Spring Blues

March 29 ???

March 29 ???

What is it with Chicago weather? Spring officially arrived a week ago. And yet…

First on Saturday I sat for 2 1/2 hours in 30 degree weather watching my son’s home baseball opener. It took all 5 layers of clothing to keep me warm through seven innings. Too bad the game went eight.

Then we wake up Sunday to this.

Technology Workaround

My wife has been home with the flu and it has taken her voice. She had something important for me to know while I was at work so she sends an email. No big deal. Then I get a text asking why I did not reply to her email. Text back, “because it did not show up.

She does it again. Another text. Same reply. She tries my GMail account. still nothing. By now she is not just sick but fuming. I send an email to her hoping that she can just reply to it. Nope.

She is not in the mood and I do not have the time to walk her through various potential fixes. I call. Does the Internet connection work. Yes, she says in that small flu-voice.

OK. Here is what we will do. Go to 48facets and put the email in the form of a comment. Works. Respond. Rerespond. Communication happens. Problem solved.

Later on I am home and I get a text. Not a usual occurrence. It is my wife. She is upstairs. I think in the prehistoric times of my youth we used to use a bell. I kinda like old technology.

canstringphone

Auspicious Beginning

Heading for an island in the Caribbean. Slowly, very slowly.

Got to the airport 2 and a half hours before the flight as requested by the United in order to get things moving on time. Spent some time in the airport lounge and then headed for the gate.

The plane boarded on time. We found our seats and settled in for the remaining 40 minutes until flight time…or so United said.

So how did I spent the next 2 hours? Sitting in the same seat. With the plane still at the same gate. Just sitting. If you want to get the general feeling of what we were going through find a hard chair, place it about 3 inches from a wall. Sit down. Count to 1,000.Repeat. OK that is enough to get the gist.

Once again United discovers new and novel ways to delay a flight. The pilot announces that he is a replacement pilot. Since he is going out of the country and flying back the next day he had hoped for a room to sleep in. United had been working on it for 5 hours to this point. The plane was going nowhere until the pilot has a room. Over an hour goes by after this announcement. We are still sitting. The pilot comes on a few times with updates mainly saying that the United is working on it, that it is hard to get a “cheap” room during high season and that he is sorry. So are we.

Lots of kids on this flight. The natives begin to get restless. More time goes by.

Finally a room for the pilots. At last we can leave. Right. Uh, not yet. It seems as if 3 pieces of luggage still needed to be loaded onto the plane. Another 30 minutes.  Pilot comes on. Learns that it was really 60 pieces of luggage. But now we are ready to go.

Well, not quite right. The jetway is stuck. Not to worry, mechanics from the City of Chicago—which instead of the airlines operates select jetways including B18— are on the way The jetway gets repaired and pulls back from the plane.

AWAY WE GO.  Right into a line of 15 planes.

Stay tuned. I am sure the rest of the week will be much better. I don’t have to fly again until next Saturday.

I’m Dreaming Of A White…Sand Beach

A white Christmas is guaranteed here in Chicago. Plenty of snow covers the ground. If the temps stay in the 20s like today I won’t mind it too much but Winter has hit with a vengeance here in the Midwest.

Over the last week, starting Tuesday December 16, still officially autumn, we have had 3 major snowstorms and most days the temps have been single digits–some with a minus sign. The first snow came during rush hour and my 45 minute commute took over 3 hours followed immediately by an hour of shoveling snow.

The second storm was accompanied by high winds and single digit temperatures. The storm last night also hit at rush hour but apparently I was one of the few idiots still working. The driving was challenging, where was my dog team and sled when I needed it, but with few cars on the road the commute only took an hour and a half.

It is only December with months of winter to go. Yes I am ready to get away to warm weather and sandy beaches. Something like this.

majestic

In the meantime I will settle in my warm house, light Hanukkah candles, and sing Hanukkah and Christmas songs. Here is one of my favorite Christmas ballads.

(BTW. Der Bingle first sang the song White Christmas — written by Irving Berlin, a good Jewish boy– in the movie Holiday Inn not in the copycat movie White Christmas. A common misconception. One story claims Berlin wrote the song in early 1940 while sitting poolside at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. Another says he was in his home in upstate NY. I like the former story better.)

A Little Debbie’s Day

Every have one of those days filled with little annoyances? At some point all you want to do is bury yourself in comfort food. Sunday was one of those days for me.

My kid had one of those rude, dad- you – are -so-stupid tones from the moment he woke up, at noon.

Flat tire.

Too many stores and too many slow lines. One woman kept the line waiting as she agonizingly slowly counted out her change to pay a small grocery bill.

