Gain or loss?

Last week, i had another trip to the east coast.  As if the forces of meteorology are synched with my frequent flier accounts, there was yet another snow-pacalypse in Washington, DC.  What was supposed to be a ‘day trip’ – 6am flight out, 6pm flight home – led to another round of “Escape from an Airport”.

i am 3/3 on the “Trip/Stranded” ratio just for the month of January.  This shit is getting seriously old.

Fortunately, my travel mate for the day was a delightful young scientist, AU*.  Extraordinarily smart as both a scientist and human, this made the ‘stuck’ times far more bearable.

But it still sucked gangrenous ‘nads.

We made a good travel team as we both worked escape plans.  Heavy, wet snow was blanketing the region.  AU was booked on 4:00 pm flight to Atlanta**, and was texting me from the plane, which was still at the gate being de-iced.  i was hoping to catch the 5:30 pm flight – which was still showing “go”.

When his flight pushed back, the gate agents prepared to board our flight.  Anxious travelers gathered near the door, hoping to board soon.  But when i got the text from AU “We’re coming back to the gate.  Word is canceled”, i walked over to the desk, and leaned casually against it… which would put me at the front of the line when the rebooking dance started.

Sure enough, the airport closed, and that familiar chaos ensued!  i was rebooked before AU deplaned, and i snagged coupons from the gate agent to get us nearby accommodations!  Score!  We went to the bar for dinner (table near an outlet, of course), and relaxed for a couple of hours.  i’d been given confirmation numbers for two rooms at a Doubletree hotel near the airport.  No rush. 

Leaving the warmth of the airport to catch the hotel shuttle, we were a bit shocked to see crowds of people at the bus stops.  Word was that traffic on the local highways was gridlocked, and hotel shuttles were stuck.  i called the hotel, and was told that the driver had been en route for an hour – and wasn’t near the airport.  The hotel?  Only 10 miles away.

Uh oh.

The taxi line – for non-existent taxis – was four hours long.  Rental car option?  We weren’t entirely sure we could get through – not knowing the traffic situation.  We had to wait.  And AU only had on his suit – no coat, hat or gloves.  Did i mention that it was snowing hard?

Two hours later, we were finally on board a hotel shuttle, along with other relieved travelers, and headed to a hotel.  Seeing dozens of abandoned cars, our shuttle driver navigated dicey roads with steady confidence.  Tow trucks were in ditches!  This was some serious shit!  It took a half hour to go 10 miles, but we made it!

Needless to say, when the gentleman at the hotel desk informed us that they would not be honoring our reservations, as they had no record of it in their system – and had no available rooms – i was a bit stunned.  And lost my shit – for the first time since my travel headaches started this month.

daisyfae (loudly):  So we’re – what’s the word i’m looking for – “fucked”?  Yes, that’s the word!  “Up the ass without a courtesy spit” fucked?  There are NO rooms for miles, and we couldn’t get there if there were… We’re going to be sleeping on the couches in your lobby.  Maybe you can bring blankets and pillows, eh?  i’ll try not to stink it up too much…

We went to the bar…  Scouted online for other hotels, but there was nothing.  Nowhere to go, we scoped some comfy couches in the bar area, and figured we could settle in once the bar closed.

Around 11:30 pm, AU thought to ask about roll away beds.  Returning from the front desk, he had good news – they thought that they’d have some no shows, and would probably be able to get us rooms.  Relief…

i found myself apologizing to AU for my rant at the front desk.  Probably a little embarrassing for him… 

daisyfae:  That’s probably the worst public outburst i’ve had in a few years.  They used to be a helluva lot worse… but it was still pretty bad.

