Saturday, June 29, 2013

An Indoor Kid's Unexpected Revelation About the Outdoors

Blanket statement: I don't like hot weather. This is in part because I am the absolute sweatiest & in part because... well, mostly because of sweating. But also because of things like sunburns & frizzy hair & having to wear clothes that reveal things I don't like revealing, like arm fat. For the most part, I just don't like hot weather because it's not cold weather, which I really love. Winterfell is my jam, bro.

A lot of people don't understand this, of course, & think I must be broken. When I tell people Nathan is in the Coast Guard, approximately 75% of people say something like, "At least you'll always live near a beach!" This would be cool, if I had any desire to ever go to beaches, which I do not not.

Until yesterday?

Yesterday, I woke up to an amazing view outside my hotel window in Fort Lauderdale & thought, "Imma go hang out there today." I had to give a presentation for work in the morning, & as nervous as I was, I got through it by reminding myself that when I was done, I was going to go relax on the beach.

And I did.

And I liked it.

I bought myself a spray can of SPF 70, which Nathan told me is "like wearing a jacket to the beach," & slathered up my pasty-white skin. I put on my black one-piece bathing suit from Land's End, which I suspect is geared mostly toward a much older demographic than the one I'm in but which makes me feel kind of pretty. I rented two towels from the front desk & marched out to the shore, where I promptly claimed a lounge chair & took a few "OMG I'M AT THE BEACH" Instagram pics. And then I laid out there for, like, an hour & a half. And then I did it again today. It was sweaty, yes, but it was also so relaxing, & the water was so blue, & I felt so peaceful & blissed out that I couldn't possibly care. Hey, all that sweat & sunscreen & saltwater even made my hair look great!

And all was right with the world - especially when I remembered that I live at the Jersey Shore & can do this any time I want.


Friday, June 28, 2013

The Worst Travel Experience of My Life

 

I've been on a lot of flights in the last year & a half. If I had to guess? I'd say 15-20 round trips to various places - London, Israel, Florida, Vegas, Ohio, LA, the list goes on. Many are for work & some are for play; with so few friends nearby, I've made travel a priority so that I can see the people I love, wherever they may reside.

I've been lucky with, well, all of those flights. Sure, I've seen a delay here & there, a middle seat when I was desperate for a window, etc., etc. The little aches & pains of travel, you know? But never in my life have I experienced the kind of travel debacle that I encountered yesterday, when I flew from Newark to Fort Lauderdale to attend a conference for work.

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have watched it all go down. You may even have have unfollowed me for clogging up your feed. I tweeted way too much, I know (sorry) - but what else is there to do when your plane is stuck on the Tarmac, grounded for FOUR HOURS? In Yiddish, we call yesterday a "balagan," a mess of the highest order, & truly, I cannot imagine a better word for this experience.

First, we were grounded for weather - a tornado warning in Jersey, bad storms in North Carolina. Normal stuff. And then? We'd taxied for so long that we had to go back to the gate to refuel. And recalibrate. And replace a flight attendant because one of ours was escorted off the plane, presumably for going batshit crazy on two passengers.

In both cases, I was just out of earshot of the passengers on the other end of her ire, but in neither case did they seem to exhibit behavior that warranted the her yelling - & yelling it was. It was the loud, barely controlled, about-to-go-off-the-deep-end kind of yelling. The "YOU DO NOT SPEAK TO ME IN THAT TONE OF VOICE OR I WILL HAVE YOU EJECTED FROM THIS FLIGHT" ego-trip kind of yelling. Clearly her threats were empty, as she was the one ejected from the flight - & clearly I missed something major, because when she got off the plane, two cops were waiting for her.

YEAH.

The captain had told us that when we pulled back up to the gate, we'd be able to get off the plane while they figured out what to do with us - but because two cops were waiting when we arrived, no one was allowed to deplane. "Security risk" & all.

So we kept waiting.

