Imagine this: I’m sitting on a toilet at the Spokane airport at around 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 23, getting ready to board the first of three planes which will fly me all night back to Indianapolis. It’s time to start decompressing from the two-weddings-on-adjacent-weekends sequence of thudding events — including the procession of family dinners and breakfasts WHIRLWIND that is my immediate family of eight siblings — and return, somehow, to daily life in Bloomington, Indiana. Can I do it?
So I’m sitting there, wondering, feeling dispirited, already exhausted, checking emails on my phone when all of a sudden, pops up an email from Katarina with this photo attached.
Check the little sign in the photo, “Green Acres.” It was taken at the annual CONA (Council of Neighborhood Associations) event back in January and features podmates Rebecca (front left), Katarina (front right), Georgia (the other older woman sitting next to me with whom I began to revivify the Green Acres Neighborhood Association back in 2003), and three other young neighbors, all of whom are in the Grant Group headed by Katarina that is seeking a Neighborhood Improvement Grant to bring us five neighborhood signs.
We are the only neighborhood in this university town that seeks to integrate renters and owners, young and old. So far. Perhaps this photo will capture others’ attention?
Needless to say, the photo fired me up, and gave me enough (barely enough) energy for my return home yesterday around noon after epic 28 hour ordeal/journey which I mentally broke up into 12 segments (each with unknowns and/or opportunities) beforehand and then counted the segments off one by one over that extended period in which, for various reasons, as you shall see, I was unable to sleep.
THE TWELVE SEGMENTS, as experienced, with flashbacks
1. Monday morning: take son Sean back to Seatac airport at 5:30 AM. Yay! Traffic not too bad at that hour. And yay! I figured out that, despite the fact that I somehow made a wrong turn when I picked up Sean on Friday at the airport, highway 99 does go all the way from Magnolia (section of Seattle where brother John lives) to 405 to airport, so I can and do avoid always clogged I5.
2. Drive to Spokane. (First wedding was in Spokane, so I flew from Indy to there rather than Seattle, which was near Coeur d’Alene, where the second wedding took place.) Oops! On my way out of the airport I accidentally took the road that led to the rental garage . . . So, one ticket and six minutes later, after going up and up and down and down, I finally exited and got on my way. Then, oops! During this early commuting time, I get caught in clogged traffic for nearly a full hour between airport and Bellevue. How do people live here on a daily basis? The traffic gets more congested year by year. This area foolishly avoided opting for a light rail, and instead is trying to build a tunnel. I say trying, because the huge boring machine got stuck over a year ago, and the delays and efforts to bring it to the surface have cost over one billion dollars — so far. In fact, during the very week I was there, they were finally able to bring part of the boring machine to the surface, with the most massive crane I have ever laid eyes on.
3. Stay (again) at brother Mark’s near Cheney for three hours. Welcome R &R while waiting for evening flight out. I had stayed for nearly three days R&R after the first wedding in Mark and Carrie’s home that borders their beautiful little pond with giant boulders and lots of geese and ducks — and bluebirds! Moose, deer, and coyotes also frequent the gorgeous 40 acres filled with aspen and conifers. During those three days, while they were at work I walked five miles each morning with their sweet dog Oakley, did my yoga/chi kung/taichi practices, and returned to formal meditation.
4. Return rental car to airport. This segment was uneventful. Plus, they didn’t charge any extra. Only $200 for 12 days, in a sweet little Kia that hugged the road and featured wide views.
This fact partially makes up for the fact that my plane flight unaccountably was billed at $780! What? When I saw that, only hours before flying out, I figured maybe it meant that the rental car was included? Nope. I think what happened was I was double-billed somehow. Because I have never bought a ticket to Seattle for anywhere over $400, and this was no exception. But when I called expedia today to try to figure it out, I was told there was a 20-minute wait. Hung up. Try again tomorrow.
5. Wait at airport for first plane — which, unfortunately, was going west, to Seattle, rather than east. Can you believe? I had just returned from Seattle, because the rental car was cheaper in Spokane. Plus, my plane left from Spokane. And now I had to go back to Seattle? Yep. When I called, the day before, to see what it would cost to return it to Seattle rather than Spokane, thinking, well, maybe a $50 fee would be worth it, and then I could just catch the second flight, from Seattle to Minneapolis . . . I discovered that the fee would be $500. WHAT?
In all my unavoidable machinations within the matrix for this trip, I’m reminded of just how crazy is the world we live in. BTW: median house cost in Seattle is $580,000. Can you believe? This part of the midwest is looking better and better.
