Scarlett’s Letter September 23, 2013

Travel day. OMG. Already. Weekend? What weekend?

My alarm went off at 12:30 AM. Hello? 12:30 AM. I got up, got ready and was out the door. It’s not like I even blow dried my hair and curled it, I wrapped my dripping wet hair in a ponytail and wore my clothes from yesterday. Seriously.

Regarding my clothes from yesterday. I felt absolutely rockin’ hot yesterday. As the Chelly song goes, “my hair done right, my dress real life, all eyes on me, I took the night.” Google it. Ever have one of those days where you just feel totally put together and you can see people see you? That was yesterday. So, after about no sleep and in the midst of the usual morning “what shall I wear today”, though technically still the middle of the night, I decided on yesterday’s outfit, because it was all that! And it was right there, folded neatly in a little pile, next to my bed, where I left it a few short hours ago. The only revision, the bra. Yesterday I wore my miracle Frederick’s of Hollywood bra that is just so amazing. But, truthfully, the price we women pay for that kind of amazing, it is a little less comfortable than my pretty little floral and glitter number from Victoria’s Secret, and considering my cross country flight and all, I opted for Vickie over Freddy, and, well, the results left me feeling a little less than all that. It’s kind of frightening what a minor wardrobe change can do to one’s self esteem. I was all that yesterday and ho-hum today. In my mind.

Oh, but I’m not a bus driver at Sacramento International Airport! I am all that, and even in a lumpy and less than supportive bra. I have a following. I don’t know what it is about bus drivers at the airport, but they LOVE me.  Every bus driver from the economy lot, where I park Meep (my Civic), to the terminals, absolutely loves me. Except the Caucasian guy. Most of them love me. It may have something to do with the fact that I always sit right by the driver’s seat, but, only because I am quite soft spoken and it’s just so much easier on everyone if I can, conversationally, tell the bus driver where I need to stop, rather than shouting it from the back of the bus only to not be heard and then having to walk a half a mile to my car. Right? So, I sit right up front. Ok, so I also tip. Not a lot, just a couple of bucks. But I always tip. Always. As a result, or the reason I tip, sort of an egg and chicken first kind of scenario; the bus driver jumps out of his seat and lifts my bags onto the bus, which, by the way, I am perfectly capable of doing. Heck, I’ve already hoisted them down two flights of stairs and loaded them into a Civic, not a Lincoln or a Cadillac, a frickin’ Civic. After parking the Civic, I’ve hoisted the tightly wedged suitcases, yes, multiple suitcases, each very carefully packed so as to fall just below the fifty pound limit, but barely, out of the car and onto the pavement. At this point, I very cleverly and handily wheel them to the bus stop. Wheeling multiple suitcases should be an Olympic sport. I’d win. No doubt. So, yes, if I had to lift them onto and then, again, off of the bus, myself, I could. And, in fact, since I am kind of a fitness freak, I could probably, actually do so more handily than the bus drivers, but, sssshhhhhhh. Before I have a chance to even grab the handles on my suitcases, they have been snatched from my grasp and placed carefully on the bus. I take my seat by the front of the bus, immediately adjacent to the driver and take up small talk with him, and, yes, occasionally, her. This is not something I initiate, but I do speak candidly with the bus driver if and when the bus driver initiates conversation. No one else on the bus, by my observations, has ever spoken to the bus driver. Whatever; sports, the weather, traffic, kids, travel. It matters not the topic, I will happily talk to the bus driver while I jot my parking space down on my ticket so I’ll be able to refer to it upon my return, and while I check in on Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook and Twitter. So, the bus driver has 98.3% of my attention because I am multi-tasking. I am also, surreptitiously, pulling a couple of bills out of my wallet to have handy as a tip when the bus driver helps unload my suitcases. And, I am certain, they have surreptitiously spotted me doing so. No matter. It’s only a couple of bucks, and I can expense it on my company expense report. And when I do travel for pleasure and can’t expense it, I still tip. I appreciate their assistance and they appreciate the recognition. It’s a win/win.

