.
Mom: How is it different?
Me: I was sleepy.
Mom: Then I can't help you.
I edited out the part in which she said I should have just flown out the night before.
My phone rang shortly after that. Well, it didn't ring. That Chingy song my girls had programmed as a ringtone started playing. I knew enough not to tell the girl cab driver to turn off the radio, since the radio wasn't on. Even though, as I lifted the phone to my ear, I could sense her boogieing a wee bit to that infectious Chingy beat.
Vanessa: Jack called and said you were lost.
Vanessa: You told me you were going to fly out last night.
Me: No, I said the team wanted me to fly out last night.
Vanessa: I'm assuming you felt your plan was better.
Me: I was sleep-
Vanessa: Jimmy, be quiet and listen very carefully. Look at a street sign. I am sitting at a computer and will tell you where you are and where to go. Now look up.
Me: (listening to the sound of my pride deflating like a Party City barmitzvah balloon)
Successfully, because she's more awesome than me in every way (she told me I had to write that as payment), Vanessa directed us to the airport. When the girl asked for an extra $10 to subsidize the extra gas she had to burn to get me to the airport, I told her to have her dad write it off as a business expense since, for cab companies, gasoline is a business expense. The girl drove off and didn't say thank you. No, she didn't remind me of my kids at all (sarcasm).
I peeked at my watch. 8:25. I had time to make it to my flight and still even stop somewhere for a cup of orange juice. Maybe even an everything bagel, except hold the sesame, onion and those little tiny black seeds that get stuck in between your teeth. Everything was going to be fine.
My plane was clean and my luggage was stowed away. I sat in first class and closed my eyes. I was suddenly a little bit sleepy. When the captain gave made his announcement, I knew my day was not going to improve.
"Sorry folks, but due to some problems with the engine, we're going to have to de-board and get ya another one."
So much for my plans. So much for my making it to the ballpark by noon.
I sat in a chair, surrounded by people who kept wondering if I was who I am and if that's my real hair, and watched CNN. A cyclone somewhere I'd never heard of killed maybe 100,000. Hillary and Barack are fighting over who's going to lead our nation through another four years. This person killed that person and some company was going to lay off 1000 workers because of the financial crisis. Yeah, I was comparatively pretty well off. The worst thing that could happen to me is that I'd fly in very late, miss the game and miss the flight home with the team, creating a greater wedge between Rick Churches, my manager who prefers to not like me, and me, who I like very much.
Guess what happened?