Tuesday, February 26, 2008


New Mexico. The "Land of Enchantment" the sign at the airport says. As well as the land of bad landings, the shrillest wake-up calls in the world, and a road system that's so complex that the navigation lady can't get it figured out.

I'm traveling again. To New Mexico this time; Albuquerque that is. I haven't found it so enchanting thus far; in fact, it's proven relatively boring. It's a sprawling, confusing city, surrounded by brown gravel and scraggy scrub brush. But then I don't hail from the prettiest place on Earth, so I'm certainly not being critical. To be honest, it's actually attractive to me, in a primal, cowboy-hat-wearing, "I am Marlboro Man" way.

Which is not to say the trip has been completely pleasurable or uneventful (I don't write about the uneventful ones). It's had it's moments.

The landing in Albuquerque was probably an omen of sorts. It was less a landing than it was a failed crashing attempt. There was a powerful crosswind, so I guess you can't blame it entirely on the pilot, but it sure felt like the guy flying the plane was a beginner. He couldn't get the plane down in time, so halfway through the landing, he aborted, and powered up in an attempt to get back up in the air. In powering up, I think he took to steering with his knees. If there'd been an Air Patrol officer around, he'd have been pulled over for suspected drunken flying.

Shawna, along with 24 other passengers, and one pregnant flight attendant, got unbelievably sick in that last four minutes of the flight.

We offloaded (I forgot one of our bags and had to rush back and beg my way back on the plane to track it down). Shawna sat in a chair in the airport concourse and tried to recuperate while I found the rental car counter.

We got a Chrysler Sebring (it's gutless; the thing can barely make it up an inclined on-ramp). I paid extra for a navigation unit. I wish I hadn't. The woman in there is an annoying, evil prankster. We needed a few things (the FAA doesn't allow toiletries larger than 3.4 oz now, and we have only Costco sized shampoo and hairspray in our house), so Shawna sent me to find a Target last night. I asked that evil woman where the closest Target was, and it told me that it was a mere 5.4 miles away, and proceeded to give me directions.

Twenty minutes, about ten miles, and numerous "course corrections" on the part of my evil navigator, later, she finally said "Destination ahead on right." I breathed a sigh of relief. I drove slowly, looking for the Target off to the right.

Suddenly the evil woman belted out "When safe, turn around." What? I passed it.

I made an illegal U-turn, and went back to the closest light, and got back on the right side of the street. She said again, "Destination ahead on right." I drove even slower this time. She said, "Destination." I pulled into the parking lot...of a JoAnn's fabric store. I put the car in park, and looked around. Not a Target in sight.

I hit the steering wheel, then traversed the navigation system's menu's again, and asked again where the nearest Target was. The sadistic woman cackled-I swear-and told me that it was 7.1 miles away; in the direction I'd just come from.

I sat in the car and screamed out loud until my voice gave out.

I settled for a K-Mart that I came across by accident.

This morning took the cake, though. This hotel is a nice place, but they have the worst wake up calls. Five minutes before my alarm was set to go off, I was snatched from the deep, blissful sleep of the working masses who value every second of rest by piercing buzzing alarm, and a blinding flashing light on the wall.

Then a cheerful female voice came on over the intercom and said, "Good morning guests! This is the Manager on duty, and as you know, we are experiencing a fire alarm!" This she said as though she we're saying, "Mr. Jones in room 409 JUST found out that his daughter is having a baby!"

"Please don't panic," she continued. "We'll notify you if there's an emergency. Thank you!"

Isn't that the point of the fire alarm? To notify me that there's an emergency. Shawna hollered, "PJ! Let's go! Get up!"

"The lady said she'd tell us if it was an emergency."

"The FIRE ALARM is going off PJ! What if it's outside our room?"

"She'll call back and let us know. I've still got five minutes; I'm going back to sleep."

She called back. "Good morning guests! This is the Manager on duty again; I called a few moments ago?" I'm glad she reminded me. I'd almost forgotten! "I just wanted to let you know that there is no emergency! Thank you!"

Perhaps they were just testing their buzzers.

At any rate, to top it all off, I think the eggplant sandwich that I had for lunch might have had some bad Gouda cheese, because now I'm sick as a dog. It'll be great for tomorrow, when our beginner pilot attempts to bounce his way off the tarmac.

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