Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Cat Lady Returns From Florida

Well, this time we almost ran down an armadillo on the way to the airport to come home. (While in the car, not in the plane... no skunks were harmed in the making of this trip.)  Other than that it was an uneventful flight, so I regret to say there will be no new tales of the second worst airplane trip ever... at least not yet.  

Florida is lovely this time of year.  High temperatures are in the upper 70's to low 80's... just the way I like it for warm weather.  (Breezes off the Gulf of Mexico keep the 80's comfortable.) Days were spent lounging at the beach, reading under a palm tree.  (As a Cat Lady, I felt it incumbent upon myself to take advantage of the shade and SPF45 to keep my pasty white complexion intact.)

What was more unusual about this trip was the fact that it was the first time in 23 years that my family had all been together in one place at one time.  (As you can see, I really DO follow Cat Lady time when it comes to communing with relatives.)

It's interesting that after all this time, we're still pretty much the same people underneath that we were 23 years ago.  While our travels may have led to a variety of places and we have had vastly different experiences (including assorted personal disasters), we haven't really changed all that much.

~ My older sister is still the organizer, as evidenced by the neatly printed calendar of events for the week that awaited our arrival.  (And yes, she's still married to the same guy, her high school sweetheart, after 38 years.)

~ My brother, who I haven't seen in 20 years, still has a wry sense of humor and quickly sees you for who you really are.  There's no fooling him.

~ My younger sister still remains more private when it comes to family, preferring to observe from afar.  (Not surprising considering the 7-10 year age gap between her and the rest of us.)

~ My parents are all about family, both having an interest in genealogy.  They enjoy sitting back and watching the interactions between the four of us children... something they haven't gotten to experience often since my sister left home to get married 38 years ago.

~ And I'm the one who will still use humor to alleviate any discomfort.  (I take great pride in the fact that I was able to simultaneously bring tears of laughter to my brother and make my sister snort with laughter during a family photo.)

Perhaps the biggest difference is that none of us kids were sent to our rooms or grounded during our time together.  Guess we've all grown up in that respect.  Of course, it helps that none of us had a room to be sent to and grounding would have meant they were stuck with us longer.  Or could it be that we have achieved some modicum of decorum in the intervening 23 years?

We eventually do grow up.

FYI.... Both my sisters actually have cats, identified by the monikers "Kitty" and "Twitch".

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Cat Lady Leaves Home (or The Worst Airplane Trip Ever)

The time has come for the Cat Lady to pack her bags, get on an airplane and make the annual sojourn to see her family.  As you may imagine, I've had my share of misadventures on planes, just as I've had on camping trips.  Mostly it involves long delays, late night cancellations that meant sleeping in airports or in strange hotels with no pajamas or toothbrush, and missed flights.  However, there's one flight that stands out as....

"The Worst Airplane Trip Ever!"

I had just finished graduate school and my parents invited me to go on an exchange program to an undisclosed location.  This was one of the early trips of "The Friendship Force," a program established by then president, Jimmy Carter.  (In fact, my parents went on the inaugural "Friendship Force" trip with Miss Lillian Carter.)    The idea was that you signed up and paid to be a friendship ambassador to another country.  Later a group of people from that country would visit your hometown.  You had to be willing to go anywhere in the world.  I had my doubts about whether I would be sent to some exotic location or end up in a dangerous travel zone.  Idi Amin's reign of terror in Uganda came to mind.  But, never having been overseas and still being adventurous at that point in my life, I registered for the trip and signed up for my first passport.

It was soon revealed that a group of about a hundred people from my hometown would be traveling by chartered jet to Cardiff, Wales.  My first reaction was, "Where?"  Obviously, I was in desperate need of learning more about the world!  It was to be a two-week trip, staying with a host family to experience the land and culture of this corner of the British Isles.  I'd always been intrigued by castles and this was a land of castles, so I was fired up!

I put together a wardrobe of sturdy walking shoes and a tan corduroy jacket, skirt and pants that I crafted myself on my trusty sewing machine.  It was the quintessential traveling ensemble as far as I was concerned.  Add a few blouses, a pair of jeans and a white muslin dress with matching vest and I was ready to roll!

The day of departure arrived.  I had my newly issued passport in hand, ready to begin receiving stamps to document my travels.  We boarded the plane with excitement, taking off right on schedule.  As soon as the plane was in the air, the flight attendants came around to offer us beverages to toast our departure.   When they got to me, I requested a Coke with ice.  As the deliciously cold beverage came my way, I reached for it and proceeded to drop it in my lap, soaking my brand new tan corduroy jacket and pants!  The sticky, brown substance quickly seeped into every crevice of the corduroy.  I had six more hours on the overnight flight with no way of changing into dry clothes and it was evident that laundry would be one of my first tasks once we landed.  I was not amused.  After sulking for a time, though, I got back into the spirit of the trip.  (Everyone was apologetic and felt sorry for me, so that helped.)  Laughter once again abounded as we sped through the skies.

