My Misadventures

I’d been dreading my dental visit to Loveland, Colorado for weeks. Not the dental part, but getting there and back. Being a penny pincher, I planned to drive, but after calculating drive time (22 hours one way) and gas costs, I decided to fly. Also, I’ve been suffering from a nagging pain in the ass after a mere 10 minute sit, and didn’t think I’d be able to stand the aching pain. I found the cheapest flight possible – a redeye there and back. I hate the vicious cycle of missing sleep. I dread the event and end up missing a night or two prior from anxiety. As usual, the night before my departure I awoke thinking of picayune details. I awoke bleary eyed and gathered the necessary elements for the flight: gum, sleep mask, boarding passes, snacks, water, chargers. I was flying to Denver to get my zirconium dental bridge replaced. My new zirconium bridge had broken after a matter of months. Blame the popcorn kernel. Ironically, the same dentist who made the bridge sent the popcorn as a kind of congratulations. The message: you can eat normal food- well maybe not popcorn kernels.

I arrived at SFO at 11:30 pm and found the international terminal. The previous time I flew to Colorado, last August, I didn’t know Frontier used the International terminal and almost missed the flight. This time, the flight wasn’t till 12:59am, so I spent some time admiring the pottery exhibit sourced from various countries in Asia at the entrance of the terminal. After finding out that the flight was delayed about 20 minutes, I headed to security and dumped my water. Once at the gate, I waited for some time until I realized that the crowd was no longer. The gate had changed. Good thing anxiety kept me wide awake. I waited to board till the end, then snagged an empty row toward the back. Turns out we were flying through the storm that was about to descend on Denver that morning. I was later told that February is the coldest, wettest month for towns like Denver east of the Rockies. I couldn’t sleep due to the rough ride and said prayers under my breath, holding my stuffed animal close. I’ve never gotten over fear of turbulence.

We landed at 4:30 am. The Avis shuttle arrived within 10 minutes. On the previous trip, I ended up walking about a mile after waiting 40 minutes for a shuttle. This time I entered what looked like an empty lobby and stood at the front hoping someone would appear. A guy popped up from behind the Avis desk and mumbled something. He had the mask pulled below his mouth yet despite that was inaudible. Nevertheless, he made a valiant effort to upgrade my vehicle. I asked about snow tires and chains – no, they would not be provided (despite the fact that it was already snowing and was supposed to continue throughout the day). He did his best to scare me into all kinds of upgrades while failing to mention that I’d have to pay extra. Only when I read the very faded receipt did I notice that I would have to pay an additional $90 for a car that would handle snow, $45 for their insurance which would cover any damage in the event of a mishap in the snow, etc. He threatened that any damage to the vehicle, including a chip in the windshield, would be out of pocket. Given that I’d already paid $100 for a 14 hour rental (a relative bargain since I’d made the reservation over a month prior, sarcasm intended), I wasn’t eager to pay more. Used car dealers have nothing on this Avis guy. Just my luck the car he assigned me had a huge crack in the windshield which I didn’t notice until after I exited the lot. I ended up calling six different numbers for Avis throughout the day to report the cracked screen but to no avail. The $250 deposit fee that they charged to cover such mishaps stayed on my credit card for a week. With my luck they’d charge me for its replacement.

By the time I left the lot it was 5:30am, was 12F and had started snowing. With bad road conditions it would take me an hour to get to FeelLove Cafe, where I’d hoped to rest at before my dental appointment. On my previous visit to Denver for dental work, I slept in the AVIS car lot till 7:30am or so (in the back of my rental), only to be awoke by nervous Spanish speaking workers who thought I was homeless and had broken into a car. I wanted to avoid a fiasco and hoped the cafe would allow me a bit of shut eye (while sitting up of course). Through sleet and snow, hoping I wouldn’t get rear ended by someone going 75, I made my way through the icy dawn. The plains and buildings were covered with a dusting of snow and ice. It was pretty in a surreal kind of way. I finally arrived at FeelLove and asked whether I could rest on the couch before ordering a latte. No dice. The hardened barista glared at me like I was asking to be given the golden ticket.

