Friday, February 26, 2010

What a Short Strange Trip It's Been, Cont.

The flight into Denver was uneventful. I sat with a woman who I befriended, and we chatted the whole way as if this little side trip was all part of the plan. I got off the flight, headed to baggage claim and went right to customer service. I wasn't going to fool around. After talking to several people in customer service, including a baggage handler, I was told that my luggage was headed to Hayden, but they could intercept it and get it for me. Excellent, I thought.

But the day didn't want to run smoothly up to that point, what made me think it was over? The baggage handler came back up to the office with a worried look on his face. "Your luggage is already in Hayden," he said. At this point I had heard everything. But I was beyond defeated, I was just tired.

I called the hotel where I had arranged to stay through the airline's suggestion. The girl at the hotel told me that I needed to "Go out door 511 and wait on Island 3." I followed her directions and stood on island three. An island in the middle of a snowstorm, that is. The weather was unseasonably cold that night. Of course, why wouldn't it be? I got to experience just how cold it was, because I stood out there for TWO hours. I called the hotel about every half hour to inquire about a shuttle, and the lady at the hotel kept reassuring me that the van was coming, or going and coming back, or whatever. I had faith that I would eventually get there. When my faith ran out, I asked one of the other hotel vans if they had any vacancies. The kind kid driving the van called over and found a place. I was able to rest my cold and weary bones for about 4 hours before I had to get up in the morning and go back to the airport.

I was somewhat refreshed in the morning and was convinced that it was a new day. I got to the airport easy enough, went through a short security line, and made my way to the gate. The woman I befriended the day before joined me in the gate area, and chatted with me as we waited for the flight to board. "They didn't charge you for the room last night, right?" I looked at her like she was crazy. She went on to tell me that they didn't charge her for the room, that it was on the airline. I thought back to when the agent gave us the hotel information and swore she said, "This isn't for a free room, this is for a discounted room, usually about $50."

The flight to Hayden was uneventful except for the additional hour we needed to circle the airport to wait for conditions to improve. We did finally land and I thought my luck had turned around, finally. I walked confidently up to baggage claim customer service and asked for my bag that had been delivered the night before. The woman looked confused when I told her my situation. I had seen that confused look before. Something was not right. Again. She clicked the keys on her computer and stared at the screen, prolonging the bad news she was about to tell me. "Your bag is still in Salt Lake City. It will be delivered this afternoon."

Okay, I thought, I am in Hayden. I am on my way to see Chris and Patty. I will be able to sleep in a nice bed tonight wearing my own pajamas. I will be able to take a shower using all of my own toiletries.

As if I thought that was going to happen. I should've known. I talked to the airline that evening when I still didn't have my bag. The man on the other end of the line told me that I would have my bags that night. I repeated this back to him just to make sure. He simply said, "Yes."

I went to bed early that night, and actually got up in the middle of the night to see if the airline had delivered my bag while I was sleeping. No dice.

In the morning I called the airline back. The man on the other end told me that my bags were in Atlanta. "Atlanta?" I asked him. "I haven't even been to Atlanta!" He gave me some sort of far-fetched explanation and told me that I would have my bag that evening. I've heard this before, I thought.

In the meantime, he told me that I could shop for toiletries and clothes that I needed and I would be reimbursed by the airline. I also had a voucher for one of the local ski shops that rents ski pants, gloves, etc. for people who lose their luggage. Off to Wal-Mart I went to get the under clothes I needed, and then off to the ski shop to get the outwear. Then on to our lesson.

As we were enjoying some apres ski that afternoon, the call came in that my luggage was being delivered. That night, I almost couldn't believe my eyes when the luggage was in our condo.

I was able to enjoy two days of skiing (as opposed to the 3 I had planned on), and was able to breathe some fresh mountain air. But in reality, the trip felt more like work for most of the time than vacation. I was constantly thinking about what I had to do to get my luggage, or replace my luggage, or change gears when a wrench was thrown my way. Don't get me wrong, I had a good time when I was there, but I just felt rushed. Not my ideal way to spend a vacation.

What a short, strange trip it was.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What a Short, Strange Trip It's Been

I went to Steamboat and all I got was lousy luck.

I'm back. I'm sure a lot of you know what happened to me via Facebook, but I'm sure (or not so sure) you want some of the details.

Chris and I had been talking about going on this trip since last year when we went skiing in Utah. We were bit by the ski bug and wanted to go again. We considered different places, weighed our options, and finally decided on Steamboat. The trip was planned back in December and morphed into a girls' trip including our friend Patty. As it got closer, I got more and more excited. The mountains. The crisp, fresh air. The sound of skis on snow. The relaxed atmosphere of the apres ski scene.

I woke up Saturday morning, my head filled with a list of things that I needed to throw into my suitcase at the last minute. I was excited. I love traveling, especially when it's for vacation. I was ready.

