Time to hit the road

Marcy O’Brien

This new life status called retirement has its perks. Oh boy, the freedom – who knew?

Aside from not setting the alarm or scrambling for dinner after a day at the office, it’s the weekday availability that I am discovering – the ability to go anywhere in the middle of the week. Wow. Mondays are no longer Facility meetings or Friends of the Theatre meetings. Tuesdays are not staff meetings, Wednesdays will not be accounts payables and Trustees meetings. As much as I loved the life “inside,” I’m discovering a whole new world outside. I knew it was out there, it just didn’t pertain to me.

So now – Erie for lunch on a Friday? Or a quick five days in New Jersey and eastern PA? A whole weekday, not a Saturday, working in the garden for fall clean-up? Our weekends were so treasured this seems like hitting the jackpot. I won the lottery and the prize was 7-day weekends!! Dear Richard, who retired seven years before we married, calls each week his six Saturdays and one Sunday. I’ve decided to call it heaven. Time to hit the road.

Our first trip away, the aforementioned 5-day jaunt, found us staying in a fancy, glass hotel in Teaneck, New Jersey. The lovely desk clerk informed us that the hotel had opened just 45 days before our arrival. It was not refurbished, it was brand, spanking new.

I had booked what we always ask for – and pray we can get – a king bed in a non-smoking “accessible” room. The Accessibles have walk-in showers and many hand-rails in addition to larger bathrooms that would accommodate a wheelchair. I don’t have the rolling wheels, but my geometrically-challenged replaced joints are always grateful not to have to swing over a tub wall with slippery footing.

Oh, and I always ask for non-smoking and a low floor if possible. Having been in 5 hotel fires in the last 45 years, the last thing I’m eager to do is egress from the 14th floor without an elevator. Not fussy right? Accessible king, no-smoking, on a low floor. Well, we had the reservation for just that, but it wasn’t ready. Okay. These things happen.

“How long would it be because we have dinner plans in an hour?” Lovely Desk Clerk was still smiling, as was I. She was searching for another room and suddenly our requests sounded like a big ask.

Lovely Desk Clerk could do accessible with a queen bed. Nope, but I’m still smiling. She could do a non-accessible king on a low floor. Nope. Still smiling. Oh, wait, our room was ready now, except the house phone was out of order. I was still smiling but was thinking, well we have our cell phones. But if anything happens in the middle of the night, I’d like to be able to call the desk from my bedside. Before I could say that I’d rather have a working phone, LDC, now with her manager in tow, offers, “We have a non-smoking, king, accessible suite on the 12th floor. Could that work for you?

She was trying her hardest. I thought, let’s roll the dice on the fire-worthiness of this brand new joint. “Yes, I can see we’re a bit of a problem,” I said. Pretty sure that she was going to offer the complimentary upgrade to us, I still needed to verify. I added, “However, upgrading to a suite is not in my budget.”

Still smiling, LDC said, “Oh no, it’s our treat and we can send you up immediately.” She was both gracious and smart. Plus the ice machine was just around the corner.

We could have hosted a large cocktail party with a jazz band in our suite. Our stay was terrific and when we checked out, $100 had been deducted from our total, the initial agreed-upon price. All that happiness and no one had stopped smiling. I wonder if voices had been raised and fists pounded if the results would have been the same? Glad I’ll never have to find out.

The next hotel was a modest old establishment in the center of a small historic town west of Philadelphia. Two double beds, no smoking, no accessible available but just down the hall on the first floor. Very clean and very user-friendly pricing. The desk clerk was nice – just not lovely.

Our last stay was a farmhouse Bed and Breakfast in the remote rolling hills of Lancaster County. The smiling hostess, the amenities, the setting – all grand. The sleeping quarters were up one flight, (they carried the luggage for the white-haired guest) a great new accessible bathroom, but sadly, a queen bed. And probably for the last time. One of us slept well. I won’t say which one, but it’s the one who falls asleep 7 seconds after assuming the horizontal position and doesn’t require space to keep his arthritic limbs moving throughout the night.

When we arrived home, our room was waiting – a non-smoking king room, extra firm mattress but with a pillow top, accessible bathroom and on a low floor. The ice maker was full and located just around the corner in our expansive suite with garden views.

The lovely long-haired cat was smiling. And like every trip I’ve ever taken, upon returning home, I was smiling too. Ah, this retirement thing is going to be fun.


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