Mercury was in Retrograde

DISCLAIMER: This is a very long post. You may want to grab a sandwich or a beverage or some popcorn before you sit down to read it.

For months while planning this road trip I had the grandest plans in mind for departure. In my mind’s eye, I would do all of the following:

  • Be moved out of my house a day early.
  • Have all of my stuff and things organized in time to leave town as scheduled.
  • My car would be clean, my dog would be ready, I would be ready, I’d have exactly the right gear with me, and nothing more and nothing less.
  • I’d meet friends and family on my way out of town, with them recording me on video as I drove off into the sunset. I’d post a ‘departure’ video on my Facebook page, commemorating the start of my epic adventure. I’d be happy, and maybe a bit apprehensive, but excited nonetheless.
  • I’d drive to Portland filled with happiness at what was yet to come, content in the knowledge that the first two nights of my trip would be starting off right at one of the best hotels in town- that of a commercial client I was excited to work with again.

NONE of these things happened. Instead, the week prior to leaving Seattle was, without question, the worst week of my life.  I want to qualify that by saying that I’ve been through some really challenging stuff in my 42 years.  Plenty of truly awful, stressful, tragic, soul-killing stuff. And this was the worst. It has taken me this long to write about it because I couldn’t bring myself to think about it- it was, and still is, just that hard. I can finally share it with you all now.  With a box of Kleenex sitting by my side.

So above I outlined my happy pre-road trip fantasy with you all. Here is how it actually went down. (There are tons more little details of ‘shit going wrong’, that I don’t list here- these are just the big ones I actually remember).

Somewhere in late January I started having this feeling in my gut. This very unsettling feeling that something wasn’t right. I started questioning my decision to leave everything I know that is comfortable and leave on an 8-month, 15,000 mile road trip. I really started feeling like maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. But the feeling was more than that- it was hard to put my finger on, but it was a mild feeling of dread that grew every day. But I chose to ignore it because as major as my plans were, this feeling of dread wasn’t logical.

I needed a new car for the road trip, because as awesome as my older Subaru Outback was, it just wasn’t big enough for an 8-month road trip, and all of the gear and most importantly- huge kennel my dog would require. I also wanted a car that had hands-free controls on the steering wheel, both for convenience and safety’s sake. I had spent many many months researching cars, and test-drove my favorites, to settle on a 2011 or 2012 Kia Sorento AWD.

The first step in buying the car was to apply for a car loan through my credit union- BECU. On February 3rd I applied online and was instantly denied. “WHAT?” was my reply. I immediately called my credit union to find out why. The friendly CS lady told me it was because I had an open collection on my Transunion report, which was the one they pulled. “Oh my god”, my stomach dropped. I knew instantly what the problem was. It was a collection that my former credit union (WSECU for those who are unfortunate enough to bank with them), had erroneously referred to collections 11 months after I had paid the bill in full. I spent years trying to get the issue resolved, and I thought I finally had, until that fateful day on February 3rd. Here’s what happened: last summer my ‘case’ was finally escalated to someone at WSECU who could actually do something about it, and they assured me that it would be taken care of, and that my credit reports would be updated to reflect the correction. Well, that was done, but only with two of the three credit reporting agencies, not the third one that my current credit union pulls. I had pulled my credit reports from Equifax and Experian before applying for the loan, but not Transunion, so I wasn’t aware that they didn’t follow through on all three. (Of course!). That was my one mistake in all of this. To say I was furious when I hung up the phone with my credit union would be an understatement.

I was so angry, and so fed up, that, mere weeks before I was supposed to leave town on an 8-month road trip, with absolutely NO free time to spare, still without a car for the trip, I went to work finally fighting back against my old credit union, who, BTW, I left years ago because I was so unhappy with their services. I filed a direct dispute with Transunion, I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, I wrote a letter to BECU, and also filed a complaint with the collection agency my account had been referred to. I also drafted a letter to the BECU CEO and printed it and put it in an envelope, in case the previous strategies didn’t work. I also called CS to get detailed information for my attorney. And then I waited.

