A Trip Last Summer - Part 2

By Corey Nicolaides - June 04, 2019

I woke up before the girls and quietly left the hotel room. The halls were humid and smelled of chlorine from the pool. It was very quiet, save for the televisions of a few hard-of-hearing early risers. I walked down to the lobby to get something to eat from the continental breakfast area.

I stood there for a second, looking at the countertops cluttered with devices and containers, warmers, drip catching spoon holders, waffle makers, cereal dispensers, toast racks, and little butter blocks in their gold wrappers.

I watched a guy shuffle down the assembly line slopping spoonfuls of watery eggs and lukewarm meat onto his plastic plate. I wondered if he’d washed his hands before entering this self-serve communal food dispensary.

The awkwardness of standing indecisively in a public space like this, trying to weigh the options and make the best decision, is not new to me.

One approach I employ —should you find yourself in this uncomfortable situation— is to move about sharply and in a way that projects confidence, even though I may possess very little confidence whatsoever. I do this to suggest that I don’t have much time because I’m some very important busy person, and I’m not at all bothered by what I see or where I am, I just need to move along quickly. If my body language can convince others around me that “all is fine”, I’ll be invisible to them and they won’t see just how deeply out of place I feel, or how hard Anxiety is pulling on my ear. In a real jam I’ll freeze and grab my phone, suggesting that something urgent must be handled and that’s why I’m standing, frozen, in front of a greasy silver tub of bendy bacon. To really sell it, I’ll step back, out of the way of the person next to me. Sacrificing my valuable spot in line is a real pro-tip.

Suppose you’re in line between two people and the one behind you is impatient and the one in front of you just bare-handed a wriggly sausage, licked his fingers, and then picked up the ladle for another scoop of broken gravy. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to want out of that line immediately. You may pause to consider your options for moving forward in this line by adapting to obstacles before you. Be wary though, the foot tapping lady lurks behind you and her insulin levels are dropping, which you can tell because of the way she’s off-gassing volumes of air onto the back of your neck. If you exit too abruptly you may offend the finger licker in front of you by inadvertently suggesting that he made you leave this line. That would be true and his offense deserves the punishment, but you can’t take any chances with a Wildcard like him. And believe me, anyone who’s licking their fingers after touching doorhandles and elevator buttons is an absolute Wildcard.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to point out others flaws or make them uncomfortable, so you need to exit in a way that makes no difference to the finger licker, and that shortens the line so the foot tapper can get to her french toast faster. In this scenario the “important phone call” is an excellent device.

I started to see the possibility of contamination everywhere. “Maybe I’ll just have a banana." I whisper to myself. "Oh, and I have RX bars in my bag. I’ll be fine.”

I picked a banana and sat at a table. The news was on and had the attention of the others in the room. The anchors were talking about the tension between Trump and North Korea. I felt like watching news about the possibility of nuclear war would be a bad way to start the second day of vacation, so I went back to our room.

We let Ayla sleep as long as possible. She slept pretty well aside from kicking Alaina a few times in the night. I was happy she slept at all because we really needed this hotel setup to work throughout the trip. When we woke her up, she was happy to sit in the bed and watch Disney Junior.

There’s a short window of every morning in our house when Alaina and I are doing an unofficial assessment of Ayla’s wellness. If Ayla sneezes or coughs, we raise our alert level. If she sneezes or coughs multiple times the alert level goes up again. If she sneezes or coughs enough to put us on level 3 alert, we pause all plans for further assessment. We hook Ayla back up to her pulse oximeter, we feel her chest and listen with the stethoscope as she breathes, we pay close attention to the color of the secretions we get in her suction tubing. We check her temperature and respiratory rate. If we’re at level 3, I open a blank note on my phone and enter the date and time, and I briefly describe how Ayla is currently doing, keeping track in-case we have to go to the doctor and give report.

Fortunately the wellness window is expiring and Ayla seems fine. I disassembled Ayla’s equipment and packed it back into the various bags and tubs. We packed everything back into the car and asked Ways for directions to Niagara Falls.

Arriving at Niagara Falls is confusing. It’s hard to keep track of where you’re going and in what direction you’re pointing. The roads are bad, there’s barely enough parking, and the surrounding area is really dated and worn out. The visitor center and gift shop were built in… who knows when, and they need repair and replacement.

I can imagine the architects and builders pitching the current build designs. “We understand that this might not be the most attractive building, and we know that these tiles and railings and doors look terrible. We know that this won’t function as well as it possibly could, but we’re making this out of ‘space-age’ materials that will survive the high traffic and humidity of this climate well beyond the apocalypse.”

And someone on the park board said “Okay, great. We don’t want to have to make any updates or upgrades or even have this meeting again for 1000 years.”

I guess I’m not painting a very pretty picture, and that’s not fair. They’re working on it according to the plans on display upstairs in the visitor center. Hey, Park Board, consult with someone from Disney.

The whole entry to the falls is so congested and off-putting that I stood there wondering if it was even worth it. “Will Ayla care if we just go back to the car?” I asked myself.

I’m not sure if she would or not, but that’s not what this trip is about. I told Ayla we were going to see a real waterfall, Niagara Falls, and I couldn’t let this crowded, noisy, hot, dirty public space take that away.

The actual falls are very pretty. The rumbling sound of water rushing over the edge and smashing into the jagged rocks below is a good reminder of how powerful the falls are. You can even feel it resonating in the ground beneath your feet.

Ayla enjoyed seeing the falls, but she was annoyed by the spray of the mist that was just barely reaching us.

Then Ayla chased the seagulls a little bit...

Then Ayla got too close and a seagull pooped on her. I don’t really have pictures of this because as you can imagine, this sent Alaina and I straight to code red. I pulled a special chord on the emergency bag and a flare shot into the sky, hazmat suits deployed and our beacon sounded for immediate Medivac.

Well, that’s what I wanted anyway, but we settled for a thorough wipe down with water and hand sanitizer, and then hand wipes.

We bought a magnet in the gift shop and then walked across the road to see if we could find something to eat. Alaina and I decided to wait because we were hot and it was a weird time in the afternoon and everything was expensive, but Ayla wanted some popcorn so we got that.

We were back on the road, and we were set to arrive at our next Hotel stop at a much more reasonable time.

We were hungry so we called a local pizza place and ordered carry-out. It was nice to relax for a little while in the hotel room and just gorge on pizza; It finally started to feel like vacation.

We were in bed at a reasonable time, which was encouraging because we wanted to be rested and ready to go early the next day so we could make it to Nana and Gumpy’s house in Massachusetts around noon.


Next: Nana and Gumpy's house!

Comments: 2
Janet Eyman

I am so fascinated with your story and hope I don't miss a word. I have fallen in love with Ayla and just love watching her videos and pictures. You are the best mom and dad any little girl could ask for. Thank you for all you do for her. God Bless you all.

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