My Trip to San Francisco, or the Travails of Travel

I’ve just arrived, but it’s been the longest several hours of my life. I’m waiting for my son to call me once he gets out of class, and then go to dinner, because I’m starving!

First of all, after dodging mega-construction projects all over the metro area (when you live in the Tundra, those last few weeks of fall are full of last minute projects before the permafrost sets in), I arrived at the airport with scant minutes to spare. While checking my bag, I was informed that my one piece of luggage would cost an additional $15. Why they couldn’t have mentioned it at the time of reservation, or even yesterday as I checked in online, I don’t know. Luckily, I had the money.

Since I had only seconds to spare, I didn’t get a chance to go to my favorite Japanese restaurant in the airport. This made me quite cranky. I knew that the pickin’s on the plane would be slim and grossly overpriced. I couldn’t see paying $5 for a snack box that I could assemble at home for $1.50. Besides, I wanted sushi, damn it! And miso soup that would warm anyone’s heart. (That’s the other thing – it was cold out today!)

Of course, my seat assignment was the second to last row of a very crowded airplane. I don’t know how anyone gets the first couple of seats next to the door; I never do. I didn’t mind, as I knew where I was going once I got there and didn’t have to make any connections. All went well at first, as I settled in to read Steven King’s “On Writing.” (I had a shamelessly fluffy romance novel should I be quick enough to finish the King book. I was.) I prefer to get a window seat, and like to look at the landscape below me, clouds permitting. I’ve flown back and forth so many times now, I can pick up the major cities and rivers, mountain ranges and high desert. I know when we are over Lake Tahoe, it’s time to pack up my personal belongings and raise my tray table to its full and upright locked position.

Today’s flight was less than blissful. During the flyover of the Rocky Mountains, the turbulence was so strong that I actually held onto the arm rests with both hands and prayed. As it turns out, it was a good thing I didn’t eat, because I have a feeling my lunch would have ended up as chunky finger paint over my seat mates.

During the flight, there was a medical emergency back in my section, the last two rows. The flight attendant went on the intercom asking for any doctors or nurses to turn on their overhead lights. Right away, four different lights went on in our section of the plane. It was comforting to know that if we were going to crash due to turbulence, there were so many doctors in the house.

The plane was just a little late because of the strong headwinds (thus causing the turbulence), and so it took a while to disembark. The flight attendant had taken my bag and put it in a Super Secret Spot since the overhead bins were all full. She had forgotten all about it, until I, as the last person on the plane, asked her for my bag.

On the way to the rental car building, travelers must take the AirTrain. This is quite the handy mode of transportation. However, to take the train, you have to get to the platform, which involves going up two sets of escalators. On my second set of escalator, my suitcase (which was packed full of motherly treats like freshly canned tomatoes and weighed at least as much as a Yugo) got caught in a step. On my other arm was my computer bag, which is also heavy, and my other hand was carrying a bag full of freshly picked super steak tomatoes. (Hey. I might as well have picked them before the real frost.) The combined weight of all these bags in concert with centrifugal force sent me tumbling backward. That’s right, I fell backward on the escalator with my bags dragging me down.

I know some might think this is really embarrassing. (Or funny.) I didn’t care about that; I just didn’t want to die. Lucky for me, I landed on top of a very thin Japanese businessman. However, since I was outweighed by my luggage 2 to 1, I couldn’t right myself and there was nothing I could do but scream. It was fortunate that the Japanese businessman had a friend who was a couple of steps above me. He ran down and extricated me from my predicament.

Of course, I apologized profusely. In English. I am learning Japanese, but didn’t know the right way to say “I’m sorry.”

Finally, I made it to my rental car. Of course, being me, I walked over 300 stalls in the wrong direction before I realized that Stall #7 wasn’t going to be next to Stall #386. As luck would have it, I backtracked and there was my little Chevy Cobalt, only steps from the original door I had departed from.

There were some bright spots in my hectic day. Usually, I make the wrong turn when leaving the airport and end up on the 101 heading right for downtown. I don’t want to go there, as my motel of choice is by the ocean, the exact opposite side of town. I can’t tell you how many times I took the wrong exit in the past, even though I know this place just as it were my own home. This time, miraculously, I took the 380 to 280, which is the right way to go. However, I missed the Super Secret Shortcut from Highway 1, and ended up taking the long way over to the Sunset. For some reason, even though it was rush hour, the long way didn’t seem so long.

After unpacking my quart jars and wrestling the rest of my belongings up two flights of stairs (remember, I said “motel” not “hotel”) I am taking a brief rest before I go outside and look at the ocean. After surveying my body, I see I have escaped with scrapes over my left hand, a badly skinned left knee, and I think what is going to be a very bad bruise on my behind. Oh, well… It’s all worth it.

Oh, yes. It’s glorious here. Hot, bright, sunny, very typically NOT San Francisco. My son says October is the hottest time of the year here, and he is right.

The sky is so clear. You can almost see Asia if you look hard enough.

A Cure for the Red-Eye

I’ve been flying back and forth between the Left Coast and the Rust Belt quite a bit, and most of the time, I’ve had to make use of what is known in the airline vernacular as the “Red Eye.” This means the plane leaves late at night, and it arrives at your destination early in the morning. Five a.m. is a good time for red eyes to come in. That goes for both planes and people.

I used to hate doing the red eye. This is because I can’t sleep sitting up, and I can’t sleep with people watching me. I also can’t sleep in uncomfortable chairs, and I can’t get comfortable in an airplane chair.

One of my employees, who got married in Italy to another one of my employees (what a happy union! Too bad I couldn’t make it, since someone had to mind the store…) gave me a sure fire cure for traveling on red eye flights.

First, make sure you get up early in the morning, even earlier than normal.

