Monday, December 06, 2004

(Quick note: Over Thanksgiving break I went to Vancouver, Canada, for a ski trip, specifically at a little ski resort north of Vancouver called Whistler Village)
(Second quick note: A “*” indicates I am lying for dramatic effect. A “**” indicates I am lying to save space. A “***” indicates I am NOT making this up)

Day 1- Disappointments

Waking up at a ridiculously early hour and throwing water into your face is the prototypical vacation-starter for travelers everywhere. The quickest way to tell if you’ve wasted your money on a crappy vacation is the water temperature. If it’s cold, you paid too much but the vacation will be OK. If the water you rub into your face resembles one of your in-laws in frigidity, you’re much better off just shooting yourself right now.
Not having in-laws (hopefully), I assume that if the water is a brittle clear chunk then the vacation outlooks are grim.
And then we get on the plane to Minneapolis, a remarkable city for the sole reason that seemingly every flight in North America is required to layover there by federal regulation, even the ones going, say, to the Moon (“Is this a business or pleasure trip, Mr. Armstrong?”) or New York.
There is a fascinating yet somewhat dry dissertation on the statistical variance of the number of empty seats on any given flight using a standardized curve adjusted to reflect the margin of error inherent in any given sample, but you won’t hear it from me 1) because I suck at Prob/Stats and 2) I was taking up most of those empty seats attempting to get comfortable enough to sleep.
So we land in Minneapolis, Minnesota (I love that: Min/Min) and tromp off immediately to the food court.
Along with us on this trip are our neighbors, and their darling children, Carolyn, 13, and Karim, 9. (As with the last Mid-Eastern family I traveled with, this one apparently alliterates their children).
They, of course, were smart enough to eat breakfast before leaving home while my family starves of malnutrition.
At Sbarros AND Pizza Hut I am denied a slice of pepperoni merely because it’s 7:15 AM local time. Discomfited and more than slightly discombobulated, I am forced to settle for an Egg McMuffin minus the egg.
I walk back to the gate and go into shock at seeing Karim eating a huge piece of Sbarro’s cheese pizza.
A number of words that our young consumer wouldn’t understand run through my head. My Egg McMuffin, minus the egg, is suddenly sausage: limp, ill-tasting, far-inferior-to-pie sausage.
I set it aside in disgust, then reconsider, and salvage the McMuffin, minus the egg, and minus the sausage. Carbs are goooooood.
The number of our flight (666, as with all flights carrying my family) is called, and we prepare to board as they call “first class”.
Wait a minute. First class?
My dad, is a patron saint, occasionally of basketball (***herf****ing blind reverse-backhand layups) but for the most part of cheapskatery. He was standing there adjusting the HMO of the leper Jesus healed. I highly doubt he’ll pay full price to ‘ole St. Pete.
The point is, my dad would never, never, NEVER buy the four of us first-class tickets, even on NorthWorst Airlines.
On this trip, however, he bought one ticket for himself, and one for Mother Dearest.
But not for me.
(In case you were wondering, I really don’t care where my brother sits)
I sight bitterly and watch as my parents recline into seats larger than Rhode Island.
My seat, the federally-mandated 37 cubic microns of airspace wrapped in a set of cushions pre-soaked in other people’s bodily fluids, is, frankly speaking, pathetic.
I sit in the center of three steerage spaces, with my little brother to my right, having claimed MY birthright, a window seat.
To my left, claiming MY dowry, an aisle seat, sits a girl, little shorter than me, about as “average American” as you can get, brown hair done in braided ‘tails, rounded face liberally sprinkled with freckles, a bracelet which, on closer inspection, is made of carefully meshed-together soda can tabs.
She sits there calmly braiding, or weaving, or intercourse-forcing, or whatever it’s called when you use multicolored strings to make DNA double-helix shapes but it’s not a Bio project.
My brother sits to my right, his ambition of reading the Lord of the Rings saga crushed when he found out it requires paging through long stretches of exposition on hobbit toes.
For myself I have four paperbacks, three comics (“Long Halloween” will take me a while, but the others are 15-minute skims), and a pen and notepad from Office Max to work on NaNoWriMo. I doubt it’s enough (the flight from Minneapolis to Vancouver is six hours) but I can always pretend to sleep.
The girl next to me asks her mom in the row behind us how long the flight will be, and the given reply is three hours. Suddenly my prospects of boredom are cut in half.
