THE PLANE TRUTH

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I’d like to say I don’t know anyone who actually likes to fly, other than maybe a bird or a soaring squirrel.  But it is one of my husband’s favorite pastimes.

Sure, he likes exploring remote destinations like Nampa, Namibia or Nottawa.  In fact, he just returned from Antarctica—the frigid land of icebergs, penguins, seals and whales.  But most of all he reveled in the long flights he had the privilege of taking to get down there.  If I overheard correctly, he flew to Miami, then to Buenos Aires, then to some port at the tip of Argentina beginning with a “U”, before boarding a small cruise ship to cross the infamously rough waters of the Drake Passage–headed on down to the white continent at the bottom of the earth.

 It seemed like in no time at all he was on his way back home.   His flight from Miami to Dulles was cancelled due to a snow storm here on the east coast, delaying him some 36 hours or so in sunny Florida.  He claimed he’d seen enough snow and ice for a lifetime so was not sorry to miss this late winter blizzard.  Plus he could pass the time watching all the planes take off and land there M.I.A., as seasoned fliers call Miami International.  

People, even close friends, ask why I did not join my spouse on this awesome adventure…

Well, for starters I do not like to fly and am prone to sea sickness.  Although having lived in Asia for six years and Texas for as many, I have often been forced to board a plane or ship to get from here to there.  Fact is, I HATE flying as well as many of the type of people who like to cruise.  But I do enjoy visiting new and exotic places.  Go figure.

Once I had a few babies while living in Asia, I was distracted on long flights from say, Bangkok to the Big Apple.  The first baby was fairly easy and in those days, (she was born in 1987), I could feed her, then stash her in a bassinet that hung from the front of the first class cabin.  Writing about this now I feel negligent although I think there was a belt to tie her down lest she go flying out of that hammock in the rare event of turbulence or a crash landing.

Back to airplanes.  My dad once asked me if I ever thought of becoming what they once called a stewardess.  (I think he and I were flying somewhere, had been upgraded, and were enjoying a few cocktails.)

It was one of the few times in my life I wanted to smack him.  I mean, I had been a waitress once, the summer after I graduated with honors from college, and that was painful enough.  But to wait on people held captive in the air, with the unlikely possibility of crashing, plus NO tips, did not appeal to me in the least.

Flash forward.  My favorite and only son and I are flying somewhere.  I am sure we had a destination but all I recall is the rocky flight.  We choose to sit in the “EXIT” row seats so we are in charge.  I chuckle when I read the card stuck in the seat pocket in front of me:  “If you cannot read this notice, please inform your flight attendant…”

Kid and I snicker at the absurdity.

My sleepy boy gets assigned the task of promising to open the EMERGENCY EXIT door in the rare event of a crash landing.  I am his back-up, or so I tell myself.

Once we had safely landed*, as planes often do, I took a deep breath and asked my son how he’d enjoyed the flight.

“Not that much” he grumbled.

“After all…I had to sleep the entire time with one eye open!”

*Please remain in your seats until the captain has turned off the seat belt sign.

 


ODD JOBS

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Let’s face it; most of us need to pay the bills.  So we try for, if not the best, any job we can land.  Naturally, some are more desirable and better paying than others.  One of my least favorite gigs was as an evening receptionist at a mid-rise apartment building in southeast Washington, D.C.  Having just graduated (with high honors) from Gonzaga University in Spokane, I had headed east in search of the job of my dreams. 

This was not to happen for quite a few years. 

Meanwhile…

Clocking in at 5 p.m.—rush hour– I took control and buzzed in swarms of CAPITOL PARK TOWER residents headed home from work each evening with all kinds of complaints, questions, demands and dirty looks.  Aside from singles who freshened up and headed out for happy hours, dinner, more drinks, clubbing, whatever, not much happened over the next seven break- less hours.  I read, filed my nails, or drafted short stories and poems.  I always looked forward to 1 a.m. when I could frantically dash home to my apartment down the street, praising the lord each night as I locked the door behind me, safe at last.

Other not so prime work I did to help make ends meet took place at a drugstore in Maryland.  Although this job required me to show up at 6 a.m., the up side was I got off at approximately 6:30 a.m.–and made a whopping $15.00!  My official title was “Breather”, which involved blowing (without having brushed my teeth that morning) into a silver-dollar sized hole cut into a cardboard, makeshift wall.  After gargling with various mouthwashes, I exhaled 9 or 10 long breaths into the hole, where poor testers on the other side of the wall were forced to smell my stale, hot air.  Next they’d report on the effects, if any, of each oral rinse on my deadly “morning mouth”.  Again, I was paid $15 for less than an hour of “work”.

Yes, there are undesirable jobs.  But the WORST I ever encountered and was never forced to endure was in Hong Kong in the 80s.  Upon entering the ladies’ room in a fancy hotel on the harbor, a plump Asian woman in a starched white jacket stuck a small dish in my face with one hand, lifting a sign in her other:  “4 HK dollar to go toilet”.  Oh…she was a Restroom Attendant.  

