Veer Right

I stood on the platform before the sun came up, waiting for the train. I looked up and saw a V formation of six pelicans. They were way off course. They belonged near the ocean, not this far inland. I concluded their GPS got muddled and they ended up at the subway station instead. Maybe they were going to go home that way. Once in San Francisco the way to the ocean was much closer. They could hop on the cable car and be at the wharf in minutes to the delight of all the tourists.

They continued to make several loops around the station in silence. Pelicans don’t honk like geese. They’re the introverts of the sky.

I kept following them with my eyes, wondering where they would touch down. All the station had to offer was a large cement parking lot, and miles of train tracks with a dangerous third rail that could kill you. I had visions of charred pelican and burned feathers. Not a pretty sight. Landing on cement wouldn’t be much prettier either. That would be a rough landing with scraped feet.

I thought of calling the firefighters to come rescue them. To pull their ladders into the sky and bring each one down to safety. But that wouldn’t work. They’d think me a crazy woman. I don’t know why. They’ve rescued a few of my cats up a tree.

Then just before the train arrived I saw them change course, come in lower and disappear behind a line of trees to the quacking of ducks at a nearby pond. Those ducks gave them their landing coordinates and saved me from a morning of drama.

Calvin says, “You should have called. I would have positioned myself in the middle of the parking lot and howled them down.”

Stormy Weather

Have you noticed how quickly airports shut down at the first splash of a rain drop that hits the tarmac? Twice now I’ve been left waiting at the gate for hours while the weather clears up. Another time I was kept waiting because the airport had too much traffic in the air due to bad weather and re-routed flights that were scheduled to arrive.

What’s with this? I’ve been flying all my life. I’m used to flying in all kinds of weather. Once, I was on board a plane in Argentina in torrential rain. I mean sheets. With lightning and thunder to go with it. We shoved off from the gate and headed toward the take-off area. The plane in front of us got clearance for take-off. It splashed through the rain, leaving a wake of water behind, and climbed into the storm clouds and vanished. Our captain, watching this no doubt from the cockpit, turned and inched our plane to a parking spot. “My wife told me not to play the hero, so we’re waiting for this storm to move on,” he said. In a way, I was relieved. I liked this guy’s survival instincts.

On the other hand, I’ve been on planes when an engine blew out just before landing in Mexico City. I pointed it out to the flight attendant and she said, “Oh that’s nothing, not to worry.” Meanwhile black fumes were spewing out and I could see flames licking the sides of the engine. Either she was blind, in denial or I was hallucinating. Fortunately we were on approach and came to a screeching halt the minute we touched down. Firefighters surrounded the engine with their extinguishers. I found the flight attendant who looked out the window with me. “I know it was your job to calm me down, but don’t take me for an amateur. I know a crisis when I see one. I’m a mother.”

On another flight, the turbulence was so horrible I wanted to die. It was worse than a roller-coaster ride because we were so far up in the air and I couldn’t see the ground. That is always a bad sign in my mind. We had plenty of distance to fall like a rock, but I wanted to sail, not fall. The wings shuddered, the cabin creaked and moaned, the passengers held their collective breaths, and the flight attendants were harnessed into their jump seats looking terrified. We flew through that rough patch and climbed to a higher altitude where we were greeted by angels singing and rays of sunshine.

Even with the newer planes, that are sleeker and more fuel efficient, these episodes happen. Weather trumps everything, every time, leaving all our systems in the lurch.

Calvin says, “That’s why I hate flying as much as going to the vet. Grip the ground is my motto.”

Never Getting Home

It took me two hours to get home on the train last night.I know for some this is normal, but it wasn’t for me.

When I came down the escalator the platform was a sea of people, tightly knit together in a mass of black and grey, standing in one direction away from the platform I usually wait on. Of course there were no announcements to explain this sight. Everyone was relatively subdued and waiting patiently. There must have been five hundred people there, everyone on their smart phones checking for updates. Eventually a calming female voice made an announcement. There was a serious medical emergency at the station before ours and they had closed down the track. Meanwhile they were running all trains, in and out, on one single track. That was even more alarming to me. How could they do that without major smash-ups?