AU:  Gaining control or losing your edge?

daisyfae: Great question.  i don’t really know… i think it’s mostly because i’m tired.  It’s not worth it to yell any more… too much work.

~~~~~~~~~~

* i’ve written about AU before.  He’s a gem…

** For what it’s worth?  Your BEST chance to get out of an airport during a weather ‘situation’ is on a bigger plane, generally to a hub city.  The airlines can maximize the number of non-stranded passengers this way, and the regional jets are most frequently canceled in such circumstances.

Product Placement – WIN!

Prior to the booze and music cruise, i was sorting options for smuggling alcohol on board the ship – rather than pay the ridiculous prices after we set sail.  Much to my complete and total surprise, it was The Boy who suggested this rather spectacular product:

The Wine Rack 

Oh, it is spectacular in concept.  And a bit brilliant in design!  Unfortunately, it didn’t arrive on my doorstep in time for me to take it on the cruise.  So tonight is the Maidenform Voyage of my Wine Rack!  An evening of local theater – which will probably be pretty good.  But i’m practicing for the next bad one i have to endure…

In the box

Before i am loaded

Loading – with a nice bottle of 2008 Layer Cake Shiraz

Gives entirely new meaning to “juicy cleavage”.  There’s 750 ml of red delicious yumminess in them thar boobies!  And i gained TWO FULL CUP SIZES!

i’m going to modify the hose to put an actual nipple on it.  the show must go on…

Automotive math

i once paid $75 for a dead guinea pig.  i suppose my current automotive situation could be worse…  The car isn’t quite dead.  Yet.
 
Here’s the tally from last weekend:
 
$60.00 to upgrade my auto club membership to cover ‘unlimited towing’.  It was either this, or pay $3.00 / mile for 60 miles of towing… Was fortunate that the auto club accepted a ‘same day’ membership upgrade, which saved me about $120.00 in towing charges.
 
$57.92 to pay for a tank of gas for my friend Vicky, who was to join us for skiing, but instead, offered to drive us home.  This saved Studly McRocklegs and me the fun of cuddling on the bench seat of the tow truck with a friendly truck driver for a little over an hour.
 
$20.00 tip for the tow truck driver, who did not drop my shit mobile from the back of his truck, despite an abundance of potholes along the way.
 
$697.32 to replace the timing chains, water pump, ignition coil and other assorted mechanical nuggets and hoses, which apparently caused a rather abrupt automotive aneurism in my ’95 Camry shortly after i exited the interstate highway.
 
Breakfast:  Studley kindly paid for breakfast for the three of us, after a rather pleasant trip home… Good company can make a world of difference in such circumstances.
 
What I would have spent skiing for the day:
 
$45 for lift ticket
 
$23 for ski/boot rental
 
$20 for lunch
 
$2.50 for ibuprofen, or other analgesics, always required after a day of throwing myself down a snow-covered hill.
 
What it would cost me to buy a replacement vehicle that doesn’t take a mechanical shit on the side of the road when i’m 65 miles from home and about 2 miles short of my ski destination:
 
$2,000 (minimum) down payment
 
$300/month for five years
 
$50 / month increase in auto insurance, as a non-shit mobile requires collision coverage
 
Someday, i’m going to have to nut-up and buy a fucking car that is less than 20 years old.  Today is apparently not that day… If it can stay operational for 3 months, i’m ahead of the game.  i cannot, however,  postpone this indefinitely.  i will attempt to blow that $100 skiing next weekend…

It’s 4:20 am.  Let’s see if it can get me to the airport for another 6:00 am flight…
 
(sigh)

Cold comfort

Answering the phone in my hotel room at the Sheraton Harbor Marina.  About ten years ago…

daisyfae:  Hello?

DB:  I’m in the lobby.

daisyfae:  i’m in my pajamas.

DB: ….

daisyfae:  C’mon up.  i’ll call room service for some beer.

We’d been professional colleagues for a few years, and had grown to be friends.  Talking about vacations, grousing about life’s responsibilities, sharing pictures of our children.  Our business encounters were always pleasant – and something to look forward to in the often boring drudge of the day-to-day.

A change in his position at the company shipped him to the west coast, and we were in less frequent contact in those days.  We left it at “Hey, if i’m ever out in San Diego, i’ll look you up…”.  The week before i headed out west, i gave him a ring.  It was then that i learned that his youngest daughter was struggling.  Drugs.  Sucked into it when she entered a new high school.

