Tag Archives: Seattle

Because It’s Really Their First Car

There were a ton (okay, two tons) of items acquired to prepare for the babies, but none that I anticipated more than the purchase of our stroller.  I am a member of an unusual species, one that looks at strollers like cars, and did so long before my own children entered the picture.  I can’t really explain it, because I had no interest in any other baby paraphernalia, but before I had the babies I could pass six strollers on the street and tell you the make and model of each one, along with which was used by a celebrity for their spawn.  File under: useless information recall.

You won’t know this stroller, or care, but before I had babies I always thought I’d buy the Orbit.  The Orbit is genius, and cool, and looks like a spaceship.  The seat twists on and off the base and then twists on and off a matching base in your car.  I probably would have purchased it, too, if it hadn’t been for the little double surprise we encountered.  Because just look at the locomotive that is the double-version:

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Six wheels?  The thing is about eight feet long.  How do you turn?  Or fold it up?  Forget about it.

Next I thought I wanted the Bugaboo Donkey Twin stroller, but I test drove one and it felt forty feet wide and I knew it wouldn’t fit through standard door frames, no matter what they told me.  Fitting through doors, I’d say, is kind of essential.

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Easily the most popular stroller in Seattle is the BOB, and it’s popular for good reason.  I just couldn’t go with it because it didn’t fit two car seats, and it was beastly to collapse and store in the back of the car.

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Where to turn?  What to do?  After an embarrassing number of hours of research, a fellow twin mom told me she was going with the Baby Jogger City Select, which I had never heard of.  At first I naturally thought, “amateur” but after further intense research, I dragged Mike to the store and we fell in love with it.  I also asked for stroller recommendations at the next EMOMs meeting, and was met with a chorus of advice to get the City Select.

I insisted on adding the bassinets, because one of my long-held stroller fantasies was to push a baby in a bassinet.  It’s so classic, so British, so splendidly posh.  If I was going to be falling asleep at the wheel, I was going to do so behind a bassinet.  Or two, as the case may be.

After ten months with our little red SUV, I can now report that it was a wise purchase.  Speaking of purchase, I haven’t listed the prices of any of the strollers here intentionally; those who care will look it up, and those who don’t I won’t horrify.  Just remember: Judgy Wudgy Was a Bear.

What makes the City Select so choice, as Ferris Bueller would say?  The versatility.  It can be configured to hold two bassinets, two car seats, two seats, or some combination of those if you have children of different ages.  We can even add a glider board once we have another baby so all three are riding (which sounds ridiculous, but we’ll see when we get there).

Our first use of it was to take Arden in for our daily visit to Henry in the NICU:

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This only required one bassinet, obviously, and it worked well.

During subsequent outings I would choose bassinets or car seats based on whether they were sleeping, or likely to.

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It sounds complicated to configure, but the bassinets just click in and out, and then we click little frames in to hold the car seats.

bassinet view

As the babies were able to sit up, I would let them ride perched in the bassinets.  This was adorable, but unsafe, as they could arch their backs and fall out (theoretically…it didn’t actually happen).

bassinet sitting

It took me a very long time to switch to the big kid seats because I was so attached to the bassinets.  Also it was winter, so it made sense to keep them in their little traveling sleeping bags.

bassinet foxes

 

bassinet foxes sitting 2

But a couple of weeks after they turned eight months in late March, it was time to make the switch.  We ran into our friend Matt soon after, and he summed it up perfectly: “First stop: five-point harness, second stop: college.”  This was EXACTLY why I didn’t want to move out of the bassinets.  It was like admitting they were ready to have email addresses.

big seats

The glimmering silver lining was that they instantly loved it.  Their faces looked like, “WHAT?  I can sit up fully supported!?  AND touch all the things?!”

stroller reach

(Also please note their gender differences even in seated positions.  Arden always sits ankles crossed like the lady she is, and Henry’s legs are always swinging high in the air, toes wiggling.)

We can have the seats face front, back, or each other.  We always have them facing each other because then neither of them is staring at the back of a seat.  Plus they interact, which is just as adorable as it sounds.

full view

On rare occasions one of them will fall asleep in the car and one will still be awake, in which case we rock the different seating combo.

stroller two seats

One of the key requirements in our stroller search was that it be easily collapsible, as I’d be doing it myself the majority of the time.  The City Select has two knobs on either side and when I pull them at the same time they collapse the whole thing.  It’s really easy, but it’s still a little awkward to load into the car since it’s not a featherweight umbrella stroller.

