Monday, February 05, 2007

Driving in Beverly HillsI had a little side trip to Los Angeles on Thursday and stayed until Sunday. It was for a job interview that was completely unplanned, so I had to rush to get everything together, including hotel and the okay to be an obnoxious house guest at Cathy and Reese's where I would stay the other two nights.

The entire time I was preparing for the trip, I was asking myself why I was doing this for a month contract job, albeit a great opportunity. Even while in the air, flying over the moonlit ridges of Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, I wondered. My face pressed against the plexiglass of the plane window, looking tens of thousands of feet below to the snow covered rugged terrain. It was crystal clear and freezing outside, making for optimum viewing even though it was night time. Occasionally, a single light dotted the landscape and I wondered who was out there all by themselves. This was indeed a single light, not a town nor cluster of buildings. A ranger's post? Secluded cabin? Surely they were running on generated power, being so isolated in the mountains. Other times, cities would pass underneath, their grids of light glowing orange and bright. In smaller towns I could see two-lane roads and the tiny pin lights of a car snaking below. I thought of how the car's occupants couldn't know that they had an observer over thirty thousand feet above them, wondering what music or talk radio station they were listening to, if warm air from the heater brushed against their knuckles as they gripped the wheel, what they were talking about if there were more than one, and who they were. I didn't know the name of their town or what state they were in, but I could see that they were out on a cold night and wondered about their human experience. Then, my thoughts would drift back to my own travels and whether I was right to go.

Finally, as my connecting flight took off in Salt Lake City, I decided that worse came to worse, I got to see old friends and spend a weekend in Los Angeles. Also, to make an impression on a couple more souls there who have hiring and recommending capabilities. I'd gotten into the whole situation after I was contacted by a recruiter for the position. She'll have more jobs coming so I looked at it as doing a little networking.

After the interview, I pulled a great one on my friend Shannon, completely surprising him that I was in town. He lived minutes from where I had the interview, and the stunt went off perfectly. I called him on my cell, talked to him like I would normally. It was everything I could do to keep the smile out of my voice. He asked me what was going on, I said not much. I was parked on the street outside his bungalow apartment, and when I asked him what was up, he said the same. I said, "Oh yeah? Step outside your house." He did, I stepped out of my car, and boy was he surprised. Couldn't have gone off better. Luckily, he was just about to go grab a bite to eat before clients came to his house, so we were able to spend some time together. Every time I see Shannon, it's like no time has passed since the last time. The next day, we spent more time together and between bouts of hysterical laughter, chatted and caught up on stories.

Cathy and Reese were awesome as usual, and Alexander, their son is adorable and scary smart. He's four and a half years old and very sweet. We played Chutes and Ladders, which I won, and another game which I can't remember. It was fun, gentle and innocent. Cathy had unluckily gotten stuck in traffic due to an enormous crane falling on the 405 which shut it down on a Friday afternoon. I'd heard about the crane and decided to wait a bit before attempting to get to their house on the 101. Luckily for me, the snafu which crippled every street in Los Angeles was on the other side of the 101, cutting off the huge masses that usually use it to get home. I pretty much sailed to their house. In contrast, it took Cathy almost two hours to get home.

That night, while in bed I heard the yapping and howling of coyotes outside my window. Cathy and Reese live in the hills and are frequently visited by them. It was a full moon, and laid in bed, covers up to my neck and listened to their eerily beautiful chatter.

On my return trip, I didn't have the LAX sleepover experience that I had the last time I flew to Los Angeles, getting on both my flights back. I was sure I wouldn't make the flight from SLC to Baltimore, because it had a total of four open seats when I checked in the morning. For a standby passenger, that means full. However, when I arrived at the ticket counter out of breath and ready for bad news, my boarding pass was waiting for me. I said, "Really?" It was then that I professed my love for the female ticket agent.

Before that, for the flight from Los Angeles to SLC, I had to endure a large group of adults who were way too awake at 5:45 in the morning. The flight left at 6:20 AM and I'd risen at 4:00 AM to dress and be at Enterprise by 5:00AM to turn in the car. From there, I took the shuttle to the airport, had my bottled water confiscated that I'd forgotten was in my purse at security, and walked a mile long underground tunnel to another terminal. I was hot, tired, but knew I would probably get on the flight since there were plenty of seats available.

While waiting, they arrived. About twenty 40-ish couples traveling together on a ski trip. From what I could tell, they were going to Aspen and had done this before. While everyone else was content with being quiet, they were in full animated vacation mode. I moved away from them in the waiting area and hoped that I'd sit far away from them on the plane. Before they'd arrived, I'd hoped that I didn't get stuck by the huge Samoan man, squished in my seat. I'd immediately changed preferences, putting Huge Samoan Man at #2 in my "I hope I don't sit by them" list.

Sure enough, when I boarded I sat right in the middle of the group. First, the wife was in my seat which irked me. They were obviously hoping no one would fill the window seat and had made themselves at home with an empty middle seat. People, do that after the fucking door closes, not when people are still boarding. I waited, as did the line of people behind me as they moved their things and repositioned themselves in their correct seats, then stood up to let me in. The rest of the group was beside me, behind me, in front of me, passing around their snacks, talking loudly, cracking jokes, counting heads for plans that they'd already made at the resort. While everyone waited for people to settle, we had to endure things like this:

Wife 1: Anyone want some blueberries?

Man 1: Sure. (Wife 1's Husband clumsily passes the blueberries to the man in my row who passes them to the next row to Man 1.)

Man 2: Hey, those increase your sex drive, right?

Group: Laughs aloud raucously.

Man 1: Yeah.

Man 2: Uh oh. Keep those away from me then.

Group: Laughs aloud raucously.

Me, along with the rest of the plane: (Silently contemplating a beat down.)

Didn't they understand it was morning? Morning. Still dark outside kind of morning. I longed for Huge Samoan Man. He would have probably let me nestle my head on his large, fleshy shoulder and sung me sweet island songs as I drifted off to sleep.

Luckily for us, once the engines kicked in they drowned most of them out. And, the flight was only to Salt Lake City from Los Angeles. The SLC to Baltimore leg went fast, mainly because I fell asleep during part of it and we had that tail wind behind us that pushed us home. My mom met me at the airport and I was home by 5:00 PM Eastern time.

The weather here greeted me with an arctic blast. Yesterday, it was 89 degrees in LA. Now, that was after I left, but it was in the high seventies. In Baltimore yesterday, it was 19 degrees with an index of 5 degrees. Overnight, it dipped to 4 degrees with a below zero index. Currently, it's 25 degrees with an index of 11 degrees. Snow is expected tonight.

Welcome back to reality.

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