December 23, 2001
Staying Put

They're reporting five-hour lines at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at Oakland International this weekend, plus a record number of missed flights. The blurb on the Yahoo News website this morning reads:

... Despite essentially fully-booked flights, several people said passengers on earlier Southwest flights called them from the planes to say there were many empty seats. That could be because unlike other airlines at other airports, no one from Southwest was pulling people out of line to catch their flights.

No one from Southwest would comment on camera. The airline had every counter position staffed. But an airport spokeswoman said the problem was caused by many more people trying to check baggage, and no room in the terminal for Southwest to open more counters.

"The quantity and volume of checked bags is greater than we have seen since September 11th," said airport spokesperson SomebodyOrOther.

There were delays at San Francisco and San Jose airports also today, but nothing like Southwest's problems at Oakland.

By KPIX - Tony Russomanno

In addition to feeling sorry for all of those frustrated, unhappy holiday travelers (and even sorrier for the beleaguered Southwest Airlines employees trapped behind the ticket counters), I must admit to also feeling ever-so-slightly relieved.

That could have been me.

That should have been me.

That would have been me, too, if we had decided 'Hell with the expense/the logistics/the job/the separation' and sent me off to TicTac this holiday season. I would have been flying out of Oakland International. I almost certainly would have flown out yesterday. And the chances are pretty good that I would have flown on Southwest Airlines. (I actually prefer Alaska -- their peanuts have a more satisfyingly piquant crunch -- but right now I'm trying to accumulate enough Rapid Reward points for that trip to Journalcon in 2002.)

If I'd gone home for the holidays, that very well could have been me they were interviewing on the news this morning ... one of those feral, hollow-eyed creatures snarling into the camera about how they're going to 'sue' the airlines the minute they land in Portland/San Diego/TicTac. And that would have only been half my travel nightmare, of course. I don't know what conditions are like on the TicTac Airport side of things, although I suspect it's probably more of the same: lots of delays, lots of long, long lines ... and lots of Great Big Frowny Faces, everywhere you look.

And then I would have had to turn around and do the whole thing all over again -- in reverse -- on Tuesday night or (more likely) on Wednesday morning.

I am genuinely sorry that I'm not going to be seeing my family, especially my children, this Christmas. Nobody is sadder about it than I am. Nobody feels worse about it than I do. (And nobody is looking forward to Christmas 2002 -- and that long relaxing Amtrak ride to TicTac and back -- more than *I* am.)  But there is a teeny tiny part of me, this morning, that is thanking God (or whoever is in charge of this sort of stuff) that I'm not standing in a bazillion-mile line at Oakland International Airport right about now.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

David's "quick Christmas shopping expedition" wound up taking the whole day yesterday.

I made it all the way up to Tape #7 in the Christmas Tape collection ("Do They Know It's Christmas" ... Annie Lennox singing "Walking In A Winter Wonderland" ... Stevie Nicks' incredibly groovy version of "Silent Night") and was just beginning to do the little Where is he? Why hasn't he called? What if he was in a car accident? exercise in paranoia when he finally came straggling through the door, sometime around 5 p.m. ... soaking wet, windblown, loaded down with shopping bags,  with *that* look on his face.

(No, not THAT look. That came later.)

I'm talking about the I've found something so incredibly cool you're NOT going to believe it!! look. I thought maybe he'd scored a couple of KFOG "Live From The Archives" CDs -- or that Chia Head for his mom -- but it turned out that he was all excited about a Dead Kennedys DVD ("The Early Years Live") he'd found during his shopping adventures.

"I was AT this show!" he said excitedly as he slid the disk into our computer's DVD player. We spent the rest of the afternoon/early evening hunched over the monitor, combing through a thousand blurry freeze-frames from 1979,  trying to spot a young Ю僱êrvØ¡ in the audience.  (We think we found him, too.  At one point during "Kill The Poor" -- just after Jello Biafra crawls back onstage, after a turn around the mosh pit -- the camera lingers for a moment on the profile of a tall, slender young man with exquisite cheekbones. We figure it's either a 23-year-old Ю僱êrvØ¡ or Kevin Bacon.)

