Thursday, April 10, 2008

Model of Efficiency

After staying up too late last night, I woke with a heartfelt groan when I read the numbers on the digital clock. “Freaking, stupid, miserable morning flights,” I muttered and rolled over and snuggle into a cool pillow. Mere moments later, I drug myself down the hall, stopping to brush my teeth, and gulp some coffee before I woke up enough to become very, very nervous. I didn’t start to fly - save a very unpleasant experience when I was small - until grad school. And the ‘Different and wrong! Different and wrong! Panic! Panic!’ reaction is still very strong until I’m sitting at the gate. But I sort of finished cleaning the house and sort of got ready before kissing Chienne on the head and beginning my drive to the airport.

Traffic was awful. I was shaky with nerves save the random moments when I managed to distract myself. The saving grace came in my lingering pride over how lightly I was traveling. A laptop bag containing Nick and carefully organized folders of documents. Then a single, small bag containing a single outfit (I typically bring at least 2 for each day), a good deal of toiletries (I can’t pare that stuff down - I tried.) and no shoes. That’s right - I wore the same shoes today as I’ll wear tomorrow. First Time Ever. I, who carried an overstuffed suitcase and giant carry-on halfway across Japan for a conference, didn’t check luggage.

Model of efficiency, I smiled before beginning to traipse across the long term parking lot, a bag on each shoulder. I chatted with the agents while I checked in, moved slowly through the security line, (No, you can’t take your camera through the metal detector with you! Yes, you need your boarding pass and shouldn’t have put it in your purse! No, putting your bottle of water in a bin rather than in your bag doesn't mean you can have it once you clear security! What the hell, southern people?!) and trudged toward my gate, beginning to curse this extra bag that had caused me such pride. It’s so much easier with one piece of luggage, I groused. I have a hand free to carry coffee or soda and I don’t feel like such a pack mule. I soothed myself with thoughts of not having to wait at baggage claim and, newly acquired soda in hand, found a seat next to the large windows.

I wondered where all the planes were before realizing I was in an American terminal. I decided to enjoy the quiet and finished some reading I’d meant to do for a paper I’m revising. I boarded the plane when instructed, and there I finished my copy of Open Lab, which I will review for you here shortly because I do have thoughts.

“Well,” I thought with a sidelong glance at the man in the aisle by my side on the plane just before the doors closed, “scoot, please.” The attendant had noted there were empty seats and I pouted for a moment when he made no attempt to move. After tucking my super-small and efficiently-packed bag in an overhead bin, I had smiled down and at him and said, “I’m by your window, I’m afraid,” and he stood to let me in. I removed my book before tucking my computer bag under the seat in front of me and watched my neighbor fidget and attempt to read a magazine. He seemed to calm down once we were airborne and I read fairly peacefully until asking for a Diet Coke.

I glanced out the window and leaned into the wall. I’m fond of the window seat and once refused a woman’s request to sit next to her niece on a flight from Honolulu to LA. “But she’s young!” she protested. “And I like the window seat,” I replied, feeling only the tiniest hint of guilt. When Steve suggested we could trade spots by the window on the trip from Tokyo to Seattle, I raised an eyebrow at him before shaking my head. “Good luck with that plan,” I murmured before withdrawing a plush elephant I bought at the market and tucking it between my shoulder and head before closing my eyes and curling into the wall. The truth is unless I like you a tremendous amount and am highly motivated to do you a favor, you’ll be sitting on the aisle if traveling with me.

“I should be able to get up!” A man a couple rows back argued when the attendant instructed him to fasten his seat belt since the sign was illuminated. She calmly but firmly controlled the situation but I’ll confess a bit of relief when the neighbor I didn't want turned and looked disapprovingly at the man. If he’s going to sit there, I decided before beginning to nibble my pretzels, at least he’s protecting me. He shook his head at the man’s outburst and I didn’t mind at all when his knee hit me when he crossed his legs, sticking his foot firmly into the aisle.

We arrived on time and I visibly perked up when the door was open and the cold air rushed in. Cool and rainy! I thought happily. Not hot and humid! With bags over each shoulder once again, I moved through the unfamiliar airport, admiring the bright lights and clean surfaces. I took the escalator to baggage claim and, as expected, preened and pranced a little when I realized I didn’t have to wait for my possessions. I followed a man in a fabulous suit and wool coat across a street and around a corner, then walked to the Hertz counter.

“Hello,” the woman behind the desk greeted me, “I’m Sandy and I’ll be your representative today.”

