Blown Away Down Under


What was I thinking when the tour company asked if I'd share a room with someone whose roommate decided to trade her for a male companion, leaving Hilda* with a $600 single supplement to pay unless she could find another single roomie for the tour Down Under? I was the only candidate.

I'm an organized, Felix Unger sort of gal, and I had a carefully planned agenda for this trip, so the idea of deferring to a roommate on occasion didn't thrill. I considered my tolerance level for all the bad habits a roomie might exhibit. Most of our room time would be spent sleeping, I figured. In case of snoring, I had ear plugs. In case she lacked my sense of order, I could tidy up. The tour company assured me Hilda was well-traveled and unlikely to cling. I decided that $600 would buy a lot of gourmet meals and souvenirs, so, good (and cheap) Samaritan was I.

Hilda turned out to be Oscar Madison, earning the nickname Hurricane Hilda. Within five minutes of luggage delivery, she redecorated every inch of every room in Early Landfill style by hurling the contents of her bags into the air.

She did exhibit one Felix trait that I lacked, however. Those bags contained a hefty stash of magic powders to cure her many maladies. Added to water or juice, they turned into potions, that is, what didn't land on whatever item the packets hovered over when opened with a flourish that never failed to spill. One time she landscaped the phone nested in a built-in console at pillow-level between the beds with magic grit. I found the odor nauseating but a horde of red ants found the flavor delectable.

Vitamin vapors formed only one of the aromas she dispersed. She farted more than a fraternity after a night of beer and bean dip. I thought I'd packed everything I could possibly need for the trip, but I overlooked a gas mask. Good thing neither of us smoked.

Then there was her industrial strength nighttime menthol rub. It burned my eyes for 20 minutes after application and exfoliated my lungs while fumigating the air for hours, ending the tropical mosquito problem. When middle-of-the-night leg cramps kept her awake, she claimed her doctor advised calisthenics on the floor. Back-to-carpet, a few inches from my bed, she flapped her arms and legs making hurricane noises for twenty minutes or so. On coverless nights, I felt and smelled gusts of remedy-redolent air accost my body before I heard the howl of a Category 2 storm. Not every night, mind you, only nights when she didn't visit the loo several times.

Workout grunts and breaking wind weren't the only noises Hurricane Hilda generated. She was a surround-sound power plant, chattering unceasingly─while I read, wrote in my journal, sat behind the closed bathroom door, even over the noise of the shower and after lights out. No matter where we were─museum, sheep shearing, glowworm cavern, Aborigine performance, Great Barrier Reef─she described her life on the farm in detail, continuously and repeatedly. She wasn't in Kansas anymore, but she lacked Dorothy's wonder at the land Down Under.

Hurricane Hilda shunned hotel laundries. One night in anticipation of an early morning departure, I laid out the next day's clothes on the third bed. When Hilda took off her PJs the next morning, she said, "Eeewwww, these stink," (my first, and only, clue she possessed a sense of smell) then tossed them on top of my clean clothes. She dressed and took the offenders into the bathroom to wash and spread the wet PJs on top of the radiator to dry. I took my bags and myself outside to get a head start in case they ignited.

What I experienced certainly wasn't worth the $600 savings. When we parted, Hurricane invited me to visit her in Kansas. For that adventure I would surely need to pack a bull dozer to navigate the rooms in her house, ear plugs, a nose plug, a Haz Mat suit and a pair of ruby slippers to rush me home.

That's one trip I passed─without gas.

#Name changed to conceal the guilty.



C Celeste

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