Thursday, January 11, 2007

Red-eye, Shmed-eye

My trip to Washington was great. I swear, everything went right. On Sunday I did a little shopping—I just can't go to Bellevue without visiting Nordstrom Rack—and had more good luck. I'd been carrying around this teeny bottle of Bath & Body Works hand cream in my purse for a few months. I must've gotten it from one of the motels I stayed in this year, probably in Boston. Anyway, I loved the scent so much that I've wanted to buy some for myself. It's called Cool Citrus Basil.

But I wasn't having any luck. In early December, I checked for it at the Bath & Body Works at South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan. No go. "Come back December 27th," the girl there told me. The first week of January I checked for this lotion at the mall at Columbia Town Center, here in Maryland. The girl there said that they did have some recently. She helped me sift through the baskets full of lotions, to no avail. Finally, at Factoria Mall in Bellevue (on the other side of the country), I found it! I bought two large bottles of the cream and one bottle of the splash. I wish I'd bought a Lotto ticket that day—everything was going right.

I had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory at Bellevue Square, (my old stomping ground), with my good friend Tom. Tom is my cat Martin's former adopter. I've mentioned him before—Tom was the only one (besides Paul and Janet, of course) who visited me in the hospital when I had my disc replacement surgery in 2005. He and I were sys admins at back in the dot-com days. I adopted Martin from Tom in the fall of 2002, long after the fall of the Peach.

Speaking of Martin, he's got this new habit that's keeping me up at night. He does that kneading thing that most cats do, in my hair and on my neck. Four years I had Martin and he never did that. At first it was sweet and cute. I Googled "cats kneading" and found out that this is a sign of contentment. That made me happy. At the time.

But now, after a few weeks of this instant middle-of-the-night head massaging going on, it's driving me crazy. I'm not getting my REM sleep. Every time Martin gets up from bed to get water or what-have-you, he comes back to bed and wakes me up with his kneading. All morning long he carries on this behavior. I'm not quite sure what to do about that.

Which brings us to the red-eye business. I need my sleep—not unlike everyone else. . . except that I do best on 8-9 hours of sleep these days. The truth is, I don't function well on anything less than six hours. (I'm middle-aged; I can't help it.) So, on Monday night when I left Seattle on the 11:42pm red-eye, I was hoping that I could sleep on the plane and possibly even go to work for at least a few hours Tuesday.

Let me tell you, that was my first—and last—red-eye flight.

I normally can't sleep on a plane, but I had high hopes for this flight in light of the fact that 11:42pm Pacific time is really 2:42am my time. I was exhausted from a day of business meetings, and the entire row of seats I was in was empty. Not a soul. As I walked back to my seat in the second row from the back of the plane, I noticed that all the children on this flight were near the front of the plane and that there was just one stewardess in the row behind me. Good, I thought, no screaming kids near my row, for once. I'll have some peace.

It was all quiet and dark back there. The plane pulled away from the gate a full 10 minutes early—something that has never happened to me on any flight ever! So things were still going my way. Then the pilot announced that our flight time would only be 4:10, about 30 minutes quicker due to a nice tailwind.

I settled down against my pillow, put in my ear plugs, and covered myself with a blanket. Just as I was relaxing in the complete darkness, the flight attendant in the row behind me turned on her overhead reading light. I was like a deer in the headlights. Talk about bright reading lights! This one lit up my whole row too. Drat, I thought.

After an hour or so, I finally fell asleep. I was stretched out on the three seats on my side of the aisle. The seats opposite me were all empty. At some point I was awakened by a kid talking animatedly—and very loudly too. Despite my ear plugs I could hear him rattling on about something. I was groggy. The kid kept on. Where was that noisy kid?

I finally sat up and looked at my watch—it was 5:30am. Still an hour and a half to go. Then I saw the kid. His dad had left their assigned seats and brought his loud 3-year-old son to the formerly peaceful row that I was sitting in. He set the kid up with Sponge Bob on a portable DVD player over by the window. But he never once told the kid to shut up. This little boy carried on at the top of his lungs for the entire rest of the flight. No such thing as an "inside voice" for this one. And Daddy just leaned back and shut his eyes.

