It started with a faint ache at the back of my throat. Allergies, I told myself. But, curse my luck, the day before I was due to fly, those ‘allergies’ turned into a full blown, nose streaming, throat hurting COLD.
Attending a writer’s convention with a cold…well, it’s like walking through the streets of Toronto with a sign that reads, “I am a Leper.” Think of it from the author’s perspective–they’ve got panels and people to meet. Networking to do. And they’ve all seen the movies. Contagion. Outbreak. Plus, to a woman, they’re intelligent. They see a writer with a spiral of Kleenex jammed into her left nostril and they recognize her for what she is: The Walking Plague.
I spent the first day in quarantine. My roomie, Kerry Schafer, didn’t desert me (she couldn’t find someone with a free bed) but my DEAREST friend Julie Butcher wouldn’t come near me with a ten foot pole and a full hazmat suit. “I’ve got six kids. If I get sick, the whole house gets sick. We’re coughing for months.”
On the third day, after a night listening to me hack and cough, Kerry Schafer sat up. She plumped her pillows. She stared at the wall (I being too miserable a specimen to look at without eliciting a pained wince). Then she said, “I think it’s time we found a doctor for you.”
So, I got on my cellphone–I seriously don’t even want to think about that mobile phone bill–and called up my out-of-country health insurance company. I got a very charming and helpful person who approved me for urgent care. She even gave me the name and address of a place where I should go.
I’m not going to ask Julie Butcher to take me there, I thought. I shall be brave. I shall lift my chin. I shall drag my own ass to the doctor’s office.
One small winkle. My health care rep didn’t realize that Kansas City, Missouri is not the same place as Kansas City, Kansas. Guess where she sent me?
Not a big deal. On paper it was 10 miles. Hell, that’s half a marathon. If I was fit (and living in an alternate reality), I could run it easily. But my cab driver? He got lost. Very, very lost. And the damn highway? They closed four exits. So the ten miles that should have taken me about ten minutes turned into a forty minute drive that cost $40. We passed some interesting places. See the picture on the left? The railroad crossings in no man’s land? That’s one. There were other places that were full of atmosphere (as in duck if you hear a bang), but I was too scared to lift my cell phone to take a picture.
Did I mention that the cab driver was a very nice man? He even turned off the meter when we hit the $20 mark. (I gave him $40 because that’s what it would have cost him. I could expense my ride. He couldn’t claw back the time.) Unfortunately, he was a very nice man who didn’t have a freakin’ clue how to read his GPS device. See the picture below? That’s where he dropped me off. See the top of the frame? The rise at the crest of that very long hill? THAT’S where he was supposed to have dropped me off.
I didn’t know that until he’d left and the snooty “I-only-wear-size-two” receptionist at the private clinic showed me the door. She was very nice. All people in Kansas/Missouri are really nice (no lie). But she waved her hand in the general direction of the hill and said, “Walk that way four blocks.”
I stared at the hill. You can’t see it on the picture but it had to be a 30 degree incline. My chest was bubbling. My throat on fire. And really? I had no idea where I was. I was in the wrong city at the wrong address. There was no traffic either. Good luck finding a cab after this epic fail of I-am-Invincible.
I almost cried.Almost. Then I smiled. Now I am justified in calling Julie Butcher, I thought. So I pulled out my phone and dialed another long distance SOS.
Julie came and got me. Right away. Dropped everything. The only cost? My pride. She made me wear a mask. For the entire drive. Also when she introduced me to her husband and her dog. The husband was very nice, the dog a bit nonplussed.
Anyways, the antibiotics did their job, and really, bed rest wasn’t that terrible. Kansas City has a television channel called Cozie. I watched 4 episodes of Magnum P.I. (Gad, he was gorgeous.) And I got better. Eventually I did a panel with these amazing ladies: Chloe Neill, Jaye Wells, Nicole Peeler. And I made nice to the audience. That’s them, smiling for the camera after I told them I was going to take their picture.
And here’s the panel. I’m the chubby one in pink.
And I did a signing. Sitting beside Miss Awesome-Sauce Herself, Elizabeth Essex. (We’re so very naughty together. She’s hiding from the lens on the left.)
And on the last night, I hit the bar. With the bottle of wine that I’d never touched. And I talked to some guys–a surgeon and a best friend–and some authors. We spun yarns way into the wee-hours.
By the time I made it to the airport for my return trip, I’d decided.
The only thing I could have wished for? That the readers didn’t scurry away after I said, “Thank you.” I would have loved to know what they liked about the books.
Remember that, if you’re a reader. Writers write for you. Don’t be afraid to linger.