The name makes this obvious, but we use it to go on runs and it does just fine.

At this point Baby Jogger should be sending me a check, but since they’re not, I’ll conclude with its drawbacks.  There isn’t a safety connection from my wrist to the stroller, which I think of every time we go running, as I imagine myself tripping and sending the twins into oncoming traffic.  It’s not “recommended” for jogging like their sportier strollers are, so I’m sure there’s a better running experience out there, but the ride is smooth and works for us.

I’m hoping to do a post soon about other top products I haven’t been able to live without, but for now I had to start with the mothership.  I’m reminded of it everywhere we go, because sometimes it gets more attention than the twins do.

I don’t like to say I love inanimate objects, so let’s just say that I deeply like this stroller.

stroller toes

 

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May 31, 2014 · 9:29 PM

Raindrops on Roses

Yesterday I was at Trader Joe’s for my weekly grocery run, and as I waited in the checkout line I looked out the door to the parking lot.  It had been lightly sprinkling when I’d come in, but now it was a colossal downpour rarely seen in Seattle.  I looked down at my clothes: no raincoat.  Earlier that morning, like an idiot, I’d told myself “April showers, May flowers…who needs a raincoat?”

After paying, I pushed my cart outside and stood under the awning.  I took one step out from under it and was splattered in drenching rain.  I jumped back and spent thirty seconds debating how long would be too long to wait for the rain to pass, but decided that was a truly pathetic response for a nearly fifteen-year Seattleite.  In order to reduce the soak, I visualized my approach like a sprinter pictures crossing the finish line — I’d unlock the doors, grab both grocery bags, open the door, toss both bags inside, and then hurry back to return the cart.

It was all planned.  What’s that they say about the best-laid plans?

I dashed along the sidewalk to my car, which was parked in front of the building, so I didn’t have far to go.  I grabbed the handle of the cloth bag and the handle of the paper bag and stepped off the curb to move toward the car door.  I never saw the cement parking stop that caught both of my feet — I fell so fast I didn’t even realize I’d fallen.  I was standing one moment, and the next I was lying face-first in an inch of water, all of my groceries splayed out before me.  My mind raced to catch up to what was happening, but all I could think was “Why is the puddle red?”  Suddenly I realized a bottle of wine had shattered and was soaking not just the cement but my groceries, too.

“Oh my gosh are you OK?” a woman behind me asked.  She looked truly horrified and stopped to stare.

“I’m fine, I think,” I replied, not knowing which way was up.  “I think I’m fine.”  I finally stood up and tried to triage the situation.  As the rain continued to pour, I couldn’t decide what was most urgent — my cell phone lying face down in water, my leather purse lying on its side in the water, or both bags of groceries which were now soaked through.  It’s incredibly bizarre how the brain functions when it’s in minor shock — all of this seemed to last for forty-five minutes, but actually occurred in about twenty seconds.

I picked up my purse, keys and cell phone and threw them over my shoulder.  I grabbed the cloth bag which wouldn’t break on the bottom, and determined that the groceries inside were mostly OK.  I threw it in the car, splattering a pint of water all over the seat.  I gingerly picked up the shattered glass fragments from the concrete and put them in the disintegrating paper bag with the ruined groceries.  It occurred to me just then that I’d now have to re-shop for all of these items, and the thought of it completely overwhelmed me.

I picked up the bag and carried it inside, in a daze.  I stood in the doorway dripping water from my hair and clothes, and put the bag down on the floor.  I looked around for an employee but couldn’t really get over the fact that I was standing in the middle of a grocery store fighting back tears, and didn’t want anyone to see me at all.  Finally I walked up to the nearest one who had a chipper can-I-help-you look until she turned and saw me and dropped her jaw.

“I need help,” I said feebly, “I fell in the parking lot and need a garbage can for my groceries…” I didn’t finish before she interrupted.

“Oh my gosh, oh you poor dear!  Are you OK?  Are you hurt?” she asked earnestly.

“I’m alright,” I replied, realizing for the first time that my left knee was actually throbbing and my left hand was scraped.  “I picked up the glass because I don’t want someone to get hurt…” I trailed off because she had already picked up my soaking bag and was guiding me toward the other side of the store.

“We’re going to get these replaced for you,” she said matter-of-factly, the idea of which had never even occurred to me.  “Just give me a moment while I see what you have here.”

I bit my lip to keep from crying because her kindness was all it would take to break the dam.  I grabbed a paper towel and started wringing the water out of my hair and off my clothes.  I looked down at my leather boots which were beyond help, and realized I was wearing leggings that should have torn, but were surprisingly intact.

The woman came out of the back room with a piece of paper and a basket and started running around the store filling it up with all of my ruined items.  I was shocked to see this and wanted to trail after her to tell her I could do it, but the odd thing was, I really couldn’t.  If they had thrown away my groceries I know I would have turned around and driven home without the items, because I was still shaking and my knee was aching.  Toss in my humiliated face and soaked clothes and you have someone who is not willing to wander the aisles for food.

I closed my eyes and heaved a major sigh of gratitude that the employees of Trader Joe’s were such angels.  In doing so, I must have looked even worse because a fellow shopper walked by, looked at me, and stopped.

“Arrrrrre you OK?” he asked.  I told him I was fine and mentally noted that however bad I thought I looked, it was probably twice that.

The lady with my groceries came back and said, “I’m so sorry but we’re all out of the ground flax seed you had in your bag, so we’re going to refund you for that.”  The idea that she was inconveniencing me with her lack of flax seed was so laughable that I did just that — I laughed.

I looked down at her name-tag and noted her name – Nancy – so I could write a composed thank you note, as I didn’t have the words to tell her thank you sufficiently.

Another employee walked up to me and handed me the two dollars and change for the flax seed, and then double-bagged my fresh groceries.  Just then Nancy came walking over with a bouquet of flowers, and I caught my breath at their generosity.

“Nancy, I can’t thank you enough.  I really am so embarrassed and I’m so grateful for your help,” I told her.  “The flowers are just above and beyond, I don’t know what to say.”

She instantly saw that I was one word away from bursting into tears, so instead she hugged me.

I walked to the car with my groceries and flowers, amazed at the kindness of strangers.  In the words of Anne Lamott, God was really showing off on this one.

I got in the car and finally cried like I’d wanted to since the moment I fell.  Except these tears weren’t just filled with a bruised knee and ego, they were also filled to overflowing with gratitude.

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It’s All for the Cause

Something magical happens when charity and best friends mix; I think it has to do with the sum being greater than the parts…

On Sunday, February 5, Meredith, Laura, Annie and I hosted a Super Bowl party to raise money for the Hutch School.  The four of us make up the Margaret E. Martindale Jr Guild, started in 2010.  The original Margaret E. Martindale Guild (MEMG) was created in 1986, and is made up of the friends and family of Margaret “Peggy” Martindale, better known as Laura’s mother.  Peggy died of neuroblastoma when Laura was one year old, and the Guild was created to raise funds for cancer research.  It has done so for over 25 years, raising more than $5 million in that time.

Chip (Laura's father), Laura, and Leslie (Chip's wife)

Needless to say, we were more than a little intimidated joining a crew of such achievers.

In our first year, we participated by helping the Hutch School students create an art project for the big annual MEMG Travel and Leisure auction.  It was a minor effort, and we knew it,  but it helped get our feet wet.  And, I must add, the piece of art went for $1,200 at the auction, which kind of made us beam with pride (as if we, and not the kids, created the actual art).  Fun fact: the winning bidder was none other than the Volunteer of the Year herself, who had no idea that I’d had anything to do with the piece.

This year, we decided to step up our game.  Our biggest challenge was conceptualizing an event that would be affordable for guests our age, as well as appealing to guests of an older generation.

A Super Bowl party seemed to meet both needs and sounded like more fun than work, so we booked our venue, chose food and drinks, and then began scouting for killer raffle item donations.

It was a lot of hard work, but don’t let this photo fool you — there was very little actual lifting involved, and let’s be honest, I’m always willing to lift a case of wine.

We were stunned when 80 people bought advance tickets, and ten more showed up unannounced.  It was the greatest problem we could have asked for, so we eagerly said, “The more, the merrier!”

Buckley’s on Queen Anne proved to be a fantastic location, with a private room and the freedom to decorate with our elaborate adornments: multi-colored balloons.

It also didn’t hurt that we served ribs, wings, and macaroni so good our guests went back for thirds.  I’m further convinced that having two drinks included in the prices of the ticket kept smiles on people’s faces.  It’s all for the cause!

We played Super Bowl Squares, which sold out quickly, and then hustled the crowd to buy raffle tickets for some serious prizes.  We had a snowboard, two lift tickets, $200 in massages, $50 spa credit, $100 Tully’s card, two $85 magnums of wine, a Weber grill, a putter, and several bottles of wine.

Apart from the prizes, we all agreed that the people are what made the event a success.  Everyone was so positive, so energetic, and so happy to support us.  It really felt like a community event.

After all, this event wasn’t just about fundraising, it was also about raising some fun…can you forgive me for that one?  If not, I truly don’t blame you.

Most importantly, we raised $2,500 to give to the Hutch School for extracurricular activities for the kids.  Instead of giving to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research, which felt a little like offering a glass of water to someone with a fire-hose, we decided to give our funds to the Hutch School, which felt more like building a well.

The encouragement of our mentors, the original MEMG (Leslie in particular!), really kept our spirits afloat.  They cheered us on like we were playing in the actual Super Bowl, and they didn’t stop until the last person left.  In fact, they still haven’t.

Perhaps the greatest compliment of the afternoon was that several friends expressed an interest in joining the Jr Guild in September.

I think I speak for all four of us when I say, come on in!  We’re already dreaming of next year.

*Photo credit to Steve Bimson, dedicated photographer and boyfriend of Laura.

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Snow Daze

A funny thing happens when it snows in Seattle like it has in the last week:  everything stops.

Plans, commitments, meetings, driving, working (except for me).  This sounds terribly inconvenient, but in fact, it is glorious.

Nothing excites me more than normal life coming to an absolute halt.  Do I have appointments that I wish I could have kept?  Of course.  But do I love that we all have to hunker down and do nothing more than be at home?  Absolutely.

In the last five days it has snowed off and on, accumulating to about four inches in Kirkland, two in Seattle, and many more further north and south of us.  That is not a significant amount of snow.  But when you live in a city that operates approximately three snow plows and sits on more hills than I can count, there is a lockdown situation.

And I couldn’t be happier.

I have the privilege of wielding a double-edged sword called “I Get to Work from Home.”  I am grateful that I get paid to sit at home with my laptop, but I am a little bummed that a “snow day” for me doesn’t mean I can frolic outside for six hours.

And I am fully aware of how obnoxious that attitude is for those who can’t work from home and have to take a vacation day or who just won’t get paid.  Three cheers for whining about blessings!

One of the funniest parts of witnessing a Seattle snowstorm is watching the residents’ reactions.  For those of you who inhabit a colder climate than ours, you would find yourself wishing you could bottle Seattleites’ hollers of terror and drink them later for a nice buzz.

Facebook is always the first thing to explode. 

“Weatherman says 2 – 4 inches!  OMG how am I going to get to work!?!?”

“I just stocked up on enough food and water for a year!!”

“I purchased tire chains and can’t freaking figure out how to put them on!”

“I just drove home from the store and it was the CRAZIEST SCARIEST ride of my life!!!  Don’t do it!!”

And then the one jaded Northeast native always chimes in, “Seriously?  You call this snow?”

Listen, I am a Northeast native, and despite the snows of my childhood being measured in feet rather than inches, I can honestly say that my feelings for Seattle snow run deep.  I love that any amount of snow in Seattle means that my days will stretch from one relaxing evening to the next.  I love that when I go to the store, half the aisles are empty because people are planning for the apocalypse.  I love that no one so much as questions your inability to get anywhere.  I love that people take to the streets like gold is floating down from the sky instead of snowflakes.

I also love it because of what it forces us to do — slow down.  Mike’s classes were canceled for the week, I work from home every day, and every afternoon we take a walk to enjoy the winter wonderland.  We stay home at night, we eat in, we have silly meals to celebrate a special week (last night: a Parisian picnic in the living room, with cheese, a baguette, olives, salami and wine).  We both look at each other like “Why do we ever make mid-week plans?”