In fact, on one trip home, as I was met, with jubilation, by my favorite bus driver and he hoisted my two ultra-heavy suitcases on board, and then, when I arrived at my stop, jumped up to help me unload them, an angry and belligerent looking, middle-aged (my age) woman, overweight, unmade up, wearing ugly, unflattering sweats and a bitter expression and a pretty much pissed off at the world attitude, made some snide remark about how the bus driver helped me with my bags, but not hers, because I was “pretty”. I was pretty human, that’s all. Well, I’m 99.9% certain the bus driver would’ve helped her with her bags had she had the patience, but, yes, my bags were first, not because I was “pretty”, as she complained, but because I was fucking NICE to the bus driver. Hello? Hostile woman person, try being nice! Golden rule, love! Golden rule. Pretty has nothing to do with it. Be nice and get nice in return.

Pretty has nothing to do with it. Really, because I was not feeling it today, and, still, for my two dollar tip and a little small talk, I got my bags loaded onto the bus and off. And, I was told I don’t look a day over thirty, and, am “hotter than most twenty-somethings”. Two dollars. My customary tip is two dollars. Buy yourself a compliment for two dollars and you feel like a million the rest of the day even if your bra makes you feel deflated and lumpy.

I had a short and miserable flight from Sacramento to L.A. on AmericaWest, a contractor with United. My dear friend, who I’ve known, literally, since kindergarten, is married to a man who has worked for United maintaining their aircraft for, well, since we’ve been out of high school. A hell of a long time. Whenever I see him, which is not nearly often enough, I tease him, “Peter, are you taking good care of my airplanes?” He reassures me. “Yes, just don’t fly AmericaWest”, or this airline, or that, or any other airline other than United. I try, really I do. But I fly out of Sacramento, not a major hub by any stretch of the imagination. I am, more often than not, going to have to fly AmericaWest to San Fran or L.A. to make my connection to the real world. Peter says nothing, just widens his eyes a little, which, I’m sure, makes me widen my eyes. A lot.

So I boarded my AmericaWest flight to L.A., crossing myself, and I figured, whatever. Whatever happens, happens. Of course, we make it without any drama, except, where everyone, except me, tries, in vain, to stuff their too large of a carry on into the overhead compartment of the small regional jet with microscopic overhead compartments. I couldn’t even fit my tiny cross-body purse in, if I tried. I don’t even try. Everyone is frantically trying to stuff their crap into the overheads before the flight attendant confiscates their luggage and has it gate checked. Don’t look at me, I check my bags. And so, we are delayed.

Getting up at 12:30 AM, obviously, I did not make it to the gym before departing. Now, I used to belong to 24-Hour Fitness, when I lived in Sacramento, and I could have, technically, made it to the gym before heading to the airport. You know, and I know, that never happened. But it could have and that was worth paying extra for; a 24/7 gym. In Napa, there is no 24-Hour Fitness, much to my despair, and the gym I did join has, by comparison, extremely limited hours. So, my point, no, I didn’t go to the gym today. So, the sprint I made between Terminal 8 and Terminal 6 at LAX with my forty-pound computer backpack and my electronic laden purse in order to even make my flight to Newark was my workout for the day. I arrived at the gate for my Newark flight in need of oxygen and defibrillation.

I made it, though. I didn’t get a free first class upgrade, which, truthfully, kind of pissed me off. But, I am on the commuter flight; L.A. to NYC. There are people sitting in first class that make this flight multiple times a week, who am I to think I rank in their numbers. I only do the west coast to east coast thing a couple of times a month! So, I take my seat in coach. Well, and God love United for this, not exactly coach, I get “Economy Plus” seating for no extra charge. I have status. Economy Plus is five extra inches of leg space, which also equates to tray table/laptop space even when the jerk in front of you reclines all the way. And, as a karma thing, I NEVER recline, it’s just not nice. Ever. There is nothing worse than having your red wine and your cheese, fruit and crackers perched on the flimsy tray, almost on top of your laptop, which cost almost as much as a semester of your children’s’ college education, and the asshole in front of you reclines their seat six inches. It doesn’t just thrust your laptop, wine, fruit and cheese towards your white, dry-clean only blouse at an alarming rate, it, 9 times out of 10, pins your laptop in a manner that it takes all of the gay, male flight attendants’ brute strength, combined, to try to dislodge it. Then the hetero female flight attendant comes along and deftly snaps it free, single handedly, while demonstrating the finer points of using the emergency oxygen mask. I really just want to know how to score oxygen even when there isn’t a sudden loss of cabin pressure. Do you think a two-dollar tip and a chatty conversation would suffice? How well does red wine and a healthy dose of oxygen mix?