No one was in the cafe – it had just opened, so I wasn’t sure who I’d be offending. I sat in the back and closed my eyes while sitting up, hoping that wouldn’t constitute an offense. The self same woman strode to my side and scolded me, forcing my retreat to the car where I sat for 3 hours in a blizzard (at 14F) till my feet were numb. I had put all 5 layers on, including my down parka and warm cap, but my feet were still freezing. I had planned to bring boots but was told it wouldn’t be necessary. Boy did I wish I had them. Even small steps on the frozen ice spelled imminent disaster and I understood the danger of icy sidewalks. My maternal grandmother had broken her hip falling on the ice in Massachusetts. As I walked back in, Miss Prissy Pants gave me a warm smile and shouted “welcome in” before seeing that it was I, the offending couch sitter. She went back to scowling and I ordered a latte and croissant. I wanted to reward myself for my frugality at taking a red eye and the inconveniences therein. The cafe was now hopping and I was awake. I had hoped to wander around the quaint old downtown of Loveland but was was daunted by the bitter cold.

I visited the tortilla factory for mouth-watering corn tortillas and a two small chicken mole burritos. The factory is in an old brick building, part of the old residential neighborhood of Loveland. I yearned to visit the old antique/bookstore a few doors down, the sculpture garden, the old movie theater, but the wet snowflakes persuaded me to head directly to the dentist’s waiting room. The dental office hummed with activity and efficiency, and I looked forward to seeing Stef, the dental implant specialist. When I told her that the zirconium bridge broke, she was unfazed, as was Dr. Andrew Howard, who as always was smiling and kind. I remember them telling me that only one patient in 10 years had ever broken a bridge and was afraid to report the break. I had visions of Dr. Tadros, my previous dentist who disowned me as a patient because of autoimmune-caused dental resorption which he blamed on poor hygiene. What a difference between he and Dr Howard! I had an acupuncturist like Dr Tadros who would blame me for my pulses and tongue and tell me that if I wasn’t careful I’d get cancer. He scared me on a regular basis. I remember a friend saying that a health practitioner should not shame or blame the patient. I was so used to being treated as such that I didn’t realize it might not be deserved. In any case I felt no shame or blame as they replaced the broken arch. I felt lucky to have found such kind and competent people. It was worth the trouble of going to Colorado.

Since my flight wasn’t till 10:10pm, I decided to spend the afternoon in Fort Collins. I love the old downtown and decided to park at the old town library, a lovely stone building a few blocks from College Ave. Snowflakes blinded me as I tromped across snowy fields. I decided to enter the library for a spell and found my way to the kid’s section, settling into a small couch with a few classics. I am always touched by children’s books. I found myself crying over the story of a small beaver who had lost its way, while laughing about a grandma who let her grandkids tear up her kitchen to bake chocolate cookies. After the flurry outside subsided, I made my way along the back streets of my favorite town in northern Colorado. Despite growing exponentially in the last 20 years, Fort Collins hasn’t lost its charm, due in part to the involvement and dedication of the local community.

I walked into a used gear store which reminded me of the place I bought waterproof boots in Portland. The owners laughed when I remarked on how few people were in the streets. They said it’s 15F, what do you expect? I told them I was from the SF Bay Area and they clearly thought me an odd bird wandering around their hood when locals were wary to venture out in the storm. It was just my luck to arrive when a winter storm hit the foothills of the Rockies. It would be sunny and warm by the next morning. I walked my usual route through the main square, ducking into shops that I knew or had never seen. After about an hour I treated myself to a 2 scoop sundae at Walrus Ice Cream, happily eating the frozen stuff as more frozen stuff fell outside. I’d conveniently forgotten that I was meeting my cousin for dinner.

