14 Red Flags
The older one gets in their life, wisdom is one of the qualities that people hope flourishes from their experiences. I am a great believer in wisdom. I find every day that my intuition works more clearly than it did 5 or 10 years ago. I am thankful for that. However, in some situations, Madam Wisdom is taking her time in making her grand entrance. This little story is about how I had a bummer of a vacation this summer and looking back, on the signals or "red flags" that appeared before would have lessened the stress of this learning experience for me.
You would think that when people take vacations to relax, meet people and have fun, they mostly turn out that way. I for one was looking forward to my trip back to Utah. To visit a long time friend with benefits and see new things.
It has been 14 years since my last visit to Salt Lake City. I found myself knowing more about the area than I did before. Therefore, I knew the places I want to experience. I did plan to stay with Jeffrey. He was a friend but an eclectic, eccentric friend. We had kept in contact the whole 14 years. The past few months he was calling on a weekly basis. I thought nothing of it because as you age, loneliness creeps in and makes you do foolish things. Even though we would disagree and downright argue about things, I just took it as me being my individualistic self.
I had just finished planning for 3 months. Before I went on my trip. I had bought new luggage, new clothes (maxed out my Lane Bryant Charge). I made sure I packed enough for two weeks. I was going to help him celebrate his 72nd birthday and travel to Moab and Arches National Park. I even had my senior pass to the national parks. I had planned to go on the 25th of June and stay until the 16th of July. Jeffrey said I could stay as long as I wanted. He even suggested until October. RED FLAG #1. I knew that was strange because he knew I had to go back to work. My ego took these statements as someone who wanted to be with me and share good times.
I wanted to go camping. I wanted to see some of Arizona. I knew he didn't have his Jeep anymore but I just figured he got something comparable. I was ready.
My son was supposed to take me to the airport. He called Uber instead. That should have been a premonition of sad things to come but I didn't pay attention to my angels.
I arrived on time at the airport. Feeling good about traveling alone and on my own. I was careful not to set my bag down. I was really careful about eating airport food, even though most places were closed at 10:00 P.M. Jeffrey said "Don't worry. There are plenty of places to eat after midnight here in Salt Lake City.
The flight was shorter than I remember but the view at night was breathtaking. All of the little lights of the city were twinkling as much as my eyes were. I was excited. Not being a fan of flying kept my senses a little apprehensive. I constantly put negative thoughts away. We landed. I got my bag and no Jeffrey. The man has no cell phone. He doesn't believe in them. I called his home and woke him from a nap. It was good that he did not live far from the airport. I waited alone outside because he wasn't going to park and come inside. RED FLAG #2.
He drove up in a very dirty, tan 1998 Grand Prix. He got out and looked nothing like I remember. His face was gaunt and thin. He had on wrinkled cargo pants and a red shirt. He was in need of a haircut or perm but covered his head with an untied doo-rag and a baseball cap. I bounced up and gave him a hug. He looked at me and said. "You look well." I smiled. That was good enough for me. I was on vacation although, in my heart and mind, I knew platonic friendship was all that I was offering. He could at least combed his hair.
It's 12:36, he is driving to the Post Office to pick up mail. This man never lets stuff be sent to his apartment so he uses a P.O Box RED FLAG #3.
Jeffrey drove around a bit before we got to his apartment. We never stopped to eat. He talked and talked and talked. I have learned with him to keep quiet because he likes to hear himself bloviate about his life. Its ok, I was sleepy anyway.
The apartment was the same one he was in 14 years ago. It was the same basement apartment and when he opened the door, THE SAME CARPET, THE SAME KITCHEN, THE SAME MAGNET LETTERS I PUT ON THE FRIDGE 14 YEARS AGO! RED FLAG #4.