Anyway. I’m in Economy Plus, thank God, for the next six hours, from L.A. to Newark, NJ. I really prefer booking my cross-country flight from Sacramento to Chicago, or Denver, both United hubs, then to my east coast destination. I like being able to get off the plane after three or four hours and eating real food, peeing in a real toilet, and walking on real ground. But, because of the nature of how my company has been scheduling my work lately, I have been booking flights within a week of departure. I have no options. When you require your employees to travel 70% of the time, best to take into consideration their likely travel experiences, because the more their travel experiences suck, the more likely they’ll quit, via email, while stranded in an airport in the middle of the night, without their luggage. Just saying.

So, I’m on this flight for the next six hours. I boarded late even after sprinting through the airport. The two seats next to me are vacant and I don’t dare hope they’ll remain that way. But I do. I scrutinize every person that boards the plane, I watch them as they negotiate their way down the aisle, reading the row and seat number, and hoping, against all hope, that they aren’t seated next to me. Rare, but lovely, are the flights where I have the whole row to myself. I don’t mind small talk, as evidenced by my bus driver entourage. Six hours of small talk, though, on only a few hours of sleep, is a bit more than I can consent to. I am hoping for an empty row, something alcoholic and uninterrupted sleep until I feel the jolt of the wheels hit the ground in Newark. Hey, a girl can dream!

They’ve made the “doors closing” and “electronics off” announcement, a couple of times. They’ve briefed the exit rows, even. And, still, the two seats next to me are vacant. I am hopeful, but still vigilant in watching for more passengers to board. I am in the aisle seat, of course, that is my preference. On a six-hour flight, I’d die if I didn’t have the aisle seat. Die. I’d die a horrible and very theatrical death, I assure you. I might make headlines, “passenger goes crazy, (insert newsworthy behavior here)” if I didn’t have the aisle seat.

A foreign couple boards the plane within seconds of the door actually being closed. In the slowest motion possible, they walk down the aisle. I’m only in the third row from the door, so it is extremely slow motion. They are looking left, then right, at the row and seat numbers. I marvel at that, once you’ve got the ABC’s and the DEF’s down, it’s all numbers, and in sequence, but, still, their heads swivel, in unison, right, left, right, left. They arrive at my row and, in unison, look at their tickets, look at the placard over my row, look at their tickets, look at the placard. They finally figure out it’s a “bingo”, they smile and, rather than letting me stand to allow them access to their seats, which I am happy to do, and, in fact, prefer, they insist on climbing over me. I hate that, it just feels so, lap dance. I’m all for lap dances, but I’d prefer to choose my participants, thank you. And, there is only one person I’d really like to give a lap dance to, and he isn’t on this flight. Sadly. Newark isn’t his kind of town. Nor mine.

They take their seats and my dreams of a row to myself are quashed. Worse. They begin snuggling and canoodling and displaying all kinds of PDA, which, again, I’m a fan of, if it’s me and my guy, but for anyone else, and especially people I am within inches of for the next six hours, um, ew.