I headed back to the library and settled myself back in my reading nook. Not 5 minutes passed when I became aware of a police officer hassling an elderly black man who seemed to have taken refuge in the library. I overheard some of the conversation and was relieved that the officer seemed to have stopped hassling the man and was back to friendly banter. Just as I’d settled back in, 3 more officers came in and one, in a very aggressive tone, made some accusations and cranked the man’s wrists back. He gave a cry and his friend shouted at them, saying that he had an injured wrist and to be careful. I was upset and wanted to be an ally if I could. I asked one of the officers the grounds for arrest (by this time they’d cuffed him), but he only said it was a private affair. Private? Is that the new buzz word to silence bystanders from making the police accountable? I was very troubled and asked someone in the library what happened. They shook their head and claimed innocence. I was haunted by images of the poor old man whose wrists had been bent back at an obscene angle and felt responsibility for witnessing and not interfering with the arrest.

I met my cousin and his wife at a new Thai place they had recently discovered. It had been 6 months since his mom’s death (my Aunt Eugenia) and I knew it weighed heavy on him. I’d been missing Eugenia as well. She was one of my closest relatives and even after dementia, was smart as a whip and had a memory that would make most jealous. I admired her intelligence, sense of humor, and interest in the lives of others. She remained interested in the world till the end. It was good to see Sean and Evelyn. I have tremendous respect for both of them, for their involvement in the world of alternative energy (Evelyn owns a company that builds wind and solar farms) and social justice (Sean has worked for over 20 years for non profits like Project Concern and International Rescue Committee). On top of their full careers, they are doting parents and spend quality time with their kids. Admirable.

It was good to catch up. I was reluctant to leave but with traffic, icy roads, and poor visibility (not to mention lack of insurance), I decided it wasn’t worth risking a missed flight. As it was, I found out after arriving at the airport that the flight was running an hour and a half late. We would be getting in at 2:15 am MST. It looked like most people on the flight had prior connections. The waiting area was strewn with bodies. Exhausted people lay on the floor, chairs, and some strange-looking sculpture like furniture. A kind young man alerted me to updates about the flight. It turned out he was from northern Turkey. Before boarding, I met a kind PhD student who had celebrated his birthday in SF and environs for the first time. Turns out he’s from Eastern Turkey (Kurdish territory). I surprised him with mehraba nasilsin and told him I’d lived in Selçuk in western Turkey, for a few months. He was on his way to San Francisco for the first time to celebrate his birthday. We had a very nice exchange and promised to stay in touch. I learned after his visit that he really enjoyed himself and is interested in possible post doc studies at UC Berkeley.

After hours of waiting, the congregation entered the plane and took our seats. I eyed the last empty set of 3 seats and plopped myself in the middle seat, hoping that the remaining passengers weren’t seated there. I lucked out this time. There have been a few other times when I took a chance and had to move. Just my luck, I was sitting in front of a bedraggled mother and her defiant toddler. After listening to 10 minutes of a high pitched wail and an exasperated mother yelling at her daughter not to touch anything, I turned and said “it’s hard being a parent, I have tremendous admiration for you”. I think she was more receptive than otherwise because I’d let her go in front of me during boarding. In any case, I suggested that she might consider being more permissive during the flight to avoid her toddler’s pushback (in large part for the sanity of me and the passengers, which I didn’t say). She told me how hard it had been for her as her husband had come home early and she had to manage her little one alone. After take off the pilot announced that the landing gear had overheated and needed to be dropped in order to cool off. Cool as a cucumber, he announced that it would make a strange sound for a minute. I didn’t think anything of it until I heard a grinding sound and felt a tremendous shaking coupled with huge amounts of air rushing into the cabin. During what felt like eons, I bid farewell goodbye to my stuffed baby elephant Elefante, who’d agreed to accompany me. At least my teeth would look good in the wreckage.


4 responses to “My Misadventures

  1. Though there were misadventures indeed, you had yummy ice cream, a lovely meeting with your cousin, some good reads at the book store, a fantastic experience at the dental office, and you survived awful red-eye flights, snow and ice to boot – all great material for your wonderful story! I really appreciate your heartfelt writing and skill with descriptions. Thank you for a very satisfying read!


    • Thanks Nancy as always. It means a lot to see your responses. I guess I chose the titles because I seemed to have lots of things go wrong and yet felt very present and alive. I guess that’s how life can be.


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