A Month of Travel, Part 4

Two weeks in Tulsa. Mostly good times with a little frustration and tongue biting. Good visits with my best friend. Healing with my mother. Two weeks in Tulsa.  Two weeks is more than enough!

Finally, on July 14th, I left Tulsa and went on to the next leg of my trip. The one I had been planning for months before. While in Tulsa I had done a bit of shopping and purchased some additional clothing items I hadn’t had when I got there. When I arrived at the Tulsa International Airport at 6:30 in the morning, I walked into the Delta Airlines doors to find a crowd of people standing around and no semblance of any sort of line or order.

I walked up to the crowd and stood in what I hoped was a line for a few minutes not sure what was going on. There were three kiosks in the middle of the crowd, each with three separate terminals for self check in, but I’ve found those difficult to use in the past, especially when you do not have the credit card that was used to purchase the tickets so I stood for a few minutes hoping to move forward in this line and be invited to the counter to check in. Since I was checking a bag anyway, it only made sense to go to the counter, but after a few minutes it became apparent that this was not a line and there was no order or logic to the goings on. A ticket agent would call out a name and someone would randomly step out of the crowd to go to the counter.

I decided to give it a shot and much to my surprise, I was able to check in using the kiosk, without incident. I returned to my spot in the “line” when I was finished and not five minutes later my name was called as a ticket agent held up a long, white strip of paper, I recognized to be a luggage tag. I politely made my way through the crowd to the counter, guilty that I had such a short wait when so many of these people were standing around when I arrived but relieved that things were going so smoothly and that I would have time to avoid a repeat of my experience at the San Francisco airport on the first day.

I walked up to the counter, hoisted my suitcase onto the scale, made note of the weight and hoped no one else would. As I was making my way to the counter, the woman who had called my name turned around and walked back toward the other end and now as I prayed to the luggage handlers union gods for leeway she came back to where I was waiting.  “What do we got?” she asked loudly. Apparently, we were putting on a show for the entire group. “Oh. That’s 54 pounds.”

I stared at her, blinking. “Is that a problem?” Every airline has a limit and I didn’t know what Delta’s was but surely it couldn’t be less than 50 pounds. Surely this wasn’t enough over to matter.

“Yes sir! It’s gotta be fity pounds.” She hollered back at me.

I thrust my weight onto my left hip and threw my shoulders back in my best attempt at incredulity as I looked at her and said, “Seriously?!”

“Yes sir!” she hollered again, “it’s gotta be fity pounds, otherwise I gotta charge you fity dallahs.”

Now I ask you, honestly, what do they expect you to do in this moment? You’re standing at the airport. You’ve probably been dropped off and left to your own devices. It’s too late to change your mind about anything. There’s a crowd of people around who want you to hurry up and finish your business and get the hell out of the way so they can be next. There’s no time for hemming and hawing. No time to evaluate what you’ve brought and think about what you could give to friend or family member who drove you. No time to do anything. It’s a racket, plain and simple. And I could understand if my bag was 70 or 80 pounds and the limit is 50 but 54 pounds?

Fortunately, I remembered exactly how my bag was packed and what was where. I realized I could reach into the top most part of the bag and put my hands on a plastic bag with three books in it. I tugged on the zipper and opened the bag far enough to shove my arm down inside, felt around for the familiar feel of plastic and the block shape of three stacked books and pulled the bag out. I reached for the zipper to close the bag back up when she said, “Now it’s fity-two pounds,” as if that was all that needed to be said.

“Really!?!” I was exasperated now, “You’re going to charge me for two pounds?!?”

“Yes sir,” she said. “If it’s fity-one pounds it’s fity dallahs.”

“There’s nothing else I can take out of there besides my dirty laundry,” I said. Can you at least give me a shopping back to put it in?”

She looked dumbly at me and said, “I don’t think we got any a them.” And she walked away.

My dirty laundry was neatly folded and stuffed inside a plastic grocery bag, one of the not very thick variety and while it was, therefore self contained, it was not particularly private. I pulled the bag of laundry out of my suitcase and noticed that the weight was now 47 pounds. Might as well shove these books back in there, I thought. With the books back in and the dirty laundry out my suit case weighed 49 pounds. I was just zipping the suitcase back up as she came back.