5. Wait at airport for first flight to Seattle. Oh wow, I discover that the HSA “guards” at this decidedly local-feeling airport are fun, human, and don’t mind me joking around, when they have to “pat me down” despite my “pre-check” status. Why? “Because there’s some kind of suspicious substance on your hands.” Really? How? The rental car? “Did you put gas in your rental car?” Yes. “That will do it.”
And you might ask, why am I “pre-check”? I asked that one too. And found out that I had been “randomly selected” in a test program which is going to go live soon, at which point I will have to get a “background check” if I want to continue.” Yeah sure. Forget it. They probably want my eye scan, even my DNA. Yep. Rolling in the police state little by little by making it “convenient” to join up.
6. Plane to Seattle: arrive 8:45. P.M. Uneventful.
7. Wait in airport for four hours, until 12:45 A.M. Buy copy of Vanity Fair, skip through the hundreds of pages of skinny model and expensive perfume ads, to the dense political stuff at the end. Keeps me occupied and interested, even though it’s obvious that the editors of this mag love, depend on, and greatly admire rich people just for being rich.
8. Second leg of plane trip, to Minneapolis. Of course I was hoping for a seat which would allow both sleep and the ability to go to the bathroom without contorting or waking up other passengers. I succeeded in getting the aisle seat, but, it was the last one, its back to the wall, so the seat didn’t go back. Which meant that whenever I did start to drop off to sleep my head would jerk forward and wake me up.
9. Wait in airport for trip to Indianapolis. If you recall, I was seated in the back of the plane to Minneapolis, and though we landed on time, the plane to Indy would take off in 45 minutes. Where would that plane be? Let’s hope in the same wing or same building. . . Nope! No such luck.
However, here’s what I noticed, about both passengers on this plane and the other two: everybody was unfailingly polite, and not just polite, but helpful and often smiling or saying hello. Just that fact really buoyed me up.
My third flight was to take off from a section of the airport that was as far from the other as it could be. But, I did make it, thanks to running. Which got my heart going after the long, sleepless flight. Which was good.
All along, I’m keeping track of the twelve “segments,” noting each one like a notch in my belt. Helped me deal with the long ordeal.
I’m looking forward to the third and last flight. At least, with a better seat, maybe I’ll be able to nap in the short time we’re actually up at cruising altitude and speed before descending . . .
10: Flight to Indianapolis. Oops! Wrong again. This third seat isn’t against the wall, thank goodness, but — yech! the mechanism to let it go backwards those crucial four inches is broken! So, there I am again, just drifting off and being jerked back to wakefulness each time, by my heaving, rolling head.
11: Shuttle from airport. Call hotel (where I had parked my car, doing a Park Sleep Ride the night before early flight from Indy) to come get me. They tell me to go to Zone 2. I do. Stay there for at least 45 minutes craning my neck for the telltale oncoming La Quinta van before calling again, wondering where the driver was. Turns out he was, at the same moment, also on the phone with the hotel, asking where I was. I had gone to Door 2 rather than Zone 2 . . .
Which reminds me: When I picked up Sean at Seatac on Friday, not only did I make a wrong turn to get there, but I ended up on the ground floor “Alaska” sign rather than the top floor “Alaska” sign. Neither of us knew Alaska was on both floors. Looking without finding went on for nearly an hour with both of us on our cell phones, not believing that the other couldn’t find us. Felt surreal, like we were in parallel realities. And we were!
12: The drive home. Yes, I was exhausted. Stopped at Starbucks for a coffee in Martinsville, told Rhonda I’d be coming to pick up puppy Shadow. Did that. Barely made it home.
Slept eleven hours last night. Whew! Back!
P.S. The weddings were a study in contrast: the first a country wedding in a Grange hall, with a fancy potluck and the bride in cowboy boots; the second catered in a convention center on the waterfront in Seattle with lots of young women in stiletto heels. I wore the same funky fancy clothes to both.
Most memorable moments? Those early mornings in Coeur d’Alene, where three of my sibs and I and spouses had rented a house for the weekend. We thought it was just Dad who got up at 4 A.M., but guess what? Now that he’s gone, it turns out that all of us prefer that wake-up hour, and get to bed at 8:30 at the latest! I guess it’s a Kreilkamp thing. Here are some of us, me in my p.j.’s yucking it up with coffee between 4 and 7 both mornings: