If just before bed you get one of those odd, fleeting thoughts along the lines of “The fire alarm is going to ring,” pay attention.

Yep: At around 6:30 a.m. I was awakened by a shrieking siren. I’m glad I’ve learned to listen to those weird little flashes I get from time to time. When the shrieking started, I was ready to roll.

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Somebody pulling out of a parking lot hit my daughter and son-in-law’s car. The driver was too busy looking off to the side to notice that she was aimed straight at the Chevy Cavalier in the left-turn lane.

Even though she wasn’t going fast, the T-boning she gave the car damaged both doors on the passenger side. Neither one will open now and there’s probably unseen damage because it felt wonky during the drive home.

As Abby notes in this post, it looks as though the other driver’s insurance company will declare it totaled, as in “It costs more to fix than it’s worth.”

Here’s the thing: Their car was old. But it was still reliable transportation. With luck it would have lasted them several more years, years during which they would have been saving for a replacement vehicle.


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Potty animals.

“FEMALE TOILET SHOWERS” is painted on the door of the bathroom near my room at the hostel. If you had the same reaction to “toilet shower” that I did, please write and let me know that I am not alone.

Two toilets are available, each in its own little room. The showers are off to the left. Important safety note if you plan to stay at a hostel: When a sign notes that there may be hot water shortages between 8 and 10 a.m., believe that sign.

This morning when I walked in, the first thing I saw was someone standing in front of a toilet. Facing the wrong way. And offloading.

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Made you look, didn’t I?

Seriously: One of the six people in my “pod bed shared room” brought some machetes back from the Congo. The situation is too convoluted to explain because I’m on free wifi at McDonalds and I’m getting glared at for sitting here so long.

Short form: He spent several hours in a jail cell when his souvenirs were discovered.

“They took my pocketknife, too,” he said, sounding dispirited. “They told me any blade that locks is illegal, and any blade longer than three inches is illegal.”

“Most machete blades are longer than three inches,” I agreed.

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Floss-less in Houston.

The good news: Despite the fact that there were at least a dozen kids and babies on the first flight, there was no wailing or weeping. Not even from the grownups.

The bad news: They made me gate-check my bag after all, saying it was a little too tall to fit into the overhead compartment. That’ll teach me to over-pack an “expandable” suiter.

I’m in Houston for a four-hour layover, preparatory to a nine-hour flight. I had a swell plate of barbecue (beef and pork — why limit myself?) on the theory that a big meal should come in the middle of the day rather than right before I get on the plane.

They will feed us for free on the Houston-to-Heathrow flight, but it won’t be a huge meal. I pre-ordered the kosher meal on the theory that it won’t be overly heavy or greasy. Or what mystery author Sue Grafton memorably described as a “fist of chicken, covered with rubber cement.”

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