“How’s it lookin’ now?” she called boisterously.

“Did you find a shopping bag?” I asked, knowing she had not looked.

“Nuh-ah!” and she turned and looked at one of her co-workers. “You ain’t got any shoppin’ bags back there do you?” And before the co-worker could even respond she turned back to me and said, “Nah, we ain’t got any of them.”

“Mm hmmm,” I replied, seeing how much effort she had put into my plight. “its 49 pounds,” I said stretching out my arm and placing my hand in front of her palm side up. “I’ll take my fifty dollars, now, thank you.”

She looked at me, confused.

“Well, if it cost me fifty dollars for 51 pounds, then I figure I should get fifty dollars for 49 pounds.”

She laughed. Clearly I must’ve been joking. “’Fraid it don’t work like that,” she said, her gold tooth sparking back at me. “But you do get my service with a smile.”

“Yeah. That and the fifty dollars you’re not giving me won’t get me very far.”

We completed our business and I headed on my way, once again, without any direction about where to go for my gate. This time I learned from my previous mistake and looked at the boarding passes in my hand carefully to make sure I knew which one was for my first flight and found the gate number. The signs were clearly marked and I found my way to my gate with no problem and with time to spare. I even had time to stop in a gift shop where I found another t-shirt I liked, bought it, and was graciously given a big enough bag to put the shirt and my grocery bag full of dirty laundry into.

Five hours and two bumpy flights later I landed in Albany, New York. Having been seated in seat 1B for both flights, I was once again, the first one off the plane. My Brother-in-Law David showed up with my two nieces, just in time and with suit-case in tow we headed out.

It’s funny how when you don’t know where you’re going, it feels like the trip takes forever, and this trip was no different. It couldn’t
have taken more than 15 minutes to get from the airport to my sister’s house, but it seemed a lot longer. I told David when I got in the car that I had an envelope I had to mail from a blue mailbox. Mom had given me a piece of ministry related mail that had to be mailed that day and had to go from a blue mailbox. I didn’t matter what city it was mailed in, just as long as it was mailed that day. I looked for one at the airports as I went along but never did find one so I needed David to take me to a mail box. Since I hadn’t eaten yet I was also quite keen on the idea of lunch. Of course David and the girls had already eaten so there was no rush and he thought it would be wise to go to their house first to drop off my suit case.

At the apartment, the girls went directly to the play ground outside their front door and David lead me in the house where he introduced me to a young man by the name of Brent who has been staying with them for a couple months…  Everything is relative and when I say, “young man” I’m talking about a 22 year old. We spoke briefly and then David and Brent started talking about going to the Garage to work on Brent’s 1951 VW Bus.

I reminded David that we had to mail this envelope and he told Brent they’d work on the Bus later. I then reminded David that I was hungry. He asked me if I wanted to just find something at the house. I reminded him I needed to mail this envelope today and we headed out again, dragging the girls away from the playground.

We drove to the post office where David and Erin get their mail and while he checked their mailbox he told the girls to show me where the outgoing mail was. They lead me around a couple of corners to the desk where there were two people in line in front of me. As we stood waiting for our turn, my younger niece, Regan, decided she wanted to show me how fast she can run. There’s little that I find more enjoyable than watching small children running around unattended in semi-busy, public places…. Especially when I’m the one responsible for them.

Several minutes past and just as David came around the corner to find out what was taking so long, I was called up to the counter. As I was walking up to the counter I looked across the space at a wall we had passed coming over and saw several slots in a wall, with a clearly marked “Out-Going Mail” sign over them.

I looked at the woman at the counter, who fortunately had a smile on her face, and said, “I’m from out of town, and my nieces were being helpful and showing me where the out-going mail goes.” I mouthed an apology, to which she smiled, nodded and said, “No problem,” as she took the envelope from my hand.

After the post office we headed to McDonald’s so I could get some lunch and no sooner had Regan gotten out of the car but she made a b-line for the yard next to the building and the flowers planted under the windows. She promptly grabbed hold of one of the flower buds and snapped it off. As she walked back toward me she carefully and meticulously pulled the extra leaves off the stem and then held the murdered blossom up to me which I gratefully accepted with proper grandeur and adulation.

