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The Best Laid Plans: Delay’s Missed Connections and Doing the OJ through Newark International Airport

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A Long Flight Comes to an End

Well my friends my final post for today as I sit scrunched in steerage on this fully booked Airbus A320 enroute to Houston.

I last posted as I was waiting for my delayed flight to leave Norfolk for Newark. My plan was scathingly good. I left a flight that I knew was not going to get me to my connection in time in Washington Dulles for a $500 flight voucher and a flight that gave me almost 2 hours of time on the ground between flights in Newark and a chance to spend my second food coupon.

Well, as they say “the best laid plans….” The flight from Norfolk looked promising. Then came the delay, but the aircraft landed and they began to board it. I have to admit I would not to have wanted to have to had traded places with the beleaguered gate staff. They dealt with multiple weather delays from a nasty winter storm as well as other air traffic delays. Travel today in the eastern half of our fair land was a bit of a mess and the waiting area was thick with the scent of anger and frustration seething below the surface.

As we pulled away from the gate it looked like there was a chance that I would make my connection. That was until the pilot pulled to a waiting area and told us that there was a 25 minute air traffic delay in Newark. That ended my chance of making the connection.

Once we arrived in Newark my aircraft landed at Terminal A, like in Apple and I had to catch a bus to Terminal C, like in Charlie. Upon arriving at the Customer Service Center at the C90 gate I was greeted by a pleasant lady who first looked around and first booking me on a flight leaving about 9PM, but then she found a flight that was boarding that I could still catch.

So I put on my backpack and began the dash across the airport. I am not sure but I think I had to run about a half mile. Since I woke up too late to get PT in this morning as was my plan this wasn’t a problem. When I travel now I plan for this. I am wearing my Merrill Barefoot shoes a Baltimore Orioles T-shirt, cargo shorts and my every present Orioles fitted cap. The airport was crowed my friends, I ran, weaves in and out of the crowds and avoided getting hit by a number of carts carrying airport cart-people. I barely had time to enjoy the stench emitting from all the chemical plants and oil refineries in the local area.

Overhead I heard a voice announce the “final boarding call” for my flight so all thoughts of stopping to use the toilette or trying to grab a bite to eat went out the door. this was now a quest and I would not be denied. So I spread up and made the final few hundred yards in a sprint. I arrived at the gate sweating but not out of breath and boarded the very full aircraft. My seat was 30e, a middle seat between too other men, one pleasant and the other, well to be nice…not. Then we didn’t go anywhere. Evidently they launched so kind of new navigational flight plan program today and pilot had to personally go to operations to get the computerized software. He was apologetic but it took another half hour to get the program operating and it was over an hour after the door had been shut before we got off the ground.

The aircraft was full of other travelers, some like my one unpleasant neighbor obviously frustrated and less than gruntled while others were taking this in stride. I could feel the frustration and tension and decided that I would do my best to be pleasant and make the best of the flight which was was bunching around in turbulence for quite a bit of the trip. As I write this I figure that we are about halfway to Houston baby, whose “debutants couldn’t hold a candle to you.” (Gratuitous line from the Eagles the Long Run)

Since I wasn’t able to use my food coupon in Newark and I had only eaten a bowl of soup and drank a couple pints of Sam Adams Boston Lager all day I decided that I needed to eat airline food. Of course they were out of the salad, so I had some kind of chicken wrap when the flight attendant came by and she took the coupon in exchange for the very bland and less than exciting pseudo-sandwich. At least it was not very big as it was not that exciting.

I finally arrived in Houston about 930 PM Central Standard Time and things got better. My messages to the people of my church that I sent by text before I went wheels up in Newark were acknowledged. I picked up my one checked bag which had been waiting for me with no problem, and caught a taxi driven by a very nice Nigerian to my hotel.

No you say, “why the hell is he boring the shit out of me with all of these arcane details?” Yes like your last question I heard that one too, and I do appreciate your sentiments. But out of respect I will answer it. The truth be told air travel alternates between “boredom and terror” as Orson Welles so marvelously put it, with all the comforts of an overcrowded Greyhound Bus when you sit in coach, which is better called steerage. The fact is to keep myself from thinking about all the bad things it is much more therapeutic to write than stress out.

