Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mini-Post: Complaint to the Department of Transportation

For the record, I just submitted a complaint to the Department of Transportation, which is responsible for drafting regulations involving airline safety and security.  Here's my submission:

I am concerned about the airlines' seeking to put more and more seats into the same (or smaller) amount of space. Average seat width, once a reasonable 19-20" in the 1980s, has dropped to 17" (16" on Southwest) while the average human hip span is now 20.6" in the United States.  Meanwhile, the average pitch between rows, once between 33 and 34" in the 1990s, is now down to 30" (28" on Spirit).  Not only is there now insufficient room for the average person, but airplanes are so crowded that I believe there could be serious injuries or deaths if an airplane ever had to be evacuated in a hurry.  In the interests of safety and comfort, please consider regulating the minimum amount of space in a row, the pitch between rows and the minimum seat width.  Please also consider a regulation that all armrests, including the armrest at the end of a row, be liftable to facilitate an emergency evacuation.

If you'd like to go forth and do likewise, you can copy my paragraph wholesale. Here's the Web site.  Note, you can't do this anonymously. They do want to know who you are:

http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer/air-travel-complaint-comment-form

I'll let you know if they come back with anything interesting.  Like "Doug Parker* said we couldn't do that."

*CEO of American Airlines

Friday, January 23, 2015

Your Sad Story Welcome Here

Hello and belated Happy New Year and welcome to Buddhist in the Bible Belt. If you're a regular around these parts, you know that this blog publishes every Thursday, approximately, with the occasional special bulletins and mini-posts. We're all about things Dallas, things legal, things wacky and, oh yeah, Buddhism. And wacky Buddhist legal things that happen in Dallas.  You can contact me by commenting below, and you can follow me on Twitter, @jenstrikesagain. In case of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop from the compartment above your seat. Please secure your own mask before you assist your child, or someone acting like a child, or maybe Rick Perry. That it? I think that's it. Okay:

For God's sake, don't tell anybody, but I actually wrote a letter to an advice columnist yesterday. I don't normally do That Sort of Thing. I am not, as a rule, the sort of person who writes to advice columnists. I'm more the kind of person who reads advice columnists, mocks their advice, makes fun of the people who write in to advice columnists and occasionally leaves snarky remarks in the Comments section. Nonetheless I wrote to an advice columnist, because after having this problem for most of the last 45 years, I have finally come to the conclusion that I may never solve it.  And while Tarot cards are great for solving some problems, they're annoyingly vague a lot of the time.

Here's the issue. Ever since I was a child, people have walked up to me and Just Started Talking. And by people, I mean total strangers. It doesn't matter if I'm alone or out with friends, attending some gathering or just at a Starbucks trying to get some writing done. I can be just sitting there, minding my own business,and somebody will drop into the chair next to me, heave a big sigh and start telling me his (it's usually a guy) life story. Joan and I used to joke that I have a tattoo on my forehead that says "Your Sad Story Welcome Here." But, like so many other things, It's Not Funny When It's Happening.

I have no idea why this happens. Not a clue. My friends tell me that I'm a good listener, and that I have a calming effect. In short, that I soothe people. That's nice, I guess, but I hope it doesn't mean I have some soothing mandate because I'm about to have the tattoo removed, permanently.

The reason I wrote to the advice columnist is that I have finally, after forty odd years, gotten fed up.  It happened last weekend at a Starbucks. Twice. I was there with a group, kind of on the periphery (it was a sizable group) and the lady in charge was talking.  Then the woman sitting next to me decided she needed to tell me all about the novel she was writing.  So I missed the first half of whatever the lady in charge had to say.  I'd finally gotten a sentence in edgewise (something like "Excuse me but I'm listening") when another woman came in, sat down next to me, and began expounding that God told her to come to this meeting and she wasn't sure why but there must be a reason and maybe I was supposed to help.  So I missed the second part of whatever the lady in charge had to say.  And I wanted to be at this presentation.  I was actually interested.  That's why I didn't get up and leave, which is usually my first defense.