We finally take off and as soon as is allowed, I have my defense shield up. My defense shield; devices that require my attention so as not to have to pay attention to anyone in my immediate proximity. iPod, iPad, Kindle, iPhone, heck, iPhones (2), and ear buds. I know, ear buds are weak. If you really want immunity you need noise cancellation. I’m just torn between Bose and Beats by Dr. Dre. Truth, I’m torn between Bose, Beats by Dr. Dre and paying my bills next month. And let’s not even talk about where in my forty pound electronics backpack, also known as my personal Best-Buy-in-a-Bag, I am going to be able to wedge these much larger than ear buds noise cancellation headphones! But how many flights have I endured where I could have blissfully sat, in silence, or listening to something wonderful, more wonderful than fucking screaming children!? Worth the price, for certain. But, I still haven’t invested. Why? Because every flight, I swear, is my last. Although, as I think about it, those noise cancellation headphones would, indeed, cancel out noise at home, too, right? Like television? And ringing telephones? And …

With my defense shield up and the couple next to me likely conceiving their first child, in flight, I manage to get a whole bunch of shit done! I am just on fire! Ideas are coming to me, I am jotting them down in Evernote. I am drafting emails that will magically fly off into cyberspace as soon as I turn off “plane mode” when we land. I am reading, writing and quasi-communicating, all the while, not paying attention to what is happening in the two seats adjacent to mine. I am grateful that they are speaking a language I do not understand, nor a language I can almost decipher. They are not speaking a romance language. I’m glad. I don’t want to know.

Wherever they are from, they have incredibly small bladders. They are up and down, climbing over me before I can move, in order to use the restrooms. I did notice, they went individually, otherwise, had they gone to the bathroom together, I might have forced my way up to the first class bathroom to pee, again, likely making national network news for my abhorrent and deviant behavior.

After a period of time that seemed way too long, by my estimation, the flight attendants rolled their little carts down the aisle. I’d had my customary oatmeal, banana and coffee from Starbucks at SMF (Sacramento International Airport) at 4:15 AM, in spite of the fact that they open, officially, at 4:30 AM. This is my secret, this is why I am always first in line; I know they will open early, so I start the line at 4:10 AM. But it is now after 9:00 AM PDT. So, I’m hungry! I read the menu carefully. The menus on airlines are intended solely for highly literate people! Only certain selections are available on certain flights based on any of several factors, including, but not limited to, flight duration, flight direction, flight destination and time of day, although it does not specify time zone. I like the cheese, cracker and fruit tray, even with the nasty glob of wilted greens, I don’t eat them, of course, I scrape them off the cheese and pretend they aren’t actually moving on the plastic wrapper where I’ve discarded them. The fruit and cheese platter, for whatever reason, is not available on this fight, some algorithmic function of time, duration, destination, direction and an unpublished and unquantifiable variable applied arbitrarily by someone at Skychef.

I find, instead, the “high-energy breakfast” consisting of a whole-wheat roll, Justin’s Nut Butter, and you know I’m a fan of Justin and his Nut Butter! There is also a chunk of cheese and some grapes. I wait, somewhat impatiently, for the flight attendant and the food cart. Everyone seated in the rows ahead of me are 1) non-English speaking and/or 2) are obtuse. They don’t know to look at the menu in the damn magazine even after the flight attendant announced it three separate times. It takes forever, but, finally, I am asked the ever-important question “food?” Yes! And I place my order. I also ordered a red wine to go with my “breakfast”. This raised many an unmanicured eyebrow in the surrounding seats in coach. Oh, sure, if you’re in first class there are more bloody marys, screwdrivers and mimosas than passengers, but in coach, this is brow raising? Firstly, this is not my breakfast, I had breakfast, with coffee at Starbucks five hours ago. Second, is this flight not landing in the Eastern Time zone? So, maybe I set my watch ahead three hours at boarding rather than landing and this, is, in fact, after noon (EDT). Wine with lunch is acceptable, right? Whatever. I enjoy my wine and my boxed airplane food.

Airplane food and wine. Flying coach at its finest.
Airplane food and wine. Flying coach at its finest.

My productivity continues for a bit, I am enjoying my Kindle book, I read the WSJ on my iPad, jot down a few more ideas in Evernote. I am blissfully productive. The couple next to me have fallen asleep, intertwined. I order another wine and stick my tongue out at the people across the aisle staring at me. Okay, I didn’t actually stick my tongue out, but I thought about it. Airline wine is not so fine, but it is nearly palatable, though, for red, a little too chilled. It is better than nothing.

