Cincinatti Death Machine

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Updated version performed at That Time of the Month 1/12/14

Cincinatti Death Machine

by Paulina Combow

Are you the type of person who looks for signs from the universe? Yeah, me neither.  If I was, then the events leading up to me leaving the country would have caused me to never leave.  My study abroad trip to Europe was planned for the summer between my sophomore and Junior years of college, which is pretty common for dorky white kids.  I had recently made the transition from dorm to apartment so I wasn’t in any hurry to go back to my hometown of Franklin, KY.  I hung out with my new roommates until the day I was to leave for Europe and timed it out so I would only have a few minutes to spare between the time I arrived and when my dad and sister would drive me to the airport to leave the country.  Unfortunately, our first flight was out of the Cincinnati airport, which is a three-hour drive from my hometown.  This was a huge “drop me off at the airport” favor, but since I would be gone for nearly six weeks, it wouldn’t make sense to pay to leave my car at the airport.

At the last minute, the decision was made to drive my car, a 10-year-old Volkswagen Jetta that had not seen much regular maintenance other than oil changes.  We loaded up my two gigantic, overstuffed, and overweight suitcases, and headed up north to the Kentucky/Ohio state line.  The drive was spent reiterating every detail about my trip to my dad for the fiftieth time.  Who I was traveling with, where I was staying, who I was staying with, who was paying for all this?  Literally the second the airport came into view over the horizon, something flipped in my car and it completely shut down.  All the power went out, the steering wheel wouldn’t budge, and it just died on the side of the road like a trusted but dying oxen on the Oregon Trail.   My dad got out to look under the hood, but looked more confused staring at the German engineering than I would look trying to figure out German train schedules. At the time, my dad was a police officer, so he called the local police to come give us a hand.  I was scheduled to arrive at the gate five hours before our flight because we were a group of 19 year olds from colleges all over the SouthEast with shiny new passports flying out of the country for the first time, and the time was fast approaching.   The officer drove me the rest of the way to the airport while my dad and sister waited for a tow truck.  My dad didn’t have a cell phone, so I gave him my old Nokia chunk to use and keep in this emergency situation.  This was back when cell phones were just phones which meant it didn’t have texting or internet, so it wouldn’t have been much use to me in Europe unless I needed to sit and play Snake.  I even packed a separate alarm clock back then before our amazing smart phones made things like compasses, alarm clocks, calculators, address books, walkmans, cameras and thermometers obsolete.

I was delivered to the airport in the backseat of a police car.  I’d like to tell you this was foreign to me, but when you grow up the kid of a police officer, you get used to cars with plate glass barriers and backseats that only open from the outside.  We call this the “cage,” where I’m well aware many drunk and stoned perpetrators have barfed and peed on this very bench seat since it was last hosed off.  I could tell the cop was doing his duty to help me, but wasn’t trying to be my bell hop.  He begrudgingly helped me take my bags to the escalator, then set me free on the stairway to heaven.  I was alone in a the middle of the night at an empty airport with no phone and no one to talk to, with the added weight of wondering what happened to my dad, sister, and primary mode of transportation.  Slowly, the other members of my traveling party started to assemble.  They were about a dozen other college kids my age with matching luggage and worried parents.  We gathered in a circle of carry-ons and neck pillows, and I told them my tale.  I think some of them felt uneasy, like all this stuff was a bad omen, or maybe I was cursed.  Also the movie Final Destination was still relevant, so we were all a little skittish about flying with a group of students.

The rest of the trip went smoothly, some Nyquil, a couple layovers and a few inflight movies later I was getting settled into my host family’s house in Austria.  I bought a calling card, found a pay phone, and called home to see what happened with my car.  I really hoped it was something simple that could be replaced, but no, it needed a new transmission.  It was going to cost over a thousand dollars to replace.  My dad and sister ended up having to get a hotel room and then rent a car just to get back home.  Somehow in all the commotion my dad lost my cell phone after being in charge of it less than 24 hours.  So that was gone forever.  My little sister managed to remember to grab my car CD player cover.  If this is something you don’t remember, it was a safety feature to keep your non-factory cd player from getting stolen.  You would just pop off the faceplate and stick it in your purse.  Because all felons are dying to get their hands on my $99 stereo from Best Buy.

The mechanic at the Volkswagen dealership was extra nice.  They didn’t charge me to keep my car there the entire time, and someone even dropped my car off at the airport the night I was due back.

