Thursday, February 24, 2011

Back

I meant to post from New Zealand, I truly did, but there was too much going to the beach and spending all day in my swimsuit and drinking fresh lemonade and just generally enjoying non-life-threatening air temperatures, in contrast to life in Wisconsin. Not to worry, all that pesky fun-having is in the past and I have cast off my Southern Hemisphere indolence and returned to my midwestern lifestyle, where the most fun you can have is engaging in a really satisfying bout of chipping ice off the driveway.

As soon as I left Wisconsin, the state exploded into protests. Which is strange, because as soon as I left New Zealand, there was an earthquake that killed dozens of people. I don't like this trend. I'm worried that if I go over to a friend's house, something really bad will happen as soon as I leave, like maybe they get a nasty case of moths in the pantry or it's not just that they have a high hairline, they really are going bald.

My time in New Zealand was fantastic. In related news, I would like to announce that my kids are rock stars. They were perfectly happy and cooperative the entire time, even to the point where Baby W refrained from pooping during travel. That is a seriously considerate child.

My trip didn't start off well. United told me that because my first flight was delayed "due to weather in Chicago," we would miss all our subsequent flights. It is hard to describe how much I hate United. Sometimes I wish United Airlines was an actual person so that when he tried to friend me on Facebook, I would like so totally ignore the friend request. (Is that too harsh? I'm trying to follow Obama's call for civil discourse.)

I call bullshit on the "bad weather in Chicago" excuse, by the way. According to United, Chicago always has bad weather. United wants us to think that the last day Chicago had weather that did not cause airplanes to be delayed was sometime in the early 1980s. I will admit that "weather in Chicago" is an easy and convenient catch-all to blame bad things on. I am planning to blame "weather in Chicago" for all the bad things in my life, including the fact that notwithstanding all his good qualities, my second child is definitely a tub pooper. Also, "weather in Chicago" is the reason I can't seem to shake this persistent athlete's foot infection. You know, due to all those thunderstorms.

I think United Airlines is hoping that the meaning of the phrase "weather in Chicago" will become divorced from the actual words that make up the phrase, the way that KFC no longer stands for Kentucky Fried Chicken or NAACP no longer stands for National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. We'll just call it WIC and we know it's something very bad. The specifics don't matter.

I eventually did manage to get on various planes and make it to my Air New Zealand flight on time. A flight on Air NZ is totally different from a flight on United, so different that it almost doesn't make sense to use the world "airline" to describe them both. Perhaps we can agree that Air NZ is an airline, and United is a WIC.

When I got on the Air NZ flight, there was a tower of amenities on my seat, including a pillow, blanket, earphones, etc. When they saw I had a baby, they handed me a diaper, a package of wipes, and a tube of diaper rash cream.They handed out goody bags for the kids and even gave a Baby W a cloth bib with a picture of a kiwi bird on it. That's right, while domestic airlines act like the measly package of peanuts they dole out contains the gilded droppings of the golden goose, Air NZ is doing my souvenir shopping for me,

As soon as we got on the Los Angeles - Auckland flight, both kid conked out right away, leaving me with 70 (free) on-demand movies to choose from to watch on my own personal screen.With no kids and plenty of entertainment, it felt almost like one of the 'date nights' that David and I occasionally have, although without the sex. However, Air New Zealand is a full service airline, and I'm sure if I had expressed the slightest interest to one of the flight attendants they would have been happy to oblige.

My return to Wisconsin couldn't have been timed to come at a more interesting moment. Tens of thousands of union supporters are protesting at the capitol building every day to object to the Governor's proposal to make sweeping changes to the collective bargaining power of public workers. More protesters are streaming in from out of state all the time. Anyone who has picked up a newspaper or turned on the radio has heard about the Governor's proposal, but in case you haven't, I know an easy way to sum up his plan: let's just say it's a WIC. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Truck

The kids and I leave for New Zealand in a few days, and while I HAD been a little anxious about enduring the upcoming travel, there is nothing like a foot of snow whipped into waist-high drifts to remove any lingering doubts I had about flying to a semi-tropical location on the other side of the world.

When the roads get as bad as they are right now, we stash our little hippie car -- which runs on fuel made from hemp and ground-up Sierra Club canvassers -- and bring out David's ancient SUV. When I first met David, I jokingly referred to his truck as The Lawyermobile, since at the time it seemed like the kind of slightly upmarket vehicle an attorney might drive. Fifteen years later, it no longer looks like something a lawyer would be caught dead in, although I suppose I could rename it The Lawyer Who Got Disbarred For Bilking Old Ladies And Is Trying To Find A Job As A Paralegal - Mobile.

Remember the Cash For Clunkers program? You got a hefty credit for trading in a vehicle and purchasing a new car with significantly improved gas mileage. David is emotionally attached to his truck but the mention of a $4,500 credit for a truck that at this point is worth $4,450 less than that got even his attention. I'm assigning the truck a value of $50 only because it contains a thick layer of detritus inside that has built up over the years, consisting of single mittens, 2-year old New Yorkers, and spare Stella underpants. This layer has sufficiently compressed that I think you could sell it to someone as for fuel for a wood-pellet stove, hence the $50 value.

We wound up not taking advantage of Cash For Clunkers for a variety of reasons, even though it seemed like the program was tailor-made for us. I think Obama still holds his brow and cries "Why? Why did she not take advantage of my offer?" And you know, I do hate to disappoint Obama.

As an aside, I am realizing that I do miss one thing about President Bush. When watching a sports game, it's more enjoyable if you are rooting for one team over the other. However, I don't know enough about sports to have a dog in most fights. So I would simply think about which team President Bush was likely rooting for, and pick the opposite. This also worked well in developing policy opinions on those federal issues that I didn't know enough about to formulate my own opinion. If Bush is for it, I'm against! This lead me to hold some pretty convoluted and let's face it, sometimes just plain weird opinions, but that's a sacrifice I was willing to make to be true to my ideals.

Back to the topic of the truck. Sometimes I think we don't need that second vehicle, considering that neither David nor I drive to work, and some days our main use of the car is to get the kids to nap. If we take either kid for a ride, their eyelids slam shut before we are barely out of the driveway. As a matter of fact, a car ride is such an efficient way of getting a kid to go to sleep that I'm convinced that naps only became popular at the time that cars did. Before, say, the 1930s, parents had to go through the trouble of hitching up the horse and wagon to get their children to nap, and were much less likely to do so. And before wheels existed, children didn't sleep at all. Primitive cave-parents had to grunt their children to sleep.

The truck will be our main vehicle for the next couple days, at least until we head to New Zealand. I'm looking forward to seeing my father, enjoying 80 degree temperatures, and swimming in the ocean. Stella is looking forward to visiting the pig that lives next door to my father. I think we're going to all have a lot of fun, and I'm not just saying that because I suspect Bush is anti-New Zealand. But it doesn't hurt.