Of course, airplanes are pretty big machines, & they heat up pretty easily. Really easily, actually. And when people get overheated, they drink a lot of water, which the crew kindly passed around in plenty. But when it came time for us to try to take off again, the captain came over the loudspeaker to announce that we couldn't leave until we'd replenished our water & ice supplies - which we'd of course used up in the four hours we'd spent stuck on our plane. My fellow passengerslet out cries of mutiny , promising to subsist on soda & spirits, & we pulled back from the gate sans H2O.

I live-tweeted the whole ordeal using a fairly brilliant hashtag invented by my IRL BFF, @LadyComeDown: #LordoftheNoFlys. She came up with it after I asked when societal breakdown was likely to occur. Of course, @United responded robotically:



I know, I know, I was a little snappy, which, as a community manager myself, is something I try not to do to brands. But come on! I'm basically tweeting a scene from a movie here, folks! They assured me (I use that term lightly) that they'd get us up in the air as soon as they could. Promising, I know. And did they comp us anything? No, of course not. My "dinner" (a box of snacks) cost $8 & the free in-flight DirecTV they promised us didn't work.

Of course, as with any disaster, there were a few small good things, if you were keeping an eye out for them. A couple of our flight attendants were really great, for starters, & our captain was a saint, continuously updating us & apologizing & trying to keep us happy. About an hour & a half into the wait, my phone at 47% battery, I discovered a power outlet next to my seat that allowed me to keep live-tweeting the affair & checking my work email. And of course, at some point this will make for a really funny story, right? Not today, but at some point. Because WHOA. Balagan, right?

We landed in Fort Lauderdale around 10pm, four hours after we were supposed to touch down, & after nearly seven hours on that sweaty, cramped, godforsaken airplane, I can't tell you what a welcome sight that airport was. I also can't tell you how committed I am to never flying United again - after my flight home on Sunday, of course. Wish me luck?!

One more thing: I got in so late last night that I didn't even realize the proximity of my hotel to the beach - & I've gotta tell you, waking up to this view almost made me forget it all:


I said almost.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Newark Airport Thinks It's Better Than Your Airport



I travel a lot. How you noticed that I travel a lot? I used to think I didn't, that I just happened to be on a travel tear, but that tear has lasted about a year & a half now, so I think it's fair to just call it a lifestyle.

The closest airport to me is Newark Liberty International Airport in wonderful Newark, NJ. (Ahem. Newark's mayor is wonderful, anyway.) For the most part, I don't mind this airport at all. It's easy to get to: three blocks from my apartment to the train, an hour-long train ride to an air tram, & a 10-minute air train ride to the airport. (OK, I guess that doesn't sound all that easy, but it is!) Newark Airport is mostly clean, staffed by folks who are largely friendly, contains basics pre-flight restaurants & amenities, & is home to a staggering number of Dunkin Donuts.

BUT.

You knew there was a "but," right? The but here is that every time I fly out of Newark (which is every time I fly), I find myself annoyed to no end by the fact that this airport's TSA agents enforce different rules than do their TSA compatriots at basically any other airport in America that I've ever flown into or out of.

As a somewhat experienced flier, I take pains to streamline my security experience as much as possible - no jewelry, slip-on shoes, etc. - so when I purchased an iPad, I was thrilled to learn that TSA doesn't require travelers to take them out at security & place them in their own plastic bins. What a relief after years of traveling with my laptop! But not at Newark, oh, no. Newark is above streamlining security measures & following the same rules as everyone else. At Newark, you must put your iPad in its own bin so they can be sure it's just an iPad. Tucked it deep inside your backpack? Dig it out.

At other airports, you show your ticket & ID in the security line, & then you put them away until you board your flight. But not at Newark, oh, no. Newark is above streamlining security measures & following the same rules as everyone else, remember?At Newark, you take your ticket & ID through security with you, to be meticulously checked yet again by the TSA agent on the other side of the body scanner. Returned your ticket & ID in your wallet until travel time? Dig 'em out.

