Head jerks forward. Eyes open. Where the heck am I. Are we still in Minneapolis. Can’t figure out if the plane has taken off. Or is landing. It hasn’t taken off. Thirty minutes later we bounce down in Fargo North Dakota.
Alan the Executive Director of the trial lawyer association has texted me to call him. I do. The airport terminal is clean, new and small. At the landing by the escalator, a big tall blond woman is hugging another big tall blond woman in greeting. They appear to be sisters. Talking in a language that is definitely not English.
No one’s waiting for me. Walk outside. There are five cars. At the far end of the roadway sits a solitary van. Covered in ads. Look at phone. No call back from Alan. Raise my arm. The van doesn’t move. Raise arm again. The van moves an inch then stops. Still not sure if it is a cab. Raise arm one more time and wave. The van creeps forward. The driver seems a little amazed that he has a customer. Ask him to take me to the Holiday Inn. Turns on the clicker. It starts at $4.50.
Am looking out the window. It is dusk. There are no hills. We approach an area that has some low rise buildings. The tallest announces itself to be the Holiday Inn. Hand over $13.00 and a tip.
Check in. The clerk says turn right then right then left. Or is it left then right. Can’t remember. The room numbers are in the 400s but am on the first floor. Looking for 171. Now the numbers are in the 100s. Back to 400s. Criss cross the pool area a couple times, rolling luggage. There’s a pirate’s ship in there. And two ping pong tables. Finally find the room. Pull out ipad. Hit Fandango. There’s a movie theater close by. It is 9:15. Call downstairs.
Is it safe to walk to the theater at night.
As in creepy people safe or getting hit by a car safe, he says.
Both. I laugh.
No creepy people, but you have to cross a road.
He offers to drive me one way so will know how to walk back.
Get lost twice walking to the lobby. Adam is standing in the middle of it. Waiting for me. He invites me to get into the front passenger seat of the van. He is from Minnesota. He has a slight build and slightly greased dark hair. Not the best complexion. Is in his final quarter of hotel and restaurant management. Has an interview to potentially work at the Four Seasons in Maui. If only he can get the job and his girlfriend will agree to move. What a dream that would be.
The theater is two blocks away. After popcorn, diet coke and two hours of movie happiness, I run in the wind. Through the parking lot of the sleepy theater. Past the McDonalds. Get lost inside the Holiday Inn Express which is the wrong hotel. Find a janitor who points me to the correct regular Holiday Inn. Where I get lost again. Spend more time lost in the hotels than outside. Find 171. Finish powerpoint for the speech and it is just about 3:00 am.
Wake up at 7:30. Lie there til 8:30. Hustle. Make only one wrong turn before arriving at the conference.
A man is walking towards me beaming. It is Alan. His phone went dead last night. He stayed out late. Michael Freeman (speaker after me) was out with the group at the Lucky Seven last night. He was so fun. Not many speakers hang out with us like that, Alan says. I am of course a case in point. Anyway, he got home late, charged his dead phone. And at 6:00 am it restarted itself off and woke him up. Beeping with my message (“I’m here) from the night before. He slaps his head with his hand.
Don’t worry about it. I didn’t mind walking from the airport to the hotel. He isn’t sure if I’m joking. I wait a few seconds. Then laugh.
It is 9:10. There are two large trays of giant cinnamon rolls. Have been trying to reduce morning sugar intake. At least they are baked not fried. The choice is frosted or pecan glazed. Do calculations in head and choose frosted. Turns out to be a good choice because there is almond paste in there.
The speaker before me finishes early at 9:15. They take a break. I plug in my computer before the tech guy can get there. Mark the attorney putting on the seminar, greets me. We met sometime around 2004 or 2005 at an AAJ car crash seminar in New Orleans. Alan is fairly tall and big. Mark is bigger and taller. He is twinkling around me. Buzzing actually.
Dave Bossart, a hall of fame lawyer, comes and gives a hug. Have heard him speak many times around the country. He is twinkling too.
Am eating the cinnamon roll in between saying hello.
Break ends. Mark gives an introduction. And then says – let’s give her our traditional North Dakota Welcome.
Am thinking – do they say something quaint from the movie.
The room rustles. Chairs are pushed back. They give a standing ovation. Before the presentation.
This is the nicest welcome have ever received. Usually am greeted by a polite semi round of applause from those who are not glued to solitaire or the news on their laptop. Or more typically – expectant critical stares.
The glow of being appreciated before have opened mouth, carries me through the next hour and a half. Finish. Dave gives two more hugs. Michael F is next. More hugs. The only bad thing is, am leaving in an hour. Should have stayed longer. But it is mother’s day weekend, and need to get home.
Walk down the hall to the lobby. It is 11:30. There is a luncheon in a banquet room. Filled with women with short white puffy hair. In front of the door, the sign reads: Goodwill Bridge Club. Reach the front desk – can you call me a cab. They give me a look. Remember the shocked look on the cab driver’s face.
We have a van and can give you a ride, they say. They check their books. No problem in ten minutes. Walk back to room. Mind wanders and lands on the Morrow case I tried a few years ago. Against Holiday Inn for a dangerous courtesy bus – in Seattle. Will not mention this to the van driver.
Do not get lost. Change, pack, return to lobby.
Kip is putting stamps on a box. Just a minute, he says. And walks me to the van. Tosses my bag in the back and has me get into the front passenger seat.
Kip asks if I’ve seen the movie Fargo. A long time ago, I say. How many times have you seen it. He says too many times to count and laughs.
His hair is light brown and buzz cut. He is another big one. With freckles. He has been to Seattle once. Saw Pike’s Place. Mainly he goes to Oregon. His uncle lives there. He loves to fish. He caught a sturgeon on the Columbia River. Have you ever seen those – they are scary looking. Prehistoric, he says. In fact, I have a picture of one of them on my phone.
We are on the elevated entrance ramp loop to the freeway. He pulls out his phone and starts scrolling through it. I’m watching the edge of the ramp. He manages to stay on the road. Here it is!: he announces proudly. Hands over his phone. Yep. There he is. Holding a sturgeon.
Did you eat it, I ask.
When I was a girl, one of my favorite fairy tales was about a prince who was turned into a carp. I can feel the fear of the prince.
Nope, threw it back, Chip says.
Arrive at the airport. Chip hands over the suitcase. Thanks, I say. Yaaah, y’betcha, he grins. I say bye. He waves and tells me to come again. Have turned and am walking into the building. He yells – and make sure you see the movie Fargo again.