As he shared a few details, i reluctantly said “Well, i’m going to be in San Diego, but if you’re not able to meet up for a beer, no worries – i certainly understand”.  But he would have none of that – and said any glimpse of normalcy in the midst of such a nightmare would be welcome… He said he’d call me after i arrived and we could meet for dinner.

Which is why i was surprised to get the call at 9:00pm at night – i had assumed that the family crisis trumped dinner with me. i’d already planned to just go to bed early.  Getting my bearings, i made a quick call to room service.  By the time i was off the phone, he was at the door.

Broken.  Tired.  And in need of a friend and a beer. 

Room service delivered, we took the ice bucket and beers out on to the hotel balcony – a gorgeous moon, shining over the harbor.  Sailboats rocking.  Lights twinkling, reflected in the water.  One of the reasons this has been a favorite hotel?  The balconies with the lounge chairs and the incredible view. 

But it was chilly…  i suggested we could go back inside, but he wanted that view.  i pulled a blanket from the bed and wrapped it around him, then sat in the chair opposite.  For over an hour,  he poured it all out.  Slowly.  Lifting each word as if they each weighed a metric ton. 

Still shivering, i brought him another blanket.  As he continued bringing up the words, he seemed so lost.  So cold. 

Listening.  Instinctively, i knew how to comfort him.  But couldn’t offer.  And he couldn’t ask.

Pass the salt and tequila

If it’s Wednesday, i’m in a fucking airport.  For the next few weeks, anyway.  This wasn’t one of those ‘hippy dippy happy’ road trips, but a gruelling slog of an airport decathlon, interspersed with ass-numbing meetings for relief.  Waking up around 3:00am on Tuesday, my butt was in the seat of a regional jet by 5:00am to get the day started.

Even worse?  i had to work yesterday at one of the meetings!  The horror!  They expect me to travel AND work?

After my meeting, i abandoned my brief delusions of snagging a seat on the early flight.  i settled into the airport seafood restaurant, snarfing down some crab cakes* and beer.  There at 5:00 pm for a 7:30 pm flight. 

Eventually connected with my work-mates waiting patiently at the gate.  Which is about the time the “Flight Delay Tote Board” started rolling… First it was to be 8:30pm departure, then 9:10pm.  We were told there was no plane, so one was being ferried in from another city. 

i was sorting options – flight to C-town?  Taxi to another airport and catch their last flight out?  These were time-critical decisions, and i had a team of folks with me.  When we were finally told at 9:00pm that the “ferry” flight was in the air, and we’d be departing at 10:30pm, i gave myself over to the fates, and went back to farting around on my computer…

As you can guess, it was shortly after the time when we were completely out of options that the airline announced the cancellation.  Fuck.  On the bright side?  When it’s mechanical, they put you up on a hotel.  So i made my way to the bar as the line for re-accommodation at the gate was at least 22 ounces long…

While in the bar i met a rather gorgeous man another traveler who was doing the exact same thing.  Steve said he figured he’d drink until the line was gone, and we toasted to our cleverness.  By the time we finished and went to the gate, my travel buddies were packing up for their hotel – which was now full.  So i was accommodated at a nicer place nearby!  As was Steve.**

Hooking the hotel shuttle bus, there were two young women also stranded – and they were expressing concerns about the logistics of this “hotel voucher” thing.  i assured them that they had lucked out into this particular hotel, as they would be greeted with warm chocolate chip cookies upon arrival, and a nicer lobby bar. 

When we checked in, i talked the desk clerk into giving the gals extra cookies, and told them to meet me in the bar for the first round.  i’d scammed my way into meal vouchers from the airline, but they hadn’t. So i owed them at least a beer…

Settling into the bar, i made friends with two other stranded travelers when they saw me trying to talk the bartender into taking my airline meal vouchers to pay for beer.  Tim and Kevin were from my hometown, and also killing time while trying to get home.  Joined shortly afterwards by Nicole (one of the “young ‘uns”), then Jenni, who at 28 years old was flying for only the third time in her life.  Steve figured out which bar we were in and joined us…

From there?  About three hours of getting to know strangers, finding out we knew some of the same folks (Steve went to high school with Tim’s brother), and pounding through a few beers.  By 11:00pm?  Tim has me “drunk dialing” his brother Gary in Detroit, i’m passing along the name of a great gynecologist to Nicole, we’re all swapping business cards, and the bartender is wondering if he’s ever going to get to go home…