So the night we arrived back in Cincinnati- picture it- I’ve been in Europe for six weeks.  I haven’t driven or done anything other than walk and ride public transportation for over a month.  I’ve been traveling all night and gone backward seven time zones, and now I have to find my car in a an airport garage and drive over three hours back home alone.  Also I don’t have a cell phone.  Also, I realize, I don’t have any music since my sister took my CD player faceplate.  I was exhausted and it was pitch black the whole way back.  I’m pretty sure I spotted a UFO although no one believes me.  I made it home finally although I had to stop at every rest stop to jump around and wake myself up. The highlight of the trip was the Taco Bell drive-thru  when the person on the other end of the speaker asked if I would like to try their new Crunch Wrap.  “YES! Tell me more! What is this crunch wrap you speak of?” I was JUST finding out about this Mexican masterpiece and wanted to know everything.

The three-hour drive felt like 30.  I’ve driven from Nashville to Los Angeles in a Ford Focus and somehow this felt longer.  The only thing I had to keep me company were the printed MapQuest directions, which I was deciphering backwards to navigate my way home.  Finally, I pulled up to my parent’s house where everyone was still sound asleep but there were a couple lights left on for me.  I stumbled up the stairs to my old bedroom and went into a deep hibernation. I finally arrived safely home from my 6-week adventure.  Before the trip I was given lots of advice, solicited and otherwise – keep your money in a pouch under your shirt, pack things in your shoes to save room in your suitcase, don’t fall asleep on trains,  if a Gypsy throws their baby at you, don’t catch it – but nobody could have warned me that the scariest, most dangerous parts of my trip were getting to and from the airport.

citations and starvation

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I had a recent 30-hour road trip that was a complete shit show from beginning to end. Sometimes I get work as an extra on TV shows and movies. It’s pleasurable because I make money, meet interesting/ridiculous people and get to add to my “acting” resume.  I wanted to check out Atlanta since there are so many shows filming there that I love.  I finally got booked for a TV show and was available to go.  It was only a one-day shoot and not much money, but I decided to try it out.  The call time was 3pm so I left my house about 9am since there’s a one-hour time change.  First off, my tires were low and I couldn’t get them filled at the gas station.  Maybe my hands were just too cold, but it wasn’t working.  Screw it. I filled up with gas and went inside to find something fit for human consumption.  I decided on an extra large coffee, oatmeal and water.  The coffee and oatmeal went in my cup holders.  About 10 minutes down the road I noticed my cup holders were running over with coffee.  My cup had a hole.  I gulped down the coffee, blotted it up with an entire box of tissues stolen from a motel, and realized a loose earring was stuck in the bottom of the cup.  Ughhh.  In all the commotion I moved the oatmeal and sat it on top of my duffel bag.  Now that the coffee was cleaned up I looked over and saw the oatmeal dumped out onto my laptop.  Son of a B—–!  I pulled over to clean up the oatmeal and thankfully the quilted laptop sleeve kept it safe.  I ate a few bites of oatmeal before realizing I didn’t stir it all the way so there were only huge chunks of dried peaches at the bottom.  Gross. 

Two hours into the drive I was stopped for traffic.  It didn’t take too long to get around, but once I got up to the scene of the accident I looked over to see it was an overturned jackknifed SUV pulling an RV. Scary! Even worse, alongside the interstate were a dozen cages filled with PUGS! I’m a huge pug lover and active in pug rescue (yes they need to be rescued, they can’t survive in the wild!), so I hopped on the Facebook and posted on the National Pug Rescue page.  All the pug lovers swooped into action to find out where the pugs were going and turned out they were part of a TV show for FOX and on their way home.  They’re all okay. 

I finally got to the check-in site without a minute to spare.  It was 3pm and all I had eaten was half a gas station oatmeal cup.  Guess what, there was no craft services table! So hungry.  Luckily another extra donated a Cliff bar to my stomach.  We filmed our scenes until about 10pm and I decided I was too tired to drive back to Nashville.  Another female comic said it would be okay for me to spend the night, and told me about a show where I could still get some stage time.  The bar was called “Hole in the Wall” so I looked it up to make sure I wasn’t going to a bad part of town in Atlanta.  I saw there was a Trader Joe’s right next door so I felt more than safe.  “I’ll be the scariest person there.  I guess that’s where people go to drink when Trader Joe’s is out of Almond Butter. What do you mean there’s a two-jar limit?” Yep, those were my jokes.  The only problem was I hadn’t planned on spending the night, and the only clothes I had were workout clothes for the filming.  I searched in my trunk through a bag of clothes that were meant to be dropped off at Goodwill, but they were all summer clothes.  That tell you how long they were in my trunk.  No luck, I had to wear my leggings and racer back tank to do standup in front of strangers in a smoky bar. 

