You may not want to read this crescendo-ing post. You’ll know when you reach that point. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
When I look back, the first omen was the underwear.
I had gone to visit my pal, A. (no, not that A.—the other one). She’d moved to the wilds of Outer Monrovia (they keep goats there). We’d been walking down the sidewalk (ooo! they had sidewalks now!) when I reached into my purse for a Kleenex but instead pulled out a pair of lacy blue panties.
While A. laughed, I remembered that I had grabbed the panties last-minute to add to the Goodwill bag in the car because they had recently shrunk from bikini to thong-sized. Clearly, it wasn’t that something else had grown.
I started laughing, too. “I’d better get rid of these before we get to the Inn!”
That’s when we heard it: A raven on a nearby branch:
“CAW!! CAW!! CAW!!”
No–No, I’m wrong. The panties were the second omen. The first happened a week earlier. I had just told my Tons o’ Tuna blind date that A. and I were planning to visit the famous Mission Inn in Riverside for the first time, to celebrate our Christmas late by seeing its famous light display. He had recently been, himself:
“Oh, you’re gonna love it! It’s gorgeous. And the food there is world-class!”
Oddly, a chill passed through me. Then, even through the restaurant’s window, I heard it:
“CAW!! CAW!! CAW!!”
(The Tuna date radiated jolliness. I learned of his large circle of friends, three cars, perfect stock picks, many travels—all mentioned innocently, no boasts. I couldn’t help but feel pride: It was MY special life which had enabled him to enjoy such blessed good fortune.)
A. and I reached the Inn early, after passing through hideous downtown Riverside (gack.).
The Inn is a jewel. (pictures here.) I wished I’d had an entire day to wander around. These are the only pictures I took, I was so busy gawking:
At dinner, there were four choices of where to eat. Two had nothing gluten-free but lettuce. One was beyond our wallets–any meal out was a rare treat for us as it was. The fourth was Italian. Nothin’ says gluten like pasta. Worse, directly above the door, peering down at us, was another raven:
“NAW!! NAW!! NAW!!
Eat ANYWHERE but HERE!!”
I threw the panties at it. “Shoo, you!”
We were hungry!
I informed the waitress that I cannot have gluten. A. is a low-sodium vegetarian. Between salads and appetizers, though, A. and I cobbled together a decent meal. Which proceeded to unravel with the WORST service ever.
When my crème brulée arrives ice-cold, with barely a crust–it is the WalMart of crème brulée’s–I hesitate: What if it has gluten?
Too silly: This is the fabulous Mission Inn!
I regret the missing crunch and flavor, but the custard happily tastes quite good. A. has a small taste and agrees.
After waiting only days for the check, we depart. Despite it all, A. and I agree that we have enjoyed our meal: Good flavor, good company, quiet and comfortable surroundings.
We stroll up the outside of the mission building. As we reach the front, A. exclaims to me, “Oh, look: “They’ve turned on the lights!” I exclaim, too: “Oh, no!: I have to run to the bathroom–RIGHT NOW!” At which:
I RACE back in the Inn,
JET through the lobby,
ZOOM toward the bathroom,
Only to find that the staff has ROPED OFF ACCESS TO IT.
I give One Hard Look at the man behind the velvet rope and spit “BATHROOM!”
He immediately jumps to one side and opens the rope.
Wise decision. He will live to see tomorrow.
I push past him, run through the door, and find
THE LINE. It is a woman’s bathroom, after all, and we are, in long-established sexist practice, given half the places as men despite more than the double needed to urinate and handle periods. THANK GOD there are only two people ahead, and they immediately get in, and I get in and–
You don’t want to hear or be near what happens next.
Imagine Hades saved what Cerberus had on offer…
For a year.
Add what Hercules shoveled out of the Augean stables…
And… (I’m SO sorry):
Except for the tiniest portion, vaporized for extra atmosphere.
So there I am, in a public restroom, spilling my guts, so to speak–in a most…indiscreet way, in multiple “scentses” of the word. (Oh, dear—this is most embarrassing to write about.)
But NOTHING compared to being in my
pants shoes then..
It gets better.
The next thing I know, I hear a mom-voice saying “Just go ahead, honey, and stand in front of that one and wait.”
