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Free Parking

What’s going right for you today? What shines, even in the tiniest?

When we invite someone to join one of our family Monopoly slug-fests, we make a point to explain the house rules: At all times there’s a $500 bill from the bank in the center of the board and all fines—Chance, Community Chest, taxes and get-out-of-jail fees—are piled on top. Whoever lands on Free Parking wins the pot, often saving a nearly impoverished real estate mogul and reversing the tide of the game.

Sixteen became a Monopoly whiz at a young age, playing fast and spending big and always wanting to be the banker. Thirteen took to the game later, but shows her wily side by hiding money so her opponents never really have a clear idea of how well or poorly she’s doing. Both of my peeps have an uncanny knack for saving themselves by landing on Free Parking at the most opportune moments for their game. Once fairly unbeatable at board and card games, I find myself often on the losing end of our marathons.

Monopoly takes a combination of luck and skill. The right roll of the dice, the right property purchase, a savvy trade and your fortunes can soar. My thesis advisor wisely said words I’ve carried with me since the summer of 1990: You have to work really hard to get lucky. So when my Partner-in-Crime (Tia) opined that we should take a mini-break weekend in Minneapolis together, I thought about all of the difficulties of the previous six weeks and agreed we should try to make it happen. I never expected that the ducks would fall into line with almost no effort and in short order we were on the road to fun.

On the drive up, Tia told me that right after she booked our hotel room, she had received an email offering a better rate with free parking. She leapt on it and we were feeling pretty good about saving $50 off of the cost of our trip.

The miles flew by and we reached our destination in record time. A mermaid on land, Sara—with long wavy red hair and green fingernails—checked us in. We requested extra pillows and a room away from the elevators. Sara handed us free bottles of water and we were off to see our new home for two nights.

Tia slid her key into the lock and I hip-checked the door open. It swung into the room to reveal a three-foot long cylindrical tube about a foot high blocking the entrance. The cord was plugged in, but there was no apparent motor noise. “I don’t think that’s supposed to be in here,” I said. As we backed out I snapped a picture on my phone. Back down the elevator to see the lovely Sara. She looked completely ashen when we showed her the snapshot, asking to take my phone around the corner to show her manager. When she came back it was with a new room assignment and breakfast, she assured us, would be on her. The device, she was quick to explain, was a room ionizer. The room should have been taken out of service—later I would understand this likely meant someone had smoked in the room and they were attempting to get the smell out.


The unexpected guest in room 1554

Off we went to room #2, the same room layout two floors down. I kicked off my shoes and Tia called for luggage racks. We were probably just about to get to the, “which bed would you like” conversation when I walked over to plug my phone in between the beds and stepped in … something wet.

When there’s a puddle between the beds in a hotel room, you just have to hope that it’s water. Nonetheless, by this point Tia was steamed and down she went to see the lovely Sara once again. I washed my foot. A short time passed before I received a text: Pack up, we’re moving. With all of the coming and going, it had taken more than an hour and a half, but we felt it was all worth it when we moved into adjoining King-bed rooms with gorgeous views of the Minneapolis skyline.


Isn’t it wonderful that sunsets are always free?

At the delightful lounge atop the Foshay Tower a little while later, we tallied: free parking, free water, free breakfast, free snacks (in the hotel’s executive lounge), free room. We decided it was a little like a scavenger hunt—not that we had a list but rather we’d be open to the surprises our journey was offering. Each time I made a suggestion (something that surprises us, money), Tia would nearly instantly find something that fit the bill. That night we added free pens, a free glimpse of spring in the flower bulbs that were blooming, a remarkably temperate evening, a free penny on the ground, and free earplugs from a jazz club.

The next morning a Twin Cities friend treated us to brunch, Tia found the jeans she was looking for at a significant discount, and I got to witness the set-up of what would surely be a big romantic gesture, a young man taping long-stemmed roses and notes in floral envelopes labeled “Dom” at intervals along a walking bridge. It feels wonderful to encounter someone working so hard to make someone else happy. Free romantic moment.

Believe it or not the free continued when we arrived home. So, too, did the less delightful realities (my treadmill is the latest major appliance to give up the ghost), but I found myself much less chagrined by the woes. Was it the balance of freebies? Well, they were delightful, to be certain, and items in the plus column are always good in the face of so many negatives. But really, it was the two full days and two full nights of free time that made the difference—there is perhaps no greater gift than idle time in a glorious city in the early spring with the best possible company. We landed on Free Parking, fair and square, and appreciated all of the gifts therein.

In the midst of a chaotic if never boring life, five years ago today I launched this blog. I’ve posted 126 times and had over 5000 visitors. I don’t think that’s a lot by blogosphere standards, but it’s a lot to me, and I’m so grateful to each of you who have taken the time to go on this journey with me. Overneathitall continues to be a challenge and a delight for me. Thank you for being willing to read the words I play with. Happy Anniversary Overneathitall. With big love, Rxo


About Robin Bourjaily

I currently perform my own stunts as a mother, writer, editor, yoga instructor, and certified Yoga As Muse facilitator. Overneath It All is a medium for sharing my stories--my commitment is to post on the full and new moons, plus or minus a day or two, and the occasional personal holiday. My novel, Throwing Like a Girl, is now available in e-formats on Smashwords. Please visit to download. Thanks for checking in. xoR

4 responses »

  1. Always a pleasure to read your writing R.!

  2. Yay! It’s about time you got some “free parking!” It might not be over – it could happen again!


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