So on the heels of having a very rough few weeks, I headed to New Orleans for a conference. Because the thing to do, when you’re a depressed, stressed-out introvert, is to head somewhere loud and crowded where the streets are paved with vomit
Yeah. I am not a smarticle.
But I was slated to go and so I crossed my fingers and packed some 6-year-old Ativan I found at the back of my bathroom drawer and my pretty red shoes and headed off to the airport, muttering some Stuart Smalley-esque affirmations under my breath. (Rather than “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” I tend more towards things like, “I have a degree in acting and I am NOT AFRAID TO USE IT! Plus I have really cute shoes!” but, y’know, whatever works.)
“You’ll be fine,” Otto told me, as he dropped me off in Atlanta.
I walked into the airport with plenty of time to spare, so I knew no matter how long it took to get through security or how skeptical TSA might be of my toiletries, I wouldn’t be rushed. That helped. I scanned the monitors to check on my gate and a small, half-formed thought wandered through my brain. “If I have a smooth trip there,” a little voice whispered, “that’s a good sign. It’ll be okay.” That seemed fair; I could take it as a sign, right? No flight delay would mean the stage was set for smooth traveling.
[Note: This sort of bargaining approach may seem overly pessimistic to anyone who travels regularly, because how often does a trip really end up going smoothly? But the thing is that I'm the master of karma-wrangling, in my mind. If the flight went well it would be a great sign, but if the flight went badly, I was prepared to assure myself that I'd paid my dues and the REST of my trip would be fine because everything bad had already happened. I'm flexible!]
Readers, I am here to tell you that I had a MYSTICAL experience at the Atlanta airport, that day. The agent who scanned my ticket and ID was cheerful. There was no line at all to go through Security. My hair products weren’t questioned and I was neither scanned nor groped. Basically I made it through in record time, and arrived at my gate hopeful and early. When boarding began, we were warned again and again that it was a completely full flight, please get stowed and seated as soon as possible, blah blah blah. I slid into my window seat and a man took the middle, next to me. We watch the other passengers board. And—eventually—they closed the cabin door and our aisle seat was the only empty one on the plane… so my seatmate moved over and away we went.
It was a good sign.
Oh! I almost forgot. While waiting to board I saw a woman who looked familiar. Because I am SMOOTH I kept staring at her and trying to figure out if I knew her, and eventually I figured out that she was wearing a Twitter handle necklace, so I figured that while we were all milling around to get in line to board, I would just OH SO SUBTLY get a look at her necklace and figure it out. Well, she was eating a banana, oblivious to me stalking her, and I never did manage to read her necklace. Oh, well, I thought.
While I was sitting on the plane, she came down the aisle and looked at me and I looked at her and again I thought I AM SURE I KNOW THIS PERSON and she said, “Mir…?” Apparently my name recall sucks, but hey, it turns out I totally did know her, and after our flight we shared a cab to the hotel and had a lovely conversation, to boot.
So the stage was set for good times, or at least for manageable ones, I figured. Before I knew it, I was navigating loud cocktail parties and packed conference spaces and seeing all the people I already knew and meeting new ones and learning things and going places and oh, the whole thing was exhausting. But in a really good way.
I am pleased to report that I never once had to resort to the expired Ativan. There were a couple of times when I just had to excuse myself and go up to my room and stare at the ceiling in the silence, for a bit, and the one time I called home and asked my daughter to get on Skype because I needed to see her and her brother before I could go throw myself back into the crowd. But—with the exception of being kind of hungry a lot of the time (Dear NOLA, it is not actually necessary to put wheat in EVERYTHING, I swear. Love, Mir)—the easy trip there foretold a mostly very positive experience.
In fact, my fabulous roommate insisted we go out for a really nice meal on Friday night, and as we headed to the restaurant I fleetingly wondered if really, I had kind of been worried for nothing, because everything was going really well and I was having a great time.
And then I fell on my face.
I’m exaggerating, of course; the weather was overcast, so I was carrying the thoughtfully-provided hotel umbrella, and so when I stuck the heel of my pretty shoe into a space where a paving brick used to be (but no longer was) on the sidewalk and my ankle twisted and my knee buckled and I started to fall, I was able to use the umbrella like a cane to catch myself before I completely wiped out. I did NOT actually fall on my face. I DID, however, see stars. And I briefly wondered if my companions would be able to carry me back to the hotel, if necessary.
I stood back up and cautiously wiggled my toes and my ankle and willed myself not to cry. I appeared to be all in one piece, and unbroken, and it definitely smarted, but I could still walk. Okay, then. We proceeded to dinner, where I chased three Advil with my body weight in fresh lump crab meat. That appeared to be sufficient to keep my mind off my throbbing foot, and after dinner as we worked our way back to first another event and then the hotel, Ellen referred to every single missing brick and pothole as “Mir traps,” as in, “Look out for that Mir trap!” That may have been more effective than the Advil in keeping me jovial, frankly.
On Saturday I donned casual clothing and sneakers, both because I doubted my foot would stand for another day in heels and because it had already been declared a “casual day.” Of course everyone else was still wearing cute dresses and heels and I felt like a kid on my way to gym class who’d stumbled into a cocktail party. Because the tale of how I’d fallen down on Bourbon Street was so humiliating, I made sure to tell it to everyone I talked to. (Mostly to explain why I was wearing a t-shirt and sneakers when they looked so pretty, but whatever.)
I ate a lot of Advil and went and did my session and when it was over, was informed that it had been announced on Twitter that I’d won a raffle for a Tiffany necklace. (I may have tweeted about the irony, just a little.) So then instead of being the dork limping around in a t-shirt and sneakers, I was the dork limping around in a t-shirt, sneakers, and a GENUINE TIFFANY NECKLACE, SUCKERS.
After lunch (and I use the term “lunch” loosely, though bless the Ritz Carlton—they were always very sorry and eager to find me some food whenever I had to ask for something gluten-free), I met up with a fabulous group of women ditching the afternoon-long walking tour, and we did some (read: much less) walking and some window shopping (“This here is the only specialty vampire shop in the country, now!” OOoooo…kay) and some hanging out at the hotel. I found my beleaguered foot was much more amenable to doing faux snow angels on the hotel carpet than to walking all afternoon, so that was the right choice, physically, as well as mentally. When it was time to reconvene for conference-y things, we did, and then it was off to the airport and the trip home.
Once again, I walked right through security, no line, no groping, and onto an on-time plane where my “full flight” had an empty seat between me and my row-mate.
Otto picked me up at the airport and the dog was VERY happy to see me, last night.
I slept like a dead person in my own bed, and woke up this morning to half a black-and-blue foot and a leg that hurts all the way up to the hip. Those Mir traps are VICIOUS, y’all. But overall I feel great. One pratfall and a slightly mangled foot was a small price to pay for a trip I wasn’t sure I wanted to take, but turned out to be a lot of fun. Maybe a little jaunt out of my wallow-hole was exactly what I needed.
In conclusion, to everyone whose company I had the pleasure of enjoying this weekend:
1) Thank you.
2) Go get that bra-fitting before I have to talk about your boobs on the Internet (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE).
3) Dude, seriously, look out for the Mir traps.
* To be fair, most of the streets of New Orleans aren’t really paved with vomit. But on Friday night, Bourbon Street certainly appears to be. I believe we all remained upright and out of the Mir traps on the way back purely by force of sheer willpower, knowing that if we fell it would be into puddles of questionable origin. You’re welcome.