My flight to Minneapolis was uneventful, aside from the weird guy sitting next to me mumbling numbers to himself (and me) while trying to complete a Sudoku puzzle. I got off the plane and was looking at the board of departures for my flight to Steamboat. Chris called on my cell phone to tell me that she and Patty were possibly going to be diverted on their flight to Steamboat, but wouldn't know until they were in the air. I kept talking to her as I walked to the gate for my next flight. I didn't think that this issue pertained to me. I had visions of Chris and Patty somewhere stranded, and me sitting in our condo catching up on the Olympics. What I didn't realize at the time was that I was going to be the one stranded.

While on the flight to Steamboat, the pilot came on the intercom and told us that there was a chance that we were going to be diverted. Flying into Hayden (Steamboat) is a tricky thing, especially for bigger airplanes. Hayden is a small airport in a valley, with short runways. In short, the stars need to be aligned in order to land. As we were approaching the time that our flight was supposed to land, the pilot came back on and said that we were going to circle the airport for about 15 minutes to see if the wind and visibility conditions would improve. After 15 minutes, they didn't improve, so we were on our way to Salt Lake City.

I still didn't think anything of it. I thought, well, we need to land to refuel, and then we'll just go back to Hayden and try again. No problem, right? Um, wrong. As with any kind of issue with flights, the news was infrequent and confusing. First, the pilot didn't know what we were going to do. We needed to stay on the plane. Then, he said we were probably heading back to Minneapolis so no one could get their luggage if they decided to get off the plane and stay in Salt Lake City. About a minute after that, he said that they were going to get luggage off if people wanted to stay in Salt Lake City.

The people around me were in a frenzy. People were on cell phones talking to the airline, some groups were talking about renting cars and driving the 7+ hours it would take to get there, and still others (including me) were sitting there in a daze just trying to figure out what just happened.

In all of my years of business travel, I had never been diverted. Since the corporate headquarters were outside Denver, I had to travel to Colorado 3-4 times a year in addition to my weekly travel to other places. Again, I had never been diverted. I think that's why I was stuck in a daze. I wasn't used to it like I was used to other travel woes. Many hours delayed? No problem, I have time. Circling airports for hours? Piece of cake. Technical issues? I have a book to read, no worries.

I finally got off the plane when they were offering food vouchers (hey, food speaks to me). They still didn't know what they were going to do, but said that we should stay around the gate and wait for updates. In the meantime, I was boo-hooing to Stein on the phone, and he sprang into travel agent action. He had our home phone and cell phone going, while he tried to get answers and possibly book a ticket or get a hotel room for me. Chris and Patty had landed just fine in Hayden, and were en route to our condo. I was SO jealous.

I got some food and settled onto the floor of the boarding area where I plugged in my phone and waited for news. It seemed that the plan was that the plane was going back to Minneapolis, and people were being re-ticketed to do so. I was about to go over to be re-ticketed, when Stein called me and told me that I didn't want to go back to Minneapolis. He talked to an airline agent, and she told him that they couldn't guarantee that I would have a seat on the plane to Hayden the next morning.

I made my way over to the counter where the agents were frantically trying to get people re-booked on flights that would get them to Steamboat the next day. I heard some people were going to Atlanta. I heard some others were booked on a flight the next day out of Salt Lake City (which was eventually sold out). And a lot of the people were going back to Minneapolis to try the whole thing over the next day. At one point, someone asked the agent if she should get on the plane to go back to Minneapolis. The look on his face said it all, and I knew what I would be doing. Well, I knew what I wasn't going to be doing.

The agents were wonderful. I guess waiting to go up to the counter served me well. I was booked on a flight to Denver that night, with a flight from Denver to Hayden booked for the next morning. My luggage was re-routed to Denver, so I could just pick it up there when I got it that night. I was given more food vouchers and also a discounted hotel voucher. I was doing okay. Everything seemed okay as I took my flight to Denver and landed in the state (geographically) that I needed to be in.

To be continued...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Color in a Sea of Blah

We have a snow day today, but I think I'm too excited to sleep. I can't tell you how much I wanted this snow day. Sure, the gig is going well, but I am loving this break. Right smack dab in the middle of the week helps too. I have visions of a lot of stuff getting done today, or nothing at all. Ah, the luxury of a snow day.

Before the snow hit us yesterday and today, it was starting to get really blah outside. You all know how much I loathe winter, and part of the reason is the way winter looks. The browns and greys really mess with me. And the lack of sun doesn't help either. So it's times like these that I welcome color. Any color. Wherever I can find it.

The theme this week seems to be red. And not because it's almost Valentine's Day. It's been mostly coincidental that red is the color. Don't get me wrong, I like Valentine's Day in a school kid, candy heart and chocolate kind of way. But Stein and I don't get all mushy over the day.