It's been a week and I'm still smarting.  I have, as they say, had it.  So I've been trying to come up with alternative strategies.  Joan suggested I try raising a finger (not that finger) or a hand, like a cop saying "Stop," and saying something like, "I'm trying to listen" or "I'm working" or "I'm in the middle of a conversation with my friends, here, and you're kind of intruding."  Good thought.  And I can think of plenty of other breathtakingly rude things to say that might permanently offend someone from wanting to talk to me, but unfortunately they're breathtakingly rude, and, well, I'm not trying to be un-Buddhist-y in public.  But I did have an idea that might just work.  It's maybe time to dig out my old friend, Public Embarrassment.

I got this idea from airline flight attendants.  I dunno if you've noticed, but if a passenger starts to get uppity with a flight attendant, the first thing he does is get LOUDER.   The idea, of course, is to get other passengers to look over there to see what's going on.  Usually it works, and the passenger in question, shriveling up under the glare of excess eyeballs, quits being an asshat and does whatever the flight attendant's telling him to do. Sometimes it doesn't work, the passenger gets louder, the flight attendant gets louder still, and the whole thing ends with the police being called. But that's kind of rare and there's usually alcohol involved.

So here's what I'm thinking.  I try once, with the upraised hand (or finger) to say, "Excuse me, I'm listening" (or working or trying to save the free world from imminent destruction by some supervillain's death ray).  Once. If he/she doesn't shut up, I will STart TAlkING LOUDER until everybody's staring at us. I'm definitely not above Making a Scene.  In fact, there are times it's the best way to solve a problem. Case in point: Walking with my then-girlfriend in an outdoor mall right before Christmas. Some guy came up to us, wanting to take a survey. We said no, politely.  Then we said no, less politely.  And then when the guy continued to follow us, I turned around and said, "SHE SAID NO.  BUZZ OFF."  The whole place came to a screeching halt for a second, the guy with the survey slunk away, and then life went on as usual.  As long as you know that all the people staring will by definition also be staring at you, and you're okay with that, this works. (And just incidentally, the guy with the survey caught up with us later and apologized.  So you just never know.)

So why did I write to the advice columnist, you ask.  Well, two reasons.  One, is I'm not sure how polite it is to Make a Scene, even a small one.  Second, in case it doesn't work.  Because I gotta have some kind of winning strategy in place before the next time it happens, or I'm likely to tear the head right off the shoulders of some poor innocent fool who just wants to know the time of day.  And that would definitely be un-Buddhist-y.  Cheers, all.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Stomach This

In case y'all missed it, the FDA recently approved a medical device that, like previous devices (the ear staple, the copper bracelet, the lap band) is supposed to help you lose weight. This sucker is by Entero and it's called the VBLOC or vagal blocking device.  The idea, as I understand it, is that you have this thing installed inside of your abdomen and it then emits a signal that is supposed to confuse your vagus nerve.  (Hence the term vagal.  That sounded mildly dirty when I read it the first time.)  The electric signal will then temporarily disrupt the nerve conductions from the stomach to the brain and vice versa, which will then make you not hungry.  Supposedly, if you are not hungry, you will not eat, and therefore will lose weight.

HA HA HA HA HA HA--Sorry, just trying to stop laughing over here.  Where in the everloving fuck did these scientists get the idea that fat people eat because they are hungry?  I mean, I realize I can't speak for all fat people, but me, and the ones I know, eat because we're anxious.  Because we're sad.  Because we're happy (glass of champagne and some chocolates).  We eat pretty much for any reason at all, or no reason at all, and we eat more than we should.  Being hungry has nothing to do with it.

