Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Going places, meeting people

Josh talked me out of taking the nonstop red-eye home from Portland, but my miles-only alternative was a 1-stop flight from Portland to Chicago via San Francisco. Which means I spent a good deal of yesterday en route (takeoff was at 1:50pm PST and I didn't land until 10:30pm CST). But I met a few interesting people along the way.

Jet Set Jordanians
This family of five included dancing, Doritos-munching boys about 4 and 5 and an 18 month old little girl who whimpered "baby, baby" as stroller after stroller wheeled by. They had already been traveling for 20 hours when I sat across from them in the PDX departure lounge. Their torturous route home was Amman, Jordan to Frankfurt, Germany, Frankfurt to Portland, Portland to San Francisco, and finally San Francisco to Marin County.

Full-Figured Father of Four
He gamely squeezed into the middle seat between me and another woman about my age and
congratulated me on my July due date. Apparently most of his large family celebrate their birthdays that month. We both carried on sandwiches from SFO's Boudin Bakery. He bailed on The Holiday to play Brick Breaker on his Blackberry for the remaining 2 1/2 hours of the flight.

Drunk Chick
I groaned inwardly when the 40-something redhead in a belly shirt, rhinestone-studded hip huggers and flip flops sat down in front of me and reclined her seat to its maximum before takeoff.

It sucks to have inches between your mouth and someone else's hair, but I buried my face in a book and made the best of it. That is, until an hour and a half later and I couldn't hold it any longer. It was virtually impossible to get up out of my seat with a 7 month belly and minimal clearance. But I'll give the bedazzled barmaid credit, when she saw my girth she eased up a bit on the recline and found relaxation in a can of Heineken. Which she managed to spill into the aisle (and splash across my right side). So she ordered a replacement can. And spilled half of that. Then she dropped her sunglasses. Her earrings. And so on. When the flight attendant joked that she'd smell like a brewery on the way home and she slurred something about "I always do. I own one."

My Ancient Cabdriver
If I tried to recount everything I learned about the greasy hair-smelling 67-year-old retired truck driver who claimed his shaking hands were a result of nerve damage from biting his nails to the quick, I'd be blogging all day. But highlights included learning that my cab driver drove a J.B. Hunt big rig most of his life, stopping at home to see "the missus" and her three children from a previous marriage (the first husband fell off of construction scaffolding and plunged to his death) for a few days every six weeks. He was proud of the three boys he'd helped raise, particularly the son who drives a garbage truck for the City of Chicago for $26 an hour, double that on Sundays.

His words of wisdom:
"Go to big rig driving school. They'll teach you a lot in 10 weeks. You'll graduate knowing how to fix your own brakes and brake shoes. Materials only cost $60. Save you a lot of money on repairs."
"If you're ever laid up, you can call Blue Cab to get your prescriptions and groceries picked up." (This was followed by detailed instructions on what to say to the druggist and a tale of a Park Ridge Realtor who apparently orders $300 worth of groceries every month from the River Forest Whole Foods and has them delivered to his office.)
"Always take the Mannheim Rd. exit when you're driving east on I-290. That way you'll avoid getting trapped in traffic in the middle lane. You can exit at Mannheim if traffic gets bad beyond the curves. And if you're ever in Oak Brook at rush hour, don't try to get on the Eisenhower at Roosevelt. They close the entrance ramp. Take Cermak to Mannheim and get on there."