By Pat Cummings, Becketwood Member
“Mercury is the planet that rules communication, and when it goes retrograde, it’s usually associated with miscommunications, technology issues, anxiety, and travel problems….” Jessica Booth in Bustle
Every year my friend Judy and I go to Tucson for a few days to visit our friend Pat, who spends her winters there. Our Mercury Retrograde adventures began this year when we decided we could save money by flying to L.A. and then to Tucson, instead of non-stop to Tucson.
First, the Minneapolis ticket agent gave Judy the wrong boarding pass. When she got to the TSA line, they sent her back to the agent to get the right one. I got through Security quickly and waited for her just outside, but there were so many people I knew I’d never spot her, so I went to the Gate. Then we exchanged, or tried to exchange, text messages about where each of us was. It turned out we were both at the Gate, but around the corner from each other. When they started boarding, we finally connected. Judy decided we were old and therefore could board early, so we did.
I had an aisle seat with a very large couple sitting next to me. The woman encroached on my space during the entire long flight to L.A. Then, we had a four-hour layover in LAX before the short flight to Tucson. We had been upgraded to First Class for that flight. It was a small plane with four First Class seats that faced the bulkhead. We got a bottle of water, a pillow, and a blanket as our First Class amenities.
At the Tucson airport, we hired a very charming Somali man who drove us to La Quinta in his very nice Lincoln Town Car. When we said we were from Minnesota, he said, “Ilhan!”
At La Quinta, we had reserved two rooms and had requested that they be on the first floor next to or near each other. We were told at the desk that the only rooms available were on first and second floor because a large group of young women wheelchair basketball players had checked in ahead of us. Judy took the second floor room.
Pat picked us up at La Quinta and the plan was to go to dinner at Feast, the scene of Pat’s terrible fall last year. We got lost, but eventually we found the restaurant. Pat and Judy shared a duck entrée that was so underdone, they sent it back.
On Day 2, Judy and I volunteered to do the driving and Pat turned over her car to us. Our goal was to find Chula’s Art Shop, a new shop we had read about in the local paper. Judy drove and Pat navigated. After driving all over downtown Tucson and not finding Chula’s, we gave up in frustration. We backtracked and went to our favorite Antigone bookstore. On Day 3, we set out again to find Chula’s. Eureka! We found it only two blocks from Antigone.
On Day 4, I drove. We went to the Loft Theatre to see a documentary about Mike Wallace and then decided to go to St. Phillips Center—an upscale shopping center that we like. We found it almost by accident, but it was Sunday and all of the shops were closed. Then I dropped Judy’s cell phone and the back came off.
The lesson of Day 5 was “Never trust MapQuest!” It was our day to go to Tubac, usually a 50- minute trip to this well-known artists’ colony. We knew that we eventually had to get on #10 and then #19 straight to Tubac, but couldn’t figure out how to get to #10. Judy finally got MapQuest directions and we set out—I was driving, Judy was navigating, and Pat stayed home. After maneuvering our way through downtown road construction, we finally got to #10 and Judy, reading the MapQuest directions, said “Go west on 10 to Exit 34.” The farther we went, the more apparent it was that we were going in the wrong direction. The signs said “To Phoenix” and the exit numbers were in the 200s and increasing. Judy, who had put her faith in MapQuest, reluctantly agreed that we should turn around. Then she dropped my cell phone and the screen cracked. We drove to the next exit and crossed over the highway, but the entrance to 10 East was closed. So we drove along the frontage road until we finally came to an open entrance. And away we went to Tubac, which is at Exit 34. It took us 90 minutes.
We had fun in Tubac, but when it was time to go back to Tucson, we couldn’t find the car. We split up to cover more ground. After trudging up and down the dusty and now deserted streets of Tubac, I finally identified Pat’s car by its Minnesota license plates. I tried to call Judy, but there’s apparently no cell service in Tubac, so I walked up the hill and spotted her. She had been trying to call me, too, with the same result. No cell service. The ride home took 50 minutes. We avoided going through downtown and it was a straight shot from #10 right down Speedway to Pat’s house. Hooray!
On our sixth and last day, we had to take the car back to Pat’s place. I was driving. So I pulled out of the La Quinta parking lot and drove the wrong way on a one-way street! Judy screamed, the car coming right at us stopped, and I drove back into the parking lot. A harrowing test of our hearts and nervous systems.
It was time to say goodbye to Tucson. We had the same charming Somali man as our driver. The flight was a little rocky over the mountains, but we managed to arrive on time in Minneapolis and Judy’s son Colin was there to pick us up.
After all of our misadventures, most of them involving technology and driving, I’ll never again question my friend Jan when she warns me that Mercury is in retrograde.