Once upon a time, I had too much to do and too little time.
Well, okay. More than once. I do this to myself all the time. But this one time, the universe said, “What would we throw Honey’s way if her name was Job?” and then dog-piled onto the mayhem.
I’ll do my best to be succinct. But I’ll likely fail. (See? I’m already wasting time.)
Mr. Parker and I were flying to Park City to move all of our stuff—or as we now call it, “unnecessary crap”—out of storage. An unpleasant but clear task. Until…
Day 1: Arrival in Salt Lake. And, I forgot to mention we were flying in on the heels of my mother’s memorial service, an event that was two years in the making. (More on that another time.)
A friend with whom we were staying in Park City offered to pick us up at the airport. So we were starting on an up note. Her husband, also a dear friend, immediately upon our arrival in his house offered us cocktail (he’s good at that) and wondered what kinds of fun we could all have while we were in town. Sadly, none. We were totally booked up.
To his credit, he kept trying to squeeze in some social time and pour us cocktails.
Day 2 – Unable to quiet all the mental gymnastics related to logistics that were doing jumping jacks in my brain, I woke early and walked four miles to the dentist appointment I had scheduled. Please know that teeth will be figuring prominently in this tale.
I’d been having heat sensitivity in a back tooth and wanted to get it checked. Sure enough, my very nice dentist said that beguiling two-word phrase: Root canal. Damn it!
Now I had to figure out how to shove that joyous task into an itinerary already so tight it was squeaking. But the dentist hooked me up with an endodontist appointment for a few days later. It was also 35 miles away in a Salt Lake suburb. How would I get there? Our only vehicle by then would be the cargo van being used to empty the storage units.
Screw it. I’d figure that out later. Mr. Parker picked me up from the dentist in a fancy rental car that we’d have for the next 24 hours. (That we reserved a compact and got a luxury coupe was luck of the draw in resort town car rental dynamics.) Off we went to our first task: assessing the what we fondly call our “upper storage unit.” It is on the mountain where we used to live, is about a gazillion square feet, but is also not climate controlled and is trafficked freely by mountain rodents. Nonetheless, it is a bargain and half the price of the ”lower storage unit,” a climate controlled closet we have in town.
That’s right, two storage units. Don’t judge.
We got to the mountain storage unit—and he’d forgotten the keys. In his defense, he was dealing with so, so many keys, it was hard to keep track. In my defense, I didn’t say aloud what I was thinking.
When we finally got back to the house, got the keys, returned to the mountain and opened the roll-up door to the storage. We stood there looking at the mountain of crap. He said, “Damn, that’s more than I remembered.”
Day 3 – We drove the very fancy rental car down to Salt Lake to pick up the less-than-fancy cargo van. We then drove both vehicles back to Park City and returned the fancy car. So, so sad to see it go. Then, we drove back to the upper storage unit. (I said “unit.” Note: I’ll be saying it a lot.)
We started bagging things that would be going to the dump, pulling things that we’d by trying to sell to the side, and kept staring incredulously at all the things we were keeping.
Oops. Forgot to mention our trip to Home Depot for boxes, tape and markers. There will be many more trips there. I’m going to leave them out of the rest of the telling. It’s Home Depot. More saving? More doing? Screw that.
In the middle of our junk sorting came the snow flurries. Yep. Mid-May, and it was snowing on us. Why did that feel inevitable?
We ended that day with dinner at another couple’s home. They’re dear friends, and it was lovely to see them. And at this point, we were still semi-decent company. We had bathed. We did not smell. That would change.
Day 4 – Our errands included picking up the giant poster and cases of wine for a book pre-launch party. Not my book, no. Mr. Parker has written a new book called, Free The Pizza! You may be asking yourself, What kind of idiot would plan such an event in the middle of a major move? The answer: Yours truly. There were extenuating circumstances. Don’t judge.
We returned to the upper storage unit for more triage: heaving things into separate piles for junking, saving and selling.
