we have nothing to fear but scariness itself

I’m kindof a chicken, and I know it.

I don’t like snakes, or bears, or goingveryfast down mountains, or, you know, hills, or riding bikes in traffic, or heights.

Heights is definitely the worst, though. It’s always been around, since those days of very long walks to the end of the high dive board when I was a kid in the Red Cross swimming lessons. The beginning of every summer my friend Angie & I would have to dare each other into the first jump, and then over and over again until we beat back the terror to manageable degrees.

Then, we agreed, we didn’t need to go off it again until next summer. I mean, why should we? It’s not like we were scared or anything.

Well, it’s been a long time since I saw a high dive, but it didn’t seem to be a problem to me until very recently.

I went to Busch Gardens with my friend Dante a few weeks ago and found a startling dearth of acceptable rides. Scary, scary, speedy roller coasters? Nope. Almost upside-down Viking ship? I think not. Swings? Are you insane? Those things are death traps! What’s holding you aloft? A couple of thin lampchains? Why don’t you just tape yourself to an airplane wing if you like those odds? Personally, I like the twisty upside-down kind of roller coasters without any big scary hill, but BG is short on these types of rides. DarKastle was the closest substitute and that was fun and all for a ride with a very problematic narrative once you start thinking about it (seriously: those magic sleighs don’t make any sense), but it wasn’t really a ride so much as a show. Otherwise, I was pretty much limited to the kids rides, and apparently I’m too tall or something for those (thanks a lot, BG employees).

We were told, however, that Apollo’s Chariot was “not too bad”, so I agreed to try it out. Only one little hill! I could do it, right? I was in!  I even meant it!…until it became clear that we had to ride in the 2nd car from the front…and I freaked. Just out and out freaked. I couldn’t make my legs step into the car. “Not happening, ” I said, finally. Dante rolled his eyes. “Okay. Going without you.” He did, and when he returned (alive, without visible injuries) assured me, between some mild mockery, that it was not bad at all.

Feeling justifiably ashamed, I agree to go on his favorite ride next, Le Scoot log flume. Now, it’s true the log flume has a drop at the end. But you’re not even buckled in. People don’t fall out of the log flume. People take babies on the log flume. This, I could handle.

Until we got to the boarding dock, and it became clear I had to ride in the front.

“I can’t ride in the front,” I gasp, in horror.

“Well, I’m not riding in front,” Dante says. “The person in front gets splashed and I just dried off from the wildwater raft ride.”

“I can’t ride in the front!” I shout.

“It’s the log flume!” he shouts back. “Nothing can possibly happen to you!”

He’s now in the back seat of the log and it’s starting to move. The teenaged BG worker is struggling to hold it still for me to climb in. I’m hovering on the edge of the dock, practically dancing around in panic.

“You can ride back here with me!” That’s Dante’s last-ditch offer.

“I can’t.” I say, desperately. The teenager swivels around to stare at me incredulously.

“You’re not going at all?” he says.

“I can’t.” I say. I can’t do it. Dante waves at me cheerily as it bobs around the corner out of sight.

The teenager is still staring at me. Who’s afraid of the log flume, is his expression.

That’s right. This girl.

So this is how I know it’s gotten a little out of hand recently, this fear of heights.

In retrospect, I guess jumping off that crazy high dive every summer was a good exercise; somehow knowing at age 8 that I couldn’t let my fear control me. If I can’t do heights, I can’t ride ski lifts, can’t climb ladders, can’t ride helicopters, can’t hike mountains and volcanoes. Can’t travel to far-off places on airplanes. And that’s the scariest thing I can think of.

Who wants to go to King’s Dominion with me??

(P.S. We’re still not going on those damn swings.)

(P.P.S. Okay. To be completely honest, I’m not committing to anything beyond the log flume.)

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apparently, i have some kind of bad airport karma.

It looks like this!

So I’m in Atlanta for the weekend and my departure flight is at 3:25 pm. I’m actually going to make it, too, despite departing later than I’d planned, driving an hour through Atlanta traffic, missing my exit, and having to double back to refill the tank of the rental car before turning it in. It was going to be close. But I feel confident! Punctual! as I pull into the garage, hand over keys and rented Garmin to the Dollar employee, grab my bags out of the back and point out the pair of black pants evidently left in the trunk by the previous renter (black pants on a black hanger against charcoal interior = no one saw them, including me, until I was unloading my bag at the hotel 2 days ago). Across the parking lot, up the escalator, onto the Skytrain, 2 stops to the Terminal, up the escalator, down the hall, across the crosswalk, down the escalator, to the Delta counters, merrily I go. I just need my confirmation code to check into the kiosk. My confirmation code is in my phone.

 Where the hell is my phone.

 10 minutes of increasingly panicky searching later, including finally dumping my entire bag out into a chair, I face facts. It’s in the rental car. Goddammit.

 Am I going to miss my flight? What time is it? Where’s my phone?

Oh, right. Goddammit!

 I stand for a minute, actually weighing the two: my flight…my phone. Would they mail it to me? Yes. No! What am I saying? I need my phone.

 Up the escalator, across the crosswalk, down the hall, down the escalator to the Skytrain, 2 stops to the parking garage, down the escalator, across the parking lot. The Dollar checker-in remembers me. She also remembers that someone else drove off my car to the lot to be cleaned 5 minutes ago. “Over there,” she points, to the next parking lot over.

 Across the parking lot. Another Dollar employee in a neon green vest greets me. I explain the problem, and he’s willing to help.

“What kind of car is it?” he asked. “A red Chevy,” I answer.

“A red Chevy what?”

I stare at him.  Man, I don’t know. I don’t know cars. I’ve known Other Half and his car for over 6 years now and shared ownership for 3 and still, when asked “What kind of car do you have?” am forced to answer, “A green one”, because that’s all I usually remember. When pressed, while I will seldom come up with “Volkswagen” and certainly not “Passat”, I can usually add (super helpfully, in my opinion), “I think it’s German.”

 Personally, I thought it was pretty freaking amazing I came up with “Chevy”. Also, it’s red. Did I mention that it’s red?

And like this!

 “Like this?” he asks, pointing to a small red sedan. “Yes!” I exclaim. Could it be this easy? I open the door, dig around and under the front passenger seat. No phone. I shut the door and doubt. Is this the right car? Frankly, my dear, I don’t have any damn idea. I don’t know what my rental car looks like without my stuff in it. It had a red exterior and a grey interior. We only spent 2 days together getting from points A to B and back to A. We don’t have much of a relationship.

“There’s one!” Vest Guy says, pointing two rows over. Aha! I scrabble about the floor. No. No phone.

 “Up here?” A third red Chevrolet, several cars up.  Wait a minute. I stop and survey the sea of cars. There must be at least 15 identical red Chevys dotting the parking lot.

 Awesome. I am definitely missing my flight.

 Halfway through the lot we find my phone on the floor of a car which may or may not still have a pair of black pants in the trunk. I thank Vest Guy profusely and trek back to the terminal to arrange a new flight to DC, since mine is currently preparing to taxi the runway. I am lucky, in the sense that there are practically hourly flights from Atlanta to DC, so I am not stranded for an extra night. For a mere $50 change fee (!!) I am booked on the 4:15 to National Airport, arriving only an hour later than planned. Other Half is glad not to have to drive to Dulles, located in the western Godforsaken Hinterlands, which is much further from our house. As far as I know, I arrived home with all my pants. No animatronic animals were involved in my delay. So I guess it could’ve been worse.

 

Also: like this!

I think I’m going to start driving more often.

why, what are you using your conscience for?

Just like this. I tell you, they were real.

It’s a 12 hour flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco, my entry point to the U.S. this time around, and it’s time for the Ambien question. Specifically, if I want to risk it again after last year’s minor episode.

“Is this going to end badly, IB?”

Nope, silence. He has no opinion preemptively. Could go either way.

I have a voice in my head. Some might say it’s my Conscience, or Common Sense, but I call him Internal Bartender, because his main job, at least for a certain portion of my adult life, has been to intervene when I’m drinking. He always knows when it’s time to cut me off, and warns me when I’m approaching the next level. “You ought to be considering some water at this point,” he might remark, conversationally, “before embarking on your third mojito, if you still plan on walking home.” He’s a good sort, Internal Bartender; doesn’t judge or nag much, so I pay attention when he gets all snotty, like, “Bitch, what did I just say? UnHAND that jello shot.”

(Hmm. I never thought about this before, but IB sounds just like Samuel L. Jackson.)

I’d always been a little worried about taking something on flights because I wasn’t sure if I would react well with it. But I don’t sleep well on planes, if at all, and it always makes the first few days of vacation a grim experience as I try to recover from the combination of lack of sleep + jet lag. The last straw was a flight to Norway, when I was somehow moved to a middle seat in the last row of the plane (these seats do not recline, it turns out) and stayed up all night talking and playing trivia with my two other seatmates (admittedly very cool people, with an admirable range of knowledge about geography and European pop culture) and then spent the next 10 days struggling to catch up on my REM by falling asleep on every flat surface I could find. I didn’t actually get back on a normal pattern until 2 weeks after I’d returned to the U.S. After that, I took the prescription from the travel doctor the next time she suggested it, and now I adore the fact that I can count on a solid 6-8 hours of sleep on long flights.

I’d never had any trouble! Until the last time – also a double-digit-hour long trip home from Asia. I pulled out the bottle and asked the flight attendant for water, then stood confusedly in the aisle. I realized I’d failed to pay adequate attention to my travel doctor’s instructions, and now couldn’t remember if I was to take one or two at a time. IB had no recollection either (as I said, he’s not good with preemptive advice), so I decided to start with one and add another if it didn’t seem to be working.

Well, this turned out to be a wise decision overall, because the other item suffering from my inattention was the fact that I had accidentally brought the old bottle of expired meds from a previous trip instead of the recently filled prescription. 15 minutes after swallowing it down I began admiring the very nice pink and yellow plaid taffeta curtains American Airlines had recently installed along the walls of the cabin – as recently as the last 15 minutes, perhaps, since I did not remember it before. So pretty! What a good choice! Coincidentally, I happened to look down and see fluffy white bunnies hopping along the floorboards, heading up toward the cockpit. “Fluffy bunnies!” I squealed in my head, reaching down to pet them.

Internal Bartender screeched like I’ve never heard him. “JESUS CHRIST, Angela, you are on a plane! THERE ARE NO &;@*!# BUNNIES HERE.”

I scowled. There are clearly bunnies here. So cute, fluffy bunny rabbits. Look! I turned to my left to alert my seatmate.

“NO!! Shut the HELL up, do NOT SPEAK TO ANYONE. Do NOT pet the bunnies, do NOT speak to anyone. You GO TO SLEEP now.”

I was dimly aware he might be on to something…though I was dead certain about the bunnies.

On the other hand, IB has never been wrong about the jello shots.

I said nothing to my seatmate and tried to get comfortable, making the mistake of attempting to slightly adjust the pretty, pretty curtains first so I didn’t crush them with my neck pillow. “WHAT the &*@% DID I JUST SAY?! You BEST be asleep, forthwith.”

I did go to sleep, forthwith, and when I woke up several hours later I felt both amazing and grateful that IB had prevented me from telling anyone about the bunnies at the time (though, naturally, I felt compelled to tell everyone I knew about them later).

Now it’s six months later, on another flight from Asia, and I have the bottle in my hand. Risk it? I check the date. No, I got the right bottle this time. Surely it was an expiration issue. I take…one.

travel day: hotel housekeeping

Over the years our family has grown to the extent that the family homestead no longer sleeps us all, so during the holidays Other Half and I stayed in a nearby hotel. It turns out one of the many, many things that Other Half and I are not good at is coming up with the right thing to say when Housekeeping knocks on the door when we’re still asleep and aren’t going to be getting up any time soon. (Can I just say, first of all: housekeeping really should not come by at 9 am. That is too early. I really don’t think I’m wrong in that.)

Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
Wha-? Other Half and I look around in bleary confusion.
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
“Uh- we don’t need anything! Is it ok if you come back –“
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
(Ok, that explanation was too involved.)
“We’re okay! We might just need some towels later or –“
(Too late! Door is being unlocked, hitting deadbolt.)
“Come back later?”
(Door slams. Wheels creaking to the next room.)
“Ok, then.”
“That was successful”, Other Half grunts.
“You know what, you think of something by tomorrow, then.”
“Fine, I will.”

So by the next morning you’d think we’d have thought of something.
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
But no.
We snort awake and look at each other. What? Already?
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
“Go away!” Other Half shouts.
“Don’t say that! So rude!” I hiss at him.
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
(I guess they didn’t hear him anyway.)
(Door unlocks, smacks deadbolt.)

“No!” Other Half shouts.
“We’re okay! We’re okay!” I shout in panic.
(Door slams. Wheels creaking.)
“You can’t say ‘go away’”, I tell Other Half.
“Well, start remembering to put out that Do Not Disturb sign at night, I can’t think of anything when I’m half-asleep.”
“Fine, I will.”

So by the next morning you’d think we’d have remembered to put out the  Do Not Disturb sign.
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
But no.
We both sit up in bed.
Bangbangbang. “Housekeeping!”
“Uh…we’re busy!” Other Half calls.
(What? I stare at him in disbelief and horror. We’re busy?)
“No we’re not!” I feel compelled to add.
“Housekeeping?” (Uncertain. Crap. Now I have to get up and answer the door.)
“We’re not busy,” I assure her as I open the door. “We just sleep late! That’s all! Late sleepers, that’s us, haha!” (Can I just reiterate: it’s 9 am. We don’t have children, ok?)
She stares at me. I look down at myself to make sure my pajamas are buttoned.
“Do you need anything?”
“Towels!” I say. It’s been 3 days, it would look weird if we didn’t need towels, at this point.
“Shampoo? Soap?”
“Sure!” What the hell, ok.
“Anything else?”
“Nope! We’re good! Just sleeping late, and now we’re going to get up! We’re good! Thanks!”
(Why is she looking at me like that?)