“Hi, Sandy,” I chirped happily, relieved to have arrived safely at my destination and thrilled with the weather. “I’m Katie.” She asked for my last name and I gave it. She asked how my flight was while she looked up my reservation and glanced up to smile when I informed her that I flew direct! I signed and read and initialed and blinked with delight when she asked if I wanted a Prius.

“Oh, yes,” I breathed. “I’ve never driven one before.” She handed over the rectangular devices that serve as keys and told me to ask if I had trouble with operating it.

“I’m sure I’ll figure it out.” I smiled and proceeded out to spot 62 where the sweet hybrid car waited.

“Huh,” I said, staring at the dash once I was comfortably inside. I poked experimentally at the power button prominently displayed and frowned when nothing happened. “I can’t figure this out.” Thinking that it was good I didn’t mind being embarrassed, I found a lovely older man in a Hertz jacket who came over, inserted the plastic remote in the little slot I hadn’t seen and pushed the button, whereupon the dash lit up.

“Oh!” I said happily. “You did it!” He smiled at me and showed me how to change gears. "It goes back in place," he said of the little wand, "so you have to watch on the display.” I nodded obediently. Then he pushed the button to put it back in park and pressed power again. We traded places and he advised me to put my foot on the brake. I nodded and my third push of the power button resulted in a running car. I maneuvered carefully out of the lot with a grateful wave at him and merged into the airport traffic, falling immediately and completely in love with the fantastic vehicle.

“Car?” I said after a moment because I didn’t know its name. “Why are you listening to conservative talk radio? I do not like this at all. Do they really let right wing people rent you?” I shook my head in sympathy. “I heard Cheney has an iPhone. It’s a sad world, isn’t it? So, Car, how do I make it stop?” I finally saw a smaller power button and pressed it, pleased at the silence that resulted and the subsequent relief that I could stop blocking out the male voice that had been speaking.

“Car?” I asked again in a moment, “now I’m very warm. Any ideas on how to get it cooler in here? I did do the headlights and windshield wipers on my own.” Glancing away from the road for a second, I saw a climate button next to the screen on the dash. It beeped when I pushed it, sounding rather friendly, and I was able to turn down the fans and set the indoor temperature at a comfortable 67 degrees. “Well, that’s delightful,” I said after cool air rushed from the vents. “Thank you, Car.”

“I think we take this exit,” I told Car several minutes later. “I believe there’s a mall down this road and I’d like a book to read and a notebook for tomorrow. I always forget to bring notebooks.” I drove, enjoying the quiet inside the car and the incredibly smooth ride and smiled widely when the mall appeared on my left. “You wait here,” I told Car after someone pulled out of an excellent parking spot and I pulled in neatly before pressing Park and then Power. I patted the steering wheel affectionately before scampering through the rain and wandering through the mall. I did find a notebook and a romance novel at Barnes and Noble about an hour later and returned to the parking lot.

“Car?” I called quietly, trying to remember which row I’d chosen. “I think you’re blue? Maybe? I’m not superficial at all, really.” But I finally saw Car and moved toward it again. I called Mom to inform her of my safe arrival and super-cool transportation.

“I want one,” I declared happily and hung up before putting Car in reverse, grinning at the beeping that resulted and slipped it into drive before carefully maneuvering toward the hotel. I was allowed to check in early and guided Car to an end parking spot so as to protect its prettiness. I arrived in a rather mediocre room, ordered a sandwich that arrived very quickly at my door and unpacked my meager belongings. There are sweetly scented floral toiletries in the bathroom and free wireless internet and five bed pillows for the king sized mattress. I’m full and sleepy and pretty relaxed.

I want to finish my paper and write an Open Lab review (I don't know why - I said I would a long time ago and feel somehow compelled to finally do it.) and plan to lounge around for the evening. I think of this as my reward for my earlier efficiency.


CAE said...

I'm with you on the toiletries. I usually come back with even more than I left with, because I just have to take the miniatures from the hotel.

The Prius is a very cool car indeed. Lots of taxi drivers around here have them, and the first couple of times I was in one I asked all kinds of questions about the display, engine use indicators etc. The drivers are usually really keen to talk about it and to try and persuade people to get their own!

Brigindo said...

I think we can be travel mates as I only do aisle.

Anonymous said...

just wanted to say hi and that i haven't gotten to read your posts, esp the God one, and I am hoping to have time this weekend. but yah, just wanted to send you a note to say hi and even though i haven't commented yet, i will soon!

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