I find myself back on a plane heading to Landstuhl, Germany to spend the next month working side by side with staff at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC). It seems it has been forever since I have been on this long flight. Last year I was not able to fly due to some major health problems. The flight was very uneventful except for the man sitting next to me that I don’t believe had flown before, or if he had, absolutely did not like flying. Unfortunately for him, he was flying from our west coast to Budapest for his job. I don’t remember the first time I flew, it must have been uneventful for me, but I am sure this man will not forget this flight. If he had been a small child, I would have asked him if he had ants in his pants. But I had to smile as he explored every aspect of the seat and the pouches around him for hidden secrets or maybe pots of gold.
We flew all night and, believe it or not, landed 20 minutes early. Silvia and a new chaplain from LRMC picked me up at the airport and it is always wonderful to get through passport control, customs, and the sliding doors to see a smiling familiar face.
We drove some exhilarating autobahn speeds to pick up my rental car, only to arrive and find out they did not have my reservation. Since this is a holiday weekend, I walked away with the only car available. Not sure you can call it a car; I truly believe that it would fit inside my suburban, with room for several boxes. The rental agent asked if I had ever driven a Smart Car before, I can remember thinking “oh no,” this is going to be interesting. “No problem,” I told the rental agent. I thought, “how difficult can this be.” I have visited and lived in 22 different countries, visited or was a resident of 42 different states. “I got this.”
We head out to the parking lot and I have never gone tracking for a car the way we did this one, but after about 30 minutes walking through the parking lots beeping the lock on the key ring, we found the car – on the opposite side of the building from where the rental agent told us. OK, tags match, key unlocks door, we are set and all is right with the world again. Well almost, the fact that the car ignition is down between the seats different, but ok. I have one large suitcase, one small suitcase, and one computer bag. Unless by some small chance, the computer bag had manifested itself into a super being and had learned to drive, none of the bags were going to fit into this car themselves, let alone with me and Silvia. The chaplain said he would drop the bags off at the hotel.
Silvia and I get in and put the key in the ignition, but nothing happened. I can remember thinking the computer bag could have done as much. We both pushed buttons, turned the key, and nothing. Oh, wait she said something about manual. Look down, nope no clutch. Finally, I figured out the car was not in the N position. Cool, now everything is right with the world… well not yet. Foot on gas, but zero movement…move shift lever…no, still no movement. Now remember, I have been awake for over 24 hours and this is just down right funny to me. I started laughing and Silvia joined in. I am sure if anyone had been watching, they would have thought we were high school girls giggling about a deep dark secret. Move shift lever a couple more times. “Yes, we are moving.” Then this clutch-less car sounds and feels like it needs to be shifted. How the heck do I do that with no clutch? Extremely quick prayer said and I moved the shift lever, then a number 2 flashes on the dash. Hah, I got this now.
First stop light and the car quietly dies. Not like a regular clutch car that is in the wrong gear but quietly turns off. OH NO! Light is green, now what? Foot on gas and the car started without any more help than the gas pedal. So what was different this time than trying to get it to move in the parking lot…who cares, we are moving and Silvia and I take great pleasure in that fact.
Stop and go traffic all the way to the hotel and each time the car idles, it would also stop. Hmmm, maybe it does that to save gas; cool, I guess but it is a little nerve-wracking wondering if it is going to start again.
We get checked in at the hotel and go to the LRMC chaplain’s closet. There is a ton of paper work do to before I can start work and I want to start as soon as possible. We do the walk around and I notice items right away that are not on the shelves. Next out to the store rooms; note to self: get LHCP yahoo group members started on SMALL PJ bottoms immediately.
There is a Combat Stress Dinner tonight with sub sandwiches. However, everyone is out busy doing something. I volunteer to take Silvia back to Ramstein to pick up the sandwiches and water. Really Karen!! Have you not learned anything today? You have a car with no body. There is no way we can pick up 6 cases of water, 4 very large trays of subs, and bags of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, olives, and peppers. However with some careful squeezing this here and that there we did get 2 cases of water and all the subs and toppings in the car. Key in ignition, car in N, start car, put car in R, and then like a magic show, voila we have movement!!
Back to LRMC, drop off food and water and the bed is calling me. It is still early and I am fighting it, but I now have a headache and my eyes are burning. Back to the hotel, I spend an hour unpacking and setting up the room for the month. It is only 6:00pm, but I need sleep.
I tossed and turned awhile, then I was ready to get up for the day. Check time on clock, OH!! it is 1:30am. Check emails, play a game, talked with husband on Face Time and back to sleep at 4:30am. Up at 7:30am to grab breakfast, and a shower. I also learned that the hour I spent yesterday unpacking might have been too soon. There was confusion with the room and I found out this morning I do not have a reservation here for the entire month. I need to find a new hotel by the middle of the week. No problem…right…22 countries and 42 states…