18 August 2008

A Natural Gas Crisis

I went to Arizona this weekend. Flew there and back in less than 48 hours. No, I'm not worried about the carbon footprint for such a short trip. I was on Southworst. I mean, west. Lovely crews, but it's such a sardine can shooting through the sky. I can't understand how they can keep narrowing the aisles. It made me want to skip the free pretzels. I didn't, of course, but I thought about it. They've also narrowed the overhead bins. My rollie has fit in lengthwise (you know, bottom in first), just fine on American and United flights, and that actually makes more room for everybody. Yea! On Southwest, it was too long (even though it's FAA regulation carry-on approved). Boo. Fortunately, I found a spot for it on the to-capacity flight. Those who boarded with C group had to check their bags. That's just nutty, and likely from people stowing their computer totes overhead. Those belong under the seat in front of you; you know, lap adjacent. My tote is rather large (not really a computer bag, but a bag with a computer bag in it, and my purse, magazines and books), and really doesn't fit all the way under the seat. I usually take a window seat and throw my faux pashmina over my legs to hide that. On Southwest, I take an aisle seat in order to make the quickest escape. I've learned that if I cross my legs over by the aisle to block the bag from view, smile and make eye contact, the imperfect fit is missed. Jedi traveller mind trick.

I do believe in ride sharing to the airport and took the shuttle in. I live so close to LAX, it's silly to bother a friend on a Friday for such a trip. I don't even mind the risk of smelly strangers or getting there god-awful early. That just gives me time to meander. Buy water. Get in my two vodka tonics, which stave off any turbulence tummy. But it was the ride that made it queasy.

I had the crankiest driver in the ricketiest van ever in the history of my travels, and that is saying something (have you ever been in an Ensenada taxi?), and I had him all to myself. While I do love my rare but chauffeured town car rides, I've not been spoiled by them. I carry my own bags happily, and will gladly get my own doors. Yet getting into the van in my platforms while carrying my totebag was a bit daunting. Narrow steps with inflexible shoes are a danger, but I made it in without ankle twisting, though, it took two tries to shut the side door. As we drove away, there was a warning bell going off. It kept binging, but the driver didn't seem bothered. "Sir," I asked, "did I shut the door properly?" "Huh?" he replied, so I repeated myself. Still didn't hear me, so I asked again. "What?" he grunted as he turned to face me. "Oh, look out," I said, as the parked car ahead approached us. He straightened out then threw the van over to the right and parked.

"Whacho problem?" he scolded. "Um, I don't have a problem, per se. I was just inquiring if that binging I keep hearing had anything to do with the door I couldn't shut." "That binging," he told me, "is for my door. I goes off about four times and then stops. I don't know why." For the record, it went off much more than four times. "And why did you tell me to look out?" he continued. "Well, because I noticed the parked car we were heading toward and thought I should point it out."

Not typically how I begin a journey. Small talk would be skipped.

There was no need for us to rush. I was picked up at 3:00 for my 5:15 flight, and I live about seven miles from the airport. We had plenty of time, yet the driver decided to drive like a bat out of hell, nearly ran three red lights, and managed to hit every bump in the road. The van itself sounded like it was on the verge of collapse. Squeaking and grinding and wheezing and creaking. I was certain that if we hit one more pothole the wheels would fall off. Surprisingly, we made it there in one piece, and without chunks. I needed a vodka tonic stat. There's something about VTs that settle my stomach better than ginger ale.

Now, let's talk about airport bars. They are always crowded. A good place to kill time and flight anxiety. But there's no place in them for one's luggage, let alone everyone's luggage. You would think that after all this time, some clever architect would say, "I know. Let's give patrons a place to stow their carry-on while they get their drink on!" But, no. I guess that's why God invented the Admiral's Club. (By the way, if you are wondering what to get me for Christmas, hint hint.) The tiny joint I decided to imbibe in was located under the expanse of an atrium. While the atrium is pretty and light and breezy-ish, it also is a lot of dead space. Space that could and should be put to use by installing little luggage lofts so drinkers could move about and not spill their airport-priced beverages. Most of the seating was taken up by Samonite and the like. Another traveller was kind enough to share her table and open chair. We chatted while we made our way through rounds one and two, then we made our way to our neighboring gates and waited for the Southwest cattle call.

In spite of the prediction of turbulence, the flight to AZ was smooth. The new playlist I created that morning made the time fly...which I guess would be literal reference in this scenario. The next thing I knew, we were touching tarmac. Hallelujah.

You know it's going to be excruciatingly hot outdoors when it's absolutely unbearable at the gate. Phoenix offered the kind of triple-digit heat that takes one's breath away. And, yes, I am aware that I was going to Arizona in flipping August, but I am able to forget how hot hot actually is being spoiled by an ocean breeze. And there was the added bonus of monsoon weather and the humidity it brings. Whatever. I was there to see my friend and she was right there to pick me up. We threw my bags into her boot and headed off to a cool venue.

Dining outside of the 310 or 212 generally makes me nervous. The restaurant we ended up at was nice. Cool and white. Calming ambiance. Well decorated. Or so I thought until I went into the vomit-inspiring lavatory. Picture dim lighting in a white room with mirrored walls replete with neon pink accent lighting. Had there been any turbulence, I would have hurled. I peed with my eyes closed so I wouldn't get dizzy, then went back to the table, ordered a big glass of wine and gave a silent-but-sincere thank you to the people responsible for central air, in spite of what it does to our ozone.

I got to meet two of my friend's friends at dinner that night. They were lovely ladies and we were soon enjoying lively, if not bawdy, conversation. It was in the midst of my story (we were sharing our most embarrassing moments involving a romantic excursion alfresco), when we caught the surprising sight of a zebra approaching us.

One has to be cautious when donning animal print. While zebra might be one of the more gentle animals in the jungle, its pattern is somewhat jarring. It should be left to those whose size is single digit. Someone didn't give this chick that memo.

The zebra and her herd were going to be seated next to us. There she stood, as we sat (obviously), with her back to our table, shaking out her blonde mane while she waited for her friends to squeeze around the table. How she was able to squeeze into her short, shiny, hint of a wild print dress was somewhat baffling. After a brief pause, I continued on with my tale as the neighboring ruckus went on, but then we suddenly stopped. The air had gone out of the room.

My friend and I looked at each other and said, "Did the zebra just fart on us?" Our entire table had to bring our napkins to our faces. With wide eyes, we followed the zebra as she took her seat. "She actually farted on us," my friend said. Not sure if we should be shocked or angered, we just sat there laughing.

It happens to all of us. It's human, I know. And I realize that if one is on a date and gassy, one must time the outbursts to the best of one's ability. But, if you find yourself in that situation, do try not to let go in the direction of other people's overpriced salads.

I was so stunned by what had occurred, and continued to linger, that I lost track of where I was in my story. Finally, the air cleared, and so did my mind. My friend continued to react whenever another aroma hit her, swearing someone else was passing gas. We were able to convince her it was just dinner being served. We decided to skip dessert, though.

The next night, it was dinner at a different place, but a familiar sight was seen. Another blonde donning zebra upon zebra (dress with matching coat), approached us. My friend and I shared a look of concern. We could do without anymore "zebra kisses", as we came to call them. Happily, Zebra Two wandered out to the patio, which was perhaps her natural habitat. My friend and I were tucked safely at the bar (quel suprise), waiting for another friend from the night before. Fortunately, the only thing that stunk that night was my pomegranate martini, which tasted like Robitussin. Back on the vodka, this time with soda (tonic has too many calories and is saved strictly for travel), and we did share dessert.

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