Saturday, October 22, 2005

A post card from St. Louis.

This is a post card for you from St. Louis.

I'm here for a tradeshow. Surprisingly, I found that I had the afternoon off. I walked alone down to the riverfront and couldn't resist the pull of the great Arch of St. Louis. Along with high school kids from around the country, I waited in long lines for my turn to go through security. Once inside, more long lines awaited me for a ride to the top of the Arch. Although I had hoped to go to the top, I decided today was not the day. Anyway, it would be more fun with my kids.

The journey to St. Louis was a difficult one. It started in Minneapolis, where I caught an ATA flight to Chicago Midway, and then had to wait about 3 hours for a connecting Southwest flight to St. Louis. I had never flown Southwest before. Their prices are low, but so is the cost of riding in a packed cattle car. They're probably no worse than any other airline these days. It's been ten months since I last traveled. I have to say, I am surprised that the experience has become even more inhumane, rude, cramped, smelly and invasive than the last time I flew. I guess if it's got to be that way, then you might as well fly Southwest. Why pay more to anyone else, when they'll treat you like a cow for so much less money?

I arrived in St. Louis late, around 11 pm. I was wired for adventure for some reason, and even though I could have taken a cab from the airport to downtown for about $35, I decided to try the Metrolink train for about $3.

The ride was mostly uneventful. The old driver of the train liked to talk on the loudspeaker, and gave excellent instructions. The train was about half full of working class people coming off the late shift at work. At one stop a man and two women boarded, yelling and screaming at each other, crying and laughing, comforting each other and then slapping; they seemed to fly from one emotion to the other. Since I could hardly understand their accent, I can't tell you what was up with them. They got off at the next station, thankfully. I studied the other characters on the train, wondering what they did for a living, who they were going home to.

It's good for me to get outside of my comfort zone. Hearing the sounds, voices and accents, smelling the smells, seeing what's similar to home, and what's different.

I'm not used to having time on my own, to explore. I accept today as a gift, a chance to indulge to my own free will for a period of time. I'm reminded of a parakeet I used to own. I'd let him out of his cage once in a while. He would fly frantically all over the house, stretching his wings before taking his usual perch atop the window drapes. There he would sit for a spell, watching the activity below him. Eventually, he'd fly back to his cage on his own and remain there, even with the door wide open. Maybe I'm a little like that bird; at this point in my life, a little bit of adventure is ok, but I don't don't crave it the way I used to. And after this trip is over, I'll be looking forward to getting back to my cage. My cage is comfortable, and full of love. Time on my own seems wasted in some respects -- I'd rather be spending it with the kids.

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