Two little feet point at me under the stall door. Seconds later, a little voice says, “Mommy—there’s something WRONG.”, simultaneous with mommy’s voice gasping “Sweetheart, come away from there! Hurry, darling!”
Okay, I made up that “Hurry!” part. But not the rest of it.
Eventually, I was able to leave the stall, acting as nonchalantly as I could, given that I had to step over people passed out on the floor.
I remembered to wash my hands.
Outside, I stepped over the guard where he’d fallen at his post (what can I say? my influence was widely-felt) and said to A. “I’m sorry—I have to go to the car RIGHT NOW to get Immodium.”
I turned my back on her and raced to where we’d parked. She joined me just as I downed two pills from the travel First Aid kit. In time to hear me say:
“OH, NO! I need a bathroom again! IMMEDIATELY!! What do I do NOW!?”
Hallejujah! A. saw that we had parked directly in front of a still-open museum. I raced up the stairs, ran through the doors, and screamed at the woman at the desk:
“I’m sorry to be so crude, but I have GOT to—‘
“—use our bathroom?” inquired that blessed saint. (Hmmm…Do you think she was used to recently-fed customers of that restaurant showing up on their doorstep?)
“The downstairs one is in use [Of COURSE it was!], but we have one on the second floor.”
Past the “Staff Only” sign. Up two flights of stairs. I barely make it.
A. and I decide to enjoy the pleasures of the museum for 25 minutes until I am able take a third Immodium. By then I’m sure everything will calm down.
Twenty-five minutes and three bathroom relays later–twelve more flights up and down–the museum closing, I am worried.
Third Immodium swallowed, we debate what to do. We decide to haul my thoroughly-repugnant backside for home, swinging wildly off the freeway when needed, hoping the third Immodium has done the trick.
Here’s how THAT went:
Ten minutes later.
Scene: A Sports Chalet.
Cast: A., me, and my #ss. Plus nameless extra.
“We need Women’s Winter Wear, STAT!
And where’s your bathroom, please?”
Boogie to the back, bolt ’round the Golf display, spot the bathroom door,
DISCOVER IT’S LOCKED (of course).
Knock on it, no answer, knock more loudly, no answer,
BANG ON THE DOOR!
NO ANSWER !!!
Run up to the nearest employee, make my voice very peaceful, in inverse proportion to my panic:
“Excuse me, the women’s room appears to be locked with no one in it.”
“Oh, yeah, that happens all the time.”
OF COURSE IT DOES.
And of course, of all the places next to this off-ramp, THIS is the place I chose to stop.
The Sports Spud opens the door. He starts to explain all the ins and outs of the door sticking.
I slam the door in his face. Better that than the alternative.
I’m sorry, Spuddy.
And I’m really, really, sorry, Woman Who Was Waiting to use that tiny room after me. I left no visual evidence of my passing, of course, but I swear A. and I had a tailwind all the way back.
Somehow, we did make it back: to A.’s home, and then I to mine. (Thank you, Home Depot pit stop!) Where I was deathly ill until 1:00 a.m., despite more Immodium. By this point, A. and I knew it was not an out-of-control gluten reaction, but serious food poisoning, with dizziness and disorientation. A., too, was now ill.
But of course, A. didn’t get sick until she was comfortably at home.
Friend she may be, but I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em:
Clearly cheating, A. is not pulling her full bad-luck weight on your behalves, and you-all do not need to thank her quite so much as me.
Congratulations to me! This post and its special content has earned me the very first ever “Bravest Blogger Award”!:
I phoned the restaurant’s manager to report the food poisoning. The Hotel was quite concerned—until they learned A. and I were not guests of the Inn. They went from “Security will call you back immediately” to “Security will call you back tomorrow morning.” to never calling back at all.
So I called the County Board of Health and reported their #sses. The Bella Trattoria at the Riverside Mission Inn was inspected that same day and it was found that their fridge was overfilled, which resulted in the foods not being kept at a low enough temperature.
Oh, but they assured the Board of Health that their foods were safe.
That makes ME feel better.
I have since learned the restaurant offers gluten-free pasta, not mentioned by our sub-regular waitress.
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