…that’s right. I’m supposed to give a humourous speech in about 120 minutes and not only have I not written it, I don’t even feel like writing it. So this will be an incredible victory for me if I actually deliver something that is even vaguely humourous.
…and not pausing to write here as much as I’d like.
Truth is, I’ve been living large and writing a lot. But most of it has been on paper, and in my head. And in some case, elsewhere.
So my travels recently have brought me all over. And since my last entry in Kuwait, my life has gone through a journey that wouldn’t be believable as a movie script. I’m not even sure I want to write about all of it here. In fact, I’m sure I’d better not just now.
…This was the date I was supposed to travel from Chicago to San Francisco on the way back from India. My flight was to depart at 10:15 and arrive in San Francisco at 12:37am. The delay in London (Heathrow) had me miss this flight and have to travel on the next day. I stayed in a hotel near the airport (Chicago O’Hare, that is) and when I awoke in the morning, I was too late to catch my flight.
On the way to the hotel, I was carried by a taxi driver who wanted to tell me that the entire set of events around Sept 11 were staged by the American and Israeli governments. I expressed some doubt, but he told me that I should listen to a particular radio talk-show host who had a deep background in certain engineering disciplines and was certain of this fact. It was an interesting and entertaining ride.
…on this day I began my journey home from India. Friday (yesterday) I went on a wonderful day trip with my host Vinod. He took me along the coast to visit a number of sites including a temple, a garden, and what I can only describe as an Indian reptile ranch. I have some photos of that.
The trip home is where the adventure really began for me. It begins at dawn. The news has come in that a terrorist plot is unveiled in London. All flights traveling through Heathrow are going to use special security measures. ALL baggage is checked. Laptops, handbags, everything!
Travelers may carry a plastic bag (supplied at the airport) with their travel documents inside and nothing else. No paperback books, no phone chargers, nothing…
I met a girl in Chicago later. An undergrad attending a year of study in Holland. She left on her journey and these travel restrictions were not in force, but before she landed at Heathrow, they began. She was routed through a security checkpoint and her choices were to either leave the security perimeter and check her laptop as baggage (but miss her flight and lose her other luggage), or abandon the laptop in a pile of doomed possessions, stacked up as if awaiting a train back east.
She wasn’t in a spot to simply call the insurance company and have another one shipped to her next meeting. I hope she had a good backup of her unfinished papers.
I was disgruntled about putting my laptop in the cargo hold, and positively nasty about relinquishing my book. I managed to bully my way into keeping it until I got to London. Then a very friendly man informed me that he’d help me dispose of it. I argued. He pleasantly routed me outside the security perimeter, which is what I needed anyway since my flight was now going to have to be changed due to the delay.
Outside the security wire, there was a massive throng. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands were packed up tight in 2-hour long lines across the outer concourses everywhere. The traffic was snarled and there was no motion beyond a slow milling with the crowds. Obviously the terrorists are no real threat because if they were actually competent, they would have had agents peppered throughout that unvetted mass of people ready for coordinated action. This was a much richer target than a couple of airplanes.
So the many millions we wasted in responding to the threat were caused by a small cabal of fundamentalist morons who actually only talked about creating mayhem. I can pick up a band of those just about any night in the deep woods of Michigan or Mississippi.
I’m not bitter or anything, but this snarl, plus my nastiness about it, plus some mis-management on my part led to me having to coordinate the Sunday night short film screening event from Chicago. My flight left India around dawn on Saturday, and was to have put me in San Francisco something like late Saturday night. Instead, there was a delay and I was to arrive in Chicago late Saturday night, still in time for a red eye to San Francisco.
The plan, by the time I reached Chicago, was that I’d have to just get a room for the night, come in early and fly back home and I’d still be there in time for my screening. But I overslept and missed my flight by about 20 minutes. I didn’t make it on the standby at noon, and the likely outcome as I watched the noon flight push back from the gate without me — the likely outcome was that I’d miss the thing entirely.
I used what battery was left in my phone to create a blizzard of calls and asked friends to help with small tasks that linked them together in a network that would have the screening work anyway. They came together and the event was a success, I’m told. The movies showed. The people met. Some of them began to talk about doing new things together and some of them are.
I made it home at last on Monday morning at dawn, and it was just enough time to rescue my bags and put them on another flight to some destination I’m too tired to remember. Writing this has worn me out. (I guess that’s what complaining does.)
I guess my point is this. A friend of mine would say in defense of George W Bush, “at least he protected us from the terrorists.” I don’t know man. It seems like he gave the terrorists amplified impact in our society and our world. I’ve had to foot the bill for that personally on many occasions.