The following text is real:
Me: Hello. Are the parking spaces in the back the only ones? We just pulled into a two-hour space on the side of the road. Not sure if I am missing anything.
Condo owner: (No response.)
Me: Also, I know check-in is at 4 p.m. Would we be able to get in earlier? We have an event at 5.
Me: We are going to stay someplace else. There is absolutely no parking and there is a guy peeing on the building.
I would like to say the man urinating on our rental condo was the worst part of this story. Nope! He was just Chapter 1 of “The Schlenkers’ Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Afternoon.”
We’ve all had these days.
It starts with promise, and high expectations for family fun on the other side of a road trip. Then something goes south, followed by another southernly turn, followed by bad words, followed by property damage, followed by a lack of wine, followed by another turn toward Hell’s gate.
In our case, it was a wedding in St. Pete, a two-day celebration with sweet relatives, wine, food, laughter and a gorgeous wedding.
The first event started at 5 p.m., which was worrisome because check-in to our rented condo was 4 p.m. A digital lock on the door would not release until 4 p.m.
OK. No problem. The condo had plenty of room. When that door unlatches, we would move fast.
That is, if we could find a parking space. The condo owner told me there was plenty of parking. Turns out, no, there was not. We parked in a two-hour spot on the side of the road and texted the owner. Then I decided to walk around the complex and seek out those mystery parking spaces.
That’s where I met the man peeing on the building. I grabbed my phone and searched for nearby hotels. Per the internet, there were three rooms left in my favorite place in St. Pete. Finally, a break.
We jumped in the car and raced to the hotel.
“I’m sorry, sir. We are sold out.”
“But … But … The internet said you have three rooms,” I responded.
The hotel clerk graciously helped us find a Hilton down the street with a room left.
“TO THE HILTON!!” I bellowed to confused family members.
The Hilton was a mere four blocks away, but there was an issue: The Firestone Grand Prix was set for St. Pete the following weekend, so the streets were already lined and altered with fencing—the kind you see in NASCAR races with the barbed wire at the top to protect tall people from exploding car parts.
We kept circling the Hilton, looking for an entrance among the maze of detour signs. A Hilton employee on the phone tried to guide us to the hotel as if he were telling us how to land a plane after the pilot collapsed from bad sushi.
We finally made it. Buried in our luggage, we slogged to the elevator and waited, not quite ready to laugh but no longer waiting for our heads to explode.
Then came the crash.
A camera lens—$1,600 when I bought it—fell out of my bag and hit the floor. My heart sank at the sound of shattered glass and lens guts. It was now a maraca.
I reviewed the day: No parking. Impossible check-in time. Full bladders— except for the guy peeing on our condo. Lying internet. No access. Lens. Smash. Maraca. No wine on the elevator.
However, there was plenty of wine and laughter at the 5 p.m. reception we attended at 6-ish.
Wedding day was flawless. We have a new family member, and she looked radiant walking down the aisle. We danced and hugged; and took pictures with my surviving camera lens.
To the bride and groom: Van Morrison is right, there will be days like this. Yet there also will be days with blue skies, no barbed fences, ample parking, no public urination, good food and plenty of red wine after that condo lock finally unlatches for nobody. OS