Taken for a Ride

Recollections of Travel 

Houston

In Houston, the taxi driver taking me to MD Anderson Cancer Center was gigantic. He had a Jamaican-sounding accent and wore an enormous cowboy hat.  His remarks were friendly at first as he discussed the need for health care reform obviously assuming that I was interested in his opinions. He progressed to make disparaging remarks about “foreigners who take jobs from native Americans.” It was obvious that he considered himself to be one of the latter in spite of his very black skin, so I wondered if I was wrong about his being from Jamaica. I said something about American Indians being actual “Native Americans” and he postulated “they were not really here first,” he’d seen a documentary on PBS. I did not debate that issue with him.

During the ride, he talked cloyingly nonstop and I became rather uncomfortable as his comments grew more inappropriate in content as well as tone. At the time Ann Richards was running for governor of Texas and the driver declared that he did not want her to win, because “women should not be at the forefront.” It was hard to not debate that point, but I again managed to refrain. At that point, he asked me where I was from, not an unusual question for a driver picking up at the airport. When I said, “Louisville,” he asked about horse racing, again appropriate. I replied that the Breeder’s Cup was taking place there in a few days and his response was “I hope you breed something good down there.” Okay, so now I thought he had embarrassed both of us to the extent possible with words, but I was wrong. Suddenly he began to laugh when a female driver slowed and motioned him into the traffic flow. I thought I had missed something because it seemed simply a polite, not humorous, gesture. He spoke loudly in the car’s direction saying, “Thank You!” and then to me, “I’ll have to do something nice for a woman tonight! I’m glad that I have never impregnated a woman.” It was with considerable relief that I saw my destination up ahead. 

fullsizeoutput_b03

Baltimore

Out of all those years of travel that cab ride in Houston, TX was the most bizarre, but two others stand out as slightly concerning.  One night, after entering a cab at the Baltimore Airport and asking the brooding driver to take me to my hotel near Johns Hopkins the entire city suddenly turned black. To me, it was an ominous sign, especially that it occurred the exact moment that I stepped into the cab. He drove silently block after block, underneath unlit traffic lights, in front of darkened buildings and deadened street lights, not saying a word that acknowledged he had even noticed the blackness surrounding us. Apparently, he was a seasoned driver, because within about a half hour he pulled in front of the looming darkened hotel. He popped the trunk to get my luggage and Baltimore was immediately illuminated with a brilliance that stung my eyes!

fullsizeoutput_b03

Kansas City

Very late on another night I arrived at the airport in Kansas City and gave the driver the address of my hotel. About forty minutes later I was beginning to worry a little and then I suddenly saw that we were passing the US Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth! Much later I safely arrived at my destination and paid a $65 (in 1994 dollars!) tab which of course was an item of interest when I turned in my expense account. 

fullsizeoutput_b03

Photos by Pixabay

Fashion on the Road

Recollections of Travel

While trying to work in the Delta lounge during a long layover, I was distracted by the TV. It was not loud, in fact, the voice I heard droning on was barely a murmur. Perhaps that is why I could not resist listening to his descriptions of the perfect and perfectly beautiful models sliding onto the show runway. Their hair, flawless, shiny, and straight flowed spontaneously. The make-up was subtle in its goal of looking natural. His sensitive voice was fluid and sophisticated as he described the women. He talked about the models wearing fabrics “sort of blue, sort of yellow and sort of print.” The non-colors were equivocal, there or not there, whatever you wanted. As he proceeded to detail the faces with terms like “the non-lip,” the gaunt women walked up and down, staring into nowhere with eyes that weren’t. 

Later in the week while attending a medical conference at UCLA, I was listening to a distinguished bone marrow transplant physician, world-renowned for his pioneering work with stem cells. As he spoke, the room became absolutely silent while over one-hundred (100) attendees listened in awe to this brilliant scholar describe his latest techniques and accomplishments. 

It was impossible to not notice a movement in the back of the silent room as a woman, too polite to make a distracting click, clack noise with her four-inch heels, walked the full length of the conference room on her tip toes. As she began the trek she looked back and forth, apologetically, at those who observed her progress. She hunched over to appear smaller and assumed an awkward gait resembling a person crippled by some congenital deformity. 

The beautiful woman, hobbled by her stilettos, had broken the mood of academics absorbing knowledge and now we were simply enjoying the show.  

18630893-Fashion-models-Sketch-Stock-Vector-illustration

Photos by Pixabay

Flights Home

Recollections of Travel 

From 1984 through 2005 I traveled nearly every week for work. At first, it was to train clinical staff and open ambulatory care centers (frequently called “Docs in a Box”) in eighteen states. Later, I began Centers of Excellence network development for the same company. Among other things, I contracted for marrow and solid organ transplant services. This position took me to even more destinations including a few times to Canada. In 1997, I incorporated a consulting company still working with transplant centers coast to coast until I reluctantly retired. I believe that I am finally over airport withdrawal but it did take a while. 

During those years of planes, taxis, subways and airports, I made many observations of fellow travelers and others I encountered along the way. I will share some of those recollections that, for some reason, I recall after all these years. Some were intriguing, many more mundane. I’ll let you consider why these memories persisted when so many critical medical and technical facts from those years have evaporated. 

Tampa

While sitting in the airport in Tampa one Friday afternoon, I looked around and noted that almost without exception travelers were either holding or working with a similar small book. Some of these were wire bound, others looked like leather and they came in various sizes. How we loved our Day-Timers back in that day. fullsizeoutput_b02They were badges of our busy lives and demanding careers. One could clearly see that we had a lot to keep up with, places to go and people with which to network. Perhaps few other 20th-century icons made a more important business statement. At that time some kids were using pagers, drug dealers even had mobile phones, but we were reluctant to transition to that digital age back in the 80s, so we proudly carried our Day-Timers everywhere, placed them lovingly into our briefcases and at intervals made critical notes. As I think back to that era, I wish I had saved at least one that recorded a year’s meetings, flights, and appointments. Today we use our smartphones to carry calendars, do banking, prepare and store documents, keep up with e-mail and social media, even monitor or control our homes, but I still recall the small paper pages that functioned on a much more limited basis but seemed equally important at the time.