And it's not JUST "dig 'em out." It's "dig 'em out while being subjected to a loud public shaming from a TSA agent who makes you sound like someone who had never traveled before in your whole entire life." It's "dig 'em out while everyone behind you sighs loudly & waits for you to get your shit together so that you can follow rules that aren't rules anyplace else."

When I mentioned this to a friend, she said, "Maybe it's because Newark is so close to New York." Maybe! Good thinking! Except at JFK & LaGuardia? You can keep your iPad in your bag & your documents stowed through security. Same goes in D.C. & Boston & Los Angeles, & what other big cities are there? Because probably there, too. And you're not even a big city, Newark, so calm down & stop putting me out.

What I'm trying to say is: AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.

@CoryBooker, can you fix this, please?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down in the City That We Loved...



I step onto a metro car upon my arrival at DC's Union Station, the first notes of my new favorite song playing through my headphones.

I lunge lazily, shoulders hunched, head lolling, gum snapping, as I hold onto the bar that runs across the low ceiling of the train car. Later, it will occur to me that I'm subconsciously trying to look cooler & younger & more a part of this city than I really am as I survey my fellow riders: a middle-aged man with a cane wearing overalls & a straw hat; a morbidly obese couple in neon T-shirts, one yellow & one green, so bright they hurt my eyes; a sleepy old woman struggling to stay awake as she listens for her stop; a pair of tiny Asian tourists sporting fake blue eyelashes & cartoon character fannypacks. Dozens of them, these strangers with stories to tell & lives to live, going about their days with unique perspectives & values & concerns.

I get off at Chinatown, just two stops, intuitive, without checking the map to be sure, & along the way I help a lost rider get her bearings. As I point & tell her, "That way," I think: Every person is a stranger but every step feels familiar, just like it's always been. Different people in the exact same place, & me at the center of it all.

And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?

It's a sunny Sunday afternoon, just after a memorial service for a close friend who died far before her time. So many of us have come back to town to remember her, donning bright colors to the ceremony to pay small homage to her zest for life, & now we're headed to lunch together, respite from the sadness. Ella's, Matchbox, La Tasca? We settle on Spanish tapas, have our standard period of indecision about what to order & which dishes we could split before we decide to proceed with reckless culinary abandon, placing three orders of the bacon-wrapped dates with apricot dipping sauce, among other things.

Our food takes too long for an establishment so empty, but we hardly notice for the time it allows us together. We tell the same stories, we share new ones, we ask one another for guidance on current goings-on in our lives - an apartment hunt, a big job decision, a general lack of directional clarity. We reminisce, we laugh, we argue, & we part ways with hugs & promises to do it again soon. Soon, we promise, but never soon enough for me.

And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?

It's the same sunny Sunday afternoon, but the clouds are rolling in, just before the rain, & I'm walking through Dupont Circle alone, exploring all the shops I've always liked best. They're still there, most of them, now interspersed with restaurants I've never heard of, new places I've never been. Most of my old standbys remain, & even in the places where they don't, the spaces they used to inhabit still feel painfully familiar, like I could transport myself back to a different place & time if I just think hard enough about it.

And I do think about it. I think hard about it, and often. I think of 2007, when I showed up here for the first time, a new face in an old city, young & smart & pretty, full of hope & fear in equal measure. I think of three years spent hanging out in Cleveland Park & Woodley Park & Adams Morgan, neighborhoods that have since ceased to be cool; they've been replaced on locals' radar by trendy new ones like Bloomingdale & H Street & NoMa, places that didn't used to be places. I think of three years of failing to fully recognize or appreciate the family & the home I'd created for myself. Three years of happiness, literally almost all the time.

And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?

I'm not so naive to believe that reclaiming those days is as simple as relocation. It's not just the places that are different; it's us, too. We're adults now, with jobs & degrees & spouses & condos, with broken old dreams & burgeoning new ones. I'm not the only one who left, & even if I returned - even if we somehow all returned - it wouldn't feel now like it felt then.

No, I know better. It's today now, & no matter how hard I think about it, that time is gone. Everything has changed, & so have we.

But if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you've been here before?

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