Riding the subway sometimes feels like a wildlife journey. This morning as I waited for the train to arrive on the outdoor platform, I heard the quacking of ducks. The sun hadn’t risen yet. It was dark. I couldn’t see the birds, but I heard them quacking to each other incessantly. They had a lot to say and were passionate about it. Finally they took a breath and that’s when the geese started in with their honking. They were loud and vociferous. The ducks couldn’t take it and flew over my head with jet-engine speed.
Yesterday as I boarded the train to go home a woman told me not to sit down. “Why?” I asked. “There’s a rat in here!” she said horrified. I look behind me and sure enough the rodent was zig-sagging across the aisle. The passengers were screaming, men and women alike, jumping out of the way. The rat scampered as fast as his little legs could take him in and out of the rows of seats. Women were lifting their legs. The screams got louder. It ran past me and onto two seats by the door. It found a hole in the back of one of them and disappeared.
We stopped at another station. People got on. The seats were filling up. The only two empty ones had the rat in residence. “Don’t sit there!” a man said to people who wanted to sit down. “There’s a rat in the seat,” he said. The riders walked to another car.
At another stop a woman got on and sat down. The same man warned her, but this time in Spanish. He just knew she was Hispanic. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “No me da miedo.” She was right. There was nothing to be afraid of. The rat was in its hidey-hole with a palpitating heart hoping nobody would rip the seat out and extinguish it. The rodent had nothing to fear. There wasn’t a soul on board with the courage to do that. Even the men, some in hard hats and fluorescent vests, big burly construction guys with tool belts around their middles, might as well have been ballerinas in tutus for all the help they provided.
It showed me I better be my own warrior.
It also occurred to me that the easiest way to hold a group of people hostage would be to unleash a few rats on a subway system. The entire system would be paralyzed in no time.
Calvin says, “You humans. What’s a stupid rat going to do to you? Now snakes, there’s a thought.”
This morning the subway system had a major malfunction. Everything was broken – the tracks, the cars, and even the people. What completely baffles me are the passengers. They’re sheep. Our train was so full we couldn’t squeeze in a fly, but does anybody notice that? When we pulled into the stop, our conductor, realizing the suffocating situation we were in, announced to the crowd on the platform to wait for the train just behind us, which was headed in the same direction and was empty. What did the crowd do? They shoved and pushed their way into our train. I was afraid we would collapse from the load. And then we faced the under water tunnel into the city and I cringed. I have nightmares of a breakdown in the tunnel with no escape unless you like to swim, which I don’t. And I didn’t want to die with this morning’s crowd. They were too stupid. If I’m going to die in an accident, I want to go down with smart people. Fortunately we made it safely into the city otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. But it goes to show how people in general do not think, or react well to a scenario that requires reason. If I had been waiting for the train and had had the option of the second train, I would have waited, but then again, I could have been the only one facing the risk of getting trapped in the tunnel with no one else on board but the train operator. At least I’d have had him for company when we died together.
Calvin says, “Stick to walking, always the safest bet unless you run into something ten times your size and then run like hell.”
A colleague of mine was recently on a road trip in Alabama. He was headed to a town north of Atlanta GA and stopped halfway for gas.
“Hey, you got a cat in there?” the guy next to him at the pump asked.
“Huh?” my colleague said.
“There’s definitely a cat…open your hood,” the guy said.
Sure enough there was a kitten lying on top of the battery. It got up and scrambled into the engine somewhere. That’s when eight people tried for 45 minutes to rescue it, but it eluded them.
My colleague had a meeting he had to get to on time, so he closed the hood and kept driving.
Another 100 miles at 75-miles an hour he got to his hotel, and turned off the engine. He could hear the kitten crying. He drove to the local tire store where the guys spent a half hour taking the car apart, and after chasing a frantic kitten around the engine, they finally captured it.
That kitten deserves a medal for its bravery, tenacity and powerful will to live. One of the guys felt the same way. He took it home to his wife.
Calvin says, “Stupid cats. No dog in his right mind would travel like that.”
Once upon a time in a world long ago flying was a pleasure. From the moment you got to the airport to when you put your tush in your seat you were treated with respect and hospitality.
I was on my way to becoming a flight attendant for PanAm when all of a sudden it went belly-up. I wanted to see the world while hosting travelers on their planes. To this day there’s nothing I’d rather do than travel, that is until I get to security. Then it’s all out war. I refuse to go into the scanners. I’m convinced they’re a health hazard. New York TSA agents are the worse. They’re bullies. Well, I bully back, which throws them off their game. That’s when they threaten me with harsh pat downs. “Bring them on,” I say standing my ground and glowering back.
It seems to me airline travel is a burden to the airlines. I think they’d rather be transporting chickens than humans. At least chickens wouldn’t be a threat on board or try to commandeer a plane into mass destruction. You’d just have to clean up a lot of feathers after every trip, but then you could diversify and go into making pillows.