A man sitting across from me in the waiting area had been dozing off and on. He was dressed in a very finely tailored suit, but the effect was minimized by his splayed legs and occasional snort. One hand was cupped over that bulge between his legs. Was he afraid that someone might steal it if it was not shielded in this manner? When he moved around for a more comfortable position, he changed hands but remained protective. Finally, the flight was called and he awakened, folded his Wall Street Journal and gathered up his leather attache. Standing, he straightened slowly and slightly shook one leg, then the other. Apparently unsuccessful,
he quickly removed the troubling wedgie with a snatch before proceeding down the jetway.
fullsizeoutput_aff

Atlanta

After a transfer in Atlanta, I’m was finally on the way to Louisville in a much smaller commuter plane. The one busy flight attendant informed us that she was from Columbia and judging from her accent, I assumed that she did not mean South Carolina. Her pre-takeoff instructions included the fact that in an emergency we were to “pull the red liver” to open the door. As we approached Standiford Field (currently Louisville International Airport) for landing the flight attendant’s voice over the speaker gave the following instruction: “If you are enjoying a beverage please pass it to a flight attendant at this time.” So, what do I do if I am not “enjoying” it, but I am simply thirsty, do I keep the cup? I am way too literal to follow instructions tonight.

fullsizeoutput_b04

Home at Last 

 

Photos by Pixabay

The Landing

It is September and the summer to autumn metamorphosis has finally begun. While it will not officially be autumn until after this week-end, the long awaited relief from the five month, ninety-plus temperature marathon arrived yesterday. Unfortunately, I will not be in Kentucky for the first cooling breeze promised for tomorrow. As I ride through heavy rain to the airport I anticipate the hot humid Florida air at the end of the flight.

The Flight 

After an unexpected hour on the ground before takeoff from Louisville and the usual delays in Atlanta, I finally arrive, over an hour late, in Jacksonville. This is no big deal since I do not have anything scheduled until eight o-clock tomorrow morning. So why do I feel in such a hurry? It’s the traveling thing. It’s what I have done for the past eight years as I travel in my job. I rush. I act hurried and harried. If I am flying, I must be in a hurry, right?

The Crash

As I rush inside to rent a car, I reflect on a very satisfying day. Autumn is almost here. The staff back at the office is hanging in there while another person is recruited. I heard about my granddaughter’s first tooth. There was a very enjoyable lunch just prior to leaving for the airport. And, also, there is this great new dress that I am wearing. What a dress! Compliments all day long! Now don’t get me wrong, it was the dress that about a dozen people had complimented, not me. I am enjoying the dress’s compliments vicariously and thinking, “I FEEL GOOD!” (Hear James Brown now, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1wOK9yGUYM). At that instant my heel turns violently and I am catapulted sideways, then forward, before gravity wins and I land with my body at several unlikely angles. I have crash landed in Jacksonville.

The Rescue

As four people run toward me they order me to not stand up, like I can! One retrieves a shoe as he passes it two traffic lanes away, a man coming from my left picks up my purse on the way and a woman brings along my bag which has skidded about six feet to the right. These three, plus a man wearing tennis shorts and with a lovely British accent, help me to a sitting position on the curb, while all are talking at once. Several American accents are noted and I find myself thinking about that, while at the same time, trying to assure everyone that I am really okay, because they seem to genuinely care. Why would they care so much? It must be the dress! Why are they not rushing on about their own business? Surely they are in a hurry. They are flying, aren’t they? Well, at least three of them are. One man is apparently a driver for a van of some sort. The others, who look like passengers, actually offer to give me a lift to my hotel. I am not even ready for a lift from the curb.

The airport police come from all directions in blue uniforms, some airport personnel in regular clothes too, and even the young woman from National, where I had just rented a car, comes out to sit by my side on the curb offering comfort. All appear so concerned that while I am quite sure that my ankle is broken, I really do not want to tell them. I want to be okay for them!

I start to joke about the situation and they pick up on it and we banter while waiting for the EMS. Sirens can be heard in the distance and I look up and see a large white truck with red lights flashing on top and when it pulls up, the words “U.S. Air Force” can be seen on the door. I ask if the EMS has to be Air Force because we are at an airport and the answer is lost in the sound of more sirens as a red fire truck comes into view. I assure them I am not in need of the Air Force nor am I on fire and ask them to please do whatever their policy requires for the report and let me go. I am, after all, in a hurry. The EMTs glance at my ankle and take my pedal pulse. By now the pulse of my foot has been taken by about eight people. I am not sure who all of them are and some had felt of the wrong foot, but I didn’t say anything, because what can it hurt?

At this point an officer asks for my driver’s license. When I remind him that I was not driving, he reminds me that he is fulfilling my request to complete the report to let me go. I hand over my license and think how glad I am that I did not have a cocktail on the plane. Can you imagine the report reading “Middle-aged WF smelling of ETOH falls off curb”? So, I imagine that instead it goes something like this, “Cooperative WF, wearing a great purple dress, turns ankle.”

I decline a ride to the hospital in the Air Force truck.  Some ice and an ace wrap would have been good, but that will come later at the emergency department. As I drive painfully away with muscles throbbing and flesh changing colors, a crowd of smiling well-wishers wave me out of sight. Where else, except in the south, could one have had such a pleasant experience?

Written September 18, 1991 and Edited for Blog September 2, 2016