Now, before you jump all over me about personal responsibility and willpower and blah blah blah, I'd like to suggest that it's not only fat people who eat when they're not hungry.  Most of us do.  We are a country, and perhaps a species, of celebratory and emotional eaters.  In fact, when was the last time you were hungry?  Not just feeling like it was time for a meal but stomach-growly, headache-pending, ready-to-eat-a-live-chicken hungry?  I'd venture to say never.  Or at least not since you were a teenager (kids inhale food between twelve and nineteen so they can fuel those growth spurts and the sudden development of gonads).  In fact, I'd venture to say most of us are never hungry.  Why should we be?  Most of us eat three times a day, or at least every three or four hours.  That's really not enough time to get very hungry.

Which is why I predict that this new VBLOC is dead in the water.  We're used to eating on a regular schedule, not when we're hungry.  It's also not going to help that the device is only "recommended" for patients over 18 who have a BMI of 35 to 45 and an obesity-related illness (though, as fat people can tell you, if you're overweight, your doctor will tell you that any illness is a weight-related illness.  Sore throat?  It's because you're fat.  Bad knees?  It's because you're fat.  Terminal cancer?  It's because you're fat, but don't worry, you'll lose lots of weight on your way out the door.)  It also doesn't help that you have to have two surgeries to install this thing; one to put the "pulse generator" in your chest and another to stick the business end up against the vagus nerve near your stomach.

But here's the kicker; it doesn't actually work.  The manufacturer had a double-blind study (what if they threw a double-blind study and nobody showed up?) in which all the participants lost weight.  Everybody had the device implanted, but in about half, it wasn't turned on.  The people with the devices turned on lost a whopping 8.5% more weight than the people who didn't have the devices turned on.  Sounds impressive, right?  Sure, except we're talking an average of 16 pounds lost for the people with the device turned off, and 24 pounds lost for people with the devices turned on. That's a difference of eight pounds.  Eight pounds for two major surgeries, risk of infection, a hospital stay and a weird foreign object permanently lodged in your chest and stomach.  Eight pounds isn't even statistically significant, folks.  And here's the thing, the participants in the survey all lost weight because they were staying at a hospital and doing a diet and exercise program.  Eat less food and exercise more and you are guaranteed to lose weight.  However, only about 4% keep it off for more than a year.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, 1 in 6 Americans don't know where their next meal is coming from.  In Texas, the ratio's more like one in 5.  They're calling it "food insecurity" now, which I guess sounds better than "hunger."  It means there aren't enough groceries to last the month.  That the last few days before the paycheck, you might be having dinner with the homeless or not having it at all.  The technical definition of "food insecurity" is "the condition of being unable to provide adequate food for a healthy life for all members of a household due to lack of money or other resources," but what it basically amounts to is hunger.  And let's not forget that around the world every day, 21,000 people die of hunger or hunger-related illnesses every day.  Every day. That's one every four seconds.  That's one town the size of Minot, North Dakota, per day.  Almost eight million people a year.  But hey, the Pope still thinks that people shouldn't use birth control.

Anybody want to invent a medical device that can cure food insecurity?  Like maybe taking the money this stupid thing must have cost to develop and market and, I dunno, feeding India for a year or something?  Just asking.  Y'all have a nice day, now.

Friday, January 9, 2015

When Just Saying No Isn't Enough

When I was about eleven, I started to have the symptoms of what eventually became hardcore sinus problems.  At the time, though, it was just a constant runny nose and getting every cold and flu that came around.  After missing more than the usual amount of school, I got taken to a specialist.  The specialist decided, using the best in late 1970s medicine, that what I needed was cortisone injections in my nose.  You know what cortisone is, right?  That white creamy stuff that you rub on your skin and it stops itching? Yeah.  They took a giant syringe of the stuff and injected it into the blood vessels of my nostrils.

Have you ever had a shot of novocaine at the dentist's office?  That's kind of what it felt like. Only with liquid fire.  When you go to the emergency room, they ask you what your pain is like on a one to ten scale.  This was, oh, about eleven.  But I'd had it pounded into my head for years by then that One Does Not Make A Fuss Unless It's An Emergency (which it wasn't; pain is not an emergency.  A severed artery--now, that's an emergency).  So I didn't make a fuss.  I had three injections over three weeks, I think, and my head didn't explode, even though I felt like it would.  And remarkably, the stuff did work.  I didn't get sick as many times that year.

