Anyone remember the show "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" It was a kids' game show on PBS that tested geographical knowledge. I remember my nephew, Calvin (my sister's son) loved it when he was little. Very little. Too little, probably, to really understand where the different countries or states were, but it had a catchy theme song or tune, and it was bright and lively and fun.
And since he was little, he couldn't really say "Carmen Sandiego" very well, so his version sounded more like Carma Yehgo. Which is way more cute than the real name anyway.
And none of this really has a lot to do with this post, other than the fact that I am writing from somewhere OTHER than my normal habitat. At first, I was thinking of just posting a picture that I took recently, and asking people to guess, if they wanted to, where I was. And that got me thinking of the sort of cha-cha-cha feel of the Carmen Sandiego theme song, and that led me to Carma Yehgo, and…well, there you are.
But just posting a "where am I?" picture would be too short, and since I'm feeling the need to be chatty, I'll just go ahead and fill you in.
We're in Seattle. Yes, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay across the country, practically in another world. A world of no humidity. A world of all sorts of things to do and see and eat. (Alex is here for two reasons. Okay, three. His Uncle Ray and Auntie Nina and Cousin Ryan. That's one (all lumped together). The other two: "Uncle Ray's Zoo" – more commonly known as the Woodland Park Zoo, and – SUSHI. Based on what we've told him, Alex has decided that Seattle is a Sushi Wonderland. His term. We haven't even had sushi yet, but he is ready to be delirious.
But I'll back up a bit.
We flew away from the east coast early Thursday. Our wonderful neighbor gave us a ride to the airport at 4:30 or so in the morning, and after the excitement (for the kids) of just BEING at an airport, and then the fun of TAKING OFF YOUR SHOES and going through the big metal detector thingy, and then getting Dunkin Donuts for breakfast – which, for them, is vacation enough – we boarded our skinny plane and headed west.
A skinny plane, people.
Now, I will pause here to say, I am not overly fond of this wacky notion of flying in a long tin tube way up zillions of miles in the air. Actually, the flying part is fine, it's the WORRYING ABOUT AND IMAGINING IN GREAT DETAIL IN BOTH SURROUND SOUND AND TECHNICOLOR THE CRASHING AND, EVEN WORSE, THE PLUMMETING BEFORE THE CRASHING, that I am not thrilled with.
And I know, I know. Flying is the safest way to travel, I'm more likely to be in a car accident or whatever than die in a plane crash, etc. etc. etc. I didn't say I DON'T fly, I just said I'm not overly fond of it.
Which is probably because I don't fly all that often. I suppose if I traveled all over creation on business or something, I'd be all jaded about it.
Trust me, I'd love to be jaded like that.
But I'm not. So for the past, oh, couple of weeks, I guess, I've had horrible movie-of-the-week drama unfolding in my little brain, and I've wasted far too much energy trying to figure out how I'd remain strong for my children as the plane plummeted for an eternity prior to our unfortunately extra bumpy landing.
This is how my mind works.
And I know, it's – as my husband so sensitively pointed out – a complete waste of time to even imagine or worry about that. I was indignant and annoyed when he said that, because he wasn't taking into account my feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings…but he's right. There is no point. No point at all. So, I just didn't tell him about those scenes any more. They were still there, but sharing them wasn't going to net me any hugs or reassurance from the home front.
My sister, who flies even less than I do, told me that what kind of helped her was just looking around at all the other seasoned travelers and noting that THEY weren't all in a panic, so she shouldn't be, either. That made sense. But I still had my movies in my head.
And then, a couple days before our flight, a very weird thing happened. Now, the plan, since we had to be at the airport so early, was to just get some Dunkin Donuts food and beverages while we waited to board. But, knowing my terror-stricken state of mind, and the accompanying tense, acid-filled stomach feeling that would accompany it, I didn't think a cup of coffee was going to do me or my out-of-control mind any good. I figured maybe I'd nibble on a PLAIN bagel. That was about all I thought I could manage.
I also bought some ginger gum, to fight the nausea. I am sometimes susceptable to motion sickness, and being tense or nervous increases it. I've taken dramamine in the past, and I have NO idea why I didn't just buy more of it for the trip, but I went all "natural remedy" at CVS and bought the gum.
But hang on, I jumped ahead of myself. (This is probably why Bill's eyes glaze over when I'm telling him something – there's no linear path when I tell a story.)
So here I've been, with my movie-of-the-week scenes playing repeatedly in my head. And it's, probably, Tuesday. I'm doing the dishes. And as I washed out my coffee mug from earlier that morning, I thought about the no-coffee-for-me plan for Thursday, and then thought "ohhh…but I like my morning coffee" in a sort of wistful tone of voice-in-my-head. And then I thought, in a happier voice-in-my-head, "Well, that's okay, when the flight attendants come around with the beverage cart, I'll have some coffee then." And I got a quick snapshot in my head of that beverage cart being wheeled along the narrow aisle between the seats, and a wave of comfort washed over me.
