There are so many birthday stories I could tell, but since this is my first blog (as far as you know) I will tell you the best one.
Growing up, my mom and dad never made a big deal about birthdays. It just wasn't their thing. I am not feeling sorry for myself, but I did seek out a person to spend my life with that was big on birthdays. Is that wrong?
Anyway, one birthday not too long ago, Brad took me to Naples, Florida for a long weekend. Part of the trip was work-related, and then we stayed at a Ritz Carlton there for two days. It was not the really nice Ritz on the beach, but the golf resort Ritz down the road. (We started calling them Ritz Senior and Ritz Junior.) Who's birthday was it again? Oh yea, mine. Anyway, there was a shuttle you could ride to Ritz Sr. on the Beach and being the bottom dwellers that we are, Brad and I boarded early in the morning and left late in the day. We then went back to Ritz Jr., and after showering, would board the shuttle once again, and continue our pretend guest charade at dinner.
It was so funny because you would just charge to the room at either Sr. or Jr., but when you gave them your room number at Ritz Sr., you immediately got that "peer over glasses" look, indicating that it registered to them that you were a B guest. It was still "their pleasure," though.
Okay, I am going to try and describe to you the mood I was in the day of my birthday. First of all, I was positively FILLED with anxiety for some reason. Now I am not a hocus pocus, palm-reading emeffer (word incarnation courtesy of Cindy Tzaz-promised I would credit her) in the least, but that entire morning I just felt anxious and filled with dread. I swear to God. It had nothing to do with my birthday, either, because I am also not a reflective emeffer.
So we are at the pool, and I know this may sound weird, but I used to be a lifeguard, and I love the feeling of swimming underwater - not just underwater, but close to the bottom like a stingray. Now you are laughing at my expense. I can feel it as I write this. That is what I get for opening my soul to all of you - telling you all of my secrets, like how I am 41-years-old and I pretend to be a sting ray at nice hotels I don't really stay at.
Again, I am skimming the pool floor and all of the sudden someone grown (not a child) jumps right on top of my back. I pop up, stunned and there is a 21-year-old man apologizing profusely. His "mother," who is carrying an infant, (I bet that is a good story) runs over and starts apologizing, herself. She is also laughing which instantly irritates me. I mean, I used to be a lifeguard (did I mention that?) and her "man-son" almost paralyzed me.
Everyone is looking at me, except Brad who is deep in the Sports page. I HATE that I have to explain what just happened to me to him, especially because Mom and infant are seated right behind us and she keeps yelling over her pool pack'n'play how sorry she is with that nervous laughter accompaniment of hers.
"Let's go to the beach. I can't stand this another second, "I whisper.
"Why?"Brad clearly is not processing my emotions as fast as I am.
"I can't get back in the pool and she won't stop bothering me."
So we go to the beach and I go right in the ocean. Normally this calms me, but I can't stop this feeling that something is in there with me. I try swimming laps, assuming that I will get too tired to be neurotic, to no avail. Finally, I decide on floating on my back while I try to excise the unhealthy thoughts inside my head. Besides me, there is one other person in the water.
All of the sudden I hear sounds from the beach and people are pointing to a spot right behind me. The girl in the water is pointing too. I freeze. Slowly I turn around and there is a dolphin five feet away from me. Instead of admiring the beauty of nature, I hightail it out of there because my hysteria-induced premonition just became a reality.
I am on my chair again, having to explain to Brad, the only person on the beach that did not notice the dolphin incident, what just happened to me. My anxiety is at an all time high. What is happening to me?
I cannot relax. "This is bullshit, " I keep thinking. "Who goes on vacation, is finally away from their kids, and cannot relax." I order a Bloody Mary. There were umbrellas all over the beach. The employees at the hotel are using a drill with a gigantic bit to fit them into the ground. I watch them for a little while. I decide that if I act like everyone else is acting, then I will feel like everyone else. I open my book. I close my book. I can't concentrate. My drink comes. I take a huge gulp. I ask Brad to take my picture. He acts like he doesn't hear me. I open my magazine. I take another gulp of Bloody. I ask Brad to take my picture again. I close my magazine.
I hand Brad the camera with "the look" on my face and just as Brad is taking the picture someone's beach umbrella turns inside out. There is a collective gasp as the beach employees rush to remedy the situation. I, then, become convinced that I am going to get hit by an umbrella.
I am disgusted with myself, now. "This is crazy. I have GOT to get out of my head. I am ruining my own birthday. I will be back in freezing cold, gray Columbus in two days and I will think back on this moment as I am making my 5000th peanut butter and jelly sandwich and will be filled with regret.
I turn over on my stomach, open my book, read about a page and a half and then I hear that collective gasp again right..before..it...hits. It was explained to me later that an effing beach umbrella has caught air, is hurled end over end, and lands smack dab on the top of my head.
Not knowing what just happened but feeling pain, I reach up to my head and it was like in a bugs bunny episode, a huge bump emerges from my scalp. It was about the size of a baseball. I am not exaggerating this time.
Chaos ensues. All of the sudden, there is some sort of legal person kneeling before me, accusing people around us of moving the umbrella. There is a bag of ice placed on my head and I just remember crying and saying, "It's my birthday...I just want to have fun."
I think one of the funniest parts of this story is that we stayed on the beach for about another 45 minutes while I pretended to lay out with a bag of ice on my head. Basically, the hotel's position was that they did not have a doctor on staff and if I didn't want to spend the day at the Emergency Room ON MY BIRTHDAY, then I was absolving them of any responsibility.
So we leave and I have to ride the effing shuttle bus back to Ritz Jr. with a bag of ice on my head and tears streaming down my face. We finally arrive at the hotel and there is a bottle of champagne waiting with a note expressing Ritz Carlton's sorrow toward my situation.
Look, I am not a medical doctor (although I did spend 3 weeks at intensive pharmaceutical sales training) but I would be willing to guess that if you asked anybody with any medical background what the best thing for a head injury would be - 100 times out of 100, they would NOT say alcohol! Thank you, Dr. Carlton.
"I mean, I know I am not supposed to make you feel worse about this, but who does that happen to but you, Johanna?"
"Well, if we are so close - you know close enough that you feel comfortable enough to make fun of me," I wanted to say, "then, at least you could pronounce my name correctly."
He patted me on the shoulder and shaking his head, walked out of the examination room.
By the way, the picture above is the picture Brad took right before I was hit by the umbrella. I guess my gratuitous guidance today is to make a big deal of every birthday because you never know what is going to happen next.
Also, I MUST promote Laughing Away The Blues this Saturday at The Ohio Theater. Some friends and I are going for my birthday. Second City is performing, and it is to benefit Mental Health America of Franklin County. (I figure at some point I will be a client. May as well pay it forward, right?) Look for me there, I will be the past her prime blond, who's dressed too provocatively for her age.