Third of August 2021

02021-08-05 | Uncategorized | 4 comments

I heard a sound in my sleep. It was a sharp sound, not as loud as a gun shot, but perhaps a gun going off in the distance. I was asleep, or in that foggy state between sleep and waking. I remember thinking bear and trash, before falling asleep again.

At 0200, after less than five hours of sleep, I woke up. Five to six hours has been as long as I have managed to sleep for several weeks. I didn’t need to get up yet but I wanted to see what made the sound I had heard earlier. I went outside in my pajamas. The trash container was lying on its side, a black trash bag beside it, and an empty bag of walnuts a couple of feet away. I hoped there were a few nuts left in that bag so the animal had some reward for its effort. That trash can was heavy, filled with the last cleanup of my house – because the 20 yard dumpster had already been moved away. I decided the animal had to have been the black bear that visited us twice. Damn, that container was heavy. I righted it and stuffed the trash bag into it. I opened the garage and pulled the two containers inside, because I didn’t want them to be upended again after I left.

Now I might as well start the day. In the fridge I had cold-brew coffee in a Honey Salon jar, which was my morning coffee. I am new to making cold-brew coffee and have come to really enjoy it this summer. I drank coffee and walked through the house to check whether it was ready. I thanked the three architects who had worked on the house and its additions in 1991, 1994, and 2000. I thanked the spirit of my dad who designed so many cool steel pieces for the house, among them two sconces, three rain catchers, a pot rack in the kitchen, even the house number mounted on the wall outside.

At 0300 I meditated. At 0330 I finished packing my suitcase, mini-duffel, and backpack. There was no food in the house. In fact my last meal had been the small pizza I heated up in the oven for lunch the previous day. At 0430 I drove to the Santa Fe airport. At 0500 I pre-paid – because that’s how the parking system works at that airport – for parking my car for 46 days. The fee came to $138.

I checked into my flight, which was to leave Santa Fe for Dallas-Fort Worth at 0623. In the bathroom I added a filtered mask underneath my regular cloth mask. Around 0545 I received a message from American Airlines, informing me that the flight was delayed until 0830 and that I would therefore miss my connecting flight. The connecting flight would be changed to the evening and I would arrive shortly after midnight on the next day. At 0630 the pilot informed the passengers that the problem was a clerical issue. Something on the plane was broken – could have been a seat that didn’t recline properly – and somebody had forgotten to renew the permit to fly with it broken… and the permit had expired at midnight. No permit – no flight.

The final straw was when I received a message that the flight would not leave at 0830 and was now scheduled for 1630 (4:30PM). Then I received a message telling me that I might miss my connecting flight and might have to remain at DFW airport for the night. At this point a long line formed with people wanting to change their flight schedule or connecting flights. I waited for a while and thought about my situation. There was only one vending machine for food and it was heavily depleted. Mostly junk food anyway. By the time I would arrive in Dallas it would be after 1900 (7:00PM) and I would have fasted for thirty hours. Fasting never worked very well for me. My system disposes of food rather quickly and I become rather nervous and light headed after such a long time of not eating. So staying there in the departure hall was definitely out.

I decided to look up Southwest and quickly found a flight out of Albuquerque at noon. I walked past the line of people trying to rebook with AA and asked an attendant for my luggage so I could leave the airport. I was taken out on the tarmac where I pointed out my suitcase. After the tag was inspected and removed I was on my way to the parking lot. Paying for parking in advance sucks and there was no refund… Better than staying in a tiny departure hall with too many people, and too many of them wearing their masks below their noses…

Soon I was on I-25 heading to Sunport. I remembered that I was hungry and then I remembered the Flying Burrito Company on Central Avenue from a visit decades ago. I wanted to find a restaurant where I could keep an eye on my car with the luggage and I was lucky, because the restaurant wasn’t crowded and there was a parking spot on the street right in front of the place. Score!

After breakfast I drove to the airport and parked my car in one of the long term parking lots that dot the area around the Sunport. I had plenty of time to check into SW and go to the gate. I didn’t have the energy to ask for a pat down and entered a scanner for the very first time. The flight left on time.

The first leg ended in Austin and I walked through the airport but I couldn’t find a restaurant that looked worth taking my masks off for. Not enough space and too many people. I was reminded of a poem by Ryokan:

It is not that
I avoid mixing
with the world;
but I do better
playing alone.

Meanwhile the next flight kept getting delayed for half an hour, then an hour, then 75’. I sat down, then walked again, the masks slowly cutting into my face. I remembered seeing images of nurses and doctors after wearing masks for long shifts, deep creases cut into their faces. Nurses and doctors are such heroes during this pandemic. How can one not feel contempt for people who spread lies and misinformation about the virus and vaccinations! I only wore these masks for one long 14 hour day, they had to wear masks all day every day.

After a long day, that started at 0200 I arrived at my destination at 2230 (10:30PM). I had a snack and then I slept eight whole hours for the first time in many months.


  1. JaneParhamKatz

    Blessed sleep, with the hardest chores accomplished!

    I have noticed that pulling out of your comfort zone unleashes untold challenges. Important to hold on tight (while remaining relaxed) and remember who you actually are and that it is not the actions of others but your own thought that determines the quality of each moment. (I know, you know.)

    Moving from Maryland to Santa Fe (only 6 years ago) had many rough points, especially the company that delivered our enormous truckload, manned by insult-prone Russians, who claimed scant understanding of English and who arrived many hours late – beginning the unloading after 9pm! The “gang Leader” was wearing a large dagger and kept saying he was in a rush. I burst into tears several times. I inspected the van with a flashlight and found that they had left some valuable items on top of the other load they were hauling. Plus, we got a few things from the other load by mistake, including a huge box of Baby clothes. :-)

    Thank God for my giant Sense of humor, which ultimately rules!

  2. Juanitsz

    The horrors and trials of travel sometimes. You relate your experience so calmly. You are a patient man. May you have a better journey next time. Sweet sleep to you.

  3. Nancy

    Glad you finally made it to your destination. I used to travel frequently for business and I can relate to the delays and the issues with the airlines. AA seemed to me to have lots of problems. But now you are at your destination and hopefully can relax and enjoy. Hoping you have sweet dreams and an easier time when you return.

  4. Steve

    In the 80s and 90s as a EE, I used to attend semiconductor device physics
    symposia. I have to say, over the span of 19 years flying all over the world
    I got quite addicted to the adrenaline rush of the “hustle and bustle” of the
    airport, travel, set-up, present the paper, then dash across town to grab a “hopper” plane, just barely make presentation time, and on to the next one … When I left the semiconductor device design world to become an educator, It was quite a let down. I still miss it.

    (I realise that places me out in the extreme tail of the distribution, but I still miss it after 17 years.)

    Ottmar, I am sincerely happy that you arrived at your destination, and I hope
    this new chapter in your life goes “insanely great” as the saying goes.

    By the way… IMO this essay of yours is extremely well written. Kudos.


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