The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Flashback Friday!

Highlander and I have been making plans, of late, for our upcoming sojourn to the land of Hurricanes. Still a few weeks away, but, well, neither of us are the sorts to wait ‘til the last minute on this stuff. Of course, if you factor in that we’re both pretty excited about making this trip, that only kicks up the organizational plan that much more!

With all of that starting up, it seemed to suggest a travelogue piece for this weeks’ Flashback Friday! Not one to disappoint, I submit to you a little something about visiting the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

River City isn’t terribly far from St. Louis. Having lived here as long as I have now, I’ve been to St. Louis a few times. The first was with some girlfriends when I was in high school (a VERY fun trip, I assure you). The last time with my ex and my girls. That’s the one I’d like to share with you today.

Now I don’t want you to get the impression, before I even start, that it wasn’t a fun trip. It was. Just not the same as three teenaged girls let loose in a strange town. Some of you may understand that phenomenon better than others.

Before I digress any further, let me get to the matter at hand.

This flashback goes back about four years. The kids were 14, 12 and 2. My ex and I had decided, because money was (as usual) pretty tight, to take a few day trips over the summer, rather than trying to afford a vacation. One of those day trips was to visit the St. Louis Arch.

A pretty impressive structure, even if minimalism isn't your thing. At 630' at it's peak, it's more than twice the size of Lady Liberty.

Standing at it's base, looking toward the top, you can't help but be awed.

Riding to the top (in their innovative tram system) is an adventure, but it's one well worth undertaking. The view from the top is nothing short of spectacular.

And so, on that summery August day, we embarked on our day trip to see the sites from the top of the Arch.

The trip there was largely uneventful and when we arrived, we parked (the photo I've included actually shows how far away the closest parking lot was located), popped [Kid 3] into her stroller and headed up to the Arch.

At the base of the arch, underground, there are gift shops and ticket counters and a museum about the history of the Arch and the "opening" of the west through St. Louis. We bought our tickets and, as they were for an upcoming time, we decided to wander the museum and shops. It was all very touristy.

When it became time for our group to trek to the top, we grabbed our place in line and proceeded toward the trams. I gotta tell ya, though, those things are like very strange elevators. The doors open and it's like a little booth inside. Had [Kid 3] been much bigger we'd likely have had to split up into two trams.

Just as we approached the front of the line, though, the young lady who was taking tickets advised us that strollers were not allowed on the trams. Ever helpful, she pointed to a nearby area where half a dozen strollers were parked and advised me that we could leave it there, it would be no problem.

And so we did.

The laborious ascent took several minutes as the tram rocked back and forth climbing the curved leg of the arch. Once we reached the top, there were large windows on both sides. One overlooking the river, the other overlooking the city. Quite breath-taking, even for someone with a little agoraphobia thing going on.

We enjoyed ourselves. My ex took some photos. The kids "oohed" and "ahhed", and then we were directed to the other side of the arch for our descent. Upon arriving at ground level, we walked across to where we had left the stroller and planned to head out.

Alas, our little umbrella stroller was not in the area we'd been instructed to use. There were other strollers. Just not ours. I inquired with the young lady taking tickets as to where my stroller was. I was advised that I was, perhaps, confused as to location and that I should check the other side.

I knew damned well that I hadn't left it on the other side, but, being in an unfamiliar place, I felt it enough of a possibility that we walked back to the other side to check. Nothing there. While there, I inquired with the appropriate party on that side, and he advised that if we came up on the other side, it would likely be there. Helpful. All of them.

Now, there were throngs of people there. So, walking back and forth involved parting the red sea with a tiny toddler in tow. We were tired. We were ready to go home. And, well, I was starting to feel as if I were being fucked with.

Once on the other side, a different employee was now shepherding visitors to the tram entrances. I asked her about the stroller. Of course, she had no idea. So, I quickly brought her up to speed on what had occurred since she clocked in. No sense enjoying this 'fun' alone.

She advised me, rather of matter of factly, that the park was not responsible for lost items, including strollers and she couldn't help me any further. I advised her that I wasn't leaving until I had my stroller or had been reimbursed for it. A park employee had instructed me to leave the stroller in a designated area and I had followed those instructions and now I had no stroller.

I could feel the skates lacing themselves onto my feet. The employee advised me to file a report at the ranger station and perhaps they could help, and then she directed me to the station.

My ex could see the look in my eye. Without a word between us, I heard him tell the children, "You wait here with me. Your mommy can take care of it."