Once we were kicked out called it a night, we agreed to meet up in the hotel lobby between 6:30am and 6:45am to catch the hotel shuttle to the airport.  i promised “No man left behind!” to the gals, complete with pinky swear and a lot of giggles. 

At 6:35am, Nicole and i saw Kevin and Tim heading to the airport, but waited for Jenni.  Who didn’t show up.  We convinced the lady at the front desk to ring her room – with only her first name, that she was on the 10th floor, and was one of the stranded airline travelers.  The clerk assured us that Jenni would be down in 5 minutes. 

When Jenni was a no-show at 7:00am, i sent Nicole on to the airport since she had to check a bag.  i finally gave up on Jenni and caught the 7:15am shuttle – figured there was nothing more i could do…

Re-connecting with my work-mates at the crowded airport, i did a quick scan through the seating area to see if everyone had made it.  There were Kevin and Tim.  Smiled, waved, and i mouthed “How’s Gary this morning?”.  Just as we were about to board, i heard Jenni’s voice – directly behind me!  She’d misunderstood our parting discussion*** and hopped the shuttle at 6:30am – figuring that we’d already left! 

Steve was with her, coaching her on the skills required to catch a plane at the commuter gates.  They told me that Nicole had been afraid i was still at the hotel, and was off looking for me!  Waved to her as we were boarding, and she heaved a visible sigh of relief.  Landing at the home airport, we said our goodbyes and good lucks, and went our separate ways…

Stuck at an airport.  Hustled off to a rented bed for the night.  A pack of complete strangers shares one of those nice, transient “crisis/hostage” bonds – and makes a crappy situation into something downright pleasant.  And then scatters off into the ether – a little better for it…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* At this point, me eating crab cakes was marginally cannibalistic…

** Didn’t i see this in a bad porn flick once?

*** Alcohol *may* have been a factor…

There are no answers

At the funeral this morning, i was doing a decent job of keeping my shit together.  Until i saw the group of about five young men – wearing ill-fitting suits, or dark shirts and wrinkled ties with their nicest blue jeans. 

They were standing in the back of the church, waiting to offer condolences to the family… and one of them was sobbing uncontrollably, as another held him tight, and rocked him gently.  A third went for kleenex, as they comforted the weeping boy.

Processing the death of a 16 year-old is never easy.  When the cause is suicide, that challenge is multiplied a thousand fold.

About eight years ago, i was on a business trip with JB when he got the call that his father had committed suicide.  This week, the call came when he was in a meeting on Wednesday morning.  This time?  His oldest son. 

Happened in the middle of the night.  Discovered in the morning by the 13 year-old brother.  Nothing could be done. 

When hearing such news about a friend, first you recoil at the depth of pain and shock for the family.  There is no way to conceive of such pain.  Then you extrapolate, and the haunting thoughts creep in from the sides – trying to imagine the pain, you wonder what it would feel like to get such a phone call… and you shudder, and try to push the thoughts away, but you can’t.

JB has very few close friends, and since he’s relatively new to the group, not many people in our organization know him.  He and i worked together closely for about 20 years, but have been on different projects for the last few.  After his father’s death, he leaned on me as his work confidant as he navigated his grief gauntlet.  

The three of us who do know him fairly well converged at work on Thursday morning to compare notes and strategize…

What do you say?  What do you do?  How can you help? 

There are no words.  There are no solutions.  There are only hugs, tears, and thoughtful gestures. 

The visitation was yesterday.  Two hours of an endless stream of family and friends.  People who had known the parents since high school stopped by to offer condolences.  Work colleagues.  Neighbors.  Students who knew him.  Students who didn’t, but wanted to comfort the family.

One young man, with his father, both wearing their best suits, approached JB toward the end of the afternoon.  The young man spoke awkwardly to JB, stuttering slightly as he said “I went to pre-school with your son.  Because I was different, people made fun of me.  Your son was the first person to be nice to me.”  As JB thanked him for coming, and shook his hand, the young man’s father leaned into me and said “Lucas has Tourette’s…”

