söndag, april 09, 2006

Escaping Midwayville

"I know where rain comes from," Edit says. "It comes from planes. The stream they leave behind is ice. The ice gets heavy. It falls towards the ground, melts and turns to rain. Rain only happens if there are a lot of planes in a group."

"Where does the sun come from?" I think to myself. From Florida, I guess. It roams about and visits New York and Ohio and Saskatchewan, but mostly, I think, it lives in Florida.

It's fun to take a flight from New York to Miami, with all those passengers with age-based hearing loss talking to each other at the same decible level used by six year olds in headphones.

"HOW CAN YOUR READ THAT? I AM SO TIRED OF THAT GARBAGE. CAN'T YOU HEAR ME? OH, SOMETIMES I THINK THAT YOUR MEDICINE HAS MADE YOU DEAF."

"I WONDER IF THEY HAVE DIET SNAPPLE ICE TEA. DO YOU THINK THEY MIGHT HAVE DIET SNAPPLE ICE TEA? I HAD THAT AT YOUR SISTER'S HOUSE ONCE. REMEMBER, WHEN THE GLASS WAS ALL DIRTY AND YOUR SISTER GAVE IT TO ME ANYWAY.

I begin to wonder why, after fifty years of marriage, couples don't insist on taking separate flights. There is only so much walking away one can do on a plane.

WHAT'S THAT SOUND MORTY? DO YOU HEAR THAT SOUND?"

"That's the engine, m'am," the flight attendant intervenes with a patient smile. "It's a good sound. We want to hear that sound."

The reason I am not a flight attendent is because I would have said it like this: "We want to hear that sound," not the endless chatter you are pumping out as air filler. Actually, there are lots of reasons I am not a flight attendent: I'd eat all the peanuts, I look mean when I am concentrating and I would be the first in line to get off a burning plane. So I decide it is time to be a good passenger, and chill. I reach down and pull some magazines out of my bag. The first one I pull out, Sunset, makes me smile.

Humor perculates in two places: something suffocatingly familiar and something sparkely new. For example, I have known about Sunset magazine since I was a kid. It's a West Coast publication that I associate with 50's ranch houses overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I have seen it a handful of times over the years. I am pretty sure I turned the pages once or twice. That's all. I subscribed to it as part of a current project, so it shows up in the office every month. Everything about its cover tickles a Long Island co-worker.

"Sunset. What kind of name is that for a retirement magazine. Were the names Death Knell, December Time, andOne Foot in the Grave unavailable?"

"It's not about retirement. Our coast gets the sunrise; they get the sunset. Get it?"

"And look at this font," he continues, ignoring me. "Who picked it? This guy must share a drawing board with the clown that designed the typeface for Highlights, for Kids" about a billion years ago."

He laughs some more as he walks away, cracking himself up.

I can't do that. I can't do the free association thing needed to generate a joke on this topic. I know enough about the magazine to, like a dweeb, try to explain it; I don't know enough, however, to contribute to my friend's jibes with a complementing set of "if you knew the half of it" inside jokes. I am stuck in Midwayville, a humorless place right next to The Mall and that restaurant, Buster something or other, that serves heaping plates of fat and gives adults a chance to play arcade games.

Or I was, anyway. I escaped Midwayville as soon as I agreed to a roadtrip with a group of "accompanying persons." Conference promoters developed the phrase "accompanying person" as a politically correct replacement to "your wives" in brochure copy that described what spouses would be doing while their respective breadwinners sat in break-out groups and plotted how to market cancer producing sugar substitutes, or golfed. Actually, we are wives, but there are no significant others here and certainly no organizers. We are moms heading out for a few days in the sun with our daughters. As long as I have known me, I have failed in all efforts to make road trips uneventful. Traveling as I was this time with moms who did not work outside the home and confessed to me things like "I have never made a travel arrangement my life," I felt fairly confident that things would go badly.

As there was no escaping the fact that I had agreed to go on a trip with people I barely knew, I thought it would help break the ice if after introductions at the airport, I would stand in front of them and drip coffee down the front of my White Pants for Florida. I thought it would really get them relaxed if, after remembering that when white cotton gets wet from rinsing in an airport bathroom sink it becomes as transparent as celophane, two members of the group could spot me standing on tiptoe, on a ledge, positioned underneath the hot air flow from a hand dryer, and then go back and share it with the rest.

There was one seat on the plane that was separate from the others, and I asked to take it. That's where I was when I pulled the Sunset magazine out of my carry on. The article on adding chocolate-colored plants to the backyard made everything all better. Except upon closer examination none of the plants were really brown. They were burgundy, rust, or flaxen, and I began to wonder about the crafty copy editor who knew that the word "chocolate" would drag half the readers along for the article. Loud passengers, tricky wordsmiths, stupid coffee. I let the warm sun come in through the airplane window and drug me to sleep.

I can't say for certain if it happened when I had been pulling magazines apart or earlier that day when I might have failed to pull it back out of the ATM, but it was no later than this point in my trip that my personal credit card disappeared forever. These were the only two opportunities I could reckon. I would not discover this, of course, for another 24 hours.

On arrival, I suggested that our small group gather the luggage while I picked up the rental car. Once they collected the gear, they could follow the signs and find me. It seemed simple enough. At some point, my daughter shows up, alone. "Where's the group?" "Oh, a mom wondered where you were, so she sent me on." "I'm here, where I said I would be. Go back and get them." Two minutes after my daughter goes back in the direction of the baggage claim, someone else's child appears. "We were wondering what was taking your daughter so long to find you, so I came to look for her." Ahhh, I thought. Apparently I was just stepping onto the four day-long "Why Fathers Explode" amusement park ride. Our next discovery was that one accompanying daughter's suitcase was larger than the entire trunk of the cute convertible car I thought everyone would enjoy. The other mother-daughter team wondered why I had not rented a subdivision-sized SUV. I began to think something that a dad would probably think. I stared at the huge piece of luggage as if I had x-ray vision and could see the ceiling fan-sized cosmetic case and thirteen curling irons inside, then stopped myself. Everything, I decided, would be fine.

We pulled into the hotel, a towering beachside number one sees on postcards. The music from Miami Vice kept trying to enter my head, but I couldn't quite remember it. In the lobby I learned that two other mother-daughter teams would not be joining us because the girls had gotten into a fight over a boy and refused to be seen in each other's company. This signified a rather terrifying degree of indulgence and shallowness. The more practical problem for me was that this hotel just got twice as expensive as it was supposed to be and completely out of my price range. I started to panic. My throat got tight. Yet none of this prepared me for what followed.

My roommate mom opened the door to our suite, turned on the television and said, "Oh, Fox News. Good."

1 Comments:

Anonymous Keith said...

Most are unaware that hosta, calla lilly, marigold, geranium, and many other easily recognized varieties all come in a nice, chocolate brown color. That rich browness of the plant will appear late in the season, and must be coaxed from the plant with a good hard frost.

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