Monday, November 3, 2008

Thursday, September 18

Upon entering the doors to the Lodge we found all of our expectations not only met, but surpassed. There was not just one, but probably two bus loads of tourists shouldering their way toward the registration line. And these guys were pros. They were seasoned travelers with decades of leisure experiences on their resumes. They knew every angle and every trick. We were playing with the Big Boys and it soon became clear that we were out of our league when it came to finding our way through the resort.

The theme for the evening was Divide and Conquer. They would split up, either the couples or the friends traveling together, as soon as they stepped off the bus. One would head straight for the Registration Desk and another would stand in line for the Dining Room. If there was a group, another member would already be making the Mule Trip reservations and a fourth would be in the Saloon filling drink orders or setting up camp on the deck in the front row seats for the evening's sunset event. Others would forego the outdoor experience and send a single representative who would somehow manage to singlehandedly occupy every window view couch in the Sun Room. Needless to say, seats by the fireplace had permanent residents.

We were overwhelmed but we tried to adapt as quickly and confidently as possible. Shawn got in the registration line behind a tall, athletic looking woman with platinum blond hair pulled back tight enough to smooth out 15 years of facial wreckage and I went to see the Dining Room Hostess, who just happened to look like a miniature version of Gwyneth Paltrow.

Gwyneth informed me that the next available seating was at 9:45. Maybe I could charm her ...

"How about tomorrow?" I asked.

Gwyneth replied, "All I have is a 5:00 or a 9:30."

Don't seniors like to be done eating dinner by 5:00?

"And let me see ..." she continued, " it looks that way through Monday."

Monday!?! It's only Thursday! How many days do you have to stay here in order to get a seat for dinner?!?

We've heard the meals are good, but probably not so good that people drive in from Fredonia to eat here. This had to be tour bus fallout. How was I going to clog my arteries with cheesecake when these geezers were going to be here clogging up the dining room until Monday?

So I tried whining: "But we're from Indiana ..." as if this might make her laugh or at least garner me a little sympathy.

I might as well have announced that I have a bad case of dog breath. She hid her antipathy behind a facade of "bored."

But I plowed on ... "if we eat at 9:30, well, for us, that's like eating at 12:30 in the morning." And you can see if we don't eat right away we're just gonna waste away to nothing. You wouldn't want to do that to us, would you? I pouted just a little and continued ...

"And besides, we've been looking forward to eating here for 20 years ..." I was hoping this would either cause a table by the window to magically appear, or at least get her interested in the back story.

Her eyes rolled as if to say, "Then another couple of days won't make much of a difference now, will it?" and she excused herself to seat a woman with a buzz cut with just enough hair up front for a slight wave across the forehead and enough at the base of her skull for a short tail. She wore a bandana around her neck and she had clear sparkly blue/gray eyes. A tallish woman with gray hair and wire-rimmed glasses joined her at a table set for four.

I had to think fast. Gwyneth would be back soon and I was running out of angles. Maybe I could try one of those Zoolander looks on her. And if that didn't work I could hold my breath or just throw myself on the floor and try some kicking and screaming until she relented. Maybe I could just tell her how much she reminded me of a doll-sized Gwyneth Paltrow.

She came up the stairs, her perfect posture maximizing all 5-1 of her compact Paltrowesk frame. her blond her was parted on the side, pulled across her forehead and then hung straight and loose below her shoulders. Unless I misinterpreted her business-like expression, she was probably through giving me her not-so-subtle hints that there would be no table by the window, or anywhere else in the Dining Room for that matter, available until Tuesday.

The whining clearly had not worked. I tried rubbing my hands gently in a circular motion (counter-clockwise) over my belly and i made little moaning sounds.

Gwyneth pulled her shoulders back as if to strengthen her resolve, but just then, something softened in her. Maybe it was my pathetic Zoolander impersonation...

Maybe I was just pathetic ...

"We are just so busy tonight, but "The Deli" just outside and to your left is open until 9. They serve salads, sandwiches, chili and pizza... I really love their pizza."

She had a huge Gwyneth-like smile when she mentioned the pizza and I believed her. I thanked her and made a reservation for Tuesday at 5:45 but asked her if we could come back after we checked in to see if anything opened up tonight.

She had no objections.

Meanwhile, Shawn was in the ever lengthening check-in queue, victim of various variations of the now infamous Divide and Conquer theme and as I moved to join her in line behind the tall tight haired woman (now holding what looked like a Mai-Tai) I overhead, "Dear, we've been on a dreadfully long trip and so you won't mind if our friends join us in line here. We've just been saving their places." It was the old "We Just Ate Our Prunes and So I'll Save You a Place in Line if You Save Me a Place in Line" routine. It was a precision drill, the timing of ingestion and subsequent peristalsis worked out to perfection over the years. The tight-haired woman nodded toward us and excused herself. The efficiency of movement and economy of effort was inspiring.

This was one cunning crowd of codgers and our encounters with this aggressively aggressive gaggle of geezers simply exposed and magnified our own jejune approach to recreation.

I tried to take a deep breath and inhale a soothing, "It's all good..." followed by an exhaled, "We'll be here for six days ..."

We finally did get to the counter and it did take less than six days. The Forever Resorts (concessionaire of the North Rim) representative, Caleb, took out a map of the grounds and showed us the available cabins. We were too late to get a Rim view cabin, but not so late that we would need to sleep next to the ubiquitous and eternally idling Dried Plumb Line buses belching out their deiselly deisel fumes. We let Caleb pick a cabin for us and he found one off the main paths and away from the parking areas. We thanked him and picked up our keys and headed through the Sun Room and out on the deck to enjoy the sunset.

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