My friend Elise met up with me.  She’s a great comic living in Atlanta and everyone should check her out.  She’s opening up for Dave Atelle all weekend at the Atlanta Punchline.  I put her address into my GPS and we headed to her house to retire for the evening.  I didn’t even think to check the zip code and ended up in the suburbs.  All of Atlanta’s streets have the same names, and all related to peach trees.  I got her correct address and headed over.  She warned me there was a long and scary driveway. It WAS a very long and dark and scary driveway…about a mile long in fact.  I pulled up to the house, which turned out to be a mansion.  There weren’t any lights on and I texted her, “I’m here”.  “No you’re not,” she responded.  I had turned in one house too early and had been sitting in front of a stranger’s mansion at midnight with my brights on.  No big Deal.  I finally made it to her house, got settled on the couch, and spent 30 minutes figuring out how to turn on the TV. 

I planned on getting up early, going to IKEA and getting home before rush hour traffic.  What actually happened was I overslept to about 11am.  I got all showered and packed (still no clean clothes or toothbrush) and headed to IKEA when my phone died.  It was plugged into the phone charger but too dead to turn on.  To get it to charge faster I tried charging it from my laptop…still nothing.  It looked like I was running a Kinko’s/homeless shelter from my car.  I navigated my way through the twisty turny woodsy roads with only my keen sense of direction and love of Swedish home goods.  Finally my phone came on and I was able to find IKEA, but not until past noon.  Way behind schedule.  I feasted on meatballs and shopped till I dropped.  Finally satisfied, I was ready to get back on the road back home.  I was less than a mile away from the interstate when I got pulled over by Atlanta metro police.  Apparently I had made a right turn on red when there was a sign prohibiting it.  Seriously?  There aren’t any drug dealers or rapists that need catchin’?  You can just camp out by this “No right turns” sign?  Fine.  So I got a citation with a court date scheduled for my birthday.  Sidebar: I’ve only been to IKEA one other time, and my car was rear-ended on my way out of the parking lot.  That place is wonderful but cursed. 

Long story longer…I finally made it home just in time to change clothes and head off to host trivia at yet another bar.  Why am I telling you all this? Because despite everything, it’s an adventure.  Every day pursuing the comedy dream feels like an adventure.  Sometimes those adventures cost money and do damage to my personal items, but it’s the path I’ve chosen and the one I intend to stick with.  Probably not everyone chasing that comedy dream makes things quite so hard on themselves or is an eternal shit show such as myself, but hey, I always need new material. 

Christmas no no no’s – Comedy Pug Hugs

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We love everything about Christmas, but there are certain things that cramp our holiday cheer and we’d like to put a moratorium on them.  These are things we would like to see die, pass away, like Gangnum Style or Jon and Kate Plus 8.  Actually the 8 can live. Here’s our top ten list: 

  1. Potlucks at work-  The company is too cheap to spring for catering, and the guy you know never washes his hands after using the bathroom wants you to try his spicy meatballs.   “Hey, did you try my balls!?? Put my balls in your mouth!” We get it, we’ve all seen SNL. 
  2. Inappropriate kisses – my uncle acts like he’s gonna kiss my cheek and then accidentally plants one on my mouth. And my grandma always gives me a big wet kiss on my eyeball.  Hey grandma, I wear mascara now and you just licked it off!
  3. The person at the office who buys everyone stuff so you feel obligated to get them something- That’s the same girl who gets too drunk at the office party and cries because nobody appreciates all she does for them.  “I do so much for you guys! I spent hours making these oatmeal cookies in a jar! Just add milk!” 
  4. Homemade gifts – Anything you put into a mason jar is not a gift. Unless there’s a diamond ring in that mason jar, it is NOT a present.  I can make my own hot chocolate.
  5. Guy who puts the mistletoe on his crotch- Kissing under mistletoe is a tradition for people who like each other, it’s not a binding contract.  And I’m not coming close to your trouser snake, sir.  Please stop pushing me down and then squatting over my head. 
  6. Parents who get way too into Elf on the Shelf–  “Oh look, he put his feet in the flour and now he’s running all around the kitchen! He’s so naughty!” You’re just making a big mess and being nasty. 
  7. Giving donation in my name.  You donated money in my honor to Donor’s choose?  The donor should be able to choose if they want to donate their gift.  Can the donor choose me to receive the money? 
  8. Sitting on Santa’s lap – The same perv at the office is all “I brought my Santa costume. It’s just silk boxers and a hat.  Come get your free candy cane!”  Does that guy even work here?  You smell like a garbage can fire.       
  9. Decorate your car like a reindeer.  Yeah, it looks great, but It’s gonna get WET. 
  10. Posting pictures of your gifts – We’re SO happy you’re almost 30 and your parents still get you everything on your list, but some of us asked our parents to pay our car insurance this year, and they said no.  I got a Circuit City gift card.  I don’t’ even know where one is.  Antioch? I’m not going to Antioch. 

By Paulina Combow and Mary Jay Berger