Sunday, February 27, 2011

Of Magic 8 Balls and the Oscars

Remember those Magic 8 Balls -- the Mattel toy that pretended to tell the future? You would ask a yes-or-no question, turn the ball in your hand and peek in the cloudy window to see your answer. Usually, the answer made no sense whatsoever.

Magic 8 Balls were developed in 1950. They are out, over, now merely nostalgic souvenirs, sometimes found in retro shops. I haven't used one in years. Now, late at night,  I sit at the computer and ask Google, “What’s the best way to get to the San Francisco airport?”

(Yes, this is crazy – but not as crazy as when I used to type, “When will the condo sell?” And “Where will I find an apartment I can afford?” And “Will the condo sell soon?)

In its way, Google is no more satisfying than the Magic 8 Ball. Does it tell me whether I should book a taxi, reserve a spot on a shuttle, drive my own car or take BART to the airport? No.

I know from experience that taxis do not always come when called. (See the Sept. 24 post.) On Yelp, I found reviews dissing every airport shuttle service in town, complaining about being stranded completely or, worse, being picked up on time but making so many stops en route to the airport that people missed their flights. Also, apparently no airport shuttle companies in town actually answer their phones.

If I drive myself – and I do trust me to leave home on time, park and make the flight – I am worried that when I get back home a couple days later, there will be no place to park my car. (See the July 21 post.) And I really don’t want to drag my bag and haul my backpack on two buses and BART.  I love riding the Muni when I’m out playing or even going to appointments, but making my way to the airport on public transportation right now sounds like a drag.

Is money an issue? Yes. And no. A taxi one way will be $40-$45. A shuttle will cost $17 plus tip one way. Driving and parking will be about $70 total. Public transportation would cost $10 round trip. I’m careful about my money, especially now that Lee Enterprises (publisher of the Post-Dispatch) helps themselves to half my pension each month as payment for health insurance I was promised would be free for life. (My life, not the life of Lee’s tolerance for unions.) But I also am willing to pay for convenience, especially when traveling.

“You’re over-thinking this,” says my son. Yep. That’s how I survive. I over-think and then make a decision and move on to the next problem to be solved. I’ve been taking good care of myself since I got divorced in 1980, and I don't apologize for my methods.   

Skipping merrily off to another topic here, I do apologize for setting aside this evening to watch the 83rd Academy Awards. Thirty minutes in, shortly after the excellent Morgan Freeman’s part of the show was over, I declared on Facebook that the show sucked. Somehow it got worse as the evening went on. And then even worse.

I played a few Scrabble games on line, tried to keep myself from being drawn in to the hideously depressing world and national news in the New York Times and chatted with a friend. Okay, I also looked up more reviews of airport shuttles.

Fast-forwarding through the Oscars show, I did find myself transfixed a time or two by the statue itself because earlier this week I met two actual Oscar winners. On the mantel in their living room were two Oscars and two Emmys. Ever cool and sophisticated, when I saw the statues, I blurted, “Wow! I’m looking at Oscars and Emmys!”

The occasion, part of an incredibly kind and generous “Introduce Pat to Our Friends” project undertaken by old friend Nancy and new friend Betty-Lou, was a visit to the home of two extraordinary people, gifted filmmakers and bright, fun individuals. We sat in their kitchen, drinking tea and nibbling on outstanding fig bread and cookies, talking for hours about our lives, movies, our kids, theater, our health problems, and books.

We laughed a lot, too, most unexpectedly when I mentioned my cat. Suddenly, the couple’s two dogs raced for the back door, barking and snarling and ready to protect their property from any marauding felines. I once had a dog that knew the words “bye-bye” and “walk,” but these dogs heard “cat” and went wild. When I realized what I had said, I immediately began to refer to the cat as an iguana, an elephant, even an okapi, in hopes of calming the dogs.

Anyway, it was a wonderful afternoon of leisure and delight that nicely leavened a week otherwise full of work -- and wondering how best to get to the airport. It’s just a transportation detail. I’ll get there.

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