We park in the garage beneath the arena, and The Oracle goes inside to see if he can get tickets for us. We see other statisticians and their families waltzing about with passes around their necks, so we're thinking it won't be a problem. The kids and I are playing Red Light/Green Light as we wait. The Oracle returns with four tickets and we're good to go.
We have about forty minutes to kill before the game starts at 1:00, and the kids want to look around a bit before we eventually go inside. Precious Daughter and Mighty B. are starting to ask for lunch, so our plan is to get something to eat before taking our seats.
They scan our tickets -- No Re-entry! -- and we go upstairs. Our timing is good, with about five minutes to go before the National Anthem. After browbeating two overexcited kids to use the bathroom, we head for the concessions. Our choices are limited to pizza, hot dogs, and fried seafood. My weird kids don't eat pizza and are afraid of tasting fried seafood, so they settle on hot dogs. There's a big sign on the cash register announcing "cash only" for sales. The vendor tells me all of the vendors are cash only. He also said it wasn't their decision; the higher-ups decided it would go this way. He directs me to an ATM near where we entered the second floor.
I should point out that this arena is old, and it's purpose when constructed several decades ago had nothing to do with basketball. The basics have been retrofitted and remodeled for modern-day use and all-purpose function, but not in the realm of customer conveniences. The ATM in question was a temporary model, and it was sucked dry of cash probably as early as Friday's four-game marathon. A note taped to the screen directed users to the hotel next door.
The first thought to flash in my head was, "No Re-entry!" Now what are we supposed to do? The security guards are courteous and helpful despite helping countless others in the same plight, and through the rigmarole of stamping my hand and signing my tickets, I'm permitted to leave the arena without fear of "No Re-entry!"
Our little parade makes its way next door to discover that the only ATM I'm permitted to access in the hotel is out of order. It'll gleefully take my card and let me hit buttons, but the screen remains dark and I can only guess at what I'm doing.
Back out the door into the cold and damp, and we're walking to a mall that's another block or so away. Their ATM is offline.
Well, now, by this time, the kids are really hungry. My stomach is rather rumbly too. Hunger is the average suburban kid's greatest discomfort, so my kids believe that their misery is so acute they can't possibly walk another step. I remind them that they both had nice breakfasts -- nicer than usual thanks to our power outtage -- and can't resist telling them that there are plenty of kids in the world who didn't have breakfast at all. They responded by whining. I suggest that they'd have a lot more energy if they didn't waste it on complaining and Mommy wouldn't be such a grouch either.
Across the way I see another possibility, but it's not a kid-friendly establishment, and I'm told I am not permitted to bring my children inside.
I didn't mean to do it, but I whined. The man led us to the ATM.
Sixty dollars in hand (and a five dollar ATM fee!), we return to the arena. Precious and Mighty are practically staggering like refugees from the Sahara. Her Nibs' babblings have taken on a whiny tone, but I think her misery was due to being strapped down (first the car seat then the stroller) for nearly four hours. Past security, up the elevator, and we're facing the glory of food.
Our first stop is the candy counter. I normally wouldn't do things this way, but despite being whiny, they were well-behaved in the face of my snappish nagging to stay together, keep up, and keep moving. The candy is a mix-and-match plethora of sugary goodness at an astonishing $4 per quarter pound. Precious Daughter gets Reese's Pieces and red Swedish fish. Mighty B. chooses gummy worms and the larger Swedish fish in assorted colors. At the last minute I went with black licorice bites. Yeah, it spikes your blood pressure, and I'm sure the day's aggravation already gave it a boost, but I felt entitled.
Precious Daughter wants a bag of roasted peanuts, too.
Finally, we're in line for lunch. Hot dogs and chips for the kids, fried shrimp for me. With beverages it comes to a whopping $27. I'd already blown $15 on peanuts and candy. Sheesh! I was under the delusion that my $60 might include a little souvenir for the kids.
By the time we get to our seats, it's halftime, which means we spent an hour wandering about in search of money, and I'm amazed that I didn't bite off anyone's head the whole time. Security is once again very helpful, staying with Her Nibs in the stroller while I shuttle kids, food, beverages, and eventually Her Nibs back and forth. By the time I take my seat, halftime is half over.
The chips that came with the hot dog are "crab flavored." The kids are horrified and won't touch them. Precious daughter does not like her hot dog, but being a meanie-grouch mom, I refuse to buy anything else. I offer her some of my fried shrimp, and she refuses. She feasts on peanuts, candy, and root beer. Mighty B. downs his hot dog and his sister's. My stomach is roiling at their culinary indulgences, but they were good through the ATM ordeal and I say nothing. Her Nibs wants to try shrimp, but she hasn't tasted any shellfish yet, and I'm not willing to experiment in a crowded arena with the luck we're having this weekend. She eats the goodies I had stashed in my purse and she's happy.
My fried shrimp were excellent, by the way. The vendor is a well-known seafood restaurant in the region or I never would have ordered them in the first place. Even then, I half expected rubbery, overcooked, greasy shrimp simply because it's a temporary fast-food setup. But, I was hungry, didn't want a hot dog, and didn't want to wait (or make the kids wait) in another line to get pizza. For once, my impatience paid off. They were plentiful perfectly-fried shrimp. Precious Daughter missed out on a good thing.
The second half of the game was really good. The kids even got into it. Nobody whined about being bored and wanting to take a walk, and the team we were rooting for won the conference title. After the Oracle finished adding up the scorebook, we headed for home.
Our power was still out. Drat. I'd called my FIL that morning to arrange lodging for the night in the face of that possibility, but I was still disappointed. The Shedder eagerly greeted us and became increasingly antsy as we fumbled about our darkening house and stuffed the car with bedding, toiletries, stuff to do, a load of laundry (school uniforms), and changes of clothes. Chessie huddled in Mighty B's blankets and didn't come out. We ate dinner at a local diner and returned to the house to let the Shedder pee one more time and check the water bowls before heading to the in-laws' house fifteen minutes away.
We knew it was going to be a long night, but we had no idea how crazy it would be.
(To be continued.)
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