No, really, it did. And I don't think it was because of coffee, because I don't drink enough of that to be panic-stricken without it. I think it was just…the normalness of it. The mundane aspect of it. The no-big-deal, here, you want milk or sugar with that? element of the beverage cart on every flight.
And, I kid you not, with that beverage cart image, all my fear and movie-of-the-week images vanished. Really. Vanished. Flying to Seattle? Way up zillions of miles in the sky? Without a net? No biggie. Do it all the time. Yawn.
I think that's about when I bought the ginger gum.
Now, ginger IS good for settling your stomach and all that. But based on the feedback I got when I told people (Bill, my sister) about the gum, I started thinking maybe I made a bit of a poor decision just then. But I stubbornly stuck to it, secure in my recent conversion to jaded-air-traveler that the ginger gum would be all I'd need to feel safe and secure and relaxed up there in the friendly skies.
So anyway, fast forward again to Thursday. The kids really were SO excited that morning. I said later that I think their high level of energy that day propelled the planes faster than normal. EVERYthing about the airport was fun and exciting, and they (Julia especially) delighted in telling everyone they encountered that they were going to Seattle to see family and go to the zoo and eat sushi.
Then we got on the plane.
The skinny plane. I forget what model or whatever you call it the aircraft was, but suffice to say, it was skinny. As in, Alex sat in seat 12A (or whatever the number was) and Julia and I, across the aisle, sat in seats 12B and 12C. Bill was behind Alex in another A seat.
So Bill, Alex and Julia all had window seats and I took the aisle. I knew the kids would want to see out the windows and I was peachy with that.
And you know, I was fine, just fine, up until we were, oh, moving. And then lots of that beverage cart calmness drained away. There's a lot of bumpy motion in a plane, both as it's taxiing down the runway and then leaving the safe, friendly earth behind, and the wheels are pulled up against the belly of the plane and BANG into place for the trip, and it feels kind of like you're riding a skateboard on a really bad road, only way up high with clouds next to you. Yeah. I was chewing away on that gum like a woman possessed.
But I kept my face neutral. I think I even had a bit of a smile. Because of my kids, you know. They take their cues from your face. It's like, if they scrape their knee and aren't quite sure if they should freak out or not, and they look at you to see how YOU'RE handling it…if your eyes go wide and you make lots of sympathy and horror sounds, they will cry. Guaranteed. If you don't, then they might make a fuss, but odds are they will get over it a lot faster. So I didn't want them to see any sort of freaking out on my part, because I don't want to pass my movies of the week down to them. They weren't scared. They were excited to be flying amid the clouds. They thought the bumpy feeling was FUN! Like a bumpy ride in the car! The whole thing, for them, was a great big amusement park ride, and GOOD FOR THEM – I didn't want to do anything to cause them to doubt that feeling. So I shut my eyes and mangled the ginger gum between my gnashing teeth, and kept that smile (or grimace, who knows?) glued to my face.
I shut my eyes, because the best way for me to deal with taking off and landing (I worked this out years ago) is to sort of visualize myself doing the flying. Not flying the plane, mind you, but actually flying. As we're moving along the runway before take-off, I am, in my head, jogging along. As we go faster, my jogging self picks up speed as well, until I am running flat out, faster than fast, and as I feel the nose of the plane lift, then my pumping arms move forward and as we leave the ground, I am diving upward, Superman-like, into the sky. I keep this image alive as we go higher and higher, spreading my mental arms out and turning as I feel the plane bank to one side or the other. It keeps me focused. It keeps me sane. It keeps me busy until we level off.
The thing was, in that skinny plane, even when we leveled off, I was still WAY too aware of the fact that we were in an oversized lipstick tube hurtling through the sky.
I didn't relax a moment on that flight. I didn't want coffee. I tried ginger ale, but I couldn't even take more than a couple of sips. Too busy clenching my stomach and clutching the arm rests.
Fortunately the flight was less than two hours, and I was fairly busy keeping the kids busy with their books or word search games or coloring in their journals to really indulge in a lot of worrying or freaking out.
We landed, and I was okay, but I had also decided (even thought nothing bad happened) to get myself some dramamine before our next flight.
There was also the matter of our seating arrangements on the second leg. We didn't have any. When I booked our flights back earlier in the year, I was able to select our seats for all the legs of the journey except the flight from Cleveland to Seattle. When we were leaving town earlier that day, the woman at the Continental counter managed to snag two seats – about a dozen rows apart on different sides of the aisle. When we got off our skinny plane, I race-walked to the other gate and babbled out my concern to the woman unfortunate enough to call me over to her line. I emphasized that we were traveling with TWO SMALL CHILDREN and it would be really nice if we could AT LEAST sit one adult with each child BECAUSE THEY ARE TWO SMALL CHILDREN. I was annoying. She said she'd do her best and she'd get back to me. Then I scurried over to the little store across the way that was selling books and newspapers and candy and shaving supplies and EVERYTHING ELSE BUT DRAMAMINE. "Oh, I guess we're out." WELL WHAT GOOD WILL THAT DO ME??? THANKS FOR NOTHING!!! I stomped away. Great. Now my children will have to sit with total weirdo strangers and I'll be stuck somewhere without dramamine and THAT GUM REALLY DOESN'T WORK ALL THAT WELL, BY THE WAY.
