I have lots to say so I recommend getting a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.
Gosh wasn’t that an interesting 10th wedding anniversary! Want to hear about it? Wondering who are the people in the picture that is usually just me and one of my fabulous outfits? It goes a little like this… I am a professional flyer. I have this s#@t down. When flying out of Stuttgart, I always get there 2 hours early. The lines are sometimes totally insane. I mean ridiculous. So we got there at 8 am for a 10:40 flight. OK, it wasn’t too busy so we were checked in by 8:30. Went to McD’s to use up our DM (the EU countries of Europe move to the Euro Jan 1, though we can use DM until Feb 28th.). This is our usual process. Went to the gate and played a little solitaire on the Mac before taking an hour nap. Everything seemed to be on time and they had the plane doors closed by 5 minutes before take off. And then we sat. And sat. And sat. A little later the captain came on and said the problem was they didn’t have radio contact with the ground crew. Then we sat some more. Now we are 25 minutes past departure time and I only have 50 minutes between flights. Besides that, it is a transatlantic flight and you are suppose to board 30 minutes before take off. Then the captain comes on and says that the problem is Stuttgart only has 3 trucks to push planes back from the gate and they are all being used. Pathetic. So we finally get into the air at about 11:10, 30 minutes late and I am suppose to start boarding my next plane at 11:40 ish. Not going to happen. I have to give the pilot credit for trying to make up the time. He was speeding all the way to Frankfurt. Big time speeding. Sharp accent. Sharp turns. Sharp decent. I appreciated his effort. I asked the stewardess, and so did other people, about the connection. She was as helpful as German stewardess’ are, which is only slightly less helpful than American ones (when you are in coach).
So we land and have the added bad luck of having to take the bus to the terminal instead of getting a regular gate. We finally arrive at the terminal at 12:15 for a 12:25 flight. At this point I am hoping that they will simply hold the plane because there are a number of us on this flight and we would all have to be rebooked. We run through the terminal, get to security, they look at our boarding passes and say…’Sorry go see those United people over there’. So we do and things go from bad to worse. The woman writes down our names and then simply says go see the Lufthansa people since it is their fault you are late. That’s it. She just dismisses us. Do you have an idea how difficult Lufthansa is when it isn’t their ticket? Do you have any idea how difficult Lufthansa is in general? Both Patrick and David (pictured alone above) got a little hot under the collar and I finally had to ask them to relax and calmly, though no less upset, to the woman to verify indeed United was just dropping us. I asked if she could at least take us to Lufthansa so that we would get some attention and if Lufthansa balked, she could deal with it, but she refused. It got uglier but I won’t go into it.
So off we went to the Lufthansa Star Alliance check-in counter. There we were stopped by a gentleman that seemed to think we needed to talk to United. Whatever it was I said, or more likely the look on my face when I said it, caused him to he check with someone at the counter who was willing to listen. This was our first stroke of luck. She was smart and willing to help. Wish I had gotten her name so I could have told her bosses but my mind wasn’t with it. She looked us up in the computer and apparently Lufthansa did not show us as being too late in to Frankfurt to make our connection. How 45 minutes late could possibly be construed as not ‘too late’ I do not understand. As a result of this she told us we had to go to the regular Lufthansa ticket counter and get new tickets (at no cost to us though). I asked when she thought we could get to the US. She looked and figured there was nothing on Lufthansa that day. After a second she said to wait and made another phone call. She bunched some buttons and then announced she had gotten us declared ‘late’ and rebooked us on the same United flight for the next day. Yeah Lufthansa lady!