Every once in a while I glanced over at the sofa, where he'd dumped the wet shopping bags, and tried to figure out if my Christmas present was hidden somewhere in the pile. From that distance,  without my glasses,  it was hard to tell. Was that a Tower Records bag? A Target bag? The telltale Borders Books logo? Eventually David caught me looking. 

"I can trust you to stay out of that stuff, right?" he asked, after he'd moved the shopping bags into the bedroom closet.

"Of course you can," I lied.

Poor sweet, simple, trusting Ю僱êrvØ¡. He has such a lot to learn about his wife and her dark, larcenous heart, doesn't he?

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Sunday: another dark, damp, drizzly morning.

I haven't left the apartment all weekend: not even to do laundry or check the mail or stand hidden in the courtyard eavesdropping on my drunk-and-dysfunctional neighbors.

Lydia: I hate you, you fudking fudkhead!
Ralph: I hate you too!
Lydia: Gimme another goddamn beer, you fudking fudkhead!
Ralph: Want me to open it for you?

I've been schlepping around in the same pair of Old Navy sleep bottoms since Friday night, I'm not wearing a scrap of Maybelline, my hair looks like I combed it with a crusty fork, and basically all I've done the entire weekend is read ("Waiting For My Cats To Die") and eat (Triscuit crackers with Wild Morel & Leek Jack Cheese) and listen to the Christmas tapes. And I'm fine with that.

In fact I'm so fine with it, I'm going to do it all over again today.

David, on the other hand, is getting ready to head back out into the world and brave the storms/the crowds/the traffic once again. He has the kids today, which means that he'll be gone for most of the afternoon. Plus he has volunteered to grocery shop, and to return our overdue library books, and to stop and pick up more gift wrap and Scotch tape so we can wrap the rest of the Christmas presents tonight. We both have to work tomorrow -- Christmas Eve -- and then we'll be going directly from work to his parents' house in Walnut Creek. So tonight is our last chance to get all the loose ends of Christmas tied up.

"You're more than welcome to come with me today," he says again. I think he's worried that I've been wallowing in holiday misery, all by myself in this apartment all weekend. Which I have been, of course ... but it's been a really comfortable, delicious, FUN sort of misery ... which, if you're going to wallow in misery, is probably the sort of misery to wallow in.

"I'll be fine," I tell him. "Go. Have fun. Come home to me tonight."

As soon as I hear the door close, of course, I am on my feet and making an immediate beeline for the bedroom closet.  I won't open my Christmas present, I swear. I won't even touch it. I'm just going to ... you know ... make sure it's there, and that it's safe, and that the Scotch tape is securely fastened to the edges of the package and stuff.

But it isn't there.

As a matter of fact there are no presents, anywhere in the entire bedroom closet. Shopping bags: yes. Presents (or helpful receipts): no. There aren't any presents in the bureau drawers, or behind the headboard, or anywhere else in the bedroom. They aren't in the bathroom, or in the living room, or in the kitchen. In a four-hundred square foot apartment, there only about five imaginative hiding spots (and another handful of unimaginative hiding spots) -- I know this to be a fact -- and there are no Christmas presents in any of them.

And that's when it dawns on me.

David took it with him.

That sneaky, conniving, devious rat bastard took my Christmas present with him when he left this morning!   He probably stuck it into his coat pocket when I wasn't looking and snuck it out of the apartment with him.  Why?  Because he didn't TRUST me!!  What gall!  What nerve!

What sheer, unexpected, unmitigated BRILLIANCE.

Poor dumb, transparent, silly SecraTerri. She has such a lot to learn about her husband (and his magnificent *I didn't just fall off the turnip truck yesterday OK?* brain) ... doesn't she?

tell 'em secra sent you

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~ nil bastardum carborundum ~

sometimes i get the sneaking suspicion that he's
almost as smart as *i* am.