Remember that question that you asked earlier today “how do you cope when flying while dealing with PTSD?” I thought that you did. I discussed some of my coping mechanisms for for dealing with air travel. Well this is one of those ways that I cope. I figure that if it keeps me out of panic mode and keeps me from behaving like a complete ass when things don’t go as planned, which is par for the course when I travel by air.

Wait, one more question you say. What was the in flight movie. Well it was a film that I never heard of called Quartet. It had no action, no violence, no slapstick humor and no sex. It was film about a bunch of old people sitting around a hotel, pestering the wait staff and waiting for a concert of some kind. Evidently they were like old opera singers or something. It looked positively depressing. Of course I didn’t use the ear phones so it might have had a beautiful story with brilliant humor that I wouldn’t of appreciated anyway, but I digress…

I am safe and able to post this and now it is time to go across the street to my favorite Houston watering hole for a local craft beer or two.

Have a wonderful night and happy travels wherever you may be traveling.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Fly the Friendly Skies of PTSD: Padre Steve Takes to the Air Yet Again

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“There are only two emotions in a plane, boredom and terror” Orson Welles

So once again my air travel begins with an adventure, thankfully I am doing better and have learned a few things about traveling with PTSD over the past few years.

Air travel, especially having to go through crowed airports still terrifies me. Today I am traveling to Houston for a chaplain training symposium, part of which will deal with PTSD treatment. While there I will be touring to VA Medical Center and I have been tasked by my Commanding Officer to see what they are doing in regard to dealing with Peer Support to PTSD injured personnel and to their families.

The family piece has been slow to develop and the military, VA and others are now just beginning to wrap their heads around the issue of how to deal with the impacts of PTSD on the family. I think that part of the reason for this is that the military has had to figure out PTSD all over again since the current wars began in 2001. Since most of our previous experience came out of Vietnam where the majority of soldiers were single draftees who left the service after doing their time we did not really have much experience dealing with what happens when a soldier makes multiple deployments, is traumatized and has to deal with family issues while remaining in the high stress world of the military.

Of course I can testify that it does have a huge impact on the family. My marriage was in bad shape after Iraq as Judy and I both tried to figure out what the “new normal” was in our marriage. Even when I started to get better the process of re-setting the relationship was incredibly difficult and required a lot of adjustment. Since we have known each other for close to 35 years and been married for almost 30 I can only imagine what a newly married couple, or a couple married just a few years with young children go through. I see a lot of these young men and women in my work and know their stories and difficulties so my interest in this is quite personal on a number of levels.

Anyway, returning to the trip. I got to my flight and of course it was overbooked. That is par for the course, at least the Norfolk airport was relatively sedate today. However, they airline needed to board a flight crew and was getting ready to force passengers off the plane. They offered a $500 voucher and meal coupons and promised to get me to my destination this evening. Since the flight that I was booked on was running late and my connection time was next to nothing at Dulles Airport in Washington DC I volunteered to take the voucher. Most of my worst experiences flying have occurred at Dulles and I never enjoy making a connection there. They booked me on a later flight that goes through Newark which puts me in about 5 hours later than I would have arrived if I was able to make my connection. The layover allows me to relax a bit between flights and not rush. I can handle that.

When I fly I am almost always in a panic mode. I no longer enjoy it. Air travel today is like being a steerage passenger on the Titanic unless you have lots of money to fly First Class. Crowded flights, bad baggage service and less than friendly airports are the norm. If I had the time to take I would drive almost anywhere rather than to fly. I have flown First Class a couple of times, but only because the airlines upgraded me. The best was a British Air flight from Madrid to London where I flew with former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. They actually give you really metal eating utensils, plates and glasses.

My last couple of flights have been filled with more drama than I would like, so in light of the fact that I was having to connect through my least favorite airport in the world I don’t mind the delay.

You ask me how I cope with air travel now. Don’t say that you didn’t I heard you. Now the fact that I have raging Tinnitus and my speech comprehension is in the lower three percentile, meaning that even most deaf people understand speech better than me has nothing to do with it. I know what you said.

