By last Friday I was a mess. I had applications due, summer jobs to be found, run-of-the-mill homework to do, upcoming seder plans to make, and I'm sure 14 million other things I can't remember offhand right now. I was starting to regret having signed up for the student bar association-sponsored softball tournament to be held in Virginia.
It had seemed like a good idea at the time, to get to play organized softball. I can hardly remember the last time I had the chance to be on a team. Maybe intramurals as an undergraduate, but even that wasn't so much fun since I had to organize the team. For this I just needed to show up. But at the time I signed up I hadn't anticipated just how complicated my life would be, or how trampled my sense of self-worth would be, by the time the weekend rolled around.
I was sure though that I didn't want to miss my classes, so I decided not to take the chartered bus down with the rest of the team. This was a good call, because I also didn't think spending 14 hours on a bus with increasingly inebriated law students would be much fun either. My goal was to take a flight after classes were over for the day and then rent a car. It turned out that the only cheap plane fare was to Baltimore, and I figured that was close enough to the University of Virginia. It is, if you consider a 2-3 hour drive to be convenient. I probably should have looked at a map before I set the plans into stone but oh well.
Oh well indeed, because I think in the final analysis the trip logistics, poorly planned as they were, served me well. I love traveling. I love getting to new places. I even love the journey of getting there. Although I suppose there is a breaking point, I seem to have a lot of stamina for being in motion and in some ways derive as much pleasure from it as I do from arriving at the destinations. To some extent this might stem from fascination from the miracle of flight, that so much ground can be covered so quickly. But even the driving is pleasant, cocooning myself in the cockpit of the car with my favorite music and (hopefully) open roads.
It may not be possible to express succinctly the amount of angst I was experiencing last week. I was particularly stressed out about my summer employment situation, which had not yet settled and involved absorbing the disappointment of not getting a position I had greatly wanted. The specter of all the work I had to do, combined with the psychic kick in the gut, sapped the energy required to do it and was becoming a vicious cycle. It is questionable whether, if I had stayed home, I would have gotten anything done anyway. There's a good chance I would have frittered away the time, stuck in the mire of stress, and then I'd have begun the week even more behind and feeling worse about it. Maybe being able to get away right then was the best thing for me after all.
Because I was already behind on some things due that day I ended up missing one of my classes anyway. Then I left for the airport, hoping to be able to standby on an earlier flight. I was there on time, but ended up missing the earlier one due to complications from the moronic policy by US Airways to charge for the privilege of MAYBE getting to fly standby. I think that in the age of overbooking and weather delays, when the airlines are constantly requiring flexibility by their customers, they should be GRATEFUL that passengers are willing to fly earlier if they are able. It makes no sense that an airline would rather send a plane off with an empty seat and keep a willing passenger in the airport, especially when there's a reasonable likelihood that by the end of the day the airline will have too many passengers overbooked and will need to bump people, or that delays may keep these willing passengers from making their connections. It makes even less sense considering that the only reason airlines such as US Airways won't fill the seats more efficiently is out of spite that customers didn't pay for the privilege of helping them out. And it infuriates me that, although I arrived with enough time to catch the flight, I did not arrive with enough time to pay for the ability to catch the earlier flight. Because of that I was doomed to waste extra hours in the airport. My time is rare and precious and I resent the airline for making me waste it as a consequence of doing business with it.
Eventually I took my preplanned flight to Philadelphia and from there a 20 minute flight on to Baltimore, which, being in a 737, took over an hour what with loading time and taxiing and takeoff clearances. I got to Baltimore and rented the car and began the trip to Charlottesville.
Unfortunately, my law-addled brain once again let me down in the packing department. While this time I did manage to remember to pack the suitcase, I didn't also manage to remember to pack pants. All I had was the jeans I was wearing and nothing more suited for playing lots of softball. So once again I had to reconstitute my wardrobe on the fly. On the way down I popped into a Walmart and found some cheap sweatpants. They did the trick, but I lament having needed to shop at Walmart. The economic cost Walmarts have inflicted on the downtowns of America is severe, and the resulting effect on the community by driving away diverse establishments is particularly problematic given that Walmart refuses to provide a full suite of female pharmaceuticals. While that might be their private prerogative, if it has made it uneconomically viable for a pharmacist whose prerogative to provide them to stay in business, then I think the prerogative becomes much less private and is subject to public scrutiny. It's a terrible burden for women who happen to live in rural communities to not be able to purchase the same medication that females in a more economically diverse locale can.
