Off To A Less-Than-Perfect Start.

LOS ANGELES–American Airlines flight 212 pushed back from the gate at the Maui airport ten minutes after our scheduled departure time, but “on time” for the record since there’s a 15-minute grace period. While the captain never mentioned it, we must have had a pretty stiff tailwind because we landed at LAX at 11:30 p.m., almost 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
As always, when flying into Los Angeles, I’m struck by the fact that the city lights extend to the horizon in every direction, even from 7 or 8 thousand feet. That, in turn, always brings to mind my mother, then still sharp although in her late eighties, commenting on some story in the newspaper about drought or famine or some other human tragedy and muttering under her breath, “Too many people. Too many people.” Mom was right, as always.
The flight itself was the very best kind: uneventful. And so was the time spent sitting next to a 50ish man for almost five hours. Barely a word spoken between us, despite a few attempts on my part. What is it about air travel that causes people, in unpleasantly close proximity for hours, to retreat into themselves and clam up? And what is there about train travel that brings out just the opposite in people? I suppose–in the case of air travel–it has to do with the crowded, uncomfortable conditions. And perhaps there’s a little anxiety just below the surface in most of us, too. But it is the norm, isn’t it? You sit next to another human being for several hours and, most of the time, nary a word is spoken. Wasted opportunities.
I didn’t get to my hotel in downtown Los Angeles until about midnight (just 9:00 p.m., Hawaiian time) so it was close to 3:00 a.m. here when I finally turned in. At 7:20 this morning, I was awakened abruptly by someone on the street a dozen floors below my room bellowing an unintelligible phrase into a bull horn … a phrase that was repeated, still unintelligibly, by a small crowd of people that was nevertheless large enough to have no need for a bull horn. My server at breakfast a half-hour later explained–somewhat sheepishly, I thought–that the commotion came from a small group of hotel employees who were hoping to unionize the hotel.
And now, a confession. Fulfilling some kind of self-imposed, semi-flexible mandate for truthfulness in these posts, I must report that, as is usually the case, I forget to pack something when I left home yesterday. Most of the time it’s of little consequence: a toothbrush, or cufflinks for my dress shirts. This time, however, I outdid myself. I left behind all of the medications I take on a daily basis to keep a variety of annoying but minor conditions and ailments in check. And so, this morning, my dear wife is taking them all to the FedEx drop off in the little community of Makawao and, with luck, they will catch up to me here at the hotel before I board Amtrak’s Southwest Chief for Chicago on Sunday. Unfortunately, there’s nothing in that collection of capsules and pills and tablets that works for stupidity.