Snow in Seattle also easily shaves about fifteen years off your life.  Immediately you’re throwing on hats, gloves, heavy boots that are used once a year (and usually then it’s at a local ski slope), and heading out the door to smile at every person you see as you all converge to marvel at the transformed landscape. 

That and make snow angels like it’s your job. 

Mike and Phil decided that the pristine layer of snow on our building’s second story patio needed their impressions.  Shortly after that, they spotted a friend of ours on his deck in the condo building across from us, and a snowball fight ensued — from building to building.

Seattle snow days — yes, I’m all for Seattle snow days.

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Elbow Grease

Even though Mike and I have yet to experience unemployment in our marriage, I am still overly conservative and penny-pinching in our daily lives.  Call it my nature, but I wish I could sweep our funds into a nice little pile in the middle of the floor before stuffing it all in a pillowcase and hiding it where Mike can’t find it. 

I don’t do this without cause.  Mike’s spendthrift ways are thoroughly documented somewhere in a book called “There’s Always More Money Where That Came From,” a book I failed to read before signing the marriage certificate, by the way.  Similarly, my frugality is the stuff of legends, legends that felt like a myth to Michael before he married me and realized I would circle the block for days for a free parking space.

So it’s easy to picture the clash of ideals when one of us carries a homemade lunch to work every day and the other frequents the local Nordstrom for a refreshing cafe lunch and a shoe shine.

Mike has long argued that a shoe shine is a great decompressant, and he always tells me about his engaging conversations with his favorite shine artist, Kim.  To avoid any raised eyebrows, Kim is a man.

I have always lamented Mike’s shoe shines as a needless extravagance, and he has always defended them by pointing out that they cost a mere $2.50.  Well, $2.50 plus a $5 tip.  And, he points out, it’s helping out his main man Kim, and who can argue with that?

This is the point in the conversation when I roll my eyes.

Well, I used to roll my eyes.  All of that changed one Sunday when Mike invited me to get my boots shined after church.  I asked if we could really shoot the moon and get that cafe lunch, too.  Needless to say, he agreed.

After enjoying a bowl of crab bisque and too many slices of sourdough, we meandered downstairs to the shoe shine room near the entrance of Nordstrom.  I started to ask Mike just how often this little shoe shine date with Kim really takes place…is it once a month?  Every two weeks?

“Kim!” he hollers to the man furiously buffing a gentlemen’s shoes.

Kim turns around, leans in toward Mike until he’s inches from his face, and says, “My man!”

Must be every week.  At least.

“What do you want today?” he asks Mike.  He hasn’t noticed me standing with him yet, and that’s when I remember that Mike once told me that Kim is nearly blind.  All at once I’m realizing the implications of a blind man shining shoes all day, and I’m stunned silent.

“We’d both love a shine,” Mike replies, gesturing toward me.  “This is my wife, Abby.” 

We exchange hello’s and he invites us to sit while he finishes with his current customer.

“I been slammed today, man,” he says to Mike.  “It’s almost the holidays and people are coming in a mile a minute.  This one woman walked off in a huff when I said I was backed up five pairs.  People don’t get it.  I’m the only one working here today!” 

Mike sympathizes with him and assures him we’re in no hurry, so he can take his time with other things.  He asks if we’d like to change the TV station or choose from the reading materials.  A feeling begins to creep up on me, a feeling of being mortified that someone thirty years my elder is about to wait on me.  I feel a sweat-inducing class-consciousness, and I realize I’d rather run naked through the store than have him shine my shoes. 

It occurs to me that the feeling harks back longer than I can consciously recall.  My parents always raised me never to have others do for me what I could do for myself.  This includes things like housework, landscaping, washing the car, laundry, and apparently, shoeshining.  Part of it is about not spending money on those things, but the other part of it is the fact that what is my responsibility is my responsibility.  I made my shoes scuffy, therefore I should have to buff them myself.  Case closed.

“Ma’am are these boots black or brown?” he says, leaning over my feet.  It’s the worst reminder of his lack of sight.

