Monday, June 08, 2009

Putting things in perspective

I have a lot of catching up to do, and the easiest thing to do right off is to reprint my column in today's newspaper, because it tells what happened to me this weekend.

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We start this story in the middle: It’s 9 a.m. this past Saturday and I’m all alone in Room 26 of the Relax Inn on Trudgeon Street in Henryetta, Oklahoma, feeling sorry for myself.
I’m waiting for someone to (hopefully) arrive and give me a ride to Oklahoma City. Suddenly I am humbled by a reminder of what day it is.
OK, let me backtrack a bit. As I have mentioned in the past, I’ve had some success in my hobby of writing science fiction and fantasy stories. As a result, I get invitations to be a guest panelist at literary conferences, and I’ve spoken as far away as Cincinnati and St. Louis, and closer to home, in Tulsa, Dallas, Austin and College Station.
This year I accepted an invitation to speak at one in Oklahoma City, and early Friday afternoon I hit the road for the four-hour drive.
After leaving a tollbooth on the Indian Nation Turnpike, I had trouble accelerating, and my car finally ground to a halt as I tried to climb a hill. The engine revved, but there was no motion. Not a good sign.
After raising the hood, I went to the back of my station wagon to retrieve some tools. When I grabbed the tailgate, it felt slippery. I raised my hand and realized it was coated with a thin reddish liquid: Transmission fluid.
“This is Not a Good Thing,” I thought.
A helpful state trooper came by and called a wrecker, who towed the car seven miles into Henryetta. Unfortunately, we arrived after 5 p.m. and so the car couldn’t be fixed. The tow truck driver dropped me off at a nearby motel.
As he pulled away and I walked up to the office, I saw to my dismay a sign that indicated that - despite outward appearances - the motel was out of business. A note indicated the location of another motel, down the road, so at 6 p.m. I began to walk down Trudgeon Street with two carry-on-type bags and a briefcase.
Yep, the other motel was down the road – two miles down.
After I was about halfway there, an old boy in a pickup asked me if I needed a lift, and he took me the rest of the way. That’s how I ended spending the night at the Relax Inn in Henryetta.
I called my hosts in Oklahoma City and told them what happened. They said they would come get me (not a short drive – Henryetta is still over 100 miles from Oklahoma City). As I had already missed my panels for Friday, I suggested they could just get me in the morning.
So that’s how I’m watching TV alone in a motel room in Henryetta on a Saturday morning, and as I clicked the remote, I found the live broadcast of the memorial ceremony at the American Cemetery in France to commemorate D-Day.
And as I watched that, and heard some of the recollections of the Normandy Invasion, I said to myself “you over-fed lucky schmuck, you don’t have a thing to complain about!”
It didn’t change any of my circumstances, but it sure put things in perspective.

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