Eeewwwww—tough, smelly work.

(I wondered what might happen if I did not have any cash?  Perhaps an accident?)

Many, many years later, I find myself in the airport in Charlotte, NC, when I feel the urge to use the restroom.  Hurrying in, I am greeted by a charmingly gracious woman who resembles Aunt Jemima, babushka and all.

She is wearing a crisp indigo blue jacket and bright red lipstick.

“Hi there sweetheart’, she chirps.  “Right this way”, as she directs me into an empty stall.

I notice she has two large glass jars on either side of the sinks, half full of bills, mostly ones but several fives as well… ”Really?” I thought to myself.

After relieving myself I half expect her to open the door and flush for me.  She doesn’t, but watches as I wash my hands, then passes me a towel, offers me a spritz of cologne and/or a mint,  and grins like she loves her job–and me.

Next I reach into my wallet, contemplate a five, but decide a one is a respectable amount to pay for “going #1” in a public facility. 

“Have a nice day, precious”, she drawls as I drop a bill into one of her jars.  “And God bless yawl”.

As I head back out to the concourse I notice Jemima spraying Febreze around the room while munching on a saltine.  I wonder if perhaps she feels nauseous…


A CLOSET CASE

taj
Having lived in nearly a dozen cities scattered around the world, I have bought and sold my share of houses. And I have viewed, along with some realtor or another, perhaps a thousand dwellings, give or take a few hundred.
While searching for a new home in the early 90s, one particular house stands out in my mind. We’d just relocated after living six years in Asia, and were moving to Houston, Texas, home of the storied Astrodome, rootin’ tootin’ Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, shady Roger Clemens, and best darned salsa this side of the border. Not to forget George and Barbara Bush and the largest futuristic medical center in the world—an understatement—even for TEXANS.
It was a fragrant spring day, not yet sticky, when my realtor Marge* phoned to tell me a house had come on the market at the edge of the coveted Tanglewood neighborhood, not far from downtown Houston. “Evidently”, Marge drawled, “the owner is very motivated cuz the price he is asking is great!” (Or GRITE, as she said it). “And this afternoon they are hosting an Open House. So I say—yawl should go for it, Nay-un.” Funny how she could string my name out into two syllables.
Marge picked me up at our temporary quarters around noon. I skimmed the fact sheet on the house and grew bubbly as I read about the updated 4 BRs and 3.5 baths, cuddle-up/cozy den, dramatic designer kitchen, and “Master Suite Retreat…An Oasis of Tranquility”. This place looked like my kind of home…and affordable???
Pulling up to the house my heart did a somersault. Fancy foreign cars were lined up and down the tree-lined lane–“competition”, I fretted to myself. I fell hopelessly in love from the curb.
Entering the voluptuous mahogany front doors, I was greeted by a foyer full of mostly women, overflowing into the dreamy living room to my right. The place was packed with well-dressed, sophisticated looking house hunters. On the shiny dining room table to my left spread an array of luscious looking finger sandwiches, crudité, fruit salad and cheeses. Downright delectable desserts posed temptingly on the sideboard…
An attractive 50 something-ish blonde wearing an apple green Lilly Pulitzer sheath with a strand of pearls around her neck approached me in pale pink designer flats, holding out her hand. “Welcome honey” she cooed. “So very pleased you could make it!”
“Your home is just beautiful, so charming and warm”, I flattered the apparent owner. “Do you mind if I look in your closets?” A puzzled look crossed the woman’s pretty face as she muttered in confusion,
“Why, I guess not. Go right ahead, dear”.
I proceeded to peruse each and every room on the main level, then all 4 bedrooms and 3 baths upstairs. Next I headed out to the sprawling backyard, where a nice-looking, middle-aged man sat in an Adirondack chair reading a book. He was loosely framed by a border of white impatiens, shiny green boxwood, lavender hydrangea and lacy, white Dusty Miller, (that’s a plant, not a country singer). A canopy of mature, majestic Live Oak trees sheltered the idyllic setting.
“Good afternoon, Sir”, I alerted him. “Is this your wonderful home?”
“Why yes, it is, thank you”, he responded with a Texas twang.
I could not help but inquiring, “May I ask why you are selling this gem?”
He responded rather stunned.
“Oh ma lord, this place is NOT for sale, Mam”, he assured me. “I’m here til the hearse carries me off!”
Suddenly Marge the realtor approaches me from the patio, looking frantic and grabbing my arm so it hurts. She stage whispers,
“Nay-un”, Ah am so sorry, but ah am afraid I brought you to the wrong house. That’s a lah-dee-dah garden club function goin on in there. We gotta get outta here!”
Mortified, we snuck around the side of the house and through the back iron gate, then made a dash for our car.
The house for sale on this lush, lovely lane was:
1807 Oak Haven
NOT
1708 Oak Haven
But I gotta tell ya, that not-for-sale house sure had nice, spacious closets…

*Name has been changed to protect the idiot.