Of course this meant my anniversary plans were ruined, See, unannounced to Patrick, I had made a reservation at a 5-star hotel in San Francisco for the rest of our 10th wedding anniversary (once we arrived). It was on Union Square and had a big marble bathtub. You know all the romantic junk. Patrick is the romantic in the family so I figured he would like it. But that was out now. Our Lufthansa lady said we were all booked and could get vouchers for a hotel and food over at the purchase tickets desk. We bee-lined there next and again were in luck. The smart and polite (not quite nice) lady didn’t question anything and gave us new tickets, plus vouchers for a hotel, lunch and dinner. She advised that we not pick up our luggage as it would take a while and we would have to check it all back in the next day. We concurred. As a result of this experience in the adventure, I have added clean underwear to my onboard bag. In this instance I was forced to buy new undies in the Airport (yes, you can!) the next morning before taking off.
Since I had rented a car to pick up at SFO later that day, I next went to the Hertz desk to see what I could do, before we took the shuttle to the hotel. This was not that much fun either. They couldn’t help me directly in the Hertz Gold office because it was a reservation for the US, but they rang the 1-800 number for me.
Unfortunately that didn’t do much good. The guy, who barely spoke English, tried to rebook my rental at twice my original rate. He said since I wasn’t picking up the car in the ‘weekend rental period’ I got a new rate. I told him to just hold the car and I would pay for the day I missed. He didn’t think this would work but put a ‘note’ in the computer saying I would be late. Yeah, right. When I lamented to the people in the Hertz Gold office they suggested we call SFO. I had asked the guy on the phone if I could do that and he said no. The people in the office said that was silly and they had a phone book with every Hertz office in the world. Anyhow, they called SFO and explained the situation. SFO said that reservations are held for 24-hours and then automatically canceled. Perfect! We should just make it.
Next we caught the shuttle to the hotel. It was like a 30 minute drive and didn’t end at Shangri-La but a converted US military barrack. Yep, we spent our 10th wedding anniversary in a converted US military barrack with really gross food and really annoying hotel people. First we had to fight for lunch (‘this voucher doesn’t say you get lunch and it is too late in the day to eat lunch’) (I won), fight for a cup of coffee after dinner (”yes the voucher says 80DM and dinner was only 40DM but you only get 2 drinks) (I won that too) and then sleep in separate beds (European hotel beds, what can I say).
We meet some really neat people though. Deb was in Germany with the US military having returned from preparing jets to fly missions to Afghanistan. She said the place we were staying had been the control center for ‘Desert Storm’. Julio (center) and Daniel (left) are from Venezuela and were in Germany for, get this, an HP reseller training. Looks like we will be going to Venezuela this summer instead of Mexico for our Spa hotel. Deb taught us all how to play Euchre and she and I beat Julio and Patrick swiftly. Patrick also got a recipe for Salsa from another US military guy that was there. It was a very friendly and happy night. Lots of US military happy to be going home for the holidays. Some were a bit loud but everyone was very nice and polite to us. The Americans at least. Went back to the room about 1 am and had somewhat boring sex. It was a little hard to get all worked up in converted military barracks. After an hour or so (of sleeping, what do you think we are animals?) it was too uncomfortable to remain in the small bed together and Patrick went back to his.
Up early, to the airport many hours in advance, had to stand in line to check in anyway. See you can get a boarding pass in the United Premier lounge but you can’t get past security, to the area where the lounge is, without a boarding pass so you have to get it in the main terminal. Brilliant, no? Since I am super special Premier exec we got to hang out in the lounge. I surfed and sent Mom a message with our status and tried to change my Hertz reservation but I couldn’t get into the site. When we got to the gate we asked if our luggage made it. The security woman said she had seen David’s yesterday and was sure it would get on but hadn’t see ours. Grrrr. She did say she would look for it so we hung around in the boarding area instead of getting on early (due to my special status). Ended up being a really good move. A few minutes later they called our name to go to the counter and they UPGRADED US! We got to fly BUSINESS class for free!