I reach for “X-Wing: The Krytos Trap”, which, curiously enough, contains more legal procedure and coutroom scenes than any of my John Grisham novels, and look up to the aisle to see my dad asking if I want to put my backpack in the overhead bin. Irritably, I consider giving him a carefully constructed ten-minute monologue on why God made the backpack (mainly so you didn’t have to put it in the overhead bin and could therefore have easy access to reading material, knives, and prophylactics), but then decide to reply, “No.”
He shrugs and tells the girl next to us not to let me or my brother give any trouble. She smiles agreeably then goes back to her DNA.
I ask her, “So, where are you heading?”
She replies, “Oh Vancouver and about, for a ski trip.”
I nod. “Where are you from?”
Warnings from my wise and otherwise uncle about Texans flash through my mind, but I Really can’t see this girl carrying Dirty Harry’s .357 magnum, and in my personal experience deoxyribonucleic acid makes for a very poor garrote, so I keep talking. “Your, ah, bracelet-weave thing-”
She grins. “Just a way to pass the time. You want it? It’s almost done.”
I’m about to say no and go back to my reading when she adds, “I’m going to be doing this all flight,” and holds up a gallon ziplock filled with yarn.
I shrug and accept it, following my dad’s dictum of never refusing free stuff.
That’s pretty much the end of our conversation, until my brother tries to construct a poorly worded statement of disdain for J.R.R. Tolkien in Spanish.
“That’s pretty bad,” she comments.
Out of idle curiosity, I ask, “Do you speak any foreign languages?”
“Well, English,” she says, and giggles. From where have I heard that distinctive style of laugh before? “Oh, and, erm, Bahasa.”
I’ve also heard that distinctive pause before. It almost sounds like- “What’s Bahasa?”
She shrinks a little. “It’s the official language of Indonesia.”
That hits me like a bolt of lightning. My paperback drops to the floor. Slowly, deliberately, I turn, my eyes burning with laser-like intensity, a trick I learned from my Mock Trial coach. “And why,” I say softly in my best lawyer-impersonator voice, “Would you speak the official language of Indonesia?”
“I used to, uh, live there for seven years,” she explains, drawing back further.
Brahms’ “Hallelujah Chorus” fills my head, rather rudely displacing “That’s the Way (I Like It)”.
Meeting another expat on a plane is like getting abducted by aliens…twice.
From there, it’s all downhill. I find out two years ago she moved from Jakarta, Indonesia (population 2,000,000) to Lenard, Texas (population 2,000), her dad is a Texas oilman who still commutes to Jakarta, she plays horse polo, lives on a ranch, is a band slug (but she’s an expat, so that’s forgivable), doesn’t want to go to Yale on a polo scholarship-
“Why?” I ask.
“Well, y’know, East Coast schools-” she shrugs. I give her my deer-in-headlights/Dan Quayle look. She sighs.
“They’re all, like, filled with rich, preppy white kids, like you-” she stops.
I’m doubled over with laughter. I search half the world to find someone who will admit I’m a rich, preppy white kid, and one happens to be sitting next to me on the plane-
I think she took it the wrong way, because she overcompensated her “faux pas”, compounding the sheer hilarity.
“Well, I mean, no offense or anything, I go to, basically a poor white trash public school, there’s lots of like, P-D-A and stuff.” Between my spastic, uncontrollable fits of laughter I’m thinking that any girl who can use the words “poor white trash” and “PDA” in the same breath can’t be all bad.
She also knows what Spades is, and even knows how to play, confirming my long-held-but-never-validated belief that someone besides me and Yahoo! Bot1 knows how to play Spades.
We pass the time alternately by conversing, listening to music, and working, her on the Human Genome Project, me on Fighting Faith. She doesn’t understand Grim Reapers and shotgun-wielding elves; I don’t understand ATGC codes and RNA; but we find a middle ground discussing genetic intermixing between Death and poor elf trash.
Finding out that she’s also heading to Whistler (the ski resort near Vancouver) and the hotel she’s staying at (Sundial), I resolve to try and meet up with her later, at about the same time I realize I don’t know her name.
As I ponder this conundrum, Seinfeld-like, she asks for my name. “An Author. And you’re-”
“Amanda.” She flashes a grin. “All this time-”
I shrug and shake my head. “Maybe we’ll run into each other on the slopes.”
“Yeah, maybe we will.”
I never saw her again*.

We load all our crap into a rented Chevy Suburban, possibly the only car I know that can take on an M1 Abrams tank and live to tell the tale, and start on our merry way to Whistler Village, located at the base of Whistler Mountain, named for the whistling noise people make when they see the utter lack of powder on it, and Blackcomb Mountain, named for the amount of hair that falls out of Asian people’s heads when they realize all the good runs are either closed or icy as hell.
The ride there was uneventful**.

No comments: