|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Bangor facility so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
Travel by air in this country at least, has become an adventure fraught with inconvenience, annoyance, and uncertainty. This is particularly true when, due to price constraints that defy logic, it becomes necessary to travel two hours by car to get on a plane and fly for less than an hour to one's destination. The irony is unfathomable.
My brother and sister-in-law had planned a trip to visit two of their children and decided to fly. This required them to take a flight from Portland to Philadelphia, a trip of about an hour. They wanted to fly out of Bangor but the cost was ridiculously prohibitive. It would have cost them less to fly to Rome. Consequently, they booked a flight out of Portland and I volunteered to drive them down and pick them up a week later. We had to leave at 6:00AM to get to the airport in time for them to go through security and wait for almost an hour to get on the plane. The timetable of the business bordered on the absurd.
It was a miserable morning for a drive, rainy (what else) and depressing. The first mishap occurred when I discovered that one of my headlights was out. It was not a good omen. Had it been a beautiful, sunny morning the way it should have been, it would have not been much of a concern. Sadly, that was not the case, and every toll booth attendant to whom we had to hand an obscene amount of money felt kindly obliged to point out our lack of a headlight to us. We were terribly polite each and every time we thanked them and said that we already knew.
Unbeknownst to us, there was a detour on US Rt 95 just south of Augusta. It was rather confusing and my brother, who was driving, was reading the signs carefully. No sooner had we taken the exit for the detour when we we heard a siren and saw flashing lights behind us. My brother pulled over immediately, if not happily. By the way, when did police officers in unmarked cars start driving small burgundy sedans? They used to drive unmarked versions of the standard police vehicle; now they drive cars that look like everyone else. Very sneaky.
It turned out that my poor brother, who was trying to figure out which way to go on the detour, was not paying enough attention to the signs that indicated the necessity to slow down to a crawl and was going to fast. He got a ticket. He was extremely unhappy. Frankly, the police officer was something less than charming about the whole thing and felt that it was appropriate to treat three middle aged people as if we were Dillinger and his gang on the way to a heist. To add insult to injury, after handing us a ticket that amounted to more than England paid to ransom Richard the Lionhearted during the Crusades, he said, “By the way, you have a headlight out. Better get that fixed.” Fortunately, he walked away before I had to fling myself bodily upon my brother to restrain him.
The detour, which involved driving endlessly on some back road in the middle of nowhere, finally brought us back to Rt 95 and we managed to get to the airport without further incident. They made it on time to get their plane, but my poor brother was forced to begin his vacation on a seriously depressing note. For me, the trip back alone was uneventful. I scrupulously obeyed all speed limits and hoped that the local economy-sedan driving constabulary would be too busy hauling in speeding miscreants to take the time to stop me and tell me that my headlight was out. I was prepared for the toll booth attendants but I was fairly certainly that if I got stopped by a policeman so that he could inform me of what I had already been told 20 times I might scream.
A week later I had to drive down to pick them up. Sadly, their plane didn't come in until 10:15 at night. That meant driving down in miserable conditions that included rain and fog as thick as soup. At least I had two headlights this time. This trip proved to be extraordinarily bizarre. The first thing that happened was a strange incident on the way to Rt 95. I came around a corner in the road and discovered that a cow was standing with his hindquarters in the road, munching on vegetation growing on the narrow shoulder. When have experienced both moose and deer suddenly appearing out of nowhere, a cow, no matter how mundane, is decidedly weird. The black and white bovine seemed happy enough and I was able to creep around it without incident, but the entire experience was a little strange. I don't have a cell phone or I would have called someone about it, but I noticed that the person behind me was taking care of it so I didn't feel guilty.
The drive was awful and I was happy to get to the Jetport and out of the fog. Unfortunately, that same fog had delayed their flight so I had to spend an hour an a half sitting in the airport listening to a recorded loop of a woman warning me about my baggage, strangers asking me to take something on a plane, and various other voice of doom pronouncements. After the 20th time hearing her drone on, I was ready to find the PA system and permanently disable it. I understand the need for security but this was enough to turn a sane person into a paranoid schizophrenic. When they finally landed we went to the car while the voice informed us of the unfortunate dangers of our existence all the way out to the parking lot. We paid the parking fee at an automated electronic machine that told us what we owed in the exact same voice. That girl must be very busy.
On the way home, in the nasty fog, we were directed to another detour. This one took us northbound on what was actually the southbound lanes on 95. It was completely disorienting. All the exits and entrances were on the left, it was pitch dark, and the fog occasionally obliterated nearly everything.
My brother commented that it was like being in an episode of The Twilight Zone. I disagreed. Between the cow, the fog, the disembodied female voice issuing dire warnings that also took your money, and the Alice Through The Looking Glass backwards highway, it seemed to me to resemble a scene from the movie Blade Runner; sort of darkly futuristic and vaguely threatening. Harrison Ford could have suddenly shown up and I wouldn't have been the least surprised. If he did, I was planning on having a few words with him about the absurd price of flying out of Bangor, the sneaky new police vehicles, and the ridiculous increase in highway tolls.