I start this story from the the table at our suite at the Flanders Hotel. This trip had me kind of worried, and with some anxiety and trepidation about being with family for the weekend, worried that there would ensue some sort of drama or fights (from experiences in years past). But - it's proven - even with what could be considered "great incident" or "hardship" - to be a very fun time so far. All 15 and a half hours of it.
Dylan came home last night around 4:30. He had told me he could leave work early, so I hustled and bustled around the house all day, cleaning and packing and prepping us to leave on time. I tried to be ready right when he got home (of course I wasn't), but I also hoped when he got home, he'd be ready to SPRING into action, doing his 2 chores that he had to do before we left - cat litter and garbage/recycle. He didn't feel up to that, having just drove an hour back from work, which was understandable, though a bit disheartening. I chose to give him 15 minutes to sit and rest, as I hurried about the house, packing up the food and drink and ice, hauling his massive duffel crammed with acid-reflux-pillow-contraption (dubbed "The Foam Tower"), getting the cats ready to go. I basically did as much as I could before I got exasperated as his inaction as I felt like a mini tornado circling him - the unmovable mountain - content to sit and be circled and not do any of the work of collecting the leaves and sticks and weakened trees and depositing them in their new home - the tornado's job, obviously. But why can't the mountain help?
So, in the spirit of couples therapy and openness, I said to him, "Hey babe, I wanted to let you know that I am feeling kind of unsupported right now. I have been busting butt all day so that we'd be ready to leave when you got home, and I'd appreciate some help. I'm telling you this to express my feelings in the moment, so they don't bottle up and come out in an unproductive way later." He responded that he was sorry I was feeling that way, but couldn't I just chill for a while? I then explained WHY I wanted to head out earlier rather than later - I wanted to get there in time to unpack, relax and have a nice dinner - NOT get there at 9pm like we have in the past and stay up late and then I'd have a bad morning the next day. Putting it that way, he understood more where I was coming from and agreed. But I had to drive. (Which, for the record, I hadn't done a ton of lately, since the week he had been sick, so it was good to get a refresher on highway driving.)
We packed the car, got gas, stopped at Target for some last minute rations (lettuce, croutons and a "pouf" for the shower), and then off we went.
We arrived before Pat and Abbi and Tom. Just a few minutes. We loaded up our gear onto a cart and hung in the lobby until they arrived, considering the front desk woman, Maggie (who was very nice, and will reappear later in this story) wasn't allowed to check us in without Pat.
Pat swooped in - fresh off of her 14+ hours of travel leaving Phoenix, where she had gone to help Virgil move, then had her flight to Philly canceled, rebooked to JFK, taken the LIR to Penn, the Amtrak to 30th St and SEPTA to the airport to get her car (whew) - and checked us in. We got our old suite - 906 - one we had loved in the past, and whose quirks I had documented for years, noting how to work the odd oven, where the thermostats were, and all of the items we may want to bring because the haphazard collection of kitchen bric-a-brac did not contain everything we'd need for 2.5 days of meal prep.
We unpacked fully. I mean FULLY. Food, drinks, cookware, cleaning supplies, clothes, toiletries, chargers - all out of the suitcase and into their spots. We posted up with some veggies and hummus when the job was over, and went through the Ocean City book to see if there was anything we wanted to add to my newly minted Trip Spreadsheet - what I am doing for all of my trips now to keep my brain organized! Abbi was soon cajoled into starting her dinner of burgers and fries (bun-less on salad and no fries for our low-carb-ers.)
Dinner: The First Try
We pre-heated the oven (a journey in itself), and then popped the fries in when it was time. Then Abbi started to sautee some onions for the burgers and THAT'S when we started to smell smoke. Not onion smoke. Not fry smoke. No, not even "something was left in the oven" smoke. This was plastic burning. The smoke was wafting from the drawer next to the oven, which we promptly pulled out to investigate. What oh what could it be? We shut everything off and called the front desk to summon maintenance.
He arrived - a large, old, fatherly Greek man who told us his name was Gus, but when Pat heard his hesitance at sharing his name, pressed him for what she believed had to be a "more complicated" real name, which was learned was Costas. Costas was not an electrician by trade, but more a jack of all trades, in charge of doing evening maintenance around the Flanders. He checked out the stove, the back of the cabinet, the little breaker box - all of which had been turned off for at least 5 minutes, with no smoke in sight. He told us, "There must have been moisture on the wires. Maybe it's gone now? Just finish your cooking." If it comes back, I'll come back.