So how do I cope? The answer is simple. Beer, a good microbrew or if one is not available maybe a Sam Adams, Yuengling or Stella. I could take a Xanax. My Doctor prescribes them for me, but they taste terrible and don’t fill me up. Besides, even though beer is loaded with carbs it is a fat free meal.

In addition to beer I try to make sure that schedule my flights whenever possible, if no direct flight is available to go through airports where there is good food, good beer and if I do get delayed or forced to overnight it, a place where there is something to do. I have learned in such cases to pack a pair of underwear and a clean shirt appropriate to the time of year and weather in my backpack just in case I get delayed. I went through Dulles once, had to overnight it and was forced to go to a mall that triggered every living nerve in me just to get underwear and a shirt. That my friends sucked like a Hoover.

So at the moment I am sitting at the airport bar having a half liter of Sam Adams and a bowl of Chicken Tortilla Soup while waiting for my flight. A man sitting next to me said that flight is now delayed. More from Newark or Houston as the trip develops.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Flying the Friendly Skies and Crossing the Pond

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Back when I was a kid I remember going on my first plane flights without adult supervision. I would fly from Stockton California to Long Beach to see my friend Chris who had been my next door neighbor when my dad was stationed in Long Beach. Back then I flew on Pacific Southwest Airlines whose aircraft featured a smile on the nose.  PSA is now part of US Air but my memories of flying as a kid are much more enjoyable than flying now.  I don’t do air travel and crowded airports well after Iraq so I do what I can to make the travel as easy as possible but certain things can get to me, especially on the American side of the pond.

When I was a kid air travel was considered to be somewhat of an adventure. In fact until the major railroads ended their passenger service in the early 1970s and left us with Amtrak my family almost always travelled by train. Even the commercials made air travel seem almost magical. Advertising lines like “Fly the friendly skies” “The big bird with the golden tail” and “First Class leg space even in Coach” went another. Even coach passengers were treated with a modicum of respect and while meals and leg room may not have been what it was in First Class you didn’t feel like you were traveling steerage either, which is what I equate flying in “Coach” to be.  Likewise because we didn’t perceive a terrorist threat we didn’t have to deal with the now common TSA agents and security screenings that take one back to the good old days of when a Gestapo Agent politely asked “your papers please.” But I digress…

Steerage of course was what steamship lines used to call 3rd Class where immigrants and other less than desirable passengers sailed to ensure that they did not trouble the elites traveling in First Class. As I said I equate Coach with Steerage without the ability to throw a party with dancing, singing and beer for everyone.  Little has changed and while all air travelers occupy a high tech metal cylinder propelled by tremendous jet engines those little curtains that separate the First Class from Business or Coach are as  impenetrable as were the locked doors on the Titanic.

Today so far has been yet another adventure in air travel.  It began with a delay due to weather on the inbound flight which resulted in such a tight turn around that it affected my follow on flight. Since that flight involved an different airline I spent an hour at the check in desk as the lady helping me worked her hardest to get me rebooked and out of the other airline’s system. So I had a well deserved beer while waiting for that flight prayed that the aircraft would leave on time.

It left the gate on time but alas the Air Controllers at Newark had other plans. As we taxied out to take off we pulled over off of the runway. The Captain announced that Newark had told us to sit on the Tarmac in Norfolk for 40 minutes. We arrived at Newark less than an hour before takeoff. Thankfully there was a shuttle bus between terminals and I hitched a ride to make it on time even finding a few minutes to do a “defueling operation” in the men’s room and a refuel my bladder with an overpriced soda before boarding the aircraft.

No my flight has been interesting. I flew to Newark on United Express. I flew to Frankfurt on a United flight that used to be a Continental aircraft that still had its Continental crew. The aircraft, a very nice Boeing 777 was thankfully not full and I got a full row to myself back in steerage.  The service on the Continental/United flight was good.  Unfortunately unlike the American Airlines flights that I took to Houston and back last week this aircraft did not have any wireless free internet, so I had no ability to communicate in the air. So after we were airborne I pulled out my Kindle and did my Evening Prayer liturgy before reading a book about the Battleship Bismarck.

