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When I'm not here, you may find me wandering the pages below. (If I'm a regular visitor to your site and I've left your link off or mislinked to you, please let me know! And likewise, if you've blogrolled me, please check that my link is updated: thisroamanticlife.blogspot.com. The extra (a) makes all the difference!)

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Body: in sickness and in health

I won't lie; this body and I have had our issues with each other for many years. Body image -- sure. Physical and mental overextension -- comes with being a Type A kind of girl. I still struggle with these things, so they show up from time to time in my writing.

More recently, illness, pure but not simple, has added itself to the mix in a multi-system sort of way. And the challenges in figuring out exactly what's gone wrong are many. As problems have revealed themselves in the last few years, beginning with reactive hypoglycemia in late 2008, I've documented them here, partly to gain a little clarity on managing complex conditions but mostly to give voice to vulnerabilities I feel but don't normally share with anyone face to face. Better out than in, they say, right? (Oh yes, humor is one way I deal.)

The links below cover the different angles I've examined (and from which I've been examined) within that experience.

Travel: neither here nor there

When the person you're married to lives two time zones away, you log a fair number of frequent flier miles. And if you blog about commuter relationships, you log quite a few posts en route too.

Since we're no longer in separate places, I blog less often from airports. But we do travel -- together now! -- which is much more fun to write about. So in addition to thoughts on our years of commuting, the links below cover the places we've been as a pair and, in some cases, the adventures that have happened on the way.

Writing: the long and short of it

Why do I do it? Good question. Maybe it's not so much that I like to write but that I have to write, even when the words refuse to stick to the page. Believe me, I've tried doing other things like majoring in biochemistry (freshman fall, many semesters ago). Within a year, I'd switched to English with a concentration in creative writing and wasn't looking back.

After graduating, I taught English for a few years and then worked as an editor, which I still do freelance. In 2007, I applied and got into an MFA program at a place I like to call Little U. on the Prairie. I finished my degree in 2011 and have been balancing tutoring and writing on my own ever since.

The following links cover the writing I've done about writing: process, content, obstacles, you name it. It's not always pretty. But some part of me loves it, even when it's hard. And this is the result.

Heart: family and friends

I'd have a hard time explaining who I am without being able to talk about the family I grew up in as well as the people I've met beyond its bounds. But even with such context, it's not easy! In the simplest terms, I'm a first-generation Asian-American who has spent most of this life caught between cultures. That, of course, doesn't even begin to describe what I mean to, but there's my first stab at the heart of it all.

That's what this group of posts is reserved for -- heart. The essential parts of my life whose influences I carry with me, for better or worse. The links below cover what I've written as I've learned how these forces work within me, for me, against me, in spite of me. They anchor me even as they change me, and they keep life interesting.

Recommended reading

What do I do when there's too much on my mind and my words won't stick to the page? I escape into someone else's thoughts. Below is a collection of books and articles that have been sources of information, inspiration, and occasional insight for my own work.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Missed connections

I flew to New York last weekend for the wedding of a good friend of mine from college. On my way there, this (see photo) is what I saw from my window.

Creative advertising, no? If only I'd had an internet connection while I was at 39,000 feet. Supposedly, such a luxury is now available on some flights -- probably at a price I'd rather not pay. It would be tempting, though, on the next cross-country trip. This one was five hours, which was actually a very good deal since it was nonstop. Most of the time, I have to change planes in either Chicago or Dallas, and the legs between Seattle and those cities are almost as long. Add layover time and at least one more flight, and five hours on one 757 looks perfectly decent in comparison. Especially with Wi-Fi.

I had a great time at the wedding, which was sandwiched between two brief reunions -- I got in on Friday just early enough to have coffee with a friend from high school (she’s getting her MBA now) before hurrying off to the rehearsal dinner; the day after the wedding, I met up with a friend from my current program and stayed the night with her. Everything felt a bit rushed, but it was really good to see so many people whom I haven’t been able to catch up with from afar. Letter writing isn’t something they tend to do; fortunately, things are easy with us when we’re back together, and it’s as if we haven’t been out of touch at all.