I waited for a week, and realized I couldn’t wait any longer. I HAD to get a car. I was so stressed out over the car situation it was eating me alive. I was literally losing sleep over it.

So on February 12th I went straight to Kia and applied for financing through them. I was approved at a higher APR than I had ever planned for, but much lower than I had expected, given the open collection on my CR. I got the car, and drove home in it. Instead of being happy and excited, I just felt anxious and stressed. I was still really angry at BECU for putting me in that position to begin with. It took me over a week of having my fantastic new car (a 2012 AWD V6 Kia Sorento- white with beige interior- exactly what I had my heart set on), to finally be able to feel some happiness and joy over it.

So I moved past the car stress, and focused on trip prep.  I had just two weeks left after getting the car to get the car, and everything else, ready to leave town. Let me just tell you right now- that is not enough time.

The first week of my final two weeks went pretty well, if not very busy. My to-do list was overwhelmingly, ridiculously long, but I just took it one chunk at a time, knowing that somehow I’d get through it. It was stressful but manageable.

It was the seven days prior to leaving that things started to fall apart, and then really fell apart toward the end, pretty dramatically.

It started with me realizing, seven days before I was scheduled to move all of my stuff out of my house and into a storage unit, that I still hadn’t lined up a moving company (uh-oh). But I wasn’t too worried about it because I had known all along that I’d use the same company I used for the last two moves- a great group of hard-working guys who were fast, friendly and careful. When I got online and discovered their business was closed, I was shocked and bummed. And really, that should have been my first sign that things might no go well. After a bit of online research, I decided on another company that sounded great. I called them, and unfortunately they were fully booked. I called my third choice and they were available, but not on the day I wanted to move, but the day before, which was Thursday February 27th. “Fine, I’ll make it happen”, I thought. After reading so many moving horror stories online, I thought “how bad can it be?”. Oh it can be bad alright, which I’ll get to later.

A few days later, now in the week prior to leaving town, I wanted to bring my Sorento in to Best Buy to have a car alarm installed, since it didn’t come with a factory alarm.  The first two Best Buys I called were fully booked for a week. “Really??” I thought. The third one could take me, but it was a good 30-minute drive from my house. Since it was my only option, I drove my car there the next morning.

After buying the alarm in the store, I was instructed to drive into the installation bay. When I got to the garage the installation bay was located in, I discovered, much to my chagrin, that I couldn’t get my car into the garage. You see, just the night before I had purchased a set of Thule racks and a cargo box, which were on top of my car. The garage had a height limit, which was about 5 inches lower than the height of my cargo box. Arggghhh. Not one to be outdone by challenges, I knew there was a solution. Could the cargo box come off the car? Sure! With the right tools, which I didn’t have with me, because I had pulled them out of the car hours earlier. (Grrrrr). Could I get the right tools? Yep, no problem, but I couldn’t get the box off the rack alone, nor did I have a place to put it once it was off. It was 11am on a weekday, with all of my friends and family at work down in Seattle. I was on my own. My only solution, it seemed, was to drive all the way home and back, risking not getting it done on the same day, not to mention being stuck in wicked traffic on the way back. With the installation guys waiting for me, and the clock ticking, I pulled over onto a side street and brainstormed. “I just need to get that– off of that– and into there”, I thought, referring to the cargo box, the roof of my car, and the inside of my car. I stood there circling my car for what felt like hours, until I saw a guy and his little dog walking down the street. They got close to me, and then crossed the street, and on the precipice of chickening out, I chased him down, full movie scene, arms waving, “help, excuse me, can you help me?”. I was convinced he would be like “who is this crazy chick?” and run. But shockingly, he didn’t. I breathlessly explained my predicament, and within seconds he was at my car with me, eagerly helping me remove my entire rack with cargo box attached, and stuff the whole thing into the back of my car. His little dog- a ShitZu mix, was so sweet and cute, and the guy was so nice, that I gave him my card and told him I’d do a complimentary shoot for him when I got back to Seattle. He was my savior that day. (Thank you kind stranger!). That was one of the few things that went well.

