I‘m in an airplane right now. I’m actually writing this out by hand with the intention of typing it later. It’s been a long time since I’ve written much of anything by hand, save a few jots here and there. I used to write out all my papers by hand when I was in college, which was no small feat when you realize I usually didn’t start my papers until the day before they were due (I always got A’s and B’s on my papers, so I was never discouraged from this bad, bad habit). Right now my writing is sloppy from under use; or maybe it’s because I just woke up from a fitful nap.
There is a family sitting in the row in front of me. The parents have three children, and right now they are all running wild. I finally stopped trying to sleep after I realized I’d turned my iPod’s volume up to the point of distortion trying to drown out the sounds of the littlest one’s screams. You know the kind – a two-or-so-year-old’s gleeful shrieks. Cute on the playground…not so much in economy on United Airlines. Just now the little one started popping up over the seat in front of me, making a loud peek-a-boo noise. I gave the parents a look like, HELLO, but they are totally engrossed in the movie, the one where Jesus plays golf. I don’t understand parents who let their children behave so poorly! My mom would have killed my brother and me if we even tried to unbuckle our seat belts. The littlest one just did it again, and this time I shushed him. The middle child said, “Sorry lady.” Ouch! I’m a lady to these kids! It’s funny to realize that, especially since the woman sitting next to me is most definitely A Lady.
Across the aisle from her is A Talker, and she recognized The Lady from the Convention. They are both dressed very nicely, not in suits but in that style that says, “I am affluent, I am smart, and I am political.” I hate sitting next to people who wear heels and chandelier earrings for plane rides because they look so silly. The Lady is so put together that I suddenly feel as silly as those overdressed girls, and I am wearing too-big jeans, a Gap boat neck, and a zip-up hoodie. Why didn’t I brush my hair? I must look so frumpy. At least I’m comfortable.
I talked a bit about the convention previously, but I didn’t really get into any specifics. That’s mostly because, I wasn’t very affected by the whole thing. My apartment is uptown, and by my midtown office the only signs of the convention were the emergency lanes and traffic check points. The first time I saw the emergency lanes, I couldn’t figure out what they were for – why was the NYPD making traffic use only two lanes in a direction when so many streets were closed? Then a fire engine went roaring down the street, totally free from all the traffic, and I understood. Normally emergency vehicles sit in traffic the way every other car does. My first week in NY, I was amazed by the drivers who wouldn’t pull over to let cops and firemen by. I realized that the emergency lane was a preemptive measure, but it wasn’t a huge revelation for me – I just made a mental note to not take the bus home.
The only time anything convention-ish happened to me was when I was waiting at the light at Broadway & 57th on my way to get some lunch. I heard sirens and noticed traffic cops were preventing us from crossing against the light. I looked in the direction of the sirens and saw a motorcade approaching. Lots of motorcycle cops and dark SUVs, with a town car in the middle that held a newspaper-reading Dick Cheney and his wife. Directly behind their car was an armored NYPD vehicle with armed officers leaning out. The people on the curb with me had no idea the Vice President had just gone by – they were more pissed that the light changed and we couldn’t cross.
Most New Yorkers went out of town this weekend, including half of my office. The result was a strangely empty city, with none of the traffic problems or overcrowding that had been ominously predicted. Yesterday I walked part of the way home from work, amazed by how empty Central Park South was. I didn’t go to any protests, and I only watched a bit of the convention on TV – the Bush twins and the President. I hate watching political speeches on TV. All the clapping and cheering after every sentence makes me absolutely batty. I wouldn’t have watched any of either convention if it wasn’t for the pit of responsibility I felt in my stomach…that, and my empty Tivo.
Yesterday afternoon, a coworker and I were discussing the convention and how it had affected us. She commutes from Connecticut every day on the Long Island Rail Road into Penn Station, so she have been affected a great deal. I mentioned getting off the PATH train on Sunday to an armed Penn Station. I remarked how, even though it was supposed to make us feel safer, the armed presence made me unsettled. She said it made her feel sad about how much things had changed. I wanted to say I understood, but I didn’t. Being new to NY, I feel very apprehensive about any subject that even remotely involves September 11th. I know what it felt like to be in LA that day when those planes were supposed to land 3 miles up the coast from where I lived, and what it was like to watch the whole thing unfold on TV. I can’t imagine what it was like to be a New Yorker that day. Friends and coworkers tell their stories of that day and I just listen. They knew people involved, I did not. I know what it’s like to be a New Yorker now – to be tough and blasé while you wait for the other shoe to drop. When the convention ended yesterday night, I could almost hear the city sigh in relief.
This morning I was absolutely giddy with the excitement of going out to Cali again. Because of the long weekend, it was a half-day at work, and my friend Jeremiah had given me a coupon for a free pair of Gap jeans. On my subway ride out to JFK, I began to feel a bit more somber. I started to worry about my flight. On my last two trips, my planes hit terrible turbulence. One plane had a large drop in altitude immediately after take-off, probably the scariest seconds of my life. I felt a knot in my stomach and had to force myself to think about other thinks – I focused on Gwen Stefani’s voice in my earphones, “You worry yourself sick/’til you’re blue in the face.” Very apropos. On the Air Train, I noticed it was a clear day out. I could see the blimps hovering over the US Open not far away. As I strained to see what kind of blimp it was, the train turned and I realized I could see Manhattan. I spotted the Empire State Building, then my eyes automatically moved south. I realized with a start that I was looking at the area of lover Manhattan where the towers had once stood. I remember my old boss (a NJ native) saying, “I won’t know I’m almost home if I can’t see the Trade Center from my plane.” I never saw the towers in person. I suddenly felt very sad. I realized that the third anniversary is only a week away, and that while my friends would be at the first USC home game (where there would no doubt be a moment of silence), I would be in New York. Is it going to be weird that day? Will I feel completely out of place that day? Is it okay if I go to a bar to watch football and drink beer? I know it is. But I know that day I will feel guilty for wishing with all of my heart that I was back home in California.