Airplane food and wine. Flying coach at its finest.
Airplane food and wine. Flying coach at its finest.

We arrive in Newark on schedule and deplane. Now my week in New Jersey officially begins. Considering I was originally supposed to be in New York City this week, I am pouting at the relocation of our training session. I always say I hate Jersey, and I actually don’t. I hate Newark. I’m working twenty miles outside of Newark in Saddle Brook, an area I’ve been to before. But, still, it is a far cry from NYC. I’m still going to pout. I make my way through the airport, claim my luggage and take the train to the rental cars. I choose my car, nothing spectacular, a Chrysler 200, and I mentally prepare myself for my drive through Newark at 5:00 PM. New Jersey driving is, if you’ve never experienced it, a whole new ball game. I know the rules, now, and I adopt my best Jersey Turnpike sneer and my take no bullshit attitude as I turn the key in the ignition, put the car in drive and head for the highway and Jersey traffic. I can do this, it’s all in the attitude.

And, so, that’s my take away for today. We really can do anything we set our minds to. We can get up at 12:30 AM and function. We can live by the golden rule and make our way through life being charming and as a result, lead a somewhat charmed life. We can get a lot accomplished in confined quarters without Internet, if we just put our mind to it. We can have wine at nine because it is noon, somewhere, after all. And, most importantly, we can overcome fear and intimidation and drive with the best of them in New Jersey. Anything at all we want or need to accomplish is within our grasp if we just have some resolve. This applies to long-term goals, short-term goals, wishes, wants, hopes, desires and dreams. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” ― Napoleon Hill.

Scarlett’s Letter September 26, 2013

I left the hotel alarm clock set for 5:00 AM. With sheer resolution, I also set my iPhone alarms for 5:00, 5:01, 5:02 and 5:03. I don’t hit the snooze, ever, and, truthfully, part of my waking up process has to do with hating the sound of any alarm so much, that, I usually wake up automatically, two or three minutes before any of them sound and quickly turn them all off as I climb out of bed.

Last night, though, I tossed and turned and slept fitfully. My sleep was disturbed with a nagging thought; two alarms would go off simultaneously. The shrieking clock radio alarm and my first iPhone alarm, which with iOS7, is, well, alarming. The first morning my iPhone alarm went off after upgrading to iOS7, I thought some cannibalistic tribe of ninja pygmies had entered my room and I was awakening to their pre-sacrificial prologue. So, in my fitful, bizarre dream riddled sleep, I worried, which of the two obnoxious alarms would I turn off first if both sounded simultaneously. The human mind is a strange place, the human mind, in sleep, is even stranger. My mind takes the cake, I’m sure.

No worries. I awoke at 4:57, which, may I remind you, in New Jersey, where I am this week, may be nearly dawn, but at home, the bars haven’t even closed yet. I quickly turned all five alarms off before they uttered a peep, beep, honk or trill. I’d put a snack size Ziploc with eight almonds in it on my bedside table. I munched on those and cleared all the overnight notifications from my phone. It was all good until one of the almonds I crunched down on was rotten and tainted the flavor of everything for the rest of the day. Maybe the rest of the week. There is some controversy about whether to eat before working out early in the morning or not. My personality trainer says I should eat something light, like eight raw almonds, before working out in the morning. Yes, I said personality trainer. I can’t afford a personal trainer, so I’ve adopted a personality trainer, Jillian Michaels, assisted by Shaun T, and I can barely afford them with their prolific video production habits. Note to self; check iTunes for Jillian’s latest video release, I think it’s out.

