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Smell the Coffee: How bad was this day? Let me commence

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I was telling a friend about the terrible day I was having when he started laughing. He apologized for laughing, and then started laughing some more.

"I'm sorry," he said. "At least your column's going to be easy this week. I'll even give you your first line: 'Top this.'"

I expect the hardest part will be fitting it in the space I'm allotted.

This past Friday, my daughter and I took a vacation day to go to Ohio to visit my niece's journalism class and see her in a school play that same night. Since my car complains so loudly over its daily eight-mile commute, we stopped by Enterprise and picked up a rental. A great little car. Mazda 6.

The first half of the trip was perfect. Impressive school. Great play. Stayed up late catching up. In the morning, we saw my oldest niece in a horse show and then visited her new house. Aside from getting turned around when trying to find the interstate again, all was going so smooth.

Until my right foot got in more of a hurry to get home than it should have.

In my own defense, I was attempting to set the cruise control when the blue lights appeared. I tried to explain that it was a rental and I'd never had a car with cruise before, but every word I spoke seemed to anger him more. It's no wonder Ohio drivers are so maddeningly slow. They've been conditioned.

Calculating what the ticket meant to my already tenuous finances occupied my thoughts for the rest of the drive. To say I was in a black mood was an understatement.

We were just outside Charleston when one of my daughter's friends texted to ask if Celeste could stay the night. Since she had her things in the car, I said I'd take her straight there. As she'd never been to this friend's home in St. Albans before, she called and got directions. Twenty minutes or so later, we were driving down the girl's street. We couldn't see the house numbers in the dark, so Celeste called and asked her friend to come outside so we could find her.

"Oh," said the friend. "Guess I should've told you. I'm not there."

You'd think that at some point while giving directions, it might occur to a person to mention that they aren't actually at the place they're detailing how to find. But no. We'd driven 20 minutes out of our way for nothing.

After dropping Celeste off where her friends actually were, I pulled up in front of my house. And immediately realized I didn't have a key. I'd left mine with the friend who was watching my dogs.

No big deal, I told myself. It's a somewhat rickety old house. Shouldn't be that hard to get in. Rather than drive a half-hour to get a key, I decided I'd take a shot at breaking in.

I went from door one to the next, giving each some pretty hard kicks, thinking I could just pop one open like they do on TV. Nothing doing. Those doors were thoroughly uncooperative. I moved on to the windows, shoving and cussing and making nearly as much racket with them as I did with the doors.

But I eventually found a basement window that had been left unlocked.

Except it had been left unlocked because it was too small for someone to fit through.

I've now gone back and measured. The opening is 11 inches high. I'm ever so much bigger than 11 inches. Still, I channeled my inner Rubberman and poured myself through that wee opening, then squirted onto the floor with a loud clatter. It wasn't pretty or painless, but I was inside. Now I could take a hot bath and put on some Christmas music and read myself to sleep.

Except my bad day wasn't over. Oh, no. It wasn't even close. The closing credits hadn't yet started to roll.

When I reached the top of the stairs, I was greeted by my two severely frenzied dogs. I soon realized they had been racing at full speed all around the house, urinating the entire time I'd been trying to get in. Apparently, their strategy for dealing with burglars is to drown them. Or perhaps gross them out to a degree where they'd flee.

I visualized one dog calling out as he ran, "A moat! A moat! Hurry! Build a moat!"

I did not appreciate their attempt. No, I didn't. There's not a single item in my home with a value that warrants such an extreme level of protection.

I spent the next hour scrubbing my floors, the whole time cursing Ohio and thoughtless teenagers and dogs -- and myself, for not having hidden a key. Once I was done, I went out to the car to retrieve my bag and overnight case.

And I hadn't yet reached the bottom step when I heard the door slam shut behind me.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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