Dinner: The Second Try
We looked at each other and shook our heads. Did he not SMELL the plastic burning that had caused us to need to open every window in the suite? Well, alright. Guess we'll do this again. And on went the burner and on went the oven (with it's little pins that functioned as buttons, all of which had gone missing since we were here 2 summers ago, so you had to move the pins from hole to hole to turn it on and remember what setting was on each button - it was like a mini strategy game or one of those puzzles you get at Denny's with the pegs and holes. I was proud I cracked the code and could get it - now TWO times - onto Bake at 425F.)
We cooked for a while longer - JUST long enough for the awful chemical tinged smoke to start pouring out again. Now this time, we were determined the keep the burner and oven going until Costas returned - he HAD to see what was going on. So we stepped away, as Pat called the front desk, held our nose and waited, as Dylan claimed he was grabbing his Nintendo DS and Foam Tower if there was suddenly a fire. I of course told him I would only be concerned with grabbing HIM. But if pressed, I'd say I'd take my backpack w/ laptop and phone. Maybe our cute underwear too. Sandals? The cooler. No matter. There was no fire.
We ended up not being able to take it, and turned things off before he arrived, but he did - after a more thorough investigation - decide that, as he stated later, "whoever installed this stove should be put in jail." Because the new four burner stove had been installed on what had been a 2 burner stove breaker box, the stove and oven being on had essentially put too much strain on the breaker, causing it to literally start going into overdrive and melting the wires.
The solution - was there another nearby room where we could cook our food?
And then carry it through the halls or god forbid, up the elevator, to be eaten in 906? If the room was empty, with stove in working condition, was there a reason we couldn't simply MOVE to this other room, and avoid the possibility of tripping on decades old brocade carpet and sending flying into the glichee paintings a platter of 8 burgers and our only hope of dinner that night?
Our Savior: Maggie from the Front Desk
Maggie arrived to save the day. "We have another suite - it's down on 2 - it's got a working oven and stove - would you like to see it? You could move down there right now." We all followed her down to 2, through the fancy trappings of the cocktail reception area and past the ballrooms. Floor 2 is used as their event space, and overlooks the reception room that's part of the first floor, via windows right across from our new room.
We entered the room and it was BEAUTIFUL. Not the white walls and beach-y art of 906, it was tastefully appointed in warm tons of brown, beige, with rich dark wood chairs and beautiful rugs topping hardwood floors. The kitchen - well, it was a site for sore eyes. A full size fridge and stove beckoned us to cook all weekend, and we could not say no. YES OF COURSE WE'LL MOVE.
The Great 10pm Move
So up we went to the 9th floor again, with 2 carts in hand, to re-pack every food item, every bottle and can, every towel and knife and frying pan, every piece of clothing, every bottle in the shower - back onto the carts, and then down 7 floors into the elevator, then across the cocktail reception area and onto a wheelchair lift to go up the 8 stairs that led to the promenade rooms. (Another adventure!)
Then, at 10:15pm - the unpacking began again. I tackled the kitchen, which we tried to simultaneously align with Abbi's cooking of burgers since at this point we were all quite hungry. Dylan, bless his heart, unpacked some of the bedroom stuff. I had no interest or need to unpack and hang clothes at this juncture, but I'd be damned if the living and eating area wasn't going to be ready for us to FINALLY eat dinner at 10:45. And - with a few tense moments concerning the heating of Teflon - eat we did.
The Happy Ending
The burger salad was one of the best I'd ever had. Because I hadn't eaten in 8 or 9 hours and also because it was born of teamwork, problem solving and determination.
We slept well last night. The room was cold and our bedroom has no windows. I dreamt Dylan and I were on vacation in a faraway land, and our room looked onto a bar and casino floor, and he loved it, and we got to lie in bed AND people watch at the same time - the marriage of two things we each love, combined at last.
And this morning, I made Pat and I coffee. I returned to 906 to retrieve our dish soap - the one forgotten item (I left the dish rag Pat had brought, good riddance, we have real sponges now.) And here we are. It's 10:24, all the others are still asleep and we have the next 12 hours to make whatever we want out of this glorious day.