“I think we have to have a planned response,” I tell him. “Because you are clearly not good at improvising.”
“I still don’t see what was wrong with ‘Go away’,” he says.
“No. You clearly can’t say ‘go away’! How about ‘Come back later, thanks!’ I think that sorta worked.”
“Yeah, okay.”

We have a plan.
So we’re finally prepared by the next morning!

And then, naturally, they never come by at all. And then we check out.

So I guess the next time we stay at a hotel, with housekeeping that comes by at 9 am, and we forget to put out the Do Not Disturb sign just in case, and we remember we’ve had this conversation…we’re all set.

travel day: naked in stockholm

 As we undress in the locker room in the Stockholm spa, my sister and I have to have that conversation that you always have when getting a massage at a new spa, though usually only with yourself, titled: am I supposed to take off my underwear, or not? On the one hand, you don’t want to be told halfway through that your bra is in the way and you were supposed to take it off. On the other, you definitely don’t want to be the OMG! creepy person who took off her underwear totally unnecessarily! So unless you’ve asked ahead of time, and we haven’t, you have to make your own call.

Amanda and I each make our own decision and head to the massage rooms in our fluffy white bathrobes. We are all smiley as we enter what we assume is the lounge area, and then stop short. So many things are wrong here. So many.

Our massage tables are in the same room. They are right out in the open. Our masseuses are men. And worst of all, absolute worst of all, the masseurs wave hello, point to our robes, and order, “Ok, off.”

Listen. In the U.S., we have a naked thing. We just do. I know this seems completely silly, but Naked in Front of Strangers, or Maybe Even People We Know, is a truly horrifying proposition for most of us. Everyone knows about that girl who walks around totally naked in the locker room at the gym, and we think she is weird. (If you are that girl, please take a note: everyone would like you to put on a towel, especially if you are hot, because now you make us uncomfortable plus we hate you.) There is a Korean spa in the DC suburbs that my friends are all dying to visit, but won’t, because in one small part of the spa you have to walk around naked.  Of all the women I know in DC, I cannot get a single one to go because of the naked thing. “Can’t I wear a bathing suit?” every single one asks me. “No? Well, I’m not going.”

When you get a massage, many spas seem to go insanely out of their way not to see you naked. The tables are in their own individual rooms. You walk in wearing your bathrobe. The masseuse (which has always been a woman, in my personal experience, but I suppose it’s possible that is not always the case) tells you she will leave the room and you will hang up your bathrobe and slip under the sheets on the massage table, and then call her when it’s safe to come back in. That’s right: she waits until you have uncovered and then recovered yourself completely before she will enter the room. Then she will uncover, and then recover, each body part, separately, as she conducts the massage, so you don’t even have, say, one naked arm AND one naked leg exposed at the same time. That’s how anti-naked we are.

“Off, off!” the Swedish masseurs shout. We just stare at them. The masseurs, now assuming from our complete failure to respond means we don’t speak English either, both move forward and start untying our robes themselves.

Faced with imminent unwilling disrobal, Amanda makes a bold decision. She will go Nonchalant. Flinging off her robe herself, she strolls the table and climbs on without hurry. “We are in Europe, dammit”, she sends to me telepathically. “Act like we do this all the time.”

Unfortunately, my sensors are blocked and I stay with Frozen in Panic, which means my masseur has to literally rip the robe off of my catatonic body, nearly wrenching my right arm out of its socket because I can’t remember how to bend it. When finally successful, he cavalierly flings the robe across the room. “On!” he says, pointing to the table. This time I follow directions, if only to cover up one side of myself.  It seems to take 10 minutes, though surely it was only as many seconds, to be covered in a sheet.

By then, however, Amanda and I have both began giggling hysterically into our pillows.

“Quiet, please,” Amanda’s masseur tells her sternly. She tries. So do I. But being hushed just made it worse, and the more we try to muffle it the worse it gets, until we are both literally shaking the tables.

“We want to be calm, yes?” My masseur asks me.

“Yes,” I gasp out. Must. Stop. Giggling. Must stop!

It’s a solid ten minutes before we get ourselves under control, and even when we leave we can tell by the icy silence that the masseurs are not pleased with our bad behavior.

Not European. Not Nonchalant.

Some people really should have a naked thing.

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