Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thomas the Train & The Ozone Blaster

We probably should've known after reading some of the reviews online.
"There was an overwhelming smell of septic from the minute we arrived. The restaurant looked dirty, I did not even go in. Our room was very dirty. The rug by the fridge was stained and moldy. The ceiling was water damaged and rotted."
"Well," I'd said to my husband, "maybe this was written by a New Jersey housewife or something." I was trying to be optimistic. Our reservations had been made and it was too late to cancel.  But he persisted, now with a cackle in his voice:

"The inside is very dated and filthy. The carpet was dirty. There was dust stuck on all the walls. The blankets look like they are 30 some yrs old. My daughter had some interesting reading when laying in bed - obscene graffiti on the bottom of the top bunk that dated over 20 years old. BUGS EVERYWHERE!!!!"
I peered over my husband's shoulder at the computer screen.  The last bout of exclamations points had me concerned. 

Nevertheless, we packed up the boys and made the six-turned-eight hour trip to Pennsylvania.  My father and his wife were waiting for us as we pulled in.  First impression? CUTE.

Since we were late, we quickly tossed our stuff inside and went to the dining car--no, really--to grab some dinner.  It was, you know, still cute-ish.  But the novelty was easily rubbed off by a chatty, child-fearing waitress who informed us at every turn that "Oh, sorry, we're actually out of that dish tonight." 

We ordered hamburgers and hotdogs.  They came without buns.

Getting back to the room, I tried not to look too hard for bugs.  Sure, the room was old, but it was a TRAIN CAR, people. Of course it was cool. In spite of being covered in wood paneling.  Then there was also the impossibly small shower stall.  After having roamed the grounds to check out the playground and petting zoo--complete with fearsome chickens and sinister goats--my husband was given the duty of bathing the boys.  T9, after all, had picked up a hand full of unidentified turd-looking material.  Soon thereafter, it become identified turd-looking, um, turds. 

Into the stall they marched.  After loads of silly giggles and slightly fewer, more barotone, "STOP THAT!"s, the otherwise typical cleaning session suddenly went awry.

My husband let out a grave shriek of pain.  At first I'd just assumed the boys got him in the balls again. HAPPENS ALL THE TIME.  But when they emerged, my husband was covering his eyeball, shielding himself from the overhead lights.  Later, he asked me to look at it.  Probably a bad idea, in retrospect, since I think splinters are potentially deadly if left untreated.

In the end, his bright-red-visibly-scratched-by-a-3.5-year-old's-fingernail eyeball could not be slept off. At 2:00am, my husband blindly drove himself to the nearest hospital.  Sure, it makes no sense NOW, but at 2:00am, it certainly made at least a little bit of sense, and so I relented to his, "I'll be FINE"'s in exchange for keeping possession of my pillow.  As he fumbled in the dark for his keys, I told him to ask if he could keep his eyeball if they had to remove it.

Cut to the next morning.  It's time to see Thomas the Train and--miraculously--my husband is still symmetrical.  Tired? Deliriously. But canceling out the BUY A SEEING EYE DOG off my to-do list was somewhat invigorating.  We head to a Waffle House for some disappointing breakfast before our day out in the sun.  Over pecan waffles, my dad starts unraveling the events of their evening.  Turns out we hadn't been the only ones awake at 2:00am.  He tells us how they'd woken up coughing.  Well, first it was coughing, his wife corrected.  Then, it was, you know, the absence of breathing.  "Yeah," he agreed, "it was kind of like my throat was so dry that it was closing over or something."

I'll have you know right now that I fully resisted the urge to WebMD his ass, because CLOSING OVER?! Jesus H, DAD.

Eventually, he said, they sat outside for some fresh air.  Seemed, fitting, I thought, if we were maybe IN A HENRY JAMES NOVEL.  He, his wife, and my husband smiled and shook their heads with a collective sort of "OH WELL! HOW SILLY AND STRANGE!"  I distracted myself by shoveling more food into the baby's mouth.  No wonder I'm unstable. Do you see my family tree?