Suddenly, a text message. The nice reporter from the local paper who was going to cover the book event? Sick. Can’t cover the book event. That was a tough one. Arranging press coverage was my big contribution to this event. I felt like I’d failed my husband. On the upside, the reporter could interview him and his chef/foreword writer and party co-host the day before we were scheduled to fly out.
Day 5 – Perhaps the best day of this adventure. Oh, hell. Why hedge? It was flat out the best day. This was the day of the pizza book event. But that wasn’t until 4pm. So we got up early and hustled over to the lower storage unit. Unlike the enormous rodent arena of the mountain storage unit, this is the hermetically sealed and climate controlled closet filled to bulging with our art, clothing, and whatever random miscellaneous shit we’d gathered over the last few years.
We made surprisingly good headway, leaving the place semi-organized with time enough to shower, and for Mr. P. to prep his pizza mis en place.
Or did we?
Nope. Not quite enough time. Our lovely hosts ended up helping us scramble out the door with the poster, wine, prepped food, and a kid’s drawing easel from their playroom. (You gotta stand that poster up on something, and I’ll be damned if we were going to buy a proper display easel from the office supply store only to have to FUCKING MOVE IT in three days time.)
The book event was being held at a Chop Shop Park City. A farm-to-butcher specialty shop with a wood-fired oven, it’s run by chef John Courtney. John is a Chopped Champion with Michelin-star kitchen chops and giant mutton-chop sideburns. He’d written the foreword to Blaine’s book. He greeted us with pony-bottles of Laurent-Perrier champagne, and gave us a taste of his take on an Italian street food item that is essentially a ball of deep-fried cheesy pasta. It is decadent and brilliant.
As guests began arriving, Blaine started churning out stunning pizzas, John put forth a few of his own stunning pizzas, wine was poured, and all were sated and happy. A respite from the storage-unit insanity. Cheers!
Day 6 – This day started out like a winner as well. I had a 7am dentist appointment. It was just a cleaning. It was fast. The hygienist kept repeating, “Your teeth are so clean!” Yay!
Mr. Parker picked me up. I showed him how clean my teeth were and we drove off to the lower unit.
Surprise! After finishing up more quickly than we’d ever imagined, we realized that I had time before my Lyft to the distant dental surgery date to accompany my man on a major dump run. (Garbage dumps and root canals. We know how to party.)
But on the way back from the dump…wait for it… wait for it…
BAM! Slap slap slap slap slap!
Yes, a flat tire. Crap. I had to do what I hate doing: calling my already generous and over-taxed friend to bail me out so I could get to the excitement of that root canal.
She never complained. As Mr. P. was changing the tire (or, more accurately, on the treasure hunt for the hidden cache of tools for changing the tire), she came and picked me up at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. She left Mr. P. with a bottle of fancy water, I canceled my Lyft, and she drove me about 50 miles to my dreaded appointment with dentistry.
Now, as I’d explained to the nice folks in the dental office days before, I practice great dental hygiene, but I’m a complete weenie when it comes to dental pain. They’d asked if I’d like a Valium beforehand. I replied, “I believe that would be best for all involved.” (Don’t judge.) So I was in the Valium groove by the time I arrived in the chair.
After the doctor examined the area, he dropped the next small dental bomb: “This may or may not be the right tooth.” What?!
Apparently, certainty is not always certain in the realm of dental care. So, we proceeded knowing that I may be back in that chair again soon.
After two and a half hours with my mouth literally wedged open, I wondered if it would be stuck that way for the rest of my life. Me, walking the Earth with my mouth open, waiting for people to throw in quarters.
Day 7 – The last day of purging before packing to move. Everything needed to be packed up, taped shut and readied to roll. With the lower storage unit done and staged for loading, we finished the upper storage unit.
An unwise move was trying to sell a few things at the same time we were packing. Facebook is great for reaching your neighbors who might want to buy your crap. You post pictures. You say things like, “TODAY ONLY FROM 2-4PM! NO EXCEPTIONS!” And people keep showing up early or late, and wanting to have deep conversations. Other people keep texting, asking if they could come at a day, time and place more convenient for them. “NO EXCEPTIONS” does not register with the people who are focused on what it is they want.