Leave-taking is another matter, however. Ever have trouble saying goodbye because the person you're saying goodbye to starts telling you something really personal or heartfelt and you can't really just respond with, "Okay, thanks! See you around ..."? That was what happened as I was trying to get to the airport on Monday. My friend from Little U. on the Prairie has truly been going through some difficult stuff and was very grateful that I'd stayed an extra day just to see her. She came with me to Penn Station to give us a little more time to catch up and to see that I got on my train to Newark without any problems. But as we were getting close to the time the train was supposed to leave, she started talking about relationship stuff, heavy stuff, stuff you don't want to brush aside because clearly the person telling you about it is in pain. So by the time there was an appropriate opening to check my watch (and I felt horrible doing it anyway) I'd missed my train. And there wasn't another for 40 minutes, which meant that when I did finally get to the airport, it was too late to check in for my flight. There were still 30 minutes to go before its scheduled departure, but that's not within the accepted time limit for passengers to get through security (even without checked bags).

The folks at Newark were quite displeased with me, to put it mildly. When I told the agent at the check-in counter that the self-service kiosk wouldn't issue me a boarding pass, she immediately began scolding me. "It's not the computer; YOU were late!" she said (among other this-isn't-our-fault phrases). I never meant to imply that it was a system glitch, but I didn't think arguing over semantics was going to get me on my plane. So I kept my mouth shut.

She sent me to the gate, where I tried to get the attention of the agent there. He happened to be on the phone and held up a hand as if to say, "Hang on," so I appealed to another woman taking tickets since there was no one left to board. Big mistake -- "You're going to have to WAIT, miss," the gate agent said, with a tone that might as well have implied a "young lady" afterward. I knew there was no point in telling him that I was inconveniencing him because I'd been providing an ear to a friend who needed one, so I didn't bring it up. Alas, such snark! As soon as he'd hung up, he turned on the attitude and started shaking my priority verification card (what I needed to get through security without a ticket) at me. The worst part was that I knew that if I wanted the guy to get me back on my original flight as a standby passenger, I'd just have to take it from him like I'd been a bad little Troubadour. So when he felt the need to reiterate that it was MY fault, not his, that I'd been bumped "because YOU were late checking in!" -- yes, I'm not trying to blame this on your being on the phone, Mr. Gate Agent, why do you think I am? -- I just gave him my best whipped puppy look and behaved as meekly as possible for the rest of his finger-shaking until the new boarding pass was in my hand.

Afterward, I felt really disturbed for allowing those people to behave in such a demeaning way toward me. It was all in the name of getting what I wanted in the end, but I guess part of me feels betrayed by the other part of me that let it go on without defense. Can't win, can I? Sigh ...

I'm at Almost Dr. Sis's place till next Tuesday for a long overdue visit. That, of course, is what getting on the flight was worth -- I wanted every minute I'd planned on having with her. (If I'd been heading back to Seattle, I would have just waited for the next flight three hours later.) So far, it's been a terrific three days here. More on that soon. For now, though, if you've got stories about airline agents with attitude and how you got around them without having to give up your dignity, I'd love to hear them.

5 comments:

French Fancy said...

Oh you are such a good friend. I don't know if I would have been as selfless as you - I know that doesn't show me in a very good light but when I have to travel somewhere that is always my predominant thought. Maybe that's why I've got no friends?

(yes, that was a joke - I have got friends - not many close ones but the ones I have irl I've had for years)

Looking forward to hearing about your time with almost Dr Sis

Good Enough Woman said...

Ditto what FF said!

I can't say that I've figured out how best to deal with snarky airline staff. But I will say that Alaskan Airlines, which I flew this summer, had the nicest staff ever. Unbelievably nice, esp. compared to my recent United experiences.