We left the Waffle House, the boys adorned with silly hats, and went on to have a really wonderful time riding on trains and sitting on the laps of freakish-looking cartoon characters.  My parents drove home the next day, and we continued our journey to western New York to see family.  We skipped stones on Lake Eerie, let the boys run through grape fields, and did the laugh/cry routine with old friends and (older) family.  It was certainly ideal.  Memorable.  Amazing, even.

Amazing, that is, until we contracted the plague.  First it was T9 with boogers and a fever. Luckily, I'd packed infant Motrin, so things seem to remain stable. Then Plus One started hacking and spiked his typical 104-and-rising-exponentially fever.  Turns out there's a website that tells you how to convert doses if you need to give a normal kid his baby brother's meds.  And it's even accessible at 4:00am!  WHO KNEW!?  The next morning, when the boys were playing with some old family toys, my husband and I realized it might be time to pack up our things.

 The drive home, I'll say, is when things started to fully unravel.  And by "things", I mean my my and my husband's collective MINDS.  Unable to keep Plus One's fever in check, we resorted to buying supplemental Tylenol at one of the more bizarre truck stops I've ever seen.  (Let's, actually, not talk about it.)  Then, there was T9's endless shrieking, presumably his way of raging against the dying of the light.  And about three hours into it, I started to get the sweats myself. I plopped the kids' thermometer in my ear: 102.  I may have started to weep, but I can't be certain for sure.  I either blacked out or since scheduled a lobotomy for that area of my memory bank.

And, there, my friends, would seem like a good place to draw a close to this neverending story.  But a few days later, my father called:

Father: So, you'll never believe it...

He sounded excited.  My mind went immediately to the lottery. Naturally.  

Me: WHAT?!

Father: That night that we were having trouble breathing?

I was defeated.  Yet intrigued.  Why are we excited, exactly?

Father: Well, I remembered seeing this bizarre machine in the room when we first checked in...

Me: ...bizarre machine?...

Father: When we got back, I rememberd the name of it, so I googled it. 

Me: ...what KIND of machine, Dad...?

Father: It's called an Ozone Blaster, and supposedly the thing emits ozone to eliminate odors.

Me: OZONE BLASTER?! That didn't alarm you at the time?

Father: Turns out that it's toxic for humans! It affects the mucus membranes, and you're not supposed to be in there when they're on.  The industrial sized ones are even fatal!

I told my father to reduce his enthusiasm, lest I reach through the phone to reenact that having-trouble-breathing thing. Remembering the lottery, I told him to lawyer up.  He laughed. 

Guys, it really was a pretty good vacation.


  1. I would have drowned everyone and everything in Purell after that experience. Welcome back.

  2. You want to trade vacations?
    Mine involves working eight hours a day five days a week then coming home to drink, yell at the kids and go to sleep.
    I did the same thing last year, it was a blast.

  3. One of my friends married this person I went to grad school with and they had a baby.

    When they sent me a picture of the kid when he started walking, I jumped back in shock, fear and hilarity. The kid looks exactly like Sir Topham Hat, right down to the square, jowly face, lack of neck, and rounded shoulders.

    My wife thought he looked more like Boss Hogg, but that's a different story.

  4. Best.

    Got a suggestion for your next one, if you like staying in cutesy, outdated places:

    Don't forget to take a ride up in the giant sombrero.


  5. Sounds like this place should be in the South of the Border place at the North Carolina/South Carolina state line.

  6. Yeah, that is just wrong. On so many levels. Unfortunately, I've had similarly horrible nights in hotels with many small children. Except without the near loss of an eyeball or the near fatal ozone machine.

  7. Damn! I'm glad y'all survived. My kids were both excited to see Thomas until they stood right in front of him to get their picture taken and they both burst into tears. Those big googly eyes totally freaked them out. We didn't even bother going to see Sir Topham Hatt.

  8. Sounds like this place should be in the South of the Border place at the North Carolina/South Carolina state line.