I'm involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters. It's a great organization; they match up kids with adult mentors. My Little Sister (who we'll call Sis) is 14.
When we were matched 4 1/2 years ago, both Sis and I lived on the north side of the Austin area. It took about 20 minutes to drive to her house. Then she moved to south Austin. Then we moved further north. Ugh. Between my family doubling in size in the last 2 1/2 years, and trying to time our visits around rush hour, seeing Sis is more challenging than it used to be. But we do still get together; we shoot for twice a month.
Sis has been asking to spend the night at our new house, and now that she's out of school for the summer I thought it would be a good time. So I picked her up Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday she asked me, "How far is it from my house to yours?" I told her probably about 40 minutes in non-rush hour times. When we got into the car for me to take her home I said, "Okay, it's 3:11; let's see how long it takes!"
A couple of hours earlier, Sis' mom had called. She has been sick this week, and it had gotten bad enough to warrant a visit to the ER. As we drove toward her house, I asked Sis if she'd prefer to go to the hospital to see her mom instead of going straight home.
Sis liked that idea, so we called her mom's cell to find out what hospital she was at. Unfortunately her cell wasn't working. There was no answer at her house, so I called The Engineer to see if he could look up hospitals for me. He wasn't available. I called information to see if they could tell me the nearest hospital to Sis' house. They couldn't. This was getting frustrating. I pulled into a parking lot and found a map in the back seat, and we found a hospital near Sis' house. I called information to get the phone number, and they couldn't find it; then we got disconnected. We decided just to head to that hospital since that was the most logical place for her to be.
We got there, parked in the back of the parking lot, put Chickie in the stroller, strapped Zoodle to me in a carrier, and started sweating our way to the ER. The friendly young man at the desk told us Sis' mom was not there. We headed back toward the car.
I got in touch with The Engineer and had him look up the phone number for the hospital we agreed she'd probably visited. We called. She wasn't there. I called The Engineer to get more hospital phone numbers. The next ER gave us great news--she was there. We were already in south Austin; it was rush hour by now; and the hospital was downtown, but we headed back north on the bumper-to-bumper freeway.
We arrived at the hospital, found the correct parking garage, packed up the kids in the stroller and front carrier, and made the trek to the ER. As we walked, I smiled and told Sis, "If we get in there and they tell us she left ten minutes ago, I'm going to just die!" We arrived at the ER and asked for Sis' mom at the desk.
The lady at the desk couldn't find the name in the computer. Keeping a friendly demeanor (over thinly-veiled frustration), I told her what I'd just been told on the phone, and told her the number I'd called. She confirmed it was their number. She did a bit more searching and said, "Well, she's just been discharged." Our hearts sank. "But," the lady continued, "I don't think she's actually left yet. Let me check." She called the discharge desk and assured us that Sis' mom was still on the premises and would soon be exiting into the lobby through nearby doors. Relieved that I wouldn't need to go back to south Austin and would be able to send Sis home with her mom, I waited with Sis and the kids, our eyes on the correct door.
We waited. And waited. And waited a little longer.
After 15 or 20 minutes, I asked at the desk again. The guy now manning the desk said he'd walk to the discharge desk and check for us. He came back a few minutes later. "She left about 30 minutes ago," he said. "Sorry."
So we trekked back to the parking garage, loaded up the kids, and headed back into downtown rush hour traffic. A few minutes before we got to Sis' house, Zoodle started screaming, hungry. We got to Sis' house where I dropped her off. I checked the clock and managed not to say what I was thinking....
"How far is it from my house to yours? About three hours."
After an in-the-car nursing session with Zoodle in front of Sis' house, a quick stop at Sonic for dinner for Chickie and me, and a trip home (without too much traffic), the kids and I arrived home almost exactly four hours after we'd left.
Sis' mom was well enough to go home, which we were thankful for. I, on the other hand, was left hot, grumpy, and hanging by my fingertips on the edge of the "Crazy Cliff". One of these days I just might let go and enjoy the descent into insanity!