The selling was a major time suck. We’re not so smart. Once that was finally done and we netted about 7 cents on the ton, we went to a neighboring town to pick up our second rental van. Yes, tomorrow’s move would to be a two-van operation.
We drove both vans to the lower storage unit and loaded them full. We would be hitting the ground running early the next morning. Why? We only had one day to get all our stuff into the freight company’s trailer, which was parked forty minutes away.
And…task accomplished. Everything made it out of the lower storage unit and into our vans.
Was this going to work? Could we do everything in our estimated three trips? I kept running timing scenarios in my head. Just not sure.
Day 8 – Moving day. 6:30 am. Out the door and down into Salt Lake. The freight company lot was a vast sea of identical trailers. Figuring out where we needed to be took time. But we found our guy, and eventually we found our truck.
We could use as much or as little of the trailer as we wanted/needed. With no moving dolly, Blaine and I began carrying boxes up the ramp and into the cargo space. It was like a giant game of 3-D Tetris. What should go where? How best to protect the art? What bins won’t get crushed on the bottom. Be ever so careful-ish.
9:00 am. One load done. Blaine felt we needed to go to the tire store to deal with the flat spare from two days ago. He was convinced that driving around with heavy loads and without a spare was too great a risk. With the clock ticking loudly in my head and all those mental jumping jacks flailing every which way, I begrudgingly agreed.
Here’s what we learned at the tire store: fuck that flat. All four of our tires had to go. The two rear tires were tread worn, and the two front tires weren’t even meant to be on a cargo-hauling van-like vehicle. They were intended for a passenger vehicle. Potential flats galore!
Everything came to a grinding halt as the nice man in the garage yelled, “Come back in six hours!”, laughed at us, then got to his task. To his credit, he did it all in about 90 minutes. But still, we were burning daylight.
10:30 am. I followed Blaine’s van with its reliable new tires back to the upper storage unit. And here’s some good news. Two friends, whom we never asked for help, volunteered to lend a much-needed hand. With their help, we got both vehicles loaded with what we’d deemed most important and closed the doors. Looking back at what was left we thought, this might actually happen.
12:30 pm. One of our volunteers offered to ride town to SLC with us for loading the trailer. He’d likely have to leave early because of a PT appointment, but could join us again later. Yes, we were offered help moving heavy boxes from the nice man with a bad arm and bad back. And we took it. Don’t judge.
This load was much harder. The Tetris was way more complicated. As predicted, our friend had to leave early. Oh, and by the way, it was really damn hot.
While Blaine was hauling and arranging, I walked across the road to pick up Gatorade and bananas for refueling. By the time we were ready to head back to the mountain for the last load, we were covered in filth. Or maybe it was bananas. Or both.
3:30 pm. We were rejoined by both friends for the loading of the last of the boxes. Another friend showed up for the final push. All in. All of our stuff, crap, shit, treasures and trash were packed in. The final vanloads were ready to be driven down to the valley. Once again, our friend with bad back and the bad arm offered to join us. And once again, without shame, we allowed it to happen.
5:00 pm. When we arrived back at the trailer in the freight depot, I casually asked my friend, “What time do you think we’ll finish?” He answered, “7:00.” My most optimistic guess was 8:00, but I kept that to myself. We were both wrong.
At 9:00pm, everything was in the trailer. But that’s never it, is it? Nope.
The bulkhead panels that would keep our crap in its place inside the trailer, preventing it from cascading into the remaining cargo space, wouldn’t lock into place. Seriously?
More time ticked by as a man from the trucking company found us shiny new panels and helped us install them.
At this point, our friend’s arm was shot, and we were all doing our level best to pretend to be light and act as if this hasn’t been the most ridiculously exhausting day of our lives.
9:30 pm. Time to return the large cargo van. Blaine gave us the address, and with our friend in my little van and the daylight gone, we headed out.
While making our way through the dark, Blaine calls. Wrong address. Shit! “Here’s the right address…Are you mad at me? You sound like you’re mad at me.” “What? No. Let’s do this.”
