Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Sleeping with Strangers and Other Travel Tales

Between business and family, one thing and another, I was away for about half of the month of June,  and part of May, more travel than I sometimes do in an entire year.  Zip!  Zoom!  Washington, San Francisco, the woods, Washington, LA, the woods, Baltimore, San Diego, NY.  Trains, planes, and automobiles.  I’ve caught up on the newspapers and some magazines, but still have about 3 months of New Yorkers to sort through.  So I missed most of the state budget fiasco and need to read up on state and local political goings on.

A few travel notes:

Sleeping with strangers
No one actually snoozed on my shoulder but on two long flights I was sharing a three person row with two men, both times the men knew each other.  Everyone napped but stayed within the confines of their seat space.   One of the men ordered red wine, which he then spilled all over.  None splashed on me but the whole row smelled like a winery.  The train trips were relatively uneventful, though someone did fall asleep on my shoulder but only for a short time.

In May I bought a Kindle, thinking it would be a good reading venue for traveling.  It is a great way to carry multiple books without the extra bulk.  It has worked out well.  As a luxury I did pack a paper copy of Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden; for some reason it seemed too long to read as an e-book.  That doesn’t make sense but for me a longer book is easier to read when I can actually touch and hold it.  Shorter books, though, we great to read on the Kindle.  It’s also a good reading tool for the train, but it's important to get to get a seat with an outlet nearby.

Watching Children
On one family trip we were walking back to our hotel and went through a public area, shopping and restaurants with a central fountain, with stairs down to the sidewalk below.  As we neared the stairs three small children ran up and headed for the fountain.  There were two boys and a girl, the oldest perhaps 6.  They either found or brought with them a bag of foodstuffs, chips and soda.  They rooted through it, kicked off their shoes and were slashing in the fountain.  No supervising adult in sight.  We’ve run into situations like this before so my family walked on and I found a light pole to lean against nonchalantly, hands in pockets, admiring the blue sky.  The closest restaurant had a glass wall facing the fountain.  I scanned the diners to see if anyone was watching the kids.  A few people looked up at them but then went back to their food.  There was no one else around.  The kids ran around, sometimes in a group, sometimes scattered.  At any time I could have grabbed one and taken off.  So could anyone else.  After five minutes my light pole stance was becoming conspicuous so I found a seat on a stone wall a few feet further back, in the shade.  I did stuff on my phone, one eye on the three kids, trying to keep watch without alarming them.  Ten minutes.  No sign of anyone.   The kids rummage through the food bag again.  The girl seems to have lost her shoes.  They are thin but not unhealthily so.  Maybe they are street kids without a parent at all.  How long does one wait before calling the cops?  Is someone else keeping an eye on things going to call and report me as a suspicious person?  Close to 15 minutes after I noticed the kids a woman comes out of a store and they run towards her.   I get up and walk away, resisting the temptation to go tell the mother she needs to keep a better watch on her children.  My family is waiting for me a couple of blocks away and ask if a parent ever showed up.  My heart is in my throat.  So very many things could have gone wrong and only a few days before I had read a news story about a girl who was taken from a store and murdered.  That could easily have happened in this case, too.

Similar scenes play out in our local train stations.  I or other people notice kids who seem to be wandering on their own and stand guard until a parent shows up.  One day while Mom was paying for something in a store opening onto the concourse a little girl came out and started trying to poke something into an electrical outlet on a column.  “Oh, Honey, I don’t think you should do that,” I said, stepping just into her comfort zone so she stepped back, and glared at me until her mom came out.  Another time I noticed a little boy wandering on his own and walked on slowly, keeping an eye on him. The man walking behind me was nearly stepping on my heels.  I apologized for being slow and said I was just trying to see if someone was with the boy.  “Well,” he said anxiously, “is there?”  He had noticed, too, but didn’t think he could keep watch.  It’s true, in today’s world, men cannot stop and watch unattended children without being viewed with suspicion.  I’ve noticed other women doing the same thing, stopping to watch a child until parent or grandparent locates them. 

Parents, please keep track of your children.  It’s too stressful on the rest of us to see them wandering around alone.

The Sweetest Smelling Cab in the World
Mr. Abebe (cab # 75786) of Patriot Cabs in Washington, DC has the sweetest smelling cab in the world.  Honest.  When I mentioned it he said other riders had commented on it as well.  I don’t know what air freshener he uses but it was a refreshing change from a smelly transit train.

Out of all the hotels I stayed in while traveling this was my favorite.  It’s in San Diego, near the zoo.  The room was spacious and had a kitchenette.   There is a complimentary breakfast, simple but filling, and a coin operated laundry in the lower level.  In addition to the hotel restaurant there is a Mexican restaurant across the street, and a 7-11 on the corner.  I loved it.

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