I headed out the door of my hotel room, doing the early morning workout wear pat down, similar to “keys, phone, wallet”, but more like “pants, shirt, matching shoes”. Check. I made my way to the hotel gym and managed to get the key into the card lock slot facing the right direction, on the first try. I clamored aboard one of the three rickety ellipticals. There was a man on the middle one, so, no matter what, I was working out next to him. Like seats at the airport, space permitting, there is an unwritten rule, every other piece of gym equipment is occupied, a blank machine between two sweaty, panting people is barely adequate. To have to work out right next to someone is kind of like sitting in the middle seat in coach on a long flight, except the people next to you are sweating profusely and panting loudly. Gross. I know. I set down my Fiji water, my room key and my phone, careful not to let my phone and room key get too close. I am the Queen of demagnetizing keys. When I check in to a hotel and they ask me how many keys I want, I ask for a dozen. There is nothing worse than getting all the way to your room and not being able to get in, only to have to return to the front desk, wait in line, and obtain another key.

The rickety hotel elliptical doesn’t have an incline, so I tried to figure out what the “L9” I’ve selected is all about. I’m sweating, so it must mean something. So, at 5:00 AM EDT, which is 2:00 AM my time, what do you do on cardio equipment to stay awake? No, really, I need to know. I’m certain I lapsed into sleep, while maintaining a perfect cadence, several times. After fifteen minutes and some REM action, I’m fairly certain, I was jolted back into some level of quasi-consciousness, by the incessant beeping of some piece of cardio equipment nearby. Oh, mine. Right. Time’s up. I move to the even ricketier stationary bicycle. The bike I rode yesterday wobbled precariously as I pedaled. I had to maintain a very careful balance, more than I would on an actual bicycle, so as not to fall over. I chose a different one today.

By 5:15 AM, as I pedaled 86 RPM at the maximum resistance setting, and dozed, I would occasionally be rudely awakened by the sound of the gym door opening. After the bike, I intended to use one of the five treadmills. Based on yesterday’s experience, I know, at some point this morning, every piece of war torn cardio equipment and every piece of tattered weight training equipment, and every last sweaty dumbbell, and even every last stabilization ball, is going to be employed by someone who ate too much last night and can’t bear the guilt. I get a little obsessive about the availability of the next piece of gym equipment on my menu. No matter where I’m working out. Rarely obsessive enough to abandon one machine early for the next. I even more obsessive about completing the time I’ve set, down to the last second. Again, the human mind = strange place, mine > strange place.

The door opens again. I pedal faster. When I realize that pedaling faster won’t make the fifteen minutes pass any quicker, I settle back into my 86 RPM, a little embarrassed and hoping no one noticed my franticly increased cadence. Like anyone would be able to notice over all of the clunking, squeaking and whirring of all the cheap and poorly assembled cardio equipment. Hotel gyms are the worst. I lapse into sleep again, am awakened by the door, lapse into sleep, and awaken a few seconds before my fifteen minutes ends. Similar to awakening before the alarm goes off in the morning. I head for the treadmill, four of five are free, so I try to be selective based on visible defects, pools of sweat, and television programming on the monitor. I settle on the one at the far end, even though it puts my ass in direct line of sight from the glass entry door. In other words, my ass is the first thing every early morning exercise fan is going to see. Hopefully, they’re all walking in their sleep, too. But, there’s a Full House episode on Nick @ Nite on my monitor, which beats the hell out of any of the other programming, and, since I haven’t taken the time to learn how to change the channels, and, like on airplanes, I just watch and read lips, I don’t plug my ear buds in to the monitor and listen, who really cares. John Stamos from that era is just eye candy and for the next thirty minutes, I just walk briskly and constantly. I don’t run on treadmills. I know, I’m “a runner”, with a marathon fast approaching. I walk briskly. Truth. I am intimidated by treadmills, and I haven’t really worked out in my over logical mind how one actually runs on a treadmill without killing oneself. I think about this a lot and marvel at everyone around me, many who seem a) less intelligent b) less agile, and c) definitely less fearful than me as the plod impressively along on the narrow, mechanized belt, without hanging on, without tripping and without flying off the back of the machine. I once saw Barbara Walters interview Jim Carrey while he played on his treadmill. It was hysterical; Google it. I want to be able to do THAT. Actually, I’d really like to be able to just accelerate to my running pace and not fall and knock all my teeth out, or trip and land in a heap on the floor behind the machine. My plan; some day, if ever I find myself in an unoccupied gym, the likelihood of which is infinitesimal, I am going to practice. I’ve seriously considered heading down to the hotel gym at like 3:00 AM to attempt this endeavor. But I’d have to set my alarms. All four of them.