The next year, when it came time to have another round of liquid fire injections up the schnoz, something was different.  I'd turned twelve, for one thing.  I'd evidently grown a pair, for another.  Anyway, I announced I didn't want to have the shots again.  My mother was surprised, but not upset; she just called the doctor and told him I didn't want to have them.  The doctor said (this was back when doctors actually talked to you on the phone) that I'd get every cold and flu that went around.  My mom covered the receiver with her hand (this was also before hold buttons) and said, "He says you'll get every cold and flu that comes around."  I said that was fine.  So I didn't have the shots, and I got every cold and flu that went around.  Maybe not the choice everybody would make, but no liquid fire in my nose made me very happy.

The next year we'd moved and I saw a different allergist.  This one told me that I'd actually been very lucky; plenty of people got those sinus injections in the wrong artery and went blind for life. And incidentally, I was getting every cold and flu that went around because I had malformed sinuses, not because I didn't have cortisone injections.Then about 25 years later, I had sinus surgery and now I only get sick once or twice a year.   So happy ending, kind of.

Good thing I didn't live in the grand old state of Connecticut, whose Supreme Court ruled today that there's nothing wrong with forcing a 17-year old girl to have chemotherapy against her will (sedated and strapped down, according to some articles).  And that a parent can lose custody of a child for failing to follow doctor's orders.  Now, a lot's been written about this case, so I'm not gonna get into a big discussion about whether or not this girl should have chemo.  Of course she should.  She's sick. Chemo will probably help her.  No argument about that.  But just because you should do something doesn't mean you have to do something.  Plenty of adults, when offered chemo, turn it down.  Sometimes they try other treatments and sometimes they don't.  Sometimes they die of cancer, but sometimes people die of cancer anyway.  The point here is that the state is literally and physically forcing this girl into chemo, nine months before her 18th birthday, at which point she could walk out of any hospital in the United States AMA and flip her oncologist the bird on the way out the door.  And there are a lot of unanswered questions here.  Ferexample, what's the difference between eighteen and, say, 17 and 3 months?  Why should a 17-year-old, who can get birth control and have an abortion without a parent so much as being notified, not be allowed to say "no" to a certain medical treatment? And most important as far as the subject of this blog post, when can a parent legally refuse medical treatment on behalf of a child?

Well, if you're in Connecticut, the answer is essentially "never."  If a doctor recommends treatment and you (or you and your kid) decide that you don't want to do it, you can lose custody of your kid and the treatment can be applied by force.  We've seen this before in the Justina Pelletier case (Justina was also from Connecticut, though she was incarcerated in Massachusetts).  And all the places that this can go are absolutely guaranteed to keep you awake at night, if you're a parent.  Or even if you're not.  I'm not, and this stuff drives me absolutely ballistic.

Ponder this: Your kid's been diagnosed with a mental illness.  Your doctor has prescribed a drug that, I don't know, among other things makes him projectile vomit, or get dizzy and fall down.  He doesn't want to take the drug because of the side effects, and you don't want him to either (cleaning up vomit does get old occasionally; trust me on this, I have three cats).  So when you tell the doctor you're refusing the drug, are you now a criminal?  A bad parent?  Does it make a difference if there are other drugs that might work just as well, but the doctor's giving you the one where he gets the kickbacks from the pharmaceutical company? And how would you even know that? I don't imagine a whole lot of parents have read up on psychopharmaceuticals, though frankly, more of them should.

Okay, well, maybe it's not the same in every circumstance.  Maybe the state can only force your kid into treatment in life-threatening circumstances.  But let's just say that your teenage son is overweight.  Your doctor thinks he should have bariatric surgery (which is a risky proposition for an adult, never mind a kid, and which requires all kinds of aftercare essentially for life).  Now, can you say no and suggest the kid instead try a better diet and more exercise?  Or, because obesity can kill you (just like life, which is unfortunately terminal), are you now required by law to say yes?

