Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Phil and Patti's Truly Horrible Adventure


My friend, Erica, tells me I am engaging in magical thinking when I say our trip to New York was cursed from the beginning. But I do believe in such things: that three wonderful trips over twelve months was too much to ask for.

The place to the left bears a striking resemblance to our rented place in NY. Except our landlord threw a wall up between the stove and the bed.

It began last fall with an invitation from some friends in Brooklyn. A neighbor of theirs was going to be gone this spring and we could stay in his apartment. Fabulous, so of course we began to plan for it. We always have fun in New York. Or almost always. Or sometimes. Actually most of our trips have turned sour at some point. (weather, illnesses, parents needed us back in Michigan, and actually another sprained ankle, etc.)

The generous man got ill, and then he was on a deadline and had to withdraw the offer. We hadn't put any money into the trip yet, but were disappointed.

The Brooklyn friends gallantly offered us their place a bit later in the same month. They were taking a trip to....Libya. I don't have to tell you what happened with their trip. Theirs was a greater disappointment than our trivial one.

But by now the tickets were purchased so we decided to rent a place for the two weeks. We talked to the landlord on the phone, saw pictures, liked the location. We took a chance. It had worked out in California and Paris after all. Something bothered me, the bedroom just had a picture of a bed. In fact, all the pictures seemed tightly cropped...I wondered why.

Two weeks before our departure, I banged my sternum on the treadmill and developed a bruise and then a bunch of other problems (biblical things that I didn't know still existed).

One week before the departure date, I sprained my ankle at a kid's birthday party at a gym. I also began dental work. The dentist gave me prescriptions for various aids and sighed. She sighed many times. Claimed she had never seen a person with more dental issues in her life and thanked me for her house on the lake, her childrens' education, her Lexus.

But everything seemed to be on the mend so off we went.

The apartment was...less... then we expected. It wasn't dirty-the usual complaint. Instead it was the size of a pea pod. It had exactly six pieces of furniture. A bed, a futon sofa, a table and two chairs, a tv that didn't work.

No toaster, coffeemaker, lamps, bureaus, ice cube trays, a towel rack, hangers, iron. Four plates, four bowls, four glasses. Two pans Nothing else. No place to work at all. Frantic calls to the landlord but he didn't answer phone calls or emails from Friday sundown until Sunday (or so he later claimed). There was no place to put our suitcases down, let alone a place to store any clothes. All windows looked out on an dark alley, a shaft really, and were covered with dingy sheets. There was not even a roll of toilet paper in the bathroom. No broom or mop or sponge. This place, our place for two weeks, was probably stationed at the third or fourth level of hell.

Our friends suggested we stay in a spare bedroom on the fourth floor of their kids' house in Brooklyn. We were reluctant to put a family we didn't even know through this, but desperate to vacate this place, agreed.

No cab would take us to Brooklyn. They laughed when we told them where we wanted to go, in fact. They wouldn't even stop the car, on the off-chance we might try to throw out suitcases or ourselves in. My threats to report them drew more laughs.

So carting our four pieces of luggage we walked (limped in my case) eight blocks to the subway and made our way to Brooklyn, changing lines once. It took hours because there was only one track in operation. The car was so crowded, my suitcase sat on my foot. I reinjured my ankle and by the time we arrived, I couldn't put my foot down. My heel was also sore now from the ace bandage tearing at it.

I crawled up the four floors to our room and basically remained there for two days. Those four flights seemed like ten and they had a cat--I am very allergic to cats. The people were incredibly nice in their attempt to rescue us and salvage our trip, but no amount of niceness could help by then. I took antihistamines, red wine and slept ten hours at night.

On the third day, we looked at each other and decided it was time to call it quits. We paid the $300 the airline demanded for rescheduling a trip, paid a car to take us to the airport, and left. Apparently going from Brooklyn to LaGuardia is not a problem.

It had now cost us $2800 for three days in New York, most of which I spent in an attic room.

We may never get a cent of the apartment rental money back.

I missed meeting Charlie Stella, seeing Cullen Gallagher, going to a play with the Meyersons, going to a play with our Brooklyn friends, using our free ticket to the opera, hearing Megan's talk at the NYPL. I am bummed to the maximum.

Tell me you've had a trip like this one.PLEASE.

36 comments:

Jerry House said...

Alas, no bad trips. The universe likes me. (So far.)

George said...

I've endured some bad trips (missed flights, crappy hotel rooms, bad food, etc.), but nothing like your disaster. Perhaps you should look into having the voodoo curse lifted...

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's even worse than the snippets we got at the time, Patti.

We had one too, and I can assure you that you will laugh about it...sometime in the future. I apologize if this is too long, but...

It was 1981, two weeks before the Royal Wedding. We decided to combine our book buying trip to England with a week in Ireland with our English friends.

Remember Bobby Sands? Well, this was just after his death and things were a tad tense between the British and the Irish, as in marches, hunger strikes, etc.

