Travel Day

I’m en route today from my mountain lair to another mountain lair – Salt Lake City, thence to Park City, Utah. The Pirate and I are heading to Sundance.

The thing I hate most about travel is that it never goes the way I think it will. I always think that I’ll be able to sit down on the plane and concentrate on getting some work done, but that never happens. I can’t concentrate with other people around me, and I always end up feeling self conscious, as though people are looking at me and thinking “Look at that woman, pretending to work.”

This is where introversion most bites me in the ass. Being an introvert means that I live inside my own head, and in my own head, I’m freaked out all the time about everything I ever do, say or think. Will I be able to make this left turn? Will my credit card be accepted? Will I be able to find a parking spot? Will I get into a grizzly accident? These are fair concerns, but I am always able to make the left turn, my credit card is always accepted, I always find parking, and I’ve never been in a grizzly accident. I have no basis for the worry, but worry I do.

So, I will get on the plane and worry that there will not be enough space to stow my stuff. Then I will worry that the person in front of me will put their seat back. It’s stupid worrying about that, because one should only worry if something is a possibility, not if that thing is a certainty. Then I’ll worry that, while I’m engaged in reading something that requires my close attention, my husband will hear or read something amusing that he’ll want to share with me. Then I’ll worry that the flight attendant will want to know what I want to drink, whether I want a mylar bag containing the battered remains of three tiny pretzels or whether I wish to give up my trash to her. Tomato juice, no, and please take it. Maybe I’ll make a sign and stick it in my ear where she’ll be able to read it.

It’s occurring to me that perhaps what I need to be a better traveler is gin. And that 9am in California is 5pm in London – a lovely time for gin.

Solving the World’s Problems

I’m in Baltimore right now, having spent 9 hours in transit from San Jose (the closest airport to my mountain lair). Here’s what I love best about travel: everyone approaches it a little differently. Some folks are infrequent travelers who dress up and act like the airport itself is an adventure. Some folks are more frequent travelers and so see the journey as secondary to the destination. For me, travel is stressful because it forces me into society where I may, at any moment, have to interact with strangers.

What would be the ultimate mode of transport? Of course, a private jet would be ultimate, but nowadays the sorts of people who are privileged enough to have such accommodations are vilified. To be sure, a private jet is hardly the most ecologically sound mode of travel. The amount of resources used to carry a single person to and from a destination are absolutely out of all proportion.

I might suggest, then, a mode of personal travel for the extravagantly rich that would be non-polluting, sufficiently opulent, and have the added benefit of solving the increasing problems of both unemployment and obesity. The Greeks had a ship called the trireme, which employed three rowers per oar to speed the ship through the waters. Let us imagine, then, a craft that combines the form of a trireme – a long bodied craft with men supplying motive power – with the mechanical advances of the steam engine – gears that convert the turbine-turning power of steam into the locomotive power supplied to the wheels.

I believe that the mechanics of locomotion would be easily adapted to the mechanics of rowing. A set of three cars – sleeping, baggage and dining – could certainly be pulled by 60 rowers (10 “oars” on each side of what would otherwise be the engine car). Using the existing rail system, if each rower were paid a fair wage, would likely be no more extravagant than the current cost of maintaining a private jet and crew. There would be no fuel costs, no need to maintain the expensive motor workings of an engine, no expensive insurance, since rail travel is less fraught with peril than air travel. To be sure, travel would not be quite as expedient between places, but is that so terrible? Modern life moves at a pace that I personally find unhealthy. People need time to relax, to ruminate, to reflect. Perhaps if travel were a bit less immediate and convenient, people would make more of an occasion of it. Perhaps they might dress up, perhaps they might be more conscious of their impression on their fellow travelers, and perhaps travel might be what it once was. And then, perhaps, they might leave me alone.

That Holiday Spirit

This Thanksgiving, the Pirate and I loaded the girls and my mother up into a borrowed VW microbus and made the drive from our house to Phoenix. We left after school on Tuesday, and drove for 13+ hours. With the time change, it was early morning when we arrived, and we were exhausted, but there were all the pre-Thanksgiving things (shopping, cooking) that needed doing.

We ended up going to bed at the normal time, despite having missed an entire night’s sleep, and then getting up early the next day in order to start the cooking (we did all the driving, but Mom did all the cooking). The girls stayed at my dad’s house, along with a whole bunch of other folks, having a fabulous time. So fabulous, in fact, that they didn’t want to come back to my mother’s house. They were too busy hanging out with other kids, chasing the dogs, doing all that other silly stuff. We drove home Saturday, another marathon trip delayed by horrible holiday traffic, and fell into bed at midnight on Saturday night.

Sunday, we got up to deal with the dishes we had left in the sink before we went on our trip. The cat gak where our cat haaked up a hairball all over the leather couch (pretty sure that’s a good reason for putting an animal down), the huge tumbleweeds of cat hair blowing around the floor, the laundry…I told the kid that she had to practice her viola and clean her room, and the kid yelled at me “I THOUGHT THE FIRST DAY BACK FROM VACATION WAS SUPPOSED TO BE RELAXING!”

Obviously, I have been falling down on my motherly duties. She has so much to learn. The holidays are not at all about relaxing. They’re about putting in face time with relatives you never see so that you can make awkward conversations and remind them of past embarrassing incidents. It’s about establishing the family pecking order as evidenced by who travels where (it’s a complicated algorithm involving whose kids are doing how well in school, who has how much time off from a job that earns them how much, who didn’t think they’d be able to make it but made it anyway, who actually cooked versus who stopped by the Safeway…) and why.

I’m halfway to solving this problem, though. The Pirate and I just bought a place in the city, and my mother will be moving in. EVERYONE will be coming out to see Grandma for the holidays, which means that I’ll never have to travel again.