So I got my car into the Best Buy garage, with the tailgate open and cargo box hanging out. It wasn’t pretty (or legal), but it was in, and was ready for my fancy new Viper alarm!

So I left, content with the knowledge that in a few hours, I’d get my lovely new car back with a kick-ass new high-end Viper alarm, complete with interior temperature sensor, custom sensitivity levels, a digital readout on the remote and remote start.

Except, that isn’t exactly what happened.

The guy who was installing the alarm couldn’t find a certain wire needed for the installation, so when my dad and I showed up later that day, the car wasn’t done, nor would it be done that day because phone calls were needing to be made about the missing wire to places that were already closed. This was three days before I was scheduled to leave Seattle. Blood pressure? Raised.

I needed my car the next day. And when I say needed, I really really needed it. I had at least fifty billion things to get done, it not a hundred billion, the very next day, which was the day before I was moving. How in the hell was I going to get through it all without a car?? Would I have to take a taxi everywhere? Rely on Seattle’s awful public transportation? Hope there would be a Zipcar where and when I needed it?? Ok wait, let me say that I did still have another car- my old Subaru Outback, but I had just spent over $200 getting the interior detailed for the sale, and the last thing I wanted was to dirty it right back up again running all of the errands and hauling the stuff that needed to be hauled.

My (hero) dad saved the day by loaning me his car. I dropped him off at his home and went to my place to pack.

I got home, walked in the door around 10pm, and took a look around my place, and my heart sank. I felt sick. This was just one of the things I was looking at:

Road trip gear. Unpacked. Unorganized.
Road trip gear. Unpacked. Unorganized.

You know the moment in time when you realize something major you have been planning for so long is not going to happen? Yeah, that’s where I was, except I didn’t have a choice, I was moving, I was taking this road trip, it was happening, and I was in so far over my head I wanted to give up. I had so much packing left to do, and was already so exhausted, that I didn’t see any conceivable way it would get done.

Somehow the next day passed, I got my car, and had new tires installed on it, a birthday present from my dad, and I got home, and packed a bunch more stuff.  I was far from being done, but knew I’d have everything the moving company needed to move me, done in time for them to come early Thursday morning.

Skip ahead to the next morning. Moving company arrives. By the way- the name of said horrible moving company is Eco Movers, based in Seattle Washington. (Eco Movers Seattle Moving Company, just to make sure the SEO works. BTW- I’m not linking to their site here because Google has been telling me it has been hacked. Nice.). Three guys, the foreman of which, who I believe was named Kyle, actually grew up in my house, and delighted in walking around the house and garage, taking pictures of everything while the other guys worked.

I’m not going to get into details here because it just makes me really angry.

Let me just say this:

1) I’ve never moved before busted ass so much more than the team I’ve HIRED AND PAID to move me.

2) I’ve never hired movers who openly and frequently smoke pot on the job, including walking down the street in public places.

3) I’ve never worked with a moving company that wastes 40 minutes of time trying to get a truck into a garage, only to finally read the height restriction sign and discover the damn truck wouldn’t fit in the first place. (See point #2 above).

4) I’ve never hired movers who have a complete and total lack of any communication with me, including telling me when they were leaving my house.

5) I’ve never hired a moving company that quotes SEVEN HOURS for a two bedroom house move.

6) I’ve never hired a moving company who charges $1,100 (ONE THOUSAND, ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS), to move what is a bedroom with minimal furniture, an office with two Ikea bookcases, torn-down desk and empty filing cabinet, living room furniture, a bunch of boxes, some yard tools and patio furniture. Apparently the foreman Kyle thought the entire 3-bedroom house would be full of stuff (FAR from the truth), so quoted the seven hours before even arriving, and then when he showed up and saw that I had A LOT less stuff than he expected, decided to try and stretch it out to seven hours anyway. Completely disregarding things like ethics, customer service, my schedule, etc, etc etc.

