It was a long night.

And a longer day.

I was trying to get my work complete and handed in before my flight this morning. I had to go home so I could do my laundry before quiet hours in my complex. So I sat on the couch with my laptop and turned on the tv thinking I could cover the noise of the washer and dryer.

I spent six hours working and watching the same tv show over and over again. It was the news. It had taken over all the networks. There was a huge gas fire in San Bruno. People thought it was a ditched plane. They thought it was 9/11 again. I wondered if it was a meth lab or a bomb.

There was a huge fireball burning in a residential area. The firefighters couldn’t get near it. A two foot wide natural gas line was on fire. It had exploded a house. And was burning the ones nearby. The firefighters made their best effort to keep the fire from spreading while waiting for PG&E to shut down the gas line. You can’t just turn those things off.

I watched as more houses burned. One person was declared dead. A couple more were in the hospital. But I knew that count would go up by morning. It wasn’t just one house, but dozens. And the explosion had thrown people across rooms houses away. A few people had been spotted running away with what looked like third-degree burns.

It was scary. I couldn’t turn it off. I kept working.

At midnight, I was still working and watching. I updated something and everything broke. I tried fixing it and it made things worse. After an hour and a half of futzing, I finally gave up and packed. I slept for four hours.

I tried updating and fixing my stuff again in between showering, packing, and walking the dog. I hoped something magical had happened while I was sleeping. It hadn’t. Pissed off and out of time, I packed both my laptops and Cub Scout drove me to the airport. He offered to check in my code for me. But I couldn’t let go. I’ve worked too hard on this. My ego needs to see commit messages.

At the airport, I put my golf bag on the scale and gave the cute attendant behind the counter my ID. Then a prematurely aging attendant with wrinkles and attitude picked up my carry-on luggage. I grabbed for it. She claimed it was too heavy and pulled it away from me. I couldn’t figure out what she was doing. She put it on the other scale. I thought she wanted me to check it, so I took out the laptops and I went for the camera.

“No, No. No! Leave it.”

“I’m not going to check it with my camera still in it.” I was still confused. Then she told me I couldn’t put my laptops and book back in.

“Not even just to get to the gate?”

“No you have to carry it.”

“I’ll take it back out to get on the plane, I was going to anyways. Can’t I just put it back in until then?”

“No, no. You have to keep it out now.”


“Yes. Your bag is too heavy.”

“But I just want to carry them in it until I get to the plane. This doesn’t make sense.”

We kept bickering back and forth. The guy behind the counter finally asked for a credit card so he could check in my golf bag. He asked about the book I’m reading, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest.

“It’s the third in the series. The author wrote three, got them published then died. He’d never written novels before. And because he lived in Sweden…”

“Sweden,” the wrinkle woman interrupted. “He’s from Sweden?”

“Yes, and because Sweden doesn’t believe in common law marriage, the woman he’d lived with for years got nothing.”

“Oooooh. That no good. Bad Sweden!” she interrupted again.

“That does suck,” claimed the guy behind the counter.

“Yes, it sucks, but she might have a fourth novel on a laptop. Some people think she wrote them. There was an interesting story in the NYTimes about the author’s life story.”

The woman finally tired of me and walked away. The guy leaned over to give me my ticket and then quietly, as if I were going to secretly get upgraded to first class for my troubles, asks, “Window or aisle?”

He’d already printed my pass and was holding it. “Window, please,” I responded softly to keep the conversation just between us.

Then he leaned over again and said, “See, I can give you a window, but it is way in the back next to the bathroom. Or I have a nice aisle seat right up front. Window or aisle?”

“Well, in that case, I’ll take the aisle. Window or aisle, whichever is better. I’ve been to Hawaii enough that I don’t have to see the view.” I flashed him one of my patent-pending smiles. It wasn’t enough to win me the prize of first class, but it would get me a decent seat.

He handed back my ticket and leaned over again and whispered, “Just wait until you get upstairs and then you can put your computer back in the bag.”

I whispered back, “I was planning on it.” Then I winked, took my new ticket, and turned away, my red golf skirt with the white pleats swishing as I sauntered through the terminal carrying two laptops, a book, and a plum.

On the escalator, I realized I’d forgotten my headphones. Shit. It was going to be a long flight to Honolulu without my original Bose noise-canceling headphones to separate me from the other passengers. I’ve given up on meeting people on planes. Sometimes it just leads to long uncomfortable conversations when I’d rather be reading.

The security line was practically non existent, but the black-strapped corral was set up as though there were hundreds of people clamoring to make their way through the gates. I, and the two guys ahead of me, started switchbacking through it pigs to slaughter when a TSA agent opened a secret passageway in front of me. I stopped. I waited for the guys ahead of me to get there. I smiled.

“After you,” the second one said.

“No, it is only fair that you go first since I didn’t have to walk the whole way.” He shook his head and passed by me, but then stood behind someone else instead of going to the free TSA ID checker.

I grabbed three buckets, one for each laptop and one for my book, my plum and my shoes. On the other side of the metal detector the TSA guards were talking about the fire. I think they said the house toll was up to 50 now. I’d heard on the news this morning that at least six were dead and dozens injured. They still hadn’t been able to get into some of the houses to look for human remains because they were still too hot.