While we sat in the restaurant, I with my Big Mac and Fries and the girls with their Oreo McFlurries, yes ies, David looked up and out the window to see at large pick up truck with some sort of lift kit installed pull into the parking lot and park next to his Nissan Exterra. He started craning his neck as it drove in to get a look at what kind of “package” it had and finally determined that it was some sort of substandard, “generic package”.

As we backed out of the parking spot next to the truck, he looked it over again. “That’s a [insert vehicle specific nerdy boy knowledge which I do not possess here] with a [insert more nerdy boy knowledge about after market lifting equipment I also do not possess here],” he said. To be fair, I recognized it to be a black four door pick-up truck with a full sized back seat and a full sized bed and a brand name that anyone would recognize but which has now escaped me.

“Erin says that’s what I should get,” he told me, “a pick-up big enough to haul the family around in and put my own [insert more nerdy boy knowledge about lifting equipment here] on it.”

Without batting an eye, I turned to him and said, “So you’ve got a small penis, huh?”

 

When we returned to the house, and entered through the garage on the other side of the house from the playground the girls were only too happy to stick with me instead of going out to play… Especially after I pulled out the presents I bought them. They were lame presents to be sure, but presents nonetheless. Well, anyway, I thought they were pretty lame presents…

You see, while in Tulsa, I had bought a box of honey nut cheerios for my breakfast. Inside the box was a silly little pencil topper with a springy figurine from the latest Ice Age movie. One morning, my mother said, “I think we need to get another box of that cereal and get some pencils and notebooks to go with them and you can give one to each of the girls. Woo hoo! I thought. Pencils and spiral bound notebooks, how exciting! The eye roll is implied.

Turns out, my mother knew what she was talking about. I bought Spiral Notebooks with dog pictures on the fronts (different pictures for each girl) and matching pencil bags and pencils. The girl’s loved them and immediately began “writing” me things.

Regan is four (will be five on Wednesday) and while she can’t write letters and words yet, she “wrote” or more specifically “writed” me several pictures. One was a picture of me as the sun, shining down on me as a man, in a field of me as flowers. One was a picture of Family Trees (which I found particularly amusing). They were trees… a family of them. A momma, a papa, and a coupla kids. And then she writed one more, described it as she drew it and then she augmented the picture, tore it out of her binder and brought it to me where she said, “Here. This is you, naked in the trees, at night, in the rain.” And then she pointed at an accurately placed dark square and a dark line and said, “And these are your pee parts.” Then she folded the paper several times into a small square and said, “Don’t let your mommy or daddy see it.” (Naturally, I showed it to my sister when Regan wasn’t around.) Come to think of it… I don’t know if I wasn’t supposed to let my mommy and daddy see the picture… or my pee parts… I’m not planning on showing them either one really so it’s OK.

Caitlin will be seven in November. She is learning to read and write and was able to actually write a few things in her book for me, before she got bored and started writing me pictures as well.

While this was going on David and Brent cracked open a couple of beers (at 3:00 in the afternoon) and parked themselves in the living room to watch old episodes of Star Gate on DVD. I found myself babysitting the kids while we sat on the stairs. I decided to pull out my computer so I could show the girls some pictures of them when they were younger. Every time a new picture came up Regan would call out, “Oh that so cute!” Um, yeah, honey? Half these pictures are of you! As we were getting close to the end of the picture review, David and Brent were finishing up an episode and came back to the kitchen for another beer. They came over to the stairs to see what was going on at which time Regan magically produced an elastic band of sorts that she wrapped around her head before pushing it back up shoving it under her bangs.

I looked up at Regan and began to laugh as I said, “She looks like Olivia Newton John.”


Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you it’s amazing how much difference three years can make and how old a person can be made to feel in the span of a few seconds.

“She looks like Olivia Newton John”, I said as I glanced at the boys.

There were crickets chirping.

I looked at Brent who, again, is 22. “Do you even know who Olivia Newton John is?” He just shook his head.

I looked at David who is three years younger than I. “You know who Olivia Newton John is, right?”

More crickets.

“Sandy?”

“Greece?”

“Let’s Get Physical?”

“No?”

In unison they shook their heads and said, “No.”

So I sent them to bed without any dinner.

I thought I was going to finish this story in this final post but it’s become apparent to me that is not possible so stick around for more, soon.

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