Lindol, from the Disaster Series
I was away from work for nine days. Yes! Yes! Yes! I was on vacation and I did not go anywhere. I tried to be as lazy as can be. I watched a lot of news. I read the newspaper. I read news flashes on my phone. I drew a lot. I only mopped the floor once, I dusted once. I did other chores. This morning I baked. My laptop is still restoring. Surprisingly, I find it very liberating to be detached. Oh I have other devices but I prefer my MacBook. It has been restoring since last week. This was the second restore, it is a long story and right now I do not want to be angry and irritated at Apple so I will skip the explanation. Lucky you!
This morning, I was relabeling some of my posts. I found this draft. I don't know why I have not published this before. This post makes made me laugh. I chuckled at its arrogance, overconfident stance, don't-care-attitude, and its wickedness until its tenderness melted my heart. Here goes:
This is going to be long, and if you don’t feel like reading, I understand. Do as you wish. I have been blogging for a long time; I have reached a point where I do as I please. Rather arrogant, you may say, on the contrary not, for what I post and how you react to it does not influence how I view your blog and you. Unless, I don’t like you, so in that regard, who cares? It can’t be helped.
I don’t sell anything, I am not trying to be published or be famous. I am not looking for a job or a paid project. I blog for fun, for a few loved ones. My favorite and best reader passed away two years ago, my sister Leah. I miss her everyday. I don’t give a rat’s ass if only ten people read my blog. I never claim to be an artist or a writer. I just paint and draw, and the Viking thinks my writing is verbose. I don’t tell a lot of people I blog or paint or draw. I blog because I enjoy what I do – formatting, rearranging, editing, rewriting, erasing, deleting, so on. I can just read my own blog, in fact I do a lot of times. I rearrange things and gadgets, headers. How many times have I changed headers; hundreds of times. I like doing that.
The only thing I desire is for someone or anybody not to lift and plagiarize my stories, and rewrite them. But then again, intellectual property thieves probably read my blog.
Everyday, I read a lot, I listen a lot. Sometimes I give advice when asked or even when not. I work a lot, I hurry up a lot, I meet a lot of deadlines, I attend a lot of meetings, I conduct a lot of consultations, I cook, I do laundry, I re-prioritize a lot, I change course midstream a lot when problems arise, I am prepared to stay late at work a lot if I need to fix something, I am prepared to forgo sleep if my children or the Viking are sick…or if I am on call.
I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t shop for clothes as often as I used to. I don’t gamble. I have a rather boring life. In fact I bore myself, like right now. Why the heck am I writing this? Ah yes! I remember. I blog, because I can.
I like a few people. I love fewer people, still. I try to be amiable, friendly, and helpful. People confide their secrets to me after getting to know me for five minutes; like in the elevator or at airports…they tell me their childhood experiences, their income, their marriages. I listen and honestly try to be sympathetic. Actually, if I trust or love the person, I will confide in them too but I very rarely do that. I think people see a sign in my forehead and it says “I will listen.” If there is a crowd and someone seems lost, she or he approaches me from the crowd and asks me for directions. Old people do this a lot. They look everywhere I see them looking and they see me and then they approach me.
“Excuse me, where is Gate No. 38?”
“Well, hello, it is right in front of us ma'am. You are at Gate No.38.”
“Ah, thank you. Are you going to Minneapolis too?
“Oh thank you. Me too. May I stay close to you? I am traveling alone.”
I eye this woman. I think of old women who carry bombs or work with others to pick my pocket or drug me but this woman seems so frail. If anyone will use her as a human bomb, then humanity really sucks. Besides I am pretty sure this woman is not a terrorist. I just know. I do not say yes or no to her. I look at her and notice she is carrying a very heavy red bag.
“It seems like you are carrying a very heavy bag.”
“Ah yes, they are gifts for my grandchildren.”
“I wonder if there is a bowling bowl in there. It looks very heavy”
She laughs nervously. She tells me what’s inside the bag.
“Ah that’s nice. Your grandchildren will be happy.”
We board the plane. I let her go ahead of me. She can hardly carry the bag. I offer to help. She refuses to let me carry it. She can hardly walk. I am getting agitated. I feel so sorry for her and now I am mad at the invisible family member or members who asked her to carry the bag of gifts. I do not insist. It turns out she was sitting on the same row of seats, right across the aisle from me. I stow away my bag. She can’t lift her bag. I offered to do it for her.
The bag almost ripped my shoulder! It weighed about fifty pounds!
“Oh my God! I am mistaken, you are not carrying a bowling bowl, you are carrying five bowling bowls.” I smile at her. She smiles back. “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you, okay?” I read a book.
“Thank you. I am going to the Philippines.”
I reply “Ah, me too.”
“Oh good! Are you flying Northwest?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Me too.” Now she is smiling.
“My flight number is … (I forgot the number)”
I reply “That’s my flight too.”
Now she looks up and takes a deep breath. “Thank you. May I tag along with you?’
I think about how this woman will delay me or slow me down. That is why I always pack lightly, so I can run when I feel like it. I reply “Yes, let me know if you need anything.”