The first punch of red was a complete surprise and such a thoughtful gift. Jane and Shark sent me this gift of Honey Crisp (I heart Honey Crisp) apples and raspberry preserves. It was a gift to congratulate me on my new gig. Thanks again, Shark and Jane! (Notice two of them were gone already when I took this picture a couple days ago.)

The other punch of red came in the form of tulips. I know I may be rushing the tuilp season, but they really brightened my day and our house. Just a bit of color and seeing live things makes me hopeful for spring.

And the third punch of red I didn't get a chance to capture on film. Yesterday as Stein and I were leaving for work, I looked over to the bare bush between our house and our neighbor's. There, perched like he was on display, was a cardinal. Another sight that makes me hopeful for spring.

Spring is coming, right?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Overwhelmed by Support

I am still waiting for the other shoe to drop with this now two-week old gig of mine. I figure that we're probably past the honeymoon period of getting to know each other. Frankly, it doesn't feel any different. I hesitate to say that I love going to work every day.

There are so many moments throughout the day that I think, "This is what teaching is about. This is why I changed careers." Moments like a low buzz heard around the room as table groups work together to figure out how to make quadrilaterals out of straws and twist ties (I don't remember learning the word quadrilateral until I was in high school. These kids are 3rd graders). Moments like receiving moans from the group when I break the news that I have to stop the read-aloud at the chapter's end. Moments like kids feeling safe enough to tell me things about their lives outside of school.

In the midst of trying to get caught up with currciulum that was not entirely in place before I arrived, I have received an overwhelming amount of support from parents, another third grade teacher, and the principal. Out of these, it's the parental support that has me in a bit of a tizzy.

There's two sides to this feeling. There's the side that in all of the previous teaching roles I've had, I have never had parental support. In fact, it was hard to even get a parent to call me back. That is, if their phone wasn't disconnected and I couldn't get through at all. And having parents to volunteer for things? Unheard of. Most, if not all of the parents, worked during the day, and if they didn't work, they had kids at home to take care of. I almost became used to this way of dealing with parents, almost thought that it was the norm.

And then there's my own neuroses. You see, I get a little nervous when I meet parents. Anyone's parents. I know you're thinking. I'm crazy. Don't worry, I know I'm crazy. I mean, who, in their thirty-something year of life is afraid to meet parents? Yep, that's me. When I was in my twenty-something year of life, I met Stein's parents for the first time. I almost made myself sick, I was so nervous. Sure, it was the girlfriend meeting the boyfriend's parents for the first time nervousness, but to me the scarier fact was that they were... gulp. parents. It didn't help that Shark, Stein's roommate at the time, made the wait before they arrived excruciatingly uncomfortable by making up stories about his parents and how mean they were.

Fast forward to my new gig. I get daily emails or visits from parents. Some inquiring about their little cherubs, some volunteering to help out with upcoming events, some stopping in to read with kids, do science presentations, or just introduce themselves. Given my experience with non-existent parental support, and my uneasy demeanor with parents in general, I have found this part of the job to be the most overwhelming and most difficult in accepting. I understand that it's silly. Again, I know that I'm crazy.

I have to say, that as difficult as it is or how overwhelming it may be to accept, it is so refreshing to have the support.

Monday, February 1, 2010

In Awe on a Field Trip

When I started this gig almost 2 weeks ago, the other 3rd grade teacher filled me in on the field trips that we would be going on. I was torn between feeling a sense of relief of not having to plan lessons on the days that we had the trips, to the dread of not knowing what the little cherubs would do when they were out in public. You see, for kids, field trips are viewed as free-for-alls. They're out of the building, under limited supervision, and feel like they can act like they never knew about manners. So for teachers, field trips can be a nightmare.

Today's trip was more like a dream for me. First of all, the kids acted appropriately. There wasn't a lot of screaming and singing on the bus, which was good. And getting into the theatre didn't require any refereeing on my part. Everyone acted like they knew about manners.

Secondly, the performers who we want to see were incredible. You may know them from Paul Simon's album, Graceland. They're the South African singers on most of the songs on the album. This one is particularly famous. Their name is Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and they're amazing. The sounds that come out of their mouths are deep, rich, and from the heart.

I remember when I was a freshman in high school, taking the city bus to and from school and walking to and from the bus stop could take me 45 minutes each way. My walkman became my best friend. I listened to tape after tape in that thing, replacing batteries left and right. One tape stayed in my walkman for weeks and months. Graceland. I wondered about those singers, those voices so foreign to me. I tried to imagine what they looked like, how Paul Simon figured out how to capture their sound and weave it magically with his.

And now, some 20-something years later, I am seeing these singers live. It was pretty awesome.

The kids liked it too. The group did enough audience participation and dancing to keep the entire theatre enthralled. It wasn't until about 10 minutes before they were done that the kids started getting antsy. I was getting that way too.

We're lucky to live where we live, close enough to a university to take advantage of its wonderful cultural events. I was lucky to get to see people that have been singing to me from a distance for years.