The trip over on the ferry was fine and as we got off the sun was just setting. Something popped into my head and I foolishly said it aloud: "Wouldn't it be funny if this was the last time we saw the sun all week?"

It was, and no, not funny.

Our friends liked to rent self-catering cottages rather than stay in hotels so had picked one on the grounds of a hotel in Virginia...six miles from the border of northern Ireland.

Picture your NY apartment, Patti, only with more room. Nothing worked.

Every day we'd drive around the country looking for books, in the rain. Our friends were incredibly paranoid that the Irish would see their British license plate and...do something. One day we came out of a restaurant and they had a flat tire. Aha! (Of course, when they got home it turned out to be a bad tire.)

What else? When we got there a huge basset hound (named Henry) wandered into the cottage and refused to leave. We had to carry him out.

Jackie got so frustrated she insisted on playing miniature golf, fine until the ball went into the hole, which was full of rain.

One day we got a picnic lunch but had to eat it in the car because of the rain. We had it in a garbage dump, with rats.

Jackie and both our English friends got really bad colds. He went to buy ingredients for a hot toddy in the local shop. A man gestured him over and confided in him something that summed up the whole enxperience: "It's a heap of sh!t, this place."

In Dublin, which we visited on several days, my friend gave 20p to a beggar, who praised him extravagantly. The next day we met the same beggar across town and when my friend refused him, he was (he felt) cursed by the guy: "You won't last two years!"

But on the other hand: the Irish people were wonderful, every one of them (other than the bum). Of course they all wanted to know if we knew their cousin in Brooklyn...or Philadelphia.

Dublin was great. We went to the theatre, bought some books, had a real meal, even met friends from Seattle.

The Guinness was amazing.

But yes, it rained for 6+ days.

And it was a trip we will never forget, as you can see 30 years later.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

George, what about when your student went to the crack den in the South Bronx and you had to ship him home?

Jeff M.

George said...

Oh, I forgot about chaperoning that student field trip to the Big Apple! Now, I'm going to have to go back to get more psychiatric therapy to forget again!

Al Tucher said...

Stories like this remind me how lucky we are to be writers. No experience is wasted.

Patti, we expect to encounter these events again in a story!

pattinase (abbott) said...

That sounds pretty awful, Jeff.
It rained last March when we visited New York, the worse rain I ever saw-six days of it.
Also on our one trip to Dublin, Megan was carrying a pepper stray contained in her coat-she forgot it was even there--(also during the troubles) and they pulled us out of line and sent us into security. It rained almost every day.
And it rained every day our first trip to Cape Cod. Nothing more depressing than the beach in the rain.

Naomi Johnson said...

Bad, yes, but nothing like as bad as yours. Somebody sure put the whammy on you.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It would be a horror story. I still have the view from those windows in my head.
Whammy is right.

Anonymous said...

Jackie reminded me of two more good things from the Irish trip: my friend Bob and I each bought an Aran fisherman's sweater for about 5 pounds each, which we both still have.

And we bought two bottles of Baileys at duty free that were incredibly cheap. Unfortunately, my aunts drank it all.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Those sweaters last forever.
And we did manage to see two good exhibits and have dinner with Megan and friends before the ankle crashed. So it's like a very expensive weekend in New York.

Fleur Bradley: said...

Wow, this is really, really awful. I can't say I've ever had a trip that bad...

I've had my share of lousy hotels and rentals, though. I'm Dutch, so cheap by nature--but not when it comes to lodging, not anymore. I'm at the point where if I can't afford a decent place to stay, I'm just not going.

In your case, I don't think you could've predicted this though. You were duped, plain and simple.

Hope you feel better soon...

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Oh, what a horrible, horrible trip! I am so sorry that happened to you! I have to say, nothing that's happened to me has been quite that bad. But I have had some pretty unpleasant experiences. I'm just glad you're back home safely.

Dorte H said...

Oh dear; should one laugh or cry - but I must admit that those biblical things you didn´t know still existed make me mighty curious ;)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'll save you the horror of an explanation. It wasn't a plague of locusts though.

Chris Rhatigan said...

Sheesh, never had some ones that sucked, but never that bad.

Rob Kitchin said...

If I've had a trip as bad as this it, like George's adventure, is well buried in the subconscious hopefully to never surface again. I'm a review reader for accommodation - Tripadvisor or another, though I'm too lazy to post up my own! It's usually pretty good. And I always pick serviced apartments, if we go that route. You'll be dining on this trip for a while.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This was on VRBO, which we have had good luck with. The mistake was rushing into it this time.

Charles Gramlich said...

My one trip to New York was pretty nice, although we did stay in a tiny place without much room. Still, we were scarcely in the room anyway. Still, I've had a few pretty bad trips. Maybe not "this" bad.

Yvette said...