My cousin, on the other hand, will lay into airport people. She travels a lot for business, often to China, and she will unleash her wrath upon them if they screw up and snark. One time, in China, she told the people that she knew "so-and-so" (some bigshot) and that she would get them all fired if they didn't find a flight for her. They found one.

I can't pull off that kind of thing.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

FF -- thanks. I don't have many friends I've kept up with from childhood to the present either, but those I am in touch with are very close ones. I'd rather have it that way than many friends with whom I only felt somewhat close :).

GEW -- I've flown Alaskan too, no problems in my experience either. United, check, snarkety snark snark.

I do think my most recent experience with American was probably more a product of the region of the country I was in than the airline itself. New York (and its surrounding areas) was a tough place to live when I was teaching there. I think some of the bluster on the part of the airline agents was defensive offensiveness? As in, they were expecting me to start yelling at them as some locals would, so they preempted me ...

And no, I can't pull off unleashing wrath on people. I've watched it not work many a time (as a bystander), and it's just not worth the emotional energy for me!

Bev said...

My goodness, what a TERRIBLE experience! I can't even imagine...I would have burst into tears and tried my very best to guilt them about "you can't even IMAGINE the day I've had!"...you're a better person than I am ;)

Contemporary Troubadour said...

I don't think I could have mustered tears -- I was too annoyed! And they didn't look like people who could be guilted; they were that prickly. I'll remember the idea for next time, though. Hopefully there won't be a next time ...

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Missed connections

I flew to New York last weekend for the wedding of a good friend of mine from college. On my way there, this (see photo) is what I saw from my window.

Creative advertising, no? If only I'd had an internet connection while I was at 39,000 feet. Supposedly, such a luxury is now available on some flights -- probably at a price I'd rather not pay. It would be tempting, though, on the next cross-country trip. This one was five hours, which was actually a very good deal since it was nonstop. Most of the time, I have to change planes in either Chicago or Dallas, and the legs between Seattle and those cities are almost as long. Add layover time and at least one more flight, and five hours on one 757 looks perfectly decent in comparison. Especially with Wi-Fi.

I had a great time at the wedding, which was sandwiched between two brief reunions -- I got in on Friday just early enough to have coffee with a friend from high school (she’s getting her MBA now) before hurrying off to the rehearsal dinner; the day after the wedding, I met up with a friend from my current program and stayed the night with her. Everything felt a bit rushed, but it was really good to see so many people whom I haven’t been able to catch up with from afar. Letter writing isn’t something they tend to do; fortunately, things are easy with us when we’re back together, and it’s as if we haven’t been out of touch at all.

Leave-taking is another matter, however. Ever have trouble saying goodbye because the person you're saying goodbye to starts telling you something really personal or heartfelt and you can't really just respond with, "Okay, thanks! See you around ..."? That was what happened as I was trying to get to the airport on Monday. My friend from Little U. on the Prairie has truly been going through some difficult stuff and was very grateful that I'd stayed an extra day just to see her. She came with me to Penn Station to give us a little more time to catch up and to see that I got on my train to Newark without any problems. But as we were getting close to the time the train was supposed to leave, she started talking about relationship stuff, heavy stuff, stuff you don't want to brush aside because clearly the person telling you about it is in pain. So by the time there was an appropriate opening to check my watch (and I felt horrible doing it anyway) I'd missed my train. And there wasn't another for 40 minutes, which meant that when I did finally get to the airport, it was too late to check in for my flight. There were still 30 minutes to go before its scheduled departure, but that's not within the accepted time limit for passengers to get through security (even without checked bags).

The folks at Newark were quite displeased with me, to put it mildly. When I told the agent at the check-in counter that the self-service kiosk wouldn't issue me a boarding pass, she immediately began scolding me. "It's not the computer; YOU were late!" she said (among other this-isn't-our-fault phrases). I never meant to imply that it was a system glitch, but I didn't think arguing over semantics was going to get me on my plane. So I kept my mouth shut.