7) I’ve never hired a moving company and witnessed one of the movers walking across a large parking lot from the truck to the storage elevator with one lightweight item in each hand, not using a hand truck or cart, both of which were available.

8) I’ve never hired a moving crew whose foreman tells me not to get involved and move anything, ‘because you’ll get in our way’, knowing full well that I would speed up the process, which would mean less revenue on their part.

I was so shocked, and so disgusted, and so angry, about my experience with Kyle and Eco Movers, that I just wanted to be done with it. So I completed the paperwork, and vowed to make sure my keen knowledge of SEO bit them hard in the ass. (Yes, this WILL show up in a Google search for them- FOREVER).

By the way, when I moved in to the house two years ago, I had A LOT more stuff, and it took half as long for that team to move it, at less than half the cost. Eco Movers are a HORRIBLE company!! (Side note: major kudos to the tall guy who somehow managed to Tetris all of my stuff into my storage unit. He was the one saving grace of it all and deserves a raise.)

While this move was happening, my (lovely- and I mean that sincerely) landlord needed the keys to my place, in order to start cleaning it, because the move took so GD long that I couldn’t pick up the housecleaner I had scheduled to come and clean that afternoon. (Long story). So I drove home and Tina (my landlord) and my neighbor Laura handed me a beer and we chatted and they talked me down and I tried not to come unglued at the moving situation. A huge thank you to Laura for going and picking up the housecleaner!!

Somehow I got through the moving and cleaning day, and came back to a house that still had a whole bunch more stuff to pack and move- namely all of my most valuable items, which I had carefully collected on my mantle in my living room.

But the housecleaner finished, and I knew I’d have the next day to pack everything and finish running errands, so I could leave that Friday night, February 28th, and head south to Portland. After receiving offers of a place to stay from family and friends, I decided I’d sleep on the floor in the empty house on Thursday night, because I needed to be there early in the morning. Plus I wanted to test out my ‘car bed’ a makeshift bed I had made out of the foam cushions from my patio sofa set. (As crazy as it sounds, it turned out to be very comfy!).

I wish I could remember all of the details of the next day, but fortunately or unfortunately, I can’t. What I do remember is this: waking up very early to start organizing and packing my road trip clothes, running errands midday, and my dad coming to my house around 2 to help me finish packing my stuff and move it into storage. My landlord had scheduled an open house from 3-5, because all along I had planned to be gone by midday. Clearly that didn’t happen, so I just planned to get done what I could with my dad’s help between 2 and 3, and then finish after 5. When my dad arrived he reminded me that my storage unit closed at 6pm (it didn’t, which we learned later. We were misinformed.). So we had less than 2 hours to get my house completely cleared out. There was no way that would happen. I still had too much stuff in it. So from 2-3 I spent like a manic person, running from the living room to the parking strip behind my house, carrying lamps and picture frames, bowls filled with lightbulbs, cradling armloads of wine glasses, scrubbing dishes with one minute to spare, etc. It was the last mile of the marathon. At that point I was broken down, weak, and exhausted, but I pushed on because I had to.

Luckily for me, my landlord finished her open house early, and came out to the garage where I was packing the rest of my stuff, and let me know I had the house back for the rest of the day.  She offered for me to stay one more night in the house if I needed more time, even though my rent technically ended at midnight. I didn’t want to have to take her up on it, because I was scheduled to stay at the Hotel Rose in Portland that night, something I had been looking forward to for months, a little respite I was sorely needing at that point. I needed a luxurious, clean, quiet, beautiful hotel room. I needed a shower and a good meal and a good night’s sleep like nobody’s business. But knowing I had the option to stay in the house one more night was a great relief.

Sometime that Friday afternoon, I called the Hotel Rose to confirm my reservation for the weekend, although my contact at Pineapple Properties (a return commercial client), had already confirmed in email 10 days prior. When I called the hotel, they had no record of my reservation. After a series of phone calls it became clear that I wasn’t in their system. I tried not to worry about it, figuring there was some sort of misunderstanding that would get cleared up. I gave them my name and phone number and asked them to call me back as soon as it was worked out.

