Journal Buddies #12 : Write From The Perspective Of a Mouse Going Down a Hole

posted in: Day In The Life 7
The cat is dread and the mouse is me. Image: Illustration from the ‘Reading and Literature First Reader’ by Garuuette Taylor and Margaret Free, (1911).



This is the 12th installment in a series of 51 posts inspired by a list of writing prompts from the website Journal Buddies. If you’d like to know more, here’s where I explain what this is and why I’m doing it.


The second time I went to the Las Vegas airport, I was escaping. (To read the first part of this story, click here.)

Rental car returned, I got a taxi back to my hotel at the Bellagio. The cabbie had the radio on and it brought bad news about the virus and the markets, and there was reporting about President Trump’s announcement the night before of an E.U. travel ban. My stomach was tight. The president wouldn’t just suddenly ground all domestic flights, I told myself; it would be disastrous to displace people under such circumstances. But what if the circumstance is a global pandemic and a stock market crash? What if, for reasons of contagion or economics, great chunks of domestic flights were about to be cancelled or significantly delayed? Forget Mexico: By the time we turned onto the Strip I was trying to calculate how to get the hell out of Las Vegas, and soon. Being in an unfamiliar city in the middle of the desert with two suitcases of dirty laundry and no husband? The back of my neck was clammy.

I called Eric. It went to voicemail.

Adding to the stress of all this was that my man had just spent some eight or nine days in the San Francisco/Oakland area. This was sub-optimal. The virus had been loose in the Bay Area for weeks, they said, and you may recall that when one of the first cruise ships full of infected people was finally allowed to come into port, it docked in San Francisco. Eric actually — albeit accidentally — saw the ship as it came in.

He picked up when I called back, but my relief was short-lived. It was time to cancel Mexico, I said. Too much had changed in the past 24 hours. To my astonishment, he vacillated. We’d be fine, he said, and if the situation was escalating, all the more reason complete our mission. You’re crazy, I said; did he really think leaving the country in an escalating situation was a good idea? We have time, he said. We do not, I said. Fine, he said. Fine, I said, but I didn’t appreciate his tone (always a great choice of words in an argument.) So … now what? He should come to Vegas so we could leave for Chicago, together, first thing in the morning. No, he should come to Vegas and we leave tonight. If there weren’t flights to Vegas tonight, maybe I ought to fly to San Francisco and we get a red-eye home. No, no, he should just fly to Chicago and I should fly … Wait, where the hell are we? Where are you? Where are you? 

I want to pause here for a moment and make it clear — especially to those who think my fears were irrational to begin with — that I was not having a panic attack. I have had two actual panic attacks in my day and I was as far from one of those as I was from my front door. I wasn’t panicking. I was simply enduring the mounting tension that was beginning to give the atmosphere a personality and I did not trust that personality. I wasn’t shaking, I didn’t feel like crying; it just felt like every moment counted. It felt like every move I made had to be smart if I was going to stay one step ahead of all this.

We decided Eric would fly directly to Chicago, and so would I. We had to get home before things changed again. I opened the Southwest app on my phone. There was a flight out of Vegas to Chicago at 4:20 p.m.

It was ten to three.

This gave me just 30 minutes to pack, check-out, and get back to the airport.

When the cab pulled up to the Bellagio and the valet opened my door, it was all I could do not to run straight into the hotel, and sprint through the din of the cavernous casino to the bank of elevators. But I didn’t run. I walked.

This wasn’t an amble, mind you. I didn’t have time for amble. But I forced myself to sort of … glide. Yes, the clock was ticking, but a grown woman running through a public place — especially a busy hotel — would attract attention and surely, surely, I thought, everyone else had been listening to the news and were as tense as I was. It takes one person to yell “Fire!” in a theater to cause a stampede for the door, and this was precisely what I was trying to avoid. I put a placid look on my face and smiled when I greeted the elevator attendant. The doors closed. The car went up. When the doors opened again and I saw no one waiting for the elevator, I shot out like someone had fired a starting gun and whipped down the long hallways to my room.

Folks, I’ve never packed so fast in my life. Normally, I am organized to the point of being neurotic when I pack a suitcase. There’s a place for everything and everything goes into its place. A well-organized suitcase makes for a well-organized mind which makes for a well-organized trip, that’s what I say — it’s practically science! But that afternoonI did my best Tasmanian Devil, flinging things in as quickly as I could: Panties, boots, loose toiletries (pure agony), sneakers, books, notepads, nightgowns — this kind of packing job would’ve been physically painful if I had time to think about it.