“They’re black,” I reply, “and I’ve never had a shoe-shine in my life.  I haven’t taken good care of them,” I admit. 

“Well, you’ve got to come in here,” he says.  “You’ve got to get your shoes done, not just to make them shine but to treat the leather.  Especially in Seattle!  The water dries out the leather and you have to have them oiled.”

I feel both gently chastised and justified by what he’s said.  Yes, I need to take better care of them, and yes, it is my problem.  But it also occurs to me that he’s emphasizing that this is just part of owning shoes — you go get them shined.  It’s not about pretentiousness, it’s about caring for the things you purchased six feet away in the shoe department.  It’s the same as getting an oil change (which my dad has always done himself by the way…poor example, then).  My making this a class issue is really my issue — I’m uncomfortable; he’s not.  After all, the shoe shine costs $2.50 — it’s designed for every shoe owner to take care of their shoes.

I look over at Mike, who couldn’t be more at ease.  He’s telling Kim about church today, since he asked what we’ve been doing this morning.

Kim apparently agrees with our morning choice.

“So you’re paying attention, you’re tuned in,” he says.  “People I meet here always think that their days are not numbered, but let me tell you, they are.  You’ve got to get to know the Lord before you meet Him, am I right?!” 

Kim steps into the back room to gather different supplies, and I turn to Mike and tell him something about how utterly ungrateful I am for having an easy job sitting at a desk all day while Kim is on his feet, working his tail off for far less money.   I tell him about a teacher I had in seventh grade who used to tell us about her trip to India and ask us a haunting question:  if we were ever in India, would we pay to take a ride in a rickshaw?  Would we do what felt degrading to the driver in order to help them make money?  Or would we refuse to take a ride, on principle, but then know that we had just kept that person from making enough money for the day?  I’ve never forgotten that question, and I still don’t have an answer.

Mike looks at me and says, “Kim is working hard, yes, but there’s honor in that.  He’s here every day serving his clients, getting paid, making what we hope is a living wage.  Think about it: he’s blind — he has every excuse to be at home, and instead he’s here working his tail off.  I’m going to support him as much as I can because I admire him, and I want him to be the best paid shoeshiner in the freaking state.”

I don’t know what to say, but I suppose I agree.  I want to support Kim, and I also want to be socially responsible.  For today, that means swallowing my issues and letting him shine my shoes. 

Kim returns and finishes our shoes.  We tell him he did an incredible job, because he truly did.  I can’t believe how much better my boots look, and I tell him I’ll return.  He asks one favor of us before we go.

“Would you email the management and tell them that you liked your service today?  That woman I told you about earlier threatened to email management and complain that I couldn’t wait on her fast enough.”

We are both horrified and vow to send an email that will remove all doubt as to the nature of his service.  We pay him and begin to walk away.  Normally, I would have a hurricane of a heart attack if Mike tipped someone more than 30%, but in this case I just feel proud of him for the far higher than 30% tip he hands to Kim.

“And,” I add, “I’ll tell everyone I know with a pair of shoes to get over here.” 

Nordstrom, Bellevue Square: Open 9:30AM – 9:30PM Monday through Saturday, 11AM – 7PM Sundays.

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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

Tragedy or Rescue?

Last week I flew to Bethlehem, PA for my grandma’s memorial service (I will post about that when I’m finished writing it).  Oddly enough, both flights were easy and on time, which I can’t say has happened often in recent memory.  Nice work, Delta.

The sticky widget was the connection.  The layover in Detroit was only 30 minutes.  Perhaps they were just being kind by moving me out of Detroit as quickly as humanly possible.  If that was their intention, then I tip my hat to them.

For the flight out of Seattle, I was seated next to an outspoken woman in her sixties, and an outspoken woman in her thirties.   They had managed to bond in the ten seconds before my arrival and welcomed me into their sisterhood, even though I usually make a point of ignoring all people on planes.

They had just switched seats out of mutual preference, and when I took my seat in the middle (imagine, no one wanting to trade my seat) they were quick to cheerily ask each other and me, “Which would you rather be?  The person who is inconvenienced, or the person who is inconveniencing others?  I’d rather be inconvenienced.  Definitely!”  They each nodded in agreement, affirming their mutual self-sacrifice.

What is this, I asked myself, Girl Scout tryouts?