So, why did Dad move him back there? To get him away from the other people up front so as not to bother them? What about us quiet, kid-free folks minding our own business in our assigned seats at the back of the plane? Why torture us? What are we, chopped liver? Not to mention, how can you possibly sit there and ignore the kid's unbearable decibel level? Are you completely oblivious that there are 100 people in the near vicinity that are trying to sleep?

See, this is what I don't get about parents like this guy. It's as if they can't hear their own kids when they're out in public. Worse, they let them get away with everything. Red-eye Kid kept carrying on about "I don't wanna wear a seatbelt!" So he didn't. Then, when we landed (and I was already grumpy from being kept up by this brat), the little kid jumped all over the seats next to his dad yelling, "Daddy, get up, we have to get out!" Over and over and over again. Obviously, the aisle was blocked with us passengers trying in vain to escape Red-Eye Kid's obnoxious mouth, so Daddy had nowhere to go. But the longer it took for folks to disembark, the more this kid demanded that his father get up.

Aaaaaagh! I wanted to duct-tape the boy's mouth shut. The guy in front of me in line (an extremely young soldier in dress blues with the shiniest shoes I've ever seen) kept smiling down at the kid like he was cute or something.

NOT cute! There was nothing cute about this.

The drive home from Dulles was an hour and 15 minutes. Since it was 7:30am when I left the airport in the freezing 30-degree cold, there was no way I was going to take the Capitol Beltway to I-95 to get home in the morning rush-hour heading toward D.C. It would've been total gridlock. So I went the scenic route, west and then north to Frederick and then east. It was 20 miles longer, but it probably would've taken me closer to 2 hours to get around the beltway and up to Ellicott City.

I was tired. I went straight to bed and slept for 4-5 hours (when Martin wasn't kneading my head). I got up but was still out of it. After eating and watching a re-run of the most of the fourth quarter of the Seattle-Dallas game that I'd accidentally recorded and an episode of Law & Order, I went back to bed at 7:00pm and stayed there until morning.

And it was back to work yesterday. Ugh. The funny thing is, I felt like I was leaving home when I left Seattle to return to MD—not coming home. It's cold here. It was 72 degrees on Saturday when I left the east coast, and 30 degrees when I came back Tuesday.

One of these days I'll be back in the Pacific Northwest. That's where my heart is, that's where several of my closest friends are, and I'm pretty sure that's where I belong.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Oh Seattle

Night before last, from seat 35G all the way at the back of the huge Boeing 767, I watched out my window as Lake Washington, the I-90 bridge, then the Space Needle, Smith Tower, and Safeco field came into clear view. It was 8:15PM Pacific time. My seatmate was a neat young woman named Mackenzie who manages a fish plant in Kake, Alaska. I was fascinated by her life in what she called the most beautiful place on earth. I called out the sites to her as I spied them. When I mentioned we were right over Qwest stadium, she said that the Seahawks had a playoff game that day. I told her, "Oh my god, they're playing right now!" The stadium was brightly lit, and every seat was filled. I knew it was a special time for Seattle. I looked on and watched hundreds of camera flashes light up the sky from within the stands. I could feel the energy.

We landed, and Mackenzie called someone on her phone to see if she could find out who was winning the game. Her first report was that Seattle was losing. Then she placed another call. She found out that Seattle has just won, 21-20; her friend said it was a wild game. We realized then that our plane had flown over the stadium right at the climax of the game. How cool is that? We were so excited that the Hawks had won and that, technically, we'd seen it happen! My trip had started out right.

Then I got to the terminal, and went straight to Avis to check in. There was no line. I was the only one there. "The Seahawks just won the play-off game!" I said with no lack of exuberance to the nice man behind the counter. He was so friendly. I asked what type of cars were in the class reserved for me, mentioning that it would be nice to have whichever one is highest off the ground (easier on the back). He looked at his computer and, to my surprise, said "You're in luck, we're all out of mid-size so I can upgrade to an SUV." Yes! How often does that happen?

I stopped at a Safeway that I used to shop at in Redmond. I grabbed some bananas and an Odwalla beverage and headed to the one check-out stand that was open. The only person in line ahead of me was a girl no more than 22 buying a pack of cigarettes—with dimes. $5.59 in dimes that she counted out one by one. (Dang, cigarettes are expensive.) It was late (after midnight my time), and after sitting on that plane for exactly six hours, all I wanted was to get to my motel and get unpacked. Naturally, I felt a bit annoyed. I guess if it had been milk and bread that she was paying for entirely in coins it wouldn't have bothered me as much. But when a young beautiful girl is so desperate for nicotine that she has to empty her piggy bank to pollute her lungs, why should I suffer?