Patrick loved his dinner. I got to wear the little socks to keep my feet warm. The people were nice to us. It was so nice for those 11 hours. We tried to sleep but weren’t able to much (German English I assure you it is correct, or?) Once we arrived at SFO, about a hour late, I thought of rushing to the Hertz place but felt defeated. If my car wasn’t there I would take it up with the manager. We waited and waited for our luggage. I had started to think that the one with half my clothes hadn’t made it. Yes, I have 2 suitcases of clothes and half a suitcase of shoes. Pretty good actually. Usually I have an entire suitcase of shoes. It seemed like it was the last bag to come out, which was especially annoying since it had a ‘priority’ tag on it. But it was there and that was all that mattered. We lazily walked through customs, where, as usual, they said ‘Welcome Home’ once they stamped our passports. Didn’t get stopped at food inspection since all we had was chocolate. As luck would have it my rental car was still there, the man accepted my German drivers license and we were finally, one day late, on our way.
We decided to drive into Silicon Valley to deposit our ‘Dubya’ check at the HP Credit Union before he asked for it back. By then, with traffic and all, it was after 6. We stopped the Denny’s on El Camino for grilled cheese and had the same waitress, Monika, as in October when we did the same thing. She is from Poland and recommended going to Warsaw for Easter. So we are. Deciding we were too tired to drive 3 hours to Chico we hit the Holiday Inn Express down the street and for a mere $79 were asleep by 7:30 pm. Mom was proud we didn’t try and risk falling asleep at the wheel but told us to call her if we wouldn’t make it to Chico by noon on Saturday. Since we were pretty sure we would wake up at 4 am we told her not to sweat it.
And sure enough we were up, as in sproing, at 3:49 am PST. We packed up, got on the road, had McD’s at 6 in Vallejo and got to Chico by 8:30. We had coffee at Starbuck’s and then went to break the news about the facial piercing to Mom. She said it looked like a giant black head but was so wowed by my outfit it didn’t matter. And that is the story of how we arrived 2 1/2 days later than planned to the US for our 10th wedding anniversary and Christmas. An adventure to remember for sure.
So as a Christmas gift I cleaned all my Mom’s closets this week. I started with the linen closet, which is easy. It is even easier than usual since my Mom got a queen size mattress and only has 2 sets of sheets that fit. The full size sheets for the guest bedroom (her old bed) are all in a plastic tub in the guest room (previously Andy’s room and mine before that) closet. Tomorrow I plan to label the shelves so whomever is looking for whatever sheet or towel won’t have to pull one of each stack to find what they are looking for. This is my theory as to why my Mom’s linen closets gets so disastrous. Mom has lots of people that live with her for various periods of time so lots of people add and subtract from the linen closet.
Next I did the coat closet. This was simple as well. Bought some nice wooden hangers at Target (that fine French discount store) and replaced all the cheap ones. I took all the store bags laying on the floor and but them inside 2 larger bags, plus one for plastic bags and vacuumed up the dust-tyrannosauruses. Yes, my Mom had not just dust-bunnies, not simply dust-rhino’s but dust-tyrannosauruses. Got them all. My Mom has 5 beige (off-winter, winter white, whatever) blazers in that closet. When I called her at B&N to tell her this, she could not think of what they were. When she saw them she didn’t recognize at least one of them.
But this was all warm-up runs for the junk closet. Most families have junk drawers. We have a junk closet. It has old rotary phones and disc camera’s. Really old glue and VHF/UHF splitters. You get the idea. There were 6 rolls of packing tape and 2 packing tape guns. Anyhow, Christine helped me start the process by getting the first couple of shelves on to the floor of the hall. This was not a project to throw things out. Mom would have never let me start if that had been the goal. All I wanted to do was make order of it. I’m funny that way. In fact I have really loved the job and have even continued over my original scope! I’ve taken on the clothes closets. All 3 of them (see where I get it?). Anyhow, Christine and I made a trip to Target and picked up some plastic tubs to order things. I figure it is easier to pull out a plastic tub and vacuum than pick up 5 bags you got from various freebie events from the floor of the closet and vacuum. It’s a theory at least. Now everything is accessible and well marked.
