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There came a day when I decided that my wife and grandkids needed a treat {I needed to do sumthin’!  Quitting smoking was drivin’ me knutz!}. So, I booked a couple of hotel rooms in beautiful downtown Streetsboro, Ohio, and went on-line and overviewed Geauga Lake Amusement Park (which, it turned out, had not, in fact, closed, burned down, or been closed down, internet and face to face rumors to the contrary notwithstanding. And so we went. At five-thirty on a Friday nite, right in th’ middle of rush hour, we took off south through Detroit, for northeast Ohio. This was a drive I routinely completed in 3 1/2 to 4 hours – in blizzards!  It was eleven freakin’ pmfive and a half hours later—that we arrived in Streetsboro, seven miles southwest of th’ park, and reported in to our hotel. We’d had to stop for dinner, which the baby stretched to most of an hour. We’d had to stop for bathroom, which baby stretched to nearly an hour. We’d had to… ga-a-a-ah! But we finally got there.

{Nic O’Daemon: Man, I’m tired. I could use a last smoke before bed. Chuck: Uh… OK, but you can’t have a first one. Nic O’D: Oh. Right.} Off to bed.

Everybody was tired from the long and frustrating drive from home. We decided to sleep in a bit and try to make the park about noon. Hah! Someone’s teenager(s) decided it would be just too much fun to pass up, to see all th’ grownups out in th’ wet grass in their bare feet and PJs. So, just to please him/her/them, we all arose at 0755 to a shrieking, clanging, blatting, strobing fire alarm. So much for sleepin’ in!

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So, outside in our bare feets & PJs we went.  Luvly Dotter & Beloved LadyHawke insisting it was just a drill and we should stay inside, whilst I, who work daily in a dangerous and deadly place, was insisting even more vehemently that emergency alarums are to be obeyed without question—right now!!!  To my amazement, I won that argument, so off we trekked to where I thought there would be stairs.  No stairs!  There was just a balcony overlooking the entry foyer – with a bunch of folks leaning on it watching people stream out th’ front door.  So-o-o-o… to the other end of the hallway we trekked.  No signs on the walls pointing to the stairwell – just a faint green EXIT sign at the far end of th’ hallway (I checked later – no “In case of fire go this way” sign on th’ back of my room door, either).

Once down th’ stairs & outside, we heard the blaat & hoot of the fire trucks comin’, and the scream of the police siren.  As they drove past us, we wondered if this was, in fact, just a drill.  But no, around the far entry drive they swung, and into and among the crowd of half-asleep dolts who didn’t seem to understand that it’s a good idea to move when a great big, red, blatting and honking truck approaches one.  They were watching the folks who had decided on their way to the front door that the Continental Breakfast was more appealing than a trip into the wet grass – and the cooks who’d stayed behind to scramble their eggs continued apace. Firemen and police officers headed into the building, followed by half the crowd – who promptly about-faced and streamed right back out again.  Why they thought it was safe just because fully dressed-out firemen had gone in, I can’t imagine.

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In any case, within ten minutes we were allowed back in – where we were greeted with a sardonic cheer by the folks we’d earlier met leaning on the 2nd floor balustrade, and who still hadn’t moved.

Up to th’ second floor we went, which began to fill rapidly with people swearing at their spouses because neither of them thought to grab a room key on the way out.  SIL and I, however, had done precisely that.  It is now nearly 9:00, and time to shower and get ready to drive to the park.  So that’s what we did.

By 11:00 we were all packed into Son-in-Law’s minivan, and on our way.  I’m driving, ’cause I grew up there, and we confidently head toward SR 43 and swing north.  One minute later we stop!  Can traffic really be backed up the full eight miles from the park?  I know it’s a two-lane-blacktop, but still…

“Dad,” from Luvly Dotter, plaintively, “weren’t we gonna stop to eat?”

I know two things: 1) We’ve just passed at least fifteen restaurants, and 2) it is unlikely we’ll see another until we’re almost at the park.  So-o-o-o…  “Yep,” sez Dear Ol’ Dad, “we’ll eat just as soon as we get to Aurora, and this traffic breaks.  Should be just a few minutes.”  Son-in-Law, riding shotgun, tips his seat back, opens the window, and lites up a roll-your-own!

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{Nic O’Daemon:  “Gimme!”

{Me: “No!”

{Nic O’D:  “C’mon – ask him.  This is never gonna end.”

{Me:  “Oh, f’r th’ luvva…  Traffic will break soon. You’ll see.  Besides, we don’t smoke.”}

Thirty minutes later I see, about 30 cars ahead, a semi flat-bed carrying a small construction crane.  He’s backing and filling, trying to back into a driveway access to a construction site.  He’s crossways in th’ road, and his friends, who’ve been where he is just minutes ago, are on the site waiting for him.  It’s freakin’ Saturday, the road is full of cars heading for Geauga Lake Park and this is a good time to back trucks into a site?  These idiots have been holding up traffic all ferschlugginer morning!  I proceed to explain to my family how really stupid this is, and how it’s all their fault we’ve been stuck on the way for the past half hour, and…

“Grandpa, I’m really hungry,” announces Jacob.

So I promise him we’ll stop at the first restaurant we see – a promise I will soon regret.

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