The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Nate and I had a good plan for yesterday: a trip to Albany. He had a few new bathrooms to visit – a McDonald’s in Watervliet, a renovated Dunkin’ Donuts on Western Ave., Subway and Panera on New Scotland Road and the new Five Guys in Colonie Center. I’m always up for Five Guys and the one on his “toilaroid” list (pictures of bathrooms for you new readers) turned out to be next door to Barnes & Noble. That would kill an hour or so. Then, if all went well, perhaps a trip to Last Vestige for record shopping.

I woke Nate up at 9 for a 10 AM departure. All was going according to plan during the 90 minute drive. We listened to a lot of ’80’s music, his favorite, and chatted a bit. At one point, Nate asked if he could use my iPhone, which he does often and I gladly said yes.

The great unravelling began soon after. From the corner of my eye I saw his window roll down and, to my horror, Nate made a move to toss my phone out the window! In his mind, it was a flashback to when he destroyed his first iPod by washing it. To me, it was a real effort to throw my phone away (he once did that with an old laptop).

I freaked out. I don’t really know what he’s capable of at any given moment. In 2005, at the midway point of our drive from Chicago to Cooperstown, Nate had an old-fashioned tantrum, punching the plexiglass frame of an old Alan Freed concert poster. I had no choice but to forcibly extricate him from the hall, Nate shrieking the whole way out. He was fifteen.

I waited in the car for Karen, Robbie and Joey. It was hellish, with Nate screaming and, like William Hurt in Altered States, smashing himself into the doors. He was frantic, a caged animal, and I wasn’t sure if we could make it through the next 400 miles without him trying to open the door and leap out.

Back to yesterday. After I stopped him from pitching my phone onto the highway, we made it to Watervliet without incident and headed to Five Guys. There Nate was acting weirdly, making more than the usual trips to the bathroom. I grew concerned. It seemed that the faces of the men leaving the rest room were telegraphing that something strange was going on in there. When he finally sat down to eat, he took a few nibbles of his plain burger and gagged as if preparing to throw up. It was going to be a bad scene, I could tell.

When Nate is out of control, there’s no way to predict what he’ll do, and that’s the worse part. He becomes eminently untrustworthy and I can’t leave him alone. So, I told him we’d skip the bookstore but still make his “toialroid” trips. At first, he was good with that, but once we got in the Kia he began to go berserk.

Nate began to obsess about getting gas, about his Five Guys lunch and other tic-like catchphrases. I admit he was driving me insane and I started screaming myself that he should shut up. I mean screaming (and cursing), my voice getting higher and higher and out of control. That only made it worse and he bit his arm, something he hasn’t done in a while.

Still, I didn’t want to deprive him of his goals, and took him to Dunkin’ Donuts. I went in with him because of his condition and I wasn’t sure what he’d do. The New Scotland Road places had to be crossed off the list because there was limited street parking amidst a ton of construction. He was pretty good with that.

As we headed home, I tried to explain to Nate that when he behaves so badly it makes me feel lousy about taking him on a special trip. After all, I did end up driving three hours for a burger, fries and three bathroom visits! He was shaky, upset with the day but trying his best to cope.

I stopped for gas in Duanesburg, first sending a message to Robbie who was having his own troubles in Brazil (computer related). I have to say that between Nate and Rob my brain felt like it was being crushed. As I pumped gas, Nate went to the bathroom and I didn’t think to stop him.

He was gone a long time and I began to panic. I shouldn’t have let him go in and, I was certain, he did something outlandish in there. I could hear the police cars coming, I could see Nate being held by some older man through the window, Nate trying to get away and yelling. I rushed into the building.

There was Nate slowly making his way out. It was all in my imagination, but that’s what living with him can do. It sends me to scary places. I was so relieved that my worst case scenario hadn’t played out.

The drive home was fine, Nate calmed down and napped. In Cooperstown, he was laughing that the guy who sang “Puttin’ On the Ritz” was named Taco. I reminded him that I wanted to wash the car and we stopped for a few minutes.

Before I got out, Nate began to sob about the lack of snow, a constant theme this winter. Still, I proceeded to clean the car, though through the soapsudsed windshield I could see him melting down, blubbering.

When I got back into the driver’s seat, he told me he was not crying about the weather now, that he was sad about how I was angry with him at Five Guys, how bad the day was, how we fought and that he wished he could press a do-over button and start again. It was heartbreaking.

What could have been, and should have been, a fun day had turned out to be a disaster.

And it was only 2:30.


About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is the former Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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