January 1, 2011

2011, so far

There's something unjust about leaving on a flight at 7:45 in the morning on New Year's Day. It's not good planning, especially if you're going to try to ring in the new year the night before. And it's after writing this sentence that I realize it's 2011.

The whole New Year celebration has lost considerable meaning in the last few years. People make New Year's resolutions because they open another calendar and it's a new chance to start over, a fresh year, a fresh start. We all get a do-over. Somehow, the first few hours and days are loaded with opportunity and meaning. But for me it feels like New Year's Eve is really just another midnight, another excuse for a social gathering. I used to take it more seriously, used to marvel at how my parents could sleep through it, could go to bed before midnight.

A few years ago, I was moved as near to rage as I can remember. It was following a year when I had rung in the new year in a Grandville family's home, waiting for a mom to sign a check. The kids were devouring then unpaid-for pizza, oblivious to the ball-drop in the other room. I informed them that it was 2007. They said, "Cool," and continued grazing while mom handed me the check. Five dollar tip. Not bad, but I wondered what the sacrifice of my social life was worth. So the following year, I told my boss that I would work but I wanted an early shift so I could be out in time to enjoy the reveling with my cohorts. At 10, when I was supposed to be released, we were too busy for me to even consider leaving. At 11, I started having car trouble. At 12, I was in my car, on 28th Street, cursing my fate of searching for a house and hearing someone on the radio count down the new year while my friends partied on. At 1, my car broke down a mile from my house. I walked the rest of the way.

It was the kind of night when so many buttons are pushed you can't help but surrender to its awfulness and wait for it to end.

Now I don't think New Year's is such a big deal. Maybe this year it was because I had more on my mind, that early morning flight. I was on a schedule the night before. That's never a great way to get rest. I had a few things to pack, so I left them out and set the alarm on my iPod for 5 AM and went to bed. I would wake at 5, pack, eat, hit the road by 5:45 and be at the airport by 6:15, the recommended 90 minutes before departure.

At 5:55 AM, I woke up and looked at my iPod. There was no way 5:55 was right. In my confusion, I refused to consider that I had overslept. Was there a time change? Was my clock wrong? Surely mom and dad would have woken me up if it was actually almost six. As I finally fully emerged from sleep, I saw the truth that I had, in fact, overslept. (Turns out, lots of people relying on an iPhone/iPod touch as an alarm had the same issue today.) And had to shower. And eat. And pack. And be at the airport in 20 minutes. Not gonna happen.

I power-showered, stuffed my belongings into my bags, and plopped down at the breakfast table. I shared the news with Mom and Dad that we were gonna be late. Looked for DVD that had come to Michigan with me in my drive. (Sorry, Julio, we should get It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia disc 2 from seasons 1-2 in the mail in soon.) We left for the airport at 6:25, arrived there close to 6:45. The lady at the check-in desk told the guy in front of me to get right in the TSA line because it had been long.

The line was indeed long. It wound its way back into the waiting lobby and up towards the check-in counters. I had about 35 minutes before they shut the doors at the gate. As it turned out, there were 34 minutes of line there. I was the last person to make my flight. Several people behind me didn't make it.

As I write this, I'm sitting on a plane flying directly over the Bahamas. We've got a stop in St Thomas, then we backtrack to San Juan. The first flight was brief, and my layover afterward wasn't even long enough for me to stock up on overpriced Dr Pepper at O'Hare. Right now, this is the first chance I've got to reflect on today and this young year. To summarize it: So far, looks like there will be a lot of oversleeping (something I almost never do), bidding a good-bye to my parents, waiting in long lines, and narrowly making flights. I'm not sure what to make of it if these first few hours are any indication of the year ahead. If everyday is like this, expect me to be bald next time you see me.

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