Since most of JB’s work is on the road, many of the people he’s closest to are from out-of-town – and several came to town for the visitation yesterday.  At the end of calling hours, there were four of us left when all of the family and friends had gone.  i found myself in the back of the funeral home lounge with JB and two close colleagues who’d flown in for the day.

Asking about their return flight, JB said “I think we’ve got time for a drink.  I’ve got some of that amazing hooch my cousin makes at the house.  Want to hit the bar?” 

And so the three of us sat at the bar JB built with his own hands, drinking apple moonshine.  JB stood behind the bar and read the suicide note his son had left on his laptop.  A highly intelligent and articulate young man, he was not confused about his decision.  Acknowledging what felt like faulty wiring in his emotional circuits, he apologized to his family, and held them blameless. 

So we drank a toast.  JB said “God Bless KB.”  Taking perhaps a bit of comfort in friends, apple moonshine, and the thought that his son was in a better place.

Today, as i left the church and saw those young men grieving and comforting each other over the death of their friend, i wanted to hug them tightly… and tell them that the sun will still rise tomorrow, that they will laugh and smile again, and they will never forget their friend but will go on with their lives.

But they were doing a pretty good job looking out for each other.  Sucks that they have to learn to do it so soon.

Resetting the registers

Trying to learn to ski this winter.  This is an activity for young bodies.  Bodies which are low to the ground and elastic.  Not old, crispy bodies.  With integrated brains harboring some knowledge of physics.

Fortunately, i’ve regained some weight, and i bounce nicely.

It’s very enjoyable, though.  This is an activity that requires total concentration – and that degree of focus can drive anything else out of your brain.  Concentrate on your path down the slope in front of you… when and where to turn, anticipating the movements of the skiers ahead.  And wondering why the fuck there is a tree in the middle of the upper part of that particular run…

Mostly, what i’ve noticed, is a change in my point of view when it comes to winter.  Last year at this time, i was anxiously counting the remaining weeks until i could get the bicycle out and resume my regular rides.

Now?  i’m looking at the calendar and counting the number of ski weekends left.

Amazing what a fresh point of view can do for you, isn’t it?

Landed

The mini-holiday was lovely – sunshine, music, great company and new friends.  And a whole lotta goofy-stupid stuff* thrown in for good measure.  Bonus to get to lie in the sun on a Caribbean beach for a day, while drinking buckets of cold beer and people watching… in JANUARY.

Mother Nature, however, wanted to make sure we all know who’s really in charge.  Flights home were rather challenging – and i’ve just returned to my home-jammies after spending almost 24 hours in the Charlotte, North Carolina airport – slammed on Monday with a gnarly winter storm.

i’m beat, but still quite happy.  That’s the sign of a good vacation… 

The entire airport shut down Monday around 10:00 pm, and we got booked onto a direct flight home for 7:30 am Tuesday….  Skipping details for now, here’s a fun text thread i had with The Boy today while trying to keep him and The Girl up to date on my whereabouts.

0915

daisyfae:  Charlotte is still fucking us hard.  Still trying to get out.  Got a flight booked to C-town that might go.  Rental car reserved, so we may make it home tonight.

The Boy: Who’s Charlotte? 

daisyfae:  The airport.  We didn’t make it to the ‘refugee concourse’ in time last night to get the Red Cross cots, so we rigged a shelter of cardboard boxes.  Bastards wouldn’t let us build a fire.

The Boy:  Thanks again, Terrorists!  Jesus. You can’t even have a good ol’ bum fire in an airport.  Did they even offer the regulation size oil drum trash can?

daisyfae:  No.  But Studley McRocklegs** MacGyvered a hot dog cooker out of some other guys phone charger.  Fucker was sleeping.  Serves him right…

The Boy:  Survival of the nerdiest.  That was in the Bible, right?

1100

daisyfae:  On a plane.  Will text when i land somewhere.  If the roads suck, may have to stay at your place tonight.

The Boy:  No problem.

1430

daisyfae:  Landed!  Now we play ‘find the luggage’ and see if i still have a rental car.