I babbled some of that out to Bill, said "never mind" when he told me to go look for another store, figuring I needed to STAY PUT in case the woman behind the counter summoned me to give me the news about our seats. He and Alex went off in search of a restroom (Julia and I had already done that bit, too), and I sat there, a bundle of irritation and inner-ear discombobulation. I'm so pleasant to be with.
And then they started boarding. First, the first class people. Then anyone with babies under 2. Then the very last two rows.
Bill and Alex were still FROLICKING AND PLAYING AND TAKING THEIR SWEET TIME ABOUT COMING BACK and WE WERE GOING TO MISS OUR FLIGHT!!!!! THE FLIGHT FOR WHICH WE DON'T HAVE SEATS TOGETHER!!! AND I WON'T BE ABLE TO COMFORT MY CHILDREN WHEN IT ALL BECOMES A MOVIE OF THE WEEK EPISODE!!
Yeah, I'm fun.
Finally I saw Bill and Alex meandering back (okay, not meandering. I hope you realize I'm exaggerating a teensy bit sometimes in this post). Other rows were boarding but WHO KNOWS IF WE WERE SUPPOSED TO BOARD BECAUSE WE DIDN'T HAVE SEATS. I swear, I am not A Eunice Burns, I am THE Eunice Burns. I'm thinking of the whole "snakes, as you know, live in mortal fear of…um…tile." scene. But no, her line right before it – "w-w-w-well what if it's in there?" Only…okay, I've totally lost my train of thought. Oh, I know where I was going. Okay, Bill and Alex returned, with a whole bunch of candy. Alex is handing me a Snickers bar – a GIANT one – and I'm thinking "I DON'T WANT FOOD!" (there's the Eunice Burns connection) ("What's Up Doc?" – for those of you wondering who the heck she is) but then Bill handed me a package of dramamine, in chewable tablets. THAT'S where they went. To find me a sedative. I cast a very grateful look in Bill's direction and scurried back to the counter, ripping at the dramamine package. The woman looked at me blankly and then realized she'd handed my dilemma over to someone else. I stood there and tried, while not screaming, to tear open the little blisterpack compartment that held one of my precious chewable dramamine tablets and WHY DO THEY MAKE THESE THINGS SO HARD TO OPEN??? I actually gnawed a bit on the little blistery compartment in a desperate effort to get to my fix. It didn't work. I was contemplating becoming frantic. The newly assigned guy returned and told me (he was juggling probably twelve different problems in addition to mine) he was working on our seats right now and we'd be all set in just a minute. He had us all together – three together in one row, and the other person in the aisle seat in front. "Maybe your husband would like that seat" he said, and I said, "No, it's MY turn for that" and he laughed. He handed over the boarding passes, and I thanked him from the bottom of my heart. I also had managed to get one of the tablets out of the package, so I was halfway to my placebo effect (it probably wouldn't REALLY take effect until we were in the air, but just HAVING it was already working.
I brought the boarding passes to Bill and the kids, Bill managed to dig a second tablet out of the torture device packaging for me, and we joined the line of people WITH ASSIGNED SEATS. We made our way up the long, long aisle, past the people in first class in their cushy seats with lots of elbow room, and I didn't even care about that because at least we were all sitting together. BIG RELIEF.
Then we found our seats, stowed our carry on luggage in the overhead compartments, and SAT. Bill had the single seat, and I didn't care about that, either. I figured we could trade off if necessary. But we probably wouldn't need to. Why?
Because we had Direct TV.
Right in our faces. Each and every one of us on that plane could, for the low, low price of $6.00, have a whole ton of tv and movie channels available fur the duration of the flight. Money well spent. And yeah, I'd bought stuff for my kids to read or do during the flights, but nothing really beats zoning out in front of annoying cartoons for several hours. Once we were airborne, I whipped out my card and bought us all some mind-numbing entertainment.
And I relaxed. And not just because of the dramamine or the tv. But because this time we were on a wider plane. Three of us, then an aisle, and then three other people. Comfy-er seats. Less bumpy noise. Less out-of-control-amusement-park-ride feel.
I still did my visualization during take-off. I still pasted on a smile while I clutched the arm rests in a death grip. But still, it was better.
And then I got the kids and myself plugged in (yay, technology!) and I started to actually sit back and enjoy the flight.
Amazingly, the flight attendants even came around with BREAKFAST! Cereal, milk, a banana and a muffin! I was just expecting more pretzel stubs. But no! Plenty of soothing carbs in comforting flavors! Yay!
And then, a bit after that, the beverage cart came around.
I finally had my coffee.
Things were going to be just fine.