(The next morning I also bought some cheap shorts at a Marshalls, but I have no tirade about that establishment.)
All told the trip took about 3 hours of fairly easy driving. As the miles passed and Boston got further and further away, so did my stress.
The next day the tournament began. We had sent two co-ed teams and one men's team. I was on the team that was presumed to be the least talented of the three, and the outcome of the first game would seem to have supported that view. I did, however, get to play second base, which made me very happy. I did so with some degree of competence, which made me feel even more satisfied. It is a tantrum that I will save for another day that all my years of little league were spent banished to the outfield or the bench while all the more popular kids got to play the positions where things actually happened. It was only as an adult when I was able to stake out second base, with no one knowing that I was supposedly an un-athletic unpopular urchin undeserving of playing time, when I was able to get the opportunity to work on developing the necessary skills.
There was a gap between our first game and our second game, which was at a field outside of the central Charlottesville area. In fact it was in a fairly undeveloped spot near the Monticello visitors' center. In the intervening time I went to the center and stood in the early spring sunshine communing with the Jeffersonian spirit. Spring came earlier to Virginia than Boston, and as rainy clouds departed the skies became warm and blue. My cell phone rang with a phone call from my dad.
"Where are you?" he asked. I imagine he'd tried to call me at home, noticed I wasn't there, and was curious about what I was up to. I don't think he expected the answer, "Charlottesville, Virginia."
The reception was lousy (sometime I will have another tantrum about AT&T Wireless) so it was a short call and soon I got back to the field. The games were being held all over the Charlottesville area in this double-elimination tournament, and so far all of our teams were way on their way to being eliminated. We had no reason to suspect a better result when we took the field for our second game, but it turns out that somehow we won nevertheless. The lousiest team of the three we sent, we were the only one who managed to win any games. As a result we got another game to play, hours later at ten o'clock that night, when Rutgers managed to serve us up our apparently unavoidable fate.
Since we lost, soundly, there was no reason to stay around the next day and we all left around eight in the morning. I got in the car and drove back to Baltimore. I was early for my flight, which had been booked for late in the day anticipating needing to play that morning. Since I had so much time to spare I decided to splurge for standby status. It worked, and I got to LaGuardia by 4. Unfortunately, the next flight to Boston was too full to standby on. So since I was "in the neighborhood," I decided to surprise my grandma and drop in on her in Brooklyn. This was a very impetuous plan, though, because traffic could be a nightmare, she might not be home... any number of things could go wrong and it would either not work, or I might miss my flight to Boston... But as the cab pulled up to her house I called her from my cell phone. "Grandma, open your front door." She did, and there I was. When I was a little girl she used to come over to my house a lot. I remember walking home from school and at the top of my street, a long, straight downhill, I used to squint and look to see if maybe I'd see her car parked in front of the house. It always seemed like the best surprise if she was there, so I figured I would return the favor.
It was a very short visit, not even an hour, because I had to make sure that I caught by 8pm flight back to Boston and I had no idea how much traffic there would be on the return. Maybe it was a gratuitous use of cab fare, $65 roundtrip, but I'm glad I made the stop. In the cab returning to the airport my cell phone rang again with a call from my dad. "Where are you?" he asked, probably expecting Virginia or Boston. "I'm in a cab on the BQE," I told him. I take it as a bonus from the weekend that I spent it flummoxing my dad by popping up in all sorts of far-flung places. Given how much I like to travel, I suspect there will be further flummoxing in the future.
It turns out there was little traffic and I got the airport early enough to take the 7pm flight back to Boston. I was home around 10, tired from a long day, but happy and surprisingly de-stressed. Something about the traveling reset something in me, like I'd been wound up tightly and now the tension had been released. It's odd because traveling is itself a source of stress, what with schedules to keep and not being able to relax in a home environment. But I seem to thrive on it and was glad I took the trip. It turns out it was probably the best way to have spent my weekend after all.
I began writing this on the date I've changed the entry to, but didn't finish or post it until 4/18/04.