Friday, March 04, 2005

The light at the beginning...

The past few weeks have been really awful and yesterday started out to be more of the same, but once again friends pulled me out of the abyss. The "cold" I got from some other friends (who shall remain nameless--Bev and John) turns out to be influenza instead. Oh, well, but at last I am on the mend. Healthy products from my favorite health food market in Winter Park and a big cup of homemade soup from the same locale have put new life into me. Some ionic silver and herbs and the cough, congestion, and goop are on their way out of me at last. I can see the light again and enjoy it.

I felt weak as a newborn kitten yesterday and it was all I could do to make my rounds without passing out or crumpling into a sodden phlegmy heap on some dirty floor, but I made it back home without too much shaking and got my bags up the stairs and unpacked of their healthy largesse. Once my ears clear I will be hard at work and focusing on better times, like going to Chaco Canyon with Bev and the kids, meeting Rick in Albuquerque to finally see his now beardless face and hear his voice for the first time, interview senior motorcyclists there and in Alamogordo (at last), and back to Chaco for a little spiritual retreat and magick before wending my re-invigorated way home to make more money and get ready for the big move the end of April.

I'm sure part of my recovery is due to taking back control of my life after being at the mercy of others for so long, but it's also due in large part to realizing once again that what I want is within my grasp as long as I'm careful how I take hold of it. I forgot that for a while but free-falling has a tendency to make me giddy and uncertain. Maybe such times come to remind me that I am a survivor and that I have survived in quite a bit of style over the years, triumphing over some pretty steep odds, and to remind me that in spite of my outwardly perceived god-like powers I am still human -- or as human as an alien ever gets.

I'll shut up now.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Whinge II

One quick shower, pack my scant belongings, turn off the lights, take the shampoo, body lotion, and mouthwash (I paid for them), down the steep high stairs to the lobby, grab one banana, cheese Danish (I earned it), and juice, check my email, and dump the detritus just in time to get the cab that was being chatted up by a family of three.

"Oh, is this your cab?" the woman cooed.

"Yes." I got in, gave the address of Silent Type, was corrected about address, and accosted by the cooing woman.

"You're going to Silent Type?"

"Yes." I was in no mood for chit chat with the home stretch in my sights.

"That's where I'm going." She started to push in next to me and when I didn't move said, "I'll just get in on the other side."

Good plan.

Serena, for that is her name, is from Connecticut and came up for one day of training, arriving with her child in arms and husband the night before so as not to be detained by the apocalyptic snow storm bearing down on New Jersey and New York and, as I was later to find out, La Guardia airport. Great! One more thing to deal with on this nightmare cruise to hell.

Serena was pleasant, chatty, and nice, which grated on my remaining shred of nerve. It wasn't her fault I was stuck in 7th ring of hell or that I didn't get any sleep the night before, was hungry, and anxious to get home some time within the next decade, so I mustered what nice reserves I still had and chatted politely in monosyllabic monotones punctuated with appropriately timed gasps of pleasure and surprise at her domestic bliss. I was about to open the door and fling myself to the pavement when we arrived at the office. Schooling my impatience to get the day started and over with, I matched my pace to hers, endured her inane chatter and waited while she wrestled with the heavy glass door that I carelessly flung clunking to the wall with no effort after waiting for her an interminable number of seconds.

The owner, a stereotypical New Jersey hard-nosed business woman who built her company from the divorce up, finally sat down and talked with me about everything I had already digested from the company manual. She also handed me two copies of the contract for my computer equipment, of which I took the CPU, speakers, battery, and ear phones, and surged off to her office to wheel and deal. Even with the constant interruptions, a decadent lunch of thickly filled chopped liver sandwich (that I devoured like a starving wolf in winter), and having each dictation checked, I missed the minimum required pages per day by five, and that includes leaving early because of the impending snow storm wreaking havoc in the surrounding areas. Felix arrived early trailing clouds of cologne, raping and pillaging my sense of smell, carried my bag down to the parking garage and whisked me onto the highway back to La Guardia. There was a short park near the Triborough Bridge, but nothing to write home about.

Felix regaled me with tales of famous passengers, (Keanu Reeves, Nicole Kidman and kids, and Derek Jeter's parents during baseball season), between spurts of personal information about how he and his ex-wife (a Silent Type supervisor) have a better relationship since the divorce and how they spend much more time together than they ever did when married. Before he could go into the more intimate details of what happens when he inevitably spends the night with his ex, we were at the airport with time to spare--three hours early.

Back thru security, composed of third world and minority personnel, where I did not have to take off my shoes or be subjected to another pat down and having my now dirty lingerie pawed and sniffed, I found my terminal gate and waited in Tolkien's adventuring company while the gate began to bulge at the seams and more and more people queued up to the departure gate desk. And here I thought things were looking up because I was seated in seat 45D in a 757, a real commercial jet with room to spare. Not so.

Delta, an airline of no special amenities outside of a tiny pack of miniature pretzels and free sodas, juice and water, in their infinite wisdom took all the passengers from two other flights (probably puddle jumpers) and jammed them into the plane I was about to board. I prayed for my manicure scissors and handy dandy fold-up tool.

Jammed next to a very nice young man named Andy who confided his birthday was the same as mine and who was anxious to get home to Atlanta to his wife and nearly two-year-old son, I endured silently, with a prayer to the weather god/desses that we would take off on time, the interminable wait for takeoff. No one listened. They were probably all off watching the storm hammer the flight line. After de-icing the plane, plowing the runway, and waiting for the flight path to clear, the plane took off into the snowy night sky 75 minutes after the scheduled departure, which left me, if I could get off the plane first, roughly 10 minutes to get from concourse B to concourse E to the last gate in the terminal at Atlanta to make my connection. I told the flight attendants and they assured me they would get me off the plane in time to make the connection. An announcement was made while we circled Atlanta in endless loops and as soon as the plane landed everyone in the plane jumped into the aisle. I was in the last row of the plane.