She sent me to the gate, where I tried to get the attention of the agent there. He happened to be on the phone and held up a hand as if to say, "Hang on," so I appealed to another woman taking tickets since there was no one left to board. Big mistake -- "You're going to have to WAIT, miss," the gate agent said, with a tone that might as well have implied a "young lady" afterward. I knew there was no point in telling him that I was inconveniencing him because I'd been providing an ear to a friend who needed one, so I didn't bring it up. Alas, such snark! As soon as he'd hung up, he turned on the attitude and started shaking my priority verification card (what I needed to get through security without a ticket) at me. The worst part was that I knew that if I wanted the guy to get me back on my original flight as a standby passenger, I'd just have to take it from him like I'd been a bad little Troubadour. So when he felt the need to reiterate that it was MY fault, not his, that I'd been bumped "because YOU were late checking in!" -- yes, I'm not trying to blame this on your being on the phone, Mr. Gate Agent, why do you think I am? -- I just gave him my best whipped puppy look and behaved as meekly as possible for the rest of his finger-shaking until the new boarding pass was in my hand.

Afterward, I felt really disturbed for allowing those people to behave in such a demeaning way toward me. It was all in the name of getting what I wanted in the end, but I guess part of me feels betrayed by the other part of me that let it go on without defense. Can't win, can I? Sigh ...

I'm at Almost Dr. Sis's place till next Tuesday for a long overdue visit. That, of course, is what getting on the flight was worth -- I wanted every minute I'd planned on having with her. (If I'd been heading back to Seattle, I would have just waited for the next flight three hours later.) So far, it's been a terrific three days here. More on that soon. For now, though, if you've got stories about airline agents with attitude and how you got around them without having to give up your dignity, I'd love to hear them.

5 comments:

French Fancy said...

Oh you are such a good friend. I don't know if I would have been as selfless as you - I know that doesn't show me in a very good light but when I have to travel somewhere that is always my predominant thought. Maybe that's why I've got no friends?

(yes, that was a joke - I have got friends - not many close ones but the ones I have irl I've had for years)

Looking forward to hearing about your time with almost Dr Sis

Good Enough Woman said...

Ditto what FF said!

I can't say that I've figured out how best to deal with snarky airline staff. But I will say that Alaskan Airlines, which I flew this summer, had the nicest staff ever. Unbelievably nice, esp. compared to my recent United experiences.

My cousin, on the other hand, will lay into airport people. She travels a lot for business, often to China, and she will unleash her wrath upon them if they screw up and snark. One time, in China, she told the people that she knew "so-and-so" (some bigshot) and that she would get them all fired if they didn't find a flight for her. They found one.

I can't pull off that kind of thing.

Contemporary Troubadour said...

FF -- thanks. I don't have many friends I've kept up with from childhood to the present either, but those I am in touch with are very close ones. I'd rather have it that way than many friends with whom I only felt somewhat close :).

GEW -- I've flown Alaskan too, no problems in my experience either. United, check, snarkety snark snark.

I do think my most recent experience with American was probably more a product of the region of the country I was in than the airline itself. New York (and its surrounding areas) was a tough place to live when I was teaching there. I think some of the bluster on the part of the airline agents was defensive offensiveness? As in, they were expecting me to start yelling at them as some locals would, so they preempted me ...

And no, I can't pull off unleashing wrath on people. I've watched it not work many a time (as a bystander), and it's just not worth the emotional energy for me!

Bev said...

My goodness, what a TERRIBLE experience! I can't even imagine...I would have burst into tears and tried my very best to guilt them about "you can't even IMAGINE the day I've had!"...you're a better person than I am ;)

Contemporary Troubadour said...

I don't think I could have mustered tears -- I was too annoyed! And they didn't look like people who could be guilted; they were that prickly. I'll remember the idea for next time, though. Hopefully there won't be a next time ...