I landed at Frankfurt just before 630 AM local time and of course passed through the Customs and Border Police. Now unlike the TSA agents, the German Border Police or Grenzschutz command respect. There is something about Germany where you do exactly what the police tell you to do. I remember back when I was stationed in Germany in the 198-s and it was quite common to see Grenzschutz officers walking the airport with automatic rifles and machine guns. That of course was in the era of the Rad Brigades and the Bader-Meinhoff terrorist group as well as the beginnings of PLO and Libyan sponsored terrorists.  I remember once when Judy and I saw a person that we believed was a Bader-Meinhoff terrorist in Wiesbaden and went to report it to the Polizei. That was an interesting experience as we were interrogated about the report for over an hour in German. Now days the Polizei are just as efficient but compared to our airport security seem so much more efficient and less obtrusive.

Since I read, speak and write German and have studied copious amounts of German history I go through those security points like a pro, like Newman going through the line at the Soup Nazi kitchen.

While in Frankfurt I have a couple of hours to relax, if that is possible at an airport. Unlike major American and British Airports which have almost the feel of going to a mall, albeit a mall that you have to get a full body scan, fondled and possibly strip searched to enter many European airports are all about air travel with very small areas devoted to shopping or being able to drink beer with breakfast. I actually like it when I have to travel through London’s Heathrow airport because I know a couple of pubs where I can have fried eggs and bacon rashers with a sliced tomato and a couple of pints of beer between flights. Heathrow is amazing, it is like an upscale mall packed with people from the world over and it has a couple of decent bookstores which I always found something interesting to read, usually books about military history not easily available in the United States.  But while I can read German fairly well it is not what I do for fun or relaxation so what I find in the a German airport is not as entertaining as in the UK.

Upon arriving at Frankfurt I did get a salad and beer and the airport has changed some over the years, a few more places to eat and shop but nothing like Heathrow.  I guess the weirdest thing is looking across the runway to where Rheim Main Air Base used to be. Back in January 1984 when I first arrived in Germany it was massive. You looked across the runway from the German side and there was line upon line of C-5 Galaxies, C-141 Starlifters and C-130 Hercules transports. Even in 1996 when I came to support the Bosnia mission Rhein Main was still busy though being reduced due to the end of the Cold War. As late as 5-7 years ago you could see the old USAF hangers and buildings. Now the area is being redeveloped and it is hard to tell the airbase was ever there.

Long Gone…Rhein Main Airbase in its Heyday…

So I post this from Frankfurt International Airport while waiting for my final flight of this very long day. It will be on a Lufthansa flight and a relatively short commuter type flight. When I get to Stuttgart I will be picked up from the airport by staff from the Judge Advocate’s office and believe that I will be offering my testimony today. That may change with the delay in my flight and so I will see. I am scheduled to fly back Saturday from Stuttgart back through Newark and Norfolk and should be home in time for dinner with Judy at Gordon Biersch.

So until my next post…

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Notes on a Trip to Houston

I have been travelling this week to a Chaplain and Clergy conference of my church, the Apostolic Catholic Orthodox Church in Houston Texas. It has been a really interesting trip. Just a few notes to make as I sit in the back of a cab on the way out to Houston Intercontinental Airport and in the terminal while awaiting my flight.

I am not a big fan of flying anymore and find commercial air in the United States to be a bit more nerve wracking than flying military air in Iraq. There I was treated well and not as a criminal when trying to get aboard an aircraft. I think that the Patriot Act and the TSA has determined that we are all guilty until proven innocent because we wither choose to fly or due to business, even on military orders have to fly. After my criticisms of both the TSA and the Patriot Act last year I was shocked that I have not been put on the no-fly list or selected to have my junk fondled.

In a surprise I found that the agents for U.S. Air were much more polite and helpful than in years past both at Norfolk and Houston. At Norfolk an agent figured out that I was military by my trusty desert tan Blackhawk backpack which has accompanied me almost everywhere since I went to Iraq back in 2007 and made sure that I or you being the taxpayer were not charged for my baggage. The flight crews were also friendly and the check-in personnel at Houston were also polite and helpful and did the same as Norfolk regarding my baggage.