This is particularly galling because of a thing called the "mature minor doctrine".  Some states have determined that if you think like an adult, talk like an adult, and make decisions like an adult, you can choose your own medical treatments in limited circumstances.  Usually you see this kind of thing when a kid has, say, a facial deformity, and wants to have it surgically corrected.  Sometimes the parents say no, either because of cost or because of some misguided religious thing about the deformity being a "mark of sin".  Anyway, courts have been known to step in and say that the kid can consent to his own surgery.  It's the same logic used when an underage woman wants to have an abortion. Some states view pregnancy itself as an emancipating condition that puts the decision in her hands. (Others, like Texas, say she has to have consent from her parents--or prove to a judge that she's "mature" enough.  Because if she's not mature enough, you know, she should become a mom and fulltime caretaker of a tiny helpless human being.)

The Connecticut court considered the "mature minor" argument and rejected it wholesale.  Among other things, they said no mature minor would promise under oath to get chemo and then run away from home to avoid it.  (Conveniently absent from this argument was the part where, while she was under oath and being asked to make this promise, the minor in question was also told she'd be allowed to go home if she said yes--and she was incarcerated in a hospital room at the time.  I think that's called "consent under coercion", which renders it essentially meaningless.) But even if she was a mature minor, Connecticut law didn't recognize such a thing, so she had to have the chemo anyway.

Which, I think, amounts to, "You aren't doing what we want, so we're going to force you to do what we want, because we can do that."  Look, most people in this kid's situation would opt to have the chemo.  If she has it, she has an 85% chance of surviving at least five years (which isn't the same as being "cured", but is pretty good odds).  But this kid is not most people and she said no. What was more, she discussed with her mother and her mother agreed that it was her call.  However, the opinion of the court seems to be that it was the mother's job to force her to have the chemo, and since she didn't do it, she had to be punished by losing custody of her daughter.  It seems like the overriding theme here is, "Do what most people would do, and we'll leave you alone; do something different, and boy are you in trouble."

So why is this such a big deal, you may ask. So a court can force a kid to have chemo.  Well, there are plenty of situations where medical care is inflicted on adults because they are seen as not being competent enough to refuse it.  DNRs are ignored; people are placed on ventilators even though it says clearly in their living wills that they don't want one; brain-dead pregnant women are kept on life support on the small and dwindling chances that their fourteen-week-old fetuses might make it to viability (update: it didn't). Women are told by their states that they must submit to a medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasound before they can have an abortion (state sanctioned rape, in other words).  I could go on, but you get the idea.  It's rapidly becoming more acceptable and legally permissible not just to have access to medical care, but to require it of some people. Usually poor, dark-skinned people. And children. And women. Which seems to be a theme.

In closing, civil rights need to begin at the skin.  I want an amendment to the Constitution stating that the right of persons to be not-messed-with shall not be abridged.  And I think seventeen is plenty old enough to accept or reject chemotherapy.  Because, seriously, they let you drive when you're sixteen, and then you're not taking just your own life into your hands but the lives of every other driver around you. And driving is a lot more dangerous than chemotherapy.  I'm just sayin'.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

HAPPY EVERYTHING, EVERYBODY!!


Christmas 2014.  God bless us, every one.  (Says the Buddhist atheist.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Saga of the Office Plant

Sorry for the lack of blogitude lately.  It's the time of year.  Silver bells and snowmen and walking in a winter wonderland and all that.  Actually, this being Dallas, the weather's been a lot like spring.  It only got seriously cold in the last few days and the odds of snow are kind of remote.  Dallas is persnicketty like that.  One year it snowed six inches on the first day of spring while on Christmas it was 76 degrees and sunny.  I blame global warming.  And our weather guy voted for Mitt Romney.