A female TSA guard asked to open my bag. I said sure and pointed out my camera in the bottom, but she was going after something else.

“Oh! The flash!” I exclaimed.

“I’m going to have to put the bag back through with the flash separate.”

“Do whatever you need to do.” I collected my remaining items and put on my shoes.

The other TSA guard asked me about the book.

“Have you read them?”

“No, but my wife has,” he said. “She really likes them.”

“They’re good books. Have you heard the story about the author?” I proceeded to repeat my previous discussion until my bag came back.

We reinserted the flash and the second guard looked at me and said, “You can put your computers and book back in now.”

HA! TSA says it is okay for me to carry my laptop and books in my bag until I get to the plane. I have been vindicated!

And I was going to do it anyways. I’m a rebel like that.

I ate my plum, licking my fingers seductively towards no one. I used the bathroom. I bought new earbuds. I went to my gate. I didn’t have time to check in my work. I decided to finish on the plane and hope that the problem magically gets fixed by the time I find an internet connection.

Before boarding, I took out my laptops and turned them both off. I kept them and the five-hundred page tome out while I boarded. I was planning on putting them under my seat for easy access anyways. I asked an attendant if there are outlets on the plane.

“No, but you can plug in over there until you board.” Boarding had already started. They were already at seats 30 and higher. My time would come soon.

“It is a little too late for that. It isn’t a problem, I just wanted to know if I should take out my power cord now before it goes into an overhead compartment.” I smiled a sincere-but-award-less smile as I would get nothing from this interaction and walked away.

Another passenger, in his 50’s with an Indiana Jones style hat and metal rimmed glasses stepped up beside me and said, “At least we are in the front, right?”

“Yup,” I replied. “I suppose getting off the plane first is better than getting on the plane and waiting.”

“True,” he said. We stood the rest of the time in slightly awkward silence.

When I’d been waiting to ask about the power outlet, two twenty-something guys—one slightly asian, one slightly white—were in front of me worrying about their luggage. When I tried to cut in line, I waited for them. They were too young to take the queue. Guys older than me will see me standing on the side and give the underhand wave suggesting that I may cut in front of them. But guys younger than me, even when I’m wearing a cute skirt, miss this opportunity to open a line of communication and start a conversation. So I looked at the more animated one and asked, “What was all the hoopla about?”

“Oh, we missed the cutoff by five minutes at the front desk, so they told us that our luggage might not make it until tomorrow. So we were asking if there was any way their bags might be on the flight.” He smiled a boyish grin, “Looks like they are already on board!”

“Nice! So what are you guys going to do in Honolulu?”

The first guy was going for work. He’s a shoe distributor and is checking on some clients. His wing man is tagging along for the free hotel room.

“Me too! Well, not *your* free hotel room.” Another smile. This one hoping it would get me somewhere, but they didn’t bite.

I lost them on the plane. They are seated in the back. I looked for space in the overhead compartments. Nothing big enough for my carry on bag. Even without the two laptops and overstuffed novel. The overhead compartments are really small and luggage companies make carry-on luggage way too big now. I wish that there were guarrantees on luggage that they fit in the regulation space. Most don’t it seems.

I fell asleep right after takeoff, but not for long enough. Woke up when the guy across the isle from me stood up. He saw me wake up and I said, “I was distracted from sleeping by the code on the back of your shirt. What does the front say?” It was from Defcon.

“The code is really good. You should read it.”

“Maybe later.”

He took out a fifteen-inch MacBook Pro with a screen filled with Terminal. He had no developer tools other than TextMate in his Dock. Earlier the stewardess asked if he works for Google. I heard him say no. He was writing PHP scripts. No one else around me really looked like a programmer, so I started up Ken, my fifteen-inch MacBook Pro and cleaned up the rest of my code. It compiles, but I can’t try it. Hopefully it will work later. It is like baking a cake by guessing ingredients and then instead of trying it, just bringing it to the party. Hopefully it will be good when the guests eat it.

I finished in time for snacks. Spinach frittata and a blueberry muffin. Nothing really worth writing home about, but it was free and all I’d eaten was a plum. At least I’d made a tasty stir fry last night with the veggies and rice from my CSA box. I wasn’t going to starve to death anytime soon, but I ate it anyways. I also had half a can of Coke. I like to splurge when flying. It isn’t keeping me awake. Maybe I should have had a Mai Tai with Defcon Man.

I traded Ken for Barbie, my MacBook Air. She’s an airhead, but she fits better in the airline seats. I fly JetBlue most of the time, so I forget what it is like to be able to touch the seat in front of me with my knees. I don’t know how tall people deal with this. It is annoying to me, it must be painful to them.

The earbuds I bought are painful too. Anyone want a set of slightly used Sony white earbuds? I cleaned my ears this morning in between compiles and downloads and watching the update of the fire. I want to help. I wish I was O-negative. And that I hadn’t gone to the DMZ so I could give blood. Seems the Red Cross is also accepting cash donations. Maybe I could donate some earbuds and oversized carry-on luggage?


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by breadwild on September 11, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Enjoyed the piece, but why 2 laptops? Is one “government issue” and the other personal. Love the “Cub Scout” moniker—does he know about this?


  2. Ken and Barbie. You kill me.


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