Why Can’t They Stop Sniping and FIX It?

One really good thing about this winter holiday week is that I don’t have to travel anywhere.  I’m not stuck in airports waiting for weather-delayed flights, or now wondering what changes TSA will make to airport security to try and catch things that weren’t caught when they should have been in the first place.  It seems we are always behind the curve.

I see on the news that Republicans are slamming Obama and his administration for not preventing the Denver flight terrorist from boarding the plane, and reminding us that a Republican is holding up confirmation of a new TSA director.  And I’m remembering how the Democrats, including me, jumped down Bush’s throat for not doing the same on his watch.

What needs to happen, and won’t because real life isn’t like The West Wing where bipartisanship actually occasionally worked, is for everyone to work TOGETHER to resolve the security issues.  I’m not sitting here with a tally sheet to say, one point for a Dem, two points for the GOP, you win, you lose.

I want them to FIX IT.  To pay attention to the 9/11 Commission Report, to coordinate technology so different agencies actually take action in a rapid, responsive way. To stop playing political games and tackle national security issues, things that will keep us safer without trying to one-up each other or shoving data under the rug because it doesn’t seem important.

It has been EIGHT YEARS since the 9/11 attacks.  I accept that things are different for us, that we have those silly color-coded measures of our safety (and honestly, have they ever been below orange?  I think not).  I don’t know that making people sit without anything in their laps or using iPods for the last hour of a flight is going to help, and I resent that we are being asked to take arbitrary, inconsistent steps for increased security when the GOVERNMENT isn’t doing their part on the intelligence end where it would make more sense.

Will it be better in 2010?  I hope so but I am not optimistic.

Adjusting to the High Price of Gas

My mind is boggled by the rapidly increasing price of gas. This morning on the way to work, I noticed that the price at the Shell station was $4.09 for regular. On the way home, eight hours later, the price was up to $4.15. Six cents up in eight hours. I’m almost afraid to see what it will be on the way in tomorrow.

I’ve seen news stories about the rising prices and was pretty sure that prices would get over $4/gal. this summer, but I never dreamed it would go up as fast as it has. My guess is that things won’t be going down anytime soon, either. The rest of the world has had to deal with high prices for years already so it was only a matter of time before it hit us. We’re not immune to the same economic pressures as everyone else – and we tend to drive a lot in gas-guzzling vehicles.

My little Saturn doesn’t get the best mileage but after a rather pricey tuneup last month, I’m getting 24/31 mpg. The almost 9-year old car has just under 40,000 miles so obviously I’m not big on long car trips. I’d rather take the train, stay close, or fly.

Now, of course, flying is going to be equally ridiculous. I can’t imagine what a mess it’s going to be to try and fly in 6 months when schedules are significantly cut, forcing already crowded planes to be even more clogged. The idea of paying double the prices for tickets, plus paying for a checked bag, on top of crowded conditions and being treated like cattle just makes me cringe — and, to be honest, rethink how much I want to go to Texas for Christmas. Right now the answer would be, are you insane?

My mom and I were talking about this the other day and she reminded me that even when I was growing up, people lived more simply with fewer choices to make and shop for (thus using the car and fuel). We traveled less frequently with plane trips being a special thing and not routine. Of course, we weren’t business travelers and I recognize that it’s particularly bad for them now.

But I don’t have to get on a plane often. I’m happy here in my place and have free long distance to talk with friends and family who live elsewhere (which is most of them). We email and IM all the time. I love my family but I don’t have to be there with them as often as they have seen me in the past, not when they live half way across the country and the cost is so high.

There are lots more changes ahead for us, I’m sure. I plan to stick pretty close to home, shop more carefully and less often, and adjust. My vacations this summer will be train trips down to NYC and short drives to places in Connecticut that are on my “to do” list. Maybe a longish drive to western NY state to visit Lily Dale with our Frances. But that’s about it.

What are your summer plans? Will the price of gas change them this year?

Quick Checkin from Texas

I had an easy flight down to Texas on Thursday after an extremely short night and trip through the dark up to the airport armed only with a giant bottle of Diet Coke and loud 90’s rock on the iPod.  When I got there I discovered that none of the little check in places in the airport open until 4:30 so next time I can stay home a wee bit longer.

I bought two tickets for this trip, not just one, because I didn’t want the stress of being squished into a seat and looking at the loathing on the faces of the people near me.  In fact, as I was getting to my seat on the first flight, I overheard two people in the row ahead of me talking about how bad it was to be squished next to an obese person for a 6-hour flight.  I couldn’t stand it and spoke up to say that, you know, the obese person was probably more uncomfortable than you were, and sometimes – right now, in fact – many of us do buy extra space so we don’t make anyone, including ourselves, feel that uncomfortable.  They had the grace to look chagrined and I didn’t cry, though at that early hour, it was close.