Speaking of great seismic shifts in the fabric of reality, and my boss told me the other day that he's giving me more work.  He said that's the problem with doing a great job.  You do a great job, they give you more work.  It's fine, though, really, except that one of the cases goes to trial in three weeks and nothing, and I do mean nothing, is ready.  I'm frantically paging through my project management books over here to design a critical path and a PERT diagram so as to get it all done. (Project management stuff is great.  I'm giving serious thought to going back to school long enough to pick up a certificate in PM.  It couldn't hurt and it might help a lot.  There's just always so much going on.)

To really get an idea of how the new job is going, though, you'd have to talk to my plant.

This plant--I call him Robert and he sings a mean baritone--and I have been together for a long time.  Since about 2007, which is a long time for a plant.  A vendor gave him to me and he's been on my desk ever since, getting bigger, shooting out little baby plants and just in general providing greenery.  I think he's some kind of ivy but I don't really know.  What I have figured out is that if you water him once a week and keep his leaves trimmed, he makes a fine, if quiet, companion.

Robert Plant has seen it all; late nights and early mornings, crazy bosses and great big ugly deadlines.  And lots of ordinary days.  So I'm kinda attached to him, if you hadn't figured that out.  When I finally got my new desk, which took three or so weeks (there's a lack of desk space at this job, but it's getting better). I brought him in from home and put him in charge of the front counter space.  Then Monday came and I took him down to water him.  And that's when all the trouble started.

Robert's planter doesn't have a drip catcher.  I'm not sure why; maybe it was flawed from the beginning.  My MO for watering him has been to put the whole plant in a trash can and water him there, so that any drips run into the trash can.  Great idea, but the first time out of the box at the new job it flat out didn't work.  I put the plant into the trash can, expecting it to catch on the rims, and instead it slid all the way down and got stuck.  Kind of like when a glass bowl that's just the right size accidentally slides into your garbage disposal and--yeah, you can't get a grip on it to get it back out because--yeah.  So Robert's stuck in the trash can and I'm stuck trying to pull out the lining in hopes of jarring him loose.  Instead I tear out the whole lining by accident.  The plant stays right where it is.

There's an obvious solution to this problem, isn't there?  Unlike the glass bowl stuck in the garbage disposal, you can turn the fricking thing upside down and dislodge the plant.  Right.  Except that the plant's full of high-grade expensive dirt and it's a nice carpet, as industrial carpets go.  So I hunted down a box, took everything out of it and tipped the garbage can over into the box.  Er.  It didn't work.  Well, I mean, the plant was dislodged, all right, but I flat out missed the box and ended up with high-grade expensive dirt all over the underside of my desk.

Oops.

Okay, I cleaned it up as best I could, and that night the janitor came in, probably scratched his head a few times and then vacuumed the rest of it up.  (Hey, I could be a vampire.  I need the native soil of my homeland under my desk or else I shrivel up or something.  It's possible.  I do work nights sometimes.)  And that was my first day at my new desk with my plant.

See above re: project management.  Yeah, there's a certain bitter irony to the whole thing, isn't there?
Well, anyway, if I don't blog before then, happy everything, everybody.  And have a blessed New Year.  And if you bring a plant to work, make sure he has a drip catcher.  Maybe I'll get Robert one for Christmas.

Monday, December 1, 2014

What Happens in Phoenix...Part II

Aha! You foolishly thought I'd only write one blog post about our thrilling experience flying to Phoenix!  No such luck. After all, we'd only just managed to get to Phoenix.  We still had to get back.  And why it should be any less interesting on the return trip, I have no idea.  Neither did the travel gods, who for some reason just didn't care for us this time around.

I might add, though, that the time we spent in Phoenix was fine.  We hung around with my parents, sister and other relatives, went to an amazing museum (the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale; definitely check it out if you're ever in the neighborhood) that I had to pry Joan out of with a crowbar, and caught up with some of my friends.  But getting there was not half the fun.  Getting back wasn't very good either.