The Boy:  Can’t believe you made it.  If you can’t get a rental, I can come get you, but gotta warn you, my rates are higher than those Blue Cab driving hajiis.

daisyfae:  Got a car reserved – unless they sold it to a higher bidder.  But we smell worse than any cab driver ever could.  Will that get us a discount?

The Boy:  Potentially.  I have a rule – if you smell worse than my car, you get to ride at cost.   And by the way, do you think homeland security has been privy to this conversation?  I’ve mentioned ‘terrorists’, ‘Jesus’, ‘the Bible’ and now hajiis…

image from here.  cute midwestern refugee girl…

* One example ship-side:  Elevator arrives, door opens and a pile of people are sitting on the floor, being silly and drinking umbrella drinks, beer and champagne.  They invited us to their “Elevator Party” – and we played along…   So much more fun than the usual boring elevator ride…

** Not his real name…

A Little “R and ARRRRRRGH!”

i’m skipping town for a bit – will not likely have much e-connection… which is probably a good thing.  don’t take it personally.  it’s not…

I’m going where the sun keeps shinin’

Through the pouring rain!

Going where the weather suits my clothes…

Bankin’ off of the northeast wind, sailing on a summer breeze.

Skippin’ over the ocean like a stone!

Here’s to the Resolvers – Epilogue!

First Monday of the new year, and i made it to the gym at my regular time.  Definitely more crowded than usual, with a mixture of regulars, lapsed-regulars and newbies populating the facility.
 
Walking the elevated track with my workout buddy, we scouted for open elliptical machines on every pass – finally finding two open after about 10 minutes.  Ideally, we try to work out side-by-side, making it easier to ogle any cute backsides jiggling trackside encourage each other.   When it’s crowded, we split up – as we had to do today.
 
i got going on my machine, and about five minutes into it, an older gent i’ve never seen before approaches the older gent on the machine next to me… i’ve never seen the guy on the adjacent machine either.
 
Old Guy 1 [as he walks by the machines]:  Happy New Year!  Awful crowded here today… I’m going to try to find an open treadmill.
 
Old Guy 2:  Don’t worry, they’ll all be gone in a couple of weeks.
 
As the first old guy walked on towards the treadmill row, i couldn’t help myself…
 
daisyfae [cheerfully]:  i hope they all don’t disappear in two weeks!  Here’s to healthier people in 2011!
 
Old Guy 2:  I guess that would be good for you [looking at me sideways, implying that i'm a newbie]
 
daisyfae [still cheerful]:  Oh, my name’s daisyfae – i’m here every day – i don’t recognize you!  Been coming down here for the last 10 years or so…
 
Old Guy 2:  Well I’ve been coming here for 47 years…
 
daisyfae [huge smile]:  Wow!  This place has only been open for about 10 – you were coming here before it was open!  THAT’S dedication!
 
Old Guy 2: [replaces earphones and goes back to watching Fox News on monitor]
 
daisyfae [under her breath]: And i’m guessin’ i’ll still be coming here ten years after you’re dead, asshole.
 
From that point on, i assaulted that elliptical machine with renewed vigor!  There is power in this ‘cheerfully obnoxious’ thing –  i felt like i’d just scored a blow for all of the out of shape chubbies of the world who are genuinely trying to do better this year!  Like a health club vigilante – delivering justice* to gym nazis!
 
As i approached the 30 minute mark – which is the maximum time allowed on the machines when others are waiting – i looked around for someone looking for an open machine.  i was rewarded with the hopeful face of a woman who’d just arrived – someone i’d never seen before!  i held up one finger and mouthed the words “One minute” and pointed to my machine – and was further rewarded with a relieved smile!
 
Grabbing a paper towel and the antibacterial juice to wipe down my machine before turning it over to her, i couldn’t help but notice that Old Guy 2 was still going on his machine – and had set his workout time for 60 minutes!  As i turned my machine over to the newbie, i felt compelled to get in one last dig…
 
daisyfae [loud enough that Old Guy 2 could hear me over his headphones]:  There’s a 30 minute limit on these, unless you’re special!  [pointing at him] Maybe he bought** an elite membership or something….
 
Vengeance!  Sometimes it’s pretty tasty when it’s served hot, too!
 

Image found here – and the Fat Fury is AWESOME!  Fueled by lollipops!  Hellz yeah!

* Better yet?  Like Manuel the Waiter, wielding his Rusty Stabbing Fork of Justice at horrible customers who put brown sauce on well done steaks!

** Remember, it’s a free gym.  You couldn’t pay for it if you tried…