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  • Dear Sharon,

    I’m learning to not look a gift horse in the mouth – but rather to feed it. Lots. After all, here is this life I’ve been given – and it’s a gold mine of stories and information.

    Take this morning – just typical unfortunately.

    The previous day – that would be yesterday actually – I made a last minute reservation to fly to Seattle. My adorable and incomparable dog child Mr. P died a few days earlier and I was beyond inconsolable. I needed to get away – on the cheap and as I had planned a road trip to go see my mother the day the light left my life, I decided to fly rather than drive.

    Online reservations are easy but in my state of mind a simple reservation took over an hour. I couldn’t decide anything – from the airline to the time to the rental car I was simply without brain function.

    Alaska had a cool service though, book flight and get a great rental car rate and choose your seat and they even had an early morning flight to get me away as soon as possible.

    Sold. Only problem was, it flew out of Oakland, which I wasn’t keen on, but what the heck – adventure, right?

    So I looked up the Oakland airport website, found a list of shuttle services and booked one. 6AM pickup. Good lord almighty.

    Especially as I had been away for the weekend and didn’t arrive home till after 9PM. No problem… had to write a list of plant care instructions for my girlfriends, wash a few things in the laundry room a long trek from my apartment, water all the plants and clean up a few messes left by my hasty leave taking of a few days earlier.

    Plus bad weather in Seattle necessitated a search for sweaters, rain jackets and socks not used in ages.

    So… was packed and fairly ready by… 2AM. Fine – OK… I thought no problem, 3 hours sleep, get up at 5, take shower be ready by 6 and I’m golden.

    Plan was working fairly well at 5:45AM when I get a call from the shuttle driver. His thick accent – Middle Eastern? – I couldn’t tell what - confused my not yet awake brain... he couldn’t find my building, was on my street and wanted me to go outside. Uh… no I said, struggling to put an earring in an ear that had decided to not be pierced. What is it with last minute dressing – never fails, one or both ears clam up.

    No I said emphatically to his second request for me to go outside. I’m not ready, you’re early and I will be out at 6.

    I herfered my bags down two flights of stairs, called the guy and directed him to my house. A battered van with press on letters proclaiming two or three shuttle service names on it pulled up along the steep hillside drive to my house. The driver leaped out – he had a long flowing white beard, a turban and looked older than my grandfather who died 15 years ago.

    He was barely able to get one bag into the back of the van as it was uphill into the cargo area.

    Get in. He said, waving to the other side of the van while he trudged up the hill to the drivers side. So I went to the other side of the van and opened the passenger door. Out rolled a gallon size plastic jug of water – careening down the hill in the dark, at 6AM I am chasing a gallon jug of water.

    The turbaned man opened his door and I trudged up the hill with the run-away water jug.

    No no, he says, waving me to the back. Get in the back door.

    Now, I am used to service, you know? Where the driver opens the door he wants you to go in… anyway, I manage to get the nearly rusted shut door open and the floor is covered in onions. Onions. Red onions to be exact. Slices of red onion. Everywhere.

    This is not going well.

    The floor is covered in onions I say. To which he reaches back, grabs a few slices in the tips of his fingers and tosses them out the window.

    I get in.

    Do you know how to get to the freeway from here? He asks.

    Now wait, I’m thinking, didn’t he just drive here from the freeway? Holy smokes.

    I do, I say, hoping I sound pleasant and competent on no sleep and no coffee. I can even get you to the airport if you need directions.

    No no, he says, I know where to go once I am on the freeway.

    He pulls away from the curb, and stops a block down the street, turns on the inside lights, pulls out his schedule book and looks at it.

    We are going to the airport? I ask.

    Yes yes he says in his sing song accent. But I have to make one call first.

    So there we are, in the middle of the street, while he uses his flip phone to call another driver, give him directions to pick up another client (but he can’t find the freeway from here, I muse and fume) and then we are off.

    The man is a terror on the road. He’s looking to create road kill, I’m certain. It’s still darkish and I’m slowly realizing that he can’t see well in the half light and his weaving is simply so his headlights can light up the lane markers.

    Plus, he’s talking on the phone – no hands free – as we’re weaving down the freeway in a rust bucket onion mobile at nearly rocket speed in what is now rush hour traffic.

    I remain quiet and sort of meditative. I mean, what can I do? My life is in this man’s hands and… we eventually make it to the airport.

    I lug my heavy suitcases across two lanes of traffic because shuttle service can only drop me off miles from my airline. Get to the check in counter to check my bags and announce I am there for the flight to Seattle.

    The ticket agent gives me a puzzled look.

    7AM flight?

    No I say, 8:15

    She flips through her screen, frowning.

    Perhaps you are on another airline?

    No… I say pulling out my confirmation. I hand it to her.

    Oh. She says. Here’s the problem: it’s an 8PM flight.

    Oh crap. No way.

    Too bad, she says. You just missed the 7 AM flight. But.. I can get you on the 9AM flight.

    She’s an angel. She does, and she helps me get the phone number so I can call and change my car pick up time.

    I get coffee and have the time to write all this to you. But good god almighty – I mean, I could have slept… I could have baked a cake. I could have had a real shuttle driver and missed that great story.

    Here's to gift horses.

    The photo is the view from my Mother's cottage on that trip to WA State.
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