Got to east Texas without a hitch and have spent the last few days just hanging out with my mom and dad, taking little slow walks with Mom, carrying her 5-lb vacuum pump and letting her hang on to my arm, or helping out with meal cleanup.  The neighbors have been wonderful and are continuing to bring dinner, plus the freezer has enough soup to last them until April, so I haven’t needed to cook much.  Tomorrow after church I’ll do some laundry and scope out where my help is needed most.

Mom looks good and is getting better slowly.  I had a chance to see the wound when the home health nurse came yesterday to change the dressing – and it’s ugly, a wide slash of skin and a deep hole.  But Dad says that it looks much better than it did almost 2 weeks ago when they first hooked her up to the vacuum pump and it’s a nice pink color.  Mom moves with some considerable discomfort, especially after the dressing is changed, and it’s awkward to remember where the tubes are so you don’t sit on them or get them twisted up.  But her spirits are good and she’s determined to get rid of her little box because she wants to go shopping and get back to normal. It’s going to take a while but we know that she will get there.

Tomorrow is church in the morning, though Mom will stay home with her box that sounds as though it’s either burping or farting loudly, which would be disruptive in a quiet service.  She’ll do TV church instead and talk back to the preachers, which is always fun.  We’re setting up their new digital picture frame and I have some computer cleanup things to do as well to make myself useful.  Monday is our trip to the surgeon for the post-op followup visit, which will tell us a lot about her progress and how long the recovery will be.  And Tuesday I head home.  Keep your fingers crossed for good weather.

Flying When Obese

AirplaneIt started innocently enough: an article at MSNBC.com about airline travel over the holidays. Not that I’m planning to fly anytime soon, mind you, but it was interesting to read about airlines hiring more people to improve the customer service to help alleviate the stress after months of not-on-time departures and overcrowded flights. So far so good.

There were a bunch of links to other articles about airlines and I read them all. Then I followed another link to view all articles and spotted one with the catchy title, Size Matters: Olive Oyl, Where Are You? which naturally I had to read. I was hoping there would be some tips on how to make the process less stressful, since much as I like to travel, I hate squishing myself into a seat that’s as wide as a computer keyboard when my body certainly is larger.

From there I followed another link to a message/discussion board responding to the article. Big, big mistake. There are 57 pages of comments and by page 3 I was in tears. The vitriolic words from so many anonymous writers cut deep but I found myself continuing to read, hoping for some kind of voice of empathy or additional ideas. Finally by page 6 I made myself get out before I couldn’t see from the pain.

I know that obese people are generally despised on planes. All it takes is one look at the people in a waiting area who are checking me out. You can see that they are hoping I’m not going to be near them, spilling over into their real estate and hogging their space. I hate it. I always try to sit on an aisle or on the single-seat side of a small plane, so I have somewhere to lean out of their way. It’s still very close.

I need to get a seatbelt extension, which is humiliating, although the flight attendants are pretty discrete about giving it to me after I ask. The days of hoping for an empty seat next to me are a thing of the past now that all the planes are little and packed on every flight – and there really aren’t that many “off peak flights” anymore. I’ve thought about even getting a first class ticket but the little planes don’t HAVE anything except sardine class. Maybe I need to consider buying two tickets, though I’m too miserly to think that’s a good plan.

Reading the message board, even just a little bit of it, makes me not want to fly anywhere. I don’t want to be despised for trying to just do what everyone else is doing – travel from one place to another. I wish Chicago was close enough to reach by car or more easily by train. I would feel less of a weirdo.

Catching Up

Today has been a mad scramble.  I went to Chicago to hang out with my best friend for a few days and we had a blast but not much sleep was involved in the process, even with the hour time change.   I’ve gotten to know a number of her friends and enjoy getting together with them on my flying visits.

Literally flying – on a little bitty tiny plane that holds 40 people, which isn’t many on a 2 hours flight.  At least we didn’t have to climb up and down those little steps, but these little planes always park far away from things like baggage claim.  I was lucky with good weather and smooth flights both coming and going.  My car stayed with an airport valet parking place and I had them do an oil change and clean it all up for me while I was gone.

I did a quick load of laundry to get those “dry flat” things out of the way ASAP.  Today I worked an extra 90 minutes, leaving for work at 7am and coming home late, so I could bank time to take off early tomorrow.  I ran around like a crazy person tonight tidying, setting up the litter box, paying bills, and generally getting ready for a new arrival tomorrow … because it’s Get the Kitty day!

Food was a bit catch as catch can, since I didn’t have much in the fridge when I got home last night.  I’m better supplied now but am so tired that I can hardly keep my eyes open – so I’m not even going to try.  I have meals planned for tomorrow and everything will sort itself out.

Did I mention that tomorrow is Get the Kitty day?