In this time my dad and I busted our hump to get my house (finally) done. We somehow managed to shove the remaining stuff into my overly-packed storage unit, and after installing rolling casters onto the bottom of Fergie’s kennel in my now completely empty house, we were finally ready to go to dinner around 9pm that Friday night. It was clear I wasn’t leaving town that day, and I never did hear back from the Hotel Rose in Portland, so I decided to get back in touch with them in the morning.

After busting ass right alongside of me for days, my dad was as completely wiped as I was, so we decided to get dinner at one of our local favorites a few blocks away. At dinner, in a bar in a neighborhood Thai restaurant, my dad saw me set my bag on the bar chair next to me, and being the sweetheart that he is, said “why don’t you clip your strap onto the chair?”, after watching me show him the neat security feature on the bag a few days prior. I said there wasn’t anything for me to clip it onto (it was a tall Parson’s style chair), so he suggested we move my bag over onto the chair next to him, which was in a corner, so more secure. “Good idea”, I said, not having any concept of what was to come.

The bar and restaurant closed at 10, and after the music went off and the lights came up, we realized we were there past closing, so we hightailed it out of there. I needed to get up, finish packing my road trip gear and out of my house before 9:30 am anyway, to hit the road and avoid the lease-signing happening with the new tenant.

When my dad and I got back to my house, I went “where’s my bag?”. He said “I don’t know, did you leave it in the car?”. “No…… oh my god, it’s at the bar….”. I had left it on the chair next to him. I was so exhausted in every way that I didn’t even think about it when we got up to leave. I don’t normally carry a purse or bag in the winter, using my coat pockets for all of my things, so it wasn’t second-nature to me to grab it before leaving a place.

In about two seconds, the entire contents of the bag flashed in front of me, and I immediately started calling the restaurant. No answer. My dad drove over there as I finished packing my road trip stuff. When he returned he said there was no one there.

I went down the list of the contents of the bag with him, trying not to panic, but feeling that deep sense of dread return.

When he walked out the door of my house, well past midnight, he said “this is all my fault”. I assured him it was not, but it broke my heart hearing him say that. I just wanted to cry, from the stress of the week, to the sense of relief I finally felt just hours earlier about being done with everything (finally), and having a place to stay for (yet) another night, feelings that were demolished the second I realized I had lost my bag.

I tried to sleep but couldn’t because of the overwhelming anxiety about my bag. I was so mentally, emotionally, physically exhausted, sore, sad, stressed, etc- just spent in every way. I needed sleep more than anything else. And it didn’t come. Over and over the same reel played in my head “What if an employee took it home with them? What if I never see the contents again? What if I dropped it on the way to the car and was so tired I didn’t notice? What if my stuff is being prepped to sell on ebay as we speak?”. I went over all of the possibilities in my mind. I tried to reassure myself, to use logic, to believe in the best, but my emotional resources were so limited it just didn’t work. None of my coping mechanisms worked. I just had nothing left.

I got up around 7am that Saturday, even though I knew that the Thai restaurant didn’t open until 10am. I decided to fully pack my car, and do everything I could before heading over. I decided to get breakfast first but then realized I didn’t have any money. All I had on me was my phone and car keys. That was it.

I was at the restaurant the minute they opened. My dad had called when I was still sitting in my car outside the restaurant an hour before they opened, and said he was on his way over. I told him there wasn’t anything he could do, so there was no need to come. But he insisted.

I went in at 10am, and found an employee. I explained that I left my black bag there in the bar the night before. I knew it was there because there was no other place it could be. So she started looking. She looked in the cabinets where they kept lost and found, and it wasn’t there. She looked in the cabinets under the bar, and it wasn’t there. She looked in the cabinets in the back, and it wasn’t there. She kept coming back to me and saying she didn’t see it. I said “keep looking, it has to be here”. She looked and looked and looked, for what I felt was a reasonable period to look for an item a person would have left there the night before. My heart was racing, I felt sick, and time slowed to a standstill. She finally came back to me and said, “I’m so sorry, it isn’t here”.