A big box with a kitchen cabinet in it was in the living room. A stack of Sunday newspapers in the kitchen cabinets and a big shelving unit of canned goods overran the kitchen. Two microwaves stacked next to the refrigerator. YES, the man looked like a candidate for the show Hoarders. The faint smell of damp carpet flowed through my nose. He started showing me around. We stepped into the tiny bedroom. There was only a path for my feet. The room floor was lined with boxes and boots. The walls lined with hung clothes that would not fit in an already bulging closet. He had cleaned out a dresser drawer for me and stood there watching me unpack.
My tummy was growling. He then took me into his tiny second bedroom with his new computer. The Wasatch Mountains were no match for the piles of paper products and file cabinets crammed into this tiny 8X10 space. I stepped in and "SQUISH, SQUISH was the sound made as my wet bare feet sank into the napless dark green aged carpet. Jeffrey says "OH, yeah, I have a leak in here so be careful." I asked him how long had he been dealing with the leak. He tells me that a couple of months but he is taking care of it. DING! DING! DING! RED FLAG #5!
My nasal passages started dancing as I told him that he obviously has black mold under the carpet. I was assured the cleaned it but the leak was still there. The bathroom was another strange area. liter bottles of Coke were around the room. He used it to clean the toilet. Several shower rods to hang towels on and my particular towel and washcloth were new. The shower had NO cold water so imagine taking sponge baths. Little bottles were taken from hotels all over in straight rows. Big bottles of body wash circled the perimeter of the tub. The floor was totally covered with small bathmats to give the appearance of being carpeted and the ultimate, piped in marching band music everytime you closed the door. These things are maybe pink flags because I knew the man was eccentric for years.
I know you are saying to yourself, WHY, didn't you excuse your self and go stay in a hotel. Well, I generally thought it would hurt his feelings, I didn't have extra money for that and it was 3 in the morning. Any excuse right? RED FLAG #6
Hungry but then NOT hungry was the name of the game here. He brought out of the darkness a can of fruit cocktail that was outdated in 2016 and a bottle of brown stuff labeled honey, 2014. RED FLAG #7. He saw the puzzled look on my face and said: "Honey never expires!" I just went to bed. In that tiring yet intense sleep, even my guardian angels knew they were going to earn some golden something on this journey!
Day one of my vacation began seemingly innocent. I woke up to an old-fashioned telephone ring. Jeffrey, who slept and apparently always sleeps on his sofa in that mangled mess of a living room, gets calls every day from his friends around 6: 00 A.M. RED FLAG #8.
Now why you ask is that a red flag? Well, think about how many men do you know get calls from their male buddies every morning. He didn't even try to be quiet in case I was still sleeping. I thought we would be out and about. He talked and talked until 11:00 then asked if we wanted to go to breakfast. I said yes. We drove to an eat-as-much-as-you-want diner type. It was very clean, neat and the clientele was elderly, not much different than ourselves. I noticed that in Utah, people are so friendly. It doesn't matter what race you are, what gender you are or your physical appearance. They are just downright neighborly. This is obviously a reason why Jeffrey likes it here. I ate a modest brunch while he kept going back for massive amounts, two big glasses of water and gobbled his meal like a 3-year-old child in a candy store. RED FLAG #9.
"Can you handle the bill, my money is funny until Wednesday." he chimed. I replied, "Uh sure, I can handle a $24.00 tab, Jeffrey!" I was a bit insulted, not because he asked me to pay but I thought he knew me better than that. Why would I go on a major vacation without spendable funds?
We were in a small shopping center and I noticed a Tuesday Morning store. I love going to Tuesday Morning in different cities. They get different things wherever you go. It was so close, about 500 yards, I said let's walk. I walked, he decided to drive around me and park. He sat in the car as I went to the store. Since he still had that doo-rag and a baseball cap on, that was fine with me.