Second, run around like a possessed person all day long, so that you are sufficiently tired by 9 p.m.

Third, have a generous alcoholic beverage when arriving at your gate. This takes the edge off from fighting rush hour traffic in downtown LA, having to have been stopped as part of a routine check of all cars coming into LAX, and then having to wait in the security checkpoint for an extra long period of time since they were training in a newbie. While considering alcoholic beverages, consider a double margarita made with Cuervo Gold, rocks, no salt. That’s what I did.

Fourth, forty-five minutes before your plane departs, down a couple of Benadryls. If you must know, in my case, that will be in approximately one hour and twenty minutes. Set your watches, please.

Fifth, or perhaps Zero, make sure you have your own comfortable pillow. I used the one that I had flattened with my butt on the bumpy car ride out to this part of the country.

I have found that by following this prescription for the red eye, by the time you settle into your seat, you are so tired that you can’t help but fall asleep, instantly.

By the time you wake up, it is 5:15 a.m. and the flight attendant is nudging you from your seat.

Try it. It works.

Traveling Kind of Sucks

It’s the destination that I keep in mind.

At least, today it was.

Last night, the wind blew mightily. I was afraid I’d be missing a roof when I woke up, but thankfully I wasn’t. It was ten degrees with a -15 degree windchill. Yesterday afternoon, it was in the 40s. Then I got a little nauseous on the way to the airport. It could have been Mr. Demonic’s driving. When he is having an animated conversation with me, he tends to swerve a bit, and vary his speed. I felt a little better after a snack of miso soup and sushi at the airport. Three hours later, somewhere over the Colorado Rockies, I again felt so nauseous, I begged the flight attendant for medicine, or at least a cracker. She sold me a box of snacks for $5.

Because it was ten degrees with a -15 windchill, my plane was an hour late in taking off. This, along with a strong headwind, means I was over an hour late arriving. Then I got on the 101 going north, instead of taking the 380 W to the 280 E (it’s San Francisco, don’t ask me how they do it here). I’ve done that now the last three times I’ve been here. Once on the right highway, I forgot the back way to my son’s house, which would have eliminated another thirty minutes during rush hour. I probably shouldn’t have answered the phone.

However… now that I’m here, it’s beautiful. I shed my coat, and my sweater. We saw a gorgeous sunset over the ocean. I had a good dinner. I noticed my son has another haircut. There are plusses to him having a girlfriend.

The destination was worth the adventure.

Recuperation and Star Travel

The good thing about traveling is that you get to reconnect with friends and relatives you haven’t seen in some time. The bad thing about traveling is that you get to reconnect with friends and relatives you haven’t seen in some time. The really bad thing is that on top of the angst, you must travel to get to your destination.

I would strongly support any government measures to make beam-travel available. Take my tax money, please. I am serious. Just like on Star Trek. Just think of the possibilities.

For one thing, you wouldn’t have to be screened by the TSA. My daughter was pulled over for additional screening on both the departing and returning trips. The first time, they put her into a little plastic one-way box, where she waited for over ten minutes while I tried to get someone to wand her. She was stuck in her clear coffin. I guess it was shift change and no female wanted to do it. We found out later that her little hair clips set the machine off. On the return trip, she was clipless, but she forgot to put her Visine in a little plastic baggie. Of course, she had the Visine on her on the initial trip out, but that didn’t cause alarm then.

Star travel would also eliminate trying to amuse yourself on long flights. I brought a book, “Saving Fish from Drowning” by Amy Tan.  It’s a massive and well written novel by the same person who wrote “Joy Luck Club,” one of my favorite movies of all time. Due to the fact that our plane was an hour late taking off because of mechanical problems, I managed to almost finish the book before arrival. I brought my knitting, using needles made of bamboo not metal, and was told that they were still considered deadly weapons, so I packed them in my luggage. When I opened my luggage, one was snapped in half.

Then there is the phenomenon of car rental. Sometimes you get a good car, sometimes you get a bad one. I’m also a “preferred” member, but managed to get snagged to come into the counter for “additional” information. Now I have a feeling the rental company is going to try to nail me with an additional fee for a little scratch they found on that wonderful KIA Spectra which almost died in a mountain pass. I don’t remember hitting anything, so I pled ignorance.

Then, of course, in the social setting, one must be… well, sociable. In my family, many family get-togethers have ended up in cat fights and all out warfare. About five years ago, I cut off all contact with one of my sisters. I’ve only seen her twice since then, and manage to emit a civil but dispassionate “hello” and “goodbye.” In between, I smile a lot, am reasonably courteous and act stupid.

There’s a certain amount of depression settling in, when you see your brother and sisters and friends and they appear to have aged significantly since the last time you gazed upon their countenances. Why are they so wrinkly? When did he turn grey? I can’t believe that pot belly! Then you stare at yourself in the mirror, looking for wrinkles, grey hair and pot belly, and you notice, without a doubt, that they are there. Hey! I have all those things too! When did THAT happen?

The ability to be beamed to the desired location would eliminate having to spend too much time with family. I love them, but really… I could also forego the luggage, because I would only be in attendance for the party, and would be back in my comfy bed at the end of the celebration.

Finally, your duties finished, you head home to recuperate. Of course, you are bogged down by the fact that we are unable to beam people to far-off places yet, so you have to live through the travel nightmare once again. The only thing is, once you arrive at your home-sweet-home, it’s in a state of total chaos. Things are dirty, not put away. Three days worth of newspapers lie on the porch, and someone (names withheld to protect both the innocent and the guilty) was still home! The laundry is a much bigger pile, the leaves need to be raked some more. Then you realize Thanksgiving is only three days away, and you do not have the provisions for the traditional blow-out dinner.

I’m telling you, star travel would have prevented all of this. Beam me up, Scotty.