There is only one ‘Stuff’ tub too. I am proud of myself. I am proud of Mom too. She let me donate her dot-matrix printer paper to recycling. I think I will give it to Christine’s class room. The first graders can use it as scratch and Christine can tell them stories of long, long ago in 1988 when printers took paper up by wheels and little holes in the paper. Hope it doesn’t give them nightmeres…
I straightened the closet in the spare/computer room this evening. That was simply a matter of exchanging some crappy hangers for some good ones and rearranging. With the various things on the floor of that closet it is necessary to arrange things by length some everything hangs properly. I also lined up all her purses. It was a little scared because she hardly has any. Like maybe 15 total. When I mentioned this to her she reassured me by saying she had given many away recently. I mean, I have more purses than that! I have to admit I was a little disappointed in this closet. Many, I mean the majority, of the clothing had dust lines where the clothing fell over the hanger. Eww.
I did discover a possible major score as well though. Sometime before we leave I will try on this cool black wool suit she bought in Piccadilly Circus in the early 60’s. It has a double breasted coat and sailor bib pants but it may work despite the nautical theme. My Mom thinks the whole cool fashionista thing is hereditary. She took my facial piercing much better considering I was wearing my Purple Mohair suit when we arrived at B&N. She said when she was in West Lafayette, IN at Purdue Univ. she often arrived on campus driving the Corvette, long gloves and big hat flowing. Imagine the poor boys in the science school having to sit next to her in lab! Smart and well dressed! Anyhow, inherited or not, it got me off the hook for the facial piercing. No one else has said anything. I think people are just use to me being different each time I arrive. Blah, blah, blah. Going to hit the hall closet (lots of suitcases) and the bedroom closet tomorrow and the next day. Mom is going to lose the hall closet when they remodel her bathroom (we are all sharing it since the guest bath does not exist right now). She will have to purge! My straightening up with help. I’m such a nice daughter.
Saw ‘Monsters, Inc.’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ this visit. Both excellent but for different reasons, of course. So I read some of the ‘Rings’ books when I was VERY young. Since the boys in elementary school wouldn’t let me play D&D but only sub when someone was out, I never got to into it. ‘Rings’ was just beautifully filmed and the acting was fabulous. Some of the scenes looked like a video game but it was still really cool. I don’t have a problem with video games. I look forward to the other films. ‘Monsters’ was super entertaining. Pixar does the most fantastic work. How great it must be to work somewhere super fun that does great work. Of course, don’t get me wrong, I love my job and my office. My bosses let me have all the fun I want, but I wish my coworkers liked to have the same type of fun as me. Back to the movie…the animation was great and the story was super cute. John Goodman and Billy Crystal were great as the voices. They matched the characters perfectly and worked really well together. Loved the ‘Toy Story’ cameos as usual. You all should see both. Trust me.
Poor Patrick has been…um…nudged off balance with the difference in cooking between here and Germany. Just today he said to me, ‘I feel unstructured. They aren’t my stores, it isn’t my stove’. I pointed out that the water and foods were different. There are a lot more preservatives here too. He is very proud of his ability to make food consistent and is disturbed by not being in control as much as usual. He is so cute.
A funny thing happened coming back from the gym last night. Patrick said a Patrick thing and I called him a homosexual like I always do. He pouted (how gay!) and my Mom made some comment. I then called first dibs on the shower (see shower situation above). Patrick then remarked that after we could all try his new mud mask. Then my Mom called him a homosexual. Have I mentioned that every woman really wants to be married to a homosexual? They are like having a best friend to do girlie fashion things with and someone to have sex with too (this was Mom’s theory originally). Anyhow, after my shower Patrick pulled out the mud mask and my Mom exclaimed…”You really have a mud mask? I thought you were kidding!” I think she then wondered for a moment. She doesn’t care either though. Patrick rocks.