UPON TURNING FIFTY (or Stupid Things I Have Done: 50th Birthday Edition)

Fifty

via Daily Prompt: Fifty

Fifty. That’s me. Yep. The big 5-0. AARP discounts, bay-bee! Got that card coming in the mail! Fifty: a nice, hefty, round, solid number. (Much like me.)

I crossed the half-century mark by getting locked out of my hotel room in nothing but my nightshirt.

It happened this way.

Last fall, my coworkers and I were at our annual professional conference, held in Memphis, Tennessee, the week of my 50th birthday. On the night before the final day of the conference, a coworker and I joined one of our colleagues and his wife for a trip to a casino in nearby Tunica, Mississippi, for a dinner buffet and a few hours of mindlessly throwing good money after good. We ate, played a few rounds of video poker, then returned to our hotel.

We arrived about five minutes to midnight, and my friends graciously hung out with me until 12:00 a.m. to help me celebrate my 50th trip around the sun. Clocks having chimed, my married friends went to bed, my other colleague decided to visit the pub across the parking lot for a nightcap, and I retreated to my hotel room.

Once inside my room, I changed into my nightshirt, brushed my teeth and washed the day’s makeup and grime from my face. I was in bed opening a carbonated beverage and booting up my laptop when I realized two things: 1) I had no ice, and did not remember where the ice machine was; and 2) Mom had told me, “Be sure to count the number of doors between you and a fire escape, in case you have to feel your way down the hall. You just never know.” (I would say this is akin to “Wear good underwear in case you’re in a wreck” and “Don’t eat raw cookie dough, you’ll get salmonella,” except that I actually consider all of these things to be good advice. A couple of years ago Mom and Dad were forced to evacuate a hotel in the middle of the night due to what thankfully turned out to be a false alarm, but the power was out and they had to feel their way to the stairwell.)

I decided I didn’t have to have ice, as it would entail putting on clothes, but I thought I could just get by with poking my head out my hotel door to count the doors between my room and the fire exit. But my hotel door was recessed from the hall, so I took one step out into the hall, just to see, and…

Whoosh. Click.

The door shut behind me. I was in the hall. My purse, cell phone, and both hotel room keys – oh, and my clothes – were on the other side of said door. I was wearing (I kid you not) a gray Victoria’s Secret sleep shirt that said “Angel” across my not-very-perky 50-year-old chest, and not much else.

I stood in the blessedly empty hall, contemplating my options.

My married friends were probably long asleep by now. My other colleague was probably still nursing his nightcap at the pub across the way. Maybe I could get the attention of the desk clerk. But how?

The elevator to the lobby boasted walls of clear plexiglass. A few hours earlier, I had lounged in the lobby watching hotel guests riding up and down the elevator, and making a mental note not to get on that elevator while wearing a skirt. And now? In nothing but a nightshirt? Nope, nope, nope. All kinds of nope.

Ding! About that time the elevator opened to my floor and discharged a male passenger, who took one horrified look at me and turned and walked the other way.

Once he was out of sight, I tentatively padded toward the balcony area around the elevator, to see if I could find a stairwell to the lobby. I didn’t see one, but I was thankful to note that the balcony wall was solid stone, mortar and drywall instead of clear plexiglass. I went to the other side of the elevator and leaned over the desk area. About that time two young ladies heading out for a night of fun walked from underneath me and past the front desk.

“Excuse me! Excuse me?” I got their attention and they looked up. “Can you get the desk clerk’s attention for me?” The girls gaped for a moment, started laughing, and one of them said to the clerk, “There’s someone up there who wants to talk to you.”

“Yes?” floated up a disembodied voice. “Can I help you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I’ve locked myself out of my room –“

About that time, my colleague walked into the lobby. Relief flooded through me.

“Matt! Matt!” He looked around. “Matt! Up here!” He looked up.

“What are you – ”

“Matt, help me! I’ve locked myself out of my room.”

