Expectations vs. Reality

Next Thursday, I’m heading down to Virginia for what’s being heralded as the Virginia Blogfest. It’s hosted by bloggers extraordinaire Chesapeake Bay Woman and Big Hair Envy, and it’s designed to bring together bloggers and commenters who’ve gotten to know – and like – each other through cyberspace. Many of us have never met “IRL” (that means “in real life”); I met CBW briefly last summer (sorry, no photos there). Nevertheless, I feel as if I already know a couple of these folks, and as the saying goes, any friend of CBW’s is a friend of mine, which means I know I’ll enjoy meeting the whole gang. The list is too numerous to link to all of ’em here, but I’m sure my blogroll will be featuring some fresh links after next weekend.

This trip is reminding me about another trip I took to Virginia’s eastern parts. The year was 1990 and I was young and single and living it up in DC.  I had made a friend at work – let’s call her Tina.  Tina and I had been out partying a couple of times, even though she lived a commuter bus ride south of the city and I lived within walking distance of our Dupont Circle office.  As Memorial Day weekend approached, Tina asked me if I wanted to come to the beach.

“Sure, who wouldn’t?” I replied.

Tina then explained that she had a friend who lives “really close to Ocean City” and furthermore, a guy she had been dating on and off was a bouncer at one of the big meatmarket bars there, plus her aunt and cute boy cousins lived nearby, so she had “connections.” All I needed to do was bring a bathing suit, a toothbrush, split the gas money, and leave the rest to Tina. Sounded like fun! Who doesn’t love Ocean City?

WELL, you know what they say about things that sound too good to be true. It turned out, this “friend” lived on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  Ocean City is in Maryland, but also on the Eastern Shore.  But heck, it was all the same to us – the girl from West Virginia and the girl from Pennsylvania – right? And we could stay for FREE at Tina’s friend’s place and just hop on over to OC to party our asses off!

BaybridgetunnelEleventeen hours later, after cheating death on I-95, enduring the insult that is driving around Hampton Roads, and crossing the super-long and panic-inducing Bay Bridge/Tunnel, we finally made it to the Eastern Shore.  I don’t remember the name of the town, but I do remember these key facts about Tina’s friend’s place:

  • It was close to a Rose’s department store.
  • Otherwise, it felt like it was in the middle of rural nowhere.
  • It was NOT close to any beach, let alone Ocean City, Maryland.

annotated map

Her “place” was, in fact, a trailer, in a trailer park, situated on what was once a drive-in movie theater. We dodged the old speaker-posts, hung a right at the big white screen, whose paint was peeling, passed the defunct concession stand, drove down one of the gravelly rows, and finally reached Tina’s friend’s place. 

Now, please know, I have nothing against trailers or the people who live in them. My grandma lived in one, and I have fond memories.   But they’re small.  Unless they’re double-wides, which this one was not.   They also attract tornadoes, especially when multiple trailers are clustered together, such as in a trailer park, and can anyone tell me why that is? Because seriously, if I’m going to live anywhere near where tornadoes happen, you can bet your paycheck I’m not going to shack up in a tin can.

Now where was I?… Oh YES, Tina’s friend’s trailer.

It was our expectation that her “place” was close to the beach there, as in walking-close, and a short drive to Ocean City.  The reality was that it was a couple/few miles’ drive to the beach there, and close to an hour’s drive up to Ocean City. Furthermore, our accommodations consisted of sleeping bags on Tina’s friend’s son’s bedroom floor. I don’t remember how old the son was, but Tina’s friend kicked him out of his room so we could sleep there, and I felt badly about that.  Poor kid.

Then there was the issue of the small trailer-sized bathroom, enough for a family of three, but taxed to the max by two girls who wanted to primp and spray and tease and put on makeup and shave for their Big Beach Party Weekend.

The other complicating factor was that Tina’s friend has just received some really bad news. I don’t remember now what it was – either she herself had just been diagnosed with an illness, or a close friend or family member was.  Possibly it was the Big C. Something extremely dire. So, understandably, she wasn’t in the mood to party with us, let alone host a couple of freeloading housetrailerguests. There may have been marital (or boyfriend-al?) difficulties going on, too. I don’t remember much, but I do remember feeling awfully uncomfortable with the situation. I think we even volunteered to go elsewhere, but she insisted we stay there. So we did.

In any event, we drove the whole way up to OC for the beach during the day and partied at night.   We visited Tina’s aunt, who lived just outside of OC and was a gracious host (I still have her fudge recipe!), and hung out with Tina’s cute boy cousins.  We went to the meatmarket bar and danced and drank and had a good time. Otherwise? No specific memories, other than the too-long roadtrip and the questionable, uncomfortable (physically and mentally) lodging.

