Wednesday, March 02, 2005


I left home with the best of intentions and really great plans; what I got was something entirely different.

When we last read the she had a new attitude, which has been adjusted with expectations severely downgraded.

somewhat reluctantly picked me up Tuesday morning to take me to the airport very surprised that I had only two pieces of baggage: my little backpack and my purse. I explained I was only going for two days and didn't need more. He pulled up in front of the terminal, gentlemanly got my backpack out of the back seat, handed them to me, and hugged me. I added a kiss that was returned in the manner of kissing one's smelly old aunt or a much disliked spouse. Oh well. He got in the car and drove away and I headed for the ticket counter to pick up my boarding pass and was informed I was singled out for special treatment -- the extra special, new and not improved pat down where they unpack your baggage, handle your bras, panties, and other private tools, toys, and things and then proceed to run their rubber-gloved hands over your body and into intimate places most husbands won't go to make sure you aren't concealing some nefarious plane crashing or terrorist paraphernalia. They also confiscated my manicure scissors, antique scissors from my sewing kit, and a handy dandy fold-up tool that includes a pair of pliers, two small screwdrivers, inch-long scissors, nail file, knife that wouldn't cut cold butter if it was hot, bottle opener and corkscrew. They informed me that if I had put them in luggage to be checked I could have kept them. They said they were unpacking my things because they saw a hair barrette on the scanner, which I do not own and was not carrying. Right.

After putting my clothes and shoes back on I made my way to the gate to wait for two hours for my flight to be called and met a Catholic astrologer who has a book in mind but doesn't have the skills to pull it off, although, as she mentioned vehemently several times, she is a passionate writer whose writing touches everyone who reads it. Okay. I've heard that one before at least 4000 times. Apparently she has figured out that astrology can be used to find victims of stranger kidnap and has documentation that she has pinpointed several victims, but the police, FBI, and law enforcement refuse to pay attention to her claims. The project sounds interesting and I'll take a look at it when she gets back, but I'm not promising anything one way or the other. A friend recently told me to look out for a job that was too good to be true; this may be it.

When our flight was called we boarded a puddle jumper (a very small commercial jet where first class is just a word and not a plush, roomy, partitioned off section of the plane), to Cincinnati where my parents were waiting at the main terminal a couple miles away. I boarded the shuttle, aware that I would have to go back thru security once again, and talked with my parents for about 15 minutes before hustling back down the escalator and thru security (taking off my shoes and jacket and loading my carry-on luggage into a tray to go back thru the scanner), boarded the train, caught the shuttle, and raced back to the gate in barely enough time to board the plane for La Guardia in another puddle jumper. After another grueling trek thru the maze of multiple airport terminals, I scanned every driver with a sign and found my name on a card held by a very dapper and elegant gentleman who eased my backpack from my cramped and claw-like hand and told me to follow him to the parking lot to a very classy black limousine.

Living in the mountains in the fresh clean untainted air has made me very sensitive to the odors of civilization and this was no exception.

I was violently assaulted by the driver's cologne (that was Felix), air freshener and the stench of New York effluvia in all its rank richness. I could barely breathe. He dropped me at the motel and I wearily climbed the great pyramid of Giza steps to the second floor, found my room, dropped my bags, and unceremoniously fainted on the bed for three seconds until I realized the room was the temperature of equatorial Africa at the height of the dry season. There were no visible controls on the air conditioner cum heater and I called the front desk. The night manager told me it was remote controlled and where the controls were located. After blearily fumbling around I figured out how to start the A/C and fainted across the bed once more, coming to briefly to shuck my clothes and crawl beneath the sheets, ask for a 6:30 a.m. wake-up call, and passed out again. I may have wakened in the night and have a sketchy memory of sitting on blessedly cool plastic and porcelain, but it could be a false memory. Six-oh-my-god-thirty came all too quickly and I wavered between waking and blissful oblivious for a while before dropping to the carpet on all fours and crawling to the bathroom to take care of the necessary ablutions that would hopefully bring me back to life. I made it most of the way back to life, but not all the way; however, it was enough to make me reckless enough to brave the New Jersey stenches and traffic.