Just as I was thinking that very thought, the girl looked up at me with a big genuine smile and sincerely apologized for making me wait. Suddenly it was all right. I could wait a few extra monments. Not only that, but the cashier—a dapper young man named Drew—expressed unbelievable patience with this customer. He held out his hand as she deposited the dimes there and remained completely pleasant. He wasn't faking it either.

When I got to my hotel in Redmond, the front desk clerk came out as I walked up to the counter, without my having to ring the bell. Not only that, she came out with a smile on her face. She checked me at lightening speed and showed me my room on a map. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my room had feather pillows on the bed, which is the only kind I can sleep on. Yay!

Later, I wandered past the front desk, ice bucket in hand. The nice girl came out and offered to fill my bucket for me, saying that the vending area was way down the hall. I was like, "You don't have to do that! I can go down there and get it." But she insisted and walked over to the nearby kitchen to fill the ice bucket for me.

I almost fell over. After two years on the east coast, I've grown accustomed to bad service. Well, it's more like I've resigned myself to it.

But this. . . this this is Seattle. Nice people, friendly service, and polite drivers. I've only been tail-gated once since my arrival (and that was some eastside snob in her Jag who practically drove on the shoulder to get around me). Things continued to go well yesterday. In fact, everything has gone right on this trip so far. Maybe it's a sign that I was meant to be back here—permanently. I love this place so much and feel right at home coming back. Oh and, once again, I forgot my umbrella. Ha!

Go Hawks!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Hero Week in New York City

A friend of mine on the west coast sent me a link to this story - which can't do anything but warm your heart, especially if you watch the video included in the story:

The other hero is this guy who saved the life of a man who fell on the subway tracks. I am impressed with his response in this Reuters article about who the real heroes are: NYC, Trump, Disney reward "Subway Superman".

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hello, 2007

If you are in search of any new year's words of wisdom, you certainly won't find them in today's blog. I'm still too pissed off at 2006 and it's final "Screw you, Susie!" to come up with any proclamations about great things to come in the year 2007. Blah, blah, blah. The very last thing that the exhausting and oh-so-irritating year 2006 gave me in its final farewell was a visit from a horrid gastrointestinal virus—which struck me on December 27th, the first day in the entire year where I didn't have something to do or some place to be. All I wanted to do was relax for a change. Trust me, this virus was no form of relaxation. It was just plain ugly.

Mr. Virus finally parted ways on the first day of this new year. So much for returning to work the 28th. There went two days' pay down the toilet—and I don't mean metaphorically.

Alas, I am well again. My friend Rashmi told me to buy this stuff called Airborne to take the next time I fly. It's supposed to be an effervescent, herbal, anti-oxidant (etc.) immune system booster. Sounds pretty fancy, eh? Well, if it works, praise be to Rashmi. I swear, I get sick the same exact week every single year—Christmas week. (In fact, last year I missed Christmas because my illness came two days beforehand.) Usually it's a nasty cold or sinusitis or bronchitis—something involving miserable congestion. This year was something completely different, and something I'm not sure I'd wish on my worst enemy (which, at the present time, is my home builder who consistently burns three months on a two-day job). Nonetheless, I almost always blame my annual holiday sickness on the airlines and the mass of pent-up germs re-circulating in the airplane on holiday flights. It just isn't safe to fly during flu season.

So this week, rather than celebrate the coming of the new year and dreaming it will be better, I'm simply relishing in the passing of 2006. The only good thing that happened (to me) last year is that I recuperated from my disc replacement back surgery of the previous summer. After 18 years, I can finally say "I have no back pain." That's the big highlight for me personally. And the only highlight. The rest of the year can be summed up thusly: extreme stress, frustration, and irritation with the idiots that one has to deal with on a regular basis. Sigh…. I've become such a cynic in my middle age.

Funny, I made more money in 2006 than ever before. This just goes to prove that money doesn't buy happiness. It buys you a lot of designer knock-off purses on Canal Street, but that's about it.

So, bugger off 2006! I'm done with you and hope to never cross paths with you again. Nyah!

Oh, and Happy New Year to all of you Web surfers out there. I truly hope this is a good year for all my readers (all two of them) and their families as well.