While still having to go through the screening procedure the TSA personnel were better than many that I have encountered and I was not forced to have my junk fondled or go through the super high intensity x-ray machine. Unlike many TSA checkpoints that I have been through I had the agent that checked my ID and boarding pass was polite and called me by my military rank.  This may not seem like a big deal except that I have been accosted in uniform at some TSA checkpoints and forced to remove insignia qualification badges and ribbons despite having my ID and orders in hand while people that were obviously foreign and wearing Middle Eastern garb were permitted through without so much as batting an eyelash.  Thus when I am treated politely by TSA I do think that it is a big deal. That takes nothing away from my beliefs that the Patriot Act and the TSA act as though people are guilty until proven innocent and are egregious violations of the Constitution and the Civil Rights of Americans.

While on flight from Charlotte to Houston I sat next to a man about my age. I noticed that he had a Bible and throughout the flight seemed very engrossed in it and when he looked up appeared as if his gaze was far away. I noticed that he was reading 2nd Corinthians chapter 5 and I mentioned that my one of my favorite sections of the Bible was there. He ask which and I pointed out verses 17-21 about those in Christ being new creations and that God was reconciling the World through Christ counting people’s since not against them and that we were Christ’s ambassadors.  He struck up a bit of a conversation with me and mentioned that he was a minister on the staff of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg Virginia and that he was on his way to Texas because his father had just died after a battle with Cancer and that he would be doing his funeral. I had been writing “A Ballgame with St. Pete” and remembering my own father’s death last summer so I gave him my condolences and shared just a bit about losing my dad and how I could not do the funeral because of the emotion involved.  It was nice to be there for someone going through this as the trip to bury a loved one can be one of the loneliest times of one’s life.

The conference was wonderful and in the time together we had many hours of productive discussion of church business, developments in the professional pastoral care world and care for each other. I found that I fit in well and felt an instant kinship with my fellow clergy which in my case for the first time in church included ordained women. My previous church had a male only clergy. I found how much I appreciate the Old Catholic ethos of being a refuge, a place of healing and a place of openness which upholds the teachings of the first seven councils of the Ancient Church and strives for thru ecumenical Catholicity.  Bishop Diana Dale our Presiding Bishop is a gem and I felt kinship with the people that I met. I miss the friends that I served with in the Charismatic Episcopal Church for over 14 years I know that I am in the right place.

After our last formal business session on Saturday we went to get to the San Jacinto Battlefield and while some went to the Memorial to the Texas Independence Memorial some of us went over to the USS Texas to see this last example of the Dreadnought era battleships. I have wanted to see the Texas for many years and have written about her on this site. It was interesting to note despite the fact that she was commissioned 98 years ago that much is still the same in current Navy ships. Yes things were a lot more primitive but at the same time much was the same.  It was really a nice expedition with Robert one of my fellow Priests from Maryland and Gale our senior Deacon who comes from Iowa.

After the trip we went out to a Mexican restaurant named Ninfa’s where the Fajita was invented. One thing about that trip was when we were told that our table was ready. The restaurant was very busy and we waited in the bar. When we were called we were led in and on our right a man, obviously military was giving thanks for the meal with his family. They were holding hands and he had a very loud and clear voice and I heard this little bit. “Father I thank you for being home with my family and that I have returned safe from Afghanistan, please bring a swift end to this war….” That was all that I heard but it was enough to get me to pause and realize that it was my prayer too.  I think that some people wrongly believe that those that serve in the professional military are warmongers when in fact I know that many have no illusions about this war and after 10 years many, especially the regular career professionals in the officer and senior NCO ranks feel the same way.  It was a poignant moment.  We know that the current war will go on and most of us are convinced that the situation around the world is going to cause us to be embroiled in even more conflicts.