OMG! Patti, I feel for you. This sounds like the sort of thing that might happen to me - 'ME' being the bad luck magnet of the universe. Jeez. I'm trying to remember if I've ever had such a disaster of a trip...I did, once, go cross-country (NYC to California) by Greyhound bus, but I survived and thinking back it wasn't as bad as it should have been. Though I spent a lot of time crying when I realized that the rest of the country didn't look like New York. (I was about 19 at the time.)And in Reno, Nevada they expected me to pay for tap water and I'd packed all my money in my suitcase which was unreachable at the time. (Possibly it was even on another bus.) Didn't have anything left to eat in my carry-on bag but a couple of cans of Metrecal. Luckily, a nice young sailor came to my rescue.

When we reached California and my eventual destination of Monterey. I was expected to shop for my own food and when I did so that afternoon into evening. I got so lost in those twisty California streets and didn't know where the hell I was with my little pull wagon full of groceries and the sky getting darker and darker. I finally saw a mailman drive up his driveway and his family opened the door to him, I threw myself on their mercym - literally. SOBBING my story of just having arrived from NYC and not knowing where I was. SO embarrassing. They took pity on me - clearly I was demented. And once I told them the address where I was supposed to be staying, they drove me back.

Does that count as a misery trip?

Best I could come up with.

Chris said...

Sorry to hear about your terrible trip, Patti. I've had bad spots here and there, but never for entire trips.

Ron Scheer said...

Sounds like scenes from Neil Simon's THE OUT OF TOWNERS... I've had bad vacations, but your experience beats mine by a mile.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Exactly what Phil said, Ron.
Give yourself a few years, Chris. It will come.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Pretty nasty, Yvette.
I should mention we have had many fine trips to New York. Although we have stayed in some places that were almost but not quite this bad.
You pay your money and take your chances with apartments. Hotels, you can check out if the room isn't to your liking.

Anonymous said...

Yvette, I like it, especially the Metrecal. I wonder how many people even remember that.

I bet it would make a good movie.

Jeff M.

BV Lawson said...

If you travel a lot, as you and Phil are able to do, then that probably ups your odds of having a clunker once in a while. Look at it this way--the next one will seem like the Best Trip Ever! by comparison. And take care of that ankle...

Richard R. said...

Why, no. Every trip I've ever taken has been superb. Free upgrades to First Class on the flights, upgrades to luxury suites in the hotels, complementary chauffeured limos wherever we went. The food and drink was always top notch. There was never a hint of illness or injury. The wild animals posed for our cameras, the sun came out just as we arrived, the rain was only gentle and refreshing, the lines non-existent. I just can't imagine what you must have done, which of the gods you must have angered, to have the problems you describe.

Uh, well there was getting sick on the train and no one would let us into the bathroom, and the rafting trip in the icy pouring rain, and the flight with a seat by the bathroom and the screaming, stinking child next to us, and the lost camera with a week's fabulous photos, and the motel cafe with food made of processed cardboard and limp vegetable rejects, and coming down with the stomach flu for FIVE days as soon as we got to the wonderful cabin on the coast, and the rental car that rolled down the hill into a tree, and well, you get the idea. But all that really didn't matter, did it?

Todd Mason said...

Continental Airlines disease incubator and accidental ingestion of chorizo helped make for my worst trip so far, I'd say...though at least that one didn't have too much trip-stress interpersonal hassle, such as with the folks early on or with lovers and friends (including hosts) later on...

Definitely look into those hotels, increasingly common (less so in NYC?)(at remotely acceptable prices?) with kitchenettes...

Ed Gorman said...

I have never traveled well. Lots of anger when things don't go well. What you describe would have induced in me rage-o-rama. My poor wife. A wonderful description of a trip to hell, Patti.

Deb said...

I can't help but think of the line from "Withnail & I": "We've gone on holiday by mistake."

So far (fingers firmy crossed) our trips have all been relatively pleasant with none of the horrors you endured. The worst thing that has happened to us was losing our camera (with over 200 pictures on it) on the last day of our Washington D.C. vacation in 2007. As traumatic holidays go, that's pretty minor (although I'd love to have those pictures back!)

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Nothing like yours though some time I can tell everyone about how our wedding went.

So sorry to hear about the trip.

Anonymous said...

Accidental Ingestion of Chorizo?

There's a story there, Todd.

Amd as Dave Barry would say, a good name for a rock band.

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

I was used to "gringo" huevos rancheros, and didn't note that the hr served to me wasn't just scrambled eggs with salsa or even that with cheese but loaded with intestinal sausage...till I was about halfway through. It proceeded, in tandem with whatever Continental was pleased to share with all the passengers on flight 6666, to make a sausage of my intestines and immune system generally for the next coupla days.

Todd Mason said...

(the extra six is for extra sicks)

Cap'n Bob said...

I've had bad trips, but none of them were nearly that expensive.

pattinase (abbott) said...

We had a bad trip to England once-supposed to stay a year and came back in ten days because we could not find housing within three hours of Oxford. It took us ten years to pay that one off.