So we were on our way. The drive went smoothly. At Ritzville, an hour westish of Spokane, we turned our kids over to the care of their Grandpa Tom, who was caravanning with us. He was splitting off to head to Vancouver, WA, where we had planned to stay the night before (back when we thought we would be making this journey in Andy's red and black truck--the one Tano calls "Red Bull" and Elli insists on calling "Man Bug"). The kids would get in some aunt and uncle and cousin time there, then meet up with us later when we all met in Seattle for a Mariner's game a few days later. Andy and I drove on to Seattle, where we would set up our booth for the next day's show.
We didn't make it to the venue until 4 PM. Set-up was from 12-6, so we were really running behind. We were very tired, but determined to push out all the stops and throw our last bit of energy into getting everything set up.
When we finally found where we were supposed to be, the next set of challenges began. We have done a lot of shows over the years with Andy's furniture, and we know a bit about how they work. It was glaringly obvious to us that this venue was NOT an ideal location for a show of this magnitude. The loading dock was a tiny, cramped lot at the bottom of a steep hill and could only accommodate three trucks at a time. From the dock, another steep ramp climbed back up to the show floor. No vehicles were allowed to drive on to the show floor. No vendor parking was available. It was a mess.
We scrambled around, trying to push one HEAVY hand cart-load after another up the steep ramp and keep our truck and trailer from being ticketed, dripping with the sweat of exertion combined with stress.
But then I met HER...the lady with the kind face at the wheel of a small forklift. She worked for the show. Her services were free to us and she was authorized to drive on the show floor. She was happy to haul our big items for us, including the two workbenches, which probably weigh several hundred pounds each. Her name was Dawn. She was easily my favorite person in the world at that moment in time.
With Dawn's help, the trailer was quickly unloaded. We wouldn't have time to set everything up before the 6 PM deadline, but we did what we could, committing to come back first thing in the morning to finish the job before the show opened at noon.
We drove another hour or so down the road to Gig Harbor, where we were to stay with our friends, Mike and Stephanie for the night. We had a wonderful evening catching up with them, slept like the dead in their gracious guest bed, and then were on our way back to the show first thing the next morning.
While I began the tedious process of setting up our booth, Andy went in search of parking. We would spend our other two nights in Seattle on Bainbridge Island, at the home of our friends, Tom and Eileen. We wouldn't be needing a vehicle at all, since we could catch a bus to the ferry station and ferry back and forth to the island as pedestrians, a much cheaper and simpler way to travel on Puget Sound. So, we needed to find a place to leave our rig for the rest of Friday, Friday night, all day Saturday, Saturday night and all day Sunday.
Near the Space Needle.
In downtown Seattle.
A full-size long-bed pick up truck pulling a ten-foot cargo trailer.
This might not seem like a big deal to you, but if you know this area of Seattle, you get it.
Andy called me on the cell phone in utter frustration. It was darn near impossible to find a lot--any lot--at any price--that could accommodate us. Even if he could find a lot we would fit in, it would cost over a hundred dollars to park. I found some show management people and made our plight known. As the big boss thought over the options, another show employee who was listening in pulled out a slip of white paper.
"Would this help?" she asked with a smile, and handed it to her boss. He smiled and handed it to me, then walked away to handle someone else's crisis. I scanned the paper, not understanding, and she explained, "It's a parking permit to park for free right here on the loading dock--truck and trailer both, and it's good for the entire weekend. I had one extra and I don't need it. You can have it if it would help."
Problem solved. I stared at her in disbelief. "Are you serious?"
I thanked her and called Andy with the good news. This was H-U-G-E.
When Andy arrived, our parking spot wasn't quite ready for us, so we successfully lobbied for a bit of street parking while we waited and Andy went back to the booth.
She came and got me when there was a vacancy on the loading dock. I ran up to street level, thanked the security guard for allowing the temporary parking, then drove our truck down the dock to where she was waiting. She showed me where I was to jimmy our rig in between two big semi trucks. I nervously admitted that I wasn't very good at backing up the truck and trailer, especially not into a tight spot like that one.
She, however, is a truck driver. I handed her the keys and she expertly slid our vehicle into the narrow parking spot. She was my hero. I thanked her again. I doubt that she gets many hugs in her line of work, driving a big rig for the Woodworking Shows, but I gave her one. I asked her name and told her that if I ever had another daughter, I would have to name the child after her.
Rita's eyes twinkled with merriment and she beamed with mock satisfaction.
The show had begun and the stress of the two previous days began to melt away as we got into the groove of chatting it up with the crowd of attendees.
At one point, I wandered toward the ladies room and noticed my two angels, Dawn and Rita, sitting at the information table together. I waltzed up to them to chat and both greeted me with big smiles, each remembering how happy she had made me with her helpfulness.
Neither knew I had already met the other one. Rita spoke first; "Dawn, this is Sherry. She's going to name her next daughter after me."
Dawn's jaw dropped. "What??!! After you? I was the one who saved her butt last night when I carried her stuff in with my forklift!"
Rita didn't miss a beat; "Yeah? Well I got her free parking for the whole weekend!"
They were competing for who could out-serve me. I loved it.
Dawn feigned a look of hurt and addressed me. "So you're saying that parking beats forklift?"
I shrugged apologetically.
Rita grinned and Dawn hung her head, defeated.
"'Rita Dawn' is a pretty name," I offered. "How would you like that?"
Dawn brightened a little.
We all laughed. I had made two friends.
Later that same day, I tried to get ice for my cooler, so Andy and I could keep our lunches and snacks chilled for the weekend. The concession stand, however, only carried bottled drinks and didn't have ice. No ice at all! How crazy! It was a small problem, I grant you, but still, I had counted on saving a few bucks by making our own lunches and I really needed ice for the cooler.
Bewildered, I started walking toward our booth again, wondering where I could find ice so our food wouldn't spoil. I came upon Rita and asked her if she had any ideas for me.
She had something better than ice for me. She had an extra cooler, the kind that you plug in like a mini-fridge, that she wasn't using right now. It was outside in her truck and we could go get it right now. It wasn't convenient to go all the way out to her vehicle for it, and I thanked her profusely--again.
"I think it's not going to be 'Rita Dawn,' after all," she joked as she handed me the cooler. "I think it should be just 'Rita'--period."
"How about 'Rita Rita?'" I countered.
"Now you're talking!" She grinned and we parted ways again.
More adventures to come...