I have mentioned before traveling with Super Agent Fred frequently involves people screaming threats of violent harm to Fred. “People” frequently being me.
And this time, we were so close to getting out, a mere five hours before departure from Houston, land of my birth, land of the crazy motherfuckers.
I should mention I had given the rental car to Fred to go see his parents, while I went out for barbecue with my brother. Lord give me strength, what delicious cooked cow that was. I had returned to our very nice hotel, well, very nice once the white trash wedding reception had been swept from the lobby. I was packed, bathed, reading what my internet pals had to say and thinking about turning in since the car for the airport was due at 5:00 A.M. when Fred slung himself into the room in an entrance Miss Joan Crawford could never have topped, and began throwing his shoes at the walls and screeching about what a shithole Houston is and how he’s never coming here again and how this was all my fault for dragging him here.
One of the remarkable things about my friendship with Fred is how inured I am to these moments of drama. I was just riding the storm out, waiting for him to implode. An evening with his parents is very trying on both Fred and them, so I wasn’t particularly concerned, until, that is, his shrieked ramblings included something about the guys at the store counter wouldn’t even tell him where he was and that the cab driver corrected his geography to explain he was considerably far out of the neighborhood our hotel and his parents inhabit.
That’s when I tried to gain some control over the vitriol and get some details. It was not easy. For every nugget of information, there were 5 or 6 sentences, or things that resembled sentences, of passionate denunciation of Houston, the City with No Limits.
The story that finally emerged was something like this: Fred left his parents’ house having shared most of a box of wine. So he was loaded. Since the route from their place to our hotel is about 7 minutes long and consists of two left turns, a route Fred has made dozens of times, it seemed safe enough.
Aah, but that underestimates the genius of Fred. Somehow Fred wound up diagonally about as far from the hotel as his original destination was when he ran over a median or curb, or (ominously) “something” and blew out his tire. Fred’s solution was to scream at the guys at the counter, borrow some good Samaritan phone, not to call me, but to call a cab and disappear into the night.
We finally got this point of the narrative, I interrupted the flow, which had come to resemble an interpretive dance piece, to ask one of the questions that narrow minded, persnickety audiences like me have. “Where is the car?”
Fred’s answer would have done credit to Sarah Berhardt. He shrugged his shoulders and threw his arms in the air, a gesture which clearly implied that he didn’t know and he didn’t care. Yes, Fred’s answer to disaster is exit, stage right.
After that, it was like a round of some not very amusing game. I would ask a question and he would scream at me about how despicable Houston is, how this was all my fault for forcing him to come (I had said “I’m going to Houston to see my brother. Do you want to come with?”) and how I always had to be right. It certainly occurred to me it would be difficult to be wrong in this situation, but I let that pass.
Fred finally mentioned the cab driver had said something about Chimney Rock, a major thoroughfare in Houston, but one that has nothing to do with parents or the hotel. I called a cab and we headed out into the warm, gentle evening to drive up and down Chimney Rock to see if we could spot the car.
The cab driver was very sympathetic, once he grasped what we were doing and even got into the spirit of the enterprise, as if we were playing some kind of game for simple minded tourists. $200 later I said never mind, we went back to the hotel, where, by now, we were two hours away from departure. We missed our plane.
I have spent the last week with various and sundry car rental offices and police offices and finally, today, found the car. It had been towed from Richmond, which has nothing to do with Chimney Rock, except they do intercept, but nowhere near where the car was picked up. The car rental people now want me to download a report and fax it to them. First I suppose I have to find a time machine to go back to the era of faxes, but by now, that seems like small potatoes.
Several time is his many diatribes against me and Houston, Fred swore he was never returning there. “Amen sister,” was all I could think.