I saw awareness wash across his features and knew immediately that Matt was not going to make this easy for me. Hands in his pockets, he rocked back on his heels.

“And what do you expect me to do about it?”

“Get a key from the desk clerk and bring it to me!” My voice went up half an octave.

“Ok…how many mimosas did you say you’d had?”

“One, Matt, just the one. Now get me a key and bring it to me!”

Matt strolled to the front desk.

“Um, it seems that my, uh, colleague has managed to lock herself out of her room. Do you have a key I can take to her?”

Two minutes later Matt was averting his eyes as he handed me the key card. He turned to go as I slid it into the slot and opened the door, and I barely caught him.

“Hey, wait a minute! You’re on the first floor, right? Take this key back to the front desk for me!” I said. Barely pausing, Matt reached behind him without looking, and I gave him the key and retreated to my room.

So that was the first half-hour of my 50th birthday. I still owe Matt, of course – he’ll never let me live it down – and I spent a little time trying to decide whether to be mortified or amused before deciding there was no way not to be both.

Ah, turning fifty. Every year should start with such a great chance to laugh at yourself.

The Return of Bemusings: It’s About Time, Don’t You Think?

 

Here I am again, folks.

In October 2006 I became editor of a small weekly newspaper in a rural county in Middle Tennessee, some 50 miles northeast of Nashville. I spent nearly five intensely happy years in that little community before I uprooted myself and went to law school for a late-in-life career change.

During my tenure as editor, I wrote a weekly column about pretty much whatever I wanted to write about – mostly life observations. Because much of life bemuses me, and because my columns tended to muse about those things that bemuse me, I called my column Bemusings. People seemed to like it.

I became entrenched in that little community. When you live in a community, go to its county fairs and football games and cakewalk and church services, see it nurture economic hopes and dreams, when you report on its joys and its heartbreaks, its achievements and disappointments, its victories and disasters, you look up one day and realize you’re as much a member of that community as if, like most of its residents, you had been born and lived most of your life there. You’re invested.

But I knew I needed to make some new opportunities for myself, so in 2010 I studied for and took the LSAT and began to apply to law schools. In July 2011 I left Tennessee for Oxford, Mississippi, to earn a law degree at the University of Mississippi. I took and passed the Tennessee bar, and in fall 2014, I came back to Middle Tennessee.

Now I live and practice law in a town between Nashville and the community where I served as editor. I have renewed friendships that never really went away. I am thrilled beyond measure that after living in the alien landscape of a college campus  – as a student in my late 40s, of all things – I seem to have picked up my previous life right where I left off, except this time with a more focused career trajectory.

Several people have told me they miss my column. They’ve asked why I don’t start a Bemusings blog. I hemmed and hawed around. At first I was still hunting for a place to live and getting moved and settled. The first year of my first legal job had a pretty steep learning curve. I was recovering from all the upheaval, renewing old ties and forming new ones, and getting to know my new community. Yada yada yada.

But now the time is right, and I am hungry to write again. I called the publisher of the parent newspaper that once employed me and asked, and received, permission to revive the Bemusings title for this space. And here I am.

I’ve spent some time trying to decide what focus, if any, my writing will have. I have many interests, so as this blog evolves, I anticipate that I will write about my ponderings on family life, spiritual matters to do with individual and corporate worship, musical experiences, food, travel, and community.

I write from an emotional place, and in the past I have found that emotional place in me connects with an emotional place in my readers. But I need to write. I need to record my observations about life. I need to write to help me sort through what I think and how I feel about things. I write to process the things I experience and try to learn from them. And with that writing, I need to reach out to see if anyone else can relate. Maybe whatever I learn will make a difference to some reader somewhere.

Back before I had even heard of that little community where I served as newspaper editor, I prayed I would find a position that needed me and what I had to offer as much as I needed it and what it had to offer. I have never, before or since, had a prayer answered any more literally than God answered that one. At that point in my life, the editor’s job fit the bill perfectly. Maybe in some small way this Bemusings blog will help answer a need, too.