She continues “I am going to Manila then to Bacolod.”
“That is a long flight for you.” I tell her. “Is anyone meeting you?”
“No. I arrive at midnight in Manila and then my flight to Bacolod is at five in the morning.”
At this time I think about living a life of a criminal. At what point does a conman strike at their prey? I shake my head and clear my mental cache.
She continues. “Where are you going?”
“We have the same final destination. I am going to Bacolod.”
This time she gathers her hands in prayer and looks up to the heavens and closes her eyes. “Thank you Lord! You have sent me an angel.”
I am so embarrassed. A while ago I was thinking how I could proceed if I were a criminal and now she is thanking the Lord for sending me as her angel.
“I live in Sugar Land with my daughter. She is a nurse. She works at (the same place I used to work).”
“Ah, I used to work there.”
“Are you a nurse?”
Okay, this woman is just beside herself now. She thinks she can trust me. She happily tells the next passenger, another elderly woman. They are both happy and giddy and the other woman asks me if she can tag along too. She is taking the same flight to Manila.
I love my solitude when I travel. I have an invisible shield around my personal space, yet somehow someone knocks and I reconsider and take down my shield. I do not speak a lot or even look around. I read and write or read and sleep or read and chew gum or read and chew on something bit by bit so that my right mandible makes constant movements visible through my temple which my children find very annoying.
We land in Minneapolis. The women are fussing at their things, bags, envelopes, purses. My goodness! I can see many opportunities where these women could get robbed or have their purses picked without them knowing a thing. Instead I stand around and watch them fuss at their things rather protective as if by some unknown force I am now acting like a quartermaster or a troop leader. Why do I feel responsible for these women?
They continue to fuss. I finally approach them and gently remind them that they are exposing themselves to opportunities for disaster. They stop and look at me. I am now acting like their travel manager. I instruct them to hold on to their passports, their papers and their purses and get out of the way. They are standing in the middle of the path. Some cultures have a knack for doing this. How many times have I bumped into a horde of Japanese tourists because they will walk and then stop in the middle of the path whenever they please? So I have mastered the art of snaking around Asians at airports. I am only talking about Asians here because that’s where I fly, to Asia, most often through Japan.
As fate would have it, we land from one end of the terminal and the flight to Japan/Manila is at the other end. I ask the women if they need wheelchairs or ride at the terminal cart and they proudly refuse. In the meantime there’s the red bag with five bowling balls. She insisted on carrying it. I told her to please let me carry it or sling it through my wheeled carry-on and she can hold on to the handle. I promised to walk very slowly. She relented.
What normally would have taken me five minutes to walk, took me half an hour plus a stop at the restrooms for twenty minutes. Thank goodness, they layover was two hours. Still, I was very surprised to have exercised patience for these strangers. I helped them board and get situated in their seats for the flight to Japan. They were sitting on the same row. I told them I will check on them to make sure they walk around to prevent circulatory problems. The women thanked me and one of them asked if I was visiting my family. I told them I was and I went to my seat. For five minutes no one sat next to me. Then a Korean woman (she had a Korean passport) with a small baby sat down on the window seat. The baby was fussy and the mother looked agitated. I tried to be unfazed. I wonder if the baby will throw up on me. Oh my God, he better not, I thought to myself.
About fifteen minutes into our flight, a man gently taps me on my left arm and kneels beside. “Excuse me; will you please exchange seats with me? That is my wife and child.” I was starting to get annoyed but I look at the young mother looking agitated and nervous. Not knowing where he was sitting, I replied “Of course.” I went to a row of three seats and there was a woman sitting on the window seat. I sat on the aisle seat next to an empty seat.
And so that was my short-lived career as a travel chaperon. In Manila the elderly woman stayed beside me. In Bacolod, she said goodbye. From a distance, I saw her off as she met her very happy and excited family in Bacolod. She talked to them and then they all looked in my direction. I smiled at them and one of the women clasped her palms in a prayer gesture and bowed her head towards me. I nodded at her.
In the meantime, no one met me. I make a phone call using a rotary phone at the airport.
“Hello! I am here! Hahahahaha!”
“What? You did not tell us when you are arriving. Stay there!”
“I can take a taxi.”
“No! We are picking you up.”
My sister arrives at the airport with her driver. She asks me if I wanted to go home first and freshen up. I told her, no. We went directly to my mother at the hospital. My mother was so happy to see me as I was I to see her. She asked me about my flight.
“Let me tell you about this woman, my goodness! She was carrying a very heavy bag. Now why in the world do families ask their elderly relatives to carry those heavy bags full of chocolates and grapes that they can buy here?”
My mother looked amused as she attentively listened to my story, my hands gesticulating everywhere. Then I told her that I brought a bag of her favorite Hershey’s Kisses. She laughed and told me I could have bought them there. I told her I knew that, but I wanted to carry the chocolates all the way from Texas to her.
I stayed with my mother for two weeks until she died. The last time I went home was for my father’s funeral. Once again I stepped into the threshold of my childhood home; a new orphan.
My mother died twelve years ago.
My mother died twelve years ago.