I talked to two different people at the ranger's office and then was escorted by one ranger back to each side of the arch to "make sure I hadn't overlooked" the stroller. GAH! My face was getting red. I know it. They were just wasting time.

Mr. Ranger and I talked to the female employee who had referred me in the first place. She had no idea where the stroller was. Yeah. Been here already. Making absolutely no progress. I was clear, and unyielding, and focused, and stern. I didn't cuss. Not once. But I was not pleasant company and I could tell that both of them would like to be done with me.

The ranger took me back to his office to fill out a report. Gee, there's an idea. It happened to be adjacent to the employee break room. Which, by the way, had no door. So, I was standing there, describing the stroller and the incident to the clerk at the ranger's office through a window. In the background, I could hear people talking. I wasn't paying much attention until I heard a juxtaposition between the words "bitch" and "stroller", and I turned to see the young lady I'd been speaking to not more than five minutes prior. Of course, she and I had spoken a few times that day.

She was regaling her fellow employees about the horror that was me. What an evil bitch I was. I walked away from the window and closer to the employees seated at the table. Her back was to me and she didn't see me approach, but I announced myself.

After she commented that "I hope that bitch has gone back to Kentucky by now.", I advised her that I had not. That "the bitch", in fact, was right there. The eyes of her fellow employees widened and she turned slowly. I looked her in the eye and then turned and walked the few steps back to the ranger's station.

Of course, the hushed whispers were coming in a flurry in the break room after that. I didn't care. I'd done what had been asked of me and now my property was gone. Granted it wasn't an expensive stroller, but my LAST...child was two. Investing in a new stroller, at that point, was a waste, as far as I was concerned.

I left that day without my stroller.

I did not make it easy or painless for them to do that to me. I filed a stolen property report and obtained the address and telephone number of the officials I could contact to seek further satisfaction. And I let everyone there know that I was...unhappy. I'm pretty sure I made an impression, but I'm equally sure they were delighted to see me go.

As I noted, the stroller wasn't expensive, but it was something we used daily. Buying a new one for a child who would soon outgrow it, in a situation where we were not going to have any more children was just foolish. I sent two letters and made three phone calls, but I finally (three months later) got a check from the Missouri Parks Department. A check that I had been initially assured, I would NEVER see. Of course, in the meantime, we had picked up a second hand stroller at a yard sale.

A memorable trip to be sure. Honestly, the biggest part of the trip was quite lovely. It was just that last part that stung a little.

Ironically, my older daughters have mentioned, subsequently, that they were impressed sitting and watching me handle the situation. Not sure it's the behavior I'd most want to model for them, but I suppose refusing to be a doormat is something I'd like to impart. Showing them that you can be both nurturing and strong.

Funny, we intended it to be an educational trip. I guess you don't always think about just how much (or what kind of) education a vacation can offer.

NOTE: Thanks to one and all for your positive energies/thoughts/prayers. I'm well on the road to recovery and am feeling much, much better.



Blogger MJ Norton said...

Now I have Elton John singing "The Bitch Is Back" somewhere in my head, with a typed subscript added "She never left!" ;)

It's a good less, though. Had you simply made a stink about it that day and then dropped it the overall message to the kids would have been... mixed, at best. That it finally led to a victory (the check) is the instructive capper! Well done!

As for the St. Louis Arch, I remember the Fantastic Four dealing with the Hulk on and near it, but that's mainly all. (Only marginally better than "I got nuthin'")

9/15/2006 10:20 PM  
Blogger AaA said...

Actually, Nate drily noted, mentioning its appearance in a comic book might be worse than "I got nuthin'", as it could elicit 'Cat-Piss Man' comments from the terminally juvenile.

Glad you had 95% of a good time at the Arch. Also glad the other 5% turned out to be an object lesson in how to squeak a wheel (so it wasn't a total waste).

Huh, my verification word is 'otxzpca', which, as we all know, is Aztec for 'chutzpah'. Which you have a surplus supply of.

9/16/2006 8:13 PM  
Blogger Opus P. Penguin said...

Go, SuperMom!

I've never been to the arch, only seen it on TV, but I'd always hoped there was a way to get to the top. Cool!

Except for the stroller part.

MY verfiication word is "okuhonzf," which I think is Native American for "chutzpah."

9/17/2006 11:07 AM  
Blogger SuperFiancee said...

"Chutzpah"...heh. Can't duck that one much. Mike Norton is closer, though...;)

9/18/2006 1:45 PM  

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