At another store we all waited and waited in the express lane–I had one item–while the 16 year old cashier kept calling for someone 21 or older to come and ring up a bottle of wine.

Traffic was slow.

It was 20 degrees out.

One of those days.

I entered my last store cold, tired and hungry. Trepidation filled my every fiber as I entered another florescent lit layer of hell.

Then rising like a magnificent mountain of all that is good, directly ahead of me  it stood. A huge display of assorted Little Debbie cakes and cookies. It was all I could do to summon the self-control to not fill my cart with boxes of Oatmeal Creme pies and Fudge Rounds. An image jumped into my mind of me on my couch, warm,  consuming a box of each and letting the sugar induced coma take me to a better place.

I was able to just buy what I needed and go home. But the dream lives on.

ld-oatmeal

ld-fudge

Iowa

I am spending the night in a Mt. Vernon. Not bad you say. Just outside of D.C. The home of the first President. No, the other Mt. Vernon.

Mt. Vernon, Iowa. Home of the other Cornell, Cornell College.

One more small liberal arts college on the tour of Midwest schools.  About 1200 students. 4000 people in the town. Three stoplights–all on the same street and about 3 blocks between lights.

Sure the town is quaint. The kind of place worth spending a couple of hours exploring on the way to somewhere else. But to stay overnight??? At least I will have some quality time with my son you say. Sure. Except that he slept 80% of the trip here and is staying with a student in the dorm tonight, We were together for about 90 minutes today. I have been at the Sleep Inn by myself since 4:30.

My wife wouldn’t come with. Too much to do. I wish I could say that. I have nothing to do. Nada. Less than Nada. Small, small town. When the locals talk about Cedar Rapids and Iowa City as the big towns nearby, you know you are in small town Iowa.

Oh, by the way, never go to the fast food Chinese place in a small town for dinner. Especially if the woman at the counter is Hispanic and the also have burritos on the menu. The food may be cheap but in this case you will likely get what you pay for.

The school actually seems fine. It has a unique approach to education. Students take 1 class at a time for 18 days. You can walk from one end of the campus to the other in less than 15 minutes. Most buildings are historical landmarks.  

Hopefully my son is having a good time. I will find out tomorrow.

Don’t Waste My Time!

But he did.

We attended a seminar at the local community college that promised to help us understand the mysteries of funding college education. The great secrets of where to find grants, loans and scholarships were ours for the investment of time. A good investment we figure. College costs at the schools we visited will be $40,000+ per year.

Within 5 minutes I knew I was in an extended sales pitch and not a seminar. i started playing games on my Blackberry until my wife gave me “the look”. On and on he went. I now know that there are a million ways to screw up applying for loans and scholarships. I could have guessed that. After 75 minutes he shared only one way to make it through the haze. Hire him.

He had such unmitigated gall as to have an evaluation form. And we got a certificate for a free evaluation–typically a $250 value. Wow!

I could have been working, exercising, sleeping or being mugged. Any of these activities would have been of greater value.

On the way out his “people” wanted to know if we wanted to schedule our free evaluation. Please, don’t waste any more of my time. I already need to figure out how to recapture 75 minutes.

At Some Point You Have To Laugh

That was said by the young woman standing in line behind me. Our flight to Charlotte should have left 2 hours earlier. Instead we had been in a slow moving line back out past TSA security waiting to find out if there were some way out of hell.

I am sure you are in no mood to hear another on of my travel horror story but as long as I have them I am giving you the opportunity to relive them with me. Another new reason to delay a flight.

After 14 hours in the office on Monday and a hectic Tuesday morning of emergency emails and calls I left for O’Hare. As it was I dreading the 5 hour two plane trio to Kingsport, TN. The only good news was that at the end of the travels I was to have dinner with one of my favorite clients. If only it had happened as planned.

Instead 15 minutes before the 12:30 US Air flight to Charlotte they announced a maintenance delay. 45 minutes later they announced that the part they needed, it took that long to figure out which part it was, they did not keep in Chicago. The part would need to be flown in. If it came, the plane might leave at 7 pm. The announcement directed us to go to the ticket counter on the dreaded other side of security.

This is one time where being a frequent flier screwed me. I assumed that technology could help get me on one of the three remaining US Air flights to Charlotte or one of the two United flights. Why not, I have high level status on United.

I worked that phone. US Air, United, Us Air again. Different answers each time. Mostly though it seemed as though every flight that day to Charlotte was full. After an hour I realized that I had no choice but to go to the ticket counter. More confusion. There were several lines and no one directing traffic. I stood in the wrong line until I reached the front in time to be told that the person behind that counter could not help me. Into the other line which had to be 50 people deep. Three people behind the counter. No good answers to be had.