Before I could respond, the older lady turned to me and said the usual, “Where are you traveling?”  After I replied, like clockwork, she exclaimed, “Me too!”

Fantastic.

“Weren’t you thrilled by the fares?  I mean, what a steal.  Isn’t Delta the absolute best?” she inquired further.

Maybe it’s just me, but one does not typically compare airfare once airfare has been purchased, because most people understand that ticket prices fluctuate by the hour, and one is sure to either feel terrible about her own price or make someone else feel terrible about their price.  This woman did not know this.

“Actually,” I replied (because why not make her feel a little remorse for starting this conversation?) “I am traveling for a funeral, so I had to purchase my ticket just last night, and I paid three times as much as you.”

“Oh!” she gasped.  “Oh I’m sorry.  Well did you at least take advantage of Delta’s fantastic bereavement program?”

Again, why ask this question when the opportunity for me to take advantage of it has already passed?  What could possibly be gained?

“Um no, I’m afraid not,” I replied.  “I called another airline who said they don’t offer those types of discounts, so I didn’t bother calling for Delta’s.”

“Oh that’s such a shame, because they do.  They do!” she said.

I reached for my People magazine.

Four hours later we were about to land, and she turned to me and said, “We only have thirty minutes to make it to our gate, and I’ve already checked the map of the Detroit airport and it’s going to be quite a haul.  So we’re really going to have to make a run for it.”

We?  Did I fall unconscious at some point during the flight and say in my sleep that I needed a travel partner?  I smiled sweetly and agreed that it would be close.  As soon as the plane landed, she barked at me to get my bags, and then we filed out of the plane.  I didn’t see her for a moment, and thought I’d be able to navigate the airport in peace, when I looked ahead and saw her up the galley waiting for me.

The walk that followed was ten different kinds of awkward.  Since she set the standard by waiting for me, I had no choice but to stick with her the rest of the journey.   And it was a journey.  Long walk, moving walkway, escalator, air tram, escalator, moving walkway, escalator.

At every escalator or moving walkway, we’d do this horrifically awkward shuffle of not knowing whether we should get on side-by-side and openly acknowledge each other, or whether we should split up and each take our own, pretending we were not really together.  Please don’t forget that in this whole “traveling companion” exchange we had not even learned each other’s names.

To add to the unbearable awkwardness, we had to keep up this fake I’m-waiting-for-you-but-I’m-acting-like-I’m-not charade.  She’d fall behind, and I’d walk like a sloth until she caught up.  We had to navigate the tram system together, with each of us telling the other where we thought we should get off and where it would lead.

One doesn’t realize how intimate these minute traveling decisions are until one has to perform them with a stranger.  We’re actually pretty vulnerable when we’re in an unfamiliar place, and suggesting the wrong route or acting more calm than you feel is something we usually only share with those in our inner circles.

After about a ten minute walk/ride/sprint through the Detroit airport, we approached the last escalator.  After doing what was by now our practiced dance of choosing which escalator to ride, we chose separate ones.  We couldn’t see the top of the staircases, and there was only one major sign that said the escalators lead to our B gates.

All of a sudden, the few men in front of me started getting shorter.  That’s weird, I thought.  Are they all bending down…no, instantly I realized my escalator ride was ending much too soon.

I looked over to my traveling companion and she was already ten feet above me.  She saw what was happening too, and shouted, “I’ll turn around!  I’ll come back down for you!”

Suddenly all of our faking and subtlety and aloof attitudes were proven to be the lie that they were, and I was shouting back, “No!  You go!  I’ll find my way!  It’ll be OK!”  Desperately, she yelled in response, “I’ll hold the plane for you!”

At this point everyone around us knew for sure that I was an absolute idiot.  Who doesn’t realize the escalator only goes two floors?  To which I might reply, how often does this happen?  When on earth are two escalators literally side-by-side, and one stops halfway up?

Immediately it was quiet and I was left standing in a much smaller space than the one I was sure my friend was walking onto, and I searched to no avail for a down escalator.  I found an elevator and it opened to reveal several handicapped people.  I felt like an absolute jerk as I interrupted their ride for my one floor gain.