* * * * *

SO THEN, here I am, thinking about this ill-fated road trip that happened 19 years ago – something I haven’t thought much about since I thanked God for my safe return from that journey.  Why? Is it because I’m preparing to head down I-95 towards the Virginia portion of the Cheasapeake Bay, to parts as-yet unseen, with someone in my car whom I’ve never laid eyes on or even spoken with?  To meet bunches of people I’ve come to know only in writing? And live with them for 72 hours??

Perhaps! But I know this: None of us is 23 anymore. Surely much more preparation and forethought has gone into the upcoming Blogfest than went into Tina’s and my ill-fated trip to “the beach.”   Plus, I’m no snob when it comes to accommodations; you’ll recall I recently shared a college dorm room with a friend, and it was perfectly fine! I’ve been adequately prepared for my accommodations Chez CBW.  I know to expect fiddler crabs and ants and a rabid goose!  The problem 19 years ago was that our expectations didn’t match the reality.

Right? Right.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to obsess over what to pack and what to wear and how to lose 20 pounds in one week and…

Ah, screw it. Who cares. Let the Blogfest begin!

Make new friends and keep the old…

…one is silver and the other’s gold.

That’s how the song goes, anyway. We used to sing it at girl scout meetings when I was but a wee lass.  These words have been repeating in my head ad nauseum for a few weeks, because next weekend I’m heading back to college to reunite with the other 40-somethings who also graduated in May 1989, a hundred 20 years ago. TWENTY! How can it possibly be that I have gone around the track 20 times since I packed all my stuff into milk crates and Hefty bags and moved it home for the last time?

Twenty years ago, I tucked my degree into the trunk of my car along with boxes of cassette tapes and an abacus electric typewriter, a tabletop ironing board and a wooden drying rack.  A difficult senior year had mercifully come to an end and I was headed back to my mom’s house for a few months, just enough time to have bunions fixed on both feet and figure out that I really wanted to leave Pennsylvania for something more exciting. Half a year later, I defied my then-boyfriend’s “don’t go” with “I’m going”, loaded all the same stuff into my trunk and moved in with cousins who lived outside of DC. I didn’t know then that I was making the defining move of my adult life.

This week I’ll be trading emails and messages with the friends I’m planning to meet on campus. I’m sharing a dorm room with one of them – hey, at $25 the price is right, and as long as a four year old isn’t waking me up with MOOOOOOOOOMEEEEEEEEE! I really don’t care where I sleep. We’re registered for lunch and dinner (What to wear? Can we get away with capris, or would a dress be more appropriate?) and plan on dropping in on a reception hosted by our sorority. Is it going to be weird?  I think so. Truthfully, I’m a little nervous about it. I don’t know why. Someone, tell me why I should care that much.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reconnecting on Facebook with some friends from the Mesozoic Era high school. Thinking about my 20th college reunion is one thing, but thinking about the 25 years that have passed since our high school heydey is quite another.

And if that weren’t enough, plans are underway for a mid-July gathering of bloggers. I’ve only met one of them “IRL” (in real life), and the others I have become acquainted with through reading their blogs and their comments on mine. I’m excited to meet and speak with these fine folks, because anytime you can find common ground with someone, it’s a good thing. Still, I’m committing to spend several days with people who are basically strangers. Or at least, we’ve never met. In person. Have I lost my mind?

On the other hand, besides the years we spent together in the late 1980s, I have been in ongoing touch only with a few of my college friends. A lot can happen in a couple of decades. And the high school gang? Well, I left town in 1985 and have barely been in touch with but a handful of classmates.  So, because we shared a few years together a bunch of years ago, are we more connected than people with whom I have lots in common now, as a 40-something working mother living in the DC area? Am I the same person now that I was then? Hardly.

Readers, expect to hear more about this during the summer as I obsess about and overthink this. I’d love to hear your comments about reunions and new friends.

Why Afghanistan?

Lori of High Plains Practitioner posted an entry that helps shed light on what the heck she’ll be doing when she heads to Afghanistan.  An interesting tidbit:

Did you know Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rates in the world? That nearly 80 percent of the population is illiterate? That just a few years ago, more than than 80 percent of the population lacked access to any medical care? That is why we are there. The long-term goal is to leave the people better off than the day we arrived (opposite the goal of those who came before us, when you consider the destruction caused by the Soviets and the Taliban).

Head on over and read all about it!