The heavy door to my room shut behind me and I headed back down to the lobby. With two suitcases, it was even more important that I remain calm as I made my way back to the taxi line. I marveled at all the people at the slot machines, the craps tables, the bars, the restaurants, drinking their double vodkas as dealers dealt poker hands. I had visions of announcements over the loudspeaker, of shouts and crowds rushing to get out the door. Was this what foresight felt like? Was I leaving just in time to escape pandemonium and take one of the last on-time flights out of Vegas?

However in free-fall the airline industry might be, even after all that’s happened and all that’s still to come, domestic flights still haven’t been grounded. There was plenty of time for me to get home from Vegas and plenty of time for Eric to get out of California. But that’s not what it felt like the second time I went to the airport 20 days ago. That afternoon, I felt like a mouse being chased by a cat, and in the nick of time, I had slipped through a hole to safety.

The hole is quarantine. And we’ve been here ever since.

7 Responses

  1. MarJim
    | Reply

    Hi Mary. When you said, “…the mounting tension that was beginning to give the atmosphere a personality”, I knew exactly what you meant. On Sept 11, I just knew circumstances had shifted, and we were operating in a different environment, with different actions required. Immediately. I also learned that people comprehend such circumstances at their own pace, and that can add a whole extra level of things to deal with. You just have to be grateful for the fact that God gave you radar and resourcefulness. Glad it served you well, and now you are safe at home.

  2. Nancy Pederson
    | Reply

    Mary, I admire that you could act so calmly while having your bit of panic attack. I don’t know if I could do that. With my Parkinson’s Disease, I don’t think I’ll even do that much more flying. Our youngest daughter lives if Arizona, so I might tackle that trip if I can get a nonstop fliight.

  3. Jodie K Moore
    | Reply

    I am so happy to hear your voice again on these posts! I was lucky enough to stock up on supplies at my local quilt shop before non essential businesses were closed here in Wisconsin. I consider myself in extreme retirement and although I cannot physically see my grandchildren, we are lucky enough to live in a time that we can video chat from time to time. It is no sacrifice for me to stay home and play in my craft room to help flatten the curve. Plus it helps my low level anxiety to have the tv off and be creative! Stay well!

  4. Suzanne Brown
    | Reply

    Fabulous recount of your experience…I would have acted much the same. 3 weeks plus of mostlynisolation….glad I have lots to do…even getting back to quilting after 2years off virtual hug

  5. Val
    | Reply

    It’s a strange time and I know we’re all learning many things. Thanks for sharing your intense feelings without a sense of panic.

    Hope to hear about the wedding soon, as need to hear about something happy!

  6. brenda king
    | Reply

    Dear Mary- Thanks for your account of the trip back to Chicago. I can almost feel the tension! Glad you both made it home safely!
    Mary, I have always deeply enjoyed your writing. You are a wonderful writer! However, I have noticed your increased use of profanity. While this may seem modern, and acceptable today, I must mention that I find it disturbing, and distracting from what you are writing about. My ears burn, and for a moment I am removed from your wonderful stories. I know many today believe swearing is inconsequential, but it is offensive to me. Just a suggestion! : ) Congratulations on your marriage, and I always wish you the very best in life! Keep up the fantastic writing! Brenda King

  7. Helen Marie
    | Reply

    I felt that way yesterday. I had not left our acre lot and house in 11 days and we were out of milk and elbow macaroni and butter and sweet potatoes and Goods potato chips. Really. So I showered and put on a pair of jeans and a fluffy floppy turtleneck and my esprit slides and, pocketing my list and two pairs of nitrile gloves (from teacher-daughters science classroom where at this time of the year they grow earthworms and plant seeds – enviro, ya know – which she now has at home trying to keep things growing just in case while teaching and interacting by computer with her beloved students and the sweat hogs, too, but I digress). So I grabbed my purse, threw on my coat, wrapped my Hillary for President bandana around my face, got into the car. Soon as I left our driveway I started to sweat. I went anyway. Stood 6 feet from the person in front of me (while several people, not noticing there’s now a procedure in place, tried to go past the line of 5 persons, standing 6 feet apart, behind two signs that told us to do what we were doing. Arrrrggh. Anyway, I got everything but the butter (it’s gotta be less than $5 plus a lb. there). It wasn’t too painful except for the few people who, once inside, forgot all about the 6 feet. I’m gonna make a quilt with 6 feet. Maybe a hole in the barn door pattern. Love you. Stay strong.

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