It is 4:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Why then, you ask, am I typing a blog post at this ungodly hour? Well, because it is 1:00 p.m. in Rome - and here is the thing I never knew before - if you effectivley sleep all morning long, you lose your desire to nap. Shocking! I'm 38 years old and I finally figured out how to cure my cat-like nap addiction. Unfortuntely, the cure requires eight hours of sleep from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. You'll wake up hungry, but rested. The late (or early, depending on your perspective) hour also accounts for the long, rambling and sarcastic nature of this post.
As planned my airplane landed in Seattle around 2:20 p.m. With governmental-like efficiency, we were herded like sheep through an initial line where they checked passports/greencards/visas, etc. Apparently, this is an all-important step where the U.S. Government feels the need to scrutinize your right to be on U.S. soil without the distraction of wondering whether you are bringing illegal goods onto said precious soil.
Then, we went down an escalator to an area with baggage-claim carousels where we waited an eternity for our bags to travel the 500 feet from the gate to the customs area. All during this time, there were customs agents walking around the crowd and hassling anyone who looked remotely foreign. There were two flights arriving at that time, ours from Amsterdam (where we all must be bringing in our personal stash of marijuana and mushrooms) and China (where exotic animal importation is a problem, according to a sign prominently displayed above the carousel). I, of course, desperately had to pee and spent my time contemplating whether my bladder could outlast the U.S. government.
Finally, the bags arrive. Oh yay! One of the first bags is a navy blue Kirkland brand carry-on from Costco! How did it happen that I got so lucky to be one of the first bags! Yippeee!
NOT - true to form, I check the ID tag becuase I am a compulsive rule-follower and that is one of the rules, "check the ID tag because many bags look alike." No kidding, and apparently are stuffed full in similar fashion by women. It is not my bag. I heft it back onto the carousel, while plenty of men stand by watching and looking delicate - maybe they didn't want to break a finger nail by helping.
Finally, bag arrives. Heft off carousel, check tag, see my business card, yay me for real this time. Good news is that although very uncomfortable, I'm still overcoming need to pee. This must be what the last 500 feet of a marathon are like. Of course, the race isn't really over because there is a second U.S. government line to get it. This one, they make sure that you aren't bringing in anything dangerous and that Uncle Sam gets his cut. It would be more authentic if they had a few mafia thugs staring you down while you stood in line.
Yeah, no kidding, unpasturized Camembert that can only sicken the consumer is dangerous? (See: If Rules Change, Will Camembert Stay the Same?) I can't kill myself eating something perfectly sublime and be killed by a natural substence, but I can walk out into the terminal and purchase a giant soda where the phosphorus will leach calcium from my bones, the sugar will give me diabetes and require my feet to be amputated, and the other chemicals will give me cancer where I'll have to undergo long and painful treatment. However, I suppose that all that medical treatment requires spending money in the market economy. So, no Camemberts, even though the French people have the highest life-expectancy in the world.
I go through this second line, where a U.S. goverment employee is aparently trained enough to make sure I'm not bringing in the wrong thing or that I don't owe Uncle Sam a dime, but isn't trained enough to run my passport through a scanner and look at my picture to see that I am in fact the owner of said passport. Actually, I suspect that they test all government employees to make sure that they have a defective multi-tasking gene. (This is the part where my father usually makes a comment about how we need less government, and I counter by saying we need better government. Quite frankly, if our goverment was filled with people like my hyper-efficient sister Kelly, sh*t would be getting done!)
After exiting line confirming that it is permissible to bring in coffee, honey, canned tuna (yes, it really is that good and different in Italy) and so many leather handbags that I had to leave clothing behind, the non-English speaking government employees (thereby precluding the possibility of discussion or argument) force me to give them my bag yet again for transport to Baggage Claim 1. Even though I have been through two governmental checks, according to the U.S. government, I still am not competent to wheel my own bag through the terminal. However, in keeping with all governmental logic, if I hadn't checked my carry-on-sized suitcase, I would be considered competent to wheel my own bag out of the terminal. Apparently, that trip down the first escalator was a test of our competence.
Anyway, once I exit customs and take the train to the main terminal, my bag-wheeling competence is magiclly restored. I collect my bag *again* and my friend Melanie picks me up. We stop by to drop off my bags and so I can hug Marlo before she leaves for the evening with her dad. Marlo hadn't seen her dad all summer as well, so even though this was my first evening back, I didn't want to demand precedence. They did invite me to go out with them though. Unforunately, I had other things I had to do. Melanie and I headed off to the University Bookstore to spend $579 on textbooks. I wanted to go right after landing because it'll be crazier at the bookstore this weekend and early next week - and if I'm going to spend that kind of money in the unavoidable textbook racket, I don't want to do it in a crowd. Here's what I'd really like to know, though. We spend billions of dollars tracking down druglords or pursuing Microsoft, but no one is bothered by the fact that students pay billions of dollars per year on producs that line their own professor's pockets or the pockets of their friends? Textbooks that are supposedly "updated" nearly every year, but could just as easily be updated with a "pocket part"? ("Pocket part" supplements— stapled paper updates literally stuck in a cover pocket of the hardcover volumes.) Forget going after Microsoft for anti-trust violations, someone should investigate textbook publishers.
All in all though, the trip was made fun by being able to gossip non-stop with my friend. It was a much-needed girlfriend fix! After that, I returned to the house and yapped with my sister Kelly while I waited for Marlo's dad to bring her back home. Of course, by this point I was fading fast. Marlo came home and wanted to run through and show me her wardrobe of every new item she bought this summer. First off, she is an average-American teenage girl with a job and her own money. This was going to take a while. After being awake and on-the-go for 27 hours, I couldn't take it. So, like all good mothers, I fell asleep while she was talking to me.
Saturday morning, I was up at 4:00 a.m. as well. I cleaned out my email boxes, surfed the Internet, read the news and waited for morning. Finally, it came, I made Marlo breakfast before she went to work to try to redeem myself as a mother, and then spent all of yesterday running errands. First stop, Trader Joe's, where I tried to find non-chemically laden, processed foods to continue the good eating habits I got in Europe (gelato is all natural). Then, to a first salon where I got my much needed manicure and pedicure, then to a second salon where Henry cut and colored my hair - darker for those who are wondering. I can't post a picture now though because my look is that all-wonderful, wildly smashed into the pillow, curly hair look. Very attractive (not). This leads me to the title of this post. I thought, "I'll just take a photo of my newly-painted pink toenails so there will be some artwork for the post." I took five or six photos before having to concede that feet in general are just ugly. When I was younger I read a book called "Emma and me" about a blind British lady's adventures with her seeing-eye-dog Emma. Somewhere towards the end of the story, she undergoes surgery to restore her eyesight. Her first reaction to seeing her husbands bare feet was one of horror - "veins and bumps all over!"
So, even though everyone's feet are just as ugyly (or worse), I'm not posting the picture. I'm saving the sight of my pink-painted toes for my close and intimate friends who I know will continue to love me despite this flaw.