If there is a deity with a master plan manipulating world events to the level of my plane travel I have discovered his/her master plan. The purpose of these moments is to provide an environment in which people who would never get the opportunity to converse mingle. People of all races, creeds, colors, and walks of life spontaneously begin sharing stories. They find things they have in common. Mostly what they have in common is their hatred of air travel and whatever airline is causing the day’s frustrations. Sometimes more. The older lady and her even older mother in front of me were on their way home to the city I was visiting. We chatted abut how crowded it got during race week (there is a NASCAR track nearby) and what a nice town it is. As a group we provide each other with solace and understanding.

Well, once it was my turn I was told there were no seats to Charlotte that day. I could have tried leaving the next day but any delay and I would have missed my business meeting. At least person behind the counter was competent. She found a United nonstop to Knoxville that would put me 110 miles away. I took it. I figured I would rent a car and at least be there that night.

On to the United terminal. Finally, a bit of luck, there were only 4 people ahead of me in the security line. But not so fast. I was not given a ticket but a receipt for a ticket the TSA guy informed me. On to another long line to haggle with another ticket agent. Back to security again where the line was now 40 people deep. As I reached my gate my admin called. No rental cars from any company in Knoxville. Hitchhiking was not an appealing option. Fortunately my client agreed to come get me.

For hours later, 11 hours after I left my house I was in my hotel room.  

As I have said before, as long as the plane did not fall out of the sky I can deal with it. Sort of.

The Low Highs And High Lows of My SCUBA Trip

I have been in Curacao for two days now. My lugguge has not yet made the trip. It is missing some beautiful weather and I am missing my expensive brand new dive mask with the new prescription lens.  This is my low high. The low part is obvious, the high refers to the height of the American Airlines jet that should have brought my clothes and equipment to me. Or maybe it refers to the level of my level of exasperation and frustration.

It has been many years since I scheduled a trip just to dive, I had not been under the water for two years and only a few dives in the years before that. Six potential days to dive. At least three will be without the things that let me see well underwater or even the shoes to go hiking in.  I am not here to lay on a beach. I have been fortunate enough to do that twice already this year.  Ideally I am 60 feet below the surface most of the day and exploring the rest of the day.

So on to the high lows. I did dive today. Just one, a typical day is 2 and a great day would be three. It felt phenomenal, eventually. The dive shop we are using is low key and very friendly. The more experienced divers joining us really helped out. I generaly know how to hook up the various pieces of equipment but generally is nowhere good enough for being underwater. One of the others discovered a leak in my octopus, the spare thing that you breath through. I would have lost a lot of air and therefore dive time if that had not been fixed before we left.

Two other divers had not dove for at least a year so the dive master had us practice two basic skills just off the shore before we did the serious diving. First I took the regulator out of my mouth and tossed it over my shoulder. The object was to use the proper technique to recover it before I started breathing ocean.  Check. The second was to allow water into your mask and then clear it. Check again. This gave me a few moments to gain my composure under the water. I needed that.

We swam a ways on the surface until we were above reef a few hundred yards from the beach. Then down. I broke the surface of the water easily which is not always the case with me. It was a good reef. Interesting coral. There seemed to be a large number and a fairly good variety of fish. I was surprised when later the dive master said that there were fewer fish than usual.

I revel in the experience of floating under water communing with the sea life. This reef was long and deep. You could not see the bottom.  We went no deeper than 60 feet.  And yet for me depth plays a siren song. I want to keep exploring further down. Depth is a narcotic.  I am hooked.

The advantage of staying at 40 to 60 feet is that your air lasts a long time. We were down for 45 minutes and I had air to stay longer. However, until I am more experienced I need to stay with the group.

The dive was a definite high, low beneath the surface. More to come both for the highs amd the lows.

My Own Private Purgatory

So here I am. First time on a plane all to myself. Well almost all to myself. There is a flight attendant.

She was having a bad day. Due to flight delays she is only on her 3rd instead of her fifth flight. She will get home late. She is mildly upset. She had no one else to talk to.

I must have looked for a moment as if I wanted to chat. I did not. But for the entire 45 minutes of that flight she did. Nonstop.

She complained to me about all the passengers over the past few days that had been complaining to her. She went on to tell me a story of a female passenger that called her over and just started talking about her travel plans. Eventually this woman asked when the plane, which was late would leave. “Well”, my flight companion complained, “doesn’t she understand that there was nothing that I could do.” There was nothing I could do…to make her stop.

She went on to complain to me about others who had had the audacity to complain to her. Obviously the irony of this was lost on her. Not on me, I guarantee.

She managed to take a potentially first class experience for me and made it coach.  regional jet coach.