Mom and I went to Bloomington this weekend, partly to look around at the pretty and partly to see if I felt like Bloomington was a livable place. We had tons of fun, as we usually do together.
But whenever Mom and I go to a new city to visit, there is this thing that happens.
We first noticed it when she emerged from a Union Station bookstore in D.C., a victorious look on her face, a plastic bag clutched in her hands.
"Look!" She proclaimed, "It's a walking guide of the city!"
So Mom led Paul and I on an hours-long walk. It was like the walks that end at a mass grave site, only this time there was no open chasm awaiting us, just crippling leg pain and a lost child at the Vietnam Memorial. See, the book was great, it just didn't account for the huge amount of construction going on at the various memorials when we took our trip. They had totally blocked off something like half of the mall, so you had to walk around the blocked portion, waving at Mr. Lincoln from far away, then skirting some kind of arts fair, a giant hole in the ground, and the site of that weekend's fireworks.
We walked most of the day and were still unable to complete 3/4 of the "walking tour." I think that walking tour book was for backpackers, or Everest-climbers, or HEALTHY people, and I am a dedicated lounger, not a hiker.
There were even tears on this walk. TEARS. Not mine. Mom's, what with the Vietnam Memorial, and the lost kid cried, but STILL. TEARS. Tears and the kind of agony that makes you fall when you try to get out of bed the next morning.
But D.C. was nothing to London.
Mom looked out of our hostel and saw the Tower in the distance. We, I should mention, were staying in a former dormitory for a boys' choir near St. Paul's Cathedral. We walked and walked, but the Tower never got any closer. We were along the Thames, and there were these little docks, and bridges, and still, no Tower. As night fell, we turned around and trudged back.
I later found out that tons of hideous, gristly murders have taken place right along the river walk. Isn't that lovely? Really, watch some BBC! You will be as horrified as I was. This is where my mother takes me, to go get murdered on the river walk!
This seems to happen to us every time we go on a trip. We try not to let it happen, but there we are, walking ten miles because the good pastries are on THAT street and we want GOOD pastries.
On our Bloomington trip, it started either with the lady at the crosswalk saying, "Five or six blocks...?" Or with me saying, "Nah, let's just walk it. We don't need to get the car."
We were looking for a pharmacy, because Mom had a headache and wanted some Ibuprofen PM. So we walked. And five blocks became ten. And ten blocks became fifteen. And still nothing.
Lesser women might have given up. But no, not my mother and I. We kept going. Because we knew after 15 blocks, we would never sleep without some kind of pain reliever for the new agonies we discovered on our walk.
Meanwhile, I had a different dilemma. I was wearing adorable shoes. You know what that means. So while my shoes were being adorable, they were also not being very functional as shoes. I had to arch my foot to keep them on, and I STILL kept falling out of them and into holes. There are a lot of holes in Bloomington.
We stopped at a Waffle House, where Mom and Dad had enjoyed meals back when they were in school at I.U. But seriously, the Waffle House looked abandoned, like there was a natural disaster we didn't know about. It was a Ghost Town Waffle House. I think I saw a tumbleweed in the parking lot.
Armed with more directions, we went on. Still, after several blocks, nothing.
Now: Where was the flippin' pharmacy? College students need pain relief, right? I mean, I know I had headaches back in college, and stomach aches, and other aches, and I went to the pharmacy to get treatments for my various maladies. But nooooo. I.U. kids don't get sick. They're too busy being awesome.
We followed still more directions, passing under a bridge. I fell in some more holes. Then Mom leaned over to me.
"I think it smelled like urine down there," she whispered.
"We walked UNDER A BRIDGE," I replied. "What did you expect?"
We laughed so hard, we could not breathe. Then we found the CVS, got medicine, walked back, and collapsed in the hotel room, an hour and a half after we'd set out. My calves still feel like they're about to explode.
The moral of this story? Always pack your medications before you leave home. Or at least spring for a map.