Okay, I was a little mad. Truthfully, I was just overtired, but it felt like mad. Once the cargo van was parked at the now-closed rental office, Blaine took the wheel of my van with our friend in the passenger seat. I climbed into the back and stretched out on a furniture blanket for the ride home. I did not snore. As far as you know.
10:55 pm. We dropped our friend at his car, made a poor attempt at an adequate thank you, and headed back to our lodging.
But wait. There’s more. Our hosts had left that morning for vacation. We’d be getting inside through the keypad on the garage door. Blaine had the door code in his phone. But his phone battery was dead and he couldn’t access the notes containing the code. OMG. This was never going to end.
Blaine said, “We’re going to have to text our hosts.” (He used their actual names.) I didn’t want to bug our friends on vacation. Remember, they’d already picked us up at the airport, let us use their home, helped us get out the door to Blaine’s event, saved me from the side of the road and driven me to and from my root canal.
No. I wasn’t going to do it. No matter how much Blaine said, “For god’s sake, it’s just a four-second text message, not a small business loan!” No.
Now what? Blaine was about to get in the van and drive to a nearby convenience store to buy a charger cable for his phone so he could plug into the van and charge his phone so he could turn it on to access the four digits that would open the garage door.
Just then, a giant pickup truck rumbled into the driveway. Another friend! She was also staying at the house tonight as well. She knew the code. Halleluiah!
We all hit the kitchen, ate a light snack of leftover pizza, and put a lid on the day. 12:05.
Day 9 – Laundry. I feared that if I didn’t wash our clothes, we’d try to fold them and they’d crack. After getting that going, we returned the second cargo van, returned our unused boxes to Home Depot, and stopped by Chop Shop so Mr. Parker and Chef Courtney could be interviewed for the local paper.
John, being John, made us an incredibly delicious wood-oven toasted roasted pork sandwich that we shared. (Sharing one of his sandwiches still makes you feel as is you may have overeaten. But it’s too good to stop.) In an unexpected turn of events, our dear friend with the bad arm and bad back ambled into the store and we were able to buy him lunch before he expired.
Afterwards, I dropped Mr. Parker at the house, stopped by the library to discuss an upcoming book event, and picked up some wine for dinner with other friends. It seemed like our adventures were coming to an end. Good.
Day 10 – It was Mr. Parker’s turn for a 7:00am dentist appointment. I started packing my bags. When Blaine returned, we reviewed some client work and began cleaning up the place.
And then, we found out we’d been bumped up to first class. Yay!
Then, 20 minutes later, our flight was canceled. Boo!
How not surprising.
When booking the flights, neither of us had focused on the fact that this was Memorial Day weekend. Our non-stop Delta flight from SLC was now two flights with two different airlines. Instead of arriving at 6:30pm, we’d be arriving near midnight. What did that mean?
It meant that the friend who’d be picking us up at the airport in New Orleans and driving us the hour to our home would instead be in bed asleep. Damn. We didn’t mind ordering an Uber or Lyft, but would any driver accept a one-hour midnight drive? How would we get home?
Screw it. We’d cross that bridge if and when we got there. My bigger stress was surrounding our luggage. We typically do all carry on, but Blaine had come across a few items that he wanted to take home that required a checked bag. So, now we’re checking bags and flying two different airlines and hoping baggage control can pull this off without sending out luggage to Bangor. Logistical hell!
But also, out of our hands. We got to the airport, went to the Delta lounge, and had a cocktail. When in doubt, day drink. Don’t judge.
And it seems the day-drinking worked. We still got our first-class seats (such as they were—not every first class is Delta first class). We got our luggage. We got our Lyft. We got home just before midnight.
Epilogue – In the light of the next day, my fingers were throbbing and I was moving extra carefully. My back felt like it could go at any second. Yet, with all of the challenges we ran into, here’s what we avoided:
The day after we flew out, Park City got hit with a late-season blizzard. Once the snow started melting, everything on the mountain turned to a sea of mud. We would’ve never gotten the stuff from the upper unit.