I turned, took a few steps over to the waiting area, and had a complete meltdown. All I really remember is my dad calling me on my cell phone, me saying simply “it isn’t here”, hanging up the phone, looking out the window to see my dad race up in his car, jump out and run across the street into the restaurant. And then I had a full blown panic attack.

I sat on the edge of a chair, and gripped onto the chair, hyperventilated loudly for what felt like hours. I was somewhere in that terrifying grey area between sobbing and hyperventilating. I couldn’t breathe, and I truly felt like my life was over. I felt like, after all of that back-breaking work, the hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of hours of research over the previous 9 months, the preparation, the planning and brainstorming, the spending of boatloads and boatloads of cash on things for the trip, the hundreds of decisions that were made, the people involved in my preparation, the stress and anxiety and issues, the moving and upending my entire life- that it was all over.

I felt like I had just completely destroyed my own life. Inadvertently.

In a flash, I mentally went through the contents of my bag all over again, and in another flash, knew there was no way to solve the problems it’s loss created. The road trip was over. And then came the panic attack.

Somewhere in the period when time stood still, and I couldn’t breathe, I heard my dad say my name. “Jamie……. Jamie….” He was coming toward me. “Is this it??”. I looked up, and through my tears and terrified hyperventilating, saw the black bag he was holding, and nodded “yes”. And he handed me my bag and I crumbled into sobs in his arms, breaths finally slowing after another minute. We cried together for several minutes, knowing what had just happened.

When I finally stopped crying enough to see through my tears, I started opening the pockets of my bag. I went through the contents of it all with him, showing him everything that was in there, still crying, this time from relief. He simply said “I know, I know….”, knowing full well just how massive the situation was.

Here is what was in my bag:

1. My iPad.

2. The main and backup keys to my Subaru Outback, which still needed to be sold, and was on my landlord’s property in a location that would prevent the new tenant from moving in.

3. My At&T MiFi box with two-year contract that I had purchased days earlier, that I needed in order to have WiFi for the road trip. I had planned my entire trip around that little box.

4. My wallet with: all debit and credit cards, cash, club cards, new AAA plus member card that I needed for hotel discounts, and new driver’s license.

5. My second keychain with: the key to a padlock to the gate at my house leading to the backyard, the key to my cargo box (which was currently empty and needing to be filled with my road trip cargo), the key to my UPS mailbox, where I had mail needing to be picked up that day, keys to my storage unit, which needed to be accessed again that day, and other assorted keys for things I needed during my trip.

6. The signed title to my Subaru Outback.

7. My registration for my Kia Sorento.

8. My checkbook.

9. And a bunch of other small things I’m not remembering right now, because the aforementioned is painful enough.

So now you see why I had a panic attack.

After I calmed down, I went over to the girl who found my bag. I wiped my tears and briefly explained to her how much it meant to me, and why I was so emotional about it. I gave her a hug, and know she was completely taken back by the whole situation. She could have never in a million years known what I just went through. How could she possibly know?

My dad and I walked out of the restaurant and he told me what happened. He said that apparently the bartender who was working the night we were there, found my bag after we left, and after discovering how valuable it’s contents were, put it inside a cabinet in the bar, but pushed it way back in the back of the cabinet where it would be safe from other employees and prying eyes. That’s why the girl couldn’t find it. It took a phone call to the employees working the night before to find it.

My dad and I went back to my place and he helped me with the final things he could help me with.

We finally got my car packed, and took a carload of my canvases over to my vet to hang a display before I left town. The very last non-trip detail that needed to be attended to.

During this time I was in contact with the marketing director at the hotel chain for the hotel I was (supposedly) booked at in Portland. He said he made the booking himself, and would look into it and call me back.