As I exited the elevator and walked toward my gate, I realized my view of my seatmate hand changed.  I couldn’t believe a stranger would embarrass herself by shouting in a public place, all for my comfort.  Sure, she probably knew that I could find my way to the gate alone, but she acknowledged that together we’d gone ninety percent of the way there, and she didn’t want to let me walk that last ten percent alone.

After I arrived at the gate with minutes to spare, she found me and said, “You made it!  Terrific.  I’m going to go get a snack.”

And that was that.  Our journey had ended.  I sighed with relief that she probably wouldn’t be sitting next to me on the ride to Bethlehem.  We would no longer have to overcome Lewis and Clark-esque challenges.  I also realized, a little sadly, that no one would be by my side the rest of the way.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)

Corn People vs. Coffee People

Every time I go running in my neighborhood I play a little game called “The Smile Game.”  The rules are simple and anyone can play.

Whenever I’m approaching someone who is facing me, I smile.  Usually I go for teeth, but not every time.   I do this as a social experiment,  and because I like to cheer people up.   It’s really the only time I’m an unbridled optimist.

Sometimes I go a little crazy and actually speak to these strangers, but it’s rare.  About a month ago I was just cresting a steep hill that left me winded and exhausted.  On my way day down, I passed a man who was gasping for breath but still running up the hill, and I smiled at him.  He smiled back through asthmatic heaves, and I felt a burst of camaraderie with him so I said, “Good work!”  He didn’t breathe any easier because of my encouragement, but he did manage to say thanks, and for a moment it was like we were on the same team.

I’m working up my courage to put my hand out for a high-five, but the rejection from that would be too much to recover from.  Can you imagine a stranger jogging toward you and suddenly her hand is raised to eye-level and she’s smiling at you?  It would either be awesome or terrifying.  Or it could completely backfire, and make men believe I’m using the high-five as a conversation starter.  Shudder.

I have learned a myriad of things about humanity through this game.

1.  Unless I smile first, no one will smile at me.  This is fact.  I think I have recorded maybe two unsolicited smiles and they were on particularly sunny days, so they really can’t count because good weather warps Seattleites’ mental states.

2.  In general, women my age are the worst.  They almost always fall into the non-eye-contact category.  The fierceness with which they refuse to look at me makes me feel like we’re competitors in the national running championships.  It always boggles my mind, so I continue to smile.

3.  Those who appear too shocked to react before I pass are people who are jaded and used to being overlooked in life.  They want to smile at strangers, but they are sick of being rejected and therefore never do.

4.  Those who never make eye contact, and therefore have no idea that I am grinning like an idiot, I forget quickly.  These people are clearly on their own road and do not need a cheerful encounter with me.

5.  Those who smile back are fantastic, wonderful people who make me feel like I’m a unicorn riding a rainbow.

6.  Those who obviously see me and yet do not give even a hint of a smile are jerks.  Period.

Sometimes I wonder if Kirkland’s lack of friendliness is really just geography.  Mike’s grandparents, who live in Iowa, sent us a subscription to their favorite local magazine, “Our Iowa.”  Its pages are bursting with state-wide pride about their friendliness, with little quotes from cartooned farmers scattered over the pages that say, “There are no strangers in Iowa, just friends you haven’t met yet!”   They have little inside jokes like “You know you’re an Iowan if you wave to people in other cars that you don’t even know.”

Seattleites don’t do this.  We don’t wave from cars.  You’re lucky to get a wave even if we do know you.

I think that’s part of why people don’t smile on the street here.  We already know no one is going to throw any love our way, so we just stick to our mission and move on.  If Iowa has t-shirts that say “Iowa — America’s Front Porch,” Seattle should have t-shirts that say, “Seattle — America’s Closed Front Door.”

But that doesn’t mean I have to pull my cap down around my eyes and stare at the concrete.  I’m going to keep grinning, not to give the impression that running is effortless, but to give the impression that acknowledging people is.  The Seattle rain is chilly enough; we don’t need countenances to match.

If all else fails I can always purchase one of the many bumper stickers available in this month’s Our Iowa.  I’m leaning toward the one that says, “Iowa Rocks!” with the giant ear of corn furiously strumming a guitar.  When you think about it, it’s really no odder than a manic redhead running down the street accosting strangers (who are just friends I haven’t met yet).

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)