I suddenly felt lucky. Which, of course, we are. Lucky to have so many true friends, without whom we could have never pulled it all off. Lucky us. Tired, dirty, achy, lucky us. And no broken friends. Living careful-ishly again!
It was only a matter of time, right?
The author of the series that laughs at COVID lockdown (you know who she is) finally tested positive for COVID and went into lockdown. Ugh!
Just to be clear, I was never laughing at COVID, only the nutty behavior that came out of being shut in for endless days, months, years.
Yet karma found me. Not only did I test positive, but I tested positive while on the road. I’d traveled to Park City for skiing and celebrating a friend’s birthday. Several days into my trip, someone we’d been hanging out with called to say that he just tested positive. Crap. So, the couple I was visiting and I immediately jumped into the car and raced over to the urgent care for a lengthy session of spitting into vials.
I’d done this once before with Mr. Parker. That time was (dare I say it?) fun. We were sitting in our car, parked outside the hospital, doing our best to generate the required amount of spit while enjoying the beautiful view of snow-covered mountains. Relatively sure we were going to be negative, the whole thing just seemed ridiculous enough to laugh at. So, we did. We laughed a lot.
This time was nothing like that time and no one was laughing.
My two friends and I were now parked beneath the urgent care in a concrete parking bunker that was reminiscent of the scene in All the President’s Men where Robert Redford meets Deep Throat. All very clandestine and foreboding.
Not wanting to wait three days for the official results, we stopped at the pharmacy on the way back and purchased home-test kits. First, we fumbled with all the vials and swabs and instructions, worried we’d screw it up. Then we got underway. Swab, swab, dip, swirl, drop, wait. And not long.
In about 10 seconds, two dark red, parallel lines glared at me from my test stick. It was clear that I’d tested positive. G*d damn it! My friends, who both tested negative, encouraged me to retest. These things had been known to give false results and because mine came up so quickly, perhaps something wasn’t right. So, with a sinking heart, I agreed to burn another test kit. Can you guess the result?
I looked my friends in the eye, tried to not cry, gathered my nuts and berries (i.e., jacket and phone) and went upstairs to wait out the next five days under quarantine in one of their guest bedrooms.
Could this suck more? I suppose it could. But I needed at least a good hour to feel sorry for myself before I could begin looking at the bright side.
After my hour (perhaps three) had passed, I was ready to try to consider that bright-ish side:
1) My friends’ home is far from small. The room I was in was bright and spacious.
2) I was indeed at a friend’s house, not a Motel 6. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Motel 6. But five days locked inside “the lowest-priced room of any national chain” doesn’t come with a lot of jazz hands no matter how long they leave the light on.)
3) Number three? My host’s birthday was two days away. I’d get to be locked in a room while listening to other people having a raucous drinkfest mere feet away from the closed door. Oh, wait. That’s not a bright side. Yup. I was stepping back into the darkness.
Calling Mr. Parker didn’t do much to help the situation. Why? He laughed at me. He said he felt bad for me, but he was laughing while saying it. I get it. I do. It was ridiculous, therefore laughable. But it didn’t help. At least not yet.
So, I sat. Then I slept. Then I sat some more. It was a beautiful, bluebird ski day, but there would be no skiing for me. I was a leper. Too dramatic? Fine, back to the bright side. I didn’t feel sick at all. That was good, right? Wrong. In truth, my good health only added to the frustration. If I was achy or had a fever, or a sore throat, sequestering from life would seem more of an imperative. Ugh.
It's so hard to stay bright. Let me try again. My friends brought me a rolling desk so I could set up my computer and get work done. And another friend, who knew of my captivity, dropped off soup. Yet another friend brought me flowers. Well, she left them at the door and ran. But, okay. I’m a leper with lovely friends.
Later, because I was asymptomatic (a phrase I used more in five days then I ever had in my entire life previously), my friends encouraged me to retest. This time the stick did not immediately show a positive. Was there hope? Nope. After about five minutes, the telltale second line came up red. Albeit, not as red as on day one. But still, back to solitary.