Hours later, ready to finally leave town that evening, I still hadn’t heard from him, so I called the hotel directly, deciding I’d just book the damn reservation myself and let them figure it out on Monday (I was working on trade- scheduled to do photography of the hotel in exchange for a two night’s stay). But when I called, I got the second-worst news of the day. They were fully booked.

In my car, at around 7:30pm, the day after I was scheduled to leave town, with a voice that was harsh from the hyperventilating I had done earlier that day, I sat in my car and cried. I had a car full of stuff, a dog that was freaked out and exhausted, I was starving, I was spent, I was sad, I was scared, and I just wanted to sleep. I had no friends or family whose places I could stay at because we all have incompatible pets, and I truly didn’t know what to do. I cried hard for about 15 minutes, and then pulled myself together, and made an executive decision. I decided that, even though it was so far out of the budget I had carefully planned for so many months, I would get a nice hotel room for not just that night, but the next two nights, and not in Portland, because I was too tired to drive down there safely, but in Seattle. I would be kind and loving to myself and give myself exactly what I needed at that time: a clean, quiet, comfortable place to rest, and try to recover from the hell I had just gone through. My spirit and soul needed healing.

So I used the Hotel Tonight app on my phone to quickly find a dog-friendly hotel in Seattle that was available to check into right now, quickly found the Edgewater Hotel, decided “oh yes”, knowing they were dog-friendly without a weight limit (which, BTW, the Hotel Tonight app will also tell you), and drove straight there. I stayed at the hotel for the next two nights and two days, and tried to recover from the worst week of my life.

After the epic event that was unloading my car at the hotel, I got into my room and collapsed. I was dead. My spirit had been killed. I was shell of my former self. I was wounded, physically, emotionally, mentally, psychically, and spiritually. My fingers were all cut up and sore, and I had a wicked case of edema that made wearing shoes painful. It hurt to even type on my iPhone. I felt like I had been stranded in the wilderness for days if not weeks. This is a photo of my hands, which I wanted to document for my memory, since they were such a vivid indicator of how bad it was.

I had bandaids on 4 or 5 of my fingers for the first week of my trip.
I had bandaids on 4 or 5 of my fingers for the first week of my trip.

After finally (finally) getting everything settled with my car, after healing my body a bit, after feeling like I was really ready, and after another long trip to my storage unit to make the final paring down of gear, in the evening of Monday March 3rd,  2014, I finally left Seattle on my epic 8-month 15,000 mile road trip around the U.S.

For the first few days of my trip I was angry. Very very angry. Angry at so many different things, especially my old credit union. I blamed them for a lot.  I wasn’t myself for awhile, but I hoped I would return. And slowly, day by day, I became human again. The exhaustion started wearing off, the bitterness and anger started dissipating, and I felt the old Jamie returning. It took probably eight or nine days before I was myself again, and now, 21 days after leaving town, I’m finally back. J

It was a helluva road before ‘takeoff’, but I know this: nothing on my upcoming journey could compare to what life was like the week before I left. Nothing.

And now I know, that that feeling of dread I had wasn’t about the trip itself at all; it was about the time leading up to it. I could have never known.

The night I left my bag at the bar, after returning home, before he left for the night, I turned to my dad and flatly said: “Mercury must be in retrograde or something”.

That night after retiring to my ‘patio sofa cushion bed’, I decided to Google it and see if I was right. I haven’t been into astrology since high school, since the logical part of my brain has taken over as an adult. But when I read what I did online, I had to scratch my head.  This is what I read:

It’s that time again! Mercury, the messenger (and trickster) of the gods, appears to move backward in the sky from February 6, 2014 to the 28th, which can cause havoc with travel, communications, technology and timing. During a retrograde period it is wise to double-check the fine print, postpone major purchases or signing important documents, regularly back up your electronic files and double- check travel arrangements, or for that matter, any other arrangements.” – NY Times

There are danger spots………. When Mercury is stationing retrograde we are at the wobbly stage where we are likely to slip-up, make mistakes, and misread another’s communications.” –Dark Star Astrology