For the record, I am firing myself as staff travel agent.  Not only did I get us a flight out that required us to catch a Wonder Shuttle at four o'clock in the blessed morning, I got us a flight back that changed planes in Albuquerque.  Flights that change planes need to be avoided like the plague.  Any time you change planes, you multiply the chances that something can go wrong.  And given a chance to go wrong, most things will oblige, at least occasionally.  So we need a new travel agent.  Applications are being solicited through this blog.  All applicants must be marginally sane, understand Expedia.com and believe, as we do, that all airlines are evil, though some are more evil than others.  Okay?  Okay.

Moving on:  Our flight actually arrived in Albuquerque about ten minutes early, and it also showed up at the gate right next to our next departure gate.  This meant that not only did we have time to buy a sandwich, we also didn't need the nice wheelchair guy that showed up to help.  Unfortunately, I'd bought a sandwich in Phoenix, assuming that we wouldn't have time to buy one in Albuquerque.  So we had this slightly smashed roast beef sandwich to share, complete with soggy bread and smears of what looked like salad dressing on the outside of my purse.  Oh well.  It was pretty tasty anyway.

Upon arriving in Phoenix, though, we had a problem.  No ground transportation.  Joan called Wonder Shuttle, which told her to wait until we'd picked up our bags and then call back.  We got the bags (or rather, I got the bags - note to travel agent applicants: I'll still get the bags.  It's why they pay me the big bucks) and Joan called Wonder Shuttle again.  The dispatcher guy told Joan they were "having trouble getting drivers to return to the airport," so it would be 30 to 45 minutes before they could pick us up.

Mind you, they knew we were coming.  We had to give them our flight numbers and all that when we booked (and prepaid for) the ride.  Why they were now telling us, close to midnight at the end of a very long day, that they couldn't pick us up for close to an hour made absolutely no sense.  And what were they doing, in the 15 minutes between our first call and our second call?  Playing "Tetris," apparently.  Or maybe something ruder that can't be typed into a religious-type blog like this one.

Anyway, spending 45 minutes standing outside in the dark and cold at Love Field, which isn't exactly the wisest place for a pair of women to hang out alone at night, wasn't high on either of our lists.  I had some money left, so we basically said "fuck it" and grabbed a cab.  And as always happens when we grabbed a cab, we took our lives in our hands.  Not since we whipped around the statue of Benito Juarez in downtown Tijuana on two wheels have we had such an entertaining high-speed cab ride. I dunno what the speed limit is in Highland Park, but we probably blew through it by about double.  In between clinging to the lord help me Jesus bars inside the cab and covering our eyes as we careened through red lights, Joan said, "Why don't you call Wonder Shuttle and ask for a refund."  I said, "If we survive this, I certainly will."

We reached the freeway and were forced to slow down to around seventy miles an hour.  I called Wonder Shuttle, told the annoying voice-automated system that I was requesting a refund, and got the dispatcher Joan had talked to before.  "Hey," he said, "I think I can have a van to you in about ten minutes."  "I'm sorry," I told him,  "We're already in a cab and gone."  He transferred me to a supervisor, who apparently was supposed to talk us out of it. Out of what?  Out of being in a cab and gone?  

Ponder this:  I had only very recently been asked if I was sure I was in Phoenix. Now somebody was trying to talk me out of wanting a refund.  I don't normally handle situations like this very well.  All the same, I didn't blow up and I didn't tear this guy's head off.  I just used my Best Paralegal Voice to tell him, "We were told 30 to 45 minutes.  That's unacceptable at this hour, so we got a cab.  And we'd like a refund."  My Best Paralegal Voice must still work, because he said, "Okay, that'll take three to five business days."  By the end of this sentence, we were in our driveway.  I think the hyperspace thrusters on this cab were kind of warn out.

Anyway, we made it home in one piece, I didn't yell at anybody and nothing disappeared from either of our suitcases, except Joan's grey robe, which thankfully reappeared.  So all's well.  Sort of.  Except for needing a new travel agent.  Again, I'm screening resumes.  The salary's not great, but the benefits are pretty cool.  Er, or so I hear.