We were all having a lovely time until the weather changed and we hit a severe thunderstorm.  We were advised that we'd be making a stop in Toronto to wait out the storm.  Hopefully, it would be a short layover while the storm passed and we'd be on our way again quickly.  We had just pulled up on the tarmac to await departure when a huge flash of lightning struck.  It wasn't long before we learned that what it had struck was the control tower of the airport.  The air traffic controllers' screens were now blacked out.  Which naturally meant that no planes would be taking off or landing until things were repaired.  It could be awhile.  Since we were an international flight, we were not cleared from customs to deplane and would have to stay on board until it was safe to depart.  It figures, given a Cat Lady's luck!

Now, sitting on the tarmac in August makes a plane warm up quickly.  Because we were not at a gate, we had no access to the external air conditioning system they use while planes are on the ground.  But by this time the rain had stopped, so the the pilot and flight attendants determined it would be safe to open the doors of the plane to get some fresh air in while we waited.  They, of course, took safety precautions by putting ropes across the exits to remind us not to fall out of the plane.  We all welcomed the fresh air.

A bit later, the pilot got a message that they were going to move our aircraft to a gate where we could deplane to a secure holding room within the customs area.  Heaven forbid they allow us to actually step foot in Canada.  We felt like illegal aliens, which I guess we were!  Because we were on the ground, we had to be towed to the gate by one of those little trucks they have at airports.  The pilot said that everyone should take their seats for the short trip, but that they'd leave the doors open to keep the air flowing.

Once again we were moving, albeit at a snail's pace.  Hooray!  We were all chatting merrily as we watched our progress toward the terminal and air conditioning, when we began to notice a strange scent that quickly became stronger and soon overwhelmed us.  Yes, dear readers, in moving across the tarmac we had run over a skunk!  Unbelievable!  What are the odds that you could run over a skunk in a plane while the doors are open?  Unheard of!  Only a Cat Lady would find herself in this situation!

It was with great relief that we poured off the plane into the air-conditioned holding room.  After about an hour, the tower repairs were complete and we were cleared for takeoff.  From this point on, the trip could only be anticlimactic.  The next five hours or so were quiet, with passengers trying to get some sleep before landing.  Somewhat later the flight attendants began serving breakfast.  Imagine our surprise when the pilot once again came over the intercom to tell us, "We might have a slight problem..."

Apparently, the Cardiff airport was not geared toward having planes our size land there.  OOPS!  We were warned it might be a tight squeeze on the short runway, so to please return to our seats for a possible rough landing.  Oh, great!  All this, just to crash at the end of the runway?  I think they hit the reverse jets before the wheels even touched the ground.  With a screeching of tires and roar of jets, we rolled to a stop... just at the end of the runway.  A cheer went up from the passengers on this ill-fated flight.  I'm sorry to say, not so much for the expertise of the pilots, but because were were so gosh darned glad about the prospect of being released soon from the plane ride from hell.

There were still surprises to come on the trip, like turning all my clothes blue when I finally got an opportunity to wash the Coke stains out.  We also managed to get on the wrong train on one excursion, which meant we had to go all the way up a remote mountain and back before we had a chance to find the right train, turning a quick 10 minute train ride into a three hour one.  However, I quickly grew to love Wales and the people I met.  My horizons had definitely been expanded and I returned with plenty of tales of adventure.

After all, a Cat Lady needs plenty of good memories to fill the quiet hours of her life.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I have nothing to say for myself

Remember all those times your parent's asked,  "And what do you have to say for yourself, young lady?"

Well, just as then, I have absolutely nothing to say for myself! 

Guess you'll just have to wait a bit longer for my next blog entry.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The World is Mine!

My new passport came today.  Along with it came a little brochure titled, "With Your U.S. Passport, the World is Yours!"  


Why, how very thoughtful of them!  I feel like I won the most colossal grand prize ever! Had I only known, I might have signed up years earlier.  (My last passport was issued in 1985, before they were giving away the world.)  

Of course, the world being mine brings up some important questions.  

For example, if the world belongs to me...
~Can I make up the rules? 
~Can I live wherever I want, displacing other people from their homes?
~Is it just the world that is mine, or do I get to keep everything in it?
~Am I going to have to clean the whole darn place?
~Where am I going to keep this world that is now mine?
~Am I the only one who got this brochure...  or am I going to have to share my prize with someone else?  If I have to share, how will we divide the world up?  
Sadly, the brochure doesn't list where I can go to collect my colossal grand prize.  I don't know if I should get there on a certain day, or if I need three forms of identification to claim my prize. Will they come to my house with balloons and a giant check?  

"Pay to the order of Larew ~ One World and no cents"  

Will there be a big celebration to mark the occasion?  I hope they tell me soon so I can invite all my bestest friends!  

All I know for sure is...


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