Sometimes the other planets appear to be traveling backward through the zodiac; this is an illusion. We call this illusion retrograde motion. Mercury’s retrograde periods can cause our plans to go awry.” –Farmer’s Almanac

“You might find yourself getting into bizarre arguments about nothing at all, being unable to finish sentences or barely even able to form a coherent thought. Your computer and other electronic equipment is more likely to go on the fritz. You could experience travel delays, too. Double-check your flights and take a book with you to keep you occupied while you wait for the train! We don’t tend to get all the information we need at this time, so it can be hard to make big decisions and it’s not always the best time to sign a contract, either…… Mercury retrograde can be a total kick in the teeth for those of us who normally pride ourselves on having our karmic shit together!” –Gala Darling

Well there ya go.

I have to say that if I wasn’t a believer in Mercury in Retrograde before, I am now. Starting late on March 1st, things stopped going wrong and started going right, and have been since then.

Thankfully, the trip has been going well. Not without challenges of course, and it’s hard work to load and unload the car at each new place, and get my needs, my business’ needs, my dog’s needs and my car’s needs met, while navigating a totally new schedule in totally new places. But these challenges are a cake-walk compared to what I dealt with before leaving town.

Save but a tiny scar on one cuticle, my fingers are healed, my attitude is bright, my car and dog and me are all clean and well-rested (yes, even the car- The White Lady- aptly named by my dad). I’m so happy to be doing what I wanted to do for so many years, and I genuinely look forward to the trip to come. I still have a lot to learn about how this all works, but I have another seven months to figure it all out.

I’m off to New Orleans now for a full week stay, and couldn’t be more excited about it.

Thanks for reading my tome. Now you know how grateful I am to be here, doing what I love, with my best buddy by my side. I hope you continue to come along for the ride with us.

Fergie and I in Austin in South Congress at SXSW.
Fergie and I in Austin in South Congress at SXSW.



Update on the WSECU situation:

The day I called them (for the umpteenth time), to get information for my attorney, I was told that a note was placed on my account just the day before, in response to my Better Business Bureau complaint, stating that there had been a mistake (ya think?), and that they would be contacting all three credit reporting bureaus, as well as the BBB and the collection agency to recall the collection. I’d been down this road before, so wasn’t entirely hopeful. But within the next ten days I had received an alert from my credit monitoring service telling me there had been a change to my score. I immediately logged in and discovered it had all been corrected. Just a few weeks after getting my car loan, my credit score went up 67 points. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But the really good news here is this: I can refinance my loan anytime I want, which I plan to do after making three timely payments, (something that was recommended to me by several credit experts), my score is now well into the excellent category, which means that any future loans will come with a very good (if not zero) APR, I’m finally (finally) done with the nightmare that was WSECU, and I now know how to be a better advocate for myself when it comes to credit errors, which sadly I’ve been the victim of several times now. (Check your credit regularly people!). I am aware that it’s illegal for a company to refer a paid account to a collection agency, and at least in Washington State it comes with a $2,500 fine, which I will look into when I get back to Seattle, as (I believe), small claims court goes up to $3,000.

But I’m happy with the fact that I now have a car that I truly love, and although I would never want to relive that time, it all worked out ok.

5 thoughts on “Mercury was in Retrograde

  1. Wow. Just wow. Yeah, watch when Mercury’s in retrograde. Seriously. Hope you have a great trip. Hope to see you in Los Angeles.

  2. Omg- you poor thing! Please please let me buy you a well deserved drink when you come to Chapel Hill,NC! Please email me! Hope the trip goes much better from here forward!!!

  3. I work in a school and we check the website ismercuryinretrograde when it starts getting all wobbly…never fails.

  4. Oh my word, Jamie, what a nightmare. I actually started to cry when you wrote about melting down after losing your bag. I am so sorry you had to go through all of this, but I’m glad to know that you are on the road and feeling better! I’ll be setting up my mentor session with you this week for when you’re in the Tampa/SW FL area. Looking forward to meeting you and Fergie!

Comments are closed.