I think there was one other significant thing about this trip. I was able to control my anxiety and did not have any PTSD meltdowns in any of the terminals or crowded situations. Not to say that I was entirely comfortable or without anxiety but that unlike many of the trips that I have made since returning from Iraq I did not suffer any panic attacks.

This morning we had an ordination service for a new Deacon which was really nicely done with the traditional Ordination of a Deacon Liturgy and Mass. After that was done I had to make a quick change to catch a cab back to the airport.  I look forward to being home for a bit before Judy comes with me to help me settle in to my new island hermitage on Tuesday.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Night Flight

in a 53Stuffed into a Crowded MH-53E in Iraq

I slept through most of my flight in the steerage section of my United Express CRJ-7 taking advantage of the open seat next to me to stretch out since in the last row the seat will not recline.  The flight from Norfolk to Chicago was uneventful, good weather all the way across ensured a good flight.

I still am not a fan of flying or crowded airports.  Thankfully due to the lateness of my flight I did  not have to deal with lots of people, I cruised through the security point manned by our local branch of the Federal Sicherheitsdienst.  I am very good at getting through these checkpoints quickly, the key is to go through the checkpoint as close to naked as you can get without causing yourself too much trouble and ensuring that anything unusual that could cause a Sicherheitsdienst officer to search your bags and do an body cavity search placed in your checked baggage.  I remember once after 9-11 when travelling through San Fransisco in uniform being nearly strip searched while obvious foreigners, to include those of the ethic group that had crashed into the twin towers go straight through. Thankfully as a  Kriegsmarine Officer my ausweiss gets me through our local checkpoint without too much trouble.

I slept through much of the flight, aided by the 2 pints of Sam Adams (Patriot, Brewer and Friend) Boston Lager that I had while waiting for my flight.  I do hope that the 2 pints of Goose Island Honker’s Ale that I am finishing off in Chicago has the same effect, beats the hell out of Xanax if you ask me.

I was awakened as the aircraft decelerated and began its descent into Chicago.  I looked out the window to my left and saw a panoply of lights in the distance with a dark void which happens to be Lake Michigan.  I have not flown commercial at night  in a long time and the last time I did took me over no major metro areas.  Seeing the lights I was instantly taken back to flying over Ramadi at night, which I did on a fairly frequent basis while in Iraq.  Usually those flights were uneventful except the one time when the Army MH-47 lifted off popped flares and the tail gunner started shooting at something on the ground. I was sitting just across from the tail gunner and knew that this was not a negligent discharge of a weapon.  The Army denied that anything happened on the flight when I asked about it two days later, but still, it was a bit sporty.

So flying at night, seeing the lights takes me back to Iraq.  I did feel some sense of anxiety that I had not felt earlier as we descended into the airport and when I got off the aircraft was able to start deescalating my stress level.  I find it interesting to see how almost “hard wired” that reposes to danger in combat situations can become.

It is time to finish my beer and start heading down the way to the boarding gate. About 2330 Pacific time I should be on the ground and with any luck by 0100 be safely at my parents home.

Peace, Padre Steve+

 

 

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The Journey to Mudville

Friends: I wrote this in several parts over the day on my trip. I do thank all those who have expressed sympathy as well as voiced prayers on our behalf. Thank you. Peace, Steve+

There are those times in life where one wonders what the hell is going on.  I sat in my seat between two other gentlemen on the fully booked Southwest Airline flight to Chicago. This was the first stop on my journey home to Mudville, sometimes known as Stockton, California.  The legend is that the poem Casey at the Bat is set in Stockton, and for a couple of years the Stockton Ports were reflagged as the Mudville Nine.  So in a sense I can claim Mudville as part of my baseball lineage.

