The wind was churning muddy green breakers onto the beach when I left Haines for Anchorage (with an overnight stop in Juneau to see the engaged couple and JJ) so I took the last two Dramamine in the house. My suit case was heavier than I hoped, but I had to pack Xtra-Tufs for the weekend in Homer and city clothes for the two days in Anchorage and another in Juneau--but I was flying light compared to the retired troopers who said they weighed 220 and 260, and who had waxed boxes of fish, big duffles, and heavy suitcases. I wished I had said I weighed 220. Just to make sure we'd take off. Especially when I saw we did not have the big cozy Caravan, rather the little six-seater. Turns out they sent a gear plane behind us, with the guys' stuff and the frozen bear hide on route to the taxidermist. Is this starting to sound like a Pam Houston story? Is this all part of a weird coincidence because I'm interviewing her tonight about her new book about plane rides and oddly enlightening moments called Contents May Have Shifted? I was the second to last person to wedge in. The last was a young man wearing his Xtra-Tufs and an orange inflatable lifejacket. He said he never flies over water without one. (I did bring my rosary, and dug around in my pack for it.) A person wouldn't take a boat to Juneau without a life jacket. (I didn't mention that the crew on the ferry only wears them when they hold man overboard or abandon ship drills, or when the terminal workers tie up a ship. There are Joanne and Fuzzy or Jim or Fred all lifejacketed or float-coated up down on the dock catching the lines while we watch them from the rail, standing on the deck of a ferry in the water, without so much as an inner tube around our waists.) I asked the lifejacket guy if there was a specific reason for his personal flotation device. He said the seat cushion was not going to save me. One of the big men craned his neck and joked back that snacks were being served and did we prefer Coke or Pepsi? The pilot said a flight attendant once fell 15,000 feet out of a crashing plane and a pile of seat cushions saved her life. ( How did she 'fall'? Through a hole in the fuselage? Did an emergency exit get opened too soon by someone who didn't really listen to her briefing and wasn't really prepared to lead the passengers to the life boats in the unlikely event of an emergency?) The lifejacket guy said that he could only float one of us, and the person with the most cash could pay up, now. I was pretty sure that was not me. Then he said he was in the Coast Guard. Well, at least my potential rescuer was already here. Also, in spite of the white caps below, it wasn't a bumpy flight at all. The Dramamine insured that I dozed during dinner with my daughters. The next morning my husband texted that there was a big storm in Anchorage and the airport had been closed. At the Juneau airport when I inquired no one at Alaska Airlines had heard that. So we took off, and landed, uneneventfully, no crash position required, to a very quiet city. Trees were down, the power was out, phones didn't work, and school was closed. I took a cab to the doctor's office where I had an appointment (3 birds with 1 stone is my motto) and all was dark, but the staff was there. I found the ladies room because I always have my headlamp. They were, I hoped, impressed that I was so prepared. "Every Alaskan woman ought to have a headlamp," the nurse said, pulling hers out. And an inflatable life jacket? Do you think my Coast Guard friend wears his on jets that fly over water? I waited four hours but the power never came on, so I checked into a hotel with some power, but the front desk computers were on the fritz, which is why someone opened the door of my room with a key at 11pm and quickly apologized, and the clerk called at midnight to see if I had ordered any food. I had not. I was sleeping. All of this is a long way of saying, if you are in Anchorage tonight, I hope to see you at 6:30 at the Loussac Library where I will be talking with author Pam Houston. You can leave your life jacket at home, but bring your headlamp, just in case.
Here is something funny-- I cannot get this image right side up. Is this another sign? Or did the plane roll and I didn't notice? Also, this photo now pops up when I try to run my spell check, so please excuse any errors I may have missed. When I snapped his picture the lifejacket guy said, "You know you are stealing my soul." I thought he was kidding.