It was nearly 8:30 and I was watching Serendipity on the flat panel in the lobby of the hotel while savoring a banana, poppy seed muffin, and orange juice and waiting for my turn at the motel computer that I realized the expected taxi to take me to the office at Silent Type had not arrived. I asked the desk clerk if it had come and gone and they explained they forgot to call. Great. Once called the taxi arrived about 10 minutes later and the driver asked me where I was going.

"Silent Type in the Mack-Cali building," I replied.

"Which one?"

"There's more than one? I thought you people did this all the time."

"We do."

"Okay, then you should know which one," I said, certain he would suddenly remember his job.

"Which one."

We were back at square one. I explained Felix pointed it out and it faced the freeway that led to the front door of the motel. "Oh, that one." He drove off and delivered me to a building that didn't look like it fronted on the highway.

"Are you sure this faces the freeway?"

"Sure. Here, sign this."

He handed me a clip board and I signed. It had been explained to me before my little trek that Silent Type's arrangements for accommodations, transportation, etc. were all included in the cost of the room and that they had put lots of new employees thru this routine. Someone forgot to tell the driver because several minutes and one trip to the fourth floor of the Mack-Cali building at 1 Bridge Plaza proved I was in the wrong building. I called the office and they oohed and aahed over my dilemma and told me they'd send the taxi again. I got the same driver but he got me to the right building this time. First day of training and I was late. Could things get any worse?

Shouldn't have asked because they got lots worse; it just took a little while.

That first day I signed lots of people, shook lots of hands, listened to lots of gossip about people I didn't know and would never know, read lots of paperwork, and finally got down to business. I actually got to do a little work, all of which had to be checked by my guide thru the training process. First day and I get the worst dictator on staff; at least that was out of the way and I knew what to expect. I briefly met the owner of the company (briefly meaning for two seconds) and soon the day was over. They advised me to go downstairs a little ahead of time because New Jersey cab drivers do not wait for passengers. I waited nearly 30 minutes before going back upstairs and checking to see if the cab had been called. It hadn't. The secretary oohed and aahed while she called the hotel who called the taxi company who assured me that I would not have to wait more than 10 minutes. It was 15 minutes in the brisk, freezing breeze that did little to dissipate the foul funk of what passes for breathable air on the east coast.

Three minutes after getting in the cab I got out at the hotel, went into the lobby and made sure they called while I stood there to arrange for a cab for the morning, trudged up the side of the mountainous stairs, fumbled with the key card, kicked the door closed, dropped my bag, fell across the bed, slid to the floor on the slick bedspread and curled into a fetal ball. One more day of this and I would need my manicure scissors back to run screaming thru Jersey poking out the eyes of every taxi driver and airline worker I could find. This is how domestic terrorists are made.

I had saved half my tuna sandwich from lunch and since I couldn't find, and was too tired to look, any place that delivered, that became my dinner as well. I comforted myself with the thought of fruit and muffins and juice in the morning to quell the rising scream of hunger and sleep deprivation and overall discomfort, shucked my clothes, and crawled beneath the sheets to surf the idiot box. That palled quickly. I am out of the habit and there were no good movies on the one movie channel available that didn't have a commercial every 3.5 minutes. I turned to Tolkien and fell asleep somewhere in Fangorn forest near the Entwash. I roused sufficiently to dial for a wake-up at 7:00 that came at 7:23 the next morning after a night of fitful dozing in a too-warm room between bouts of sexual screams, moans, sighs, and squeals from the next room. Sleep, food, rest, and sex deprived is not a good way to be when others are enjoying, loudly and all night, what you lack. And so it was. I prayed for morning and release from the nightmare my adventurous trek had become. Frodo and Sam had it easier and I would have gladly traded places with them on the orc-infested plains of Gorgoroth, but I was certain they would realize they were getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop on that deal.

To be continued...

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