The journey had begun inauspiciously enough when my cell phone’s alarm clock went off at 0430 to the tune of John Foggarty’s Centerfield.  That’s military time for 4:30 AM, or too frickin’ early… even by my standards.  Now true this is only 15-30 minutes earlier than I normally arise, but I have never been a morning person.  If I had been able to get to sleep at a decent hour this might not have been too bad.  However, I had spent a full day trying to get my shit together on Sunday and did not get to bed until after midnight.  Thankfully my sleep meds worked and I did get to sleep.  When the alarm went off I got my sorry ass up and set the snooze for ten minutes more. Molly the dog glared at me.  Evidently this was too early for her as well.  I finally got up and out of bed, showered and went downstairs to call a cab.  Of course the cab company couldn’t promise a cab before 0600 and since my flight was scheduled for 0645 I knew that this was definitely a no go.  Molly the dog decided that it was now time to come downstairs and demand to be let out so she could do her business.  This being done she collected her payment of a Milk Bone and went back to bed.  After having paid off Molly I loaded my suitcase and backpack into my trusty 2001 Honda CR-V and started off to the airport.  After Iraq I now consider airports as the gateway to hell.

Radio tuned to ESPN Sports Radio 1310 AM I received the news that my San Francisco Giants had beaten the Evil Dodgers at Chavez Ravine 7-5 in 13 innings, taking two of three from the now Mannyless Dodgers. While the Norfolk Tides had taken 2 of three from the hapless Buffalo Bisons which in the Mets organization had once been the Tides. The Mets as usual have decided to treat their AAA farm team badly and people in Buffalo after years of competitive seasons as a Cleveland Indians affiliate are opening complaining.  With the good news I stopped by my local 7-11 for a 24 ounce coffee with 4 French Vanilla creamers and 3 packets of Splenda and zipped off to I-264.  It was then that things started to get interesting and not in a good way.  I managed to find every stoplight and get behind every timid driver who couldn’t drive anywhere near the speed limit.  I’ve driven the Autobahns of Germany and cut my teeth in L.A. and a lot of people in Hampton Roads can’t drive nails, much less cars. I put my CR-V into warp factor eight, set the cloaking device and dodged in and out of traffic and took the secret wormhole into the airport to avoid even more stoplights.  It is patently a good thing that I know such things as I would shortly discover that I would need every second.

I pulled into the parking garage and saw that there were 26 spaces available on the second deck. I drove onto the deck and discovered that there were not 26 spaces but a big fat zero spaces available. Muttering a few things about the questionable parentage of the idiot who couldn’t count the difference between 26 and zero I drove my CR-V up to the 3rd deck.  The sign here said 16 spaces available…good I thought, certainly they couldn’t screw up two floors.  Damned if I wasn’t screwed again.  Here again the parking space counter of the previously mentioned questionable parentage had miscounted.  Instead of 16 spaces there were…you guessed it, zero, nada, nicht eine, yea even nary a single space available. Now calling to mind the probable oedipal practices of the individual of questionable parentage I moved up to the 4th deck.  Here I found success; albeit at the end of a row far from the terminal, but I had my spot…at least I didn’t have to keep going up.  I looked at my watch and knew I had to run. I did the O.J. (racing through the airport, not killing my wife) and I got down to the ticketing area where I was greeted by the sight of at least 250 people in the Southwest line.   I now only had 50 minutes to my flight departed.  Normally with Southwest this is easy. They are efficient and the line, if they have one at all it tends to move fast.  Today was like something out of the hell known as the Orlando International Airport.  Some group of 100 or so people had bumped everyone else aside. Likewise one of the big TSA baggage X-rays was down, turning this into a nightmare is grumbling people stewed wondering if they would make their flights.  I uttered some more #*@#%! words under my breath and then asked the Deity Herself to give me a break. Thankfully the Deity and the good people at Southwest ensured that line moved fast.  We received some help when the group who had gooned up the line was finished.  Then the agent called for my 0645 flight.  At this point all of now very late passengers stormed the ticket booth like revolutionaries storming the Bastille. Thankfully I had good position based on my position in the line. Expert that I am I weaved through the lesser experienced travelers. I slid into a self serve kiosk that no one else had spotted like Ricky Henderson would slide into second. As I got my boarding pass a pushy woman tried to bump me out of line. I didn’t like it; she was trying to crowd me out of line when I was there first.  Thankfully she was too dense to know that she needed to check her bags despite having a boarding pass in her hand.  The Southwest agent told her to get in a different line and I got my bag checked.  That task completed I did the O.J. and flew up the steps to the TSA checkpoint.  Jumping over a bank of chairs I managed to pass about 50 people only to discover that the nefarious group of 100 was already at the TSA checkpoint.  Once again the pushy lady tried to elbow her way through the line.  Since she obviously was a narcissist with no sense of propriety I cut her off. She looked at me like I was stupid, forgetting that we had had this little discussion just a few minutes before.  I said “ma’am, most of us are on your flight and are ahead of you.” Her jaw dropped and a TSA agent told her to get back echoing my words.   She looked at me and said “Will they hold the flight for me?”  To upset her, having faith in the Deity and Southwest, I lied and said, “Probably not.” Of course I didn’t believe this with so many of us in the same predicament. Yet I kind of enjoyed the look on her face as she moved back to her rightful place at the end of the line. Not the nicest thing to do, but some things need to be done.  I’m sure it was a sin.  As I asked one priest in confession: “Is it still a sin if they deserve it?” He told me: “Yes, but there may be some mitigating circumstances, but that is still a sin.”  Well there’s some more extra innings in Purgatory for me. Thankfully I am an expert traveler now, so when I got to the screening station I flew through it. Looking at my watch I knew that I had to be screwed. I had heard the final boarding call in the TSA line and it was past time for departure.  I raced down the concourse I saw that the Deity had already spoken to the kind folks at Southwest and had them hold the aircraft for all of us…the pushy lady included, proving that the Deity even cares for pushy narcissists. I guess that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.  Somehow I got through this episode without having a PTSD meltdown despite not having either a Xanax or beer to calm down.  Lot’s of deep breathing I guess helped this time.  Had I not made the flight I might have cracked, but the Deity Herself looked after me.