There was no air to breathe below ground. This was also a good indication of how unprepared the city was for an emergency. No police presence either. Another announcement was made. This one specifying that there were too many people here and train personnel were closing the doors at street level for a while. 

I considered my options. To stay or find a coffee shop to wait in, but then I realized I’d be trading one line for another. I decided to stay. Trains trickled in for the next hour, but none were mine. The mass of humanity thinned out a bit bringing some relief. At this point I was strategizing which trains to take and backtrack to get home, but it was too complicated. I would have ended up in Alaska. I stayed put.

Eventually, an hour and fifteen minutes later, another announcement was made telling us the serious medical emergency had been handled and trains were resuming on both tracks again.

While we were never told what that emergency was, we were grateful to get on our respective trains heading in the right direction even if we were packed in like cattle.

Calvin says, “So glad I wasn’t with you. I would have rolled on the ground and howled my complaints.”

A Little Rain Will Do It

Have you noticed how quickly airports shut down at the first sign of rain that splashes the tarmac? Twice now I’ve been left waiting at the gate for hours for the weather to clear up. Another time the arrival airport had too many planes in the air and couldn’t handle all that traffic at the same time. All because it was raining. Really? Where have all the cowboys gone who could ride the storm like a bronco? I guess they’re afraid of a lawsuit if they skid off the runway.

Just recently I was scheduled into O’Hare from San Francisco. As soon as we reached Chicago airspace we began to do the loopy loops. I knew instantly we weren’t going to land. This went on for an hour. O’Hare had shut down because of stormy weather. And then we got re-routed to Grand Rapids. We landed and parked on the tarmac. For four hours. Other planes began to arrive. Pretty soon the small airport looked like a boneyard. It reminded me of the musical, Come From Away where 38 planes and 6,700 passengers were redirected to Gander, Newfoundland during 9/11. Except we didn’t have any catchy tunes to accompany us or trays of sandwiches and hot coffee greeting us. Eventually the airport gave us a gate, we disembarked, raced to the bathroom, bought some snacks, re-fueled and then boarded again. We finally got permission to fly into O’Hare. By then my connecting flight to Warsaw was long gone, and I was left to navigate the airport maze in search of another flight.

I’ve been flying all my life. I’m used to flying in all kinds of weather. Once, I was on board a plane in Argentina in torrential rain. I mean sheets. With lightning and thunder for special effects. We shoved off from the gate and headed toward the runway. The plane in front of us got clearance to leave. It tore through the rain like a torpedo, leaving a wake of water behind, climbed into the storm clouds and vanished. Our captain, watching this no doubt from the cockpit, had second thoughts because he turned and inched our plane to a parking spot. “My wife told me not to play the hero, so we’re waiting for this storm to move on,” he told us. I immediately liked his wife. I liked him even more for heeding her advice. On the other hand, I’ve been on planes when an engine blew out just before landing in Mexico City. On another one, the turbulence was so frightening I wanted to die. My seat-mate, a pilot said, “Don’t be afraid. Planes are built for this.” That didn’t help my stomach flipping over, making me grab the vomit bag.

Calvin says,”That’s why my preferred way to travel is four paws on the ground and my GPS nose.” 

Train Tales

People entertain me.

This morning a young woman with green hair and brown roots got on the train. Her head looked like a tree was growing out of it, except the green was more the color of fizzy pop rock candy. She sat where everybody could see her. For the rest of the ride she kept her head bent down so her hair covered most of her face like a veil while she stared at her smart phone.  Jade

The person who sat next to me was someone I couldn’t quite identify at first. Man or woman? Hard to tell. He/she wore black pants, black shirt, black shoes and carried a black backpack. Her hair was blonde and cut close like a man’s. She wore no jewelry or make-up. She yanked out a book, the hardcover kind with rustling pages, and stuck her face in it all the way to the city. At the first stop she got up and bolted out the door. At least she reads.

Two women, who boarded with me, spent the entire trip talking about the dogs they owned. Then they went on to the different breeders they’d known, the different size dogs, and the weaknesses and strengths of the breeds. It was a steady commentary of opinions and judgments until they arrived at their stop. That’s when one said to the other, “Well, it was nice meeting you.”