Salt Lake City is an enigma all in itself. The streets are wide and welcoming. The people are smiling and friendly and the scenery is breathtaking. The city itself is on a flat plain that is positioned between, the Wasatch Mountains to the east and north. The Oquirrh (pronounced "oak her") Mountains border the western edge of the valley. Salt Lake's official elevation is 4,330 feet/1,320 meters above sea level. The city is situated on land once covered by the prehistoric Lake Bonneville. Jeffrey proceeded to drive me around town up through the Wasatch Mountains talking all the time. When I proceeded to try to talk, he cut me off, dismissed anything I said and kept driving. At one point, as he talked about the endless number of beautiful women he had dated. I stopped him and said. "We dated once too and I AM a beautiful woman." RED FLAG #10 Whenever a man is callous enough not to reference you in any positive light, LEAVE.
But I didn't. I really wanted to do research at the Mormon Family Center. This place was on the grounds of the Mormon Temple. When we arrived there was a generous amount of tourists. The grounds are so lovely around the church. The round building was where the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir practices. There were other buildings all with equally well manicured floral gardens. People smiled and were friendly. As Jeffrey proceeds to degrade the cultural differences of the Mormons by urging me to see if I can see their underwear, we walk around the church and a wedding was just completed. Pictures being taken. He was disheveled and he actually took off the doo-rag and baseball cap but he looked like a homeless man. I am sure folks thought I took him out of the home for the day. The Family Center was just beautiful. As I was escorted to the computers to begin framing my family tree, Jeffrey found a big couch to lay on like it was his living room. I chose only to stay for an hour because he was embarrassing. At first, he tried to talk them to death then started snoring. When we left he was mad at me because I didn't stay longer. GO FIGURE!
The views from mountain tops and valley lows were just wonderful. The colorful greens and the blue sky as a backdrop. It was like a car commercial driving around the edges. The only thing is, he never stopped. I had to view all from an outdated car with dusty windows. I was in total observation mode. Watching where I was, which is something everyone should do when in a strange city, and paying attention to the erratic conversations he and I were having. My mind and spirit just kept telling me to be quiet, this is not the time and place to be yourself until you are gone or going. I was trying to figure out how to do that.
After about 4 hours of the touring, we stopped for water. Remember, this is Utah and it is HOT. It's a different kind of heat than Georgia but it is still hot even with car air conditioning. We drove to a desolate place at the base of the Great Salt Lake. We were supposed to go on a lake dinner cruise. I should have known that was a lie because he wasn't dressed for any such occasion. All I got to witness was him pissing on the shore of the salty beach. Bummer. Even the Morton Salt Museum was closed. By the time we got back, I was hungry, he was hungry. The meal was the leftover chicken in a hoarders refrigerator and I went to bed, hungry. RED FLAG #11
Day two was one of great joy. We finally went somewhere. RING, RING!, his friends calling. After a 30 min chat with them, he informed me of the fires in southern Utah and that we can't go to the main places I took this trip for. I reminded him of the black mold and he was very irritated that I brought it up again. However, before I went to sleep I got out my trusty tablet and looked up all I could about black mold. Besides, my nose and eyes were becoming quite irritated in my surroundings. Should I have left? YES. Did I? NO. I ate some oatmeal. That was current in its date and prepackaged!
The plan was to go to Antelope Island. I had never heard of it before. There are actual islands on the Great Salt Lake. The 12-mile causeway that leads to the island was so barren and dry. Little does media let on but the Great Salt Lake is drying up. The vegetation resembles that of a Nevada desert. The island has a welcome center. It is basically geared for camping and there are all kinds of places to witness nature. Wild buffalo, antelope, wild coyotes were there but hiding in plain sight. The utter quietness of nature permeated my ears. It was so quiet, not even chirping birds. There was just this eerie calm and quiet amidst salty dry air. I snapped as many pics as I could.
There was an abandoned sheep farm with the original tools from the 1800s. That was very interesting. There were a few tourists like me. Unfortunately, Jeffrey found one couple from England and talked and talked and I had to go sit down. He badgered conversation on those poor folks for 45 minutes. I had a look on my face that said. "I can't help shut him up, you are on your own!"