Flight attendants are tired and irritated with the long hours of the work day. Pilots no longer just fly the planes, they also do cabin clean-up in between stops. There’s no time for lunch. I’ve seen crews grab granola bars and wilted salads at the airports. They’re probably dehydrated, which explains their impatience with the public. And the hours of cabin pressure I’m sure is stressing out their hearts and lungs. No wonder they’re angry. Nobody is taking care of anybody and it trickles down to the traveler who only wants a beer, a movie and a smooth trip home.
None of this, however excuses United from the abominable treatment of its passenger on the flight out of Chicago. I noticed that neither pilots or crew were involved in the incident, which was good otherwise if I had been on board I would have bolted off the flight, realizing I was in a horror movie. And then the airline would have had its empty seat.
Calvin says, “The friendly skies look troubled these days. Stick to walking.”
For all the doom and gloom out there in the media, all you have to do is take a trip to New York for a corrective. The city is bulging at the seams, especially in summer. The rest of the world might be suffering, but the crowds in New York are in the restaurants, in the theaters and at Macy’s. I went there one early afternoon and as soon as I stepped inside, I wanted to run out again. It was wall-to-wall humanity, from the rich to the not-so rich, spraying perfume on themselves, looking at shoes and wristwatches, and trying on the latest red shade of lipstick. Adding to the agony of suffocation were a plethora of security guards watching the shoppers’ every move.
Most theaters are doing a lottery to fill their seats these days, except Hamilton of course. I walked up to the box office and inquired if they had a couple of spare seats for that day or night. The man behind the glass plate (have you ever wondered why the glass plate?) laughed himself silly. “Come back in January,” he said. This was August.
So I saw The Humans, the Tony award winner for best play and best performances from an actor and actress. It was so depressing I wanted to cry. I also didn’t think the story was unique or compelling enough to win all those awards, so either New York is depressed or there was some heavy politics involved.
I tried the lottery for On Your Feet, the Gloria Estefan story, and won! I was elated even if it did mean sitting on the third floor balcony and looking down on the stage like an eagle. The music and dancing and singing were outstanding and by the end of the two and half hour show you were on your feet moving with the company on stage. It was confusing to me why something this well done and uplifting had empty seats while something so depressing like The Humans had a full house. It goes to show that winning is everything.
Calvin says, “The public is so easily led. Me? I stick to my nose. It never lies.”
After driving to Tulsa and leaving off my friend there, I flew back to California. It was on the flight from Dallas that I got the adventure I didn’t get on the road trip.
We were late in pushing back from the gate because there was a technical glitch in the cockpit that needed investigating and fixing.
We finally got clearance for take-off. We were strapped in and ready. The engines were revved up and we flew down the runway, but then the pilot slammed on the brakes. He revved up again, we gathered speed, and he slammed on the brakes again.
At that point I was going to raise my hand and say I wanted off the flight.
The captain aborted the flight and we taxied back to the gate where we sat for another half hour as a tech worked on the indicator light that insisted on blinking its beady little head.
I was grateful our captain wasn’t taking any chances with the flight, so that calmed me down.
The third attempt at take-off was successful since I’m writing this. The flight itself was uneventful and the landing was smooth without any hard bounces.
I thanked the captain as I got off for another day of life. He was madly writing notes on a clipboard.
Calvin says, “Woa. If I had been under the seat I’d had bayed my head off.”
My friend and her husband are driving cross country to deliver a car to their daughter in D.C.
Nevada and Utah were blanketed in snow, which made for stunning pictures. Wyoming was another matter. Flat is the only word for it. A view of the occasional cow on some green land was the only bump on the landscape.
Now they’re in Iowa, home of John Wayne and its depressing Main Street, which looks more like a movie set than a real place for real people who work, play and raise families.
I’m so used to living on the coasts that I forget there’s a whole country in the middle of the country. It looks like a foreign land to me. I expect people to be speaking another language and living another culture. And perhaps they do. They are ranchers and farmers and people who have worked the cornfields all their lives.
I looked up employment in Iowa. The list included pizza driver, office clerk, test administrator and library assistant. I noticed there weren’t any tech jobs. That’s probably because there’s no internet. Who needs internet for herding cows? Two border collies will do.
What I did discover were a ton of bloggers from Iowa. A lot of them are food blogs. But I don’t see Iowa as a foodie destination. How many blog posts do you need for grilling hamburgers?
It’s worth mentioning that there’s the famous Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, which has produced many award-winning authors over the years.
For some, looking at pasture lands and grazing cattle fosters the urge to write. I, for one, wouldn’t find any inspiration looking at a cow chewing the cud. I’d need some action like a line of geese following a marching band.
Calvin says, “And to think Iowa is the bellwether of American politics.”