I excused myself politely while my carry-on luggage took on the gravitational pull of a black hole, tapping my foot impatiently and edging toward the exit. A very nice lady jumped in front of me, opened the overhead storage bin and glared at me while asking, "Can I get my bag out of the overhead?" Feeling very generous I asked, "I don't know. Can you?" She shoved me against the opposite seat and wrestled her wheeled bag containing her winter wardrobe down onto my head and then onto my feet.

I didn't need a watch to know I wasn't going to make the plane, but a dimming glimmer of hope refused to burn out. As my carry-on bags got heavier and heavier I raced for the terminal, asked a Delta employee if my plane home was on time, found out it was, asked if she would call ahead and have them hold it, was told no, got directions to concourse E, and dodged thru the oncoming passengers toward what I hoped would be a better ending to my trip than it had started out. With Andy's promise that I was golden and would make the flight ringing in my ears, interspersed with promises to call him at home (I had his business card and cell phone number) to take me home with him for the night, I raced on, bladder screaming for relief, lungs cramping from lack of oxygen, muscles protesting my unaccustomed and needlessly prolonged exercise, I reached the gate five minutes after the plane had taken off. The helpful Delta employee told me I could speak to someone in the Delta information office about a room for the night with a special rate, which I could not afford, and informed me that I had been booked on the next flight out of Atlanta for home at 11:00 the next day. Nice of them to do that.

The rest of the evening passed in a sweaty, anomalous blur of Delta employees telling me that weather and air traffic control delays do not warrant a free room and that I could not stay the night in the terminal because they were closing down, trudging thru another 20 miles of concourses and terminals and stinking air fresheners, cologne, and the purportedly pleasing scents of civilization, heat, and foreign bodies, shuttles to nearby hotels and rude and jostling travelers until I landed at another over priced Best Western near the airport and blissful oblivion that just would not come no matter how I begged, cajoled, and courted it with prayers or shower.

Tolkien kept me company until I drifted into steamy, sweat-soaked sleep and woke before the wake-up call. Blindly stumbling to the bathroom I took another shower, brushed my teeth and hair, packed my bags and prayed for a substantial breakfast. I got my wish with a banana, cheese Danish, and two cups of juice before the airport shuttle arrived.

I did meet a lovely British ("from Canada") couple on their way back to Toronto, which provided not only a bright spot to an otherwise horrific experience but another article for Iron Horse magazine, in addition to the one I would finally get to write once I arrived safely back in Colorado to pick up my car and drive to New Mexico for the weekend to interview a seniors only motorcycle club.

Security was a breeze even though I had to take off my shoes again and I boarded another plane, a 747 this time, for the flight home. There was a seat between me and the passenger in my row and I finally felt relaxed enough to drift into near unconsciousness, waking for the sumptuous pretzel and juice snack and an uncomplicated arrival in the Springs.

When I got off the plane and trudged up the ramps toward the beautiful blue Colorado skies I glimpsed thru the doors I nearly didn't recognize until I bumped into her, handed her my backpack, and stumbled toward the restroom. The walk from the terminal to her car felt endless but soon we were on the road, thru the gates, and back at her apartment where I collapsed gratefully into a comfy chair in the darkened confines of her living room. I got up briefly to check email and dozed fitfully for a little while until she went to pick up her son. I called at the office and chatted for a little while. He also apologized for giving me his cold at the airport. I was certain what ailed me was the east coast assault on my senses and not a cold, but I was proved wrong. Between Typhoid Muse and him double teaming me, I got the crud that is currently making the rounds, and I got it with a vengeance. So much for clean and healthy living.

Due to illness my trip to New Mexico was postponed and rescheduled for the following weekend -- this weekend -- but had to be postponed again since I'm not going to be well enough to drive eleven hours and interview several people, take pictures, and meet with and not spread this virulent plague or drive off the side of a mountain to end the misery.

I stayed an extra day with the Muse and family, but girded my loins for the drive home Sunday. All I wanted was peace, quiet, and my own bed where I could wallow, lie, and otherwise moan, groan, and die in comfort. I roused myself yesterday to go down the mountain to the post office for money that did not arrive (they emailed and told me they didn't have time to keep their promise -- no surprise there), went to the Snooty Coyote for NyQuil gelcaps, Kleenex, and two Snickers bars (comfort food for the dying), and came home to wallow, lie, and otherwise moan, groan, and die in my own bed.

What have I learned by this little excursion into the bowels of hell?

1. You can be sure that carry-on luggage will arrive safely with you, but it will take on the gravitational pull on your nerves, mind, and body of a massive black hole event horizon.

2. The distance from the deplaning gate to your connecting flight gate is in direct inverse proportion to your level of fitness and the time between connecting flights. In other words, the fitter you are the closer the connecting flight's gate, and vice versa.

3. No matter how much you weigh you will feel at least 50 pounds heavier when sitting in the cheap seats of a commercial flight. You will also feel like you are welded to the hip and thigh of the person jammed into the seat next to you and like you're hanging out in the aisle and impeding the progress of people going to and coming from the restroom.

4. Vacations and business trips exist to remind you that there is no place like home.

That is all. Disperse.


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...