Hard-working vacation 2016.04.07


That's it. The last time. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

For the second time in my rare flying experience, I gave up my window seat to a child with a plaintive request: "Please, Mister, could I have your window seat?"

The first time occurred a couple of years ago when a young boy asked for the seat and I gave in. Within a half hour he was playing a video game on his iPad and I was craning my neck to see what was below.

What's below? Almost three hours of fascination on a flight to Miami. It's so amazing to see it all from 34,000 feet. It starts when the plane leaves Metro airport and crosses over Lake Erie. I get lost quickly but find myself again over West Virginia, I think it is, when the hills begin appearing.

My favorite time is when the plane moves out over the Atlantic before circling into Miami. That's when I see the whitecaps below and remember the French phrase "moutons de mer," sheep of the sea.

Last week when we boarded the plane, a girl was already in my seat and asked if she could sit there. I gave in, and within 15 minutes she pulled down the shade and never looked out again.

We did something new on this trip to visit my son, Ben, and his family: We called Uber to get a ride from the airport. This is the taxi service that isn't quite a taxi service. It's not a company that owns its own fleet of cars. The drivers are just anybody who wants to drive people around.

I downloaded the app on my phone, made the request for a pick-up, and soon got a response that Jerome was on the way in a Ford Escape. We waited for our ride just across from a line of yellow taxis and I felt a little guilty shunning the established system for the upstart company. 

I figured there must be a lot of animosity between the two, so when Jerome pulled up and opened the back of his car, I asked if we should give him a hug as though we were all family members. He said that wouldn't be necessary.

Jerome was from Manhattan and moved to Miami 12 years ago to retire. He drives for Uber to earn a little cash, just working as much as he wanted. It was a cheap ride in an old beater car with an old beater driver, but it got us where we needed to go.

I make it to Miami about once a year and that guarantees that I will see it as a strange place each time. Dogs in restaurants. Little lizards scurrying across the sidewalks. Trees and shrubs screaming with brightly colored blooms in early April. Turmeric listed as an optional smoothie ingredient. The eternal, infernal sound of leaf blowers. There may be lizards, but let there be no leaf on a sidewalk in Miami.

In the Pacific Northwest, life goes on despite the frequent rain or you would never get much accomplished. In Miami it's the heat. You don't wait for it to cool off. For example, Peacock Park was busy with an adult kickball league despite 90° temperatures. Adult kickball! 90°!

I think this was the first vacation ever that I wore all of the clothes I packed. I usually toss a few items into a suitcase and return half of them to the dresser. Not so this time.

Colleen and I provided childcare for a 10-month-old and a 3.75-year-old and there was vomit and snot and…well, the list goes on. This was truly a working vacation requiring some rest back at home to prepare for my real job. Let's just say that it's been long enough since we had little kids in the house that I'd forgotten what it takes to get it all done.

We called Uber again on departure day and this time Oscar fetched us in his Nissan Sentra. Oscar struggled enough with English that I stopped asking him questions, but he was a great driver. He was always smiling and offered a handshake when we unloaded at the airport.

I got my window seat on the plane and even though a third of the flight was cloudy below, I was never lost. There was a little video screen on the back of the seat in front of every passenger and I could follow the plane's progress up Florida, into Georgia,  across the line to South Carolina, etc.

And I got what I was after. We took off and headed east over the Atlantic. The blue tint of the shallow water is so incredible and the "sheep" were busy grazing.