Thursday, November 11, 2010


My wife Ann is never late. I have learned a lot from her. And she has learned a lot from me, about how to tolerate being late. Opposites attract.

But when it comes to going to the airport, she wins. In fact, she has won so much that I try to be very early even when I’m not with her. We don't just make compromises when we get married, we change.

So today we left super-early for the San Francisco Airport to drop off Ann, Sara, and nine month old the magnificent Lola – up at 6:30, out the door at 7 for the maybe 40 minute drive to SFO for the 9:15 flight. We almost made it; probably would have if we had left 10 minutes earlier. Just not quite.

Maybe you have to feel sorry for the guy afterward, but most people had trouble ginning up sympathy at the time. KCBS reported that a heavy set guy in his 50’s in white pants and a tank top, with his 16 year old daughter in the van where he had apparently been living, decided to express his frustration with his straying, divorcing wife by calling KCBS, saying he had a gun and a bomb, and that he was going to stop traffic on the upper deck of the Bay Bridge, which is of course our route to SFO. He succeeded even if he really didn't have the gun and bomb he said he did. He was on the suspension span, we were not far behind on the East Bay side of Yerba Buena Island. We stayed on the bridge not moving for one and a half hours; people got out of their cars just to look around, look down at the Bay, and kind of look at each other. That's what we did, too.

It was the KCBS story of the day as we listened to what we couldn't quite see -- the man threatening to jump, being talked back onto the bridge, handcuffing himself, and the bridge lanes finally opening up, just in time for us to arrive at SFO at 9 AM, and the flight to go bye-bye without wife, step-daughter, and magnificent grand-daughter. They rebooked on the 2 PM flight and faced 5 hours in SFO with a magnificent 9 month old who loves to walk holding on to two fingers a few inches to the side and above her head. Much better than napping. Oh, joy!

We did well, even though leaving early was supposed to prevent this. No one panicked, although it was gruesome to try to reach United Airlines on the phone – could only get someone in India who couldn’t understand our telling her the number of our tickets, much less call ahead about our predicament, etc. Telephone answering trees are carbuncles on the body of the modern world. "Which of the following services best describes what you want...." How about, "none of the above, we're sitting on the Bay Bridge not moving?" Sitting there, time moving but not us, with the wonder of cell phones and smart phones and internet connections, but United Airlines cocooned off and unreachable. Couldn’t get SFO itself either. Not that it would have mattered.

I just heard from them, 14 hours after we left this morning. Lola was good, but slept only 15 minutes and spilled four different liquids the ladies were trying to drink. I had said, why not wait for tomorrow? But Ann said, no, I’m going today, if we have to go on any airline, if we have to go through Honolulu; we’re going. The lure of Maui is just too great. Maui is warm, the pool is warm, the surf and beach are beautiful, and the Sports Page beckons. Maui is something special for Ann, beyond the obvious. There is something that draws her, something that makes her relax, feel good, flow through the day. Probably because she was there all the time as a girl when her father consulted for Chevron and there was nothing at all where our house now stands. We are sometimes asked what we do there. We say, mostly wait for repair men. But it doesn't matter, there's something in the water.

So, I’m wondering – we left home in plenty of time under normal circumstances. I’ve been a very good boy. I have taken her habits and made them my own. We’re not going to leave any earlier next time, are we? I guess not. Being early is sensible, if you think about it. We're not nuts, just prudent. Took a long time for me to get there.

Budd Shenkin

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