Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Claiming My Baggage

The other day, I went to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport to pick up my wife and daughter from their trip to visit her sister's family in Germany.

This should not be news, but it's a big deal.

I'm not even talking about their trip to Germany. I'm talking about my trip to the airport to pick them up from their trip to Germany.

I don't like to travel. I hardly ever drive long distances. Airports, like all crowded places, make me nervous. And I have no sense of direction. As a result, it would be easier for me to drive, even with a map, GPS, and travel guide, off the business end of a Norwegian fjord before I could find my way to an airport a hundred miles away in the same state. And I don't like to admit this.

So it's a big deal.

After entering the city and navigating 16 lanes that were actually one lane before the continental drift, I found short-term parking. I paused for a solemn moment and wondered if Christopher Columbus would have felt this way, had he suddenly discovered short-term parking.

I entered the airport and saw two sets of escalators, a stairwell, and several elevators, each going to a different level. And a lady pedaling around on a cart full of flowers. I picked a ramp that led down into the belly of the beast, where people crawled around with their own, visible baggage.

Arrow-studded signs unwrapped from every corner, all at once, from walls, ceilings, and lit-up displays, labeling hallways that branched off in every direction and were designated by colors. Red, blue, yellow, green. I felt like a disoriented Christmas ornament.

None of the signs said "This way to pick up your family from their trip to Germany," so I gave up and headed for a desk with a big yellow question mark on it. I asked the man, who had one crossed eye, how to get to gate 17 (where their flight was coming in). He pointed to a sign that said "tram," and asked if I had my boarding pass, because I would never get past security without my boarding pass.

Then I realized, out loud, that I was supposed to go to baggage claim to meet them, and that Gate 17 was for boarding passengers. (Does it make sense to anyone else that, since I have no luggage, naturally I wouldn't go to baggage claim?)

He kind of looked at me like I had something else in mind besides flying, so without trying to explain ("I hate airports"), I said thanks, smiled, and walked away. After all, how many grown men ask for directions to a boarding gate when they have no intention of boarding?

The intercom then announced that the terror alert for that day was "elevated," for those of us who weren't already walking around with knotted stomachs.


While I waited for Posy and Poppy, someone from London asked me to help him count out the correct change for a phone call. I never felt more useful in my life.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The sound of stupidity

People who use leaf blowers would never survive in the natural world. They can't even control leaves without using a motor.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The lightness of being unbearable

I'm a pessimist.

The beer glass in front of me is half empty. (My liver, though, is half full.)

And now I'm reading my fortune cookie. It says, "A pound of pluck is worth a ton of duck."

I don't know what pluck is, but I bet I could beat it senseless with a ton of duck.

I never liked pep talks, but the ones that rhyme are the worst. They take all the soul out of struggling and replace it with crappy frosting, the kind that's made from egg whites and air and food coloring.

No. I want someone to tell me that it is going to SUCK ON TOAST until it's over and everybody knows it. The will to keep things in an honest light is way more encouraging than a mere "atta boy."

And I know. It's supposed to inspire. But it sounds like you're just spreading fertilizer. Do you think plants can live on poop alone? Can you picture a row of dung-laden potatoes crying, "No pain, no gain"?

Well, okay, I just did, and it was hilarious.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Watt the...

The circular, florescent ceiling bulb in my room, which couldn't spit out more than 30 watts and was once outshone by a lightning bug, had burned out. I went to the store for a new one and they had exactly what I needed. In 22 watts.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Cut from a different cloth

In 1985, our science club took a trip to Mayo Clinic. It was noon, and all the courtyards were crammed with people in three-piece suits, sprawled out on the grass, trying to recharge themselves like a bunch of dying, well-dressed batteries. It all looked so pointless. I promised myself that I would never be like that.

And even though I now work at that exact same clinic, I'm still not like that, because three-piece suits are ridiculous.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

At the Movies: District 9

If you get anything out of this movie, it should be the alien kid. He is the soul of this movie. He will make you hope the crap out of yourself that everything turns out okay.

Thirty years ago, an alien spacecraft limped its way into the skies over Johannesburg, South Africa. The aliens inside it were rescued like cats from a dilapidated house, and grouped into a refugee camp called District 9.

In that time, they have done nothing but scavenge hopelessly around, with a little help from local gangs.

The cultural differences between these forced neighbors eventually escalates from racism to violence to rioting, so the government steps in to send the aliens somewhere else. Wikus Van De Merwe is the adorably naive nice guy who gets chosen to lead the task force in District 9, where he immediately sprays himself in the face with an unfamiliar canister he finds in one of the shacks. (This is important, but they don't dwell on it. They let the story unfold on its own.)

The movie seems to say that we treat each other so poorly that we would extend a hand in violence even to alien life, a habit they adopt, but the pace is steady and keeps it from getting too preachy. It stays interesting. The story is always a step ahead.

Special effects are worth mentioning because they are used correctly, like window dressing, not the product they are trying to sell.

Having said that, they should have won an Oscar for Most Realistic Display of Guys Getting Killed With Alien Weaponry. It was seriously unbelievable, and I didn't have to rewind it because it happened a lot. But they don't do it for it's own sake. They only blow someone up if they absolutely have to.

See this movie, but not for all that. See it for the alien kid. He trumps any human kid I've ever seen in a movie. (Want a good example? Compare him to the kid in The Mummy Returns. No 8-year-old has been alive long enough to be that smart, witty, resourceful, and unafraid of a mummy.)

This little guy finds his way into the scenes and makes you see the face of unassuming vulnerability, and suddenly you really care about what happens to him. He doesn't seem to understand how dire things are (how could he), he just wants to help his dad and it's inspiring to watch. If he wasn't a made-up alien, he would be your kid.

Let this movie tell you its story. It's as good as science fiction gets.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The eight different flavors of blueberry, according to Poppy, are:

1. normal
2. sweet
3. medium
4. sour
5. sort of sweet
6. sort of medium
7. sort of normal
8. sort of sour

This information is provided to help anyone else who, like me, has 12 remaining taste buds.