 

Why I fear treadmills …Treadmill – Imgur

Scarlett’s Letter September 27, 2013

I’ve arrived at my hotel for the night, a Marriott, of course, at Newark Liberty International Airport. I like it here, I’ve been to this hotel before. As long as you make a point of eating at a “real” restaurant before arriving, this is not a bad place at all. Okay, so I’m an “Elite Member” with Marriott, so maybe I’m a bit biased and probably a little spoiled. As I sit in my 9th story room on the corner of the building with the curtains to both of my windows opened, I am enthralled with all the hustle and bustle surrounding me. Yet, I hear only the fan in my room. I can see three airplanes on final approach, beacons blazing, headed right for me, it seems. I hear nothing. Out my other window, I see one of the terminals and behind it, airplanes taking off every so many seconds. I hear no noise. Beyond the runway, off to the left, I can see the skyline of Manhattan, the Empire State is easy to pick out from the line up and all the lights sparkle like the sun on moving water. Of course I’d rather be THERE, in Manhattan, but as I have an early flight from HERE in the morning, this is where I’ll be. I can also see cars and trains and buses, all scurrying about on surface streets and elevated routes at several levels from my windows, yet, I hear nothing. This excites me. I like it here. Temporarily, of course.

For as much as I complain about New Jersey, other than jughandles, I actually rather like it. Well, we’ll include downtown Newark in the icky pile with all the  jughandles. But, for the most part, the suburbs of Newark that I’ve frequented are pretty nice, once you get off any of the several highways, the Interstate, the Turnpike or the Parkway that all criss-cross, intersect and merge and divide into and apart from each other. Repeatedly.

The people here are nice, once you get used to their general forthrightness and their accent, they are, for the most part, very accommodating and very pleasant. I still marvel at how a single syllable word anywhere else is four syllables here. It humors me. Maybe they’re all nice to me because I’m always smiling at them, and I’m always smiling at them because they talk funny.

I won’t say I’ve mastered driving here, by any stretch, but I get where I need to go and usually on time, though I do allow a little extra time for travel than I might otherwise. And it is comforting to know that the residents struggle with it nearly as much as I do. Traffic, routes and dialogue about driving occupied the first ten minutes of every morning before my class began. The weather was only mentioned once in four days, navigating Jersey style was discussed four times every day. I spoke with a nice young waiter at an Indian restaurant the other night, originally from Dubai, and he admitted that he has no idea where anything is in relation to other places. Being a backpacker, I usually have a fair grasp of direction anywhere I go, I orient myself  quickly. Here, I don’t know which way is which and since it takes twelve turns to execute a direction change, getting one’s bearings is next to impossible. I do know Interstate 80 runs east and west, but only because it originates on the west coast and ends up in Maryland. The young waiter from Dubai says he just follows directions and eventually gets where he needs to go. So do I. Thank goodness for my Nuvii, top of the line Nuvii, and worth every penny with lifetime updates and three-dimensional graphic lane assist with a split screen showing a graphic of the exit, a map with my route highlighted, and a diagram as to which of the several lanes I should be in when I exit. Only occasionally do I have a hard time glancing down and taking in all the information in time to execute the correct turn, merge, or lane change. The poor narrator, though, simply cannot narrate the turns, twists, and “jug handles” quickly enough, sometimes causing me to miss a turn or exit.  He will say something like, “take ramp right, now turn left, GET OFF ON THE RIGHT!” He yells, in rapid succession, with genuine and sincere alarm, perhaps even concern, for my navigational well-being. And not because I’m not following his directions, but because there are that many points of navigation in mere feet. No worries, if I miss the turn it only takes 57 additional turns to correct it.