We arrived at Chicago Midway a little bit late, but in plenty of time to make my connecting fight to Sacramento, the alleged capitol of the State of California.  I say alleged because though there is much in the way of a state government in it there is painfully little evidence of effectiveness, despite having the Governator. Getting to Sacramento I picked up my luggage, which thankfully despite the lateness of my check-in got through.  If I had done the same on either Divided Airlines or U.S. Scare I’m sure that the luggage would not have made it on my flight, but would have ended up God knows where.  While waiting for my bag I had an e-mail from my mom about a run in that she had with a lady from hospice.  She was pretty spun up and my brother confirmed this.  I got my rental car, a 2009 Black Nissan Altima and headed down I-5 to Mudville.

When I got to Mudville I stopped by Raley’s to pick up the flowers that I told my mother would be arriving through a special arrangement with the florist.  Since I figured I should play this up for all that it was worth I decided to call and let her know that I had gotten her message.  She immediately launched into what was wrong with the world as I sat in my car in her driveway. I assured her that my brother and I would take care of things and that everything would be okay.  I knocked on the door with my phone in hand still talking to mom.  She told me someone was at the door and I said I would call back. She looked out the blinds which cover a window by the door, and then closed them, and then in disbelief opened them again. She was floored and stared in disbelief as I stood at the door, flowers in hand. I took her to the nursing home to see dad.  Somehow my nephew’s and niece managed to keep the secret the last two weeks. The surprise was total. He was glad to see me and immediately asked where Judy was.  He was disappointed that she was in Virginia. Unfortunately he looks in a lot worse shape than he was last year.  After the visit which included talks with the nursing staff and billing office I took my mom to Chile’s.

Now the hard part really starts.  Have to go up and see my dad.  I’ll be getting mom to the funeral home as well as make arrangements with their church for the memorial service at a date to be determined.  Following this I will be helping my brother with selling my parents old grave plots back to the cemetery in Napa where they lived a few years back. Then I will work on insurance issues between the insurance company and the nursing home.  The insurance company is being stupid right now.  The first 6 months they paid and now despite no change they are claiming that the nursing home is entering the wrong billing codes and say that they have the case “under investigation.”  However, since they have set precedent they should keep paying.  If they don’t start soon my brother and I will have to sue their sorry asses for putting my mom through hell.  If dad was with it he would be pissed.

So now that I am in Mudville I have work to do.  Take care and keep us all in your prayers.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, healthcare, PTSD, travel