Its 98 degrees, dry, almost unbreathable. As we leave this beautiful place, Jeffrey wants to stop at a community farm and pick fresh veggies. Any other time this would be fantastic but NOT TODAY. We end up going to a really cute little restaurant called The Black Bear. I got a Rueben. I always try Ruebens to see if they can match Izzies in Cincinnati, my hometown. He, on the other hand, flirts with the poor under 20 age waitress asking for chicken breasts and make sure they are bigger than Dolly Pardon. Then he can't eat it all and needs a doggie bag. :( The rest of the evening between the increasing discomfort of breathing mold spores in a non-air-conditioned atmosphere, he proceeds to keep talking.
NOTE: I am a retired elementary teacher. I say that to wonder why is this man questioning more than an oral SAT exam? An example is "Do you know how many great lakes there are? Can you name them? Which is the largest? Do you know what the Continental Divide is? What are the 3 types of rock? This went on until I got on my phone and texted my cousin and daughter to find a way I can escape. I had had enough. RED FLAG #12 If someone is intimidated by who or what you are, say bye-bye.
I am not a woman who likes hurting friends or being a bitch. However, my health, my wealth and sanity were under attack. I had to go. My cousin is being given play by play and cracking up. If it wasn't for her generosity of time and my daughter's generosity of getting me a one-way ticket to where she is, I don't know what I would have done. I couldn't change my flight without a $200.00 penalty. On to day 3. RED FLAG #13 Make sure you can change plans.
RING RING RING! His friends called and he was preoccupied with them on the phone extremely long today. Perhaps he has had enough of me. I know I had enough of him. Breakfast was pretty safe in McDonald's. Although he had never heard of a McGriddle, I got one anyway. Through his nonstop bantering, my daughter informed me she had a flight that would rescue me the next afternoon and could I hang on. She wanted to know if I was safe. I was perplexed. I was safe but was unable to verbalize it. Maybe I wasn't. Then as I listened to his incessant talking, I realized this man was recently in a mental hospital. He was complaining that nobody visited him and he was mad at his family.
My angels told me to HUSH, do not respond. I didn't. That whole day was spent with one more long drive but this one was different. It was on the other side of Salt Lake City. On the way to Park City where the 2002 Winter Olympics occurred. We drove past Sundance where Robert Redford lived. Up and up we went. I was looking over cliffs. There were 2000 foot drops. I had "white knuckled" the armrest. THERE WERE NO GUARD RAILS. But even more scary, I could smell burning rubber.
When we reached the peak of one of the hills, I asked him about the smell. He replied, "Oh that's just my brake pads, are you scared?"
"YES, I AM. was my retort. Please take me down. RED FLAG #14 When you smell something strange, act on it. As we descended, he had to show me all of the places he drove a bus, worked, etc. I have no idea why people live in those mountains, especially during winter. It would not be me, view or no view. Home again, home again, jiggity jig.
That evening I kept waiting for the right time to tell him I was going to Denver the following day. I sat in the living room staring at the T.V. but not really watching. He was on and off of the phone. I snuck my announcement in between his calls. Well then the TV was too loud and he continued to munch on that 2016 expired fruit cocktail and he wanted to sleep so I crept to my room, packed my stuff and sat up all night. You never know what will set folks off. I ate a banana, drank water, held my breath until 2:00 the next afternoon.
That morning he got about 5 phone calls because after all, it was his 72 birthday. That was why I wanted to be there in the first place. You might think it rude, but he did not get a birthday gift or a greeting from me. I just wanted OUT! I noticed my towel and washcloth had been moved from where I hung them. I cleaned up and waited till he took me to the airport. It was only a 10-minute drive but it felt like 60 minutes. When we arrived, he got my bags out and said: "Well I hope we had some good times." I just gave him a very icy glare and marched off through the doors. On to see my baby girl in Denver.
So at any age wisdom can appear and disappear. Friends come and friends go. Overall I learned something from these red flags. #1, Always trust that inner voice. I am a big girl and can travel for myself and by myself. #2, Mental health is very real and very fragile, I appreciate every day as it comes. #3, I love myself as I am validation comes from within. My family had my back. Other friends did too. Know your role in this world.