Jughandles; to turn right to make a left hand turn or a U-Turn. Only here can a U-Turn be a two-mile detour. And I say I like this place? It’s what’s at the end of the navigational nightmare that makes it all worthwhile; amazing shopping venues and even amazinger restaurants. The only bad meal I had all week was at my hotel the night of my arrival, and I consented to it only because I was too tired to go anywhere else. I’d planned on driving to my clients’ office, to get an idea of where it was and what I was up against to navigate there in the morning. I figured I’d grab a nice meal while I was out. I turned on my Nuvii, plugged in my clients’ address and found they were immediately across the street from my hotel and I could walk. Which, by the way, from what I can tell, no one does around here. Since I didn’t have to leave the hotel to make a “dry run” to my clients’ office, I opted to stay in for dinner, too. I’ve had good food in hotels before, just not in Marriott’s. Seems like a missed opportunity J.W.

It is a nice place to relax and just take in the activity outside my picture windows. My only agenda for the night; to write, to relax, to charge all my devices and to kill this last bottle of wine so I don’t have to schlep it home. It won’t fit, anyway. You recall my mention of those fab shopping venues, right? Oh. Yes. I did.

Driving in New Jersey leaves me completely and totally directionally challenged.
Driving in New Jersey leaves me completely and totally directionally challenged.

 

Scarlett’s Letter June 13, 2013

Another day nose to the grindstone, just getting stuff done. I’m just trying to get hyper-organized and get all the loose ends wrapped up before I leave home for a month. On Saturday.

Good news, though! Bless the airline gods! Two of three segments upgraded to first class for my red-eye flight Saturday night! If I can’t sleep, I can drink free wine!

Mom goes to the medical center routinely and has blood work done to monitor her anemic condition. My dad used to always go online and print out any medical test results. That, now, has become my responsibility. I knew I had the capability to print to my printer at home, from anywhere, but I just hadn’t really set it up and worked it all out. Today, I mastered it. I can actually pull up her results on my iPhone, from wherever I am (as long as I have internet) and have them print on the printer in my office at home. Magic. I love technology.

With the installation of a few cool iPhone apps, I have also centralized a whole bunch of random notes, passwords, membership information and other annoying data. I’m just feeling so “together”.

I had an amazing lunch, chicken tacos, out on the deck. One of the luxuries of working from home (occasionally); actually being able to cook the largest meal of the day for lunch and having a “light” dinner. I really think this is much healthier for us. And being able to eat outside and listen to the birds. Ok, crows. We have a flock of crows hanging around that have chased all the birds away, and one crow sat on the very tip of a tree limb and carefully watched me eat my tacos. I guess crows are better than the turkey vultures that used to perch on the deck railing and stare in the kitchen window at my parents while they read the paper in the morning!

I made, made, made myself go to the gym tonight. And I’m so glad I did. I went to a yoga class and had an instructor I haven’t had before. She was awesome! We did about an hour of strength poses followed by a half an hour of inversions and relaxation poses. Just the thing for my tight muscles from all the running I’ve done this week! I came home limber, relaxed and hungry and ate the other half of my Amy’s Margherita pizza with some red wine.

My biggest project for the day, and one I’ve kind of put off all week because I was busy masterminding it; wrapping the gifts I got my Sweetie for his birthday (which was a couple of days ago). Since we live so far apart, his gifts will be arriving when I do. I just had to figure out how to get them from here, to there. I’ll be checking them, like luggage, for a fee, which is still way less than the post office would charge. I admit, like everything I do, I may have got just “a little” carried away in “wrapping” the box. It will be funny to see it come off the luggage carousel. I’m sure he’ll be able to tell in about a half a second which item is his gift. I may have spent as much on tape as I did the gift (kidding). But I had fun with it, and it’s all done, and ready to go. Which I am not.

Ahead tonight, and tomorrow; packing for four weeks. One week of work and play in Manhattan, the better part of the next week in New Jersey for work (so heels and pretty clothes for two weeks) followed by two weeks in Alaska, fishing and stuff (so jeans and boots for two weeks). Again, I think I have it masterminded. And, if all else fails, I have my credit card!!

The gift. Do you think he'll be able to tell it's from me?!
The gift. Do you think he’ll be able to tell it’s from me?!
My chicken tacos. So yummy!
My chicken tacos. So yummy!