There’s a man on my car who sits next to the train operator’s booth and welcomes everyone on board from his seat. He’s friends with every operator on that shift and knows them by name. He knows many of the passengers, too, and says good morning to each. He irritates me. I don’t know why, but he does. Maybe because I can’t be cheery that early, or make small talk with a stranger who wants to draw me into his routine, which would obligate me to acknowledge him every morning. I think it’s presumptuous of him to think I’d capitulate to his charms.

Calvin says, “It’s not him, it’s you. You’d like the whole car to yourself.”beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give Me Space

Alf and I made plans to spend the day in Carmel the weekend after Christmas.

Instead of taking the sane way, we chose the back roads that took us through the center of Gilroy and up and around and down the mountains that paralleled highway 101. That turned out to be a 30-minute detour that left Alf fuming and me hyperventilating. The day was already ruined.

What were we thinking? We envisioned a casual stroll down cobbled stone streets, lazily peering into store windows for the Christmas decor, enjoying a leisurely lunch at a French restaurant expertly prepared by the chef of many years with a fine reputation.

Instead we jostled our way down the streets side-stepping the tourists with their pedigree dogs, which didn’t want strangers petting them with gooey fingers from their over-priced pastries. Why don’t people leave their dogs at home? When did it turn trendy to wear them shopping? I can sort of understand a purse dog, if you can call that thing a dog, but a Burmese Mountain dog? There’s no avoiding him, he’s a defense tackler blocking the street.

I saw more dogs than children. Probably the kids stayed home with the grandparents and the dogs went to town. There’s something wrong here. IMG_9666

Lines were out the door at every decent restaurant. Casual wear in the stores was priced at $300 and up. And that was the sale price. Really? I can get that same sweatshirt online for $15.95.

It was cold gorgeous – sharp blue skies, piercing sunlight – boot and jacket weather. Boots were popular. Everybody was wearing them, except me. I checked the price of an elegant leather pair that caught my eye – $475. With a few more dollars, I’ll go to Europe.

The art galleries disappointed me. Mostly touristy seascapes in glaring colors, the kind you see in every beach town from Maui to La Jolla to Acapulco. I think the same painters make a circuit. Jose takes Acapulco, Sven’s is Carmel, Max paints in a bar in Maui, and Teresa is the barracuda in La Jolla. They’re all related. These were Teresa’s last three husbands.

Calvin says, “Next time leave Alf home and take me. My nose needs an outing and I love gooey.” beagle

Digging in with My Bare Heels

I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to submit to the full body scanners at the airport.

I’m convinced all that radiation is bad for my health no matter what reassurances we have been given.

So I waited my turn in line, barefooted, beltless and breathless. I moved closer to the dreaded machine.

When it was my turn, I said, “No!” with conviction.

“No?” said the TSA agent. cropped-rubbed-my-tummy.jpg

“Yes, I mean no,” I said.

“It’s the law,” the agent said glaring at me.

“It’s not the law for my health,” I said.

“Very well. That means a pat down,” he said.

“Fine,” I said.

The agent stretched out both arms barring me from moving away and held me there. He called out, “Female agent. Pat down here.”

The other passengers in line were getting free entertainment even before boarding.

I didn’t care.

A female agent appeared. She put  on a pair of latex gloves with a fanfare and gave a little snap at the end. It was clear I had interrupted her coffee time.

“This way,” she said and motioned for me to follow her.

“Do you want to do this in a private room or here?” she asked.

“Here,” I said and smiled. I wanted witnesses.

“Very well. First, I have to tell you what I’ll be doing,” she said.

“Skip that. Just do it,” I said. I smiled again.

“I can’t. It’s the law.” Then she slanted her head upwards to show me a camera that was recording everything.

Witnesses! I loved it. I smiled even more.

She asked me to stand with legs apart and arms outstretched.

I complied.

I smiled at my audience in front and above me.

The agent ran her hands all over me, from head to toe, in a professional manner.

“You’re free to go,” she said when she finished and removed her gloves with another snap.

After reading so many horror stories in the media about pat-downs, I was prepared for the worst. Instead I was shocked at how decent an experience it was.

Calvin says, “If that had been me, I would slobbered all over her face.” beagle