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Saturday, September 07, 2013

En Route to CO--Friday

I spent the first leg of my journey with the smell of warm bulk-manufactured dill pickles and fried potatoes suffusing the air around me—not an unpleasant odor, just a distinctive one.  I was in the exit row, which allegedly meant I had several more inches of legroom than the ordinary coach-class passenger, but if I really did, I couldn’t feel it—I felt sympathy for the large man with the grease-spotted brown bagged lunch next to me—his knees were practically mashed up against the seat in front of him.  Train travel is so much more comfortable than going anywhere by air!  But however much I crave high-speed rail transport across the US, I would be shocked if any is put in place during my lifetime. 

There was a lovely view of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and the full length of Manhattan coming in from DC.  The new skyscraper on the site of the old Twin Towers is almost complete, and far more attractive than its boxy predecessors.  I tend to forget that the Empire State Building is so much farther up the island, in a cluster of older tall construction. 

The weather was absolutely beautiful in DC this morning, with just a little cool fall tang to the air, and clear blue skies.  Susan drove me to the airport after I wrote checks to the feds, Maryland and Virginia for my quarterly estimated taxes, which are due a couple of days before I return.  Writing the checks gave me the shakes—another grand gone, and my checking account returns to a negative balance.  I really hope that the mountains will give me a good perspective on what I should do.  Georgia is probably the answer.  Even if I got a minimum-wage job in Augusta, I think I’d be able to keep more of my paycheck overall than I am able to right now.  No nibbles on any of the three CraigsList ads I put up (in DC, SC and GA) offering my translation skills. 

Several folks who read my first Syria post (the highest readership of any post to date!) asked my mother why I can’t get a job with a thinktank in DC, or teaching at a university.  While this is kind commentary on my writing, sadly, jobs at nonprofits, as well as at universities, are extremely hard to come by, and neither are well-paid.  Rachel, who like me is ABD, but unlike me has loads of teaching experience (I have some, but nowhere near her level--she's been teaching since she was an MA student), is teaching NINE classes as an adjunct at four different colleges/universities this fall to support herself and her husband, whose job opportunities have been cut off by sequestration, and who will be taking the MCAT in a few weeks—like my sister, he figures that going into another field (specifically healthcare) may well be the solution to the challenge of unemployment.

La Guardia Airport, NYC, has atrocious signage between terminals.  I came in on a USAirways flight, I left for Denver on a United Airlines flight, which departed from a different terminal.  There were no signs saying which other terminals existed apart from the conjoined C & D terminals, and no indication that, if one knew, academically, that other terminals did in fact exist, how to go from where you were to where they were.  After wandering blindly for a few minutes, I finally flagged down a random Indian lady wearing an official-looking badge, and she kindly gave me verbal directions, which involved ducking out a side door and taking a shuttle.  When I got downstairs, though there were a couple of signs saying that free shuttles were to be had, there was no exact location indicated where they were to be had, so I ended up walking from Terminal C/D to Terminal B, where the “A” gate I was seeking was located.  I realize that we are limited to letters and numbers to designate terminals and gates, but wouldn’t it be less confusing if “A” gates were in the “A” Terminal, “B” gates in the “B” Terminal and so forth?  Halfway between the terminals, there was a map of the layout of the airport, so I finally was able to figure out where I was and where exactly I was headed.  The sign was too small to be read by passing cars, so its location was a bit of a mystery.  Only God and the NY Port Authority know for sure.

I will say this in praise of La Guardia: they have free wireless internet for iPhones (provided one downloads the Hotels.com app, which I didn’t consider a huge sacrifice), which DC’s Reagan airport still lacks in any form.  I just found out yesterday that the city of Seoul, South Korea, has city-wide WiFi, even in the metro.  Why don’t all large American cities, particularly airports, have this?  It seems to me it’s a sort of public good—Arlington, VA, has some hotspots, but they are pretty limited: the library, the Courthouse and adjacent parking lot, and maybe one or two other places.  Given how much business and communication is daily conducted online, this is an almost indispensable part of modern urban life, and needs to be available, like water fountains and public restrooms (even if many people opt for the digital equivalent of bottled water and private toilets instead).

On the 757 to Denver, I was one of the few people on the very full plane with an empty seat on one side, and I had the aisle on the other, so I was pretty comfortable.  I chatted for twenty minutes or so with the New York businessman in the window seat, whose mother-in-law had just died and who was interested in learning more about how estate sales worked, given that he and his wife need to clean out her house.  He said she had a lot of dramatic vintage clothes and Danish Modern furniture.  I imagine in New York there is a decent market for both.  The in-flight movie was The Great Gatsby; I find Tobey MacGuire irritating, and so didn’t plug in my earphones.  Both he and Leonardo diCaprio have fleshy faces. 

USAirways, United and their partners try to squeeze every dime out of passengers these days.  I was so grateful that I had packed a lunch, and had filled my water bottle from the fountain at the airport after I went through security.  The menu of snacks was available only for a price—they didn’t even offer complimentary pretzels on the longer flight!  If I had checked a bag, I would have had to shell out an additional $25. As it was, I wore my hiking boots and tied my sweater around my waist, and managed to get almost two weeks’ worth of clothing (including church wear) into a small suitcase and my laptop bag.  I am having nerve twinges in my right arm, but my strength is pretty good, so I was able to heft the 40 lb suitcase into the overhead compartment on the first flight without assistance, while on the second they offered free gate-checking, which I accepted eagerly…forgetting that my camera was in my suitcase.  I hope it survived.

[Update: Arrived safely in Denver—where it was 97 degrees, and raining!—got my rental SUV (necessary for the mountains)—and had a smooth hour’s drive to my cousins’—one of whose cats immediately established itself comfortably atop my suitcase. My camera appears to be still in working order.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe Columbia County--your possible future home--is in talks about getting county-wide Wi-Fi access. Another perk, along with the possibility of feline companionship. And a yard, which you don't have to mow, but which you CAN plant flowers in.