The bright side? I was getting a lot of work done. Work that I’d been putting off because I had better things to do, more fun things. Not now. At least now I was being productive. So, sitting and working. Then I remembered YouTube with its endless rabbit holes. What to watch? I believe I viewed every Kennedy Center Honors telecast ever recorded. I heart you, YouTube.
Next day: Birthday bash. The birthday boy, my host, hates that anyone should miss a party. He suggested that I could stand in my bedroom doorway and look over the mezzanine railing and down onto the party below. (OMG! How sad would that be?) Very politely, I passed. But I decided to get out of my softies, (sweatshirt and stretchy pants) and dress like a person, just in case. In case what? I wasn’t sure. At least I wouldn’t feel like a patient.
Right before people started arriving, Birthday Boy came to my door and asked if I’d like the hired bartender to mix me a margarita. “They’re really good.” I thought, Ya know what? I could use a good cocktail right about now. “Sure!” He walked off to place my order. And I did not hear from him again for the rest of the evening. Back to the dark side.
I found a video of Bette Midler’s Kennedy Center Honors. That helped. Then, knock, knock! A rapping at my chamber door by a party reveler who’d recently gotten over COVID. In truth, she wasn’t looking for me. She was wondering where my cat was. This is the cat I’d given to a friend several years ago because I’m on the road too much, and it was the right thing to do, and I still feel completely guilty about. So, this was not a fun exchange. When her boyfriend came to find her and stood there at the door, politely staring in at me, it felt like I was in a terrarium. Make it stop! Finally, they moved on to other, actual fun.
But, bright side. They let the birthday boy’s wife (my dear friend) know that I never got my drink. Up came an entire bottle of whiskey. While that seemed like overkill, I welcomed it with open arms. I stayed in my chair until the wee hours of the morning when the sound of revelry finally died down enough that I thought I might sleep.
The next morning I was again asked how I was feeling. “Fine,” I said. I’d always felt fine. “You should retest.” Ugh. I didn’t really want to, but they were anxious for me to gain my freedom. Who really wants anyone locked in their guest room? It starts to feel like a bad cable show about awkward social situations. (Or perhaps, a series of novels?) So I tested. Again. Waited. Again. Could this be possible? “I think I’m negative.” My friend took a look. And even with his eyes officially one year older, he was able to see a faint second red line. Back to my chamber.
At this point the whole thing was starting to seem funny, even to me. And my cell was feeling like my new home. Was this my life now? So odd how quickly that happens.
But a better mood made the rest of my count-down to freedom pass more easily. Oh wait. That’s right. I forgot to mention that since about two hours into lockdown, I’d kept a countdown clock on my computer desktop. Every time I spoke to Mr. Parker, I’d report how many hours where left. 104 hours. 89 hours. 72, 54, 37… I could now see the finish line.
But then—an entirely new concern! What happens when I get home? Do I need to sleep in a separate bedroom from my guy for another five nights? I posed this to Mr. Parker and he laughed. “I’m not worried.” When I told a friend his response, she called him a daredevil. Daredevil? I started wondering if Red Bull would sponsor him. At least send one of those blue helmets with the charging red bulls. The sport would be called, “Extreme Spousing.”
When the countdown clock hit zero, it was time to head home. I went from my residential prison to the car to airport to airline lounge to plane to Mr. Parker picking me up at arrivals with no hugging and no kissing and no breathing without a mask.
When I finally got home seven hours later, and I had to know. I took out my last test kit. Drum roll…
The next morning, I reminded myself to be careful what I choose to write about. Karma’s a bitch. Then I remembered what my next series of novels is about. I am so screwed.
LOCKDOWN BONUS: While under quarantine, I was a guest on the Australian podcast Stories: The True And The Fictional. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in an interview. Maybe I was just happy for people to actually talk to. You can hear it at Apple Podcasts by clicking here.
Honey Parker has been writing, writing, writing for decades, decades, decades. In there, she has also been a standup comedian, a Hollywood screenwriter, a director, and a co-author of edgy business books. Careful-ish is her debut novel. It is the first in a trilogy. It is comedy-ish.