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Saturday, April 16, 2011
The Ginormous South
The Packing Thing went pretty well as I had a full day to devote to getting the job done without losing my mind. It was nonetheless a difficult thing for me.
I stowed Mr. Palmer in his travel bowl, then packed his glass bowl and food in the box with him. I could tell he was excited by the way he swam in circles so energetically. He does love to travel.
We arrived, Addie and I, at our hotel at around ten in the evening, after an uneventful handoff from Charles Cheeseman at the Chick Filet in Macon. They all live in Savannah, so Addie hitched a ride with them as far a Macon. Then I took her on to Atlanta. I love having her all to myself!
In all their wisdom (and I am sure in an attempt to keep the trip as cheat as possible), whoever does these things for Coastal Volleyball chose hotels on the top end of the perimeter (I-285). The tournament was held at the World Congress Center, which is in the heart of downtown Atlanta. Quite a commute.
We considered going in search of a late supper, but the room was cute and cozy, and by the time we got Mr. Palmer settled on the lamp table and my things unpacked, we changed our minds, deciding we had enough healthy stuff in the room to hold us over. The truth of the matter is that we were both bone tired. So, we ate apples and bananas and a few pieces of chocolate and some chips. I also ate a granola bar, thinking it would counterbalance the chocolate.
The Big South is a misnomer. It should be called the Ginormous South. Inside the World Congress Center were - count them - 144 volleyball courts. Now think about it. There are 12 players on each court, presumably a coach, a few players on the bench and an official. Then there were parents and siblings and friends, grandparents and the ubiquitous venders. I am sure I am leaving something out, but you get the idea. Hands down, it was one of the loudest places I have ever been. No, check that, it was the loudest place I have ever been - and I have been to the NCAA Final Four as well as in Italy when they won the World Cup. The players were cheering for one another, and so were all the members of their entourages. The sounds echoed and echoed some more in that incredibly large building. Then there were the screeches of the officials' whistles.
But I digress. Addie was scheduled to play at 4 PM on Friday. We slept late and grabbed some breakfast/lunch, then took a test ride to the World Congress Center to be sure we knew where we were going and how long it would take us to get there. I turned on the GPS loaded into my Blackberry, and off we went. We did well, found GA 400, which pretty much goes straight down to the I-75/I-85 connector. We even made the correct exit. Addie was navigating, and doing a good job of it, but I was having trouble determining which lane I should be in. I missed a couple of turns, and each time I did, the robotic voice of the GPS system started to squawk “as soon as safely possible, make a legal u-turn,” or “rerouting.”
I was insane. It was Friday in downtown Atlanta, a city famous for it’s traffic woes, and a robot was telling me where to go. There were horns blaring - at me and at dozens of other vehicles. There was the lady who rolled down her window and called me a name. Addie was laughing so hard, she was about to cry, and I began to talk back to the robot. I began to call it names. Addie laughed harder.
After we had been in the car for about an hour, we found the bleeping World Congress Center. By then, we were cutting it close to get back to the hotel and back downtown in time for Addie’s first game.
So, with Addie’s help, we (sort of) retraced our route and got back to the hotel just in time for her to jump into her uniform and grab her gear. We almost made it on time. By then, the infamous Atlanta traffic was snarled into its Friday afternoon insanity, everyone making a beeline for the suburbs.
We found the parking lot for our building, not knowing it was about a 15 minute (uphill) walk to the courts. Addie ran ahead, and I came along as fast as I could. Naturally, I had on the wrong pair of boots for hiking. I followed her, not taking my eyes off her in the distance. She overshot the entrance and we ended it going in the back way, sort of.
I have often heard it said that God takes care of children and old people. Believe it. It’s true. We arrived court side at 4:15, and the previous match just finishing up. We both took in a long breath and blew it out slowly.
Addie’s team played four matches - winning a few games but no matches - and we got out of there about 9:15. We found some delicious Mexican food at a place called Uncle Julios right up the street from our hotel. It was after 11:00 when we got to bed.
Saturday was basically a replay of Friday, only we knew where we were going, and there was no Friday Afternoon Madness on the streets and expressways of Atlanta. I had so hoped to take Addie shopping for a birthday present. She turned 16 on April 11. But there was no time for anything except volleyball and eating and sleeping.
There was one glaring difference on Saturday, though. After playing their matches, each team is required to “ref” the next match, and I, of course, stayed in my seat to watch the match while Addie kept score. The next two teams arrived. One of the mother’s sat down beside me and said it was time for me to give up my seat. I looked up and down the row of folding chairs that lined the court, and there was one empty seat next to me and three or four adult men and a bunch of children taking the other seats.
“You are being very rude taking a seat while our team is playing.”
I politely told her that I was there to watch my granddaughter keep score.
Plop! The chair beside me was taken by another woman, and an ample woman at that. She and her friend began to shout across me about how rude I was.
“I’ll be happy to trade seats with one of you ladies if you want to chat.”
“We want you to leave.” This from the plump plopper on my right.
I looked into her eyes and said politely, “Bless your heart. I don’t know where you are from, but in The South, grandmothers do not stand while men and children are sitting. If every man and child leaves his seat and there are not extra chairs, I will stand, but not until then.”
So they went to Plan B, and the heffer to my right stuck her left leg out and pulled her jeans up to reveal what looked like the worst case of poison ivy I ever saw. The scabs were enormous, and they will covered by some sort of pasty looking cream. Gag.
“Look here, I have this highly contagious disease, and it’s not smart for you to sit next to me. It is very, very contagious.”
“Then, bless your heart, you should cover it up and in the interest of public safety, leave this building filled with over 2000 people. You wouldn’t want to start an epidemic, would you?”
I turned to the woman on my left, looked straight into her eyes, and said, “Bless your heart, this little plan will not chase me away. I am not afraid of your friend’s rash.”
Then they fell back on Plan C and tried to run me off by whistling and screaming at the tops of their lungs. The one to my right leaned over in her seat, and her butt crack was clearly visible. No scabs there. Now, THAT might run me off.
When their team lost it’s first game, they both shut up and the butt crack/rash woman got up and rumbled away.
On Sunday morning, we packed up our things and Mr. Palmer and made our way to the tournament on time for Addie’s team to play their final matches. By previous agreement, I stayed for one match, then I left to go home, worried that Mr. Palmer might be too hot in the car.
Addie and I exchanged “I love yous” and hugged for a long time.
I did not want to leave. I wish she lived next door to me. I love her so. Her team, which was pretty much cobbled together at the last minute and suffered from poor coaching, didn’t win even one match. She was very mature and philosophic about it all. Though intensely competitive, she is not a sore loser.
She is the finest gift my son, Parrish, has ever given me.
© cj Schlottman