Houston: We have a problem
May 13, 2011
(Originally posted: Nov. 19, 2003)
I haven’t had the best of luck whilst traveling in Houston. Houston is where I spent 9/11 and while this past week certainly wasn’t the globally felt disaster of 9/11, it was still a tremendously huge pain in the @$$. Now some of you may be wondering, Houston, wasn’t Smack Down in Houston? Yes, Smack Down was in Houston, but RAW was in Beaumont, TX, which is just 95 miles east. With Houston being a large airline hub, both crews flew in and out of Houston. We landed Monday morning and had to head straight to the building in Beaumont. On our drive East on I-10 we heard on the radio that a Tornado had actually touched down just North West of Houston George Bush, International Airport (the one we were flying in and out of) and that a severe Tornado watch was in effect. Weather wasn’t too bad where we were so we didn’t think too much of it and just drove to the show.
During the show word got around that several Tornados had hit Houston and that they had closed I-10 east of Houston. For those of you with poor short-term memory, we had just driven East on I-10 from Houston to get to Beaumont. Yes they had just closed the road we needed to get back to Houston to catch our morning flight home. Always the travel optimists (I’m not sure why we’re optimistic, considering all of the travel difficulties we experience) we figured they’d get the roads open before we needed them later that night.
By the end of the show, word was that they had closed Houston International, all local hotels were sold out (we of course hadn’t checked in or made reservations yet) and I-10 was still closed. At this time I was checking maps to see how far we were from New Orleans, in hopes of laying groundwork for a backup plan. We (Hurricane, Christian, and I) decide to give I-10 a go anyway and hope for the best in Houston. Weather was atrocious, but the roads were drivable. Half way to Houston, break lights start to light up. I slow down (I’m driving, while Christian and Hurricane nap, Be sure to watch Confidential this week for details on this travel partner violation) and see a Tractor Trailer jack knifed completely sideways across I-10 West Bound. (again for the directionally challenged, the direction we are traveling) When I get up to the accident there is one car ahead of us and another pulled off to the side. The one car inches around the accident on the shoulder and gets by. I then decide to do the same, as we pull up on the shoulder I realize that the car on the shoulder is Test and one of the referees whose last name I can’t even begin to spell so he will remain nameless. Test is on his cell phone and said referee has a flashlight and is inspecting the accident.
We pull off to find out what is going on and realize that the transport has completely pinned and crushed a car up against the cement divider of the highway. Test is talking to the police and our nameless referee is yelling that the guy in the car is breathing but crushed pretty bad, and that there is no way they are getting him out of there. At this point we see sirens pulling up from the other direction and try to decide what to do. We didn’t want to just drive off and worry about ourselves but couldn’t think of any help we could really provide. Emergency crews were arriving and traffic was backing up behind us. We took the chance while we had it and eased back on I-10 and continued west. It was a pretty cautious quiet drive from that point with all of us hoping the guy in the car would make it.
We made it to Houston but our adventure wasn’t over yet. On Belt Line 8 heading north to the airport we hit a huge water covered patch of road. There was only one other car on the road and it was a large truck, which had stopped, obviously debating how far the washed out section extended and whether or not he could make it to the other side safely. I decided to try it but before to long I could feel the water splashing against the floor of the car and could see no end in sight to the water. Eventually I chickened out and backed all the way out of the water. (I really didn’t want to get stuck in a lake in a flooded rental car at 1am. We backtracked and found another way to the airport.
Now for the fun part: finding a hotel. The first couple places we tried, they all but laughed at us, claiming no vacancy. There is a 24 hour breakfast place by the airport and Christian decided that we were most likely going to spend the next 5 hours sitting there drinking coffee while trying to stay awake. On our way there we made a few more unsuccessful attempts to find rooms, until we happened along a Motel 6. Motel 6’s are usually on our Cold Day in Hell list, but apparently, the difference between a, Cold Day in Hell, and Wet Day in Houston, is really just splitting hairs. Christian runs in to check if they have rooms, while Hurricane decided he doesn’t care anymore he’s just sleeping in the car. Christian comes back out and says, “They’ve got 2 rooms, smoking, $37, no airport shuttle.”
Hurricane and Christian had 7:30 flight and mine was just after 9. I told them I needed sleep. I’d drop them at the terminal then return the car in the morning, so I wouldn’t be all that early. Hurricane said great, you guys take the rooms; I’m sleeping in the car.
Christian and I go to check in, but wait! We’re not done yet. Christian tells the lady, we’ll take the rooms. She replies that she only has one room left, everything else, sold-out!
But you told me a minute ago that you had two rooms?
Sorry, I only have one room, with two double beds.
Fine, it’s only 4 ˝ hours we’ll share.
To this the lady replies, “Would you like smoking, or non?” Okay this is where I started losing it. If there is only one room left in the hotel how can she be offering us an option? After further futile debate, she checks us in and tries to show us on a map where our room is located. I’ve been in hotels before where this is required, but this Motel 6 had one hallway and three floors. We were in room 311. I’m guessing we were on the third floor, and more often than not, room numbers are in order so I’m pretty sure we could have found it without the 5 minute Motel 6 geography lesson.
Miraculously enough our room was on the third floor and as I predicted between rooms 310 and 312. We settled in and despite a power outage, and a fire alarm, managed to get almost 4 quality hours of sleep, before returning to the car to scare the living hell out of The Hurricane. I guess we could have woken him nicely but where is the fun in that. Thankfully flights were on time in the morning and we all headed home.
Till next week, stay out of Houston.