By Matthew E. Milliken
Aug. 8, 2015
As I wrote the other day, I recently was on vacation on the Atlantic coast. My Sibling-in-Law’s family was kind enough to invite my Parental Unit and I to their summer retreat in Ocean City, Md. — my first visit to that part of the Eastern Seaboard.
P.U. and I had two full days in OC: Sunday and Monday. We drove in with one of my Sibling’s and SiL’s children Saturday late morning/afternoon/early evening. (It was a seven-hour drive, thanks to a combination of traffic and one or two confused and/or ill-advised attempts to circumvent traffic.)
On Sunday, P.U. and I were the first to head down to the beach. We shepherded the SiL’s clan’s young-uns (all four of them, if memory serves). As P.U. watched the kids frolic in the surf, I checked in with the rental company employee — a Romanian national about 20 years of age, apparently, who was deeply tanned and adorned in a flattering bikini — to obtain the beach umbrella that SiL’s parents had secured for the week.
I’ve had a number of visits to the dentist recently, and one of the procedures — preparation for a crown — tweaked a tooth that evidently was not in the greatest of shape. I’ve had recurring low-level pain ever since, which has prompted me to take over-the-counter painkillers on a regular basis. This is a rare event for me — I normally get headaches just a few times a year, I’ve been fortunate enough to injure myself only on a relatively infrequent basis, and I’ve never experienced dental pain before.
Unfortunately, I forgot to pop an Advil before I descended to the shoreline, and I also neglected to bring one with me. My parent normally carries some pain relievers but did not have any on the beach. It belatedly occurred to me to text my SiL to ask that a pill be brought down for me. Alas, seemingly seconds after I sent that text, I saw SiL and party crossing over the dunes that separated the beach from the apartment building where we were staying.
I had a grinding ache in my right jaw, a sensation that was not conducive to entering the ocean, or to swimming of any kind, especially when I hadn’t done either in a few years. I’d also forgotten to bring down a book, which would be nice to enjoy while the painkiller took hold, and I had a letter in the car that I wanted to drop in the apartment building’s mailbox. Moreover, I didn’t have sandals (I was wearing an old pair of sneakers), and my parent had neglected to pack the base for the electric toothbrush my P.U. normally uses, so a trip across U.S. 1 to the pharmacy on the other side of the street was in order.
After I resigned to having to trudge back into the building, I excused myself from the group, saying I needed to run a few errands. First up was the pharmacy, which actually got (sort of) derailed when I noticed a surf shop a door or two down. A few minutes later, I’d acquired a set of beach-appropriate sandals. A few minutes after that, I had in hand both a pack of toothbrushes and a travel-size bottle of mouthwash.
I crossed the street again and climbed two stories up in the parking structure. I got the relevant envelope from the car and tucked it into the bag of merchandise that I’d gotten at the pharmacy.
As I was walking away from the car, I experienced a minor panic attack. Wait, I thought*, where are the keys to the apartment? My SiL had handed them to me before I left the beach, but they weren’t in the pockets of my swim trunks, and I didn’t actually remember having placed them in my hip pack. I couldn’t have lost the only set of keys to the apartment where six of us were staying — could I?
I walked over to the fence, hung up the plastic bag with the sandals and mouthwash and toothbrushes, and began digging through my hip pack. A moment later, I found the house keys. My shoulders sagged in relief, and I picked up my things and resumed walking toward the staircase.
I’d gotten most of the way there when I realized that I probably hadn’t locked the car. Sighing in frustration, I reversed course and started walking back to the car.
I pulled out the fob and began repeatedly mashing the lock button. The car started beeping after I turned the corner. I pressed the button a few more times to make sure that it was our car that was doing the locked beep, rather than someone else’s.
Satisfied by this, I went back to the staircase, headed down to the ground level and entered the apartment building.
* Standard disclaimer: Since I wasn’t taking notes or making recordings at the time of these events, all dialogue and thought bubbles are guaranteed to be only kind of, sort of accurate. Fortunately for you, the valued reader, this free blog comes with a money-back guarantee!